You’ve finally completed your first novel. You’re excited. Everyone around you is excited, and you can’t wait to see how many people buy your book, but how many sales can you reasonably expect? The truth is that you may not see very many in your first year. If you see two books sold your first week, you’re doing great.
What about all those people that said they were going to buy your book?
You have 300 friends and family, and they all said they were buying your book. What happened? The hard truth is that they lied. They think that you’re selling 10 to 20 books a day, so you won’t miss it if they say they’re going to buy your book and don’t. You’ll just think it was one of those books you sold over the next three days, except you didn’t sell any books during the 72 hours after they said they’d buy your book.
Your friends and family don’t know that. They don’t realize that self-published authors can see every sale every day. Conversely, you can also see all that white space that indicates you didn’t sell anything. It’s depressing, and I actually got really angry after my first book launch. I had all these people telling me they were buying my new book, and all I saw were goose eggs. I was livid. In fact, I was so livid that I called out all the liars on my Facebook page and stopped posting on my personal timeline. I still don’t post very often on my Facebook personal timeline. Lying is a cardinal sin in my world. I don’t tolerate it well, and I don’t forget.
What I did do was start building up other networks. I started focusing on Twitter, which has a huge writing community. I started paying more attention to LinkedIn, which isn’t the best for book sales, but it is good for business. I also tried Instagram for a couple years, until I realized no one could click on any links other than the one in the top of your profile. That’s not very good for selling books when the end of the link is a bunch of gobbledygook letters. It’s also incredibly difficult to post on Instagram. Every post needs an image, and those images have to have certain dimensions. You also have to post on Instagram using your phone or a 3rd party posting platform on your computer, and Instagram doesn’t like your 3rd party scheduling apps, so more times than not, they fail. You may have more luck on Instagram, but I found it to be more hassle than it’s worth.
What about Amazon? Don’t they promote your book after you publish?
The short answer is No. Amazon prioritizes newly published books for 30 days. This is the Amazon algorithm that you’ve probably heard about when researching information on Amazon KDP. When you publish your book, Amazon is more likely to show it to potential buyers who are randomly searching for books in your category. After 30 days, your book is just another book among millions of books. This is why some authors attempt to publish books every three to four weeks. Unless you have a backlog of finished books, it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to keep up a publishing routine that includes one new book every 30 days, unless you don’t care about publishing complete trash, or you publish very short books under 10,000 words. I can actually write, edit and publish 10,000 word short stories in about a week when I’m motivated, but it’s a brain drain.
What should you do to maximize sales?
The hard truth is that your debut novel is probably going to be one big depressing flop. I hate telling you that. I want to tell you that you’re going to do well, and that your debut novel is going to be the massive launching point for your very successful author career, and everyone is going to instantly love you. Unfortunately, that’s not reality for most new authors. With that being said, your first book is the beginning to a long journey. Once you publish that first book, immediately start on your second. When you publish your second, start on your third. Keep going. There is a school of thought that says that by the time you publish 20 books, you’ll be selling books regularly. Make that a goal. As of this writing, I have 10 books published, and I’m within a week of releasing book 11.
You can try Amazon advertising.
If you have some extra money, you can use Amazon’s paid advertising. It’s the Marketing link in the top menu, or you can hover over the three dots next to your newly published book and click Promote and Advertise. I will tell you that it’s gotten extremely expensive over the last year to two years. It’s almost a dollar a click. When I started three years ago, it was .10 cents a click or .25 if you wanted a high ranking. This means that in order to remain profitable while advertising your book on Amazon, you need a book sale every other click.
Build your social media audiences.
When I say build your social media audiences, I mean build them to the sky. We’re not talking a couple thousand followers. We’re talking tens of thousands of followers. The minimum you need on Twitter to start seeing traction is 10,000. To be taken seriously, you need 20,000. In some circles, they are now saying that a successful Twitter account needs to have 40,000+ followers. I’m not there yet. I have 24,000, and I do all right. I am working to get to that 40,000 mark though.
On Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, you can add your own followers very easily and wait to see if they follow you back. Facebook is a different story, and to be truthful, I’ve never mastered audience building on Facebook. I’m only good at it where I can go through and search for new authors and readers to follow.
Start an email list.
I was slow to start an email list. I hate doing things that I feel are harassing other people. After all, I get a lot of junk email, and I don’t want to contribute to someone elses spammy inbox. Creating an email list was out of the question for me for a long time. I have a website. I have many social media accounts. I felt like that should be enough. However, I eventually thought about it. Mulled it around in my mind and came up with something I could live with. I started the email campaign. I set the emails to show up once a week if a new article was in X category on my website. Then, I put a signup form on the website, and I run a signup sheet down all my social media. In order to be a part of my email list, the individual has to physically sign up. I never add anyone to the email list, and the website doesn’t auto-add anyone. It’s been reasonably successful, and I rarely have unsubscribes or bounces.
What else can you do?
Keep writing more books. The number one way to sell a lot of books is to have a lot of books for sale. Don't let early dismal sales discourage you. You may not have had a great author audience. You may not have honed your social media message. As you get further into the process, you will learn what works for you, and with each book published, you will have more motivation to get your message out.
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