As self-publishing rises in popularity, it’s more challenging than ever to get your book noticed.
Some titles manage to scramble up the slippery slope of the Amazon bestseller list and into the glorious beyond. Others are trampled into the ground by the stampede of their competition — and forgotten.
The outlook for a large percentage of self-published titles remains bleak. The average self-published title sells 250 copies or fewer.
(Cue the sad trombones.)
So what sets a meteoric success apart from a colossal flop?
Preparation, preparation, preparation.
If you’ve got your sights set on above average sales, use these steps to prepare your book before you publish.
1. Start with high quality content
While it’s true that many masterpieces sink into oblivion because of poor marketing, it’s rare to find that a piece of rubbish attracts a crowd of fans, no matter how powerful the marketing is.
If you want your book to succeed, you need clean prose and a punchy storyline.
A wealth of literature is available about how to beautify your narration, craft realistic dialogue, develop a plot and more. All serious writers should be able to chime in on a debate about the best writer’s manual.
The landscape of publishing is shifting.
Today’s indie authors have access to many of the same resources that traditional publicists use to bring a rough draft up to scratch. Expats from some of the biggest publishing houses (we’re talking Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster) can be hired to do freelance work at sites like Reedsy and Freelancer. Editors, cover designers, and marketers are all waiting to help indie authors polish their work.
2. Find your niche
You can probably place your book inside of one of the big-name, umbrella genres—romance, mystery, self-help—but don’t stop there.
By narrowing down your audience, you can actually improve your sales.
Comb your book for highly-specific topics and find people who share in interest in that topic.
Does your leading man dabble in capoeira, the Brazilian fighting dance where no one is allowed to lay a hand on his opponent? Does your heroine keep a field guide of wildflowers with her at all times? Find capoeira groups or local hiking meetups.
A small group of people who are deeply enthusiastic about your book’s content can generate more hype than a passive mass.
3. Develop an active persona
Readers aren’t just interested in books. They’re also interested in authors.
If you can engage an audience with your life story, or even just your personality, then you’ve got a ready-made audience base for your book.
Share photos of your hobbies and interests on Instagram. Unleash your witticisms on the world through Twitter. Blog your heart out. And don’t just beg and scrape for attention. Engage with other people who are instagramming, tweeting, and blogging. Bond with them. Exchange content with them. If people like you, they’ll want more of you—and what better way to get more of you than to buy your book?
4. Make bulk sales
Know the fastest way to sell over 250 books? Find someone who will buy 250 copies of your book, then telephone your mother to ask her to buy that last copy.
While the big bookstores aren’t too keen on stocking their shelves with indie authors, local sellers may be more open to the idea, especially if your book’s content is relevant. If you’ve thrown a semi-famous landmark into the mix of your story, contact the landmark’s gift store to see if they would be interested in stocking your book. Make sure you have a superlative pitch before you reach out!
Book clubs and book boxes are another great way to sell books in bulk.Indie-friendly book-boxes, like E-box Club, could help you meet your sale-goal with one well-placed query.
There’s no magic formula for turning your book into a bestseller, but with hard work, you should be able to pass average book sales with flying colors. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and don’t skimp on your efforts.
The fate of your book is in your hands.
Have other ideas for smashing average book sales? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.