Saturday, September 3, 2011
How to Sell a Lot of E-Books
A friend of mine who is a published author and great writer just emailed me about what it takes to sell a lot of books. E-Books in particular or so I'm assuming. At first I was ready to dig in with a two page email about marketing and social media and how important it is to maintain a constant presence on these digital mediums. I was also ready to discuss the importance of blogging two or three times a week on topics ranging from how to write a great noir novel to what I did on my summer vacation. Then there's Kindleboards, Goodreads, Crimespace, yadda...
But then it occurred to me that no matter how much I talk about these issues, none of them are really responsible for selling books, so much as they simply spread the word about your books being available for sale on the free market. Social media can definitely help you sell books but it can also hurt sales when you abuse and over-use it. After all, you shouldn't be directly selling your books in a social media setting. You should be selling you the human being.
So then, how was it I've been able to sell hundreds of thousands of e-books so far this year?
Jeeze, I'm not entirely sure how I did it.
But I do know this. If you want sell a lot of units (as they are lovingly called in the trade), you need to write great books (luckily my friend has this going for him already). You need a great cover (like me he's traditionally published so he has to rely on his team to produce this for him), a great product description and a very good if not "cheap" yup "cheap" price. As for the rest of the equation, you have to rely on a little luck here.
But then, how can you improve your luck as an author who wants to sell lots of books? The best possible way is simply to write more books. Authors like Scott Nicholson and JA Konrath are making thousands of dollars every month not on just one title, but upwards of 40 titles. These guys are sitting on a novel and rewriting it over and over again for two or three years. They are writing them in a matter of two or three months (please don't take this as gospel, I'm merely trying to make a point).
But Vin, you say, how is it possible to write a great novel in two or three months?
My answer is this: can you produce five good pages per day, five days a week? Or are you worried about writers block? If you believe in writers block, you must learn to change your beliefs. Writers block doesn't exist. If you're a writer your job is to show up at work everyday and write. Granted, there will be days when Mr. Plot and Mr. Story and Mrs. Brilliance don't show up for work, but that's just the nature of any business. You go with the flow and you keep plugging away anyhow. You take up the slack and plow through the day.
Or here's an idea that might help.
Whenever you feel like it will be impossible to write yet another book, think about your dad or mom. What did they do for a living while they were raising you trying to put clothes on your back, Hamburger Helper on your dinner plate and video games in the Play Station? If your dad was a lawyer, did he ever get lawyer's block? If your mom was a nurse, did you ever hear her complain "I've had absolutely nothing to nurse about for the past six months"? Of course not. Your parents showed up for work five days a week because that was their job. Sometimes it went well, and on occasion, when the proper support staff didn't always show up, things were hard. But by the year's end, they produced a body of work for which they were paid a significant sum.
Back to my point about selling books.
There is no tried or true answer to selling books. Sales flow in cycles. I seem to experience a few weeks of stellar bestselling sales every three or four months or so, probably due to Amazon marketing campaigns. My last great months was in July. I'm not due for another Top 100 Kindle Bestseller months until October or November. But then, this is just a guestimate. I have no control over Amazon marketing, other than signing on with their publisher, Thomas and Mercer, which I'm about to do.
So, in the final analysis, there is only one tried and true method of increasing your chances of selling books. That tried and true method is to show up for work everyday, and write more of them.