Welcome to 2020! Let’s dive into the New Year with a spicy topic. Pardon the “click bait” title, but I’m convinced that your mindset determines your decisions. For instance, one of my favorite pastors used to say:
“Life is simple. It’s all about truth versus lies.
If you don’t know the truth, you will live in bondage to lies.”
These wise words apply to life as well as the business of selling books. If you believe the wrong ideas about marketing, you will waste time and money doing activities that fail to produce results.
The longer I work in the publishing industry, the more misconceptions that I run across. There are all sorts of sincerely-mistaken writers, inexperienced “coaches,” and misguided publishing companies who purport a variety of bad ideas. They will tell you how to market a book, but they’ve never achieved any legitimate results. So, they can only offer a limited viewpoint or tell one side of the story.
Allow me to counter some of the most common falsehoods. After 13 years of coaching over 800 authors, these are the top 10 lies that tend to deceive authors the most:
1. “You can make a lot of money off of one book.”
Sorry, Charlie. It’s nearly impossible to make big money off of one book due to the low price point. Instead, the vast majority of well-to-do novelists have at least 10 books for sale, usually in a related series. Successful nonfiction authors make their money from public speaking, consulting, and training fees. If you think you can make a lot of money from one book, you’re believing a lie.
2. “Your publisher will do the marketing.”
Fat chance. Most publishers do very little marketing, because they publish too many books and have to few people on staff. On rare occasions, publishers will conduct significant marketing for a few new books, but only for authors who get the highest advances. If you’re a traditionally-published author, it’s up to you to market your book.
3. “Self-publishing is easy.”
I wish. Making money as an indie author requires a ton of work. How do I know? I’m one of the original self-publishing success stories when I became an indie author back in 2002. Doing it yourself means a lot of hours managing the required tasks, including writing, editing, cover art, interior layout, marketing, advertising, etc. Plus, you have to invest your money up-front to produce a book not knowing if you’ll succeed. Self-publishing isn’t easy. It requires the mindset of a maverick and the work ethic of a bulldog.
4. “My book description won’t affect my sales.”
This lie is tricky, because there are books that hit the bestseller lists with lackluster marketing text. How do they do it? The author gets by on word of mouth, current trends, or having a well-known brand. Thus, ask yourself, “Can I get by solely on word of mouth, current trends, or being a household name?” If not, you must master writing persuasive marketing copy and keep that text updated at the online retailers. Otherwise, your book will never reach it’s full sales potential. You’ll leave a lot of money on the table, especially if you buy advertising on Facebook or Amazon. A great book description converts more sales with less effort – and that’s a fact, Jack.
5. “Any kind of cover art will suffice.”
There is a direct correlation between a professional-looking cover and higher book sales. Yet, too many self-published books that I see have homemade-looking covers. And, many cover designs from publishers are barely legible when viewed as a tiny image on Amazon’s website. Want to sell more books? Don’t settle for a subpar cover. Instead, look at the top-selling titles in your specific genre as a reference point. Then, hire a good graphic artist to make your cover look like the best. I promise you will sell more books.
6. “Someone else can market my book better than me.”
Yes, other people are happy to take your money. But, it doesn’t mean they can market your book better than you. It’s like asking someone else to parent your child. No one else can match your level of passion and enthusiasm. Sure, it’s okay to hire a marketing aide or a virtual assistant to manage tricky technology details. But, never give up control of your book campaign to anyone else. Your book is your baby. You must raise it.
7. “My author website doesn’t matter.”
If I had a dime for every lousy author website that I’ve seen, I’d own a private island. I’m shocked by how many authors settle for a poor online appearance. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. In most cases, a small website with a few pages can suffice, as long as it captures email signups, promotes your books, and answers common questions. Your website is the headquarters of your business and affects the way readers perceive you. Don’t let readers feel disappointed or skeptical when they look you up online. Invest in a good website.
8. “I’m a writer, not a business person.”
Are you comfortable being a “starving artist”? Authors who fail to treat their writing like a business and learn the necessary skills wind up cheating themselves. When you ask readers to pay money for your book, it’s called a “business transaction.” Therefore, you are a business. You don’t have to make writing a full-time job. But, you owe it to yourself to present a professional image to the public. Set up an LLC, get an accountant, and act like you belong in the publishing industry. The truth is that you can be a passionate writer and a smart businessperson.
9. “Social media is more important than email.”
Facebook wants you to think that social media controls the world. Yet, repeated studies have shown that email is 10 – 40 times better at selling books than all social media combined. Don’t believe me? I recently worked with two different authors who had over 1 million Facebook followers. When their new books released, they both sold less than 6,000 copies. That’s a pitiful return on such a big social media following. If you want to sell more books, build your email list.
10. “Advertising doesn’t matter.”
People can’t buy your book if they don’t know it exists. So, if you don’t buy advertising, you won’t let enough people know that your book is available. Selling a lot of books doesn’t occur by getting everyone in a small group to buy a copy. Instead, sales occur by getting a small percentage of a large group to purchase. Advertising is the secret to reaching an audience of millions. Today, it’s easy to buy affordable ads on Amazon, Facebook, BookBub, or large email lists. If you don’t buy advertising, it’s like depriving your book of oxygen.
Okay, I know that hearing the truth may sometimes feel uncomfortable. That’s because it suggests we need to change our attitudes and behavior. But, nothing is worse than letting ill-advised ideas limit our success. As the New Year begins, don’t let misconceptions and false beliefs keep you from selling as many books as possible.
May the truth set you free in 2020!
If this article revealed you’ve been harboring some marketing misconceptions, consider the benefits of personal coaching. I’d be happy to help replace misleading lies with the truth and teach you how to sell more books than ever. Here are two great options to take the next step:
90-Minute Personal Consultation
I offer private coaching sessions for authors where you can ask me questions about your books, get my expert insights, and overcome roadblocks to your success.
Book Marketing Master Class
Learn how to take control of your book sales, create more income, and build a writing business that lasts.