The Best Way to Sell More Books

By Johnny B. Truant

Business man walking up escalating piles of books

Today I’m going to cover something that we’ve heard a lot of questions about. It’s something that anybody who is in publishing as an indie, or even not as an indie, wants to know about, and that is how do I sell more books.

(If you prefer audio, you can listen to this episode on the Smarter Artist Podcast)

I’m going to give you three answers. The question is what is the one thing you would do to sell more books, so I’m going to cheat and give you three, but it may depend on your actual specific circumstances as to which one or ones you should use because they’re all slightly different.

The first is to simply write another.

The reason that I’m giving multiple answers is because that one is kind of a cop out.

It’s like well, I have one book. A lot of people have one book, and how would I sell this one book. But honestly, that’s the answer that we give now. Our most successful series currently at Realm and Sands, which is the imprint that Sean and I write at, is Invasion.

We started with three of those books. We called that the Beyonce launch, meaning it was just like Bam! Like the time Beyonce just dropped her album, with no preamble, no expectation, no build-up.

Part of the Beyonce launch for us was to launch three of those books, to have them written and I think we launched them a month apart.

That was part of the launch strategy.

I’m not suggesting you write three books before you release your first, but I am suggesting that the best way to sell more copies of a given book is to write a sequel to it.

There are some “all other things being equal” sorts of concerns there.

Certain genres simply sell better than others and are more amenable to series anyway. So, it depends on the book you’re asking about.

Sean and I have a book called Axis of Aaron and with no hyperbole and no exaggeration, Invasion, just the single first Invasion book, sells more books on average in an hour than Axis of Aaron sells in a month, or at least a few hours.

My options to sell more copies of Axis of Aaron are much more limited, and it also wouldn’t allow a sequel. There’s just no way to write one without totally cheapening the feel of the first book.  That is a stand alone.

Man typing fastBut if you have something that’s genre fiction, then usually the best thing you can do is to write the next one.

We’re coming up on the fourth book in the Invasion series and the pre-order numbers are already really great, and we’re two and a half months out from release.

When the fifth book comes out, we’ll probably hit New York Times Bestseller list for the first week for that.

The reason is just because the more books you write in a series, the more invested people get.

The more books you write in a series, the more invested people get. Click To Tweet

 You’ll also get better fans because by the time you’re hitting the fourth and fifth book in a series, the people who are mediocre on it, who might really crap on the book, for a reason other than you totally dropped the ball on loyal people, have mostly left.

As a result, you’re sort of purifying your fan base when you do that and you’re getting more and more loyal fans who are ravenous and want to read the next book.

That’s the first answer.

shutterstock_190030163The second answer is, depending on your circumstances, you can advertise.

The reason that I’m offering three answers to this, is because not everybody can advertise.

The current advertising option that works best on a large scale for indies is BookBub, and BookBub is very, very selective. They seem to only take a handful of our properties. They’re very predictable as to what they will take and what they will not take. And you have to drop your price to $.99 or free to get a really effective push on a BookBub ad.

So, there are reasons that you wouldn’t lower the price to $.99 or free, you may not be able to get a BookBub ad.

A lot of advertising is just throwing your money away.

The real answer that I would give to just about anybody is to get a better cover.

We’re writing a book called Iterate and Optimize which will be released in December, 2015. It’s a sequel to Write, Publish, Repeat. And I made a joke about how the chapter having to do with publicizing your book or internally marketing your book with the assets that are available on the page could just be called “Let’s Be Honest, If You Have a Great Cover, Your Book Will Sell, Even if Your Book is Crap.”

Then of course until the reviews come in if your book is crap.

But most people vastly, vastly underestimate the importance of a cover. It is the single highest conversion element and nothing else is even close in our experience, especially for highly specific genre fiction.

We have a book called The Beam, and it’s our favorite old cover/new cover scenario where we had this cover which was an illustration. It was very nice. We liked the feel of it. We liked the look of it. It just wasn’t genre appropriate.

When we went back and made a new cover that looked like a sci-fi cover, it was done by a professional cover artist, not just an artist, it started to sell better.

So, if you asked me what is the one thing I can do, those are the three. Good luck selling books.

Johnny B. Truant is the author of the Fat Vampire series and The Bialy Pimps, in addition to everything he has written with Sean at Realm & Sands.

Johnny and his family live in Austin, Texas (after several years of planning to move and complaining about life in northern Ohio).

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