Don’t be a minimalist in your approach to book selling.
It’s a new era of book marketing and publishing. More writers are side-stepping the traditional publishing houses and choosing to self-publish or even crowd-source their next novels. At times it can feel like a free-for-all when it comes to the best possible way to share your work—and once the publishing and distribution is secured, how do you sell your book?
The writers who tend to be the most successful approach publicity and marketing in a multi-faceted way. They rarely focus on just one strategy, but blend the old and new, looking at their book as a product—one made with considerable time and love, but still something to be presented to an audience.
Selling a book is like a Jackson Pollock painting—there are many lines and bursts of creativity that you must throw in to stay afloat. To some, it might look like chaos, but the truth is each stroke and moment is calculated, either by metrics and deliberation or through sheer intuition.
The process starts when writers consider where exactly their audience is.
We completely agree that it’s great to go into physical bookstores. All those tables of books, organized by genre or theme or author or even color. The ability to compare covers, fan pages, laugh at blurbs, read descriptions. The act of falling in love with characters you haven’t even met yet.
But the sad truth is more books are sold online than in physical stores.
Barnes & Noble allows you to order books for someone else, and send them to the closest location of the recipient. Bookshop.org encourages you to support local independent bookstores when you can’t (re: don’t want to) get out of the house. Amazon Prime. Need we say more?
But this situation makes promoting books all the more tricky! Yes, people are eager to buy, but how and where exactly do you reach them these days?
In a New York Times article, publishing heavyweights bemoaned the unpredictable nature of book sales, focusing on surprising flops (like musician Billie Eilish’s first book) and how TikTok trends skyrocket old titles’ sales over new releases’.
Even with the mega-star power of 99 million Instagram followers, Eilish’s first book had dismal sales. Some blamed the lack of marketing, others sleeper-style publicity. To still others, it was a miscalculation—of those 99 million followers, how many wanted to buy a book rather than music? How much sway does celebrity even hold?
Lofty goals aside, breaking into an Amazon bestseller category specifically geared to a niche is more attainable than, say, the New York Times bestseller list. It’s a coveted title for your book that any publishing house or book publicist will let you know requires not only the fates in your favor but knowledge that the editors expect review copies close to six months or more in advance. (Once upon a time it was a mere four months, but the pandemic created a book-writing boom, so the editors expanded accordingly.)
The point is, don’t put your eggs in one basket. Don’t rest assured on a strong platform. Don’t assume any placement is a shoe-in. Don’t think that if you have the follower count, the right cover, a phenomenally written book, or even review copies timed correctly, that your book will sell millions of copies. Book selling and publicity is a strategic game that sometimes plays out over years, not months.
So start your painting, but don’t be a minimalist in your approach. One strategic placement might feel nostalgic but will still hold sway. And don’t underestimate any approach.
In a world of click-to-buy and one-day shipping, the tangible still holds sway. Brick-and-mortar stores should be a part of your Pollock-inspired book selling.
It’s tangible—the placement of your book in an actual store.
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