What Really Sells Books? Tip 2 – The Basics

Last post, we talked about how doing book signings the right way, can sell books quickly. But there’s something you need to do first.  You need to have the basics covered.  Without these things, you have slim to no chance of selling books.  Awareness is great, building a fan base is great and equally important but at the end of the day, we want to sell books.

Here are a few things that are very important: (arguably, in order of importance according to the way many readers shop)

1) A great cover. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a first-class cover. Whether you’re doing an eBook cover or a physical book cover, I’ve seen great covers for as little as $5.  If you’re going to splurge on anything, I say start with a great cover. Without it, even the best story ever told, may not be looked at twice by a potential customer. If you have the talent to do it yourself, go for it, but most of us are not professional book cover designers and even if we are, we may not know how to design a cover that will sell a book to our particular audience.  Go to Amazon or Goodreads and find book covers that you love but most importantly book covers from books that have sold well and give those samples to the graphic designer.   A great book designer will know how to create a great front and equally important back cover.

2) A great description.  You can be the greatest writer in the world and not write a great book description. There’s an art to it and oftentimes a writer is not objective enough about their book to know what elements of it that are appealing to their readers.  Get help. There are many reasonably priced writers who’ll do it for you and if you have a small budget, trade favors with other writers you respect and ask them to write your description for you.  Do blurbs work? It helps to have a couple of blurbs from famous people or those respected by your audience but is it guaranteed to sell your book? Not necessarily. Don’t go crazy.  Putting a blurb by an author your particular audience has never heard of may be a total waste of time.

3) A great back story or bio.  Credibility is important in your field.  If you write medical thrillers and you’re a doctor, great! If you’re a mother of three or teacher and you write kids books, perfect. Make sure that if you’re using your career background for part of your author bio, that it’s relevant to the genre you’re writing in. If you have a powerful back story about what lead you to writing the book, use it. This too, should be written by someone else, if you feel that maybe you’re too close to write it objectively.

4) Professionally formatted. If your book doesn’t look like “a real book”, a reader may not be able to pinpoint what’s wrong but they will feel it’s amateur. Get a professional to do it or go online and get a template that will help you make your book as professional as possible. It doesn’t have to cost a lot but you will oftentimes see a big difference between hiring a professional and trying to put it together yourself.

5) A great opening chapter.  I don’t know about you, but if I’m not hooked by the first 3-5 sentences, I put the book down.  If you’re going to splurge on anything and you cannot afford to hire an editor for your whole book, get someone who’ll line edit and copy edit your first few chapters.  They must be as strong as ever.


In my next post, I’ll talk about another way that sells books in 30 minutes or less — speaking engagements.

What Really Sells Books? Tip 1 – Book Signings the Right Way

You can tweet ’till your fingers bleed but if you’re an author, at the end of the day, you want to sell books. What works? What doesn’t? What is a total waste of time and what brings results?  In this series of posts, I will be highlighting tips from other authors and myself about what we have found actually sells books quickly, what takes time to build and what is a total waste of time.

Tip 1 – Book Signings

Social media is great but nothing works better than a face-to-face meeting with a live person when selling books and what better way than in a book store?  Yes, there are reports that Barnes & Noble may close or be dramatically reduced and many indie stores are closing, but there are also many that are opening.

Most social media techniques take repeated efforts, awareness and exposure to sell books and there’s nothing wrong with that but doing book signings the right way is a way that will help sell books the first time you meet someone, even a perfect stranger, quickly.

Before you say, “I’ve tried that before and I didn’t sell any books”, please, understand when I say that book signings sell books, I’m not talking about authors that just want to sit behind a table and wait for people to come up to them.

There are details of how to set up a signing that you can find elsewhere, but I wanted to give you a few highlights of how to sell books with book signings, the right way.

1. Indie store or chain store both welcome local authors. Just talk to the manager or their events coordinator and ask them with a big smile when you can do a signing. Tell them that you’ll be promoting the event yourself.

2. On the day of the event, set up your books on your table, yes, but take about 4-5 books with you at a time,  and walk around the store and introduce yourself to customers with a big pleasant smile. Tell them you’re an author who’s doing a signing, what your book is about and here are the magic words, “this book would make a great gift.”  Then don’t say a word. Silence is golden and so is a great sincere smile. Stay there with them until they agree to buy the book. I mean, don’t stalk them or be annoying, just be “available”.  Sure, some may politely shoo you away but if you engage in a conversation, even recommend other authors’ books, take an interest in them and why they’re in the bookstore that day, 9 times out of 10, they’ll buy from you.

3. Here’s the thing, you must stay in the store from morning until the end of the day if you have to, until you’ve approached about every customer that is browsing through the store and told them about your book, because you will sell every single copy.  It’s very reasonable to believe that if you bring about 20 books with you, you’ll sell every single one of them.

I’ve done the above many times and even sold books in chain stores in airports doing the same thing.  It works. It will sell books if you have the basics, which is what we’ll talk about in the next tip.