I’ve never met a book author who didn’t want to sell more copies of their work. It doesn’t matter if they are published through one of the largest publishers or Podunk Press (I don’t believe there is such a small publisher named Podunk Press but maybe since there are many of them).
I’ve interviewed more than 150 bestselling authors and spoken with hundreds of other authors. If you bring up the topic of selling more books, almost every author has a story about something they tried yet failed to work. Often these stories are filled with the author blaming someone else for the lack of sales. They blame:
- their publisher
- their publicist
- their agent
- their editor
- the wrong title
- the wrong cover
- the missing endorsements
- _____ you name it
It’s rare that I hear the author blame the real culprit: themselves. Yes, it’s hard to admit but it is the first step toward selling more books and understanding who bears the true responsibility for selling books—the author.
In Jack Canfield’s bestselling title, The Success Principles, How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, he begins the book with some fundamentals for success. The first principle is: Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life.
For book authors, you can easily take the word Life and substitute Book: Take 100% Responsibility for Your Book. It’s amazing how your attitude will shift if you take this simple step.
Many authors long to have their book appear on the bestseller list. For some authors they equate getting on the bestseller list as their benchmark of success for their book. Over ten years ago, I read Michael Korda’s Making the List, a Cultural History of the American Bestseller 1900–1999. Korda at the time was the Editor-in-Chief at Simon and Schuster, one of the largest publishers. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.
In the introduction, Korda writes, “The bestseller list is therefore neither as predictable nor as dominating as its critics make it out to be. Plenty of strange books get onto the list and stay there for a long time…at least half of the books on any given list are there to the immense surprise and puzzlement of their publishers. That’s why publishers find it so hard to repeat their success—half the time they can’t figure out how they happened in the first place.” (Page xv) I love his honesty. There is no magic bullet and it is different for every book. The author is key.
Some books start slow and steadily sell then catapult in sales. Other books begin strong then sales drop to nothing. There is no consistent pattern.
My encouragement is for you to keep experimenting with different methods to sell your book. Each author has a different experience.
Yesterday I spoke with an author who had sold 8,000 to 10,000 copies of his self-published books. He had held over 300 book signings for his book. For many authors book signings have yielded almost nothing but not for this author. He regularly speaks at schools and service clubs and even AARP meetings.
If you aren’t speaking much as an author, I encourage you to get a copy of Barbara Techel’s Class Act, Sell More Books Through School and Library Appearances. This book gives step-by-step help and is loaded with ideas where you can take action.
What proactive steps can you take to learn a new skill or try some new way to sell books? It doesn’t matter if your book is brand new or has been in print for a while. Keep the experimentation going until you hit the elements which work for your book.
W. Terry Whalin
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