Friday, January 29, 2010

The Self-Confidence to Sell More Books

What if a book's success depends more on the author's self-confidence, rather than what's written on the page? After training over 200 authors, from beginners to bestsellers, an interesting pattern has caught my attention.

For example, I've noticed that my author clients with a high self-esteem tended to be more creative with their marketing plans and actually sold more books. In contrast, those with low self-esteems struggled to implement new marketing activities. Predictably, their book sales languished. I'm not saying there is a direct correlation, but there is definitely a pattern that bears attention.

The problem is that there are real consequences when an author allows low self-confidence to affect their book marketing efforts. For instance, he or she will tend to:
  • Avoid building an online or offline community of readers.
  • Balk at developing peer-to-peer relationships with influential leaders.
  • Avoid finding and contacting large reader groups who could buy books in quantity.
  • Ignore spur of the moment media opportunities, such as tying into national headlines.
  • Shun speaking events or promoting books to the audience.
  • Lack consistency with key marketing tactics, such as blogging or sending out newsletters.
Global management consultant, Alan Weiss, says, "There is no music if you don't blow your own horn." This statement is profoundly true for book marketing, at both the author and publisher levels. Writers, editors, and marketing staff must believe strongly enough in a message to promote that book above the noise of all the competition. Yet, this can only happen when there's an ardent belief in a manuscript accompanied by the enthusiasm to tell people about it.

Oddly, self-confidence issues seem to especially plague the fiction and religious publishing communities. For example, I know novelists who are scared to appear in public. Likewise, I've met Christian authors who avoid marketing their books, because of the misguided notion to appear humble. They make pious statements, such as "It's not godly to draw attention to myself." But, these attitudes are usually a disguise for a low self-esteem. The reality is that they don't want to draw attention to themselves, because they're struggling to feel worthy - ironically before a God who loves them and fans who like their books.

Please don't think that I'm advocating for writers to shamelessly plug their books. Some people go overboard and develop a negative reputation for being pushy. You probably know some of these individuals, and they're a turn-off. On the contrary, my point is that readers appreciate authors who believe in their ability to provide answers, inspiration, or entertainment.

So, how can an author improve their confidence along with their book sales? Some self-esteem situations may truly require counseling. However, in most cases, one can be enlightened by dealing with the following questions:
  • Do you really believe in your book's value? Has your message actually worked in your own life? If so, recite clear examples of results.
  • What makes you comfortable recommending a favorite restaurant or product to a friend? Can you mimic that same feeling to mention your book to someone else?
  • What's the worst that could happen if you tell more people about your book?
If you're a good writer, don't let self-confidence issues prevent your message from helping the people who need it. Just because someone might say "no" doesn't mean you're worthless or a bad person. Be proud of the way you're trying to help society. Toot your horn a little. What's the worst that could happen? You just might sell a lot more books.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Book Marketing Q&A: Writing Promotional Copy for a Book

Question: During a conversation with my publisher, we were discussing the marketing text for my new book's back cover copy, catalogue copy, and ad copy to be released this fall. As we talked through these issues, I began to wonder if the text needed to be different for each type of piece. In other words, do you market a book any differently to the distributors / retailers than you would do the end reader? (Rachel in NC)

Answer: Good question, Rachel. My recommendation is to always market your book based on the value that it provides to reader - including the catalogue and ad copy. I encourage my author clients to write bulleted value statements that describe specific results you create for the reader. A variety of examples include:

Higher profits with less wasted inventory.
Stronger resolve to say “no” without feeling guilty or being used.
New ability to read the Bible and sense God talking directly to you.
Increased confidence to deal with difficult people.

Readers and retailers alike need to know that your book will meet a legitimate need. Otherwise, no one will buy the book, and everyone will be disappointed.

So, when writing marketing copy for your book, put yourself in the position of the reader and answer the question: "What's in it for me?" Value statements are a great way to settle that issue.

Thanks for your questions and keep them coming! Send your question to:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January Comparison of ECPA Publishers

Check out the January, 2010 Amazon rankings for the Top 15 ECPA publishers. This research lets you see both the overall industry rankings, plus each publisher's individual top 20 bestselling book list.

Why is this information helpful to you? This is one of the few ways that authors, agents, and publishers can simultaneously see how a publisher's best books stack up against their peers. For example, Neilsen BookScan doesn't let other publishers see the competition's sales numbers (only bestseller lists). But, WildFire's free research gives ECPA publishers a way to see which titles are selling well on Amazon at 14 other houses. This data is also helpful to see which authors, topics, and genres are dominating Amazon sales trends.

Items of Interest this Month:

a. Top-Selling ECPA Titles by Amazon Ranking:
1 - "The Five Love Languages" (#95) from Moody.
2 - "The Total Money Makeover" (#119) from Thomas Nelson.
3 - "Crazy Love" (#161) from David C. Cook
Rankings exclude the originally self-published title, "The Shack," by William Young (# 19).

b. Biggest Publisher Moves:
Intervarsity Press moves to # 7 from # 12 last month.
Harvest House falls to #10 from # 7 last month.

Note: Amazon rankings do not reflect accurate sales figures and only account for a small percentage of a book's total sales. However, they can help determine how specific publishers or book titles perform over time versue their peers.

Click here for an Excel spreadsheet of last month's rankings.

For all of the previous monthly rankings, click here.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Book Marketing Question: How big should an author's platform numbers be?

Michael asks, "I'm in the process of redesigning my website and creating a social media marketing campaign as a first step toward submitting a manuscript to an agent. It is my assumption that my website and web presence (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) will be my most powerful medium for marketing my non-fiction, self-help book. Is this correct? I am also assuming that the larger the traffic and the larger my email list the more interest we will receive from agents and publishers. Are there any particular numbers I should reach before submitting to an agent?"

Thanks for your question, Michael. Your assumptions are on the right track. Agents and publishers are feverishly looking for authors who can bring a large platform to the table. A large platform usually means more guaranteed book sales and less risk for the publishers.

Thus, your amount of confirmed website traffic, social media followers, and newsletter subscribers gives definition to the reality of your author platform and ability to help sell books. As for exact numbers, that's a tough call to make. Every agent and publisher has different definitions of a "large platform."

I think a good number to shoot for is around 5,000 people on a newsletter list, monthly blog readers, and social media followers. Most non-fiction books need to sell 5,000 - 10,000 books for the publisher to break-even. So, if you can show that you help sell a large chunk of that amount, then you're more appealing to agents and publishers.

Social media is a great way to market books. However, don't forget the traditional face-to-face ways, such as public speaking and media interviews. A good marketing plan should feature a balanced approach of online and offline marketing tactics.

Frankly, I've yet to see social media show better marketing results than consistent public speaking and major radio/TV appearances. But, that will change with time.

Per your website, make sure it includes the key book marketing elements. I've got a free resource for authors at this link: