How to Sell More Books

I JUST KNOW when the live podcast starts in a few weeks MANY of the questions will be exactly, “How do I sell more books?” The one time I gave a presentation from stage (2015 in Irvine, California at a conference) it was the first question asked. A former client called a month ago and asked the same thing, and we only had a few seconds to talk, so I really didn’t get to answer him. And you know how you think of the perfect thing to say AFTER you had the chance to say it, sometimes? What I needed to ask him before anything else was, “What have you tried?”

“How can I sell more books?” is too broad a question but it’s a fair one and an important one! Aside from general advice and universal answers, the person you ask needs more info.


Once you have a book published, as colleague (and consummate professional) Kristen Wise (check them out, plenty of work for all of us!) once said in a meeting (paraphrased, she said it much better), “Launch is your book’s first day of life, not it’s last.”

Before I was in publishing, at a home show, a man and wife set up next to me selling their own label of hot sauce. On discussing it, I found they were VERY excited as they had just gotten placement in a grocery store chain. Exciting! Achievement! Unusual and cool. And it MIGHT take off. I call that a “lightning strike” if it does, and you can encourage getting struck by lightning (whether by walking around with a long metal pole or by analogy being present in a grocery store).

But as any entrepreneur will tell you, getting there is only half the battle. You’re a drop in the ocean until you work out marketing and sales, but maybe more importantly, traffic.

And that’s how you build out your sales machine in general, you reverse-engineer it so you have a website (in most cases) where people can go, an email list they can sign up to (in many cases, not all), your offer, and ideally more than one book. You then need traffic.

If you rely on Amazon alone, there’s a way to maximize that channel which includes regular addition of reviews, regular sales, activity in Author Central, and an active Amazon Ads campaign. That’s a good example of working a sales channel, and Amazon is only one, but the biggest we are all likely familiar with.

This is scratching the surface of book marketing and sales. I’ve learned over the last 13 years that most marketing agencies can’t sell books. Period. I’ve worked with very accomplished marketing pros, too. Books are a very specific and unique thing to sell. This is why I’m finally providing the service myself.

So, let’s say the above is a good first example of general book marketing and sales. We could also talk about “spike marketing,” and the most reliable currently is probably a BookBub featured book deal, if you have $2,000 to $4,000 and can get them to feature your book. But I’ve even had a celebrity client get turned down for BookBub.

There is also “platform growth” for anyone who wants to be a full-time author.

There is having multiple books in the same genre and creating a perma-free lead-in title and pricing strategy. One of the best books on this is Blue Collar to No Collar by Wayne Stinnett.

There’s the old party dude who wrote a memoir of his shenanigans in Fort Lauderdale back in the craziness of 1980s spring break, who walks bar-to-bar today selling signed copies for $20 a shot, probably making a cool $10 on each.


So you’re probably starting to see how individual this can be. What I do is consult with each author as to goals and resources (time, money, skills) and interests (appearances? blogging? social media?). We want to design a plan that is sustainable, above all else. Or if it’s simply to boost a book to where it is a hike in altitude (higher rates, speaking gigs, etc.), we can do that, too.

There are as many answers as there are authors, so ultimately, while there are general tactics, selling books very much should be a customized thing. But it can be done, of course. In fact, becoming a successful, full-time author is no longer a miracle or gift of the elites, it’s hard science.

But it depends on you. What have you tried?