For years, I didn’t know how I was ever going to sell books. I’m painfully shy and, unfortunately, have a complexion that tends to redden easily. Like lava-covered-tomato red. The idea of calling someone, sometimes even people I know, gets my heart racing. The idea of standing in front of a small group of people and talking is my worst nightmare. And don’t even get me started on going to conferences and the like. Oh, the terror.
None of this is really news for writers. “Writer” and “extrovert” don’t often appear in the same sentence. Day-to-day our hermitic proclivities aren’t really a problem. We happily plug away at our keyboards in a dark room somewhere and don’t have to deal with another soul.
Until we want to sell our books.
Selling anything requires talking. To people. About yourself and your work. Yuck.
Luckily, we have the internet, the savior of introverts world-over. There are plenty of ways for the shy to use this handy tool to promote themselves and their work! Wondering how to sell books, even if you're an introvert and have no interest in selling anything? Look no further.
5 Semi-Social Ways Introverts Can Sell Books
Where should you go? What's a waste of time? What are the easiest ways to reach the most people? (And please don't make me talk to anyone in person!)
Here are five sure-fire ways you can sell books if you're an introvert:
1. Author website
Websites are a must. Think about it: How aggravating is it when you’re looking for a business's information and all they have is a Facebook page? Or worse, nothing at all? I don't know about you, but I'm prone to just moving on if that's the case.
Websites are how people find out more about you, how they connect with you, and how they discover your work. And, no, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to set one up. You can do it yourself, for free or at very little cost. Plus, this is the only way to build an email list so you can directly communicate with, and sell things to, your fans.
It's almost impossible to figure out how to sell books online without an author website, so creating your site should be your first step.
2. Social media
Another must. Sorry. I know a lot of people hate the idea of any form of social media. The thing is, social media is just a form of communication.
Twenty years ago, if you wanted to sell something, you put it in the classifieds, staked cardboard signs at the end of your street, and hung fliers with those phone number tags to pull off. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers these things!)
Now you post on social. Same thing, but you reach a TON more people.
Of course, how much you do on social media depends on what you’re comfortable with and which medium you mesh with. Don’t want to talk? Instagram might be your thing. Mainly want to share things? Go with Facebook. Are you naturally snarky? Twitter’s probably your soulmate.
Wondering how to sell books on social media, especially Twitter? Here are my best tips.
3. Guest blog posts
Guest posting on a blog can be awesome when you’re promoting yourself and/or your work.
Sometimes the blogger will send you a few interview questions and that’s the guest blog. More often than not, you'll write a short article giving information and plugging your work at the same time. Don’t worry, you have something to say about your preferred genre or writing in general.
Bloggers are always looking for content, so don’t be afraid to get in touch with those you don’t know as well as those you do!
4. Blog tours
These require a bit of work but are worth it. Sometimes a blogger will interview you for the tour, which is a ton of fun (and predominately via email, so it’s introvert-friendly). Sometimes you can develop cover art and banners to dole out for blogger use.
You can also provide free content so the blogger can post a review of your work or even provide an excerpt for their readers. Giveaways are also popular for tours.
It's really up to you; anything goes as long as the blogger agrees!
Remember: The bloggers are doing you a favor, so make their work as easy as possible and they’ll be more likely to agree to the tour.
5. Your cartel
Unlike selling door-to-door, selling books these days requires a cartel of people who agree to promote you and your work. Ideally, you’d do some version of everything I’ve listed above AND have a plan to send your little army of promotion minions into the world (virtual and real) to promote you. A cartel is active promotion rather than posting something no one will see.
If you want to take your writing seriously, and if you want to sell books, you must have a cartel.
(If you want to learn more about building and utilizing a cartel, check this out. And if you'd like to build your cartel, why not join Write to Publish?)
Figuring out how to sell books is a learned skill just as much as writing is. Don't go it alone — be sure to find your cartel.
BONUS: Non-internet related sales
Get creative! Look for ways to sell books to your local community as well as strangers on the internet.
I’ve seen authors leave goodie bags at libraries, hang posters, and put bookmarks at store checkouts. People love free stuff. Just make sure the swag, whatever it is, has enough information that the future fan can find your work easily.
(I know this requires talking to librarians and shopkeepers, but that's not that bad. You can do it! And this is such a unique way to get the word out that it's worth the minor anxiety!)
How to Sell Books: Don't Discount the Tried-and-True
To be clear, I'm not saying you'll never have to talk to another person again if you just use the internet. The previous tips are there to add to your arsenal. I still recommend doing signings, attending conferences, and good old-fashioned hawking from the back of your car.
Just know that you don't have to rely solely on those icky extroverted things to sell books.
Which of these suggestions have you done to sell your work? Do you have any other suggestions for how to sell books? Let me know in the comments!
Today I want you to imagine either you or a character you choose is giving a talk or book reading at a library. Think about how you feel, how big the crowd is, whether the jokes land, etc. Add as much description, emotional and otherwise, as possible.
Write for fifteen minutes, then share your writing in the comments. Don’t forget to comment on your fellow writers’ work!
Sarah Gribble is the author of dozens of short stories that explore uncomfortable situations, basic fears, and the general awe and fascination of the unknown. She just released Surviving Death, her first novel, and is currently working on her next book.
Follow her on Instagram or join her email list for free scares.