Often times when writers dream of becoming bestselling authors, we picture worldwide success, with our novels translated into dozens of different languages and adapted into major motion pictures. One of the most important things to keep in mind, though, is that learning how to sell books is a process that starts small and, usually, starts locally.
Your Book Marketing Depends on You
Learning how to sell books is an extremely important skill as an author.
If you are a traditionally published author, you may have a team of people who will help you with marketing, but even then, it is mostly up to you to sell your work. If you are a self-published author, it is completely left to you.
Selling locally is a great way to start because it gives you an in-person advantage. You can be far more personal with people than you can ever be online, which gives a greater sense of who you are and what your books are like.
4 Ways to Sell Books in Your Community
Not sure how to sell books to the people in your local community? Here are four things you can do to get started.
1. Set up an event at your local bookstore
As scary as it can be, you have to take the first step when it comes to promoting yourself. If you wait around for someone else to invite you to an event or ask you to do a signing, you may be waiting around forever.
Take the initiative to send an e-mail or walk into your local bookstore and ask if they would consider hosting a book signing or a presentation/Q&A.
Whatever event you have in mind, make sure you have a clear idea of what it will be so you can properly pitch it. Remember to always be polite and offer the suggestion in a way that will show the bookstore how it will benefit them, as well.
Especially if it is an indie bookstore, talk about how you can promote the location and urge your readers to purchase books through them. The event should be mutually beneficial.
2. Create promotional material
There are a variety of websites you can use to create catchy posters and business cards for a relatively inexpensive price. If you are not comfortable with doing the graphic design yourself, consider asking an artistic friend for some help (make sure you pay them for their time, return the favor however you can, or at least take them out for a cup of coffee afterwards).
Once you have said posters, go to your local library and coffee shop and ask if it would be all right to hang them on their community boards. Wherever you can, put one up.
It might be a good idea to include a QR code on the post that goes to your blog or someplace where readers can easily purchase your book.
Business cards are a must, as well. Make sure they have your name, headshot, and links to your website and social media pages. Whenever you meet someone new in your community, give them a business card. It’s a great and easy way to keep in touch with new friends and let them know about your books.
3. Go to events in your community
One of the best ways to get your community connected with your book is for you to connect with your community.
Whenever there is a local, bookish event, try to attend it (and take your business cards with you!). Authors love to chat with other writers and going to a signing or release party is a great way to start networking.
Others who are attending the event are likely to be big readers, too. Talk to them! Ask them what kinds of books they like, if they’re long-time or recent fans of the author hosting the event, and so on. Once you get into a conversation, you can mention your own book and maybe even swap contact information.
Events at bookstores are not the only ones you should attend, either. Go to classes at your local library or an open mic at a coffee shop. You never know who you’ll end up talking to or who might be interested in buying your book.
4. Write an elevator pitch
These are a must for any book. Any person advising you on how to sell books will eventually tell you to write an elevator pitch.
Simply put, an elevator pitch is, as the name suggests, a pitch for your book that you can relay in the time it would take to ride an elevator with someone. It should be short and snappy, no more than a few lines.
Not sure how to get started writing your elevator pitch? Condensing your book into a one- or two-line premise is a great place to start.
After you’ve written your pitch, rehearse it until you can repeat it in your sleep. This way, when you chat with a fellow reader/writer at an author signing and they ask the inevitable question, “What’s your book about?” you won’t have to stammer and desperately search for the right words.
Writing a glowing description of your book can take days and endless revisions. You don’t have to think of it on the spot.
With an in-person pitch, though, you have to think on your feet. If you’re like me and you don’t like coming up with something on the fly, it would be a good idea to write and revise an elevator pitch you can easily memorize and repeat with a smile.
For an example of what this should look like, here is a pitch I wrote recently for one of my novels:
Lila, an immortal witch, falls for Melody, a mortal witch hunter. The two end up on the run when the demon Angelique decides Lila would be the perfect addition to her team in the upcoming apocalyptic war against humanity.
The pitch should introduce your main character(s) and the antagonist/conflict.
How to Sell Books in Person
Selling books locally is a lot different from networking online, but it comes with several advantages. People are more likely to buy your product if they feel like they have connected with you on a personal level. Plus, getting to know your readers (or potential readers) is such an important part of being an author.
And remember, it isn’t a big deal if you don’t make a sale right away. Sometimes you make a friend first, and maybe later that friend will become a customer, and a long-time fan.
How do you promote your work in your community? Do you have any other tips for how to sell books in your local community, or strategies that have worked for you? Let us know in the comments.
Write an elevator pitch for your most recent book. Make sure it is only a few lines long and focuses on your protagonist and the conflict standing in their way.