In 7 Obstacles to Selling Your Book, we discussed the external factors that inhibit your book sales. In Part 2, we’ll look at how we get in our own way. I encourage you to take notes and write down your thoughts and, if you’re brave, let us know what you discovered.

Don’t believe in your book

Of all of the reasons that your book isn’t selling, one of the biggest reasons for lackluster or no sales at all is you don’t believe your book is worthy of the price tag you put on it. There are a few possibilities as to why you feel this way: you know you didn’t do the work to carefully craft and revise it, you didn’t hire an editor to edit it, you got negative reviews, or you got no reviews at all and have no idea what people think.

Fortunately, there are fixes for most everything if you published a print-on-demand book or ebook. Unless you have a garage full of books, go back and fix what isn’t working and/or hire an editor to smooth the rough edges. Update or republish your book and get a fresh start with renewed confidence. If you’re lacking reviews, give your book away. Build your tribe of loyal readers and grow from there. You’ll gain confidence once you have positive feedback on your side.

Don’t have confidence to talk or write about your book

There are a few reasons you may lack confidence: you don’t have or deliver the right message or you don’t know where or how to deliver the message. Actually, that’s four things rolled into one. The main idea is your messaging. Let me give you an example. I have two books about self-publishing. While it is true, it is also flat and doesn’t compel anyone into action. The Self-Publishing Roadmap helps aspiring authors overcome their obstacles to writing and publishing the book of their dreams. My description identifies the who (aspiring authors) the pain point (their obstacles) to their hope (writing and publishing the book of their dreams). Better?

I’ll discuss the “who” in a moment. Focus now on the pain point. What problem are you solving for your reader? How is your book going to help them feel better, happier, richer, etc.? Write or rewrite your elevator pitch and practice it until it feels natural and rolls off your tongue. If it takes longer than 11 seconds, considering tightening it up to get to the heart of it. Work on a longer description as readers “lean in” and ask for more.

Deliver that message where your readers are in a way they are likely to consume the information. If your readers are chatting in a fitness group on Facebook, hang out with them there (or start your own group). If they go to literary events, go there. If readers need to see you and hear you, speak or present a workshop. If readers like to pin fun or interesting pictures, hang out on Pinterest. Wherever they are, go with your message in hand and valuable content to share.

Don’t invest in your book

A successful book is not a “set it and forget it” proposition. Once you publish your book (and way before you publish it), there are two ways you can invest in it. You can either spend your time or spend your money or both. Not surprisingly, successful authors do both. Those who are successful view authorship as a business with all of its benefits and sacrifices.

Too often, those struggling with book sales hope the book sells itself and invest too little time cultivating relationships, building a following, or doing promotional activities both on and offline. Many authors spend too much time doing the wrong things, too. If you spend all of your time reading about how to sell more books and no time implementing the strategies, your book sales will reflect your decision.

The ugly stepsister of time is money. Especially for those who don’t want or can’t invest the time into selling a book, investing money in the right places can make up for time. You can spend money on advertising or invest in people to handle the promotion for you as a way to overcome lack of time or knowledge. Money can’t cure all ills, especially if your book doesn’t resonate with readers, but strategically placed investments in ads, promotional space at book fairs and similar places boost visibility and potentially increase sales.

Don’t know who your readers are

I’ve heard from lots of authors who think their target reader is everyone. In the marketing world we say that marketing to everyone is marketing to no one. This is true in the writing world, as well. We have to define our specific reader profiles in order to properly market to them. It’s true that you may have more than one type of reader (or buyer persona). Identify each type of reader and how your book solves their problem.

Although the group “nonfiction writers” is more specific than “writers,” some of my readers are business professionals who are writing to grow their business and some are memoirists who want to share a piece of themselves to help others or heal themselves. I’ll market my books differently to each group to help solve their specific problem.

Another important factor is understanding your reader’s buying habits or where they hang out. If your target readers are midlife men, building a following on Pinterest won’t likely push the needle. If your book is for an older generation, an ebook only format might hurt your sales.

The main takeaway is to define you target reader or readers and think like they think. Interact with them where they are on and offline and give them a book in a format they want to consume. When you think like them and really understand them, you will see a difference in your sales.

Don’t have goals and strategy for selling your book

How will you know if you reached your goals? It’s crucial to set book sales goals in order to have something to work toward. If you’ll feel successful selling 10 books, your strategy will be markedly different if your measure of success is in the thousands. For some, simply writing the book is success enough. If that’s not you, quantify your targeted number of books sold. If your goal is something other than books sales, like speaking engagements or number of new clients, quantify those, as well.

Your strategy could be any number of things. You could offer online or live workshops, amp up your social media presence, build your email list, or attend book fairs, among other ideas. How many people will you need on your email list and how will you get people on your email list would be examples of questions to answer to compile a strategy. Of course, it will likely be more than one thing. Employing random tactics (posting, emailing, offering a workshops, etc.) may be ineffective without a plan to pull all of your efforts together.

Don’t have systems in place to build your readership

Most book marketing experts agree that an email list is one of the most effective ways to build and maintain a loyal following. Unlike your social media following, you own your list and have direct access to followers. You aren’t handcuffed by this week’s social media algorithms and no one can take your followers and content away if the newest social media platform makes your favorite one obsolete.

Choose an email platform like Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, Aweber, or one of the many others available and begin attracting people by providing valuable incentives in exchange for their subscription. Your Gmail account just won’t cut it. Continue to provide valuable information and insights to keep your tribe engaged and sprinkle in information about your book or upcoming books.

Don’t have the help to make it happen

If you’re like many authors, the whole idea of book promotion is daunting and simply overwhelming. I get it. Fortunately, there are options.

First, become educated about selling books (or selling anything for that matter). I mentioned a few books in Obstacles to Selling Your Book, Part 1.

Second, you don’t have to do everything at once. Pick one thing and get proficient at that. Whether that is online or off, focus on one strategy and rock it.

Third, get help. You don’t have to go at this alone. If hiring a book marketing company is beyond your reach, hire a virtual assistant to handle some of the tasks. You can even partner with other authors to share the load. Set up a joint blog, exchange social media posting for manning tables at book fairs, or whatever is mutually beneficial to each author.

There are a lot of things that can get in the way of increasing your book sales. Give yourself the space to consider what is holding you back and then create a plan for getting the results you really want.

What did you discover?

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