Friday, November 13, 2009

Self Publishing 101: Book Sales

I received an email today from a new self publisher, asking just when he could expect his first book sale. Well, that's a great question, but there is no standard answer. I will say this again and again... you have to get the word out. With over a billion websites out there, and nearly that many people trying to sell something, you have to a) have great product, and b) find a way for people to hear about that product.

The first mistake everyone makes is building a website, or opening an e-store, or joining a site that sells stuff, and then just sitting back and waiting for the people to trickle in and buy stuff. Hey, that could happen... but once Mom has bought your book, and your sister, and favorite Aunt, well, things will start to slow down.

Here's the first bit of knowledge to share... once you start a website, it takes time for your keywords and images to get into the search engines, so it will be weeks before people start to find you. Until then, only people you actually give the web address to will find you. Unless you pay big bucks to Google, you can expect to wait a few months for an audience to build up.

Bit o'knowledge #2: Yo haev to have fresh content to get those people coming back. Trust me on this one... when I take a break from cartooning to do freelance stuff, my audience finds something else to do.

If you are writing a book, then you may want to post teasers once in a while, or offer a free download of your first chapter. An Artist may want to create a series of work, promising more for visitors to come back to.

Still, the biggest thing, even today, is getting word out somewhere OFF the web. Web advertising is so intense right now, it is easy to ignore 99% of it, and that bit you can't ignore is usually so repulsive that you may even get off the web for a day or two. :0)

Scott Adams became big when he started adding his web address to his cartoons... in the newspapers. All the big cartoonists, writers, movie makers.. everyone has websites, but those sites are suplimentary to their main product. They offer something additional, and ways to buy, of course.

It is possible to grow your business being web only, but I'm sure that strictly web businesses still advertise and make appearances in the real world. They have to.

So... my advice? Advertise, blog, or go to conventions... anything and everything to get the word out. And yes, it will cost money, and lots of it, but that's what it takes to run any business. And most of that is tax deductible!

Just promise me one thing. Don't SPAM people, or throw your advertising in our faces. That's a great way to lose business forever.

More about Permission Advertising later.

Have a great one... JOHN :0)

PS the above cartoon has nothing to do with selling books... or does it? That's a new comic strip from Knight and Day. You can read more about them in their first two books available at or at my Lulu store. :0)


Brian Hughes said...

"I received an email today from a new self publisher, asking just when he could expect his first book sale."

As soon as he gets his mum to order one...or, at least, that's the way it usually goes.

John said...

Brian, a truer comment has not been made. :0)

Of course, one does hope that eventually non relatives will start purchasing your book, but oh, what a battle.

How about a guest column on what happens when you get a deal with a real publisher? That doesn;t always bode well, either, does it?

Man, what an industry! We do it for the love of books, I guess. We're certainly not here for the money. :0)

JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

"How about a guest column on what happens when you get a deal with a real publisher?"

John, trust me, you've never get away with it on a family site.

John said...

Brian, you call this a family site? Well, if I look through the dust, there is a family of spiders over there by the ads... :0)

Still, I'm sure your "memoirs of a young author in the publishing world" would make fascinating reading! Maybe you could leave blanks where the bad words are?

Cheers, JOHN :0)