Ask 100 people, “Who is interested in buying books?”, and you might get 15 to say “I am!” without knowing what the book is about. I’ve had a couple authors recently tell me that the reason their book is not selling is because nobody wants to read anymore. With video games, TV, the internet, music, and movies all vying for attention, it certainly feels like their exasperation has a basis in fact. However, if you ask those same 100 people, “How many of you have books in your house?”, I would bet 85 of them would say they do.
So people are buying books. The problem for many authors is that they don’t know how or where readers buy them. I know this because of a question I get all the time that is very natural for authors to ask: How is my book doing?
Most often, this is code for, “How many books are flying off of store shelves?” For the slightly more savvy author, it’s code for “How many books are flying through Amazon’s warehouse?”
The fact is that until you are famous, you already know better than I could tell you how your book is doing. You know how many you’ve sold. When you are in the name-building stage, the vast majority of book sales come through you. So how can you sell books by not selling your book?
I’ve talked about this before (click here). The number one way to sell books by not selling books is through speaking engagements. Last week, I met with author Sun Hui East (That’s her on the cover of this book), and I got to meet her son, Josiah David Warren, who is a musician. (He’s on the cover of this book.) After a long discussion of all the ways to sell books in today’s environment, he said, “It is so much easier with music. All you have to do is play a lot of shows and say, ‘CDs are in the back!’”
This is true for authors as well. Only instead of playing shows, you’re doing speaking engagements. People aren’t interested in books until they are interested in the person who wrote it. While it is entirely possible to attract people with the book’s topic, they won’t know about the book if you haven’t made yourself known first. We can send out press releases all day long, but if your name is not known, it significantly decreases the likelihood that the press will be interested. The press is only interested when the public is. The best way to interest the public is by speaking to like-minded people, and the more the merrier.
This is easy to say for a guy like me who loves speaking in front of people. However, you may have heard that more people are afraid of speaking in public than are afraid of dying. If you’re one of those, there is hope. Public speaking is a learned behavior, and anyone can learn it. If you need to learn, do a Google search for Toastmasters clubs near you.
You are the attraction because you lived the story. You have learned the lesson. You have carried the message. They’ll buy your book once they hear the story from you. Then as more people buy it and are touched by it, they will tell others, the word begins to spread farther than you can carry it yourself, and you begin to get sales residually. I’ve seen this again and again.
When Ry Sloth, author of the children’s book Sammy Sloth hit the milestone of 5000 books, I went back to research how he did it. I found out that the majority of his sales were from books he bought from us and sold at speaking engagements at schools. The other sales came from retail sales and sales through our website. He found his niche market and mined it for all it was worth and then some. To my knowledge, Ry has never done a book signing outside of his state, but we’ve had orders from every Amazon warehouse across the country. He doesn’t go to schools asking if he can sell his book. He put together a presentation on sports and physical fitness and talks to teachers about teaching their class for 20-40 minutes. If someone was willing to come do your job for you for a few minutes of the day, what would you tell them? Ry doesn’t ask for payment, all he asks is that they allow him to sign books for the kids who want to buy them. The book doesn’t even come up until they’ve agreed to have him come. He just sent me a message telling me he has sold 400 books at the last 3 schools. All those retail sales, then, are coming from kids who have bought his book and are telling others about it. As soon as Ry slows down from selling all those books, he’s going to write a note to me describing more of his system. Don’t wait for that, though. At the rate he’s going, it could be awhile before he slows down! (To learn more about Sammy Sloth, click here.)
Create a presentation based on your book. Find places to teach it. If you need help finding those places, that’s why I am here – and I can help. Remember that the best approach is always the one that helps the person you’re approaching. Don’t commit to help in any way that doesn’t help you. Contact the person of most immediate authority first. (In schools, this is the teacher. In churches, it’s the small group leader or Sunday school teacher.) Most of the time these people can bring you in on their own authority. If they need permission from a principal or pastor, it’s much better for them to approach that person instead of you.
Interest people in yourself, and interest them in the topic, and they will carry that interest to your book.