Category Archives: Audience building

How Book Sales Happen

Jim Miller‘s definition of marketing is “creating a market that didn’t previously exist or expanding one that does.” Almost every author I have talked to has wrestled with this because it can feel like the actual work of marketing is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall.

That’s not really what is going on. However, I came up with a little model to illustrate why it feels that way and what is actually happening. I call it the “book sales funnel”.

There are four basic steps in any buying decision. Think about anything you’ve ever bought. First you had to hear about it or see it. You had to be exposed to it. Then you had to be interested in the product or service. Then you had to research it to see if it is right for you. And finally, you purchase it. With me so far? Good.

Now think about this: Do you buy everything you’re exposed to? Of course not. Why not? Well, perhaps you have no interest in a Thighmaster. Maybe you’d love to have that Lamborghini, but when you researched it, you realized you don’t have that kind of scratch. You “fell out of the funnel” before you got to a purchase. The exact same thing is happening to your potential readers. It’s called a funnel because it is wider at the top than it is at the bottom, and more people fall away at each point. It looks a little like this:

\                EXPOSURE               /

\           INTEREST           /

\      RESEARCH     /


If you have no exposure, how many sales will you have? None. If you have a little bit of exposure, how many sales will you have? Could still be none. If that exposure doesn’t turn into interest, you need more or better exposure. Some people will be casually interested but not enough to look into it. Of those who do look into it, only some — maybe only a few — will buy it. So the more and better exposure you get, the more sales you will have.

People who are already famous have the first 3 steps covered before they ever put a finger on their keyboard to write a book. They can predict the number of purchases they’ll get based on the number of movies or TV shows they’ve been in, the number of hit songs they’ve had, or the number of followers or subscribers they have for their blog, social media pages, or their YouTube channel. Authors who have achieved fame have already done these 3 steps with their first or second or fifteenth book, and everything they continue to put out skips the first three.

The point is that there is no substitute for working to gain exposure. There are many ways to do it. Some are the things your publisher does for you. Some are things that don’t cost you anything. Some are only possible if you pay somebody. If you are a Tate Publishing author, we work to create opportunities for all of the above, but there is no one who can do it all for you. If you want more information about the kinds of things you can do, check out this blog post. I wrote it last year. It’s still true today.

(If you’re not a Tate Publishing author, you should be. You’re missing out on a lot of help for the things you’ve been left to do yourself! Visit for more information.)


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The Business of Being an Author

Most authors at some point approach the sales of their book as if there is either some magic involved or as if it is something that some nebulous “other” is supposed to do for them. But book sales are neither wizardry nor a spectator sport. It’s a simple business that works like any other business. To have a successful business, you need capital, a market, inventory, and workers to fulfill the needed roles. Unlike most publishers who leave all these things to the author to figure out, Tate Publishing has a plan for each of them.

Capital – The lifeblood of your business
Without money, no business can succeed. You need it for all the other aspects. You need money to develop your market, to buy inventory, and to pay your workers. Very few people have a cash reserve ready to launch a thriving business from a dead stop, just like very few people can send a rocket into space. If you have that, use it. Start big and fast. If you don’t, start with walking or riding a bike. Buy a few books, sell them, and use the money to buy more. I’m convinced that most authors spend the money they make on books instead of investing in their book’s business, and they die on the vine. The good news is that you can start fresh anytime. If you do this right, you should only have to use your own money once, and then your book sales will support future book purchases and on and on. To do this effectively, you should establish a separate account for your books as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to check with a tax professional to see what tax benefits you can get from doing this. When your book account has more money than your book needs, THEN you can pay yourself out of it.

Market – Who is buying your book?
Expecting someone else to bring the market to you is a fantasy. It only happens that way in the movies. We can help you build an audience, but we can’t do it for you. If you are a Tate Publishing author and haven’t read the niche marketing section of the marketing guide in awhile, it might be time to revisit it. My job as your marketing consultant is to help you buy and sell your books in your niche market. If you don’t know how or where to find people where they gather, how to connect with them, or how to turn those connections into book sales, I am here to help. If you have done these things and stopped, why did you stop? Let’s get started again. When you do this right, working in your market builds capital, which you can use to help you reach more of your market. (If you’re not a Tate Publishing author, you should be. Click the link in our name to get started.)

Inventory – Books on hand
Successful authors have a minimum number of books on hand at all times. Authors who can only schedule one or two events a month may be fine to have 25 books on hand. Authors working events every week should have 50 or 100. Authors who are active nearly every day should reorder when they get down to 200. Managing your inventory is the key to being able to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. Determine how active you can be and work up to your minimum inventory as quickly as possible.

Workers – Whose hands?
Most authors I talk to these days understand their role as the face of the book. Every now and then, I still run across an author who thinks that this is my job or a bookstore’s job or the system’s job to produce book sales. Even among authors who understand their role, I often talk to authors who believe at some point they can put this thing on autopilot and expect sales to roll in. Let me make this clear: you are the CEO of your business. Not me, not Tate Publishing, not Barnes and Noble, and not a distributor. You are the CEO. You have retained our services to help you with marketing advice and publicity contacts to bookstores, non-bookstore venues, and the media, and we’re always willing to help in those ways. However, you don’t want to sit in the back seat of the car until your business is big enough to hire a driver. Don’t give up too early. Building a business of any kind takes time, and building an audience for your book is no exception.

If you keep these things in mind and set your expectations accordingly, you set yourself up for a long and successful career as a writer. As your publishing and marketing partner, we want nothing less for you!

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Filed under Audience building, Growing your platform, Niche Marketing, Reputation building, Uncategorized