12 Ways to Spark Book Sales, and How to Make the Most Out of a PR Campaign

by alexwalborn

No author is immune to book sales woes. For most authors, book sales are an important part of WHY they write a book. They want to inspire, entertain, educate, or simply share their artistic work—and perhaps make money from the endeavor! 

According to Sandra Poirier-Diaz, President of Smith Publicity, Inc., authors who are using their “book as a business card” to increase their name as an expert in their field or to attract new opportunities, book sales are typically a lower priority as they want to make money from consulting projects, speaking engagements, etc. Therefore, there are more effective ways to promote the book. 

As most of us know, Book publicity, by definition, is using the media to create attention for the title, topic and author in the form of an interview, article, feature story, blog post, review, recommendation, and so on. Publicity is one initiative an author/publisher undertakes to help create awareness about a title. However, publicity alone is one small part of a bigger strategic plan necessary to give a book and author a better chance for significant sales.

A book publicist can present a book to a producer, editor or blogger, but if they are not interested in it, there is little a publicist can do to entice coverage. Furthermore, even if a book does get coverage it is still up to the audience if they are interested in purchasing the book.

While book publicity plays an important role in creating awareness (even Steven King and John Grisham do publicity for new books) there are several factors outside of a publicist’s role that positively or negatively impact book sales. According to Poirier-Diaz, (and I feel that these make sense, based on various cases that I have read,) in order to have the best possible chance of attracting media attention and potential book buyers, authors/publishers need to consider the following to set books up for the greatest chance of success:

1. A quality book, written by a credentialed author (essential for non-fiction) with a topic that will be of interest in the current market. This will add credibility to the project.

2. Professional help. Books need to be professionally designed (cover and inside layout) and professionally edited, with well-written front and back cover copy. People do judge a book by its cover.

3. Complete Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. retail listings. Minimally, every book retail description should include a book cover, “look inside” (Amazon) or “read instantly” (B&N) feature, detailed author page with website, social media handles, author photo, detailed book description, author bio, all tagged properly in the right genre, and reviews even from friends and family to start.

4. Engage the services of a book distribution firm. Book distribution companies try to get books on the shelves of independent bookstores, plus larger retail outlets such as Barnes & Noble, Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, etc. The more visible a book is, the more potential buyers will see it.

5. Pricing strategy, especially for e-books.

6. Well thought out social media plan.  Strategy and fan base building should begin well before a book is published, with the author interacting with bloggers, readers and professionals in his or her genre.

7. Professionally designed website. This is a place where media and readers can connect with the author to learn about current projects, past titles and future work.

8. Authors need to take an active role. Book publicity alone will not generate book sales. Authors need to connect with both the media and potential readers to make good impressions.

9. Timing and luck.  Just because (the author and publicists) are ready for the book/topic to be covered, it doesn’t necessarily mean the media is.

10. Volume of experts and author vying for the same attention. To go along with timing and luck, authors need to understand that there is stiff competition for media attention. New authors need to have patience. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

11. Amplifying publicity results. Successful authors use publicity exposure (links to interviews/articles, reviews, “as seen in Wall Street Journal…”) on their websites, social media platforms, book covers, future submissions to publishers and in their bio or marketing material.

12. Continuing relationships after a publicity campaign is over. Authors need to continue interacting with media (especially book bloggers), supporting fellow authors in the same genre, and communicating with fans and readers. Becoming a well-known author is not an overnight process.