What makes a book sell? Obviously a good story that’s well written is going to be a big selling point, but once you have a finished product, what makes your well-written book sell better than my well-written book?
And what makes the other guy’s terribly-written book outsell both of us?
Whether you like it or not, marketing is a part of being a writer. A great book isn’t going anywhere if nobody knows it exists. But in an ever more fractured marketplace, getting your book noticed is harder and harder.
Do you think people really care what Oprah thinks is a good read? Are they really interested in Snooki’s daily routine? When a book becomes a monster seller because it's all over the media, it’s generally because it’s bought by people who don’t normally buy books. And what’s more, once they’ve bought it, they don’t generally read it.
Media saturation is easily the best way to sell a book. It’s just very expensive, unless you get it for free.
Assuming you don’t have millions to spend on publicity, and you aren’t prepared to release the sex tape you made that time you got drunk with the short guy from Fantasy Island (what, just me?), how else are you going to get the name of your book on everybody’s lips?
Know anybody famous? Your book seen in the hands of a celebrity will get you sales. Again, mostly by people who will never read it, but a sale is a sale.
The idea that if someone else liked it, you will too, is a pretty standard sales technique. I have no idea why, since someone else’s taste has little to do with yours or mine, no matter how beautiful or talented they might be, but you can’t ignore the stats. A celebrity endorsement convinces a lot of people to take out their wallets.
The internet, of course, is the way most of us get the word out. We build our platforms, expand our networks, push our profiles. But there are so many of us out there it seems very difficult to maintain very much of a presence without spending all your free time online.
It kind of defeats the purpose of wanting to be a writer.
In the end I think the only truly reliable method is good old word of mouth. It’s slow, it’s uncontrollable, and you have to be really good, but if you can get people talking about your book then people are going to buy it. And maybe even read it.
Mind you, no reason you can’t do a bit of promotion on your friends’ blogs and tweets. Who knows, maybe Oprah surfs the internet when she’s bored.
Got any good ideas for generating publicity? I'd love to know.
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