I recently discovered an interesting blog called Worlds Greatest Book. The article that caught my eye was the Reality Checklist for Self-Publishers. (You can read the complete article at worldsgreatestbook.com)
The first six topics were:
Assessing the Break-Even Point
Choosing a Target Market
As I read what the author had written on costs, that the average book costs $7,500 to produce, I had a compelling question.
What do authors without thousands of dollars to invest in their work do to find someone to buy that work? Even worse, what do authors who have chosen the least reputable vanity publishing house do to market their books?
I, and many of my fellow authors, got into the novel writing business without any idea of the right marketing/publishing plan, or even an idea of how to be a writer.
In my case, I thought the publisher I had signed a contract with was going to help me be a better author, help my readers find my books, and help me become a successful author. However, after two years, the only activity my publisher is good at is sending me an email telling me if I spend more money, my novels will get into book fairs, onto book store shelves, perhaps even on the desk of a national talk show host.
That brings up another question. The books the publisher controls the rights to are not very good. In the months since I signed the contract, I have learned a great deal about writing. Why would I want to spend my money to sell an inferior product? I would rather no one buys the first four novels I wrote. Someday, I will have my rights restored, and will re-write those books. If the publisher was not interested in producing a quality product, I am not interested in lining their pockets with my efforts.
But, there is still the question. If I do not have thousands of dollars to spend on advertizing, editing, and publishing, how do my books find their way into the libraries of the average reader? I guess they do not, unless I find a way to put my name in front of someone who thinks one of my books might be worth buying.
The only free avenue available to sell my books is on the Internet. And, in my studies of how to market my books on the Internet, I have discovered one Internet rule: I must become a favorite of the search engines. I must do everything possible to establish my name.
I have preached that rule for months. However, there are a few who say that becoming popular doesn’t sell books. I agree. How many books have I sold in the past six months because of my popularity on the Internet? One? Two? I really do not have an exact number, but I am sure it is not more than three.
Nevertheless, I am not in the writing business for the short-term. Why? The first reason is that I do not have thousands of dollars to dump into the pot to get things stirred up. I need to start slowly, one tiny step at a time.
I suppose I could become severely depressed with my lack of success, but I am not looking at the next six days of sales, but the next six months.
So, what am I doing to prepare for the future?
First – I try to tweet four or five times each day. I have three Twitter accounts. If I tweet on one account, I always retweet on the other two accounts. If I count all three accounts, I have over 2000 followers.
Second – I post a blog on one of my two primary blog sites once a week.
How do these two activities help my future book sales? It is simply a game of numbers.
Several years ago, I took a sales course. During the course, the instructor talked about the “sales game”. He said that one in ten people will be interested in my product, and one in those ten would be willing to purchase the product. That meant I needed to talk to one hundred people before I would have someone sign on the dotted line. My goal was to find that one person in 100 as soon as possible.
Book sales on the Internet are part of the same sales game. First, find one hundred people who might want to purchase a book, and then find the one person in that group who will pull the money out of his pocket. That might be a lot easier said than done.
So, how does popularity on the Internet and tweeting on Twitter equate to finding that one person who is will to buy a book?
Initially, the numbers do not actually add up.
For example, when I started The Book Reviewers Club on Twitter, I started with perhaps five followers who were friends I twisted the arms of.
Let’s study the numbers. If I tweeted to each of my followers once per hour for a week, I would have, at most, 840 potential views of that tweet. (5 x 24 x 7 = 840)
Using the sales rule of 1 in 10 is interested, and one in those 10 will purchase, 840 views will produce 8.4 people would buy my book. Not so fast.
For the tweet to be seen, the following must occur:
1 – The target must be sitting in front of their computer
2 – The target must be looking at their screen
3 – The target must have their Twitter account displayed
4 – The target must bee watching the tweets flowing down their screen.
(There is another way the target could see my tweet – if they search for my name on Twitter, but if they don’t know who I am, how will they know who to search for?)
The above requirements severely limit the number of potential views of my tweet. Studies indicate only 1 in 100 will see the tweet. Furthermore, only 1% of the targets who see the tweet will follow the steps necessary to actually complete the requirements of the tweet (for example, clink on the link, go to the target location, and click some more).
Let’s look at the numbers once more:
We started with 840 possible targets. Of those targets, perhaps 8.4 actually saw the tweet, and only 0.084 followed the instructions. Remember, those 0.084 people are over a 7-day period.
Yes, it is depressing, isn’t it? I am envious of the Twitter accounts with 50,000 followers, and even more envious of sites with 75,000 followers. With 75,000 followers, perhaps 75 will actually follow the link on the tweet.
So, why am I not quivering in the corner? Because the numbers are working. On a daily basis, my followers increase. How? Because I tweet and post blogs. If I forget to post or tweet for a day or two, the number of new followers diminishes significantly.
A friend of mine sells journals on the Internet. She confirms that lack of tweeting reduces her sales. Another friend sells used books. He, too, confirms the value of tweeting.
Tweeting ten or fifteen times a day, or writing a blog and posting it two or three times, is a lot of work. Writing the blog isn’t work. Thinking of something that is new and relevant is requires work. It would be much easier to spend thousands of dollars promoting my book. Let an agent do all the work. Let a publishing house do all the work. Let an advertizing company do all the work.
Sorry, I don’t have that much spare change in my pocket. But I do have a desire to put my book in front of potential buyers. To that end, I am writing and posting blogs, and tweeting as often as I can remember to fill in the Tweet box on Twitter.
Someone once said that even a blind squirrel sometimes finds an acorn. Perhaps by increasing the number of acorns on the ground by tweeting and blogging, I can give the squirrel more opportunities to find my acorns. As the philosopher answered the question about eating an elephant — one bite at a time.