Today we have a guest post from self-publisher Mark Evans, who has just released his first novel, Mrs God. Welcome to Catherine, Caffeinated, Mark!
“You remember the scene in Glengarry Glen Ross, don’t you? The one where Alec Baldwin gives a lecture on the art of selling real estate, by swearing a lot and insulting Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin and Ed Harris? It’s a great scene. Baldwin’s message can be boiled down to just three letters: ABC. Always. Be. Closing. Always be closing the deal, getting people to sign on the dotted line.
Well, Jack, Alan and Ed could have been authors and Alec could have been giving them advice on selling self-published books. The same principle applies – always be closing. It’s as easy as ABC. In fact, self-published authors should go even farther; they should be closing long before there’s something to sell. Let’s break it down.
Planting the seeds
Don’t wait until you’ve emerged blinking into the light to let people know that you’ve just finished your book. That’s too late. If you’re serious about devoting a large portion of your time – up to a year or two – to bashing out a manuscript, then tell people about it. You may be a mother, father, dancer, student, or just jobless dreamer, but once you tell others that you’ve started work on a book, you get a name tag that reads ‘writer’. If people care about you, then they’ll be curious about how the book is going – and tell others too. They are all potential readers. Always be closing.
Okay, you’ve finished your book and by that I don’t mean you’ve gotten to the end and typed ‘the end’. I mean you’ve rewritten it and rewritten it and given it to beta readers and rewritten it some more. I mean you’ve rewritten it so much that you’re physically sick of rewriting it. Good, that means you’re finished. Now it’s time to choose where you’re going to place it. Here’s a clue: Amazon. Put it where the readers are. Let the terraflops of computing power at Amazon HQ help sell your book for you. Get formatting. Always be closing.
Give people what they want
Not all people are the same. Some like The Beatles, others prefer the Stones. Some swear by ebooks, others cannot stand the medium and will only read words printed on paper. Consider going the extra mile and formatting a version of your book for print-on-demand sites, such as Createspace and Lulu. Those without an e-reader will be happy that there’s a paperback version of your book, but they won’t be too enamoured by the cost of getting it into their hands. Always be closing. Offer this cohort something extra. I wrote a four-page Q&A for the end of my book, Mrs God. Because of this ‘special edition’ I could possibly entice those who downloaded it to their e-readers to purchase the paperback version too. ABC.
Do you really believe that people don’t judge books by their covers? Me neither. That’s why you need to get a professional to design yours. Unless you’re a whizz on Photoshop, that is. You’re book cover should be striking and must also work at different sizes, from poster right down to gravatar. It should work like a branding, encouraging people to click on it or stop and look at it. ABC.
The art of the blurb
Short blurbs are harder to write than long ones. Spend some time on reducing the word count by making every word count. The blurb is to capture browsers and the curious. These people are like butterflies, flitting from one title to the next on websites, spending mere seconds upon each book. Your blurb should be brief and compelling – offering sweet nectar. Follow this format: x must do y in order to get z, but n stands in the way. X is your hero, n is your nemesis. Most fiction is sold this way, from novels to blockbuster movies. ABC.
Social media’s trinity
Before you’ve finished your book, you should have a presence on Facebook, Twitter and a blogging site. Post, tweet and blog as much as you can. You will gain followers/readers and you will also showcase your writing skills. Remember six degrees of separation, the idea that any two people in the world can be linked in just six moves? Well, social media removes perhaps two of those moves. Get active online and you’ll get closer to millions of possible readers. ABC.
If you live outside the United States, you’re going to have a medium-sized panic attack when Amazon (and any other site) asks you to fill out its online tax form. Catherine’s blog helped me out in this regard, with an easy to follow guide on getting an EIN number. I rang the IRS from Ireland and within 10 minutes had my number, thus preventing the IRS from taking a 30% chunk of my royalties. It’s a small obstacle to clamber over if you want to sell your work in the biggest ebook market in the world. ABC.
The price is right
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by hooking possible buyers only to make them baulk at the price of your book. Unless you’ve written a 3,000-page epic, keep the price below $9.99. Unless you’ve written a 12-page picture book for kiddies, keep the price north of $1.99. Not too high to break the bank, not too low to undersell your hard work. Determine a Goldilocks price. I found $4.99 was just right; a 350-page novel for (about) the price of a drink in a bar. ABC.
Shrinking violets will find it difficult to do the hard sell, the cold calling. Well, as Alec Baldwin would say: “Get out there, you got the prospects coming in, you think they came in to get out of the rain? A guy don’t walk on the lot unless he wants to buy.” There’s a whole lot of people walking on the social media lot – you gotta get out there, grab a few by the elbow and lead them to your book. Sell them your work. Make it easy for them to buy it. Keep at it. Always be closing.
Always. Be. Closing.”
Mark Evans has worked as a journalist with the Irish Examiner national newspaper for more than ten years. His first non-fiction book, Inquizition, was published in 2007. He has written award-winning plays and his news features have been published in Ireland, the US, South Africa and Australia. He lives in Co Cork, Ireland, with his wife and two children. Mrs God is his first novel.