What’s your plan to increase sales this year? PJ Nunn

PJIt’s a New Year, after all. And the voices we listen to in the publishing world are once again speaking of change. The ebook world has plateaued but where do we go from here? Bob Mayer offers 10 predictions, but also mentions that he likes to be spontaneous, while one of his partners at Cool Gus Publishing likes to carefully plan things out with spreadsheets and calculations. My deduction? Not the same things work for everyone. We all have to be willing to pull away from the crowd and ferret out what works for us. We also need to learn to delegate – staff our weaknesses.

Unfortunately for some, from my seat as a publicist, that is still an issue. Far too many authors, whether original Indies or those who’ve transferred over from traditional publishers, just don’t know for sure what works for them. They’ve either followed the crowd without question, or they’re in some sort of time lock, quoting things that worked when they were first published by Penguin back in the 80s. Guess what?

Out of curiosity, I purchased a couple of ebooks last year with titles along the lines of How to Make $50,000 a month with Kindle (I hope that’s not a true title – I changed the names to avoid annoying anyone in particular). how-can-i-make-a-millionWhat I found was interesting. First, the two books were not much alike as far as the “how” although both spouted many, many numbers that ultimately didn’t make much sense to me. Second, they both seemed to be sincerely trying to convey helpful information. The bottom line, though, was I didn’t take away anything from either that felt like adequate advice that I could apply to my own plan to increase sales for my books. My conclusion? My “cynical self” deduced that the way they increased their ebook sales to magnanimous proportions was to write a book with that title and promote the heck out of it! How could you not buy it if it held that kind of secret??

My more “realistic self” suspects that the authors really started out to share useful information, but somehow stopped short in the area of theory before reaching practical application. I’m sure there are more authors who opt for Bob Mayer’s “spontaneous” approach, not necessarily because it’s best or even works for them, but because it’s all they know to do. I’m deeply wedged in the plotting and planning group. My background in psychology and the horrors of the statistics classes I had to pass to get my degree have the words “cause” and “effect” firmly carved in my brain. If it works, or if it doesn’t, I want to know why.

So here’s my suggestion as you start out this fresh New Year:

  • Record – Spend the next couple of weeks journaling all of your promotional activities without trying to determine cause and effect. If you post tweets, record it. If you note an upswing (or otherwise) in sales, record it. Time for drawing conclusions later.
  • Research – Also spend some time doing research. Read blogs and articles from people who know. Never take anything on the internet at face value – know something about the person writing it. There are a lot of knowledgeable professionals sharing info out there, but there are also a lot of author who talk like they know but don’t have the numbers or the experience to back it up.
  • Renew – Set aside some time to review the information you’ve gathered. Once you’ve gone over it, it’s time to make a plan for this year.

Ask yourself:

What is my ultimate goal? This should be something about the number of books you’d like to sell, not what show you’d like to be on.

What activities will best help me reach that goal? There should be several, and a variety of types. This can be a rather extensive list including reviews, website, blog, speaking engagements, print and broadcast media, convention attendance and more.

When and where should these activities take place? This will involve a calendar.

Who should I enlist to help with some of the activities? This is where you staff your weakness. Be creative, but don’t try to do too much yourself. You must have time to write! How do you decide who does what? Some authors have friends and family they can enlist. I don’t recommend pairing up with other authors for this – they’re as busy as you are (although pairing up for events can be a good idea). When it comes to sending out review copies, designing print materials or web graphics, and scheduling speaking engagements or media, it’s probably best to stick with professionals, but there are many out there with varying degrees of experience and a wide range of fees. Take time to check around and see who’s the best fit for the job at hand!

And remember, once you have a plan that feels comfortable to you, don’t micromanage! Effective book promotion is a process. Slow and steady wins the race. Too many authors go from blitz to burnout to nothing, then start over at blitz again. It’s not effective. Stick with your plan without worrying about results or checking your numbers every day. Review your sales at about the 3 month mark, then again at 6 months. In truth, the promotion you do in those early months can still be working for you a year later. I know you’ve heard it from me before, but it’s still true. Whether you build a little snowman or a huge snowman, you still build it a handful of snow at a time and it’s really hard to tell which handful made the biggest difference.

Do any of you newer authors have questions to pose here?

Or do any of you with a few books under your belt have suggestions to help us all with our planning? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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