How To Sell A Book (Part 1)

I wrote a post like this a long time ago, but I figure that we’re going into 2018, so why not do a new one?

Ok. So here’s the deal: If you have a book published by a traditional publisher, and if the publisher is supporting your book (sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t), there are three things you can do that will sell books: 1. In-store appearances (book signings and presentations), 2. Radio interviews. 3. PR.

You’ll notice I separated radio interviews from public relations. Radio interviews are awesome for selling books. I’m convinced most of the 6,000 or so copies Social Media is Bullshit sold came from doing radio interviews. (Only 28, that I can track anyway, came from social media … Thus proving the point behind my book.) PR can be hit or miss, but you have to do it anyway. And if you’re lucky (because seriously, luck plays a more significant factor than any of us would like to think in life), then PR can also drive a lot of sales.

Now, here’s a nice little twist, and my challenge with “The End of Privacy.” The book is being put out by a publisher based in the U.K., So if you’re in the US, you should still be able to obtain a copy of it through Amazon.co.uk. But. You have to jump through an extra hoop.

People HATE jumping through hoops. We may soon, like next year maybe, live in a world of zero-click ordering where Amazon just sends you shit based on your purchases, and you just send back what you don’t want and then they bill you for what you keep. This is going to be awesome, but you have to understand that the reason this zero-click thing is going to be so successful is that people don’t want to jump through hoops. They don’t want to do the work, and who can blame them? Life is hard enough, and none of us have time for bullshit.

That’s … Oh man. Can I just tell you, if I can sell 10,000 copies of this book (my personal goal, to be completed by December 31st, 2018) then I will declare myself the best marketing person on this planet; Because this is going to be really, really, hard.

The reason why is because I don’t have one of the three principal anchors to help me sell this book, which is the in-store appearances. Now, I COULD just buy a bunch of these books and do events at libraries or something (not a bad idea), but the amount of funds available for me to do this are pretty minimal, meaning bulk purchases and giving this thing away is not an option at the moment.

P.S. Napolean Hill once said that a goal is just a dream with a deadline. So you should absolutely give yourself a deadline for any goals you have in selling your book. For me, I’m going for just over a year to sell 10,000 books. Doing that is a little crazy because most books don’t sell more than 300 copies in their first year, and more than three-thousand copies in their lifetime. I’m looking to just demolish that with a book that won’t even be in stores.

So what do you do?

You can, and should, still do radio interviews. I just did one for WGN in Chicago that’ll be posted on this site as soon as I can do so. Booking radio is easy. Way easier than television. (I’ve always had help in getting my TV appearances, usually it’s thanks to a friend of a friend or two. So, when it comes to TV, I’m not the person to ask just yet. I haven’t learned the art of it.)

I’m going to tell you something no author wants to hear. Myself included. Nobody cares about the book itself. You will be (very) lucky if you make money from the book itself. So the thing to do, and the thing to understand is to figure out what the larger story is around the book. In my case, I think Facebook owes us all a lot of money. Not only for selling and providing our information to other parties, but as computer scientist and fellow author, Jaron Lanier, put it, because every time we give sites like Facebook our information, we’re making their systems smarter. So, in its most basic sense, we’re doing all sorts of free work for Facebook and other companies in addition to them selling our information and turning a nice profit.

Remember: Facebook isn’t a thing on its own. It’s just a dump for your stuff and your friend’s stuff. Without your stuff, there is no Facebook and no incentive to use Facebook. And since Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg supports the concept of a universal basic income, I think Facebook can (and should) lead the way and start paying its users.

And if Facebook doesn’t want to do that? Then I want a version of Facebook where I pay them a monthly fee, no different than Spotify Premium or YouTube Red, where they don’t track what I’m doing and don’t advertise to me. That premium version of Facebook can also offer me more control over what I see in my newsfeed (maybe they have human editors who help sort and filter through posts to help stop any spam or fake news from getting to me. I don’t know. Makes sense on paper though, don’t you think?

See? That’s a big, crazy idea. Will it work in reality? I don’t know, but I think we should have that conversation, don’t you? The Middle Class, of which I’ve spent my life being a part of, is totally fucked. I’m convinced my generation will go perpetually underemployed and have no social safety net when we retire. Automation will make things worse. Unless we have a federal government jobs initiative centered around preparing and managing the planet for climate change and getting ready for space exploration, then I just don’t know what a lot of us are going to do. Shit, let’s bring back the Works Progress Administration. Or a private equivalent. I don’t care if the solution comes from the private sector or the public sector, let’s just do something to solve the problem.

Anyway … That’s a tangent, but you see what I did? I threw out one concept that comes from “The End of Privacy” book and spun it off into this whole platform; One that includes a set of talking points concerning the end of the Middle Class and how the tech companies, in exchange for making billions off our information, should be cutting us in on some of that money. Not to mention, paying their fucking taxes, because Jesus, do you have any idea how little in taxes Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple have paid over the years that could have gone toward fixing our public schools and roads?

Everything I just shared with you becomes the pitch for the interview. The book is just your foot in the door. The story and ideas I just shared with you are what pulls in the audience and makes you an interesting person to speak to. Hey, don’t take my word for it, I’ve been doing this successfully for over a decade now.

I guess another way to put this is that you’re creating a story, and the book is just part of that story. Not the story itself. Nobody cares that you have a new book coming out. The only thing people care about is answering the constant, buzzing question of “What’s in it for me?”

So, you answer that question and then you pitch that story and see if it sticks. Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, you come up with a new answer and pitch it again until you find one that sticks.

That’ll get you PR and radio interviews, with some luck, and when you’re working on a minimal budget to sell your book, that’s all you got. PR can be free, but you have to work your ass off to get it.

Alright. So, my book isn’t officially out yet. It’s being copy-edited right now and I’m still adding some last minute tweaks. When it does go on sale in the next week or so, I’ll keep you posted on what I’m doing to sell the thing and how that’s going. I wouldn’t be much of a marketing blogger if I didn’t practice what I preach and show you the results of doing so.

 

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