Writing a book can be an absolute joy or a nightmare, depending on your outlook and the mood of your muse. But all those months (or years) of burning the midnight oil are for nought unless you can get your magnus opus out there for people to read.
Here is the conundrum: you are a writer not a bookseller. Writing is what you love and what you’re good at. The practice of writing means locking yourself away in solitude to concentrate on the inner world. You are a hermit in a garret, communing with no-one but your characters, ruminating on nothing but the twists and turns of your tale.
After a long and tumultuous gestation period, your labour of love enters the world. It’s silky and smooth and ink-scented. Perfect.
What happens next is truly shocking. It’s up to you – the author – to sell it.
Whoa! Selling means putting yourself out there, talking to people you don’t know, telling them about this awesome novel that you – boast, boast – just happened to write in your spare time. It means standing before a roomful of critics to reveal intimacies about your motivation or your inspiration or your determination to finish your mammoth task.
Have I scared you yet?
Selling your book isn’t easy. So here are five tips I’ve learnt along the way.
- Talk to your local library. Most public libraries are extremely supportive of local authors. But be warned: there are long lead times if you want to arrange author talks. Many months in fact. Ask if the library allows you to sell your book to customers on the day. Check whether any fees or commissions are payable. In Australia you can register for royalties if you have books in public libraries. These are called Public Lending Right (PLR) and Education Lending Right (ELR).
- Email everyone you know or have ever met. Even if no-one wants a book, it puts you in touch with a whole bunch of people you haven’t spoken to in ages. If you’re lucky, an old friend will pass the message on to someone who will buy your book and theywill love what you write. That’s the whole point of writing, isn’t it? So that others can read and enjoy.
- Ask your fans to write a brief review. I should explain that the sort of review you need is not the long and critical variety seen in the Sunday newspapers. The best review for this purpose is short and sharp and tells customers what a page-turner you’ve written. Ask for the review to be posted on websites such as Goodreads or online bookstores such as Amazon. Your reviewer will also need to give your book a ‘star’ rating – usually out of 5. It’s best to check that your reader actually likes the book before making this suggestion. One star out of five spells disaster.
- Do the rounds of your local bookstores. Talk to them about taking books on consignment. Agree on conditions, such as commission and the length of time your book can remain on the shelves. Keep in touch with the bookseller. At the end of the agreed period, pick up any unsold copies and provide an invoice for your share of the sales.
- Set up your website so that people can purchase electronically. This is not an easy task for someone like me who is technologically challenged. After much swearing and gnashing of teeth, I managed to put a ‘Buy Now’ button on my website that allows buyers to order and pay by Paypal or credit card. The buyer leaves their postal address and any special instructions (such as ‘please autograph’). You get a confirmation email the instant the purchase is made. When setting this up, be sure to cover the cost of postage. Remember, websites are global. Factor in the additional cost of international postage. Otherwise all your hard-earned cash will go supporting your friendly postal service.
The final word. The most frustrating part of the sales business is the enormous time commitment. Sadly there is little time or energy left for writing another bestseller. So put in a sunset clause and move on. At least you have a list of contacts for next time.