I'm about to hit you with the truth that will make you scream. You can agree or disagree with it all you want. It remains a fact.
IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW GOOD OR BAD YOUR BOOK IS.
It doesn't matter how well it's written, or how long you slaved over it, or how poignant its theme is, or how urgent its story.
It doesn't even matter if some prominent industry names stand behind you and hail your book as the latest masterpiece from every rooftop until they're blue in the face and their tongues turn purple and fall out.
What matters is how you sell it.
People will either buy it or not based on what feeling they get when they buy it. That's right. You read that correctly. What you're selling is a feeling, not your book. And that feeling is about YOU. What's inside the book doesn't matter much. (Also, it's a weird business, selling books—your customer can't test it like they can a couch—they're buying a promise and can be disappointed halfway through). Of course, it helps if your book is not a total shit show and you've done your job, studied your craft, and delivered something readable, or at least passable for being readable. The rest is really up to the feeling.
Uncomfortable, isn't it? And yet you know it's true. You've scratched your head at some bestsellers, and you've looked at your own work, thinking it's a million times better, and you've wondered why it's not selling, and you were tempted to throw up your arms and quit the goddamn writing business already, get a job and forget about your dream.
I'll show you how you can sell your books, too. All I need is your head (you can ask a friend to chop it off) sent to my PO Box, so I can open your skull and reshape a part of your brain (so one part continues to help you write while the other will start helping you to sell). Then I'll ship it back, provided it's still intact (sometimes I get carried away and start nibbling on tasty bits, like your ear lobes, or your soft, sweet cheeks). Anyway. I'm working on an Author Book Selling Guide That's Also The Guide On Luring Victims Into Your Dungeon And Stripping Them Of... Well, I don't want to spoil the final title for you.
I can tell you, it'll be glorious. I'm testing it out in my own torture chamber at the moment, and it works like a charm (the neighbors can't hear a thing–the chamber is soundproof, in case you were wondering). Once I fine-tune it, into the sparkling internets it'll go, collecting all your money and making me the Empress of my Borscht Empire and all that.
But back to your brand (YOU) and selling it.
Before you can get your hands on my guide (subscribe to my scary newsletter to find out all about it), I'll give you snippets of it here, on my blog, in a series of posts, to wet your appetite and to have you hyperventilate in anticipation.
Repeat after me.
WHAT I'M SELLING IS A FEELING.
WHAT I'M SELLING IS A FEELING.
WHAT I'M SELLING IS A FEELING.
Once you look at your own author persona and your books through that lens, you'll understand how important your image is, and how important your book cover is. Why? These are the things that evoke the feeling in the buyer. They are also called "touch points" at fancy vodka-drinking parties where marketers go to unburden themselves after long, hard days hustling consumers to buy shit they don't need (but want—big difference).
Selling is a transference of feeling.
Therefore, if you don't believe in your book (you know how we tend to shy away and diminish our work), you won't be able to sell it. But if you think the reader will be the biggest loser if they won't buy your book, you will sell, and you will sell well. This kind of brashness is not natural to writers. We like to stay quiet and alone. We'd like to avoid crowds and just stare at the sky and imagine and write. That's why I need your head in the mail. I have to do some major surgery to some parts of your brain to reshape them into "selling" machines.
If you can make a reader feel that they will regret not buying your book for the rest of their lives, you will win. For that you have to be a believer yourself, and so you have to sell YOU first. Once you do that, you can also sell your books. Guess what, a big chunk of people who buy your books never even open them. So what? Do you care? Nope. You care to sell, right? Then sell, and stop thinking about the merits of literature, the awards, the recognition—all that romantic frou-frou that's been fed into your brain in the past. You know why?
Because I'm tired of hearing your complains how you hustle every day to make ends meet. And I'm tired of hustling myself. I want to sell, and I am selling, and I will help you sell too. End of story.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO STARVE TO KEEP WRITING.
Brand it into your forehead, tattoo it on both your forearms, write it on sticky notes and put them above your computer. Say it to yourself like some magic mantra every morning, day, and evening. (And send me pictures, so I believe you actually did it and spare your life.)
What you have to do is switch your thinking.
There are two modes you have to be in, to make it in self-publishing: writing and selling. You can already write, since you're reading this (I'm assuming you've gotten at least a few stories under your belt). Good. Now you need to learn how to switch your brain to selling. And not only when your writing is done. No. Every day. Yes, if you want to make sales, every day you have to cut in half: one half goes to writing, one half goes to selling. If this sounds impossible, or if you have objections, you better stop reading now and go back to your misery. This post is not for you, and it will only make you feel worse. (And I'm not paying for your therapist after.)
I assume you're serious about selling your books, and that is why you're reading this. Well, I'm serious about showing you how I got from selling 1 book per day to 8 to 16 to 35, at which point I had to forcefully scale down my sales to build up a system that would allow me to handle this volume. I have demonstrated it to several clients whom I'm helping at the moment (one very dear friend and client screamed when within minutes we got a response from a reader expressing her want to buy after we applied my techniques in only one message).
This is coming for you. Get ready. You will learn a lot. And you will suffer a lot. This is not easy. It will break your familiar, everyday behavior. It will force you to develop new habits. It will make you uncomfortable, and it will drag up all your objections to getting filthy rich—all those memories of naysayers who told you you couldn't do it, and all those false beliefs in yourself you harbored in your head and are unwilling to let go. But don't fret. You've got me, and I will fix it for you. I have my methods. They're very effective. (You know what they are...don't tempt me.)
So here is your first task, to get start building your own empire.
Next time you talk to anyone anywhere, shut up about yourself and ask. Ask questions. This is Sales 101, so nothing new here. But boy, is it hard for us writers not to talk about our stories until we're blue in the face. Sometimes it takes us a while to get going, but once we do, we don't want to talk about anything else.
Remember how I told you, you're not selling your books, you're selling a feeling? The first step to that is to shut up and make your victim...er, I mean, reader, feel listened to. When they're done talking, they'll think you're the nicest person in the world. Notice what happens here? Feeling. You made them feel good. That's Step 1.
Step 2 is coming in the next post. I hope you're taking notes and practicing. I'll know if you didn't. So go practice, hamsters. OR ELSE. (It's not just my website that got a beautiful overhaul courtesy of my super-talented amazing daughter Anya...my dungeon got an overhaul too. You don't want to end up in there, trust me. Your scream will be long, and your agony will be even longer. Better do what I say. Because I love you this much. Deep fried. With ketchup.)