The Jewish people have long been called the People of the Book.
Apparently that was referring to the Book of Books, but nowadays it also brings to mind the burgeoning Jewish publishing industry. Mainstream publishers are in major crisis, due to the impact of emerging technologies on our reading habits. Yet in the Jewish world, the print publishing is growing at a breakneck pace, with new publishing houses, new books, new magazines, appearing faster than you can say “what should I read this Shabbos?”
This is wonderful news for book lovers but also creates a problem. So many books means a lot more competition to get the attention of readers in a small market. It’s getting harder for authors and publishers to sell enough books to make a return on their investment.
Yesterday I visited Manny’s, a huge Jewish bookstore in Jerusalem. There I found the manager of the English department contemplating a towering stack of cardboard boxes filled with freshly published books delivered in time for Chanuka. I heard him comment: “How am I going to fit all these books on the shelves?” The shelves at Manny’s are already full to bursting points with Jewish literature… and the publishing houses are churning out more as we speak!
Authors and publishers are wondering: how can I sell more books? This is a topic that is often discussed on Soferet, a wonderful community of frum Jewish writers, editors and publishers. As a writer and marketer and someone who is always looking to help people increase their parnasa, I decided to create a guide on this blog. (Hint: I am also in the process of writing a book, so I’m in the same boat.)
Pretty much everything I’m writing is relevant for anyone looking to promote their book, regardless of whether it’s targeting the Jewish market. In fact, most of this information is relevant for anyone trying to market any product or service online. However, for this post I am keeping mind the unique nature of the Jewish publishing market.
5 Ways to Sell More Books
1. Hire a Marketer
Authors are increasingly realizing that publishing houses do very little to promote their books. The easiest way to fill this gap is to hire a marketer privately to generate some buzz . There are PR firms, web marketers and social media gurus who specialize in publicizing books. And yes, they cost money!
However, since publishing a book is generally an expensive procedure, you might decide that’s it worthwhile to spend the extra money since you have already invested so much. Perhaps spending on marketing should even be taken into account before you decide to publish. A book is a product and, like any other product, it won’t reach its sales potential without effective marketing.
But if you are not sure that paying money to a marketer is for you, don’t worry! This guide shows you what they do. If you have the time and inclination, you can do much of it yourself.
2. Public Relations 101
A traditional PR approach is all about getting your name and your book’s name maximum exposure in the press. The more people have heard of your name and your book, the more you will sell.
The ideal PR for your book is either to be interviewed about it or to have an excerpt published in a major publication. Approach relevant popular publications, in print and online, and offer them an exclusive right to publish a particular excerpt from your book. This is easier if your name is known or if the subject of your book is controversial or of popular interest.
Regarding interviews, it might be hard to attract interest in interviewing you about your book, but it is relatively easy to pitch yourself as an “expert” to be quoted in an article related to the topic covered by your book. You can also gently encourage them to apply some choice adjectives when mentioning your book, e.g. “ground-breaking,” “controversial,” or “best-selling.” Treat editorial staff respectfully and make their job easier by offering to email them your quotes, to save them interviewing and typing time.
You can also pitch articles that you write yourself, on the understanding that they will end with a short blurb announcing the title of your latest book. Many authors are already regularly regularly published, but if you are not, now is the time to start. This is obviously a powerful way to build your name recognition in your target market.
The same can be said about blogs and websites that are popular with your target readers. Find them out and offer to write a guest post. Along with leaving intelligent comments on relevant posts, this can also be a great way to get your name seen and get traffic to your blog.
“But I don’t have a blog,” you may say. “Well,” I may respond. “Perhaps you should…
3. Start a Blog
What is the point of a blog? This is a common question. It’s a legitimate question because a blog with no point will never go anywhere.
If you write non-fiction, the answer to this question is clear. You are providing valuable, expert information that people are searching for online. Whether your book is about Challah baking, health or the halachos of bar mitzvahs, I guarantee you that people are searching for this information online. A blog centered on the topic of your book helps your readers to find you. Having your own blog can be an extremely powerful way to get exposure for you book from the Search Engines. If your visitors like what you have to say, there is a very good chance that they will buy your book.
But there is more to a blog that just making one-time sales, and this is why fiction writers should also blog. A blog is a place where your passive readers are transformed into your active fans. Even if someone loves your book, since you can’t publish books that often, they will “move on” before you have your next book to sell them. Moreover, they have no way to take any action to show that they liked your book, and without action, feelings and intentions are dissipated (this was a Torah principle, before it was a marketing principle).
Your blog becomes a focal point for your fans. They can comment on your articles, sign-up to your emails and share your posts with their friends. You can ask your readers what they think of your current project and let them participate. You can build anticipation for your upcoming titles. You can write posts with viral marketing power to increase awareness of your name. You can make friends with your readers. A blog creates continuous relationship and interaction with your readers. In the long-run, that equals sales.
There is a lot more to be said about marketing with blogs, so anyone that is interested should sign up for updates of this blog right now. There is lots of good info coming your way.
I am of the opinion that every serious writer should have a blog. If you are not quite ready to start one, at least go and buy your name as a domain name right now. Take the step!
4. Publish as an E-book
E-book reading devices are already widespread – Kindles, iPads, Nooks, etc. There are now more E-Books sold every day that printed books! The Jewish publishing world is seriously lagging behind in maximizing this technology, but authors and publishers who want to sell books should publish e-books.
Jewish E-Books is a new and growing site catering to this market and it is an option that every Jewish author should consider, but don’t limit yourself. Investigate publishing for Kindle on Amazon – which is obviously a major source of potential sales. Don’t neglect Google EBooks – since publishing with them automatically makes your book content show up in Search Engine results. A program like Smashwords allows you to market your e-books on all the other major platforms, like Nook, iPad Store and Sony. (Note: Smashwords comes recommended as a way to easily syndicate your book to major digital outlets but avoid their “community.” It is not a place for a modest person to be hanging around, and it also seems to target people who are selling their books for $0.99 or less!)
Be aware that e-books are not just digital versions of printed books. Ideally, your book cover should be adapted to make it eye-catching on a small screen. If you have a non-fiction book, you might even consider creating a digital version that has a different title, so that you can use keywords to help it show up in search results.
5. Social Media
No one is going to argue with the fact that Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube are powerful tools for increasing exposure for your book. Many people have religious questions about using Facebook etc., which I already addressed in this post, The Halachas of Google and Facebook. So I’m not going to rehash that here.
Instead, let me explain it with a simple story:
One morning, you wake up and realize you have some news to share. It could be the fact your latest book just went to the printers, or that you were just interviewed by X Magazine, or that you overheard your 5-year-old son trying to convince his friend to buy a copy of your novel. So you call up a few friends, colleagues and relatives to share the news and maybe you mention it to some people you encounter that day. A total of nine people heard your news. End of story.
If you are on social media, the story is different. You write a post, status update and tweet with your news. Even if you have only a modest following, hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of people instantly know your news. Then they like, comment, retweet, share, etc. And that means that more untold myriads of people are hearing your news. End of story.
From a marketing perspective, which do you think is better?
There is an awful lot to be said about social media marketing so I’m not even going to touch the tip of the iceberg here. I just want to get you thinking.
Where to Begin?
Are you feeling overwhelmed by all this information? Don’t worry. That’s normal. You don’t need to do everything at once. Just be ready to learn.
Start by telling us about your book and your experiences in marketing it.
And definitely sign up for updates of this blog. This community exists to help you sell more books… or whatever else you are selling!