A couple of days ago, I read an awesome article about how a first time, self-published author has to hustle their books, and how the word hustle doesn’t have to be negative. I agreed with it wholeheartedly, and it got me thinking, what do my most successful authors do? Let’s take a cue from John Travolta from back in the day, and talk about how to “Do the (book sales) hustle”, shall we?
Practice on your local community.
I am talking your neighborhood here. When you start out, start out practicing your hustle on your friends and family, neighbors, and neighborhood stores. These people will likely be a bit more receptive, because you are from the ‘hood, or they know you well, so it gives you a good chance to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, using them as the guinea pigs. I guarantee you, if your sister won’t buy your book, you are definitely approaching your sale from the wrong direction! Local store owners will likely be more receptive and excited to work with you, because you are from the area. Ask them for advice. You don’t have to use it all, but it is a good way to build up your knowledge.
Get into your local library and schools.
Libraries & schools work on a shoe string budget, constantly experiencing cut backs and often falling victim to cutthroat politics and governmental funding being sliced and diced. They love donations of books, and they will likely be more than willing to take a donation of a few of your books. Sweeten the deal and offer to do a reading there. (This is especially great if you have a kid’s book.) If they agree, set up a date and time with them for a month or more in advance, and get to work. For libraries, create posters (make sure that they look professional) and post them up around town, and give them to the library to post up as well. Do your best to drum up interest. Talk to your local schools if you have a kid’s book. Many schools will jump at this opportunity. Be sure to let them know the cost of your book as well, so that they can tell the parents in advance. Have a table set up with your books for sale, and be ready to sign them. Also, be sure that your presentation is visually appealing. One of our clients uses the originals from her illustrations and has them up for while she is reading the story. No one call sell or read your book like you can, you created the story! This will be good practice for signings and readings in the future.
Talk to your local media.
Local radio stations, tv stations and newspapers are a great place to start. Be a professional, but also be yourself. No one is going to want to feature someone who is going to come across as stiff and without personality, especially live on radio or tv. It is especially great if you can book in a signing at a local bookstore, even big chain ones like Chapters, for in the next few days following your interview. That way, you can plug your upcoming signing, and will be able to get more people attending, just to see, and hopefully purchase, your book. Get your book out there to local book reviewers and bloggers too.
Book a signing with your local bookstores.
Many bookstores will let you do book signings in their locations. Be aware though, they aren’t going to do much for you, other than provide you with a table (ask to be sure that they will even do that). Also, they will be taking a cut of your book in order to be willing to let you set up there. Stores like Chapters will give you a barcode sticker to use, so that people can just take it right up to the counter like they would any other book. It is always good to talk with them about getting your books on their shelves as well. You will likely have to pay to do this, but it can definitely be worth it in the end. How much you pay will depend on the different packages that they will offer. Also, be sure to ask them if there is any way that your book can be visually marked as a local author.
Create a website.
Get yourself set up with a simple website, and a blog. We have discussed the importance of blogging before, and I stick to what I said. You can even set up simple e-Commerce that can be fairly cost effective. Put that website address everywhere that you can, tell people on the street about it.
The basic moral of the story.
You have to work for it. Your books aren’t going to jump off of the shelves on their own, purely on the merit that you have a good story. If you don’t already have a good sized fan base, you are going to have to build one, and that requires work. Oh, and please, don’t think that putting your book up on Amazon, or the likes will make your book magically sell either. Again, unless you are willing to market it, it won’t sell, because no one will know about it.
Once you are good at what you are doing, you can get bigger and better and take your book to whole new levels.