The Top 6 Ways to Sell Your Book

  1. The Top 6 Ways to Sell Your BooksMake your book the best it can be. If you can afford an editor then find someone who knows your genre and has good qualifications and testimonials. If you can’t afford an editor straight away then, at the very least, get some people to read your book to help you find errors and give you an idea of anything they feel doesn’t work. That doesn’t mean you have to assume that their views are right – or the comments of an editor – as one person’s opinion is just that. However, if more than one person mentions having trouble with the same thing, it’s probably something you need to work on or correct. For self-editing tips read my article here. It’s far better to correct any mistakes and plot or character problems at this stage than after you’ve got a 1-star or 2-star review that will put people off buying your work for a long time.
  2. Get an amazing cover. A striking, professional-looking cover that appeals to the readers of your genre is one of the best ways to sell your book, so don’t be tempted to buy a cheap cover or make something yourself, unless you have graphic design experience. Your book will be competing for readers’ attention with thousands of others in your genre so it needs to stand out. If you are serious about getting your book to sell then this will be an excellent investment.
  3. Write the best book description possible. Study the descriptions of top best-selling books in your genre and see what makes them effective. Often they will appeal to the heart, with enough detail about the characters to bring them to life, a hint of the central plot conflict and they might end with a question that makes the reader keen to find out more.
  4. Get reviews for your book. You can contact book review websites, offer them a free copy and ask them to consider writing a review. Many Amazon reviewers include their e-mail address with their information so you can find ones who review similar books to yours and offer them a free copy and let them know how much you would appreciate a review. Amazon has strict rules about not giving a book in exchange for a review, so you can only encourage people to leave one. Amazon lets you give the book away for free for a few days each month, so if you do a few of these promotions and advertise them well you will start getting reviews without any effort. Your mailing list, mentioned below, is also a great way to get reviews.
  5. Create an author website with information about you and your books, with links to where to buy them. If possible, include a blog at your website, with articles that will appeal to the readers you want to sell your books to. For instance, if you write historical mysteries, then write an article on the top 10 historical mystery novels. If you don’t feel you have time to run a blog of your own, write a few articles for other specialist websites, especially when you’re launching a new book.
  6. Create a mailing list and include details of it in your book and on your website. Use an incentive to encourage readers to join, such as a free novella, article or book. This is a way for you to have contact with people who enjoy your writing and is a fantastic opportunity to let them know more about you and tell them about upcoming books. Some of the people on this list will probably be happy to review your books and tell their friends about them, so this is a vital part of book marketing.

The above list may seem straightforward or even obvious, but these are often the areas where new writers do badly. Without an eye-catching, professional cover and a description that makes readers excited to read more, no amount of advertising will work. If you spend time getting these 6 aspects right, you will be on the right track for making your books as successful as possible.

How to Self-Edit Fiction

  1. Once you have finished the first draft of the novel it’s helpful to leave it for at least 2 months, but up to 6 months, so that you can be more objective when reviewing it.  
  2. Read the entire book quickly to get an overall view of it. You want to get an idea of how well the plot works and whether the main character(s) is sufficiently likeable and entertaining to keep the reader interested in him or her. Is there enough conflict to make the reader really invested in what is happening? Correct any errors you notice and write down anything larger you see that needs to be fixed.
  3. Read the book again slowly, carefully checking the book for errors of punctuation, spelling and grammar. At some point you might also want to read the book aloud as this can help you see if the sentences flow well and it gives you a different perspective of the manuscript.
  4. Go through every scene and make sure it works. It should only stay in the novel if it is action (moving the plot forward) or reaction to something that has happened. There should be constant conflict in the novel: in a romance the conflict will be largely emotional; in a thriller there may be an antagonist threatening the main character or his/her family. Whatever type of novel it is, the reader has to feel that the stakes are high, that the main character’s happiness or even life is at risk.
  5. Make sure every scene conveys its setting. Where and when is it taking place? What does it look like? What sounds, smells and sensations do the characters experience? Does it affect their mood? Setting can often be used to add to the conflict in a scene, for instance by having a woman who desperately wants a baby in a playground surrounded by children, or a noisy background making it almost impossible to have an important conversation.
  6. The characters in the scene should be shown clearly. What does their body language say about their moods? Is their dialogue convincing and unique to their character? If you are showing the scene through a character’s point of view – which will usually be true – how do their personality, mood and thoughts affect what they are experiencing?
  7. If the plot feels dull at any point, introduce a twist, such as a new obstacle the protagonist has to overcome, or a new character who causes conflict to the protagonist. If the plot feels forced and unnatural anywhere it is probably because you are making the characters act in a way that is unconvincing in order to move the plot in a particular way. Think about how you can nudge them in the right direction in a realistic way, such as putting someone they love in danger.
  8. Make sure the antagonist is as complex as the protagonist and has as strong a reason for what he/she is doing as the protagonist has. The antagonist should have a good motivation, no matter how terrible it is. Can you give the person a horrible past that gives the reader a touch of sympathy for him or her? A fully rounded character is far more interesting than a Disney-style baddie.
  9. If your main character doesn’t seem sufficiently sympathetic you could gradually reveal a painful past. You can also make the protagonist likeable by giving him/her a moment away from his/her own problems to help a vulnerable person or animal. If there isn’t enough tension, think of ways to increase the conflict, such as a betrayal, someone dying, something important being lost or the protagonist having an accident at the worst possible moment. If there are chunks of exposition that slow the book down, find better ways to gradually reveal the information, such as through dialogue. If your book has a theme, make sure it is clear.
  10. Read through the manuscript one final time and check once again for general mistakes and overall plot and characters. Correct any problems.

At this point you will want to find others to read the book to give you feedback on it. My article on deciding what editing help you need gives advice on this.

How To Decide What Editing Work, If Any, You Need For A Self-Published Book

Getting professional editing is one of the biggest expenses a self-published author will face. By the time you’ve paid for a professional cover for your manuscript, editing and, perhaps, formatting you will have paid hundreds or even thousands of pounds or dollars. Will you ever sell enough copies of your book to make that money back, let alone make a profit? This is something you should think seriously about.

Deciding On Your Writing Goals

If you’ve written one book and are never likely to write another then the odds are that you will never make a profit from it. In that case, you might decide not to get any editing done and to create the cover and do the formatting yourself. You might want to self-publish a book to help people in some way, in which case you might give the book away for free so it reaches as many people as possible.

On the other hand, you might want to make a career from your writing and, in that instance, you will need to consider setting a budget and making long-term plans that include making your book look as professional as possible, so that readers will become big enough fans of your work that they will want to buy not just the first one but future books too.

Other Considerations

If you’ve written your first novel it’s tempting to get it copy edited to fix errors and then self-publish it. However, copy editing alone is a complete waste of money if you have a main character readers aren’t interested in or a plot that goes off on bizarre tangents.

You might love your book but simply not be able to afford to spend thousands of pounds/dollars on it. Should you do the formatting yourself or get the cheapest cover possible? Can you skip editing altogether?

Setting a Budget

My advice would be to, firstly, decide what you want from your writing. If you want to share your writing for free then you may not want to pay for anything. If you decide that you want to one day make a career from your writing then sit down and make plans. Set a budget and also think about how much time you have to devote to this work. You can learn how to format your books fairly easily but it does take up a bit of time, more when you’re doing it for the first time. Is your time or money more precious to you? You will also want to put time aside – preferably before you even start writing your book – to devote to finding an audience for your book.

Getting Free Help

You might feel half-way through writing your first novel that you’re getting lost and want some advice on characterisation and/or on drawing up a plot outline. I’m happy to help with this or you might want to find a good book on the subject.

Once you’ve finished your first novel then you need to be sure it works before getting any errors fixed. Giving copies for people you know to read is a great first step. Bear in mind that family members and friends will be reluctant to criticise something they know is important to you. You could look for a local writing group for more objective opinions or you might already belong to an online writing or reading group for your genre. This is often called beta reading. You will want to get as many different comments as possible and judge them, not by individual opinions, but by overall response. By this I mean that one person may love a book that another person hates, so you can’t place too much note on one opinion, whether positive or negative. However, if a lot of people say that they didn’t like your main character or thought the plot didn’t make sense, then there’s a definite problem that you need to fix.

It can also be invaluable to get expert advice. For instance, if you have written a historical novel you could find historians to read it who will recognise any errors about that time period. If your main character is a doctor and you aren’t then, as well as doing plenty of research on the subject, you would probably want to find at least one doctor to read it for mistakes.

When you’ve had some responses from others you might want to make revisions and this is a good time to do a first or second self-edit, reading the manuscript carefully for errors. Many editors charge an hourly rate – although I don’t – so you can save money by doing as much work as possible yourself.

Professional Editing

At this point you should consider getting a professional editor. If it’s something you just can’t possibly afford and you feel you have plenty of people to read your book and give honest opinions and help you correct mistakes, then you might decide not to get an editor. Similarly, if you only intend to write one book or give your writing away for free you might make the same decision. You can never know in advance how well your book will sell so it’s important that you never spend more money than you can afford to lose.

If you have long-term writing goals then check carefully what services different editors provide and what they charge. Different types of editing sometimes vary in cost and different editors can charge around £2,000.00, £500.00 or £200.00 for doing the same work. Some editors will read a manuscript 2 or 3 times and others will charge less because they will only provide one read-through, so this is something to consider when making your choice. The more times the editor checks the book, the less mistakes will be left. Try to find someone you’re happy working with and, if possible, get them to edit a free sample of your work so you can see the quality they are offering.

In an ideal world you would want both a structural edit and a copy edit and, if you do a number of revisions, you might even get more than one copy edit. Some editors offer a fact-checking service, for instance to ensure accuracy in a historical novel. However, if you can only afford one type of editing, then you will need to decide which one best suits your needs. If you have had 30 strangers read your manuscript and point out anything they liked and disliked and have made revisions before checking their opinions again, you might be happy with the overall story and decide to pay for only a copy-edit. If you have a couple of friends who are experts on grammar and spelling, you might decide to just get a structural edit.

In time, probably with the help of a mailing list, you might find a number of people who like your work and are happy to read it and give their opinions after you’ve written a first or second draft. If you want a long-term career as a writer getting comments from readers, as well as a professional editor, will ensure that your finished book is the best that it can possibly be.