Two Things that Sell a Lot of Books: #2 A Trusted Name with an Extensive Platform

Whether you have a popular web site, a radio show, an informative newsletter, or professional credentials, selling a book requires a personal connection. Selling a lot of books requires this level of personal trust on a large scale.

While reviews, social media, and web sites are all part of extending a marketing platform, these pieces should not be confused with making very personal connections with readers. Twitter and blogs are great, but they have their limits.

The Kind of Connections Authors Need

From what I can tell, my greatest success in selling books has come from personally talking with readers whether through personal conversations, events, e-mail, or interaction on web sites.

When I have a chance to share my passion for my book, I have a much greater chance of convincing readers to spend their hard-earned money on it. However, reaching potential readers with your personal message and creating enough trust for them to spend money on your book requires a fairly significant number of connections with readers.

I personally would not endorse every method used by authors out there to sell books and some will be more difficult for new authors to use effectively, especially radio and television, but there are lots of ideas out there about building a platform that will help you speak directly with readers and develop a level of trust for you and your book from a monthly newsletter with valuable information to a niche-focused public event.

How to Connect with Readers

Building a platform begins with the question, “How can I effectively connect with readers interested in my topic?” Keep in mind, this isn’t the same as advertising, and posting to a web site is probably the least personal way to do this, making it generally less effective.

I’m building my e-mail newsletter, working on some videos, leading workshops with local community and arts organizations, and connecting with various podcasts, but the possibilities are endless. I’ve been encouraged to hear from a respected author and friend that he finds my newsletter very valuable, and many of those who attend my workshops give me positive feedback. It’s good to know I’m doing a few things right, even if there’s always a lot more to do.

The hardest part about building these connections with readers is starting small. You may begin with twenty newsletter subscribers and workshops with only five attendees. However, if you continue to make connections, to help people with your material, and to build on those relationships, you should be able to connect with enough readers who will not only trust you enough to buy your book, they may also recommend it to others.

Previously in this Series:

Two Things That Sell a Lot of Books: #1

Also in this series: Five Great Things That Don’t Sell a Lot of Books

Great Endorsements

A Great Forward

Great Reviews

Social Media

A Web Site

The Books We Should Write

With book sales slumping and publishers cutting back on their acquisitions, authors need to take a long, hard look at the kinds of books they write. No one wants to sell ideas that no one will either acquire or few will purchase. In addition, I would hope that writers want to write works that are enduring and helpful far beyond a mere moment in time.

My college had a quote by John Ruskin engraved on the library walls that read, “All books are divisible into two classes, the books of the hour, and the books of all time.” Writing a book for all time is a tall order that many writers will not be able to fill, but this strikes me as a noble goal. Can we write books that are relevant and practical for today that still touch on themes and ideas that can still transcend the moment?

These books for all time are the ones we want to buy because we’ll reread them. They have a powerful message, a compelling story, or a way of dealing with life that connects with readers.

Many books are written to address the matters we face here and now, and that can be a very good thing at times. However, I wonder if our book ideas are too limited to the short term. Have we focused on the present and the needs of a current niche so completely that we’re losing our ability to write works with enduring content?

When I think of my own field of religion, I’m often reminded of Dietrich Bonheoffer’s classic The Cost of Discipleship. He unmistakably speaks to the issues of his day and the state of the church in Germany. However, his message can be easily carried into other contexts, offering substantive concepts that require reading and rereading.

Bonheoffer’s work challenges readers well over sixty years after his death, offering weighty material that has endured the test of time. When I think of a book worth purchasing, I want something that will last, that demands rereading, and offers a story or message that leaves readers in deep consideration.

As for the ideas grounded in the present or more limited in scope, we still have a place for them. These could thrive in ebooks, blogs, magazines, and newspapers. While some of them may sell as traditionally published books, will the tremendous time and costs of the publishing process justify the ends when they could have a much wider distribution and hourly compensation as magazine or web stories?

Many nonfiction books could be broken into profitable articles that could very well gain a wider readership and build a platform, putting an author in to a better marketing position when writing a more enduring book.

There will always be books of the moment. However, before authors invest significant time into publishing a book that may bring in meager profits and attract a relatively small audience, they should consider options beyond publishing a book and books that may bring more long-term value.