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Stimulating Sales

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Stimulating Sales

The list of things you can do to spur sales of a book might stretch from here to the moon, and possibly back again. But which moves will work best? Answers from IBPA members appear below, and more will be coming your way in future issues of the Independent.—Judith Appelbaum

The Catalog Counts for a Lot

Having an author who’s a nationally acclaimed personality helps, as would having an author appear on Oprah, The View, Ellen, 60 Minutes, or any other widely watched TV show. But since I live in the real world, I have found—at least for me—that there is one proven way to stimulate the sale of all my titles.

First you create a catalog that can hold the interest of any potential book buyer, and then you put together a mailing list for that catalog and mail it out to be read. Yes, I know it’s old-fashioned, but it works.

Here are a few hints to consider:

About your catalog:Make sure it looks as good as any of the best book catalogs out there. Think about modeling it after other catalogs that catch your eye. There’s no reason you have to reinvent the wheel. If your books have some good quotable reviews, put the quotes near the titles—and make sure to include the sources.

About your mailing list:This one’s really important. After years of buying mailing lists from outside sources, I found that if I put my own lists together and maintained them, I had a much more effective resource at my disposal. This is not an easy task, but in the long run it can save you and your company a lot of money by reducing the number of bad addresses found in many outsourced lists. Although you probably can’t eliminate bad addresses entirely by maintaining the list yourself, you know exactly what you have.

Also, always keep your lists growing. Whatever your marketplaces are, do the research to find potential customers to add to your database of names and addresses.

If used correctly, the catalog is a very powerful tool for growing sales.

Rudy Shur

Square One Publishing


Postal Mail Payoffs

Using first-class #10 envelopes and commemorative stamps to mail a flier that features books on sale is effective for us. We do this in late January or mid-February; and again in late spring, when we announce new titles that are available. The advantage of first-class mailings is that if a store has gone out of business, we get a notice or an address correction.

In mid-September we send our catalog for the present and coming year. While we sometimes send it bulk mail, our best responses come when we send it first class. Customers often say they do not receive bulk-mailed catalogs. 

Joan Liffring-Zug Bourret

Penfield Books


Powerful Press Releases

The method I have worked out gives an almost immediate sense of how well it’s working, and it is an easy simple-step process that does not require any extra cash output.

1. I check Google Trends [Topics] to see which keywords come up as the top searches on Google.

2. When I identify a top search term that I can work with, I quickly write a short press release involving that search term. I incorporate the keyword or phrase in my press release title and use it several times in the body of the press release to try to get the highest ranking possible on Google in its subject area.

When I can’t find keywords that pertain to my niche in one way or another near the top of Google Trends, I find suitable keywords in the highest possible echelon.

3. I issue the release, free, on PRLog. Its press releases show up on Google in a matter of moments. In other words, they show up while the keyword search term is still popular on Google. PRLog also offers its press releases to 40,000 RSS feeds, and this can translate into extra exposure.

4. I start checking my Amazon sales ranking. It should rise within a couple of days, depending on how much exposure the press release gets.

Because news fades quickly, I keep repeating the process so rankings won’t slide back after a sales spurt.

5. I put my press release on my blog at WordPress, so people who care about the issues I write about can comment and stay connected if they wish. When people discuss the issues in a book, sales generally follow. 

This system has other advantages. It costs time but not out-of-pocket money. It does not clog your server if you have a space crunch or cannot afford high monthly server bills. And the press releases and blog posts will keep bringing in traffic over time, and be linked to by others. (PRLog never takes down press releases; it gives you a pressroom that shows how many hits you get for each press release, and it also lets you post an image of your book cover, which will show up in each press release you place it into.)

Here is an example:

On May 13, 2010, the keywords You Cut registered as the number one search term on Google Trends. So, I quickly wrote a press release concerning You Cut, which is a new government blog that allows people to vote on budget cuts each week. In the release, I explained that hundreds of billions of dollars a year could be cut from our national debt if we use the material my book focuses on to build construction that is fireproof and hurricane proof.

To see how I integrated my title The Great Pyramid Secret: Egypt’s Amazing Lost Mystery Science Returns with the You Cut topic, see my blog entries for May 2010, at moonbasenow.wordpress.com.

I cannot say for sure that there is a connection, but my sales rank at Amazon temporarily jumped by an order of magnitude after my You Cut press release went out.

It helps to post your press release at all the other free press-release sites you can find. You can put your free WordPress blog on RSS feeds, too. Look for lists of free press-release sites and free RSS feed lists.

For more exposure, I signed up for free at PitchRate and Reporter Connection, and I get an email from each of them every day. These emails contain information from reporters seeking experts for their news stories, and I pitch stories to these reporters when applicable.

Margaret Morris

Margaret Morris Books


Keeping Customers

Newsletters to my customer list help stimulate sales. The list includes previous customers and people who have “opted in” on my Web site. The newsletter is a blog of sorts, providing information about what I’ve been up to; and since I write and publish books on Lionel model trains, it talks about new things I’ve discovered.

I usually offer some sort of special (low prices on “shelf-worn” returns as second copies for the train room, for instance, since many of my customers have train rooms and offices). Also, I advertise ancillary products to my books (posters, CDs, artwork), which provide value and also drive sales.

John Schmid

Project Roar Publishing


A Virtual Path to the Classroom

The best way I have found to stimulate sales of children’s books is getting the author in front of children in schools, book clubs, library clubs, and other groups with a reading/book signing.

The Skype An Author site provides one way to do this without travel. The author of the children’s book I published posted her page on the site, and seven hours later she had a request to visit a classroom. The interaction with the children was not as good as if the author had been physically present, but the appearance still gave the book good exposure and generated local sales.

Rives McDow

Sea Turtle Publishing


Boosting Sales with Bookmarks

Before we established Magic Lamp Press, our core business was (and it still is) production and distribution of DVDs through our Magic Lamp Production arm, and because I’ve been an avid yachtsman and trial lawyer, our main products are instructional programs about boating (Celestial Navigation, Coastal Piloting, etc.) and legal/business matters (Deposition Preparation, Foreclosure Investing, Consumer Bankruptcy, etc.).

We sell a decent number of DVDs in both categories through Amazon.com, and have used SeparaColor (discovered them in an IBPA ad) to print bookmarks that feature our books, which are now available in print and e-book versions and are being converted into audiobooks as well.

We include a bookmark with every DVD shipped, along with a polite note thanking the customers for their DVD orders and telling them how much we’d appreciate their checking out our book Web site.

This has worked for us; many customers who place new orders for DVDs directly from us include notes letting us know they’ve also ordered some of the books.

Since an author’s marketing efforts never end, I carry a supply of the bookmarks with me and don’t hesitate to give one to every person I see reading a print book or using an e-book reader. Without mentioning that I’m the author, I just say, “I think you’ll like this guy’s books.”

Gene Grossman

Magic Lamp Press


Specific Travel Tips

Talks about places to go and things to do are one of the best ways I have to stimulate sales for the guidebook San Andreas Ain’t No Fault of Mine. I use a basic PowerPoint presentation that I tweak for various organizations. For example, last Saturday I gave a talk on “Accessible Wilderness Sites” for the Antelope Valley Conservancy and culled photos from my main presentation to fit this narrow topic at an endangered species–day conference.

Bonnie D. Stone

Fawlty Press 


Reaching Reenactors

In 2005, while living on the island of Jamaica, I began to hear stories of two female pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who had been captured at sea in 1720 and brought to trial in that nation’s capital. Remarkably enough, I saw their pictures on stamps and in small museums, and I began to wonder about their lives. When I learned that the two women stood alone to fight the governor’s marines, while the men either hid below decks or were too drunk to defend, I thought, “Here is a story.”

Shortly after publishing Heart of a Pirate: A Novel of Anne Bonny, I happened to stop by the Northern California Pirate Festival in Vallejo (yearly on Father’s Day weekend), to see what a pirate festival was about. After all, I had just written a story about female pirates. Amazingly, I discovered a huge subculture of historical reenactors who dressed and spoke like pirates.

I wrote to the festival’s organizer telling her what a great time I’d had, and mentioned that I had just published a book on pirates. A few days later I received an email asking if I would like to be the guest author at the Northern California Renaissance Fair for Pirate’s Weekend, coinciding with International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19).

Since that time I have continually been asked to sell and sign books at many festivals—pirate festivals, Renaissance fairs, Celtic festivals, Dickens fairs. All these time periods had pirates, and all have historical reenactors. We have done very well at these events, making new acquaintances and receiving invitations to further events at bookstores, reading groups, and book clubs. One gathering always leads to another.

My suggestion for furthering your marketing strategies: Find the thematic element in your story and market to the groups you know will find your work interesting.

Pamela Johnson

Stone Harbour Press




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