Check out this chilling statistic from a 2011 article posted on The Motley Fool:
Out of at least 1.2 million titles published by the entire industry over the course of a year, almost 80% sell fewer than 100 copies.
Similarly, according to this article at Forbes.com, the average book in the United States sells less than 250 copies.
So what do these numbers mean?
Well, for starters, they mean the deck is stacked against you if you’re trying to make a career out of your writing hobby.
That doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but it does mean you need to keep a realistic attitude about it.
Trust me when I say you can’t just publish a book except it to become a big money-maker. (While I haven’t seen official sales figures, I’m pretty sure Holy Fudgesicles falls into that first 80% category at the moment.)
With 1,000,000+ books published each year by traditional, independent, and self-publishing authors, what can you do to make your book stand out?
It’s not easy, but there options. First off, you have to be prepared to sell your book–and yourself.
And you need to start in your home town.
I know this sucks. I still get all nervous and uncomfortable talking about my writing to non-writers. It’s so strange; I can write a 50,000+ word novel, but if someone asks me what the book is about, I can’t stumble through a twenty-word summary of it to save my life. I’m working on this, by the way, but…yucky.
Anyhow, if you want to write for a living, you have to be able to sell your book, and get people interested not only in your book, but in you as a writer as well.
Social media plays a big part in this, but it’s not the only way to draw interest.
Here are five “real world” ways to promote your book and your writing.
- Call every bookstore (even the big chain ones) within an hour driving distance from your house and introduce yourself. Ask if you’d be able to put up a table and do a signing. While you’re at it, check with the coffee shops and public libraries too in the area too.
- Figure out where your target audience hangs out and be ready to hang out there and hand out business cards. Interact with people, as long as that doesn’t make you seem like a felon.
- Look for opportunities to speak. If you write in a specific genre, stay on the lookout for conventions in the area and set up a table or participate in some panel discussions.
- Buy as many contributor’s copies as you can afford and keep a good supply in the trunk of your car. When your writing comes up in a casual conversation, mention that you’ve got some copies for sale in the car. Just don’t be pushy about it.
- When it comes to local promotion, word of mouth is your greatest ally. Seek reviews from your local newspapers, or readers from some book clubs at the schools, churches, and libraries and see if they’d be willing to read your book.
These are all little things you can do, but they are all steps toward the end goal of writing full time. If you can become a “local celebrity”, your reputation will continue to grow and so will your writing career.
And if not, at least you’ll be able to get past that 100 copies barrier, right?