Sell your books

With thousands of books being published every day in the USA alone, and approx one billion books on Amazon, it’s a wonder any self-publishing authors sell a handful of books, never mind covering costs and making a profit.

Penny Sansevieri’s helpful book, ‘How to sell a truckload of books on Amazon’ covers the basics that every author should know.

She is a best-selling author with 14 books to her name and is an acknowledged book marketing and media relations expert, with particular expertise regarding Amazon. Penny is the CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts and is an adjunct professor teaching self-publishing for NYU.

So, will Penny’s book work for you?

Regardless of the age of your book, if your subject matter is still relevant, you can boost it on Amazon using these techniques. I’ve seen it happen with books that are five years old. So if you’re reading this wondering if you can make this work for your book, I can assure you it can.

And in fact, she does offer a money back guarantee if you follow her advice and see no results.

But let me make you a promise as a person who’s been marketing for many, many years. The things you’ll learn in this book work. I guarantee they do. If the methods in this book don’t get you more reviews, more exposure, and more sales, return it to me, personally, for a full refund.

So:

What should authors be doing?

  • Short sells better than long.
  • More than one book.
  • Write novellas.
  • Split books and bundle them.
  • Bundle collaboration with other authors.
  • Audio. Multiple format.

And then the slightly more complicated words appear:

Metadata, keywords, niche categories, and themes.

You can have seven keywords, but they don’t have to be one word, you can use strings.

Penny tells you how to match your Kindle categories for your ebook with your print book (assuming you have one), and how to ensure your keywords and themes link.

And, what you do need to do is keep going back to this data. Slump in sales? Change your words, check Amazon hasn’t moved the categories of your book.

Be aware that categories can change and often do, without notice. Sometimes Amazon even deletes categories. It won’t delete your book from the system, but it will delete it from that category and put it somewhere else.

She also covers pricing, although I thought this was a little thin, the pros and cons of setting up pre-orders, Kindle Select, the author central feature on Amazon, choosing the right name for a domain page, and the best use of freebies.

There are a lot of useful web links/resources and I’d still be here now if I checked them all out.

Reviews

The second part of the book covers reviews, why authors need them, how to get them, and where to look for them. There is also a fair amount of space devoted to info about Goodreads, and using their giveaways and adverts.

I thought the review section was pretty standard, but with my journalism/PR background, that’s probably not surprising. Eg, split media pitching into national, regional and trade—most people usually forget trade—and read book bloggers’ guidelines and genre preferences. Well yes, bright idea there.

Sample letters showing how to pitch for a review are included, which I thought were somewhat OTT, cultural differences there, I guess:

I have recently released the one marketing book every author and business owner must have in their arsenal,

Personally I find that cringeworthy.

Plus, Penny recommends the begging-for-a-review technique at the end of a book. Not just ‘please leave a review’ which appears in most self-pub books, but writing a flipping letter to the reader.

Summary

Some useful info, best used as a factual resource and to plan a methodical approach around Amazon and Goodreads.

You could probably find much of the info on the Internet for free but for three dollars it’s easier to have it in one book.

Graphics are a bit iffy in the ebook version, but glancing at other reviews, it seems they aren’t much better in the print version.

image

I’m not a fan of stylised covers like this. I’d have preferred a photo or graphic design of lots and lots of books rather than a truck.

I had to read it a few times for the info to sink in. I think there was some unnecessary padding, and the editing could have been tighter. Few errors, but there was some repetitive writing. I really don’t need to read a definition of galley proofs and advance reading copies (ARCs) twice in a few pages.

If you don’t understand the terms mentioned in this review, then you should probably buy this book. If you are prepared to put in the time and effort to increase your sales.

Thanks to iRead Book Tours.

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85 comments on “Sell your books

    • I’ll be honest, I decided to review this book because I do have a number of authors who follow this blog, and I wanted to see if it was helpful.

      I think the most use is for new or about-to-be published authors. It really depends how far someone is down the self-pub road.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Interesting stuff. Thank you. I should imagine that when and if Myself and the Cloud are set firmly upon pages, they shall be ensconced within a hard cover, bound in velvet, with no image, just the chosen words in gold curtly type.

    I shall have enough funds for a good three copies, one of which I’m keeping.

    Collector’s items. *falls about laughing*. True mind.

    I’d hate to see physical books fade away, (and doubt it will really happen), but to publish whatever may be deemed ‘successfully’, one has to look at the best advice around and follow it.

    – sonmi upon the Cloud

    ps- your like button isn’t there, or I’ d have pressed it. *smiles*

    Liked by 1 person

    • That sounds delicious. I’m not sure if Createspace offers that luxury option. You must suggest it.

      I do have a few leather bound books with nice gold lettering. Clearly I find velvet preferable these days for obvious reasons.

      I chucked the like button long ago, got too many spammers pretending to read a thousand words in two seconds flat.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. If and when I ever decide to sell on my own on Amazon, I’ll probably follow my blog model. Don’t advertise, don’t promote, wait for word-of-mouth to get me those 3-4 loyal readers, and enjoy the 2-3 consistent sales for each new book I release.

    Liked by 3 people

      • I’m loosing my cognitive abilities . . . let me see; TT ==>> Turgid Turtle, Tip-Top, Tedious Trope, Tenacious Turd (sometimes called a Klingon), Timid Tot, Temporal Traveler, Tenuous Tumbler . . .

        None of them really fit in the sentence.

        Is it a reference to me commenting somewhere or other? Because that’s not really advertising; that’s more like alienating (my e-mail signature: Winning enemies and irritating friends since 1953).

        Liked by 1 person

          • I think they decide in June. I’m still ambivalent about (if I get accepted) going. I probably would for the experience, but . . . well, actually, I’m doing a post about that, so I’ll let it go at that.

            As for posting it, as long as it’s behind a password, apparently no more than four people are interested in reading it.

            So . . . yes, if they are the same people who would buy it, then the number of sales is going to be zero (I’d probably buy one just to not have the sales at zero).

            Like

          • Didn’t you have to pay a deposit/entry fee thing? Although pretty aroundd there, walking and cycling. I’d probably skive outside half the time.

            I think passwords do deter people. But I’m not sure without them people read stories anyway. Still haven’t read your others even though you gave me the passwords, time thing. But if you ask for a password, maybe there’s an obligation to comment and feel more involved? Don’t know. Haven’t thought about it too much, but if I ask, I try and comment or I think it looks discourteous.

            Like

          • $25 application fee. Applications close on June 15th,and if accepted I have to pay the full amount by July 15th.

            The password thing is so as to not lose the North America First Publication Rights. An open blog counts as essentially a first publication of the work. That gets into contracts, the amount of money, and other stuff that is all best avoided by not having one’s work out there all willy nilly.

            As for obligation and looking discourteous, you are from across the pond, and like most people who live on that side, discourteousness is somewhat accepted if not outright expected. I think it comes from having a faux air of superiority peculiar to Europeans (and Brits). So, really, it should not weigh heavy on you.

            Besides, I clearly state no one should feel any sense of obligation with regards to reading my stuff, looking at my photos, or interacting in any way with whatever I do. Life is short, and obligations make it seem shorter.

            Sure, people miss out on the wonderfulness of who I am and what I do, but that is punishment enough without piling on guilt atop it.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I thought you had a higher chance of acceptance if applying earlier, from what I vaguely remember.

            In terms of publishing on a blog, yes, it does take away from publication rights, but not if you self-publish. You can hardly take your own rights.

            Of course, we are naturally discourteous. But you should at least have some tiny remnants of that?

            Punishment is 96 photos.

            Like

          • I’m not aware of any advantage to submitting early, but then I did not pay much attention to that. They do ask to send in the applications early, but that’s probably so as to not bunch up all the reading at the very end.

            Yes, I can’t lose my own rights to myself . . . on the other hand, I would much prefer going the traditional route as oppose to self-publishing. A nod from traditional publishing is a great confidence boost with respect to someone who’s in it strictly for the money thinking that what I wrote is sellable.

            Self-publishing is always an option, but if that’s the first path I take, I’ll never know if I am as immensely talented as I imagine.

            As for your last question, I traded in all my discourteousness for a truly outstanding ability to annoy. It’s worked out well, so far.

            Liked by 2 people

  3. Interesting yes. I do to a great extent judge a book by its cover. And of course if I am familiar with the author. Then I do check bestsellers and that is how I got to read Girl on the Train and Hausfrau. The latter I would never even have considered but then I read the first few pages on Amazon…. in the end my favourites are non fiction though

    Like

    • Unless the inside preview or the blurb is good, the cover certainly interests me, or doesn’t, as the case may be.

      If I’d seen this in a book shop, or the last book, The Artisan’s Star, on the preceding post, I wouldn’t have bothered.

      Having said that, I like getting random books. So book reviews, gifts from neighbours and blog pals (no I still haven’t read it yet) make for a wider diversity of books than I would normally choose.

      Covers are not easy. Hell, writing and selling books isn’t easy!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I only read ebooks so I dont see the inside preview. I heve to rely on reviews in newspapers because I am allergic to reviews of readers which start with I. And of course at the end it comes down to taste?

        Like

        • Inside preview on Amazon was what I meant.

          I used to use newspaper reviews all the time. I’ve read some decent ones on blogs though, plus bloggers have more flexibility to present different style reviews. The reviews I don’t like are the pretentious ones. What I really want to know us, why did you like it or didn’t? Not too difficult.

          Liked by 2 people

          • I use it all the time, including for reviewing. Pages full of errors and badly written prose in that section are a real turn off. It should be a big free selling point for authors.

            Like

          • Oh, you are a very picky reader Ms LFletch! It’s getting the balance right, isn’t it. Not an easy trick. Dialogue can move a story on when used well. Or be full of Polly put the kettle on and say nothing.

            Like

          • I guess I am but I have read so many books. When I got my Kindle, and I think I was one of the firsts, I read anything. With time I have read some excellent books and I know it takes a lot of talent and hard work to come up with a good book. And not every book an author writes is good. Eventually you can also become a Patterson who simply writes for the money not for the quality.

            Like

  4. If and when I should write a book, you will be so bothered you will stop talking to me.
    You are so kind for doing this to help others who might be struggling to sell after putting so much time to write books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mak, you will be welcome, and one of many :D although to be fair I am happy to provide general advice to blogpals.

      But I think it’s one thing to write a book, get it edited, get a cover design, and then? … nada, because people haven’t thought out a post-publication sales plan. I’d be planning my strategy before I’d written my book/s.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ”How to” books freak me out for some reason.
    I imagine all these people utilizing the ”Chiseled in Stone” rules and we’re back to square one.
    They instill the type of enlightenment that makes me more nervous than when I was blissfully ignorant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not keen on them either. The sort of ‘how to’ books I like aren’t how to books at all, they tend to give general rules, tell you what is basic, and what is flexible, hence not chiseled in stone. In fact they aren’t how to books.

      She does disagree with a couple of bits of popular advice, but I suspect through ease/laziness, eg don’t give away fifty books on Goodreads, stick to a lower figure, ie ten.

      I think the way to use Amazon as a search engine and at least try and understand the basics is sensible though. Certainly someone I know has done that and seen some good results. Full-time tedious job though eh?

      Like

      • This is why I initially hoped I wouldn’t have to do the self pub route and why I was prepared to sacrifice as much of the returns as necessary to avoid being directly involved with marketing.

        So much for that pipe dream …
        But as author John Kehoe once wrote, what’s good luck what’s bad luck?

        We’ll in the near future I guess?

        Like

        • If you read around, using any pub company, trad, vanity, whatever, the standard line is that you will get a publicity splurge up front, but after that … And the up-front is the easy part. Events, promotions, press release, contacts, blah blah, because, it’ds news for Andy Warhol seconds. After that, lies the difficulty and the hard work.

          Penny’s point is interesting about reviving books that have been published for a few years. I think if people accept they are going to have to work at sales, regardless of publishing method, it becomes a lot easier to face.

          She’s looking primarily at two aspects, Amazon rankings, and linked to that reviews. It’s very hard though, to give general advice when every book is different. But I think looking at boosting sales of older books is a valuable method to learn.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I read the title of this post and was at once infuriated.
    “I’ve spent my entire life buying all these books, if she thinks for one second I’m going to sell them…”
    :D
    Don’t judge a post by its title?

    Liked by 2 people

    • If I had been telling you to sell your book collection, I would obviously have included your name in the title.

      ‘Mas cosas que casa’ said our neighbour when he first walked round our finca house and saw all the books.

      I’d be the last to tell you that. Although I really need to take all the paperbacks we’ve been given to a car boot sale.

      Apropos nothing in particular, shouldn’t you be buying a Spanish summer holiday home at some point. Soon?

      Like

        • We go through phases of living in kitchens and eating there, and using dining rooms. I like tables. They are useful for piling things on, and I always know exactly where everything is. It’s the untidy office desk syndrome. It’s perfectly organised to me. I can see everything at a glance. You mean you don’t want a twee little table in there, set for two? :D

          Like

          • NO! No, I tell you. I am not going to sit on a little table in a kitchen and have soup while I look at appliances.
            I’m the person who some days, like today, forgets to eat until it’s night time- but still started drinking at 5pm on the mark. My alarm reminds me it’s alcohol time. I smoke cigars, I call people cretins. And you know what, I don’t even mind eating in other people’s kitchens, but in my house- well, I’ll drown myself in the bathtub before I get to the point where I’m eating in the kitchen.

            Like

          • It’s not difficult if your back is to the one appliance (antiquated Kenwood chef). Actually we just look out of the door at the garden and the sea. I was going to say you can still touch the sea, but you were a bit far back before, so I suppose it doesn’t matter to you. :)

            I don’t forget to eat. I just feed the others. I ate at a similar time to you. Don’t tell me you have started doing the no drinks before x o’clock thing? What happens at lunchtime? When the girls arrive for summer?

            Cigars are vomit-inducing to smoke. They’re all right for someone else to smoke in small doses but these days, I think I’d be walking outside for fresh air. Imbecilic cretins. Don’t do yourself down. Tricia said your comment was abhorrent :D

            If you don’t want to eat in the kitchen, surely you should be employing some little slaves to cook for you? Because eating in the kitchen employs less effort if you are doing it yourself.

            Anyway, I’m going to sit on the sofa and have supper. So there.

            Like

          • My rules are only for days when we’re on our own. And drinking wine at lunch doesn’t count as drinking alcohol.
            I’m afraid I must ask who’s Tricia?
            And yes, I’d love house-help, but Mike is still refusing, and I’m keen to avoid world war III.

            Like

          • Class. Wine at lunch isn’t alcohol! If you are classing spirits as alcohol, then I don’t drink :)

            The woman who attempted to, well actually I’m not sure what she was attempting, but it was your recent exchange on clouds about the intellect of the not-so-lovable IB. It’s just not worth going there again, but she repeated it elsewhere.

            I think your house looks rather large to manage on your own unless you want to spend all your time cleaning. Unless you want to cover it in dust sheets. And live in the kitchen ;)

            Like

  7. If ever I finish this thing I will just send out copies to those i know in the blogging world as I think that would be about the limit of people likely to read it…
    Mark you finishing anything in this madhouse would be a fine chance….I should go back to work to get some peace.

    Like

      • You can pick as many holes as you please….when I have enough to send you.
        I need time to work at this – undisturbed by calls for cups of tea, the need to provide lunch on time, see to visitors – and with puppies in the house, a rapid response to cries of ‘they’re doing it again!’.
        The puppies I can train……

        Like

          • Don’t expect a hugely fast response. Depending on location, maybe a week, I’m trying to turn something round for someone right now and I should hit the week mark.

            I’ve never met a trainable human yet. Sit. Down? Without even being asked? Not a chance.

            Like

          • I have a week or so of work on the water system problem yet….if all goes well so nothing will arrive in a hurry.

            It drives me up the wall when I am working in an unfamiliar system, in a foreign language, to have my train of thought continually broken by trivia…well, I regard it as trivia.
            I can control the puppies by use of the rolled up newspaper, for some reason humans are immune to its power.

            Like

    • Depends how much time you have I guess. I don’t have any choice when the dog wants to play. It us play or else. Anything else falls by the wayside.

      I don’t think people realise how much work is involved in playing the games. The book games. Not the dog or cat ones,

      Like

  8. If I get some people to read those little snippets on WP, is that not all I could possibly expect or hope for? I mean, there are millions of us all vying for some eyes to read words we felt brazen enough to put down. I mean, the cheek of it all!

    Like

    • I know. I can’t even get round all my fave blogs. I’ve missed out on your latest stories so am due for a big catch-up.

      I think the only advantage fiction has is escapism and no obligation to interact. Except, that’s what’s nice about blogging. Horses for courses.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for reviewing this book, roughseas. I had previously read, and heavily marked up, Penny Sansevieri’s Red Hot Internet Publicity and found it very useful. I also followed her blog for a while. But I’m not about selling copies of my own books so much as finding readers for books in general so I likely won’t be buying this book. Good to know the information is there though, and written by someone I respect and can recommend to other authors who do wish to sell truckloads of their books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Red Hot seems to have got good publicity/reviews. I’ve not read it. Probably won’t. I think her style is one that doesn’t gel with me, however practical/valid her advice. And, it’s def aimed at newer authors I suspect. If I ever pull my finger out, I can’t say I don’t know what to do!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Surprised that it’s so much work to self-publish – bundling, pricing, begging for reviews. I always thought self-publishers slapped their books on Amazon and come what may. Glad I am not trying to sell anything. I’d be so bad at it.

    Like

    • Interesting in a way. A lot of people say writing the book is the easy part … Some do just slap their books on Amazon, others work harder on the sales. Good luck to them, but it *is* time intensive.

      I learned about sales and PR years ago. I can do it, but it is hard intensive work.

      Like

  11. That cover needs a redo.Color, clutter. (I know alternating fonts colors give message, but still) Prefer sharp, clean, and clear (So it indicates that’s what kind of info you will find inside. Poor illustrations inside wouldn’t bother me as much.) At the price, it might be worth having all the accumulated hints in one spot on the reference shelf. You can always pick up a hint or two. (like keeping an eye on Amazon switching categories around. As if there’s not enough to do….)
    Always enjoy your solid reviews

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not a fan of contrasting fonts. Or mustard anything unless it’s on food or in my dressing. So I’m probably with you on that, precision and something understated but classy. But why are we surprised? Clutter, busy, visual assault is the way of the world.

      I think the big advantage is just that. Lots of hints altogether, plus too many websites to even mention. It’s a resource.

      Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You nailed it. Old pre-technology saturated brains see things very differently. (Will check back in shortly – oddly hobbling around/mostly sitting with an annoying ankle gash..sound familiar…long story – not nearly as bad as yours, but totally annoying)

        Like

        • You know, I used to hate when people got hold of a computer for the first time. EVERYTHING was in CAPS, bold, italics, and glorious bloody technicolor. Oh, and underline too. With 20 different fonts.

          Like a kid with a new box of crayons. Must. Use. Every. Single. Colour.

          Oh dear. Sending the boys over to lick it better? Improve quickly. Long injuries cause further probs.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes. So true
            Silly accident. Molly apparently feels it will help if she huddles close or on top. She’ll have a post tomorrow. Looks like the gash is healing so far so good. Learned from your experience and sitting…of course there’s a storm in the Gulf and the German is arriving tomorrow. Always something. Paw waves to the handsome (and helpful) boys.

            Like

          • Been in Spain for 10/12 days so am on catch-up duty. Snowy thinks jumping on ankles is a fine way to mend them. Well, pretty much how he broke it in the first place :D

            More storms in Texas? :(

            Hello German :) leave Molly and Snowy to play, Pippa and German will do restraint and dignity. 🐾

            Liked by 1 person

          • Snowy – Molly and the German both tried jumping on foot and ankle during a jousting session…now bruised toes/mid foot as well as oozie-ouchie. Molly shrugged and said “Better 1 bad foot than 2 bad feet, so what’s the problem?”
            Looks like 24-48 hrs of rain some wind. Nice for napping, but prefer the power stays on in any case. The news stations will have all the new people in a frenzy if they keep up their hype.
            Must hobble over and check bandage…dog paws/claws tend to rough things up. PAw waves until later (Spain – ahhhh)

            Like

          • Aaagh. Dogs are so sensible. Such clever logic from Molly. Two bad feet, no walks. One bad foot? A mere hobble.
            Another Texan told me of your forecast (after you mind so I told him he was tooooo slow).
            We had outages here too. No idea why. There’s a gambling centre at the back of us so their generator kicks in. Drives the flat dwellers (at the back) next to it berserk, but it’s just far enough from us (at the front) to be rather soporific. Unless it’s mealtime, I don’t care tbh.

            Like

  12. I’m not sure I’d buy a book about selling books – does it really take a whole books-worth to get the salient points across? I think I’d trawl through blogs and forums online if I needed to. Still, good luck to her if she’s making money telling other folk how. I didn’t like the cover either. So for me, who only ever judges a book by its cover, this would be a non starter.

    Like

    • Well, it’s two books in one really. Get More Sales + Get More Reviews = Sell by Truckload. I would say a short book on sales is worth it, not convinced about the review part 2.

      I think it depends whether or not you want to wade through forums and sites and and and. I lose patience fast. eBay would be out of business if everyone was like me, I hate looking for things.

      Yeah. Covers. Interestingly bookbub et al have stopped doing covers on their news thingy. Most annoying. First impressions are all, simple fact of life.

      Like

    • I think the best advice is have more than one book ready, ie aim to publish at least two a year initially. Or, write your first book, leave it, move on, and maybe dust it off later. But good luck if you go for it Vishal :)

      Like

  13. For some reason I seem to be bumping into more and more folk interested in self-publishing. Sounds like a sound starter manual. Will pass on, along with your review. As usual your posts are fascinating but even more so the comment streams! Hope you and your lads are well RoughSeas!

    Like

    • I think the world is self-publishing right now! Starter manual is the best description really. It’s clear, with decent info and instructions. Plus, it’s fairly cheap, so not much to lose. Thanks MBL :) Boys all OK and thank you for asking.

      Like

  14. I haven’t read her book, obviously, but funny enough, I’ve been applying some of these techniques and my book sales have increased. I’m thinking of combining M1 and M2 into one volume/2 episodes. Won’t take much work to do, but it gives me another publication and some folks, seeing it cheaper to buy the two in one vol, rather than separately… Well, that’s what I’m hoping for. After that, I’m going to do the same with Devil, put the English and Spanish Version in one Vol… What you you think, Kate? :)

    Like

    • I think the bundling thing is interesting. I’ve bought bundles when I’ve read the first book and it’s been good and better value to buy the lot afterwards rather than individually.

      Devil’s another good idea, I suppose you could also do a selection too. A devil, a wiz and M1, an intro into three styles of writing? Maybe add reflections? It’s a bit like getting four or six authors bundling together for the same genre, just you have more control, and in this case it’s one author with three genres. Dunno. You’ll obv want to bundle Geo chrons.

      Liked by 1 person

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