A lot of authors struggle with selling their books because they are more in love with, and better at, the writing part of being an author, than the marketing and selling part of being an author. However, if you want to be a successful author, you have to master the art of being persuasive with your words in print and when speaking before a group.
This post, originally published on August 30, 2010, was a reprint of an essay I wrote for a club newsletter I managed back in 1990. The essay was called “Being Persuasive and was published in The DiSCOurser, Issue #6, Aug. 2, 1990, the newsletter for the SCO Toastmasters club. However, as I retrofit this blog with authors in mind, I’ve taken the information and given it not only an author twist but a 2021 update, as well.
There are three ways you can bring someone around to your way of thinking. You can:
- Plead (a.k.a. beg)
- Coerce (a.k.a. bully)
- Persuade (a.k.a. convince)
Only one of those really works. Can you guess which one?
If you guessed persuade, you’re right! The art of persuasion comes easily to some but is hard work for others. However, with practice, anyone can be effectively persuasive.
If you want people to purchase copies of your books, persuasion is the only way to go. You can never get enough mercy purchases to make a difference to your bank account, and besides, they’re demeaning. And who wants to be the Book Dictator?!
So how do you persuade people to buy your book?
Step 1: Focus on Your Goals
Persuasive people have clarity of vision. They know what they want and they go after it. Visualize what it is that you want. Understand what will happen if your vision comes true, and what will happen if it doesn’t. You will then have a clearer focus.
In the context of book sales, know how many books you want to sell. Know how much money you’ll earn for each book sold. For example. Let’s say you’re doing a virtual book reading for a book club that has an average attendance of 25 people. You set a goal of selling at least 25% of the room. That would be at least 6 books. If you sell the books for $15 and your take-home for each book is $10, then you can expect to make $60 for your book reading.
However, to be persuasive, you can’t just focus on what you want for the evening, you need to focus on what your audience wants, as well. If you can give your audience what they want, they are more likely to give you what you want.
So, what does this book club want that will get them closer to wanting to buy your book? More than likely, they’ve asked you to read a passage from your book because they want to get a taste of it so they will know if they will like it or not. So give them the best reading you can. Use the tips in last week’s post, to present it well. If you wow them, they’ll be ordering your book at the end of the event.
Step 2: Formulate your goal into a purpose
Step one was fairly easy and straight forward. And if you’re only doing one event, that’s probably as far as you need to go. However, I hope you plan to sell way more than just 6 books! Therefore, you’re going to need to translate your goal of selling specific quantities of books (which you’ll still need for specific events) into an over-arching purpose.
Why do you want to sell your books?
To make money? Why do you want to make money?
To buy things? Why do you want to buy things?
Keep asking yourself why until you can’t come up with an answer anymore. That will most likely be your core purpose. That will be the force that drove you to write your book.
Perhaps you wrote your book because you wanted to help people improve their lives. Perhaps you wanted to help them not avoid the pitfalls you fell into. Perhaps you wanted them to experience an emotional quality that you communicate with your stories. All authors have an underlying purpose to their work, even if they aren’t consciously aware of it. If you want to be more persuasive at selling your books, work at understanding that purpose.
Step 3: Understand Your Audience
Many would suggest this should have been Step 1. However, I think by going through steps 1 and 2 we find our natural audience. And it is much easier to persuade an audience who is in alignment with our goals and purpose than it is to warp our goals and purpose around an audience.
Now that you understand where you are coming from, get to know who you are talking to. Know what makes them tick. That way you can talk to them about your book in a way that they can relate to, understand, and will find relevant. Tell them what they want to know about your book.
Step 4: Speak with conviction
Don’t be afraid to show the audience that you feel deeply about your work. Readers love to see that authors are passionate about what they write about. Don’t be embarrassed that you geek out on the things you geek out on. That’s what makes your work unique and special
Step 5: Ask for the sale
So many authors forget this key step. Don’t be embarrassed to say, “I have copies of my book for sale at the end of this presentation,” or “I take PayPal and cash.”
Step 6: Give people options
People may not be ready to buy right then and there. So give them options to buy later and provide them with something that will remind them. Give them a bookmark or flyer if you are in person. Invite them to join your mailing list if you are virtual or in person.
All of this can be easily mastered once you have achieved focus. Once you can see your path and know your way, your journey becomes easy.
“The Fire of Your Ideas” by Roger Ailes. The Toastmaster, June 1989, pgs. 12-13.
“Friendly Persuasion” by Linda D. Swink, CTM. The Toastmaster, June 1989, pgs. 24-26.
Notes from Robert Fenwick’s class, “Freeing the Natural, Voice” offered at Cabrillo College. Spring 1990.