How do books sell? A surge in sales of my Berlin thriller “Blood Summit” may reflect generous publicity from a top author.
How do books sell? One of the hardest lessons for any author is that your books won’t sell themselves.
The moment your precious work goes on sale, you feel sure its intrinsic qualities should inspire countless readers to buy it. They in turn will tell all their friends. “I couldn’t put it down,” they will say. “It’s the best political thriller/love story/space opera I’ve ever read.”
Within days or weeks, sales will go viral, 50 Shades of Grey-style (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).
How books sell: the truth
Unfortunately, the intrinsic qualities of a book are no more likely to ensure its success than the intrinsic qualities of a chocolate bar or an ice-cream.
Here in Austria, you can’t turn on the TV without seeing an advert for products of the Italian company Ferrero: Kinder eggs, Tic-Tacs, Nutella… the list is endless. Often you see two adverts for Ferrero products in the same block of ads.
A Unilever executive once told me: most ice-creams are impulse buys. When adverts for our products were forbidden in country X, he said, sales plummeted.
To sell books, too, you need publicity.
How books sell: Immortal Works
When I signed up with US publisher Immortal Works to publish my Istanbul thriller PALLADIUM in May 2022 they sent me a fat set of advice on my role in publicising the book.
I welcomed this as showing that IW were a professional outfit. I know they will play a big role in publicising PALLADIUM. But I, too, must generate publicity. I look forward to setting up readings, when that is once again possible. My social media efforts may contribute. I will bend my every effort to ensure PALLADIUM is a success.
How books sell: good fortune
Sometimes, good fortune – kismet, perhaps, or serendipity – can help. A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to meet Irish thriller writer John Connolly.
I can claim no credit for this event. A literary festival invited me, as Robert Pimm, to interview John Connolly. I said yes.
I found John charming and inspiring. He asked me what to do in Vienna. Having read his thrillers, I recommended The Cemetery of the Nameless, an eerie spot at the city limits for burying corpses washed up by the Danube. He visited it that afternoon.
Did I mention John was charming and inspiring?
- First, he bought a copy of my thriller BLOOD SUMMIT. I would of course happily have given him one.
- Then he read it; described it as “hugely entertaining”; and permitted me to quote this in the blurb
- Later, he gave me a handsome acknowledgement in his newest book, The Nameless ones (my review is at the link). In the acknowledgement, he flatteringly described me as a fellow author and included the url of this blog. What a gent.
BLOOD SUMMIT sales surge
I cannot be certain that these events result from John’s kind intervention. But the coincidence of timing leads me to that conclusion. If you would like to have a look at Blood Summit, click on this link or on the picture below.
How books sell: lessons
My post Writer’s block and rejection: 7 ways to deal with these tough challenges argues it helps to have many projects on the go. The more irons you have in the fire, the more likely it is that one of them will get warm.
Don’t write your novel, send it to agents or publishers, and wait. Once you’ve sent it off, start your next novel; write your blog; go on a writing course; joining a writing group; attend a reading; or submit a story to a competition. Maybe one of these initiatives will lead to a breakthrough.
The more seeds you plant, the more likely it is one of them will grow.
And if you are fortunate enough to be asked to interview a famous author, say “yes”.