Build Your Own Book Selling Machine
Wouldn’t it be nice to sell books on autopilot?
If you’re new to self-publishing or have only a few books under your belt, you’ve probably felt the marketing grind. You're a writer, not a sales executive (unless that’s your day job), and convincing either friends or strangers to buy your beautiful book is counter-intuitive and frustrating.
Fortunately, it is possible to spend your time writing instead of selling, and once you have a reliable, consistent system in place, you can get back to the work you love while readers organically flock to your books.
The Book-Selling Machine
The book-selling machine is a virtual machine you can create that will sell your books for you while you work on writing. It has several parts that can each be built up on so that you can draw the greatest number of passionate readers to your writing and sell books with the least amount of effort.
For my example, I’ll use a book-selling machine I built for one of my pseudonyms, Sierra Storm. Sierra’s books range in the urban fantasy and paranormal romance genres, and she has a moderate but active email list with about 250 subscribers (as of this writing) and many more fans on social media.
I can add more readers to Sierra’s list any time I want to, and I can sell copies of my books with only a simple email. It’s automatic—I don’t plan out major campaigns, and I nickel-and-dime my marketing, since I want to reserve most of my publishing budget for my more serious books.
Sierra’s “machine” started out with about a $50 per book budget, and it took about one year and five books before my first “automated” results. Here’s what it looks like:
Parts of the machine:
1: Getting more readers.
For this part, I don’t worry about making sales or pressuring people into buying my books. I don’t worry about ranking or royalties. Instead, I just focus on giving potential readers a chance to get to know me. This happens over social media (infrequently but consistently updated), my reader magnet (a prequel novella that teases the main storyline for a series) and my mailing list.
The goal here is to get people to sign up onto my list, which I do through giveaways, cross-promos, and my free reader magnet. Again, there’s no pressure to sell anything—all I have to do is be present and sit back while readers sign up for a free story or enter a contest.
2: Selling to those readers.
Now that I have more people on my list, I can sell. I only focus on selling about once a month, either when a new release is coming out or if I have a splash sale or group promotion to share. People who like your free reader magnet will be excited to hear what other books you have for sale, so I can keep my emails simple and fun.
Again, I don’t really need to sell here—I just tell people what is available and when. It’s like talking to friends about the latest news, and usually these emails take only a few minutes out of every month.
3: Scaling up.
We have readers, and now we can sell. Technically, the machine exists at this point, and you should have a largely automated system to sell books every month without spending a lot of time or money on promoting and marketing. But how much are you selling?
If you’re only selling one or two copies per month at this point, that’s fine—you didn’t have to sweat over them, and the readers who picked them up were genuinely interested. If you keep adding readers to your list, your machine will grow until it’s sustainable.
There are two ways to grow your machine: to keep repeating the same giveaways and promos to add readers to your list, or to match yourself with comparable writers and grab more mailing list readers for your own fan base. If you want to see exponential growth, focus on cross-promotions. Join other writers for cross-promos with the purpose of growing your list. Every time you add a hundred or a thousand new readers to your list, you move up a virtual bracket and can now interact with higher-level writers.
It’s up to you.
I’ve shared the details about Sierra Storm’s book-selling machine, but they won’t necessarily match up to machines I’ll build in the future, and they won’t necessarily match up to yours. Different parts might be harder or easier to start up, and depending on your resources, budget, genre, and writing speed, you’ll get very different results. That being said, your method is fully individual and entirely up for you to choose and design.
It takes time.
Self-publishing isn’t a get-rich-quick scenario. Almost everyone who succeeds starts while still working a traditional day-job, and it can take years before your writing picks up. Readers like to see a backlist of published books, and as you publish, you’ll develop the skills necessary to succeed—which you likely won’t have when you first start out.
Don’t get discouraged if your first few books can’t make it off the shelves. Analyze how you can do better next time, and keep trying! For reference, Sierra's early automated results included only a handful of sales every month. The big win wasn't in royalties or bestselling titles, but merely in the fact that I could predictably and reliably grow my list and makes sales without any conscious effort.
The market is fickle.
It’s entirely possible that you’ll start a series and hit it off, only to lose everything six months later when your readers seemingly vanish into thin air. The publishing market changes like the weather. Sometimes readers want sappy vampires, and then later romantic cowboys flood the scene.
Many authors like to stay active in a set of genres and sub-genres so that they can switch to a new focus whenever the need arises. It’s important to stay flexible and remain aware of what books are selling so that you can consistently target yourself to stay ahead of the crowd.
Do you have a book-selling machine? How do you streamline your process? Please share in the comment section below or join my Facebook group for self-publishing fiction writers here for more discussion!