Continuing a short series analysing sales of my first novel: The Great Scottish Land Grab. You can find yesterday’s post here and the first post here.
Every author’s story will be slightly different. I’ve benefitted from reading and hearing about the lessons other authors have gained from their experiences selling their books so it makes sense to offer what advice I can from my own experience.
1. Don’t discard rubbish first drafts
The first draft of Land Grab was not great, but it contained large sections that contained the core of the story I wanted to tell and on re-reading a couple of years later, still thrilled me.
I was extremely fortunate to have a relevant first draft waiting when I realised the level of interest in the Scottish independence referendum. If only I’d realised it sooner, but in reality, much of the plot of the finished book came out of my own journey exploring the issues. I doubt I could have written the novel, especially my first, at any other time. I was told from an early age to write and save what I wrote as it may become useful later. It’s good advice.
2. Be aware of what people are interested in
My decision to try and publish Land Grab in 2014 was definitely the right one. I made sales I might not have made at any other time. The original idea for Land Grab was for someone to try and steal a General Election to gain power and use it to reverse the Highland Clearances. As my interest in the referendum grew, I realised it offered a ready made situation that could be exploited in my plot and I began to rework the story to fit a topic all of Scotland was interested in.
Yet trends can easily vanish, as happened in October 2014. The No vote won and my sales began their quick slide towards zero.
Still, almost three years later and interest in Scottish independence has had a resurgence following Brexit… I’m still selling this book three years on…
3. There is no substitute for advertising
If you want to see zero sales, don’t market your book. If you want to sell one copy, tell someone you’ve written a book. Then tell someone else. Repeat until one of them buys it! If you want to sell hundreds or thousands of copies… You have to tell thousands or even millions of people.
How you advertise is possibly less important than the fact you are doing it. As long as you are reaching out to people who might be interested in your book, you may see some sales.
I’ve managed to sell dozens of copies by approaching strangers and talking to them about my novel. I found out this year that I could also sell copies by paying for Facebook advertising and I’m now also experimenting with Amazon Ads.
Time or money, you have to pay at least one of them and probably both and if you do it right, with a good product, you’ll find that you will sell.
4. A good cover will help, but a poor one won’t stop people if the concept is right
My first book cover was poor:
Yet, if you look at yesterday’s post, I still managed to sell a hundred copies. I knew it wasn’t the best I could do and kept trying different ideas, using this one when I released book two:
By the time book three was almost ready, I’d convinced myself I needed to show another side to Scotland and settled on this:
The last chapter written, the third book in the trilogy published, I listened to reason and hired a graphic artist: David MacKenzie who took a new concept I’d wanted and produced what became the final cover for The Great Scottish Land Grab:
David was kind enough to produce related covers for each separate book in the trilogy as well which you can view here.
5. Telling people how to buy the book
When I’ve told people they can buy copies on Kindle or physical copies through Amazon, they have. When I’ve told them there is a book, but failed to include that vitally important where to buy, I suspect they haven’t… It’s rather embarrassing to admit that on my leaflets and business cards I forgot to include that vitally important piece of information!
6. Split your book and make the first part free
Or write a short story or novella or prequel and give that away.
While giving the first part free is no guarantee that anyone will read it, let alone go on to buy the rest of the novel, I am seeing results where I’ve advertised the novel and let people know they can try the first book for free. If they are interested enough to act on your request and download the book, I think people will be more inclined to read it. Then, they may enjoy it and go on to buy the rest…
Want to start reading book one of The Great Scottish Land Grab for free? Click here…
7. Don’t give up!
If you have written a good story, then believe in yourself. Publishing is a long game and as many more experienced writers than myself have said, ebooks will be there long after printed copies are removed from the shelves.
My intention is to keep writing, keep selling and keep learning.
If you have any advice to share on your experiences of selling your books, why not comment below.