The Sales Ladder
What do you think drives you to buy books? Here’s my take on what affects book buying today, in order of importance and impact.
What makes you buy books?
How does the book buying brain work?
Very few people have read a book before they buy it, so the quality of the writing isn’t a driver in making a sale. Where the author is unknown, most people’s perceptions of quality derive from recommendations and trusted sources. Where the author is known, readers feel they have a stake in someone they like reading. They’ve already invested in the author. Either way, the best way to trigger sales is to focus on selling the author before one sells the book. Most publicity does precisely this. And it works.
|The Sales Ladder
Climb the ladder to make the sale
Broadsheet media coverage of the author, press articles, press releases, column inches in local and national newspapers, radio and TV.
2. Word of mouth
Recommendations from friends or critics, gossip, blogs, and wherever the author is becoming a subject or hot topic, in bulletin boards, MySpace, BeBo, FaceBook, and in your local writers’ workshop or reading group.
The author?s fame or notoriety drives sales, celebrity and current reputation really do matter, including the author’s own journalism, her or his reviewing and commentary in the contemporary press, and specialist literary press.
The authors existing readers, their critical supporters, their fans and acolytes and other ?investors? in the author’s status and reputation.
Winning or being shortlisted for prizes, awards, grants or just about anything else with a competition attached can build reputation.
6. Contemporary visibility
The timely appearances of the author, and the frequency of those appearances in workshops, festivals and readings in the year of publication, as well as campus visits, and reading groups.
Through relationships with the literary scene, practitioners, aspirants and pundits. If the author doesn’t press the flesh with the literary elite, then selling books is that bit more difficult. Power relations in the literary world can also involve threats and coercion.
8. A choice
The publisher’s key role is to create choices for the general reader. Which means limiting the total available offers to a smaller, meaningful range of books. Choices only work with a constrained range of products. No one can buy lunch easily from a menu of eight million items. But no one buy something on its own, so constructing choices is important offensively in being seen to be an offer, and defensively in terms of preventing anyone else from being seen as a selection.
9. Availability and coverage
Having books available in as many locations as possible and managing the broadest national coverage of retail outlets, and internet outlets. The customer must be able to purchase the book where they choose to buy it.
Creating and reinforcing the author?s reputation and celebrity, and establishing a ‘quality’ offer for the general reader. For poetry presses the power of the publisher’s brand and reputation is also an important factor in determining sales.