Once your book is ready for sale, you have to rev up your engine for sales and marketing… If you don’t, the only people buying your book will be your friends and family and you will be lucky to sell 50 copies! So you need to develop a marketing plan WAY before you launch your book. Keep in mind that book selling is hard work! As a matter of fact, according to a Nielsen BookScan study, only 4% of books ever sell more than 1,000 copies. I’m fortunate to say that in its first year, Tastes of the Camino has sold about 1300 copies. Below are a few things I did to achieve this:
1) Start creating a following at least 6-12 months in advance. I had always been incredibly private so this idea of sharing everything I cook and eat was my single hardest hurdle to overcome! But trust me… it will be much easier to sell your book if you have put yourself out there in advance of your book launch. People get excited about your project and want to support you. But they need to know about your project. So…
a. Launch a website – I launched a website about 9 months prior to the launch of my book and let everyone in my sphere of influence (social media, Camino friends, etc.) know that the website was up and running. The website had to have content so people would come to it often.
b. Build a mailing list – When I launched the website, I also started developing an email list that I could then use to send newsletters.
c. Create newsletters – There is no point in building a mailing list if you don’t plan to share news and content with your followers. The main goal of the newsletters is obviously to promote my book but people love content. So if you don’t give it to them, they will not visit your website and they may even unsubscribe. I have a variety of content… recipes, food discoveries, even this series of the making of Tastes of the Camino!
d. Build a social media following – I have a Facebook page for Whisk and Spatula and I’m on Instagram, Twitter, and Pineterest. In my particular case, I have found Facebook and Instagram more effective than Twitter and Pinterest. I believe that has to do with the fact that many Camino lovers are on Facebook more so than on other social media platforms. With respect to Instagram, it’s a platform that really lends itself well to food specifically and visual matters overall. I have not yet ventured onto YouTube but that is the next logical step… albeit a big step! I will probably not embrace SnapChat and Periscope. As a self-publisher/jack-of-all-trades/one-woman show, I am simply unable to embrace every single platform at once and that is ok. It is best to do less but to do it right!
2) Determine your sales channels. I sell my books on Amazon, on my website, at events and finally, the old fashion way… out of the trunk of my car!
a. My website is my calling card and where I direct pretty much everyone to buy my book. I have 100% control of it and can determine when I want to do a sales promotion. I also use it promote my events, invariably yielding additional sales. In order to attract people into buying the book on my website versus other online platforms, I offer those people that buy my book on my website the ability to request a personal dedication. It is a relatively minor thing, but people really like this.
b. An author friend of mine once told me she was not ready to be on Amazon. She was mostly concerned about reviews and whether she could handle negative ones. I strongly believe that if you want to sell books online, you must be on Amazon. To give you perspective, about half of my online sales come through Amazon. The fact of the matter is that Amazon is where everyone goes these days to buy books. Some people just head there because they are already setup on Amazon and it’s very convenient. Others just plain trust it more! So if you are not on Amazon, you most likely will lose sales. Of course, Amazon takes a substantial cut of your revenue. It varies depending on the price point of your book as well as what selling plan you subscribe to. In addition, if your orders are fulfilled by Amazon (mine are not), the cut is even greater! But that is the price to pay for a channel that could easily represent half of your online sales.
c. Events are big for me… My launch event was by far my best selling event. Beyond that, I focus primarily on cooking classes because when people hear me talk about food and the Camino, they can feel the passion and are more apt to buy the book. There is simply nothing like personal interactions! I typically teach in local cooking schools, my home and in private homes. The one type of venue that has not proved fruitful for me is bookstores. For starters, many bookstores want you to pay them to do an event at their store. This has always been counterintuitive to me since without the author there is no author event! Anyways, when I’ve encountered that situation, I’ve simply walked away or have negotiated so the fees are waived. But in the few instances that I have done events at bookstores, unless the bookstore had a robust distribution list and actually utilized it to promote the event, the sales have been weak.
d. As mentioned above, I always have a box of books in the trunk of my car. Quite often, I bump into someone that is interested in buying the book. In addition to the books, I always carry my square reader and I’m able to take credit card payments. Like I always say… I can’t lose a sale simply because I’m not prepared!
3) Get mentioned in the media. Unless you have a publicist, and even then, getting mentioned in the media is very difficult. The media and journalists get bombarded with pitches all the time and someone needs to know HOW to pitch them in order to make you standout and get their interest. Fortunately, I was able to get some media exposure somewhat unexpectedly.
a. Early on, I developed a relationship with the Office of Tourism of Spain and through their contacts, I got interviews in El Nuevo Herald (the Spanish language newspaper in South Florida), EFE (the main news agency in Spain) and a Miami-based radio station.
b. I applied to participate in the Miami Book Fair, the largest book fair in the United States, and was selected to talk about my book. Because of my participation in the Book Fair, I was also featured in the Miami Herald, South Florida’s most important newspaper. This particular article was shared numerous times on social media and had quite a positive repercussion.
c. Tastes of the Camino was featured in many Camino blogs. Camino blogs don’t necessarily have the reach of a large newspaper but they are incredibly targeted and bloggers are always looking for new content. So if you find a blog with a similar target audience as your book and the blogger is willing to feature you, take advantage of that opportunity! For starters, you get exposure to people who may not know you. But you may also get some sales!$!$ I have gotten sales out of my collaboration with a few Camino bloggers. The best way to know if you are getting sales out of a collaboration is to offer the blogger’s readers a dedicated promotional code for people that purchase on your website.
4) Get an award! It goes without saying that to get an award, you actually have to enter an awards program. I entered four different awards programs. With the exception of one, all of them were cookbook specific awards program as I felt that regular book awards programs don’t give cookbooks their due attention. There so many different types of book awards that you just need to find the one that best fits your type of book.Awards program can get pricey so you need to be selective. Tastes of the Camino ended up being selected by the Gourmand World Cookbook awards as the best self-published book in the United States and proceeded to win a Best in the World award in the same category. Most award programs don’t have monetary prizes but they help keep the buzz going! Selling books involves a lot hustle and hard work. So anything that keeps the momentum is more than welcome!