46 – The Single Most Important Thing To Do

When asked what the most important aspect of book marketing is, it is tempting to supply a list of tools such as email lists and social media. However, these don’t actually teach you how to ask people to buy your book without being spamy of coming off as desperate. The answer to this question might really surprise you. Many writers are not necessary confident sales people and are often apologetic about what that they’ve created, and this is where the major problem lies. We are here today to tell you why selling your book has got more to do with your mindset than with clever sales techniques and why you need to learn to recognize the worth of your time, effort and artistic abilities. To find out how to sell your book and convince others to invest, do not miss out on this episode of the Book Launch Show!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • How authors’ insecurities about their work negatively impact their ability to sell.
  • The importance of remembering that readers buy books for selfish reasons.
  • Adopting a perspective that your book will be beneficial to whoever reads it.
  • Making the shift to recognize that your book is valuable to people other than just you.
  • The advantage of selling a self-help book versus selling a novel.
  • Why you begin selling when you believe that your book is good and adds value.
  • How the writer is responsible for creating the world in which their book has worth. 
  • Talking about your book and about why you love it and what others have said.
  • Remembering that the platforms you create are ultimately for making sales and generating an income.
  • And much more!

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Tim Grahl — https://booklaunch.com/

Tim on Twitter — https://twitter.com/timgrahl

Valerie Francis — https://valeriefrancis.ca/

Valerie on Twitter — https://twitter.com/valerie_francis

The Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast — https://valeriefrancis.ca/podcast/

Running Down a Dream — https://www.amazon.com/Running-Down-Dream-Winning-Creative/dp/1936891557

Your First 1000 Copies on Amazon —  https://www.amazon.com/Your-First-Copies-Step-Step-ebook/dp/B00DMIWAIC

Needful Things on Amazon — https://www.amazon.com/Needful-Things-Novel-Stephen-King/dp/1501143786

[0:00:00.3] TG: Hello and welcome to the Book Launch Show. This is Tim Grahl and in this episode, we talk about how to sell your book. Now, you may be thinking this is what we’re always talking about on this show but not necessarily. Valerie brings up a good point that there is a lot of information about how to build your platform, build your email list, social media, all this stuff, but they don’t actually like, teach how to sell your book, how to actually ask for the sell and get somebody to buy a copy of your book.

She asked me this question, we start talking about what it means to sell your book and how do you actually ask for this sale and this took me back to a question I had been asked years ago that I had to struggle to come up with an answer to.

Most of the time, when I get asked questions about book marketing I immediately have an answer, I’ve been doing this stuff for so long, but this one took me a minute to answer and when I came up with the answer, I was kind of surprised. It has to do with selling your book. Now, it’s not a tactic, it’s not like a certain way to sell your book, it’s just a mindset that I think is extremely important.

It’s a really good episode about stepping into selling your book and the kind of mindset you need to bring to that. Before we get into that, I want to mention, I have two books for sale that I think that you will get a lot out of if you haven’t already picked up copies. The first is Your First 1000 Copies, it’s all about how to build your author platform from scratch, how to think about it, the framework I use, talked about a lot of the ideas on this show.

Valerie’s even mentioned the book on the show. If you haven’t yet, pick up a copy of that book. I was just talking to somebody yesterday who bought it back when it came out in 2003 and they still refer back to it whenever they’re thinking about marketing.

It’s a really great book, really stood the test of time. I think you’ll like it. If you have a book launch coming up, if you’re thinking about how am I going to release this book, I have a book for that as well. Book Launch Blueprint. It’s a book that teaches my framework and my ideas behind how I launch a book and both of those are available at Amazon.com and pick up a copy there but without further ado, let’s go ahead and jump into this week’s episode.


[0:02:17.9] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Book Launch Podcast. Helping authors launch and market their books.


[0:02:26.9] VF: Hello Tim, how are you today?

[0:02:29.2] TG: I’m good, how are you?

[0:02:30.6] VF: I’m good, thank you. Today, I wanted to talk to you about something that to me feels like the elephant in the room. It’s actually the last chapter in Your First 1000 Copies and it’s all about sales. Every time that I am reading books about book marketing or listening to people talk about book marketing, they cover all kinds of great stuff but very few people actually talk about making the sale or you know, closing the deal.

I know why they do it but I know that a lot of writers, myself included, really feel – we don’t want to be smarmy, right? Because we’ve all had to deal with sales people who are like that shoving something in your face and we’ve all had or I’ve had other writers, essentially spam me with the buy my book type of things.

What I wanted to talk to you today about is how we can close the deal and actually sell our books in an effective way. How do we do that? That’s such a huge question and I know I’m not even being very specific in how I ask it. It’s because I’m still at the 30,000 foot view looking at this issue of actually making the sale.

[0:03:51.5] TG: Well, no. I mean, it’s a good question and it’s not as – it’s not the broadest question you’ve ever asked me. I mean, it’s a common thing because I’ve done a lot of like, sales training and that kind of thing like the – when I was running a consultant firm and stuff and they talk about that where you do everything up until the point that you’re supposed to ask for the sale and then you get scared and don’t ask for the sale.

Everything else you did right. This kind of came to me because this was a few years ago, whenever I was doing a Q&A somewhere, I was at a – I forgot, a workshop or conference or something. I was in a room with people and most of the time, when I do a Q&A, I never get asked a question I haven’t been asked a hundred times so I have an answer ready and I can talk about it and somebody asked me like, ‘What is the single most important thing to have for your book marketing? If I looked at all the successful authors I’ve worked with, what’s the common thread?’

You know, I immediately started thinking about the different tools, like an email list or big influencer friends but I could always think of an exception to the rule. I’ve worked with authors that didn’t have the email list, that successfully sold books, you know?

Whatever it was, I could find an exception. I had to kind of think about it and it took me a minute and then when I landed on the answer, I was almost a little embarrassed at the answer because it was so kind of woo-woo, you know? It wasn’t very – okay, you have to do this one thing, if you do this one thing, you’ll be successful. The truth is, the common thread that ran through all the authors that had successful books and repeatable successful books.

Because you have authors that they have like one book come out, it does really well and then they can never kind of replicate the process and those are always – I hate when people use those as examples because nobody really knows why those books –

Anyway, that’s a different discussion.

[0:06:06.1] VF: Well, that’s lightning in a bottle, right? Yeah.

[0:06:08.4] TG: Yeah. Really, the thing that I saw over and over is that the author truly believed it was the best thing that people could do with their 10 bucks was to buy a copy of their book. Most authors, if you really push them, don’t really feel like their books are worth the money that they’re paying, they’re charging for them.

They feel like everybody that buys their book, either they got lucky or the person didn’t really understand or you know, some kind of thing, it was like, I was joking with a guy, there’s this guy at Jiu Jitsu that everything I beat him, he’s like yeah, of course, because you’re better than me and then every time he beats me, he makes up an excuse about why he beat me. He’s like, well, you must be tired today or are you hurt?

Well, you know, I just got this thing on you and I’m like no, it’s because you’re better than me. There’s a real reason, you know? What I find is that, most authors kind of build up all this infrastructure around them like an email list, like a blog, like all the stuff and even getting a publisher so that they don’t have to actually face the fact that they need to ask people to buy a copy of their book.

The best way, I think the reason why people turn spamy in this is because they don’t even believe it, they’re kind of asking you to do them a favor by buying a copy of your book. I think, buying a copy of my book is like a deal. Most books, for the amount of either entertainment or emotional thrill or amount you’ve learned from them, they are like, the biggest bang for your buck, you know? I can’t even go to a movie for two hours for the price that I paid for most of the books I read.

Authors don’t really believe that about their own work. What happens is, is when it comes time to ask for the sale, they always pull back a little bit or they do things that are weird that’s kind of helping them keep distance. It will be things like, you know, please buy a copy of my book, I really need this today or we really need to make this happen and whenever I’m working with authors and they start slipping that into the language is like, no, you need to remind them that they’re not buying the book for you, they’re buying the book for themselves.

Some of them like your fans and people that know you will buy a book to help you out because they love you and they want to support your work. Most people, they’re buying books for a selfish reason. I mean, that’s why I buy all the books I do is for selfish reasons. I want to read the book, you know? I want to be entertained, I want to read a great story.

[0:08:51.1] VF: The sad truth is, a lot of readers don’t even remember the writer’s name. It pains me to say that, but it is true.

[0:09:01.8] TG: I think, most of the messes that come from either people just not doing the sales part are going to the side of being spamy is because they’re not looking out for the interest of the reader. Because I feel like you can get a copy of my book for Running Down a Dream for 9.99 on ebook, for 14.99 paperback and that’s the best 15 bucks you’re going to spend this week.

You know, I really believe that and so when it comes time for me to pitch the book, it’s really easy because I’m trying to help you out from like, this will change your life, you should read this book, It’s only 15 bucks, go buy a copy, you know?

I feel like vast majority, like 90% plus, don’t actually feel that way. Even a lot of the really successful authors, when you get them in a room and talk to them about it, they almost try to forget that people have to pay for their books, you know?

Some of it is because some of this big authors get such huge advances that they never earn out and so the idea that people buy their book and therefore they get money off of that sale. They don’t really connect that in their mind. It’s like, this giant publisher gives me a big check, I write a book and turn it in and then, I’m done.

The idea that they’ve got to ask people to buy a copy of their book, almost seems like unseemly, you know? I look at it as like, you know, I’ve worked really hard on this, it’s a great book, I really believe that and you’re going to love it and you should spend your money on it because you’re just going to get way more value out of it than you spend on it.

If you compare the 99 that you spend on two cups of coffee and then join me, you got out of those and I love coffee, I get way more enjoyment out of a good book.

[0:10:59.4] VF: It’s a real shift, a mental shift because as writers, we’ve got to shift gears a lot because when we’re in the writing phase, that’s – we’re full on creativity and it’s our darling, it’s our baby and we are creating something.

Then we flip over to editor mode, we take out the red pen, we’ve got to be ruthless. Once all of that is done, then we have to stop looking at it as a piece of art. It is still a piece of art but if our goal, like my goal is to earn a living as a writer, we’ve got to stop looking at it as a piece of art and look at it as a commodity, as a product to be sold on the market.  That’s another shift again, right?

[0:11:47.7] TG: Well, I wouldn’t go that far, I don’t – because then I start thinking like you’re putting it into the same category as like, you know, buying a coffee maker. You know, I think you can think of as art. It’s still art and art is valuable to people, it’s a valuable thing. Asking somebody to participate in being a part of that value by buying a copy of your book is fine.

I mean, I think you can a little bit, you know, I almost feel like trying to make the switch to this is just a commodity, this thing, it is this widget I’m trying to sell, will also lose some of the soul. Because it’s like, it’s not just a commodity. It’s not something that was produced on an assembly line, it wasn’t produced by an engineer, it wasn’t produced by a team of people, it was produced by you.

You know, taking ownership and assigning value to that, I think is a good thing. I think the shift is, you actually thinking it’s worth something to somebody other than yourself. That’s the shift. It’s not, okay, now I’ve got to treat this like a commodity, it’s more like, well no, now I have this thing.

Let’s say you told stories for a living, right? You could only tell stories to so many people at a time. Where putting it in a book form allows more people to enjoy the story than could otherwise enjoy it. It’s still just the story that you created but you put it in a package that is easily digestible and allows it to spread and is very affordable.

I feel like it’s not about selling a commodity, it’s about recognizing the value in your own work. You know, what I tell people especially fiction writers. I think that this is where self-help writers have it a little easier because if I’m teaching you how to make more money or save time or lose weight.

It’s like a really clear kind of what you get out of reading this book and putting it into practice. But then with fiction, you’re like, well, it’s just a story, how do you price this stuff? Well, first of all, there’s already some parallels, right? You pay $15 for a movie, depending on where you live.

You already buy books, right? There’s already like a pricing structure that people have assigned value to these things. The other is like, for most writers, if you compare the amount of enjoyment they get out of reading fiction versus nonfiction, it’s always fiction. There’s like a joy from it, there’s meaningful to it, there’s a – it changes your mind, it messes with you emotionally, there’s all the highs and lows, all of those things.

We believe that about other people’s writing but we don’t believe that about our own writing. My thing is, before you start trying to sell, you need to go off and like journal or pray or whatever you do and get yourself to a point where you actually believe about other people’s writing, you believe that about your own writing. Then, selling becomes easy.

Because you’re just inviting people to be a part of something that you think is actually good for them, right? If you found the cure for cancer, you’re not saying writing’s a cure for cancer but if you found the cure for cancer, you wouldn’t shut up about it. You know, you would tell everybody.

[0:15:38.4] VF: That’s right.

[0:15:39.3] TG: I feel like that with the book of like, if you truly believe your book is worth reading, you’ll tell people about it and you’ll invite them to buy it and you won’t feel at all guilty or weird about it and it will come across that way. Again, the people that come across as spamy is they feel disparate and they are again, I come back to they have this attitude that you are doing them a favor by buying your book and I think it is the other way around. I am doing you a favor by only charging 15 bucks for this thing because it’s worth more. So that’s my thing on the beginning level of sales that you actually have to believe that your work is something people should spend money on and if you don’t believe that yet, you need to go fix that first and then talk about how to sell after that.

[0:16:30.7] VF: And as writers, we need to be comfortable accepting money for it too because I don’t know what it is like in the States. I don’t know my own experience but there’s this conversation sort of being whispered in the shadows of conference rooms and so forth that you know art is somehow taking money for your art devalues the art. Now personally I have never believed that and I have a hard time wrapping my head around it because like you just said, I have never had any problem paying for a book or a CD or going to a movie or buying the Blu-ray or downloading it and all of that is art. Do you come across that or?

[0:17:11.7] TG: Oh yeah, so here’s the thing. So Candice my wife, she is almost done, she is about to graduate to be therapist, a licensed professional therapist, and we have both been in therapy a long time. The one thing you learn as you dive into therapy about yourself and other people is people make up really elaborate fascinating and convincing stories of why you should let them live in their own filth emotionally. Well there is all these reasons why this is this way and it is like well, does it have to be that way?

Well yeah, so all of that stuff is just complete bullshit that people make up to make themselves feel good about the fact that they just drowned in resistance. The idea that it devalues, that doesn’t make any sense, like the idea that it devalues your work to take money for it, money is how people show that something is valuable. People take things for free that they don’t think are valuable. You get brochures and flyers for free and coupons for free.

Things that people don’t value. People pay money for things that they value and so if you are an artist you should be getting paid to be an artists and I mean, I am sure there are people that love to do their art just for the sake of doing their art and they don’t mind giving it away and they’ve got some other means of income, whether they live off of money they have or they have a job that they don’t mind and they paint at night or whatever, but for most artists I think if you don’t value it nobody else will.

I mean that’s what it comes down to is that this is – I talk to people when they are trying to start their businesses. A lot of people when they start trying to start their businesses they start to hire people to do all the stuff they are scared to do. I am going to hire a marketing director to do all of the marketing because I am not very good at marketing and I am like, “Okay nobody is going to care about your business like you care about your business so that is your job” you know?

And I feel like that with your book and your art. It’s like, if you don’t value your art, nobody else is. So sure, tell yourself whatever bullshit lie you want of why you shouldn’t charge for it that’s fine. Just understand you’re the one that is creating the world in which your art has no value. So I feel like art has value. I pay for art in various forms, I actually just this morning or last night actually, have this little painting I bought from a local artist here in Nashville and it sits on my nightstand.

And it is the first thing I see every morning. It is a picture of a sunrise and I told Candice that I love every morning I wake up and I get to look at this and I get to see a sunrise before I look out the window and I paid for that like if he had given it to me, I wouldn’t have taken it as valuable and so I think that is such bullshit and I think it is people that are just steeped in resistance and just don’t think their own art is worth anything and therefore they make up all of these bullshit about how art –

You shouldn’t charge for your art that is just fucking crazy and to me, to put that on other artists, if you want to believe that yourself fine, but to make up this sweeping statement that that applies to everybody is just crazy, and so yeah, I don’t obviously buy into that at all.

[0:20:58.0] VF: So once we believe that our books are valuable and provide value to whomever is reading them, what is the next step? How do we then go about creating an environment where people want the books that we’ve written?

[0:21:18.3] TG: So I mean the first thing is to just talk about them. Talk about the books, talk about why you love the books, share what other people have said about why they love the books. So I am trying to decide how practical to get this because you don’t have an entire program on how to do a book launch that is a lot of information. We can go over any of that or all of it over the next few episodes, but if you are thinking right now I am on maintenance mode on Running Down a Dream, right.

So it is not about a launch. It is about keeping sales coming in and my thing is that I am always looking for opportunities to talk about it, tell stories from the book, share what it was like to write the book, share stories of people that have emailed me talking about what it’s done for them and just talk about the book from the space of “my book is valuable and everybody should read it”. I think once you are there, once you are living in that space, it just becomes talking from that space.

So when you send out emails to your email list, you can say things like, “Oh by the way, I just got this email from a reader” and you just share four or five sentences about how much they love the book and just say, “If you like to read the book too, you can get it here” for whatever price and just link to Amazon or where they could get it. Constantly be inviting people to buy a copy of the book reminding them, “Hey, if you haven’t bought a copy of the book yet, you should check out the three new reviews that are on Amazon. Click here to read them.”

It is just constantly inviting people to buy a copy of the book and again, remembering all of this stuff we talk about are platform the only reason you are doing this is so that you can sell the books and it just drives me insane. One time I had worked with this author for years and then we stopped working together then I noticed he had a new book coming out and it was like less than a month away. So I shot him an email and this guy had at the time, Facebook was still –

Like if you had a really big Facebook group, those people were super involved. So we had these huge Facebook group following and he had a really big email list like over 50,000 people.

[0:23:40.6] VF: Wow.

[0:23:41.7] TG: And I shot him an email. I was like, “Hey, your book is coming out, what are you doing for the book launch?” like we are still buddies. So I just was checking in and like, “What are you doing for your book launch?” he’s like, “Oh I think I’ll send an email out the day that it comes out” and I’m like, “Why are you…” –

[0:23:59.6] VF: Have you learned nothing?

[0:24:00.5] TG: Well my thing is like, “Why are you building an email list? Why are you putting all of this time into a Facebook group? Like, why?” it is like the people that work really hard and they make a lot of money and then they don’t spend any of it. They just put it in the bank. It is like what is the point, you know? So I feel like reminding yourself like you are putting all of these time and effort into building this platform so that you can sell books.

So you should be constantly selling books with it and if that bother’s people, you kindly invite them to unsubscribe. Because I have dealt with that too, especially with clients where people – they will blog every week for two years and give away tons of content and then when they ask people to buy a book, people are like, “This is bullshit” I’m like, “Fuck you, you just got two years of free content and I am asking you to spend $9”, you know?

Man that stuff drives me crazy. So yeah I think just remembering like you are building the platform to sell books. Your book, people spending money on your book is a really good thing for them. It is good for you but it’s actually better for them. I really believe that if you want to hire me to coach you through what is in Your First 1000 Copies I would charge you for thousands of dollars to teach you that stuff.

[0:25:28.8] VF: I know you would.

[0:25:30.3] TG: You know I have done workshops, yeah and to teach it in a workshop live you would spend at least a thousand dollars and you can get it for $9 on Amazon. That is a killer deal for you. You are helping me, yeah I get a few dollars off of there. I don’t know how much it is right now but if it is $9.99 I make my $7 and that is fine but what you get out of that, you end up – it is a win-win but the win for you is bigger. You know I believe that about books in general.

I am in the middle of reading Needful Things by Stephen King and I am just loving it and it is a great book so far. I don’t know how it ends yet, don’t tell me, but already the value I have gotten out of that is far more than whatever I paid for, you know? And so I think if you bring that into that and you then talk from that standpoint, so then when you deal with stuff we’re talking about and you are on a podcast and people are like, “Hey where should people go to find out more about you?”

You say, “Well you could go to my website, you can join my email list and by the way right now my book is $9.99 on Amazon, you should go buy a copy. You are going to love it, it is a great book, look at all the reviews and then email me and let me know what you think.” That comes so easy and does not sound spammy, it does not sound pushy when it is coming from a place of confidence. So I think in future episodes we could get into practicalities of launches.

Or what and how exactly the word stuff or whatever you want to go over but I think that that is the elephant in the room. It’s like you can do all the tactics, you can build the email list, you could build the blog, you can build the blog, you can blah-blah-blah-blah but if comes down to it and you don’t want to actually believe that people should spend money on your book, it just won’t ever really come together.

[0:27:23.2] VF: So for now at this stage where I am just starting to get on podcasts, I am still really in the early stages of my book club and my monthly email out to subscribers, what I really need to be doing at this stage is just talking about my book and who it’s for, not directly, but giving indications of who it’s for and showing the benefits of what’s in it for the reader. What is in it for the person who sees, say a post on Facebook, about a book club because that is what I am doing.

It’s got my email list, I’ve got the podcast and then I am posting about the book club and the writer’s – what do they call it? A writer’s life, putting that on social media. That is what I am doing right now.

[0:28:14.9] TG: I think that’s good yeah and then make sure every email or every other email that you send out you remind people like, “Hey if you haven’t read the first book in the series you could grab that here and you could grab the second book. The other books in the series here” and I mean you probably, I think just knowing you, you are a little more comfortable with this than most writers but I think it is just keeping in mind the point of all of this is to sell books.

So I believe if you keep that in mind from the place of my book is worth way more than whatever I am charging for it and you put those together, it starts naturally happening. It starts when people ask you when you are in outreach mode, when you are on a podcast how people can find out more. You just tell people to go buy a copy of your book, because I am here to sell books and I think that my book is valuable, so then it is easy.

So I think that’s the thing because then it starts looking at then you start weaving it into everything that you are doing and again you do it in these ways that aren’t, some people will get annoyed and that’s fine, but that aren’t spammy and aren’t desperate. You know the spammy and desperate thing go together. When you believe that like, “Yeah I get my $7 but you get $300 in value from this book” when you really believe that, then you don’t feel desperate.

You’re like, “Man I am just trying to help you out if I get you to buy a copy of my book” yeah. So from that standpoint, you start weaving them in and again we can talk about specifics on future episodes but yeah, that is the idea and then you have that mindset everywhere you go.

[0:30:06.8] VF: Okay, well I am definitely going to take you up on that because I know I want to talk more about it with you and I know people listening are going to want to hear those specifics too.

[0:30:16.1] TG: Yeah, sounds good.

[0:30:17.6] VF: All right, thank you so much Tim. I really appreciate this.

[0:30:19.9] TG: Thanks Valerie.


[0:30:21.5] TG: Thanks for listening to this episode of The Book Launch Show. For all the past episodes, the show notes or to connect with me, you can go to booklaunchshow.com. I have dozens of free book marketing resources and articles that you can access at my website, booklaunch.com. Lastly, if you’d like to support the show, you can do that by telling another author about the show and by visiting us on Apple Podcast and leaving a rating and review. Thanks for subscribing and being a part of our work here at booklaunch.com, we’ll see you next week.


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