Top ten ways to sell more books

I thought I would share with you the summary of my presentation regarding selling more books. I’ll spare you all of the introductory material and get right to the point! Of course, we are already doing most if not all of these things for you — or have done them for you in the past.
  1. Reviews, reviews, reviews
  2. Distribution that allows returns and is discounted as expected
  3. Metadata / product information
  4. Direct email appeal to independent bookstores
  5. Publicity campaigns to major media
  6. Flash promotions aligned with non-fiction hooks, holidays, current events, etc.
  7. Write series
  8. Periodically refresh your backlist
  9. Sell in non-bookstore outlets / situations
  10. Build an email list to your readers
We are in an era which is dominated by Amazon with over half of all sales. Our mix is less reliant on Amazon, but Amazon reviews are most important. As mentioned previously, books with at least 1 review have sales 50% higher on average than books with no reviews. Also note, a 5-star average does not help! This is seen as suspect. It is actually good to have a few negative or critical reviews in the mix — as long as your average is better than 3.5 — 4+ preferred.
Distribution has the second biggest impact at Sunbury Press. This makes sense since it opens more markets. The key here is the return flag — while it might increase sales, it might also mean a portion of the sales might come back. Thus the additional sales might not be profitable.
Publicity campaigns are not #1! They are best suited for nonfiction books / authors. Fiction publicity is less effective. Note that publicity is a crap-shoot — one fantastic mention can make all the difference but is unlikely. You can spend a lot of money chasing it and receive little return.
I’ve provided a link to a number of other ideas that are less impactful (in our experience).

The importance of high-quality reviews

It is so important to accumulate reviews for your books. As I have mentioned several times, we tend to use NetGalley for our fiction and Cision for our nonfiction to attract review opportunities. While we are not always happy about the quality of the reviews from NetGalley, we are finding a good number of the readers come through with something — eventually.
Of course, there are also the Goodreads and Amazon reviews that inevitably happen as the book is sold and read. Some of you also benefit from our opportunities with Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, or Library Journal when we use those channels — usually only when there is enough advance time to do so.
Despite all of these channels for reviews, we have found the number one determinant of sales (besides category) was Amazon reviews — having at least something — and ideally 50+. Because Amazon is the largest bookseller, their reviews count the most. The traditional reviewers now have a lot less pull.
Since our last newsletter, we became aware of a rating service for Amazon reviews, and we were very surprised with the results from this platform. We ran several examples and share two below:
Sherry Knowlton’s Dead of Autumn has 75 Amazon reviews — well beyond our target. I chose Sherry’s book for this reason — and not meaning to pick on Sherry — note that every one of our books that we tried scored very low — an “F” letter grade for quality — here’s why:
Analysis overview
Our engine has analyzed and discovered that 37.3% of the reviews are reliable.
This product had a total of 75 reviews on Aug 18 2018.
Interesting tidbit: the most used word by reviewers is book.
How are reviewers describing this item?
great, dead, down, next and first.
Our engine has profiled the reviewer patterns and has determined that there is high deception involved.
One of my favorite novels, Howard Frank Mosher’s The Fall of the Year, has only 18 reviews. However, it scored at “A”:
Analysis overview
Our engine has discovered that over 90% high quality reviews are present.
This product had a total of 18 reviews on Aug 19 2018.
Our engine has profiled the reviewer patterns and has determined that there is minimal deception involved.
Our engine has determined that the review content quality is high and informative.
Interesting tidbit: the most used word by reviewers is book.
How are reviewers describing this item?
great, frank, wonderful, every and first.
I could go on and on with examples — but I wanted to make you aware of this site. Check your book(s) by copying their Amazon URLs into the analyze box. I have put the link below — just click on FAKESPOT. Let me know your results — this is something we need to further analyze. Obviously, if these kinds of algorithms are going to be utilized more and more, it is VERY important we score average or better …