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The secret to selling books

Indie authors may already know this, but the secret to selling books is to establish a strong internet presence. The question is how to go about doing so. Do you get a twitter page? Try getting more than your writer friends and buddies to follow you. Get a facebook page? Again, most of your friends are likely other writers trying to pitch their own pages. Get Tumblr, Instagram or create a character bio and a separate facebook page for your book where you post tirelessly about new releases?

You’ll find your efforts are all for naught.

The truth is, readers won’t visit your page unless you have something they want (We’ll get to my promised list of book-selling strategies later). You may think readers want to buy books, and they do. But not for the reasons you think.  A reader looking for adventure, will buy fantasy or sci-fi novels. A reader looking for love will buy romance, a reader who likes being scared will look for a thriller, suspense, or horror novel. A reader in the mood for a laugh will look for comedy.

You are an unknown. Readers don’t want your title. They wan’t Stephanie Meyers, Stephen King, Susan Collins, E.L. James, Anne Rice and other established authors because they are familiar with the body of the work and know what to expect. 

So don’t sell readers your name and title, sell them what they want: Romance, love, horror, comedy, or fantasy.

Instead of selling a Fantasy Novel by John Doe, sell them a medieval adventure about a magical sword lost at the depths of Middle Earth.  Make that your caption and readers will look for the title and the author of this stellar story! Once interested, readers won’t shy away from the book because don’t know the author. You’ve already sold them on the story.

So, how do you get your novel in front of readers? How do you establish the ever elusive “internet presence” I mentioned earlier? You’ll first need to understand what “internet presence means”.  I really hate to use a spammy term like SEO, but that’s what it comes down to. Search Engine Optimization.

Advertisers and search engines use various algorithms to determine where and how your web site or content appears in search engines.

1.) Direct search. Someone is looking for your book by name and title. This will likely bring your novel to page 1 of any search engine results.

2.) By typing your web address. This one is stating the obvious, right?

3.) Typing your name and “author”. I’m sure you’ve already “googled” or “bing’d” yourself. How many pages did you sift through before finding your name in the search engine, if at all?

Type my name, for example… “E. Hughes” should appear at the very top of any google search results.

This is called your “page rank”. You can visit web sites like http://alexa.com or google “page ranks” to find a web site that will tell you your page rank. If your web site appears on page three of search engine results on google, for example, then you have a page rank of “3”. Readers will have to comb through three pages of search engine results before they stumble across you.

In order to sell books you will need to have a page rank of “1”.  It’s an extremely difficult task because there are not only billions of web sites on the internet, but probably millions utilizing themes similar to the ones in your book.  There are many screenwriting related web sites. There was a time when Screenwritersdaily had a page rank of “3” when searching for “screenwriting web sites” or “screenwriters”, but when I changed servers and changed the SEO details, I somehow managed to lose our page rank in the process.  So now we’re back to square one after ten years online. We are fortunate that if you search for Screenwritersdaily we will at least, appear first, along with many other web sites that references our articles.  So we haven’t lost our place entirely.

Page rank is determined by how many visitors are looking for your web site, how many web sites are linked to yours, and of course, paid advertisements that land your web site or content to the first page of search engine results. If there are hundreds of searches by unique users or IP addresses on a daily basis, this increases your page rank.  If you are linked to hundreds of web sites or more, then your page rank increases in search engines.

Last, and most importantly, write more books. If you are publishing your titles through Amazon Kindle, you will receive roughly 90 days of direct email marketing to customers who have purchased books similar to your title. If you can release a new book on a regular basis, this will result in direct to customer emails “customer also purchased” or “you may also be interested in” on a regular basis. So write more books!


 1.)  Pitch “something readers want” instead of just a book title and your name when you market your books on web sites and sales page. You also want to drive interest in your work by offering a service or blog, or something readers are really interested in, whether politics, entertainment driven news stories, or events.  Create interest in your views, and things that are important to you.

2.) Buy ads via google or other search engines, even if you budget just a hundred dollars a month. Readers will need to find you. This will allow you to create search terms that will make your book or web site easier to find.

3.) Work on increasing your page rank by linking your web site, blog, etc to hundreds of web sites without resorting to “spam”.  You want to link numerous related or unrelated web sites to your work.

4. Publish more books.

Easier said than done. I never promised it would be easy, but this formula will drive interest in your work and give you the notoriety you need to sell books. 

From my screenwriting, novels, and animation related endeavors, I have developed, over the years, a following of readers and other parties who eagerly anticipate my next release. To sell books you will need a range of products and or services in the market across platforms, and of course, have a very good book if you want to sell it.

– E. Hughes

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