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Thursday, March 1, 2012

What Helps Sell Romance Books?

All these are my personal observations. What works or doesn't work for me might be the opposite for other authors!

Belonging to professional organizations:
Hmm. I'm not sure about this one. Belonging to professional organizations may help with craft and other useful information, but the actual selling of books (unless at a sponsored book signing) doesn't happen. Quite honestly, how many times has someone interested in buying a book asked, "Are you a member of RWA?"

Promo done on yahoo groups:
Social networking done on these groups get you book blurb, cover, and excerpts out in public view.  Groups can be as lively or are quiet as participants allow. Our Romance Books R Us yahoo group is always active because of the great participation we have. Selling books happens through groups like this where I have an opportunity to connect with readers.

Promo done on Twitter:
Can you really sell books here? Or, is it a "hit or miss" opportunity? I'm not sure if any of my "tweets" have created interest in my books. 

Promo done on LinkedIn:
Again, same dilemma. I'm "linked" to many people, but do they purchase books?

Promo done on Facebook:
I have two pages; one for each pen name. Again, same dilemma. Am I timing posts at opportune times to reach more readers? I read an article and the poster said that you need to post around 7 times a day of FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn in order to reach everyone. Seriously? I don't have time for that, although I guess you can set up Twitter to "retweet" your messages.

Chats: I found them to be so fast-paced that messages got confusing and sometimes went off in tangents. I don't think I've ever sold a book this way. While chats can be interesting, the chat group we started for Romance Books R Us never quite caught on with readers. And, some authors "forgot" when they were supposed to chat. Perhaps in the future we can try some "fun" chats and see if interest picks up.

Blogs: Great way to introduce authors and books. Readers seem to enjoy hearing from authors, and not just about their books. Throwing in a peek at an author's personal life, like doing an interview, gains an author fans and readers. By being active on a blog, an author can continue to connect with readers.

Conventions/Conferences: Great way to meet readers and fans...if the event is geared towards readers/fans and not strictly writers/authors. While I enjoy the informative conventions/conferences, the ones open to readers/fans are more casual and intimate and help sell books. Book signings at any of these events is a good thing!

Contests: Some readers just do these without actually buying books. But, publicity is good and running contests gains interest.

Reviews: Mixed on this one. Good reviews? Great. Do readers read these? When one of my books became a "free read", I got some "bad" reader reviews on Amazon from people who obviously didn't read paranormal or romance, but took the book because it was free.

Newsletters: I did newsletters for many years and just recently stopped. I don't have a new book out and haven't in over a year. My nonfiction book doesn't sell well to romance readers, and I've been concentrating on doing promo for that elsewhere.

Websites: If I can't easily read text on a website, I'll avoid it. Some sites are very dark with almost unreadable wording. Then again, I have "old eyes" and like things bright! If pages are off-center of text streams out of text boxes, that can be a problem. I've recently redone my websites and hope I've fixed some problems. To sell books displayed here, readers have to know how to find my websites first!

Covers: Yes...I believe covers have a lot to do with selling books. One cover I approved I people on it and I think that was a mistake. It's the book "of my heart" and the one I've sold very few copies of to date. Another cover (I had NO say in this one) I'm still unhappy about...and I believe it "tanked" my sales. A cover is what readers see first and is important.

Building a fan base: Definitely a positive step! Get loyal readers and you have buyers. As authors we're told to keep writing, but sometimes that's easier said than done!

So...what do you think? Readers, do you relate to any of my observations? Authors, do you agree or disagree?



Paris said...

I think you're right on target about everything. I finally figured out that I was spending way too much time promoting. The best promotion seems to be publishing often and having a great cover.

Tina Donahue said...

I think what ultimately sells books is great writing and word-of-mouth. Once you've hooked a reader and they start buying your stuff and talking about you and then others like you, it mushrooms from there.

All the other stuff is to get your name out.

But in the end, I think it's how your writing/voice connects with readers.

Katalina Leon said...

Writing consistently and word of mouth builds a readership and its a slow climb so be patient.

Adele Dubois said...

Great post, Marianne. As more people buy e-readers we'll gain more potential readers. That's a win-win!


jean hart stewart said...

I never have figured out what works and what doesn't. Interesting post, Marianne. Don't we all wish we knew exactly how to promote!!!!

Vicki Batman said...

Golly, Marianne, you hit the nail on the head with these comments. Write the next story to create a backlist seems to be the most effective once readers find you.

If I had to FB and tweet that much--yikes, too much.

And I truly believe in word of mouth. How do we find a plumber, painter, handyman, dentist? Thru word of mouth. No one would recommend a bad one. Same with books.

Good post!

Nicole Morgan said...

Great post, Marianne! You raise some very good points and ones I agree with. But, in many instances I do think it's hit and miss. Timing along with the right audience need to match up perfectly.

Here's to hoping we all master that skill! :)

flchen1 said...

I think your observations are sound, Marianne--I do think that being active in different communities and chatting are good ways to be accessible to readers, and I know I appreciate that and tend to remember authors and their books better when I see/talk about them more that way. But I also do think Tina's right--the bottom line is writing well and the rest is getting your name in front of people enough so they get hooked :) Best wishes!

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

This is a tough one, Marianne. Covers for sure. Occasionally contests. Visibility on Amazon. Twitter. Goodreads giveaways. Leaving intelligent comments on other blogs - outside of the romance world because very often we find ourselves preaching to the choir.

As recently as a few years ago, loops helped, chats helped. No more.
One thing that does not help? Buying ads. I've never noticed a bump in sales because of an ad, nor have I noticed any increased sales because of reviews.
Joining KDP Select has increased my sales.

Pat Dale said...

I'd say you are spot on, Marianne. I'm still trying to figure how to reach more readers, but it seems that many of the so-called avenues are more a tempest in a teapot than effective. One thing for sure, it is a reader's world, and that's a good thing in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I think a growing number of writers are struggling with promoting our books, and we're finding what worked a few months ago doesn't work now and vice versa. I have to agree with the comments that KDP Select helps. I've seen sales spikes after free days. I recently tried doing free coupons on smashwords, and as a test did separate coupons that I promoted on facebook, twitter and through yahoo groups. Got the most given away through facebook. Again with social media its very hit or miss.
Forming a bond with readers is important, and difficult in today's fast paced and overloaded world.

Daisy Dunn said...

So true, Marianne. One piece of advice another author gave me (who has a following) is, "Stop promoting and start writing. Once you finish one book, move on to the next one. Eventually, readers will find you." So, that's what I've been doing, and it's starting to work. I do post on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc., but not like I used to. Mostly, I was promoting to other authors. I think continually putting out quality work (with great book covers) and having patience is the best thing to do. Wonderful Blog!!

Daisy Dunn

Suzie Tullett said...

Like everyone here, I think great writing and word of mouth probably generate the most sales.

But when it comes to debut novels, I think the other things you mention are useful in building up the beginnings of a readership...

I know I've sold books through chatting to people on twitter and Facebook - maybe not loads of books, but the few people that have bought will hopefully start to recommend me as an author and so it goes x

Cara Marsi said...

Marianne, you hit every point. I agree. I also agree great writing and word of mouth are key to selling books. I know authors with series who do really well because readers love the series and keep coming back for more. Covers and blurb are extremely important. I don't have my own blog but I guest blog whenever possible to get my name out there. I don't believe I've sold a book because of Twitter. I know I've sold a few because of FB, but my FB is personal and business and most people who have bought my book from FB postings are family or others I know personally.

The Amazon Select program has helped the one book I have enrolled but it's done nothing for the others. Also, I think the glut of free books because of the Select program is hurting overall sales.

Anonymous said...

Repeatedly seeing an author's name, being attracted, or not, to a cover is a huge sales force. But the ultimate selling point regardless of name or cover art is what's between those covers. If you don't like what you read, you'll tell someone. If you did like what you read, you'll tell someone. Like a good movie or delicious meal at a favorite restaurant, you're going to pass it on. A good book is the same. Read it, love it, share it. Great selling technique, at no cost to you!

Sandy said...


I agree with you on every point, but I also think there has to be moderation so you have time to write the next book.

Janice Seagraves said...

I have a website and made sure the writing is dark on a light background. I really hate a dark or black background with white or worse yellow fonts.


Cynthia Arsuaga said...

Great post Marianne. I agree with your observations. I've been published a year now and keep plugging away by writing and hope I'll eventually be found. I was a real estate broker for 20+ years and I started out slow in that industry as well. But, through word of mouth I built a successful career placing in the top 1% of all agents in the Tidewater area of Virginia (Norfolk, Va Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth) and it didn't happen overnight. It takes time and I honed my skills. If you love what you do, and stick with it, it does pay off. I have to tell myself that every day. Thanks again for the post.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Sorry I'm late getting here Marianne. You covered many supposed book selling areas and I can agree with many of them.
I don't think just posting book covers and blurbs or excerpts in yahoo groups alone can sell books. Now, if you interact with readers who comment on that post, I think that helps much more. I also think interacting with other authors and showing appreciation for their work is good for your own sales.
I was amazed to find that readers actually like blogs. Go figure. I used to think blogs were just a waste of time but I was wrong. I've heard from readers who said they loved to read blogs.
RWA membership is good only as a credential for writers when they submit their work to publishers. It's more about professionalism that sales.
I have no idea is Twitter, Facebook, My Space or LinkedIn help in any way to sell. I have all of these accounts and the only one that gains interest is Facebook.
A very thought out blog, Marianne. Most of us are looking for the right formula that translates to sales, too. If you write wonderful stories and try to always stretch higher, you'll gain a following of readers. nothing sells like excellent writing. It just takes time to establish your reputation.
I wish you every success.

Hales said...

I try to publish as much as I can. I have a PA now who does promotion for me every month. I"m not releasing every month or every other month so I'm spending more time on writing and trying to finish a few partially dones while doing my demonic series now. It's working out okay :P I'm not sure about what sells I did buy a spot in RT magazine for June :P

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