Most people want to buy what everybody else is buying. Or read what everyone else is reading.
Yet, the vast majority of books give out the perception that there is no demand for them. You visit the author’s Twitter page and find the author having just a handful of followers. You check out the book’s Amazon page and find that there are no reviews or ratings for the book. Or worse, you find just one glowing recommendation from a reader on Amazon who looks suspiciously like the author’s mother or friend.
The digitization of the publishing industry is only making things worse. Because the cost of producing additional copies of a book is effectively zero, supply of the book is almost infinite. Thus, it’s extremely challenging to create a sense of urgency to the book buying process. In other words, if you are selling electronic copies of a book you can’t say “Hurry! Buy now before stocks run out!”
As an author you need to create the feeling in readers that your book is in demand and that your work is wanted passionately by at least a few people beyond your immediate family and friend’s circle. What can you do to create a sense of demand for you and for your work?
For starters, figure out where your book is working and focus on highlighting that success in as many places as possible. This could be the number of views that your book-excerpt has had on fReado. Or it could be the comments that you receive to your email address from people whose lives have been impacted through your book. Or it could be the number of hits to your website. Or it could be the number of times your book has been “tweeted” on Twitter.
You also need to remember that people buy out of fear. You can either create fear by offering a limited time offer / one time only deal or some other method. Or you can touch the fear part of people’s brains by basically communicating that they are missing something if they don’t get the information in your book or that they will not be “with it” if they don’t read the story in your book. Touch the fear part of people’s brains and you are sure to sell something. Nintendo the company that produces the Wii gaming system intentionally fed the perception that the product was always out of stock. This created a kind of mass hysteria and people would line up to buy the product. Similarly, if somebody visits your Amazon.com book page and discover that there is only one copy remaining, then, chances are that you’ve caused a minor panic reaction on their part and they will decide to buy sooner rather than later.
You also need to understand if your book is an impulse purchase or a planned purchase. For example, when a new Harry Potter book comes out most people have added the buying of the book to their to-do list. However, when they are at the store (or on a book site), if they are presented with a book that is likely to appeal to them (perhaps a little book of spells and incantations ), then they will land up buying this new book on an impulse.
People also buy when there is a sense of competition with other buyers. This is why auctions work so well. Given the fact that you are selling an information product with virtually limitless supply (at least in the digital realm), you need to think hard about how you can create a sense of competition. One way to do this is to pass the message that “you will be the first one to benefit from the message or story in the book.” Another method is to offer limited edition signed physical copies of your book. People also buy when there is a sense of urgency. This is why limited time and end of year sales offers work. But authenticity with urgency is key. If your offer looks too much like a fake offer (where your price is always low) then there is no sense of urgency. Worse still, you may come across as looking desperate.
An alternative to highlighting a sense of high-demand for your book is to make it look like your book is a hidden gem or an undiscovered treasure. For example, years ago, I was shopping in an airport when I ran into the book, “Illusions” by Richard Bach. The author’s opening message was that I’d seen the book because destiny had brought the book into my life … intrigued I continued reading and then bought the book.
(NEXT: Book Marketing Mistake Number 7 – Not enough recommendations from mavens for the book)
(NOTE: The author wishes to thank Chetan Dhruve, Freya and other members of the BookBuzzr team for their inputs into this series of articles.)