Tag Archives: joanna penn

How to Sell More Books – 10 Question Checklist for Authors


How to Market a Book, by Joanna Penn

How to Market a Book, by Joanna Penn

It’s time to get the party started, an author friend of mine quipped. She was referring to the independent publishing party, the one where our lovingly written and agonized-over manuscripts become honest-to-goodness books for sale.

I couldn’t agree more.

Joanna Penn, author of several best-selling thrillers and book marketing expert (see Penn’s book, How To Market A Book) at The Creative Penn offers some of the best advice on the web for publishing and marketing your books.

Penn says she is asked on a nearly daily basis: How do I sell more books? “There are 10 questions I think you need to answer,” she explains. Note there is nothing on Penn’s checklist of questions about blogging or platform building on Facebook. These are the fundamentals critical to setting the stage for sales.

Here are the first 5 questions an author must ask:

1) Is your book available as an ebook? Penn uses Scrivener for formatting in Kindle, ePub and Word formats and publishes on Amazon KDP, Kobo Writing Life and Smashwords, BookBaby and B&N Nook PubIt.

2) Has your cover been professionally designed? Penn believes this is non-negotiable if you want to stand out in the crowded market. Check out the ebook cover design awards at TheBookDesigner.com to see some great covers and some truly awful ones. Then hire a professional cover designer, give them that information and work with them to create a professional cover.

“If you don’t have a budget for this, then work extra hard until you have that extra money,” she says.

3) Has your book been professionally edited? According to Penn, “You should edit your books until you can’t stand them any longer, and then you should consider hiring a professional editor to help you take it further, because you cannot see your own words after a point because you know the story so well.”

You need other eyes, preferably professional eyes who will critique you honestly and tell you where the problems are. “Here’s some more articles on editing and my recommended editors,” says Penn.

 4) Have you submitted your book to the right categories on the ebook stores? Sorry, but not everyone will like your book. The category/genre reader has expectations and if you don’t ‘fit’ they will be disappointed. Match your readers’ expectations and the promise of what your book delivers with what your book is actually about. A great book on categories and Amazon algorithms is David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Visible.

 5) Have you optimized your Amazon sales page with a hook, quotes from reviews and other material? Treat the product description like a sales page. “People will not buy your book if your description is badly written or hard to understand because it’s an indication of the quality of your book,” explains Penn.

Read the other 5 questions you need to answer and find out how you can action them here. Number Ten is especially important, so please do read on!

As you can see, there is a significant investment the writer must make beyond writing the book itself. A professionally-produced book will earn a loyal readership, and excite the reader to explore your backlist.

Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers on the edge, as well as non-fiction for authors. I’m also a professional speaker and entrepreneur, voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013. Follow her on Twitter at @thecreativepenn.

Interested in more tips on selling books? Check out Sell More Books with Calls To Action at the End of Story

Let’s connect on Twitter! @TheRJLacko

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Filed under Best Writer Tips, Fiction Novel Writing, Guest posts

Talk About Your Book: 7 Tips For Successful Public Speaking

Authors are a little like rockstars, setting up tour dates when a new album is released. Readers are hungry to know the writer behind inspiring words, (Check out: Before they buy your book, buyers need to know, like and trust you: How to reach them) and speaking to groups both satisfies the end users’ desire to “touch the merchandise” while also serving to increase awareness of your book, thereby generating sales.

I’m a fan of author Joanna Penn, and if I lived in Brisbane I would definitely check out her speaking engagement, “How to Write, Publish, Sell and Promote Your Own Book.” However, from here in California I’m pleased to present Penn’s seven tips for successful public speaking:

  • Prepare extremely well, but then relax and go with it. My seminar was based on my 3 books and the last 18 months of experience, so you could say I have been preparing for a long time! I know my material and I am confident with it, but I still spent 3 whole weekends preparing for this 1 day seminar. I prepared the slide packs, organised the materials and venue as well as marketing it online and through various contacts. I had nightmares the two nights before and was anxious it would go well, but on the day itself, I just let it happen. I had done everything I could to make it perfect, so I relaxed. Once the people arrived, I was good to go.
  • Use Zen Presentation, not death by Powerpoint. Visual slides are almost mandatory on a full day/weekend workshop and I had prepared a fantastic slide pack for each session. If you are someone who does seminars or work presentations, then you must read Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery This book can revolutionize your Powerpoint and entrance your audience, and I used it as the basis for my sessions. Basically, it is about using strong images and keywords to convey your message, instead of packing slides full of detailed notes. Leave those for handouts. I get the majority of my images from Flickr Creative Commons, and the rest from iStockPhoto.
  • It’s not nerves, it’s Shakti. I learnt this from a friend and mentor, Robert Rabbin who I highly recommend as a public speaking coach. At one of Robert’s weekend courses, he taught us about Shakti, which is a creative, dynamic life energy flowing throughout us and the universe. If you are about to give your energy to others in speaking, you need to be filled with energy. Think of those “nerves” as the shakti flowing – you need that energy to give to other people, to perform and to speak from your heart. Think of those feelings as positive, and reinterpret the ‘nerves’ as Shakti. It really helps!
  • Be the expert people see you as, even if you don’t feel like that. This is something my business coach, Lisa Murray told me. Public speaking is about putting yourself out there as an expert, and if people want to hear you speak and enjoy it, then you are that expert. I feel like I am just one step ahead in the class on many topics. I am just keen to share so people don’t make the mistakes I did. You may feel that you are not an expert either, but I bet you are one step ahead in the class on your topic too! That’s enough to make you an expert in the eyes of your audience, so embrace that.
  • Be real and tell your story. People want authenticity and they want to see the real you. You can share your learnings and your problems without being less of an expert or compromising your position. I find sharing my lessons learnt to be the way I personally move forward as well as helping others.
  • Respond to the audience, rather than enforcing your schedule. I found that at the dreaded 3.30pm slot, people were fading fast and I was talking about technical things like blogging. So we took an extra break and that helped to carry us through to the end. I had to cut some content but people were tired. I also took questions on the fly throughout the session and responded to people’s expressions like “what on earth are you talking about?!” when I got onto ebooks. Also, I would recommend taking feedback and using it to improve the seminar and your performance. I did little forms that I gave out at the end of the session for people to write their comments on. I keep these and add them to my database of testimonials and things to improve.
  • Have products to sell. If people are interested in what you are saying, they will naturally want more of what you have to say. They will want your books, your programs and more of your time. So let them have it. Make sure you have more products for them to buy.
Joanna Penn speaking at a Brisbane public seminarJoanna Penn speaking at a Brisbane public seminar

If you’re interested in having Penn speak live, or by teleconference, email joanna@TheCreativePenn.com


Filed under Best Writer Tips, Fiction Novel Writing, For the love of writing, Guest posts

Before they buy your book, buyers need to know, like and trust you: How to reach them

There are millions of books available to read, so why do people buy a particular one? The primary reason is word of mouth, whether that is a verbal recommendation or something you read online or in the paper. In Joanna Penn‘s article Book Buyers Need to Know, Like and Trust You In Order To Buy, she illustrates how aspiring/new authors and midlisters need to drive more sales themselves using techniques she culled from TRUST AGENTS by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

Why do people buy books anyway?

Maybe one book recommends another one, or you buy a series based on the first one. Basically, you are far more likely to buy a book by someone you have heard of, or have a relationship with, than from a random author.

How do people get to know you, like you and trust you?

Trust agents are described in the book as “non-sales-orientated, non-high-pressure marketers who are genuinely human.” This is a great model to follow as an author, both for your relationships with readers but also as someone who needs to sell books.

Here are some of the main points that Penn found interesting from Trust Agents:

  • Be genuine, real and open with people. Build influence honestly and deliver value to people. It’s about being human, not fake. It is very hard to keep up a facade online now so be honest and real. As writers, we want to know the nuts and bolts of how other authors work. You want to know how they write, and when and where the characters come from. So share this information about yourself, your own journey and others will follow you to learn what you know. This is a good model, even if you are still learning. I share my lessons learned here and will continue to do so as my writing career improves. Mur Lafferty also does this at I Should Be Writing, a podcast for wannabe fiction authors.
  • People connect with people, so use your face. You expect to see people on social networks with real photos, rather than just a static site with no personality. So make sure you use your real photo on your social network profiles. Put your photo on your blog prominently, not just your book covers. Even if you don’t like how you look, do it anyway. After all, you stand out. You are original. People will remember you.
  • Be true to your DNA, but also experiment. When it comes to writing as well as marketing, you need to be true to your own passions and skills. But you also need to experiment as you may not even know what you enjoy yet. I was very apprehensive about video. I think many of us are (is this just a girl thing?). I worried about what people would think of me and how I looked and then I just tried it. I started off with a ‘proper’ video camera and planned it all out. Now I have a iPod NaNo video and just do 1 take and load it to YouTube, although I do prepare what I want to say first.
  • Don’t betray that trust once it is built. Think about authors you love and who you trust to produce books you love every time. Do you feel betrayed if they step outside the bounds of that relationship? Absolutely. So if you start to build a a following then respect them and don’t betray their trust. People come to expect what you give, so keep on giving it and they will continue to come and to buy.
  • Social benefit occurs as a by-product of being a good citizen, a useful person and a valuable resource. Exchanges of kindness and social capital, not just money.” This is a great point and one I find is most common online when you begin to establish yourself. Bloggers and people on social networks start to share information and link to each other, when they find the other person is useful. This benefits everyone in terms of content, link sharing, promotion and relationships. This may not directly result in income, but it is definitely social capital.
  • Create a positive impression of your brand. “The web is a giant reputation system.” You need to be aware of what impression you create online. One author who went off at a review on Twitter is still known online for her bad behaviour, and it has definitely damaged her reputation. The web has a way of retaining all these things, so just be careful. Over time, your online reputation will build, so keep it positive.
  • Have a relationship with the customer long before the sale. Start establishing relationships now with readers and when your first/next book is launched, you will have an interested audience. You can’t expect people to be interested immediately otherwise. “Nobody minds buying, but everyone hates getting sold to.” So don’t sell to people, just establish a relationship and then have something to offer them in time.

Joanna Penn is an author, blogger, speaker and business consultant in Australia. She self-published her first book  “How to Enjoy Your Job
in 2008, then wrote “From Idea to Book” and “From Book to Market” in 2009 to share what she had learned about self-publishing. You can read about her own writing journey here. You can also listen to a free audio on How to Write Your First Book here.

She is currently writing her first thriller novel ‘Pentecost’, and writing about the experience here.


Filed under Best Writer Tips, Fiction Novel Writing, For the love of writing, Guest posts, Who is Writing What?