The Art of the Soft-Sell

“How you sell is more important than what you sell.”
– Andy Paul (author, speaker, podcaster)

Whether you are traditionally published, self-published, desire-to-be-published, or whatever other combination resides between traditional and self-publishing, you are involved in the lively art of selling.

Trying to convince an agent to represent you? Trying to convince a publisher to publish your book? Trying to convince people to buy your book?

You are selling.

And if you take the above quote from Andy Paul at face value, you need to pay attention to how you sell. It could make all the difference.

I can almost guarantee most of you reading today are uncomfortable with this topic. Many are wordsmiths, editors, creatives, introverts, and more than likely Christians who desire to represent Jesus well.

“Sell” can be a four-letter word with all the negative connotations you can imagine accompanying it.

Today I am going to focus on only one aspect of the author experience: getting a reader to buy your book. 

Selling. Harumph.

Without yelling “Buy my book!” over and over in your social media or other places, you can sell well, so it doesn’t make you feel like a “sell-out.”  Here are some principles that shouldn’t be in conflict with your personality, ethics, or faith-walk:

  • Always have someone else tell how great you are and how great your book is. Self-aggrandizement is not good to observe. Don’t even dabble with “If I say so myself …” Over time, it will corrode your soul.
  • When you communicate about your book, humbly focus on the benefits to the reader, leaving out adjectives and hyperbole. A benefit is what will be helpful to the reader. Your book is not 250 pages of spectacular writing and insight from a brilliant mind; it is something to contribute to another person’s life. Focus on that.
  • Remind yourself the reason you wrote the book in the first place, so when asked, you give a simple, human reason. The more publishing jargon and platitudes you spout, the first bullet point comes into play. “I just wanted to help people,” is far better than “Everyone needs to read this amazing book given to me by God!”
  • Memorize a couple passages from your book that you use to illustrate key points. They might be poignant stories or anecdotes. Have them ready as a sample of what to expect if someone bought your book. Show, don’t tell.
  • Never, ever be in a hurry to get someone to buy your book. Yes, you are excited. But these days, books generally start selling slowly and, if you are fortunate, gain momentum over a period of time. View your “selling” process as long-term. The harder you push, the more impatient you are, the less effective you will be. Remember, you might want to sell another book in the future, so don’t wear out your audience with your aggressiveness.
  • Finally, help someone else sell their book. There’s something rather attractive and compelling about someone who does this. Bookselling is not a one-way street.

I think the art of “soft selling” is consistent with one’s Christian faith. You don’t puff yourself up, you consider others more important, and you have genuine concern for the needs of others.

Do these things, and you will feel good about the process. Mainly because you can repeat it, and it works!

14 Responses to The Art of the Soft-Sell

  1. Ann C. Averill April 14, 2021 at 5:59 am #

    Thanks Dan. Selling focused on my book’s benefits for the reader also feels less vulnerable because if I’m not selling myself, then I’m not risking personal rejection or disinterest.

  2. Virginia Sue Graham April 14, 2021 at 6:20 am #

    Dan, thank you for a great article. I just finished a career in sales before I became a writer. My company invested in a lot in my continued education through sales training, seminars, and workshops. I love sales! But, selling is really customer service. Getting to know your customers and serving their needs is paramount to building long-term relationships. Remember the quote from Theodore Roosevelt: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

  3. frank April 14, 2021 at 6:40 am #

    If you put others before you, you reveal your heart. God always looks at the heart.

  4. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 14, 2021 at 7:26 am #

    Get ye now to Amazon,
    find my book on virtual shelf;
    this fast-paced tome won’t let you yawn
    if I do say so myself.
    God gave me the storyline,
    and His guidance I behooved;
    on the whole it was just fine,
    with a few things I improved,
    and came up with compare/contrast
    ‘tween Bible days and now
    to show you that the holy past
    can truly teach you how
    to live your best…now don’t be thick,
    for they are sellin’ awful quick!

    • Dan Balow April 14, 2021 at 10:35 am #

      Very nice…selling with poetry! Never thought of that.

      But let’s see how good you are Andrew. Make it a limerick with extra credit if something rhymes with Budek-Schmeisser.

  5. Jay Payleitner April 14, 2021 at 10:24 am #

    I believe it was Alec Baldwin, in the words of playwright David Mamet, who insisted, “ABC . . . Always Be Closing.” So, you’re saying that’s not the best idea?

    • Dan Balow April 14, 2021 at 10:32 am #

      Hmm…Carvana vs. any traditional used car dealer.

  6. Kristen Joy Wilks April 14, 2021 at 1:47 pm #

    This is great! I love the idea of helping other people to find great books that aren’t mine and helping people out.

  7. Peggy Booher April 14, 2021 at 3:40 pm #

    Thanks Dan, for this post. This perspective is one which gives me peace.

  8. Hope Ann April 14, 2021 at 8:20 pm #

    I really appreciate the point about not being in a hurry to sell a book. Marketing is a bit overwhelming for me in general so it’s a good reminder that I don’t have to do everything at once.

  9. Julie Sunne April 15, 2021 at 7:19 am #

    Focusing on the benefits to the reader removes the spammy feel in my opinion. It’s simply serving my audience. Thanks for the reminder, Dan!

  10. Jesse Nievelt April 15, 2021 at 9:03 am #

    I decided not to publish my children’s book for the saving grace that is represented in this article. I have it setup now on WordPress so that people I play video games with can download a pdf free and if they choose to contribute there is a link to my local church donation webpage. This is quite the article and I am very pleased to have read it. Thanks and blessings.

  11. Tim Shoemaker April 15, 2021 at 11:31 am #

    Great article, Dan! I miss meeting with you at Portillo’s to talk about writing, in a soft-selling way, of course!

  12. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. April 18, 2021 at 10:48 am #

    Thanks for telling me what I needed to hear!

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