The Writing Life

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!

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