The Ridiculously Simple 3-Step Method That Sells Books

by Sue Campbell

If you do a google search on book marketing, you’ll get a staggering array of tactics that makes selling books look extremely complicated and time consuming. Some of it is bullshit. Some of it is woefully incomplete. Most of it misses the big picture.

I won’t tell you that selling books is easy. Some people will find the process easy, others will struggle.

But it’s actually simple. And if you can wrap your mind around the fundamentals, it will help your efforts immensely, because you’ll immediately see what you are—and aren’t—doing for your book.

Almost all writers who sell a lot of books are do these three things. Writers who don’t sell books aren’t doing these things. Simple.

Here’s the 3-step method in a nutshell:

1. Genuinely believe your book will benefit people

2. Meet as many people as possible

3. Tell them you wrote a book

True, when I work with clients, I use a more formalized strategy called the Connection System developed by my mentor, Tim Grahl. It focuses on developing relationships with readers over the long term. But really, the three steps above are at the heart of that system.

Let’s take a closer look at these components, which sound so simple as to be idiotic, but they’re actually the key to building your audience. I’ll even give you homework for each step, so you can break through whatever’s stopping you from actually using this approach.

STEP 1: Genuinely believe your book will benefit people

Mindset is damn near everything. And it can be really, really hard.

(So hard that we created a free author mindset mini-course to help you get a grip on it. Sign up for our mailing list and we’ll deliver it to your inbox.)

If you don’t truly believe your book is any good, nobody else will either.

Resistance—that inner voice that tells you your writing is shit—is one hell of an adversary.

You must do the work of fighting through resistance and write something you are truly proud to talk about.

If you’re really struggling with this, you need to stop and address it right now because none of your marketing efforts are going to get traction if YOU don’t think your book is any good.

Homework:

  1. Read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I’ll keep recommending this book until my dying day. It’s a cult classic for a reason. Pressfield coined the term “resistance” to describe the inner demons creatives fight.

  2. Read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. If Steven Pressfield’s sports and war analogies don’t always resonate, try Elizabeth Gilbert on for size. (She’s heavy on the ice skating and Balinese dancers.) She and Pressfield are really saying many of the same things, just in different ways. I read or listen to both of these books at least once a year.

  3. Now, write down everything you love about your book. Why did you write it? How did you feel when you finished it? What’s your fantasy about the impact it will have in the world? Then distill all of that into one sentence that tells you why this book is important. Make it simple, like a mantra. You don’t necessarily need to think of this as an elevator pitch you’ll have to say to people. This is just for you to pull out when you start to doubt your own work.

(Note: If you realize that this book truly isn’t a reflection of what you’re capable of—maybe you rushed it, maybe you didn’t know enough when you wrote it—then start a new book. Don’t try to sell a piece of shit. You’ll be hurting yourself and your potential audience.)

Step 2: Meet as many people as possible

Okay, so this is a bit glib. You actually want to be strategic about it. “Meet as many potential readers as possible” would be more accurate. Your book isn’t for everyone, so find the people who would like your book and get in front of them. This is the “outreach” part of the Connection System and it’s critical.

Find your ideal readers online and in-person and start connecting with them. But not with a “you should buy my book” attitude. Just as a person. A writer. A writer-person who likes to connect with thoughtful reader-people. Do this and you’re automatically avoiding becoming one of those salesy pukes nobody likes. Be helpful. Be entertaining. Be you.

Homework:

  1. Create a reader persona (or three). Think about who exactly would love your book. Pretend you’re writing a character sketch for a novel. Give your ideal reader a name, age and background. Is she married? Does she have kids? What books has she read? What podcasts does she listen to? What events does she attend? What career does she have? Get specific. This will help you figure out where to meet people, both online and in real life.

  2. Find comparable writers. A cool shortcut is to find a few writers who’ve had the kind of success you’d like and write the type of thing you write. Then scour their websites to figure out where they’re showing up. What conferences do they attend? Where have they given readings? What podcasts have they been on? What social media platforms do they use? Now you have a list of possibilities to build on.

Step 3: Tell them you wrote a book

You believe in your book and you’re going out there and meeting people who might like it. Now, make sure you’re making it clear that you have a book for sale! You don’t have to tell them the whole freaking plot of the thing. Just let it be known it exists and be ready to talk about it further if you’re asked about it.

For example, if you’re going on a podcast as a guest, you’re probably going on to talk about a specific thing related to your book. It’s perfectly natural to mention the book in the course of the conversation and any good host will give your the opportunity to mention your book and your website at the end of the discussion. If you worked through step one, you genuinely believe your book will benefit people, so you won’t be sheepish about touting it at this point. Tell the audience why it will be great read for them and give that title proudly.

Another example, this time for in-person events: Let’s say you’re at a conference and you’re sitting at one of those big round tables with a bunch of strangers during the banquet lunch. Introduce yourself as an author to the person next to you. “Hi, I’m Sue Campbell and I’m an author. What’s your name?” Ask them about themselves. Truly listen to the answers. They will likely ask about your work. Give them your one-liner (see the homework below) and leave it at that unless they prod you further. If they’re in your target audience, they probably will.

Homework:

  1. Go through your online presence and put the title of your latest book and a link to your website in all your bios.

  2. Put a link to buy your book in all of your newsletters. (More on why you need a newsletter here.)

  3. Create a succinct and compelling sentence that describes your book. This is what you can say when people ask you what your book is about. Don’t say more unless prodded. If no one ever prods, write a new sentence (or, in extreme cases, a new book).

Put the steps together

Truly, the fundamentals of book marketing are:

  • your belief in the value of your book and

  • your willingness to get it in front of the right people.

Start there and you can grow your marketing savvy as you go along.

If you want to speed up the process and need help figuring out who the right people are, how to get in front of them, and how to stay engaged with them throughout your career, I can certainly help with that. I do both private and group coaching (the next cohort starts October 12) to build your author platform, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Sue Campbell