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TOPSHELF MARKETING: Let's Talk Shelf-Talkers

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What makes you want to buy something? Did you…

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I’ve just returned from a three-day conference in Las Vegas. This writer conference was put on by Michael Anderle and Craig Martelle and it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. It was more. To describe all that I learned about books, marketing and writing would take up all the pages of this lovely magazine. Since that can’t happen, because we have to leave room for other people and books, I’ll keep it brief and just cover what I found most useful for authors, booksellers, and readers.

Some may have heard of Anderle. Some maybe not. He’s an indie author who self-proclaimed “did everything wrong” to start with. However, Anderle did something incredibly right when he self-published Death Becomes Her two years ago. He wrote the story he wanted to read. It’s a beautiful idea first made popular by Toni Morrison. In a short time, Anderle’s success as an indie author skyrocketed and now he serves as a mentor to many of us writers. 

Anderle created a Facebook group in 2016 called 20Booksto50K inspired by the idea that it would take twenty books to put him in financial success. This awesome author hasn’t written twenty books by himself yet, but I can vouch that he’s found that success he was going after. 

It was the 20Booksto50K conference that I recently attended and I’m still trying to digest so many of the things I learned. This group seeks to inspire, encourage and also teach authors at all levels. It was coordinated by Craig Martelle, a fellow science fiction writer who produces so fast that it will make your head spin. I’m fairly certain that Martelle isn’t really a man, but rather a robot who doesn’t sleep or eat. Actually, come to think of it, I didn’t see him eat or drink once while at the conference. Mystery solved. 

As an author, just as a retailer, I struggle with marketing and selling books every day. Every. Day. It seems just when I’ve got a marketing formula that works, the industry changes, algorithms go awry and mercury dips into retrograde. Darn retrograde. However, it was comforting in an odd sort of way to know that EVERY author has the same struggles. What was incredibly encouraging was the ones who were succeeding. They had a secret and I learned it. And if you lean in close, I’ll share it with you.

The key to selling books, what I learned from the top dogs in the industry, people like Anderle, was really strange and simple: Don’t quit. 

That’s it. That was the one thing that linked every single six figure author I spoke with. Now, I realize you’re rolling your eyes at me right now. I’ve got more success secrets and will be expanding, but only a little. This really isn’t complicated. 

I learned about an author who was making $10 a month off of his books. I don’t know about you, but I can’t function on $10 a day. The reason this author made this article is he’s the supreme example of how success works. He redid his covers. That kind of worked. He reworked his copy. More success. He ran a few Facebook and Amazon ads. Guess what? That lovely author, who I’m very proud and happy for, beats me in ranking every freaking day! And a few years ago he was making $10 a month. 

So don’t quit. That’s what I took away from the conference. If the book isn’t selling then make changes. If the ad isn’t working then make changes. If you want to sell more books then write more. I met a few of the top ten science fiction writers on Amazon and guess what they do for twelve hours a day, every single day? If you guess write, then you get a gold sticker. I know this seems obvious, but it was actually pretty inspiring to me. Those who succeed keep going, aren’t afraid to change and are willing. They are willing to look at the data, make adjustments and keep going. Of these incredibly successful authors I spoke with, every single one had a flop. That’s right. They’d all written books that didn’t do well at first or at all. And every single one made changes or moved on until they had it right. 

So don’t quit. And stay true to yourself, just as Anderle did. Oh, and buy blue hair dye if you want to be an author. That was a common thing amongst this eccentric bunch. So much blue hair I thought I was going colorblind.


by Sarah Noffke  (TopShelf Columnist)

Twitter @RealSarahNoffke / SarahNoffke.com