My fellow writers often ask my advice on various aspects of writing and publishing, not because I've enjoyed great success (though I have enjoyed moderate success), but because I've tried just about everything. I've run discount promotions, blog tours and pricey print ads; participated in television interviews, spoken at book clubs, and performed on stage at comedy events. Every step is a learning experience. Different strategies work for different authors, but here are my top five. Some of these relate more to the sale of ebooks than print, because when it comes to sales, that's where I've had the most success. There are many aspects that come into play, and these are just a few, but assuming the content of a book is decent, of course, here's what I recommend for increasing sales.
1. Kick-Ass Cover.
Your book is already out, so this doesn't apply to you, right? Wrong. If you have a good book with a mediocre cover, it would be worth your time to redo the cover and re-release the book. Your cover must be eye-catching, intriguing, and a little edgy. Those were my main goals (along with a cover that shows well as a thumbnail) when speaking with my graphic design artist for my first cover.
By "redo", I mean hire a professional. I've seen too many indie authors design their own covers (and do their own interior formatting), and then wonder why the book doesn't sell. We're often blind to our own faults (which is why we have critique groups). You've probably spent a good chunk of your life writing this book, so spend a small chunk of money to make it presentable.
2. Reviews Upon Release.
Have as many people as possible ready to post a review of your book within three days of release. This means you must plan ahead. Six weeks before publication, email friends and fans and ask them if they would like a free advance copy of the book via PDF in exchange for an honest review. Four weeks before publication, send the PDF to those who responded. Send reminders five days before the release day and again on your publication day. Ask them to post on any of the following: Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter (with a hashtag of your title), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and Google Play (assuming you have your book on those platforms). Only about half those who agree to post reviews will follow through (but thank them all anyway). If you have 20 four- and five-star reviews on Amazon within three days of your release, you're in good shape.
There are a number of similar sites out there, but Bookbub.com is my favorite. It's not cheap, you may pay a few hundred dollars to run a single ad, and your book must be discounted on top of that. It seems counterintuitive. Try it once and you'll understand. It's not easy to get a Bookbub ad and not all books qualify. They have specific guidelines, but check out the site and read through their requirements. If Bookbub turns you down, don't give up. They rejected my request to run an ad for Hair of the Corn Dog four times over three months. Keep trying, and apply to different categories. When they finally accepted my book for an ad, it sold a few thousand copies within a day as a result, which was a huge contributor to the book making the New York Times Best Seller list.
I've been asked over the years to participate in a number of anthologies. Often this meant writing an essay, collecting a hundred dollars, and that was the end of it. I anticipated a similar scenario when approached by Jen Mann, New York Times bestselling author of People I Want to Punch in the Throat and creator of a blog by the same name. This was a completely different experience and one of the best of my career. Mann connected some of the funniest authors and bloggers on the web and created a community of writers willing to share and learn. Those types of connections are priceless.
5. The Real You and the Virtual You Should Match.
When you meet someone in person, hopefully you don't shove your book in their face and tell them that you accept cash, check, or credit card. You shouldn't behave that way online, either. Cultivating an effective presence on social media means behaving with the same balance of tact, respect, and confidence that you do in person. That will allow you to make the most of online communities like the one mentioned in #4. Remember, your goal in making those connections is to cultivate a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship with fellow writers, not to earn a few bucks on a single sale.