During a recent conversation, a few author friends were grumbling about how hard it is to sell books. Readers ask us all the time to put our books on sale or to give them away for free. And there are people who simply can’t afford a full-price book, but the majority of people can. They just choose to spend that money on other things.
Changing the attitude on books and their value
How do we get readers to value books? First, we have to acknowledge that books take time and effort to create. Most authors spend at least 4-5 months, more often a year or more, writing a book. How much is that worth? A year of your life? $20,000? $40,000? More? Most books produce less than $1 of income for an author so that means to just make a living wage off a book they have to sell tens of thousands of copies.
And often they make less than that per book because it takes a team of people, even if you are self-publishing. At a minimum, there is the author, the editor, and the cover designer. Then there is whoever is going actually sell the book, even if that is Amazon. If you want even better quality books then you have a whole team of people that the work has to filter through to reach the high standards of a publisher.
Why do readers expect books to be cheap?
Because like everything else in life they don’t want to take the risk of putting money in for something that won’t be satisfying. It’s why people are willing to pay more for Starbucks than just the coffee they can make at home. There is a perceived value. Here are some ways you can raise the perceived value of your book.
Compare the value to something else
A book is usually 9-14 hours of entertainment, yet costs about the same as a movie ticket for a 2-hour show. You get way more bang for your buck. More detail. More depth and you can read at your own pace, so leaving to go to the bathroom doesn’t mean missing 15 minutes of the plot.
Help readers invest in developing relationships with your characters/settings
People are creatures of habit and relationship. They will return to the same store or the same brand over and over because they know they can trust it. Likewise, they’ll return to great authors. But if you’re just starting out work on a series that will let them invest in a particular character or place. It’s not new. CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien have stood the test of time with their series. More recently Robyn Carr and Janet Evanovich have made their success on series.
And if you can’t do a series at least do consistent types of books. John Grisham, Agatha Christie, Stephen King have all epitomized a genre. as done this successfully for years.
Take time to invest in your readers
So often we invest more into our characters than our readers. It’s not just about giveaways and freebies or making noise on social media. It’s about caring about them as people. Providing them more than just great books, but a place to escape, to commiserate, to laugh, to delve into a mystery, etc. Your books have a purpose and that should bleed into your social media presence and other events. Expand the world beyond the pages.
Books are priceless…
A well-written book can become a lifelong friend. Who can put a price on friendship? If you LOVE a book, invest in the author and their books. Leave reviews. Write the author an encouraging note. Invest in a relationship with the author.