Will Your Self Published Book Sales Grow Over Time?
Most new authors are interested in building their author fan base for the sole purpose of the book launch. But what about future sales prospects? And is it even realistic to believe that self published book sales will continue or increase over time?
The Book Sales Waterfall
Self published authors often put lots of effort, time, energy, and money into getting a rush of book sales at launch. Then the inevitable happens. The book is no longer “new” and their fans’ attention is on the next new thing. This creates a unique product life cycle for books.
When graphed, normal product life cycles follow the familiar bell curve. The product has a small amount of sales to early adopters in the beginning. Sales continue to grow until they reach the peak of the bell curve. Then they decline over time, until they either become cash cows that continue to drive some sales over the long term, or they die out completely.
But books usually follow a waterfall shaped life cycle curve, that looks like the right half of the normal bell curve. At book launch there’s a swell of sales, usually representing the peak of the book’s sales, like the top of a waterfall. When the book is no longer “new,” sales can fall precipitously and then flow at a slow pace for a very long time. Occasionally, there may be a sales spike here or there, due to increased sales resulting from advertising or a sudden unexpected interest in the book’s topic or genre. But that’s likely an exception.
Authors realize their resources are depleted from the launch and that they’ll have to spend even more to keep sales going. Just as it’s nearly impossible to force water upwards back to the top of a waterfall, pushing book sales back up to the launch period peak can take massive investment in advertising and promotion.
Being aware of this unique sales cycle can help authors plan for a more cost-effective maintenance level of marketing over the book’s entire lifetime.
The Self Publishing Hamster Wheel
Another strategy authors use to sell more self published books is to keep self publishing more and more books. The theory is that the new books help promote the author’s previously published books. There is some logic to that. If a reader likes your latest book, they may be interested in buying whatever else you have available. So some self published authors are constantly churning out new material, hoping that this will be the thing that increases book sales of their existing books.
The downside to this strategy is that it keeps authors on a self publishing hamster wheel, always expending energy and resources on producing new material, but not dramatically increasing income. This can be exhausting from constantly being in book production and launch mode. I’ve done that. What I found is that I make sales of only a handful of the titles I’ve created. So far, my biggest selling book title over time has been my first one.
The other aspect of constantly creating new books is that you’re not leveraging your existing fan base. Think about this. I’ve found that a realistic forecast for annual unit book sales is about 1 percent of your total author fan base. One percent! So there is ample opportunity for marketing your existing books to your existing fans.
As you continue build your fan base numbers, you will have a lot of new fans who also don’t have your existing books either. This is where the new growth is. When coupled with the majority of your fans who haven’t actually bought your book, you should find that ample book sales opportunities exist within your fan community.
The Two-Pronged Approach for Future Self Published Book Sales
There are really only two things you can do to cost effectively promote future book sales: 1) Build your fan base; and, 2) Market to that fan base.
But your fan base isn’t a “set it and forget it” investment. Beyond the book launch, your fan base will take nurturing from now until you officially want to stop selling your books. That means investing in social media, podcasts, videos, blogs, events, email subscriber list building, and other public relations efforts to keep you top of mind for fans, both old and new.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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© 2020 Heidi Thorne