My first book, Between Each Step: A Married Couple’s Thru Hike on New Zealand’s Te Araroa, turned 2 years old on 11/15/2022!!! Like any good mother, there are a few milestones I’d like to highlight about my book baby.
Somehow, I managed to sell 1,000+ books through Amazon (and other booksellers) and my website these past 2 years, and I’m darn proud. And a side note reminder, a book published does not equate rolling in the dollar bills … just rolling in unsold books.
The main marketing takeaway I learned about book publishing: from small seeds grow giant trees. My marketing efforts ebbed & flowed with a turtle’s pace rollout of various tactics—some of which worked really well, others that didn’t at all. I know marketing will never be my strong suit, and self promotion will always make me feel 50 shades of awkward.
Let’s talk about Amazon first because no one comes close to its dominant lion’s share. The unstoppable monstrosity is unfortunately the best way to reach a broad audience, as it sells nearly 50% of all print books and 70% of e-books in America. I am continually content when my quarterly royalty check comes in because it means my book is still selling. To date, I’ve sold about 700 copies via Amazon.
Of those hundreds of copies, I currently have 96 ratings/reviews on Amazon. I really wanted to get to 100 by the 2-year mark, but no dice. No matter how much I beg and plead, writing reviews is like calling cats with treats. At first, the cat seems interested, but then they get distracted. I get it: I lost count how many times I’ve said to someone, “I’ll leave a review.” Whether it’s for a meal or service, it is just something that doesn’t make it on a to-do list even though it is so quick and easy to do. We all have good intentions, but …
As for non-Amazon sales, I chose to buy books through my publisher so I could sell them via my website or in person. That was on the advice of my publisher because authors make more money versus through Amazon royalties, and especially since we already had a website. We ordered 350 books initially, and two years later … drumroll … we sold all of those copies! I just placed another order to have books on hand (certainly not another 350).
One of the most successful 2022 methods of sales has been from the yurt. When we opened our yurt for rent, Justin suggested we put the book for sale with a little sign. At first, I grimaced. But, I realized I probably will never meet these people face-to-face, so woohoo for passive-aggressive sale techniques!
Library and library programs are still an ongoing undertaking, and if I’m being honest, extremely tedious. I look up individual libraries to see if they carry my book, and if they don’t already (which is usually the case), I write them to request they do. Usually I have an angle, like with Roxbury Public Library, I mentioned growing up in the town and that my mom still lives there (and thus they started carrying it). Or I find friends who are library members around the country and have them request it at their home library. That is a huge success, but a big ask. Anyway, I’ve personally reached out to about 20 libraries to ask them to carry my book, and it’s worked in half of those cases. Plus, Justin and I have done 7 virtual library presentations for our program, “Hiking New Zealand,” which we really enjoy (we actually have one scheduled next week!).
Bookstores or outdoor stores take the same level of elbow grease as libraries, but it’s less successful. I haven’t reached out to as many, but a few have bought my book in response to my asking, like The Homer Bookstore and New Wave Adventures, both in Alaska. I remember hearing advice from one author who said he wrote 140 letters to independent bookstores, and only heard back from a handful. That pretty much paints the bleak picture.
When the book first came out, I thought podcasts would be a good method to spread the word, but I sort of feel “meh” about them. I pitched 10, was on 5, scored a few unexpected sales, but I would say it wasn’t my favorite method.
Book Clubs rock because obviously that means a return on investment when your book gets chosen. However, I haven’t cracked the secret code to actually finding & penetrating them. So far, I’ve done 3 Q&As for various book clubs.
There are a few other unsuccessful methods I’ve pursued, like book contests, and a few other methods I’d like to pursue, like Amazon Ads. But I just thought I’d give a quick rundown of the last 2 years of Between Each Step’s life.
There is no single model out there. And if you are a current, or aspiring author, I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on numbers. Everyone’s publishing path is relative, so it’s hard to develop a goal or know what to expect. I quickly realized I couldn’t measure myself against others and had to set my own waypoints. For example, Journeys North by Barney Scout Mann and Mud, Rocks, Blazes by Heather Anderson are both in my genre, and had a well-known traditional publisher with some marketing assistance. They both quickly surpassed thousands of book sales and hundreds of reviews on Amazon within a few months of publishing. Self-published Alone in Wonderland by Christine Reed worked her tail off solo, and achieved similar numbers to them. I commend those other authors and publishing teams, but for what I put in with my hybrid publisher Atmosphere Press, I’m satisfied.
With that being said, I respect the rising tide of all authors. We are a talented group of introverted extroverts who have to swim like crazy to sell a few books and possibly make some money along the way.
Ugh. You know how I feel about marketing. I have a whole box of fire memoirs just sitting in my shed. I should try the library thing. Have had zero success with bookstores.