This is The Reason You Need To Focus Your Content To Sell Books

I wrote a post over on my author blog about how self-promotion sucks because, in all likelihood, you’re doing it wrong. Maybe you’re not and you can relax and not yell at me, so go sit down and take some deep breaths. But if you are one of those annoying authors who is repeatedly spamming your book links and has nothing else to say but, “Buy my book!” all over the place, take a sec:



It seems screamingly obvious that you think quite a bit of your writing because you want everyone on every social channel to purchase it. Heck, we all want that, right? Yet all you seem capable of writing are spammy messages. So…what’s that about? You not only disappoint your readers, but you disappoint yourself — you are better than that. You need to stop being that puppy who pees everywhere (gratuitous cute puppy picture below). Let’s discuss how to focus your content to engage with readers.

philhearing via flickr

philhearing via flickr


I loved doing this correspondence interview with Project Maven Deborah Pannell:

Developing a Natural Audience – A Correspondence with @BadRedheadMedia via @projectmaven 

because we got down to the nitty gritty about finding your audience, and focusing your message for that particular audience. If you ask most authors what their demographic is, most will say, “Huh?” and I was in the same boat when my first book came out. How do you choose among, and find, the millions of men and women who read all kinds of different books — who is your ideal reader?

Here are a few ways I’ve found useful:

  • Social media: I love social media (use whichever channel you find most helpful right now — when you learn more about your demographic, you want to be where they are), to interact with people. I like Twitter and Facebook for this purpose because it’s like a vast market research audience where you can test your work before you release it. Not sure if a line in your WIP (work in progress) resonates? Share it. See what kind of reaction, if any, you receive — retweets, shares, comments, replies are all great indicators as to whether people like or dislike, or have any reaction whatsoever, to what you are writing.

Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, because once you upload your work to Amazon and other sales platforms, your work is out there, up for review. Why not find out before it ever gets there? Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t trust your voice — not at all. Feedback feeds our writer’s soul. If you are too afraid to receive feedback from the general public, how will you handle reviews? Now is the time to grow your thick skin, my friends.

The other benefit of social media before release is that you are building those critical relationships and connections with your readers. Many authors come to me after they release their book and can’t figure out why it’s not selling. They haven’t established any relationships with readers, bloggers, or reviewers, yet are still completely flummoxed as to why their book isn’t flying off the virtual shelf.

How can you sell a book to an audience who doesn’t know you exist? 

  • Blogging: I hear too many authors say they have no time to blog and believe me, I get it. Blogging takes some time out of our writing time and marketing time, right? Get over it. Change your paradigm. If you want to connect to your audience, if you want to find your audience at all, blogging is a huge step to both. Regular blogging (at least once weekly) not only helps your visibility and SEO (search engine optimization), it also helps you connect you to your reader base.

Not sure what to blog about? I hear that a lot. Well, you don’t have to write about writing unless your book is about writing. Most readers can give a flying fig about pronouns, font choice, or how you choose character names. They are more interested in you, author person. What are your passions? What drives you? Who are you? What are your quirks, interests, what makes you human? Those topics are far more interesting than how many words you write every day or whether you use a Mac or PC.

  • Listening/asking questions: Social media and blogging are great for getting your voice out there but they are also wonderful listening platforms. I know, it seems counterintuitive, but try asking questions. Real questions that matter. On my author stream, I discuss childhood sexual abuse because I’m a survivor. I share articles about the topic, started #SexAbuseChat (every Tuesday 6pm PST), and I ask people their about their stories (if they want to share) because their voices count.

It’s not all about me. By sharing quotes, articles, and opening my platform up to others, I connect with people who may or may not be potential readers. Not everything we do has to result in a book sale, but it can result in a connection, a relationship that may at some point lead to a sale. The point is to focus your message so your readers can find you, and engage with you but more importantly, you with them.

*Read how this guy, Mark Dawson, made $450,000 as a self-pub’d author:

“The combination of having a loyal fanbase that always leave glowing reviews on your book’s landing page (user recommendations being one of the most powerful forms of marketing), and driving new customers to said books via large-scale Facebook advertising ($370/day) has created a very lucrative business for Dawson. He’s done what he could never do with a traditional publisher because he can exercise complete control over the entire process. (Source: Forbes.)


As I mention above regarding what I share — referred to in the business as ‘content marketing’ — a term that sounds big and scary but really isn’t. Let’s define content marketing:

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

(Source: Content Marketing Institute)

  • Content Marketing: You are likely doing many of these types of shares already: blog posts, videos, quotes, newsletters, podcasts, radio shows, guest posts, social media, online magazines, participating in online groups, advertising…all of which avoid a direct spammy sell, yet still help you create connections and relationships with potential readers.


  • How to do it? Let’s get specific. I use Hootsuite (better for desktop) and Buffer (better for mobile) to schedule in some content, while still interacting live when I can. I share my own blog posts, others’ posts, my guest posts, articles of interest that are related to the topics I am interested in or that I write about, quotes that resonate with me or that have something to do with the topics I write about (i.e., poetry, abuse, relationships), relevant videos, pictures, and radio or podcasts and other ‘new media.’ The only time I will share something truly self-promotional is if my book is free or on some kind of promotion, or for a new release, and even then, I will usually say ‘link on bio’ because it is!

Here’s a screenshot of my current author Twitter bio. Notice that my book link for Broken Places is easily visible. That is intentional, so there is no reason for me to spam “Buy my book!” on my stream:

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 12.59.40 AM


Ultimately, yes, you want to sell books, so you need to write them. You can’t sell a book that doesn’t exist. So how do you balance it all? It’s not easy, I won’t lie. I struggle daily to make it all work. It’s already almost the end of April and I’ve done very little work on my own two WIPs for Booktrope. Given that I’m now directing the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, run my own business, am a mom, the communications director the non-profit Stigma Fighters, senior advisor of social media for AuthorBytes, and promoting my own new release, believe me, I get it. What did I forget? Oh yea, sleep.


A few tips:

  • Make the time to write. Even if it’s only during your morning cup of coffee, you are a writer, right? So, write. Make it happen. Turn off social media, shut off the news sites, turn off YouTube cat videos. I see so many of writer friends on Facebook complaining about not having time to write. Um…busted.

Hey, we all need a break. I have an excuse: social media IS my business! I have to be there to check on the more than thirty + pages I manage — if I wasn’t on Facebook, I’d be in big trouble. But even I have to turn off social media to get my writing done. In fact, I turn off everything, all social media to get the writing done, even if it’s just for fifteen-minute increments. Make it work.

  • Make the time to market and build connections. If you make the time to learn how to use Hootsuite or Buffer, you’ll find it’s far easier to manage your marketing time and your writing time. Many writers tell me that they refuse to schedule anything in because it’s not ‘organic.’ I say get over it. What’s the difference between scheduling a blog post today for #MondayBlogs and posting it live on Monday for #MondayBlogs? Nothing, except an excuse.

The advantage to scheduling is that you input your content when you have time, it goes out in scheduled increments instead of a flurry all at once which fills people’s streams with all your stuff, and you can still interact live. Hootsuite makes it easy to interact live (I prefer Hootsuite as opposed to Tweetdeck — which is limited to Twitter and Facebook only — because you can also schedule to your personal Facebook, Facebook page, Google+ page, LinkedIn, and a few other applications). There are a number of social media management options — use whichever one works best for you.

Listen, do what you want. If you don’t want to schedule anything, don’t. All I’m saying is that the combination of both works well for me and my clients. I absolutely believe you should interact live when you can, but you need to also protect your writing time.

  • Take notes, anywhere and everywhere. When I’m working, I often find articles, music, or poetry a great source of inspiration for my work, but I just can’t stop everything and start writing, so I use the Notes function on my iPhone or iPad to jot down the words or phrase that I want to noodle over, whether it’s for a blog post or poem or essay or short story … whatever.

Get in the habit of taking notes, even if it’s on a scrap of a napkin that you throw in your backpack. Many times, we are so overwhelmingly mentally saturated that we will forget some of our greatest ideas or thoughts as the next tweet flies by. You owe it to yourself to take a few moments to write down your thoughts. All that you need is there, floating by in your brain — find and gather it all together amidst the chaos.

[share ]Breathe a moment long enough to notice what you’re missing.[/share]

Bottom line: engage and focus with others, but also with yourself.




  1. Garry Rodgers on April 26, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    Hi Rachel,

    Great post with excellent points, especially the one on understanding your demographics. I got some advice from (I won’t name drop here) when I was writing my first novel which was in the crime-thriller genre. She told me that 75% of the readers in that genre are women and so are 95% of the reviewers, so I should view my ideal reader as a middle aged woman and write as if I were making it a letter to her.

    It caused me to bring out the feminine side in me and do a rewrite, but it worked. I also do my blog posts the same way and, looking at my mailing list… about 75% of the subscribers are women. Now all I have to do is figure out a way to get them to “buy my book” 🙂

    • Rachel Thompson on April 26, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      Garry! Thanks for commenting (and your patience) today. That’s excellent advice you received and put into action. I love that you use that for writing your books and your blog posts. Having a clear idea of your audience is, I find, critical for me as well. It’s really about your branding — I know, for example, that I’m writing for authors primarily for this site, and readers of all kinds on my author site.

      As for buying the books, it will come. It’s all the different components — blog posts, newsletter, advertising, guest posts, promotion, social media, signings, swag, visibility and exposure, PR…it all mixes into a soup and eventually, someone wants a taste! xx

  2. Paula Kelly-Ince on April 27, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Rachel, this is very helpful. I am almost ready to publish my first book and I’m finding that promotion is a balancing act. I did start a blog at the beginning of this year, readership of which is steadily growing. Everything else you said was new to me. I will be rereading this and following your advice. Thank you 🙂

  3. Icy Sedgwick (@IcySedgwick) on April 27, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    I’m still terrible at using social media to ‘find readers’ – I just like finding cool people to talk to. If they end up wanting to read my book, great. If they’d rather debate the difference between Bourbons and custard creams (yes, that discussion happened) then that too is great. Hopefully they’ll remember me as the girl who likes Bourbons and wrote a book about mummies and a necromancer 😉

  4. Lloyd Lofthouse on April 27, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    I launched a Blog about China about two years after I published a historical fiction novel about China, and I seldom if ever talk about my writing or the book in blog posts. I should have done it the other way around.

    I think the numbers speak for themselves.

    Launched in January 2010, the Blog now has more than 2000 posts and easily almost a million words by now.

    Soon, there will be 600,000 views for that Blog and several hundred more arrive daily. In fact, as I’m writing this comment, the China Blog hit 366 views just for today, and there are a few more ours left before midnight.

    The historical fiction book that the Blog supports has sold more than 20,000 copies. It sold only 500 in the first two years without the Blog. The other 19,500+ came after the Blog was launched. The first year, I worked hard and posted at least three times a day until I hit a thousand posts.

    It’s safe to say that I spend more time developing my Blogs than writing on the next book and I enjoy doing both because I’m writing.


  5. […] This is The Reason You Need To Focus Your Content To Sell Books […]

  6. […] by Booktrope). They know I started #SexAbuseChat on Twitter, and that I’m the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, bringing stories of trauma and recovery to life. It doesn’t really mean all that […]

  7. Doug Walsh on May 25, 2015 at 12:18 am

    We see so many re-tweeted “helping writers” links on Twitter that aren’t worth the HTML they’re printed with. I am so glad I clicked on this one. Rachel, I really enjoyed this post, leaned a few new things, and just want to say “THANK YOU” for the effort you put into writing a blog post worth sharing.

    • Rachel Thompson on May 25, 2015 at 9:40 pm

      Thank you, Doug! My goal is always to help other authors and save them effort, time, and money — learn from my mistakes. Sometimes, it doesn’t work — people learn by doing, right? I’ll still share though. 🙂 Appreciate your kind words.

  8. […] This is The Reason You Need To Focus Your Content To Sell Books […]

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