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The Secret Of Viral Book Sales

By John Reese, Feb 17 2016 01:41PM

Why do some books go viral while the vast majority fall flat? You might think it's about advertising. You might think it's about having a great book or an original idea that inflames the imagination of its readers, or you might think it's luck. Yet what is undisputable is how word of mouth and social influence increasingly combines to drive people to talk about and share the books they have read.


With every passing day social media quickens the pace at which information is diffused. There was a time you used to have to share with one person who shared it with someone else, but now with the click of a button, you can share your favourite read with thousands of virtual friends through the power of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and many more emerging micro sites.


As an author set upon the road to literary success there has never been a better time for self-promotion, nor a larger number of would be publishing gurus willing to share the secrets of their success. In many cases they represent the dark underbelly of self-publishing. Not all of them, there are some genuine trail blazers out there like Guy Kawasaki and the likes of Jonah Berger, but when faced with the cold hard reality of book marketing it is very easy to be beguiled by someone selling the answers you are seeking. The answers to questions you most likely never knew to ask whilst writing your book, but became ever so important once you broke into print. In short, how to promote and publicize your book and in doing so create the foundations for viral sales.


You can always tell who these amazingly insightful people are because they are all selling success. You just buy their book, follow their advice and you can achieve meteoric books sales with just a few hours work! The reality is that the only people who see a significant spike in their book sales are the authors of these books, who to their credit have realised how difficult it is to make a living out of writing fiction. They prey on your dreams of “becoming a bestselling author” and even though that voice at the back of your mind is begging for a reality check, you buy because you need what they are selling. Our favourites are those 'gurus' who tell you how to sell millions of ebooks when a quick look at their sales rankings on Amazon reveals the true and often paltry scope of their abilities. These are the same characters you will find on Twitter and Facebook claiming they can get you thousands of real followers and likes when they only have a handful themselves. In short, charlatans abound in the world of self-publishing. You may get lucky and find a short cut to the top, but with some 90% of self-published authors only ever selling a handful of their books, the odds are against you finding instant success in a book of secrets sold for 99 cents!


Despite what mass media might have us believe, there is no such thing as an overnight success. There is simply the point at which all your hard work becomes widely recognised and often that point is many years in the making. Success as an author is not about quick wins, it is about building a solid and diverse foundation upon which to build a successful author platform. It acknowledges the role of luck in conquering the odds to achieve success as a writer, but stacks the odds in your favour by ensuring you have done everything possible to position your book to go viral.


There is an old adage that all writers should have emblazoned on their hearts – Publicize or Perish. Seasoned authors understand the truth of these words and combined with the art of promotion they form the singular formula for success and the foundation upon which your book is most likely to go viral. To an author it is as important as E = MC2. It isn’t a mathematical formula, but a powerful aide memoire:-


P + P = BV2 P(Promotion) + P(Publicity) = BV2 (Book Virility)


It’s so simple. Promote your book so that people are aware of it. Promote it to the right people and you gain publicity as news of your book spreads by word of mouth. Gain enough publicity at the right level and there is a real possibility your book will go viral. You can dress this succinct summary up in a thousand different ways and add fancy sounding theories, but the bones of the facts still remain.


Let us know your thoughts and recommend a book for us to feature in one of our spotlights by clicking on COMMENTS below.

3 comments
Mar 21 2016 07:28PM by Viv Young

I couldn't agree more. For all those authors who thought the hard uphill slog of writing a book was the tough bit, think again. Self publishing presents so many opportunities, but they have to be capitalized on. I made the. Is take of self-publishing after being disappointed by the failure of too many major publishing houses raving about my book but finding a reason not to make an offer. Trouble is, I published then just waited for things to happen. They don't. I got busier and busier with my other hats (scriptwriting, book reviews, being a new gran!) so the book just languished with a handful of 5 star reviews after the initial launch surge. Then I decided that those reviewers we're passionate in their praise of the book - so why shouldn't others? I did a free 5-day promotion with Amazon which has just finished and the downloads have been into four figures with the first - 5 star - review posted before the promotion ended! I worked hard with as many web sites, tweets, Facebook posts as I could engage with, but I hope - believe - this is the beginning of HUNGRY FOR LIFE 'going viral'. I would love bookviral to be part of that!

Mar 22 2016 07:56AM by sjhowe1066

Hi Viv, thank you for replying to our post. It's always uplifting to recieve insightful comments and more importantly it's wonderful to hear you are seeing the results of your hard work. All the best, John

Sep 18 2016 07:49AM by Fredrik Nath

Thank you for posting this useful and insightful message to all us self-published writers. I can't agree more with the contents. I came on the scene in 2012 with a book called THE CYCLIST ( https://www.amazon.com/The-Cyclist-Romance-Adventure-Series-ebook/dp/B0043GX18U/ref=pd_sim_kinc_14?ie=UTF8&refRID=0BTHZ6A5GPCXYP1N6GQC ) published by a small start-up indie publisher called Fingerpress. Within six months it was selling at a rate of about 1200 a month on Amazon. I thought it was because the price was low and a Facebook ad that I ran at the time. It has sold 30K copies so far. I followed up with a series of books of the same genre but never again reached the heights of those 2012 sales. Fingerpress ceased operations last year so I'm now self-publishing my work. Although I'm selling around 10 books per day I've tried various book promotions on Twitter and Facebook. Sales remain dire. I'm still puzzled by my own inability to promote and sell. I have a suspicion that it's a bit like fly-fishing for trout. One day you bag big fish, next day with identical conditions, you don't touch a thing! I now just have no idea what to do next. Any suggestions would be welcome. Best of luck to all you self-published authors all the same - hope you do better than I am at present. http://www.frednath.com

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