How to sell poetry in 5 easy steps

Selling poetry is simple:

Step one: write something worth reading

No one cares about you. If you’re asking people to buy your book, you’ve got to give them a reason to part with their money.

How do you know if you’ve written something worth reading?

Find someone who will be brutally honest with you. The last thing you need is for someone to tell you what they think you want to hear. Terrible poetry doesn’t sell, it gets published, but it doesn’t sell.

Step two: let people know you exist: and that you’ve written a book

Let people know you exist by providing value. Write about reading, about poetry, post poems to social media sites. Don’t sit hunched over a notebook scribbling poems and then wait for the world to find you.

And remember: no one cares about you. They only want a book of poetry that grabs them, entertains them, makes them want more.

People need to know you exist, but they also need to know why they should care. The only person who can do this, is you. Only you can sell yourself as a writer. Only you can build an audience around your work.

Convincing other people to care takes work. It involves posting a lot of content and slowly attracting an audience. And once you have that audience, keep them. Continue to interact with them: they will appreciate it.

Step Three: take pride in how your work looks

So many self-published books look tacky. Too many look as though no thought or effort was put in to the presentation. It’s a good way to turn people away from your book. Even if your only producing an ebook version, you must show pride in the presentation.

After all, this is poetry. Part of what makes poetry work is the way it’s presented on the page.

Step four: sell your book before you’ve even begun

My first book of poetry is coming out soon. And I’ve been advertising it for nearly two years. Not overtly, I’ve been posting poems on Instagram, and writing about reading and books on Medium.

What this means is that my book already has an audience, I’ve already organised dozen people with sizable social media profiles to review it.

Essentially, I’ve created demand (however small) for my book before it’s even ready. which leads to step five…

Step five: network

Networking in this case is building up an online presence that will help you to spread awareness and help you sell books.

As I said in step four, I’ve already built up interest in my book, and it’s not even published. I’ve met with book reviewers and discussed books, and reading and reviewing and garnered their interest in reviewing my book.

The more reviews you receive, the more others will be convinced your book is worth buying. In marketing this is called social proofing as well as risk reversal. When lots of other people give a product good reviews, it tends to reduce the reluctance of others to buy that product.

Step six: use social media advertising

Social media advertising is one of the most effective ways to bring awareness to your product and, if done properly, can lead to sales.

But keep in mind: this is poetry. I don’t know about other countries, but in Australia a bestselling book of poetry is one that’s sold something like 300 copies…

Facebook’s ad platform is probably the easiest to use, and there is a ton of good content out there about the best way to use it to attract your audience. It’s a good idea to offer both print and ebook versions of your book to make it easier for people to buy your book.

Social media marketing and your poetry

Don’t be afraid to ask people to buy your book. Also, be prepared to give away review copies. The more people take photos of your book and post about it, the more Amazon and Goodreads reviews the better.

You’re writing poetry, so obviously you’re not worried about making a profit. If you have to give 12 books away to sell 20, you’ve had a good day.

It’s in your best interest to give away those review copies. And it’s in your best interest — if you’re serious about selling copies — to spend a little money on social media advertising.

Because most independent publishing houses won’t do it for you. They just publish, sell a few copies and then book becomes print on demand and it’s no longer their problem. This is partly why there’s so much terrible poetry out there.

Final note

As Gary Vaynerchuk said “no amount of good marketing can sell a terrible product.”

Thank you for reading.

-Josh

This blog originally appeared on https://dragonsmokepress.com/ an independent poetry publishing house launching soon.

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