How to Get Readers Before You Write Your First Book

August Birch
Apr 23, 2019 · 5 min read

Hint: this is not your typical social media advertising advice

Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

I’ve written twelve non-fiction books under a few pen names. The first book I wrote sat on Amazon’s digital shelf for two years (yes years) before I sold a single copy. Then it sat another year or so before the second sale. This was during the first days of the Kindle and eBooks were the Wild West.

The second book I wrote three years later.

This time I got lucky, because there were so few books on Kindle compared to the number of people willing to buy them. I wrote it. Did zero marketing. And waited for people to buy it.

I sold five hundred copies my first day.

“Ah-ha! I’m a writing genius,” I thought. I proceeded to write three more books with the launch-it-and-they’ll-find-it approach. I promptly sold maybe twenty copies total, across all three books. And while those sales weren’t happening, the sales of my best-seller dried-up too.


Somehow I entered the indie publishing world during it’s mayhem phase. Now, all that Wild West business is over. If you don’t have a professional book with a professional cover (and a professional marketing plan) you’re lucky if you sell a copy to your mom.

The number of readers can’t keep up with the number of new books published every day. If you’re a writer you’ve got millions of books competing for the same eyeballs if you’re in a competitive genre.

Whether you write fiction or non, this the current state of indie publishing.

Amazon (and the other platforms) won’t sell our books for us. If we want to make a living from our craft we’ve got to take responsibility for its fate. Although writing is not the easiest vocation to take-up, there’s plenty of room to make a living.

The indie future is bright. It’s not all doom-and-gloom.

The landscape is wide-open for savvy authors willing to look at their work differently. Whether you’re a first-time author or a seasoned pro, you can sell more books once you understand this strategy I’ll share below.

You are a media company

If you want to make a living from your books as an indie author, the process requires a mindset-shift. We became indies for a variety of reasons. I did it, because I’m a control freak, I want to keep more of the money, and I don’t like when people tell me “no.”

If we choose the indie path, we’re responsible for everything.

Amazon won’t sell our books for us. Think of Amazon (and the others) as little-more than a storefront. We get this amazing opportunity to put our books on the shelf, for free, with almost no barrier to entry. But we’ve got to supply the customers.

This is hard for many indies to grasp.

“I just want to write,” I hear a lot. Well, if that’s the case, keep writing. But unless you’ve got an A-list traditional publisher’s marketing department behind you (and even those authors don’t get to just sit and write, they do book tours), good luck selling books.

When you think of yourself as a media company your perspective shifts.

You fill the store for opening day

I talk about this concept a lot, but it’s worth mentioning here. If you want to make it as an indie author you’ve got to own your email list. Email is the single best asset you’ve got as an indie author.

When we build our list of readers before we launch our book, we’re almost guaranteed to launch the book to a packed house.

Why would you open a store with no one in the parking lot?

Same reason you want to launch your first book to an empty audience. You don’t. When you build your reader’s list first, you involve your readers in the creation process. They get to watch how the sausage is made.

When we engage our audience in the journey, they’re more inclined to buy our book. Once you’re ready to launch, you’ve got this micro-tribe of people who already enjoy your writing (through your email content) and they can’t wait to support you.

I’m on a bunch of authors’ lists. For these folks, whose work I can’t get enough of, any time they launch a new book I don’t even read the email. I just buy it. This is the power of the list.

Email is your ally.

With email you don’t have to create an endless stream of invisible, disposable social content. Think about how much time you spend on social media, creating content for free, so the parent company will benefit from your hard work.

It’s time to own your customer list.

When you control the message to every person on your list, you also control your book launch. You can write an email sequence that’s guaranteed to reach every subscriber (and you don’t have to pay to reach them).

With email you deliver the same experience to every subscriber, sharing your message in a logical way. On social, you never know when a new person joins the conversation, so you’ve got to repeat yourself over and over. With email, you write it once and send it forever.

You’re a one-person media mogul.

With email, you sell your books on autopilot, re-launching your old work to new readers every time they join your list, and launching your new books too. The message is all yours. The audience is captive.

As long as you get your readers to open your email they’ll read your message.

Provide readers with a valuable reason to keep reading and you’ll have a growing list of people, ready to buy your next book once you launch it.

If you’re an indie author (fiction or non) and you want to get started building your own reader’s list before you launch a book to an empty store, tap the link at the bottom and enroll in my free, Tribe 1K list-building masterclass for authors.

We’re waiting for you.

(Enroll in My Free Email Masterclass: Get Your First 1,000 Subscribers)

August Birch (AKA the Book Mechanic) is both a fiction and non-fiction author from Michigan, USA. A self-proclaimed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indie authors how to write books that sell and how to sell more of those books once they’re written. When he’s not writing or thinking about writing August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.

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August Birch

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The Book Mechanic
August Birch

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Blue-Collar Indie | Marketing & Email Tips for Writer-Creators | Tap for My FREE, Tribe 1K Email Masterclass:

The Book Mechanic

Down-and-dirty growth strategies for commercial writers and creators, with a blue collar work ethic, and a no-nonsense voice.

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