Self-Publishing Nonfiction Books Today: 3 Sales Tips

Over lunch recently, a friend asked me: “What’s happened to self-publishing? Is it over? The sales for my latest book are atrocious.”

I felt for him. It happens. A book for which we had high hopes does little or nothing.

But that can change.

We’re not living in the traditional publishing era when a book was dead and remaindered after three months. A book which seems a total non-starter can come to life in six months and start selling.

When I asked him whether he believed in the book, he looked annoyed. “Of course I do!”

Self-publishing nonfiction: don’t give up if you believe in your book

We chatted about his options, which include retargeting the book. (Not ad retargeting, although that’s a similar concept.)

When you retarget a book and republish, you aim for a different group of book buyers. That can mean:

  • Changing the title and blurb;
  • Developing a new cover;
  • (Sometimes) revising the text;
  • (Always) creating new marketing campaigns.

My friend was unsure. I suggested he wait a few months to see whether the book started moving. In the meantime, he could write something else. Something short. (See below.)

Here are some tips for self-publishing nonfiction today.

1. What’s selling? Check out the category bestsellers

One thing sticks in my mind from a public relations and marketing course years ago: “sell what people are buying.”

So if you’re looking for ideas for nonfiction, check what’s selling currently. You’re not copying, or plagiarizing, you just want to build an awareness of book-buyers’ current interests.

2. Keep it short: today’s readers prefer short nonfiction

Back in the early 1990s, walking into a bookshop was dangerous. Thick computer books lurked around every corner, stacked into high freestanding towers which invited injury if you toppled them.

Today, when people want information they want it delivered so that they can consume it quickly and move on with their day.

When you’re self-publishing nonfiction, keep it short. Instead of publishing a book of 60,000 words, publish a series of three books of 20,000 words. Or even six books of 10K words each.

3. Self-publishing is a business: sales go through cycles

All business moves in cycles.

The global disruption of the past few months disrupted the business cycle and created new ones, but you have options if you want to sell more books.

Let’s say that last March you self-published a couple of travel books. Then borders closed and people stopped traveling. Consider making plans to retarget the books and republish them in six to nine months.

You always have options when you’re a self-publishing author and want to sell more books.

Keep publishing. 🙂


A short story of 5,000 words can make more money than a 60,000 word novel

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