February 13, 2024
Before we start talking more about direct sales for authors, we need to talk a bit about readers. As authors interested in selling direct, they should be our number one focus! Direct sales is all about the readers.
As we see it, readers go through four phases with each of their authors. Others will argue (it is the internet, after all) that there are five (no, six! Seven!), but this is our blog, so we make the rules.
Picture a funnel. Of books. A “book funnel”, if you will. Readers go in the top, fall through the levels, and come out the bottom.
It’s a classic marketing funnel, and it is 100% a numbers game. The more readers that drop into the top of the funnel, the more readers you’ll see coming out of the bottom. So, let’s talk about the four steps on the reader journey with a new author.
Phase 1 – They’ve never read one of your books
The good news is that, unless you’re Stephen King, less the 0.00000001% of the population has probably read one of your books. Which means there are lots of potential readers out there in the world just waiting to discover you.
How they discover you is a question for another blog post. When they do find you and decide to read one of your books, whenever or wherever that happens, we move them to…
Phase 2 – They’ve read some of your stuff
This is really where the reader relationship begins. Through some magical force of chance (or ads or cross-promos), a reader has found your book, picked it up, and read it. Congratulations! You nailed the cover, the title, and the blurb enough to snag someone’s attention.
And, now that you have them, we need to work on moving them on to the next stage. If you’ve done your job (that’s being an author) right, your book will do a lot of the heavy lifting here. If your book is good, and readers like it, they’re going to move themselves though the funnel.
They may not get there with just one book. It may take a few. Especially if you’re writing in series. It might take them until the second or third book in a series before they move to Phase 3. But, once you get someone to read three of your books, you’ve got ‘em!
Phase 3 – They’re a fan!
Now you’ve got ‘em! The boss is on a roll!
This reader is now a fan of your books and, hopefully, a fan of you as an author. No, they’re not always the same thing, especially if they are reading you through an all-you-can-eat subscription service. You can absolutely find fans in Kindle Unlimited or Kobo Select or Scribd, but it might take a little longer for your name and series to stand out.
A fan is someone who really loves your books and is excited to read the next one. They would probably even back a Kickstarter (more on that later) for your next book if you did one! These are the readers we’re looking for when it comes to direct sales.
Sure, there are opportunities to sell direct to new readers and get readers into your funnel, but the fans are your bread and butter. And, once you have a fan, you’re just one step away from Phase 4.
Phase 4 – They’re a SUPERfan!
Superfans are what we all want. A superfan will back all of your Kickstarters. A superfan will buy the next book without even knowing what it is. A superfan will wear your t-shirts and drink from coffee mugs with your characters’ quotes on them.
A superfan will buy everything you write, forever and ever amen.
You’ve heard of the 1,000 True Fans, right? Same thing. Except superfan is way more fun to say and type. And, it’s pretty close to superhero, which, to an author, is exactly what they are.
Because, not only will they pay you directly for your work, they will go out into the world and tell everyone they know about your books! They will evangelize you to anyone who’ll listen. Those t-shirts and coffee mugs become free advertising in the hands of a superfan.
You don’t need every fan to become a superfan (though, that would be awesome!) because the superfans will be your lieutenants out there in the world building the fandom.
Direct sales are for superfans
Though you can sell direct to anyone, we’re really going to focus on those superfans in the rest of this series. You’ll be bringing in new readers too once you get set up, but the superfans are what it’s really all about.
Until next time.