How to Sell Books During the COVID-19 Quarantine

The COVID-19 crisis has dramatically changed the way all of us do business and live our lives. But, there is one place where millions of people are finding solace during this difficult time…

Reading a book.

If you’re an author, this is not the time to crawl into a hole and hide. Instead, you are in a noble position to help people navigate this unprecedented challenge. How? By providing books that offer much-needed entertainment, education, and inspiration.

Even though many industries have been shut down due to quarantine regulations, authors are still able to get books to readers around the world via online retailers.

As a marketing consultant, I’ve coached over 800 authors and helped both fiction and nonfiction books hit the New York Times bestseller list. Authors routinely look to me for guidance about how to reach more readers with their books.

Right now, authors are asking me, “What should I do to promote my books during a time of crisis without being inappropriate?” 

Here are three recommendations along with five specific marketing steps that any author can take.

What should authors do during the COVID-19 quarantine?

First, be a leader.

Now is the time to be proactive. It is not the time to be idle.

You can’t help people if you curl up into the fetal position and wait for this crisis to end. Readers respond to authors who lead the charge and reach out to provide assistance and encouragement.

For example, bestselling novelist, James Patterson, has set up an online fund where people can donate to help support independent bookstores. Other authors have created online book clubs to provide personal interaction and recommend their favorite titles.

Use your influence and position as an author to help highlight worthy causes. In addition, donate to groups that support literature, writers, and bookstores.

Second, focus on solutions. 

You never need to worry about sounding mercenary when you remind people about the solutions that your books provide. Authors are justified in promoting their books during a crisis when those books offer legitimate wisdom, hope, and entertainment.

Since the public is under orders to quarantine, there’s nothing wrong playing video games or binge-watching every episode of “Tiger King” on Netflix (I sure did).

However, if people are going to make it through a difficult crisis or learn new skills, I would argue that books are a superior option. Yet, it’s not the public’s job to find your wonderful book. It’s your job to remind people that your wonderful book is available.

Third, emphasize e-books. 

Speaking of availability, most bookstores have been temporarily shut down. In addition, some retailers have “deprioritized” the order and shipping of books if they’re not deemed “essential.” How can readers buy your book if stores are closed or out of stock?

The good news is that e-books offer unlimited supply. Plus, e-books are usually less expensive than print books. Therefore, they offer people an “affordable splurge” to ease the pain of enduring financial difficulty and staying cooped-up in their house.

If you assume a leadership role, provide solutions, and point people to e-books, then you can still sell books during this crisis.

Here are five specific marketing techniques that I recommend:

5 ways to market your book during COVID-19

1. Utilize online advertising

People are spending more time online than ever before. They’re scanning their Facebook newsfeed, browsing on Amazon, and searching on Google.

If you want to sell more books, use this rule of thumb: Go to where the readers are.

Don’t wait for people to come to you. Get your book in front of potential readers by purchasing targeted advertising on Facebook, Amazon, or Google.

You can purchase online ads for as little as $5 a day. Plus, you can use sophisticated targeting criteria to make sure the right readers see your ad, which prevents your budget from being wasted.

Since the beginning of COVID-19, many companies and individuals have dramatically reduced their advertising spend. This means less competition and cheaper rates for authors who buy online ad space for their books.

If you have a little money to invest in your book, now is the perfect time to be proactive and purchase online advertising. People can’t buy your book if they don’t know it exists.

2. Run price promotions

Let’s be candid. Right now, readers are more price-sensitive than before. Many people have lost their jobs or taken a pay cut. Folks are looking to stretch their dollar as far as possible. Thus, you can cater to that sensitivity by helping readers save money.

Lower the price of your books and let readers know about the savings. If you’re a self-published author, run a temporary sale to offer readers a helping hand. If you’re a traditionally-published author, contact your publisher and encourage them to initiate a discount that you can promote to fans.

I recommend lowering the price of your e-books first, because there is usually more profit margin available with e-books versus print books. For example, temporarily drop your e-book price between $2.99 – $6.99. That range will help close more sales but still keep money going into your pocket as well. Then, use the next step to tell readers about your discount.

3. Employ email marketing

Make no mistake, even though we’re enduring a global crisis, people still want to hear from their favorite authors. In fact, you might be the person who can brighten their day.

Email marketing offers the best way to proactively contact your followers and stay connected. Touching base at least twice a month allows you to remain in readers’ minds without being too intrusive. Here are some tips for communicating sensitively and sending appropriate email campaigns:

  • Be positive in your tone – Focus on helping and encouraging, not selling
  • Announce discounts and updates – Give good news, such as an opportunity to save money
  • Tell how your book meets a need – Remind readers about the solutions you offer
  • Include humor, recipes, tips, etc. – Share an inside look at how you’re coping

Readers appreciate authors who reach out to boost their mood, help save money, or provide helpful tips.

4. Host a Webinar

Another proactive technique to reach readers is hosting a webinar. This option enables people to see your face, hear your voice, and share visual information on the screen.

Most webinar services are affordable and enable your followers to join a discussion for free. In some cases, you can even charge people to attend your webinar and make extra money. Here are several ways to use webinars as a tool to remind people about your books:

  • Offer a free 30 – 60 minute “Q&A with the Author” session for your fans
  • Join forces with another author and do a lively webinar interview together
  • Make yourself available to online book clubs
  • Run a contest during a webinar for attendees to win signed books or private access

Under any of these scenarios, it’s okay to promote your books during a webinar as long as focus on the need that your book helps address.

5. Create New Content

Maybe you’re in a situation where you can’t sell a book during this crisis. For example, you might have had a recent book launch postponed. Or, an agent or publisher may have rejected your latest proposal. There are many hardships that authors currently face.

Believe me, I understand your frustration. However, don’t let COVID-19 stop you from making progress on your bookselling dreams.

This crisis will end and normalcy will return. While we wait for happier days, here’s what I encourage every author to do: use your downtime to be productive.

If you can’t sell books now, position yourself to sell books as soon as the crisis is over. For instance, you can use today to prepare for the future in these two ways.

First, finish writing your next manuscript. The more books you have to sell, the more money you can make. Consider how excited you’ll feel in 2021 if you have multiple books to offer readers.

Second, improve your ability to capture more email subscribers. The best marketing tool available to any author is a growing email list. That’s because a large email list enables you to control your book sales, generate more pre-orders, create wider word of mouth, and secure more Amazon reviews.

The best way to grow your email list is to offer incentives on your author website that readers can’t resist.

For example, if you’re a novelist, write a prequel, novella, or short story that you can give away as free content to entice more email subscribers.

If you write nonfiction, offer an exclusive e-book, special report, video tutorial, or audio session packed with helpful advice or bonus content.

Improving your ability to capture more email subscribers could be the best way to sell more books after the crisis is over.

Last thoughts

Whenever you face a major challenge, focus on the issues that you can control. Don’t waste time worrying about factors that are beyond your reach.

Use these five tips to keep selling books now and well into the future:

  1. Utilize Online Advertising
  2. Run Price Promotions
  3. Employ Email Marketing
  4. Host a Webinar
  5. Create New Content

You’ve got this! Together, we will get through this crisis.

If you’d like to go deeper on this topic, take advantage of the additional resources that are provided below, including 3 free e-books and a free webinar designed to help authors increase their book sales.

Additional resources for authors:

Get 3 free e-books to jumpstart your book sales at my website.

Watch a free webinar: How to Sell Books When the World Shuts Down

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We know it seems like there’s no clear way to navigate the COVID-19 crisis. We’re here to offer a support kit with guidance, new ways to boost business, and inspiration from other small business owners to help you figure out what to do next.

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