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The Superior Path to Selling Millions of Books

The Superior Path to Selling Millions of Books
Photo by Stephen Phillips - Hostreviews.co.uk / Unsplash

I was recently on a panel with Hal Elrod, the author of The Miracle Morning. To date, his books have sold over 3 million copies.

In the book's first year, Hal promoted The Miracle Morning on more than 200 podcasts, and was dedicated to marketing it full-time (40+ hours per week).

Guess how many copies he sold in Year 1...

13,000 copies.

That's a lot, by the way. But nowhere near enough to make a living.

But because Hal was self-published, he was able to keep making revisions to the book based on negative reviews he received on Amazon. He kept improving the product until the negative reviews stopped, and word-of-mouth took off.

By year six, The Miracle Morning had sold over 1 million copies.

Hal is a rare case in the self-publishing world. Most self-pub authors (myself included) don't stick with improving and promoting a book full-time for years on end. But I love his strategy of kaizen (continuous improvement).

To treat your book like software – always imperfect, in need of upgrades – is a really smart approach. One that's only possible with self-publishing, where you have complete control over what updates you make and when.

You can succeed on either path: self-pub or traditional. Just know the tradeoffs for each, because there are many on both sides (though I do believe the majority of authors should self-publish, so long as they're willing to invest in doing it as professionally as possible).

What Factors Determine Mega-Bestsellers?

As I've said before, most books sell less than 1,000 copies. Only 0.003% sell more than million. Here are the key factors that actually make a difference for the books that sell tons of copies:

  1. Market: There is a massive demand for the topic, and an unmet need for a quality book that's aligned with the cultural zeitgeist.
  2. Discovery: Millions of prospective readers are able to discover the book. They hear about it and/or see it repeatedly.
  3. Distribution: Millions of readers are able to instantly buy the book with ease. That means the Amazon app on their phone, where 80% of book purchases take place.
  4. Packaging: The title is excellent, and the cover design is clearly professional.
  5. Platform: The author is able to continuously and repeatedly market and sell their book to large audiences.
  6. Quality: The book is so immediately compelling and useful that it retains attention and warrants memorization.
  7. Transformation: Readers change their perspective, behavior, and identity because of the book.
  8. Word of Mouth: Readers either brag about what the book did for them, or people notice and ask them about it.

Please notice that all of these factors are either within your control, or you can study and work toward achieving them to maximize your odds for success. Not saying you will, but you CAN work hard to increase your likelihood.

Whether you choose self-publishing or traditional, remember that you are in the driver’s seat. No one else will care as much about your success as you.

How to Sell More Books Today, Even If Yours Hasn't Sold For Years

A common myth is that social media sells books. It does not.

Social media is an ad that converts at a mere 0.01%.

Email marketing is better at 1%, but even that is challenging for selling large quantities of books.

There's a great saying in business:

People will buy what you're selling, when you start selling what people are buying.

If you want to sell a lot of books, do NOT look at them as the product you're selling, but as the *ticket* to getting what they actually want to buy.

For instance...

Do people regularly pay you $10K for consulting? Great! Have a part of their fee go toward buying 100 books, which you can send out to their network of employees / customers / donors, etc.

Do they pay you $5K for speaking gigs? Great! Have 100 books be part of your fee, with every attendee getting a copy.

The harsh truth: No one wants to buy your book. They want to buy what they want to buy.

Tie your book into the big purchases they're already making, and sell it in bulk.

And please, don't fall into the trap of selling individual copies of your book - one at a time. You're not Hal Elrod, and I don't want you to starve.