“… Ghanaians don’t like reading”. This is the belief a significant number of (you) authors hold which influences the quantities of books you publish into the market. Of course, no author wants to publish his books only to incur debt. It is every author’s dream to see his books being read by many.
As a publisher, I find it very sad that an author writes a very compelling book then send out less than 1000 copies for his target audience. What stirs the sadness in me is this; it isn’t that money really is the constraint. I won’t deny the fact that it really is for some but the motive behind small prints by these authors is because they believe the reading population is very insignificant.
I don’t dispute the fact that a significant number of the citizenry are not friends with books. Maybe more than 60 or 70 percent of them but before you (author) and I (the publisher) accept the norm that they don’t like reading, let us travel together through this article to see what we can do differently to get more books out into the market to impact, entertain or/and educate the Ghanaian and progressively, the average African reader and non-reader alike.
a. You have limited or no idea of the audience of your book
To begin with, I would want you to think about this question. Have you (author) done enough research about your audience (the people you are writing to) and how they relate to the topic you are writing on to be fully aware of what to write to them? Unfortunately, my findings conclude that just a few authors do take up the pain of finding out about this.
“I strongly feel this message is meant for people out there and I want to impact them” as some authors passionately say to us. Yes, it is good to have a deep feeling to want to impact, inform, entertain or educate people with your book but the bitter truth is that feeling is not book market research. Having the conviction to write on a topic is good but before or as you write, it is a very good practice to know the people you are writing to. They have a culture of their own. It is distinct to another age group or class of people or people of a certain level of education. All these inform your choice of words; what analogies to use to explain concepts; the volume of the book and funny enough, even the size of the book. You can’t write to everybody. At Hetura Books, in our bid to help you come out with the best, we do well to find out your understanding of your audience and what you intend them to derive from you book. This importantly serves as guide for us to churn out your material to achieve your aim. We further assist you with relevant industry knowledge for you to fully understand the market you are entering and how you should communicate your publicity message to them for results
b. Wrong pricing
In 2015, somewhere around March or so (I’m not too sure), I engaged an author to find out why he priced his book at GHc20. The book was a pocket sized book (as small as my wallet). My eye brows got raised by one particular reason he gave among the many. “… I considered the number of months it took me to write the book and the work that went into it”. The other reasons were, the cost of production, the topic he wrote on, the impact he believes the book will make in the life of the readers, and some others. I was patiently waiting to hear one more factor which is very important at driving sales which is the purchasing power of the audience of the book he wrote to. Unfortunately, he had no idea that was important. He is not alone. A number of authors fail to study and understand the financial strength of their audience when it comes to buying books. For instance, I author a book for National Service Personnel as my target group on the subject of ‘what the job market demands of them’. Then without considering their purchasing power, I price the book at GHc50. When you research on the financial strength of the National Services personnel in Ghana, you will realize it is very low and they will consider GHc50 as too much money to spend on a book. Truthfully, some will buy but I guarantee you, your sales will be very discouraging.
c. You don’t have a sales plan or strategy
At Hetura Books, we are driven by certain convictions. One of them being that, ‘An author’s work is incomplete, when he fails to sell’, and because of that, we walk them through a number of strategies that would help them drive sales. As the head of marketing, I take up this task by way of training, advising, and sharing strategies. For two years now, I found a commonality among the authors we’ve served and some others I engage with which has left me to conclude that just a few have sales plan and strategies to execute. The majority looks up to book launch. Just like marriage, if you look up to only the wedding as the marriage, you will suffer hell when the wedding is over. It’s the same with authorship. The book launch isn’t the marriage (the book sales itself) but just the wedding (one-day event). Look beyond the wedding. You’d need to have a sales strategy to be able to make good sales. Take a read of our article SIX STRATEGIES TO HELP YOU SELL MORE BOOKS IN THE SHORTEST POSSIBLE TIME to help you develop some sales strategies for your compelling book(s).
d. You poorly produced your book
You may be wondering; why do people bypass a book (with a very compelling content) authored by a Ghanaian for one authored by an American or British (not so much different in content from the Ghanaian book)? Here are some of the reasons. These authors play according to the rules of the game. What are the rules of the game? To get your book to sell is not just about the content or promotions only. Something works on the mind before the content is approached. The cover design plays a role. The title of the book adds a dose to create the magic, the blend of colours adds taste (I bet you didn’t know this), the font choice, language of your book promotions on various platforms (in this age, social media especially), the author brand and network, etc. All these add to the overall magic to sell a book. So they go for the foreign books because all the things I have listed above have been worked on to produce the book and it works psychologically. Let the professionals help you get these important things done to create your magic.
e. You are not using your network
Do you know that people don’t like to buy from people they know nothing about? Oh yes! No one buys anything they have no knowledge about. Same with books; people easily buy the books of authors they heard of on the TV, YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. If they don’t know about you from anywhere, driving sales is going to be a little difficult. A book we published, CRITICAL LENSES by Paul Edem Kuenyefu sold 500+ copies in 16 days and interestingly, he did this alone (with no active team); (Contact Paul on +233(0)246585357) for your copy of the book). Paul and I never had the chance to discuss the sales strategies of his books as a publisher and author would do. 16 days after the book launch, I got in touch with Paul and he has sold 500+ copies of his books. I enquired, “Paul, what worked? This is great achievement!” and he answered, “My network”. Paul has been able to create and bred a wide network of professionals that know him for what he is good at. When his book was out, all he needed to do was move to one office to the other or send via courier to his networks who requested for a copy or two. It didn’t end there; they recommended to others. Before the launch, he arranged a number of speaking engagements that aided sales. As an author, recommendations from people who know the weight of knowledge you carry add up to the sales numbers. Never ignore that.
f. You consider some sales irrelevant
This point is very important and so I would much appreciate that you pay close attention to it. When you receive a call from a customer who wants to buy your book, make sure the book gets to him or her as soon as possible before the desire for the book dies out. I call it STIR and SELL. Your many promotions has stirred the person’s desire to want to buy your book, why then should you give chance to delay to kill the desire. Know this, apart from a few people who set budgets aside for books, a greater percentage don’t. Many buy books on impulse, even some of the active readers. So you really don’t want to lose that sale. Let me share this story with you. In 2014, I was on a sick bed at University of Ghana hospital (three days at the hospital because I had food poison) when a call came through for one of the books we were selling at that time REALITIES OF LIFE AFTER SCHOOL by Jonathan Adzokpe, CEO of Hetura Holdings. It was 2 hours after he had visited me and he went for another engagement somewhere and so it was not readily possible for any team member to deliver the book to the person who called. I requested from the nurse whether I could take a stroll around because I was tired of lying on the bed. The nurse said, “YES”. Well, a few copies of the books were with me at the hospital so quickly I went to Abelemkpe to deliver. I delayed about 1 hour because I was very weak and I felt dizzy when I walked like every 5 minutes. When I finally met the client, she dashed me GHc20 when she got to know my condition. I couldn’t allow delay to kill the desire we stirred with our promotions which has caused her to want a copy of the book for her brother. It was just a book I delivered in that condition but it added to our sales numbers.
There are many other reasons why your book isn’t selling but I will not bore you with all of them in this article. I will share a few more others in subsequent articles.
Thank you for reading.
This article was authored by Kennedy Kwaku Nyadzie, head of marketing of Hetura Books. You can reach the author by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com