Matthew Ogborn discusses how he managed to sell 1000 copies of his non-fiction book in a year with the help of his independent, small publisher.
After spending the best part of four years, thanks to the pandemic and extreme weather, planning out the pub walks, doing them all on foot in different seasons and writing everything up for my Surrey Pub Walks’ book, I had to think about promotion. With my publishers Alex and Rory Batho from Countryside Books, we thought about how we could make it stand out from the crowd in a busy marketplace often dominated by larger publishers with bigger reach and resources.
All three of us having a strong background in journalism meant we had valuable experience in traditional press coverage, but it still required us to think outside the box to get as many eyes on the book as possible during our spring, summer and autumn walking seasons. Together ,we managed to sell over 1,000 copies alone in 2023 – a brilliant figure for a non-fiction county travel book.
Here is where we managed to make a sizeable impact in those first nine crucial months:
- Family and Friends
This appears a simple thing to do, but some writers often find it difficult to blow their own trumpet to those closest to them. Please give it a try, though, as I discovered that my most trusted family and friends gave us a welcome early sales jolt. Not only that, people I hadn’t spoken to in years - as life and raising young families saw us drift apart - got in touch to buy books or recommend them to their own circle. It proved a very humbling, joyful experience and one I will not hesitate to do again.
The release of the book also coincided with the beer festival season, which fitted in brilliantly with the theme of my book as I ended up hand selling to them at a price discount rate similar to those given to bookshops. So, for every copy of the book that they sold at full price during the festival, they also got a few quid back into their coffers. Many of them came under the stewardship of the CAMRA beer organisation, which I have now become a proud member of and hopefully work with down the line.
- Social Media
A few weeks after the release coincided with Surrey Day, something I was not aware about before but quickly piggybacked on social media via their official hashtag through Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. I ended up cross promoting with other Surrey businesses, councils, societies and trade bodies to help spread the word. This helped to foster a community which can help boost the long tail of your sales as well as chances to do other promotional work like live/online talks.
One of the easiest and most productive ways to get a constant local sales impact for your book is feature or review coverage in the magazines, newspapers and online sites that best serve your local area. In our case, we contacted the big hitters by phone and email which led to features in publications with a broad reach such as Time & Leisure, Essential Surrey, Round & About and the Surrey Comet while also getting coverage in hyperlocal places such as The Good Life and Inside Croydon. This has proved huge for us, especially with 20% reader discount codes for most of the outlets.
- Face to Face
Finally, whether you are published or self-published, visit your local bookshops in person. If they are a chain like Waterstones or WHSmith, your publisher should have them covered but it is still worth checking to see if they are stocking your book. The personal touch works well with independent bookshops who are keen to strike up relationships with local authors alongside galleries, gift shops and museums nearby.
Matthew Ogborn is an author, freelance journalist and screenwriter/producer. Feel free to chat with him by connecting on LinkedIn or following on X @mattogborn