Radius News

Publishing Note: Selling Your Vision


When is a book not a book? When the ideas it contains and the vision it offers captures the imagination and transports the reader well beyond the pages between front and back cover.

Selling is at the heart of the publishing industry. No matter the author, the publisher, the customer, the literary agent, the bookstore owner, or any other participant in this great tango of a business, the parquet dance floor has always been inlaid with sales. Even authors who are reticent, if not downright squeamish, about the task of selling, can’t get around the fact that books are published to be sold. If not sold, then at least distributed as widely as possible.

For those who are not endowed with the sales gene, Marty Loos offers a helpful way to approach sales.

“I never sold vitamins and minerals. I sold the farm. And that’s what I taught distributors: take your distributors, take your customers, and take them out to the farm…because I know that deep inside every human being there are farms.”

—Marty Loos, Nutrilite distributor (The Nutrilite Story, 1st ed., p. 186)

Now, Marty was selling Nutrilite supplements, a.k.a. vitamins, not books. Instead of focusing on the list of ingredients or scientific evidence supporting the advantages of taking vitamins, he shined the spotlight on the tangible human connection with nature vis-à-vis the farm. People’s relation to nature translated into them having a positive feeling about the Nutrilite products Marty was selling without him even talking about vitamins and minerals. Likewise, those of us in the book publishing industry don’t need to talk solely about books to sell them. We need to talk about the greater stories of the authors and their ideas that connect with readers and customers. It may be hard for an author to go bookstore-to-bookstore selling their book or make cold calls to media outlets to drum up interviews or TV appearances. But it should be second nature to authors to share their stories and discuss what they are passionate about, which invites customers to learn more in their books.

I encourage you to sell the aspirational vision you offer in the book you write; what for Loos was selling the farm instead of selling vitamins. When customers can relate to you and the ideas you share in your book, they are more inclined to buy the book. No secret there. As an author, you need to be part of the selling phase, along with all the other phases of the publishing process. Do what you do best; share your story, talk about what you’re passionate about, then customers will catch the vision, get excited, and actually buy your book too.