To shift the gravity so that readers are pulled toward you and your work(s), you need to write a book which has built-in sellability. That means that it addresses the reader’s innate needs right there in the way it is written, ranging from its core ideas, through its characters and plot, all the way through to its ending, in a particular style which also addresses what its pre-selected reader wants to read.
This doesn’t mean what I think many of you will be thinking it means, i.e. writing a book according to some kind of market research, ticking all the boxes so that you get more sales. You can do that if you wish — and many do — but I’m actually talking about the reverse: writing a well-crafted book which applies techniques used by master authors throughout the ages, and which fulfils your own innermost desires as a writer — and then locating the precise audience searching for those exact things.
You don’t start with the audience and then write a book to match their needs, in other words: you write a masterful book which draws on the heritage of successful fiction and your own heart, and then find the audience that fits it.
Clarifying this gives you the opportunity to learn about a potential set of needs, and whether your unique skills and preferences can fulfil them. Rather than talking up your book using artificial selling techniques, you’re diving deep into fiction itself.
Conventional commercial marketing is hugely wasteful in terms not only of time and money, but risk: you can trawl in readers who will hate your book. Feeling compelled to read it by semi-hypnotic sales methods, a reader may rebel and write a devastating negative review. But seeking only those who will absolutely love what you have to give reduces that risk enormously, apart from wasting far less time and money.
Is there a downside? Yes. The ‘Write a Book That Sells Itself’ approach, though far more successful in the long run… well, it takes longer. That ‘long run’ can add up to years. That includes the time taken to craft a really good book. Artificial marketing strives to sell a product overnight, but is vastly uneconomic; affinity marketing — marketing based on finding those who will love your work — can take a long time, but is immensely more satisfying and successful.
‘Sales’ has come to mean ‘lack of integrity’. That’s because people aren’t stupid — you aren’t stupid. You can, like most people, distinguish between a product and its built-in attributes and an attempt to ‘sell’ you that thing. That someone has to stand there ‘selling’ it to you often leads to the suspicion that the product is not all that it is cracked up to be — otherwise it wouldn’t need a seller.
By the same token, overtly not selling can come to mean integrity. Even if someone doesn’t end up buying your book, they will often have a deeper respect for what you do and perhaps recommend you to others. By establishing your reputation as a master author you can carve out a niche for yourself.
If you want to eliminate the ‘sale’ completely, focus on finding with the right readers for your particular work. Develop a clear, committed message for your book. Create work that knows what it does well and which speaks for itself. Get really clear on what you do better than everyone else.