I’ll admit I’ve never used a sell sheet for book promotion. Instead, I like to get wicked awesome postcards printed on high quality stock. These I can hand out, put up or leave around indiscriminately.
In fact after browsing through Google for sell sheet design examples, I’m pretty convinced they’re worthless.
Your book cover is your sell sheet
You should always lead with the best quality design and most professional materials that you can.
Hopefully, your book designer is amazing and your cover absolutely glows. Here’s one I just saw that makes me melt (it’s not mine, I just love it).
If you have a cover like this, there is nothing more powerful than your cover.
Why would you make it really small so you can squeeze a whole bunch of details onto an 8.5″x11″ piece of paper?
Your book should be designed so well that you don’t need a sell sheet. All the right material (price, website for more info, reviews, back copy writing that makes readers desperate to buy) should already be on your book cover.
However, I understand that you may not be able to give books away to everybody. So rather than a sell sheet, you should just remove the spine and print 6″x9″ postcards of the front and back cover.
(You may object that you want to start promoting before your book is published… but I’ve made full covers, and completed all the sales summary, for several books I haven’t finished yet, and used those for postcards).
Making an even worse first impression
I see a lot of bad examples of sell sheets; even good covers are diminished on a mediocre or unprofessional sell sheet.
Here are the best examples I could find via a quick Google search. Some of these aren’t bad. But most are a little bland. The only one that improves the book is the one for “This Slavery” – which looks like it has a pretty bad cover design, but the sell sheet is very well designed.
Also the one for Honor & Respect is a good idea because it seems targeted (“an essential purchase for all libraries.”) Having a sell sheet like that and mass mailing to all major library purchasers could be effective.
What are you hoping to achieve?
How do you use sell sheets? You’d probably use them to approach small or indie bookstores, hoping they’ll stock your book. But here’s the thing:
#1: They probably won’t. Bookstores buy books that are selling. The first thing they’ll do is look up your book on Amazon and read the reviews or check the sales rank.
#2: Even if they do… it isn’t worth it. Putting books in small bookstores on consignment will become your full-time job, and it won’t really help sell books. You could work really, really hard for not much money. And it won’t boost your overall online sales.
The days of making a book successful by hawking them from the trunk of your car are mostly over (although, attending related events or conferences and setting up a table can still work).
If you push really really hard, you can sell a few hundred copies. If you’re insane and spend years, a few thousand.
But you don’t want that. You want to hit several hundred thousand downloads of your book, by getting it featured on big sites, or tying it to some current event or news, or running a smart promotion by partnering with people with a huge following.
The best marketing you can do from your computer at home. $50 of smart advertising is worth a month of nagging a store only to try to get a book signing so you can sell a dozen books.
Plus – I think any bookstore would want to see the actual book, and not a sheet of paper telling them about it.
So basically, I don’t think the effort and cost of making and using a sell sheet is a viable book marketing strategy.
And postcards are better.
But if you want to do it anyway…
For some books – especially non-fiction, self-improvement, spirituality – a well done sell sheet can position you as an expert. The more incredibly polished and professional marketing junk you have, the more seriously people will take your book.
And if you’re marketing to libraries directly, or organizations with large readerships, a sell-sheet/direct mail campaign may work for you.
But you must get it done really well. Preferably in Photoshop. I would search Graphic River for print templates to find something great, then hire someone on Fiverr.com (or Elance.com) to customize it for you and add your details.
Here’s one I found that’s pretty amazing:
Sell sheet templates in MS Word
ON THE OTHER HAND, if you still need a sell-sheet and want to do it yourself, right now, as best as you can, I’ve made up a set of templates in MS Word you can use (just for fun, I used my books, but you can change all the info and pictures).
Click here to download the package with the Word templates.
These templates are in Word, and sized at 8.5″x11″.
If you add your own pictures, you need to click on “Wrap text” and choose “behind text” so that you can move the picture wherever you want.
If you want to add a bar of color, insert a shape and choose a style (fill, border, etc). If you need more help using Word for design, download the free package at www.diybookcovers.com
You should probably add an ISBN and price if you have them ready. If you want to add a Google QR code (that box-shaped barcode) you can use a generator like this: http://www.qrstuff.com
You may want a 3D image of your book… in Word you can choose some 3D options that make it stand out. I also made a 3D book generator tool, which is on my website here:
If you don’t have a back and spine, just upload your cover 3 times for the 3 options; then you can rotate the book and save the PNG or JPG; after you make a choice, the final 3D image will appear, which you can right click and ‘save-as’.
However, an annoying little logo gets put up in the top left corner… if you have a screen capture software like Snagit, take a picture of the image and save it before clicking on the PNG/JPG/GIF options to avoid the logo.
Click here to download the package with the Word templates.
FREE PUBLISHING CHEATSHEET
Go from zero platform to #1 bestseller in 90 days or less with my book, Guerrilla Publishing. Download now for free and get access to my new companion workbook and book launch roadmap (this is advanced stuff you won’t find anywhere else).
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.
This is so helpful, Derek – thank you!
Derek this is great stuff! Thank you so much. I’ve written a couple myself and had some success on my own, but with the resources and expertise you offer here I probably would have done better from the git go! Thank you so much.
Hi, Derek, did you ever put together a video course that will help us build our own platforms and market our own books, at an affordable rate? Please let me know. Your article about why you won’t market my book hit home.
Yeah… I’m going to launch it in about a week, still cleaning it up. Affordable… maybe not yet, but I have a plan, from next year everything will be $19 a month, all included.
This was great Derek. Especially because you’re challenging the traditional marketing tools of getting your book into stores. I can see how this works in urban areas, or big cities, however, what are your thoughts for targeting smaller markets, across the US? Like the smaller cities in between coasts?
Reason being, I just self-published a historical non-fiction memoir set in the rural Midwest (Stepping Into Rural Wisconsin: Grandpa Charly’s Life Vignette’s from Prussia to the Midwest). Having lived 3 years in rural Wisconsin (I’m in California now though), business is done a bit differently there, in these slower paced areas. There is an aversion sometimes to the “too modern” or “too different”, especially since their customers/audience are different. Perhaps, the postcard would still work – but for the older folks/store owners in the smaller cities I think a simplified sell sheet might still be the way to go. Of course sales numbers would be significantly different from larger markets, but still worth having the book there. Maybe a traditional sell sheet for the store owner, and complimentary postcards as a sell point inside the store? Have you ever presented your books or tried to sell them to these smaller, niche markets/stores? I’m curious to hear about people’s experience targeting these slower markets. Thanks!