How to use simple psychology and basic common sense to sell more books

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

Do you dream about creating a group of Superfans who will buy every book you write?

Yes? Well, then, do you make it easy for readers to become your Superfans?

. . . .

I want you to keep the idea of “Superfans” in your mind as we talk about today’s topic. To create these Superfans, we need to make sure that we don’t do anything to frustrate our readers. In fact, our job is to make purchasing/following/subscribing as easy as possible.

In order to do that, there are three simple steps:

  • Create content in a reader-friendly format
  • Use simple psychology to help guide readers
  • Harness what we know about e-reader technology to make it easier for readers to find us — and buy more of our books

. . . .

I’m a science grad who became a science prof – so when someone from the publishing industry (in 1995) suggested that textbooks would be converted to electronic format, I jumped for joy!! After decades of lugging around massive science reference texts, the idea of tucking a computer disk into my bag was pretty exciting!

. . . .

Because the first Kindle wasn’t released until 2007, the idea of reading electronic textbooks was still over a decade away at that point. At the time, though, fresh out of university and thinking I knew everything, I was excited, but my fellow profs – who turned out to be smarter than I was – expressed concern about the differences in reading style. Honestly, back then, know-it-all me thought they were over-reacting.

Over the years since, I’ve done quite a bit of research into the differences between how people read via a paper source, like a paperback book, versus how people read via an electronic source, like a Kindle or e-reader.

. . . .

To sum up, people don’t actually read material presented electronically. Instead, they scan.

People “read” in a non-linear, non-continuous fashion. They will allow their eyes to take breaks between paragraphs. They will make use of headlines, graphics, bold text, italic text or lists to guide the movement of their eyes.

Another key finding from the existing research is that the more a person reads on electronic sources, the more they exhibit this scanning type of “reading.” This finding implies that scanning behaviour, or non-linear reading, is more pronounced amongst younger readers than older readers.

. . . .

The “Jars of Jam” study involved creating two different types of displays of jam in grocery stores. One display had many different flavors of jam, number of jars, size and shape of jars and varying prices. The second display typically had 2 flavors of jam and one size of jars, all at the same price. This experiment was carried out in different types of stores and in different locations within the store.

The second display (the simpler display) always sold many more jars of jam than the first.

Some feel this result is counter-intuitive. Wouldn’t people appreciate having more choices? Or are they, in fact, overwhelmed by too many choices with the result that they don’t make any purchase? The research indicates that they are, and that the sale is lost.

What’s the connection between the bread, jam jars, and turning readers into Superfans?

Look at the menu-line of your website. Do you provide numerous alternatives for a reader to choose from? Or do you use the menu structure to nudge people in the direction you want them to go?

For authors, the “Jars of Jam” theory applies in two critical places:

  • Website design – especially with respect to the menu-line and buy links
  • Promotional platforms and & newsletters – think BookBub

Which one below would you think is better for readers to find information?

Example #1

Example #2

If you answered example 2 you would be correct!

Why does BookBub sell so many books?

BookBub is one of the most successful promotional newsletters. Do you think the psychology behind the “Jars of Jam” correlates with the limited number of suggested books in each newsletter?

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

1 thought on “How to use simple psychology and basic common sense to sell more books”

  1. Didn’t know about the Jam study. Interesting.

    Their “Example #2” matches my website’s menu bar almost exactly (I have one more: “Subscribe”). But what’s with the dropdowns on “About Me” and “Contact Me”? The contact page should be the shortest one of all and without a need to differentiate anything. Mine has three lines.

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