Selling Words in a Visual World

A few months ago, I was browsing the Internet and somehow landed on a site that sold cupcakes. I stopped and stared mesmerized at the big color-saturated pictures of cupcakes on expanses of white background, coupled with elegant grayish, rather than garish black, script. At that moment, I thought, we need to sell books like cupcakes.


Brilliant idea. Easy. Now where do we start?

Stumbling block number one. Books are not cupcakes. Sure, we can sell the book “package” like a cupcake. But, unlike cupcakes, each book has a different flavor, even genre books that have broad flavors like mystery or romance or science fiction. We eat certain flavors of cupcakes because we like them and we know that a cupcake called chocolate cake will be baked with more or less the same ingredients and will taste like chocolate cake. But a book called science fiction may match a broad flavor profile we like, but the ingredient mix–plot, pacing, writing style, vocabulary, points of views–produces enough variations in flavor to create endless subsets of tastes.

Each time we read a book, we’re adding new tastes we like or dislike, and only books by the same author can come close to the same flavor, and even then a flavor profile is not guaranteed. We’ve eaten enough cupcakes to have certain expectations of what different flavors taste like, so we can almost savor that amazing looking carrot cake cupcake before sinking our teeth into it. We haven’t tasted most books before, and those that we have, we’ll reread the copy we’ve already bought. If we gave away the copy or never owned it, a bright new cover or new creative packaging probably won’t be the primary factor that convinces us to read it again, or brings new readers to a book that’s been around for a while.


Often just the opposite. You’ll go search for it on Project Gutenberg or check it out from a library, or pick up at a used bookstore or a library sale.


So how does one sell a package that no one knows what’s inside, except some vague description of the “flavor”? We can give them a taste with an excerpt, but those are words, and we’re still faced with selling them in a visual world.

Does posing the book in interesting and enticing settings help sell it? That’s a popular approach on Instagram.


Some books are easier to present visually than others. Nonfiction and memoirs can be presented visually because we can share photos and other images related to the books.

Fiction takes a lot more creativity. No matter the marketing, the only thing that really sells fiction is someone reading the words and liking them enough to rave about them to someone else.

And what about book trailers? Do they help sell books?

Because publishing is an ever changing industry, Bedazzled Ink tries to attend workshops and seminars offered online. Not long ago, a workshop on using social media for book marketing featured the social media people from two of the big five publishers. They talked about all the social media platforms but both said that Instagram was the best one for selling books. Instagram? Really? At that point, we had signed up for it but hadn’t figured out how to use it, so we decided to give it a try. It was a way of forcing ourselves to sell words in a pretty strict visual environment.

Much to our surprise, our overall sales increased through our efforts to visualize our written word. Not only that, it’s been easier on Instagram to increase Bedazzled Ink’s overall visibility.

Now we try to use some kind of visual with as many Tweets and Facebook posts as possible. Just like Annie‘s “You’re never fully dressed without a smile,” our social media posts needs that twirl of icing to be complete.

Not quite like selling cupcakes, but with each graphic and video we create, we’re learning to bake in our own way.