Creating a Book’s Sell Sheet

Many, many years ago, back when we were still using stone tablets and chisels to write, my first novel was published. The year was 2001. That was also when I created my first “sell sheet.”

A book sell sheet (or book one-sheet, as some people call it) is designed to provide the necessary information to people who would buy your book. This is not for consumers, however, it targets buyers at book stores, libraries, other retailers, and wholesalers. These people want quick facts about your book, without schmaltz. Save that dazzling salesy stuff for consumers.

The main things these buyers want to know are:

  • What the book is about
  • Who the book’s audience is
  • How/where to buy the book
  • Why the book is appropriate for them
  • Who the author is
  • How you will be marketing the book (libraries don’t care so much about this)
  • What your book looks like

Use whatever program you’d like to create this sheet – MS Word, Publisher, whatever you happen to use. You don’t need fancy software to do it.

First, insert an image of your book’s cover. Don’t make it too big, because you have a lot of information to cram onto this page. (Yes, it’s ONLY one page!) I’ve dissected a sell sheet below. If you click on it, you can enlarge it to see my comments in pink.

Most of what I’ve written in as commentary is self-explanatory. The section many people find perplexing, however, is the “Marketing” part. Book sellers do not want to take up space on their shelves if you’re not going to push your book. They want to know what you have planned to get word out about your book. You can include things like newspaper interviews, television campaign, etc. If they don’t think you’re going to make an effort to sell the books they put on their shelves – well, you can kiss that opportunity goodbye.

Here’s another layout for a sell sheet that is a little more complicated to produce, but quite nice to look at:

Honestly, I’ve whipped these sheets together for the sole purpose of this tutorial. I gave up long ago on getting print books into stores – not because it wasn’t possible – but because I’m lazy and it was just too much for me to manage on top of everything else. So no, these sheets aren’t perfect by any means. And the marketing plans are lame, but at least they’re something. Other examples of marketing/publicity bullets you could include are: who your press agent is (if you have one); on which social media networks you have a presence; where you plan to do paid advertising; any blog tours or book giveaways; etc. I also should have mentioned that Mr. Pish Goes to the Farm was at the top of three Hot New Releases lists. Again: lazy.

I always think of a “sell sheet” as the sheet that sells my book to the buyer. That means selling myself as well. What is so great about the book? Why should they invest time, money, and space stocking it?

Author: K.S. Brooks

K.S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist, photographer, and photo-journalist, author of over 30 titles, and executive director and administrator of Indies Unlimited. Brooks is currently a photo-journalist and chief copy editor for two NE Washington newspapers.  She teaches self-publishing and writing topics for the Community Colleges of Spokane, and served on the Indie Author Day advisory board. For more about K.S. Brooks, visit her website and her Amazon author page.

45 thoughts on “Creating a Book’s Sell Sheet”

    1. Would love to see that sheet when you’re done with it, Yvonne. Mine’s a little complicated because there are six books in the series and some of the books are through my publisher and others in the same series are self-pubbed.

  1. Thanks. I had never heard of a sell sheet before, so this was a fabulous tutorial. Sell sheets look incredibly practical and easy enough to create. Thanks again.

  2. Ah, I’ve misunderstood the concept of the sell sheet then. I’ve been putting together some aimed at potential readers. Thought they might be useful at events and what not. Now I can see how to modify them to create sell sheets aimed at buyers. Ta for the tips.

    1. Hey Mark, nice to see you here. In the past I have made brochures for potential readers with all my books on them, but I tried to make those more aesthetically appealing in a tri-fold that hopefully wouldn’t get thrown away. Would love to see what you come up with. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  3. I love this! I’m about to sit at a table with my publisher this weekend hawking books. I followed your template and whipped some price sheets out. Awesome! Thanks!!

  4. Excellent post, KS, I did one back in 2007 to send out for the 2008 launch of ‘Surviving’, not so much on it as it was my first book, but I haven’t done one since because all my stuff is ePublished now and I currently don’t do hard copy.

    1. Excellent point, TD. I think that’s why a lot of authors haven’t heard of sell sheets – because they’ve been focusing on eBooks – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  5. This was really helpful. Back when I had an agent, he asked me to put together a sell sheet to send to publishing houses. I actually spent some time researching it and did not come across anything nearly as informative as your post here in terms of what information should be included. I cringe now at the one that I put together – and nobody corrected me.

    I am curious though, when you say you have given up trying to get print books into bookstores, I am guessing that is partly because the return was simply not worth the effort. Was it because most bookstores would not accept a self-published book, or you just found the sales to be too low for the effort versus e-book sales? I’m assuming the main work associated with trying to get print books into bookstores is preparing the sell sheet and sending it out (by email or mail?). Or is the bulk of the work associated with actually carrying out the marketing plan you have outlined in the sell sheet (which might differ from your e-book marketing plan)?

    1. Thanks for your questions. Why I’ve given up on doing print book sales directly to bookstores is a complicated issue.

      Firstly, I don’t like doing face-to-face; and most print book sales require that. I don’t care for walking into a bookstore, handing someone the sell sheet, and then having them say they’ll be glad to do it on consignment. Then, I bring in 3 or 4 books, and a year later, I get them back all man-handled and mangled, and unsaleable anywhere else. Now, keep in mind, this was back in 2002, with a 400 page novel costing $22. Today, since we can work directly with CreateSpace, we’re able to offer our print books at much more affordable prices – I think that would make them much more attractive to book store customers.

      I don’t concentrate anywhere nearly as much time marketing now as I do writing. If I spent as much time pushing my current books as I did my first book, I wouldn’t be able to create 4 to 7 new titles each year. I’d just much rather be writing.

      And lastly, I currently live in the wilderness of northeastern Washington State and I only have a car two days a week. That situation is not very conducive to any kind of print book marketing. I try to keep my expenses down, so I don’t stock more than one or two copies of my twenty-two titles. So for me – this method is no longer a good fit. But for anyone who is less of a hermit and doesn’t mind doing marketing, it’s a great tool.

      1. Thanks so much, Kat. That is really helpful. I did not realize so much of it had to be done face-to-face. I think I will stick to my local bookstores and that is it. I would much prefer to focus on writing rather than selling. Walking into a bookstore cold would send my hermit self into paroxysms of terror :-). That said, I think a sell sheet is still a great thing to have in my arsenal in case I need it. Maybe I will become an extravert some day.

        1. You don’t necessarily HAVE to do it face to face, but I think it gives the bookstore people a level of comfort to have a face to put with a voice or name. I also think it’s a lot more difficult for people to say no to you when you’re standing in front of them. It’s a lot easier for them to click “delete” when they see your email. 😉

  6. This was a very interesting post and I appreciate you sharing it with us. In the past I had a color brochure printed with three of my books, but I still seem to have a few left, probably because I’m not sure who to send them to. Any advice on putting a list together of recipients? Do you think this could also be accomplished by the less expensive email format?

    1. Hi Robert, If your current brochure doesn’t specifically have the information outlined in my article, save it for booksignings to hand out to consumers. Libraries and bookstores are very specific about what kind of information they need, and you’ll just be annoying them if you send them something else.

      How you get it to the recipient is up to them, really. Check the bookstores’ and libraries’ policies on their websites – if they don’t have any, give them a call. I expect a good portion of them would be fine with email, in which case I would highly recommend converting the sell sheet to a pdf. That way, there’s no problem with fonts not loading properly, or issues with them having a different version of MS Word, etc. Thanks for stopping by.

    1. You’re most welcome, Duke. And some libraries (Tucson is a great example) even have pages on their websites specifically with author guidelines for submissions.

  7. Hey K.S. Brooks . . .Thanks for sharing your sell sheet info. Top Notch info.
    I loved your comment about only having a car one or two days a week. On one of them, please drive up to the Lazy Bee (five miles from the Waneta Border crossing) and have tea (or whatever). Love to see you.
    P.S. I’m a friend of Ladell Black and I met you when the Colville Library hosted a fundraiser at the Chewelah Country Club. We had a laugh together when one attendee asked, Did you write all these? Da…hh

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