You’re depressed. You’re confused. You’re thinking about giving up writing altogether. Why? Because the only people who have bought your book are your mom and your Aunt Bertha. With more than a million books published each year now (most of those self-published), there is lots of competition. However, many authors earn enough in book sales to feed their families. How do they do it?
Some of this may be hard to hear (I mean read) but, if you clicked on this article, you’re obviously seeking the truth. So, here it is.
Why your book isn’t selling:
YOU’RE USING A FREE EMAIL SERVICE THAT HARD FILTERS INCOMING EMAIL FOR SPAM…AND YOU DON’T KNOW IT
I’m not referring to your own personal spam folder. I’m talking about the hard filters that some large ISPs use to kill some incoming emails before they even make it to your personal spam folder. If your ISP is doing this, you are very likely losing business. Emails from potential readers, inquiries from bookstores, other retailers, or libraries, and even press inquiries could be going down the spam toilet and, in most cases, you’ll never know you missed them. Of course, the people who think you’re ignoring them get upset…and don’t buy your book!
YOU DON’T HAVE A WEBSITE
Plain and simple. You don’t have one central area where you can send potential buyers to read about (and click to order) your book. Your website doesn’t need to be fancy, or have lots of bells and whistles. It should be clean and professional. You really only need your book’s cover, a good description, a free excerpt, an about the author page, and a place where readers can interact with you via email or through an online form. Read more HERE.
YOU HAVE A WEBSITE BUT YOU DON’T UPDATE IT WEEKLY OR DAILY
If you have a website and it looks the same for days, weeks, or months on end, people won’t want to come back because they’re bored. Of course, if they’re not coming to your website, they aren’t buying your books.
YOU DON’T HAVE AN EZINE/BLOG
Having a website is imperative but, if you don’t have a way to frequently remind people that you and your books exist, you’re not going to sell many books. You need to either have an email newsletter (ezine), or have a blog (with a way to notify people by email when it’s updated). Information on both appears in 90+ DAYS OF PROMOTING YOUR BOOK ONLINE: Your Book’s Daily Marketing Plan.
If you want to see an example of a successful ezine, subscribe to WritersWeekly.com HERE.
YOU HAVE AN EZINE/BLOG BUT YOU ONLY SEND IT OUT MONTHLY
Seventeen years ago, we launched WritersWeekly under a different name, and sent it out monthly. When we switched to weekly, our sales quadrupled. You can bet we were kicking ourselves for not doing that sooner! We continue to sell books and we always have a bump in sales on the day each issue goes out.
YOU HAVE AN EZINE/BLOG BUT THE CONTENT IS REPETITIVE OR BORING
If your readers aren’t getting interesting news, advice, or the opportunity to interact with you or other like-minded folks, they’re going to unsubscribe. Detailed information on how to attract and keep subscribers is in 90+ DAYS OF PROMOTING YOUR BOOK ONLINE: Your Book’s Daily Marketing Plan.
YOUR EMAIL SUBJECT LINES ARE BORING
YOU AREN’T GIVING AWAY SOMETHING FREE TO ATTRACT NEW SUBSCRIBERS
You must give people an incentive to be added to your email list (to alert them to your ezine/blog updates). Giving away a free ebook is a great way to do this! We offer a free ebook, How to Be a Freelance Writer (with paying markets), to new WritersWeekly subscribers. Of course, after they subscribe, each subscriber then also gets weekly paying markets for writers, freelance job listings, feature articles, whispers and warnings about the industry, and much more. Advice on building your subscriber list also appears in 90+ DAYS OF PROMOTING YOUR BOOK ONLINE: Your Book’s Daily Marketing Plan.
Remember to never, ever add someone to your subscriber list without their permission and never, ever, ever spam! Spamming is the fastest way to ruin your reputation. And, once you’re labeled a spammer online, that will stick with you forever.
YOU SPEND MORE TIME WRITING NEW BOOKS THAN PROMOTING YOUR OLD ONES
We know writers love to write. That’s why we do it. It’s a passion and, for some, an obsession. If you never want to sell what you write, then, by all means, continue writing instead of marketing. But, if you want people to buy your books, you must promote your work. Otherwise, you’re writing for a non-existent audience…and how much fun is that?
YOU THINK JUST BECAUSE YOUR BOOK IS OLD, IT’S NOT WORTH PROMOTING
Yes, there are some books on the market that contain very dated information. Those should be retired. But, many books, especially novels, do not age. Just because your romance novel was written over a decade ago doesn’t mean people aren’t going to buy it! Readers are far more interested in the book description than the date on the copyright page. Start promoting it anew! If your book is dated, consider updating it, and publishing a new edition. That’s often easier than writing a brand new book.
YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO ONLINE PROMOTION
We’re not all marketers. In fact, most of us aren’t. But, there is help and it’s VERY affordable. 90+ DAYS OF PROMOTING YOUR BOOK ONLINE: Your Book’s Daily Marketing Plan. If you follow the advice in the book, you will sell more books!
YOU THINK HAVING YOUR BOOK FOR SALE ON AMAZON MEANS AUTOMATIC SALES
If you don’t promote your book, it won’t sell, no matter which website is selling it. There are books on Amazon that have never sold one copy because they’ve been abandoned by their authors. If you write it, they WON’T buy it unless you promote it!
YOU’RE WAITING TO GET DISCOVERED
Yeah, we all dream of being the next Stephen King or John Grisham. Here’s the truth. It’s NOT going to happen. Okay, sure, a few new authors are “discovered” each year but the chances of that happening to you or me are nil to none. Stop waiting for success to be thrown in your lap. It’s better to sell a few thousand copies of your lesser-know book through your own marketing efforts than to sell no copies of a manuscript that’s languishing in your desk drawer.
YOU THINK IF YOU HOLD OUT FOR A TRADITIONAL CONTRACT THAT YOU WON’T HAVE TO PROMOTE YOUR BOOK
The most common misconceptions about traditional publishing are: 1.) authors for large, traditional publishers get huge advances; and 2.) the publisher spends thousands in advertising, including sending the author on book tours. Some unknown authors earn advances of a couple thousand dollars or less but most earn no advance at all. Most who do get advances never earn more than their initial advance. In addition, the publisher likely won’t promote the book (beyond sending out a dozen or so review copies), relying instead on the author to do all the promotion (and at the author’s expense!). If the book takes off, only then will they invest in marketing funds. But, if the book doesn’t take off immediately, it’s a dead book and the publisher can only hope to earn back their investment over the coming years. See: Should I Self-Publish or Hold Out for a Traditional Contract?
YOU’D RATHER PAY SOMEONE ELSE TO PROMOTE YOUR BOOK BUT YOU DON’T HAVE THE MONEY
Sure, I wish I could hire a big firm to individually promote all my books, too. Unfortunately, that costs money. A LOT of money. Many of the supposed book promotion professionals are just selling services you can do yourself at little to no cost – press releases, sending out review copies, buying ads (but they mark up the costs), etc. Don’t think hiring a book promoter is like hiring Don Draper on Mad Men. Unless you have tens of thousands of dollars (or more), a firm isn’t going to have long meetings about your book, and provide you with an individually tailored marketing plan. Most of them use the cookie-cutter approach to book promotion, and they charge grossly inflated fees for doing so. Many so-called marketing services cost more than any resulting book sales will bring in.
YOU’RE TRYING TO FIND SOMEONE TO PROMOTE YOUR BOOK ON A COMMISSION-ONLY BASIS
If an unknown individual approached you, and asked you to write a book (and invest a lot of money in the endeavor) with the promise of a small percentage of future commissions only, would you do it? Probably not. Don’t expect someone else to promote your book on a commission-only basis, either. If someone does do that type of work, they’re probably not very good at it. Rather, it would seem they’re pretty darned desperate to earn only a few dollars (if anything).
YOU’RE TOO IMPORTANT TO GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY WITH MARKETING
If you’re a prima donna without a traditional contract and a six-figure advance, you shouldn’t be writing books because you’re only writing for yourself. You’ve probably seen online posts by those holier-than-thou authors who pooh pooh all self-published authors and who think anyone who doesn’t have a fat traditional publishing contract isn’t worth reading. I have news for them. Many self-published authors are earning more than traditionally published ones. Those self-published authors are masters at promoting themselves while those unknown traditionally-published authors have their noses too high in the clouds to be bothered with self-promotion. Of course, that hurts their book sales. And, when someone is that snooty, it shows through all their correspondence and that turns off potential readers, the press, and publishers, too!
YOU’RE MARKETING…BUT IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES
I receive requests all the time from authors who want to buy advertising in WritersWeekly.com. The thing is most of them have written books that aren’t writing- or publishing-related at all. They want me to promote their romance novel, or their history book. No kidding! (And, we don’t accept paid ads anyway.) There are countless ezines/blogs that cater specifically to romance novel enthusiasts and there are others that cater to history buffs. Don’t waste your time and money going after the wrong audience. Find websites, blogs, newsletters, and more that specifically serve your book’s target audience.
YOU ONLY HAVE AN EBOOK (IT’S NOT IN PRINT)
Some book readers, even those who are perfectly happy to buy an ebook, only consider a book a “real book” if it’s also in print. If the author (or publisher) can’t be bothered to invest the (very affordable) fees in a print edition, the book must not be worth much, right?
The vast majority of Americans still do NOT own dedicated ebook reading devices. Why would you ignore that entire market by not publishing a print edition? You may be surprised to learn that only 3 in 10 adults read an ebook last year but 7 in 10 adults reported reading a print book last year. It is foolish to think that print books are going to disappear anytime soon. “Though e-books are rising in popularity, print remains the foundation of Americans’ reading habits.” Ref: Pew Research
YOU ONLY HAVE A PRINT BOOK (IT’S NOT IN ELECTRONIC FORMAT)
Book addicts with e-readers buy a LOT of ebooks! We sell far more ebooks each month than we ever thought we would. If your book is only in print, you are missing out on potential sales. Ebooks cost less and readers don’t have to pay for shipping. Giving readers as many options as possible increases your chances of a sale.
YOUR BOOK SUCKS. PLAIN AND SIMPLE.
It hurts to hear but it’s true. Despite the lavish praise you may have received from an over-priced POD publishing rep (who is likely working on commission), your book may indeed suck. If you are spending tons of time promoting your book, and it’s still not selling, that may be why. Join a writer’s group, give some members copies, and ask for an HONEST critique if your book. Most professional writers will be happy to be truthful with you. Whatever you do, do NOT believe the opinion of your over-priced POD publisher, your editor, or anyone you paid to help with your book. And, definitely don’t believe the praise heaped on you by your parent, sibling, or best friend. Most relatives won’t tell you the truth because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.
YOUR PUBLISHER PUBLISHES PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING, EVEN JUNK
It’s true. You are what you eat and you are guilty by association. If you use a publisher that accepts anything and everything, and that puts junk on the market, people may assume your book is junk, too. Don’t believe me? Look at #10 HERE. Read more complaints about CreateSpace HERE.
Lulu’s CEO once admitted they’ve “easily published the largest collection of bad poetry in the history of mankind.” Who would want their book associated with a company like that?! Read complaints about Lulu HERE.
On the flip side, BookLocker.com is different from most POD publishers in that it’s selective about what it puts on the market. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: “As close to perfection as you’re going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing.”
THERE IS LITTLE (OR NO) MARKET FOR YOUR BOOK
Authors should choose their market BEFORE they begin the writing process. Trying to find a market after can be suicide for book sales because the book wasn’t written with a particular market in mind.
YOUR PUBLISHER MAKES IT TOO DIFFICULT FOR PEOPLE TO ORDER YOUR BOOK FROM BOOKSTORES
If you’re using a publisher that offends bookstores, or that makes it difficult for bookstores, distributors/wholesalers, or even regular folks to order your book from the store of their choice, you may have chosen the wrong publisher. Amazon has their own publishing division (CreateSpace) but they have little incentive to be bookstore friendly because they want everyone to buy from Amazon directly. Read this – CreateSpace: Unwelcome at Bookstores?
YOU MAKE IT TOO DIFFICULT FOR PEOPLE TO ORDER YOUR BOOK
If you don’t have a website, or a blog/ezine, or if you do, yet don’t have clear, large links to purchase your book, people aren’t going to buy it. I see author websites all the time that don’t have a link to their book on their website for Amazon, for BarnesandNoble.com, or even for their own publisher’s website. The easier you make the purchasing process, the more books you’ll sell.
YOU’RE SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME CHASING AFTER BOOKSTORE AND LIBRARY SALES
Why spend hours (or weeks or even months) trying to sell one copy to a library or five copies to one bookstore when you can spend all that time marketing directly to readers online? Online marketing is FAR more lucrative. See: Marketing to Bookstores – Still a Waste of Time?
YOU’RE SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME PLAYING CANDY CRUSH/ANGRY BIRDS/[INSERT YOUR FAVORITE GAME HERE]
Sure, we all need a break sometimes but it always amazes me how many people on my business Facebook account are inviting me to play the newest version of Candy Crush, Angry Birds, or one of many other games that are the current craze – during business hours. If you are spending your scheduled business time playing games, the reason your book isn’t selling is right there in front of you, being crushed to bits on the virtual floor, or being whizzed from a catapult. Professional authors who want to sell books don’t spend business hours playing video games.
YOU’RE PATIENCE IS WEARING THIN
Even if you build a website, start a blog/ezine, and market to people on a regular basis, it can’t take up to a year (or more, in some cases) to build your email list. You can’t perform all your marketing activities overnight so you can’t expect instant sales. Just because you put your book on Amazon doesn’t mean it’s going to sell. It takes work. The good news is, after you’ve written your second, third, and any subsequent books (providing they target the same general market), you’ll already have your audience at your fingertips so sales for those will occur faster.
AND, FINALLY, THE MOST BASIC REASON OF ALL – YOU AREN’T ON A SCHEDULE
If you keep saying “some day…,” it’s never going to happen. Schedule specific, daily time for marketing, and perform the tasks you have assigned to yourself. There are 90+ days of easy (and fun!) marketing tasks in 90+ DAYS OF PROMOTING YOUR BOOK ONLINE: Your Book’s Daily Marketing Plan.
Again, if you use the advice there, you WILL sell more books.
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
WritersWeekly.com - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.
BookLocker.com - According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: "As close to perfection as you're going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I've ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can't go wrong here. Plus, they're selective and won't publish any manuscript just because it's accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors' books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know."
Abuzz Press offers FAST and FREE book publication, but only accepts a small percentage of submissions, and only works with U.S. authors.
PubPreppers.com - "We Prep, You Publish!" Print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish. Offers formatting and design services only, and then provides simple instructions for authors on where to sign up to have the print and ebook editions printed/listed/sold. Cut out the middle man. Keep 100% of what bookstores pay for your book!
Angela's POD Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.
Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela.
Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal. (BookLocker offers "disgruntled author discounts" to those who want to move from other POD services.)
See BookLocker's publishing packages HERE.
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Angela is the creator of the Original 24-Hour Short Story Contest!
Read More Of Angela's Articles HERE