Brutal Honesty, Because You Asked! Why YOUR Book Isn’t Selling – by Angela Hoy

Brutal Honesty, Because You Asked! Why YOUR Book Isn’t Selling – by Angela Hoy

I always love it when authors ask me to be honest with them. In most cases, if someone has the courage to ask for honesty, they have the courage to receive the answers they are seeking…with grace. That’s not always the case, however. Luckily, the author below is one of the courageous ones. I thought you’d enjoy the exchange. 😉

Hi Angela:

Getting a book published is easy and there are dozens of self publishing companies willing to rape, burn and pillage stupid authors like myself and, although I have been severely molested (by some of those), I am still dumb enough to consider doing it all over again.

I know how to get a book into print but what I don’t know is how to get it onto book shelves in book stores. For my first book, I went with (a large author meat market that we know you’ve all heard about), and was promised the moon but got severely molested in my bank account, and only made a total of $4.69 USD. Then, not having learned a lesson, I was promised the same moon by (another publisher) and all I got was an invitation to give them more money. Fool me once, shame on you… Fool me twice… Shame on me.

So, here I am with a new book. This time I stayed away from poetry, and I put together 100 pages of short stories. I only have one question and that is how do I get the book on book store shelves? 

It is not my intent to soft soap you but I have learned that you have a habit of telling the truth as you see it so please tell me. How can I make enough return to at least cover my costs? 

Warm regards,


Hi N.,

The soft soaping you gave me actually felt kinda nice!! 😉

Collections of short stories don’t sell as well as novels. And, poetry tends to be one of the least popular genres. That’s your first problem.

A book’s sales potential depends entirely on: 1. the book itself; and 2. the author’s marketing savvy and efforts. Listing a book on a particular website like Amazon won’t generate sales. Nor will getting your book onto a couple of bookstore shelves.

The author must promote the book in order for it to be successful. This is true for self-published and traditionally published titles. Traditional publishers do little to no promotion for unknown/new authors now. They take a gamble that a book may or may not take off. They run with the ones that do, and generally abandon the ones that don’t. Of course, the ones that do are the ones whose authors are promoting them creatively and consistently.

More than a million books are published each year now and bookstores don’t stock the vast majority of those, including traditionally published books. There simply isn’t enough shelf space. When you walk into a bookstore, you often see books propped up on tables to catch your eye. Did you know that traditional publishers pay a premium for that product placement?

It is highly doubtful a bookstore will want to put a book of short stories by an unknown author on their shelves. I’m sorry. That’s the truth. If you offered them a book of poetry, your chances would be even lower. Like…non-existent.

Most books are purchased online now as Amazon consistently outsells all bookstore chains combined. I, personally, never approach bookstores about selling my books. That type of negotiation can take hours, and end up costing me money (in returned books that are dusty, bent, or otherwise unusable). All that time, effort, stress, and money to sell maybe one or two books max? NO THANKS.

If you really want to sell books, aside from being an aggressive marketer, you need to write a book that will be appealing to the largest audience (i.e. the one that buys the most books!). According to, the genres that sell the best on Amazon are:

  1. Romance (sorry, I know you’re a dude) and Erotica
  2. Mysteries and Crime
  3. Religious/Inspirational
  4. Sci-fi/Fantasy
  5. Horror

Read a much more detailed list RIGHT HERE.

Thank you for your email. Always happy to be brutally honest. 😉


Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela Hoy.

About The Author


Angela Hoy is the publisher of, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).

Angela has lived and traveled across the U.S. with her kids in an RV, settled in a river-side home in Bradenton, FL, and lived on a 52 ft Irwin sailboat. Angela now resides on a mountaintop in Northwest Georgia, where she plans to spend the rest of her days bird watching, gardening, hiking, and taking in all of the amazing sunrises. - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. - 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. - "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.

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.


BOOKLOCKER ON FACEBOOK - Provides links to free excerpts!



Angela is the creator of the Original 24-Hour Short Story Contest!

Read More Of Angela's Articles HERE

90+ DAYS OF PROMOTING YOUR BOOK ONLINE: Your Book's Daily Marketing Plan by Angela Hoy and Richard Hoy

Promoting your book online should be considered at least a part-time job. Highly successful authors spend more time promoting a book than they do writing it - a lot more.

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9 Responses to "Brutal Honesty, Because You Asked! Why YOUR Book Isn’t Selling – by Angela Hoy"

  1. Donna Deines  August 3, 2021 at 5:22 pm

    There is no secret on how to sell your books; It has to appeal to the buyers, sellers, plus what is on the market when your book comes out. The query letters are the foundation of writing it from the beginning, middle, and conclusion (Make it short). In the beginning, I failed horribly. Now, before I sit down and create a letter or send in a book, I look up who is on the top of the books which I am writing, surfing the internet, and find out where they are in your area and close locating where I live or close to where I live. I see them, study their motivation, attitude, and what they say to the public or buyers or what market they deal with. See if you can talk to them before they leave the area and ask questions. (They do not mind, they love the attention).

    My secret is really not a secret, you have to get off the couch and talk to the public, stores, schools, colleges, and the market, almost every day, let them know who you are. I take the books with me, and 1 out of 5 I will give one away, with a bookmarker inside on my email or amazon, and asked them to email and let me know how they felt about the book or be brave have them review your book on Amazon. That is scary!

    Writers, authors, public, and the market is a job. It is a daily job for the writers or authors to deal with the public and the market. That is the only way for them to know you and for you to know them. The publication company and the market will not do it for you.

    I read a lot on different types of books as of – “29 Reason Your Book isn’t Selling” – Angela Hoy and “90 + Days of Promoting Our Book Online”, poetry, True Crime, Ghost, and Supernational activity. Gives good ideas all the way around. I had to change my writing to a different format to books, magazines, and other means to let people know I am still around, but on different subjects on my email and they can not get my books, I would mail it out to them at my

    Sorry, Angela, I am on the bandwagon; I get sad stories from writers on their books now and then. I agree that there is too much competition, but you have to step in and grab the rainbow to sell yourself to the public and market.

  2. Amel  August 1, 2021 at 10:55 am

    In addition to what Angela said, I would also add that short stories tend to do better in literary magazines (at least initially). If you build up a collection of published stories as clips, this helps build more interest in your work among fans (and even publishers), which may pave the way for a book later on. If interested, I have put together a directory of 350 paying literary markets that is free to download on Amazon until August 3, 2021 (visit my website for details).

  3. Chris Hanly  July 30, 2021 at 10:57 am

    I could feel the tingling from the soap bubbles myself

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of  July 30, 2021 at 11:01 am

      Ha ha ha!!! 😉


  4. wmba dams  July 30, 2021 at 8:53 am

    I presume that person meant they sold a total of $4.69 not actually made a profit of that amount. So correctly it would be that they lost x thousands of dollars.

    OTOH if they did make a profit of that amount then they were aamazingly successful! Most writers sell zero. I cant call them authors. Most print books sell 2 copies, and ebooks 20. This is a very very long tailed phenomenon.
    A few people sell lots of books but most people sell very few.

    You listed some good points but the author needs to also be well known or at least have a social media following to use to help kickstart sales and get some word of mouth advertising. And promotion is relative. The problem is that for those big selling categories the market is thin although it is big.

    I doubt that 100 pages of short stories would sell at all. If I paid for a book I would expect more content than that. EXCEPTION might be for non fiction on a subject that I needed to know about right now.

    If you have a book that targets a small but compact audience that can easily be reached in large quantities at once then that book might do just as well. Consultants fit in that category. They give talks and sell books at the back of the room in large numbers at once.

  5. Richard McHenry (Atwood)  July 29, 2021 at 11:58 pm

    Aieee!! Grrr — selling the book. Yep, nine months to write, five years in the editing (and still missed about 30 mistakes). However, while I wrote “serious” erotica, but for a mostly male market, I’m still stymied. I am on several gay sites, indeed, supposedly “dating” sites — but as it goes, mostly pig pens — are there any other kind for men into men? Not to my knowledge! (So the righteous and the “decent” will suffer big time.) Also, having had my book out there on at least “well-travelled” sites, I can’t say but that it helped but sell three copies in as many years. Yep, about to pull what’s left of my goatee out, or stop dying it — but unless one could pay for ads in notable regular gay publications, I may never be heard of again. All of my reviews have been sterling (except for one, who wasn’t even familiar with English; what a bummer). But have done all I know to do. I know I wouldn’t be welcome to set up a table in even a local bookstore for a day; and what they charge on consignment, I’d end up losing money and giving the book away.
    All I do know is I wrote a very readable book. But even to get it posted effectively on Goodreads is beyond my comprehension. And those who bought it loved it. But I should complain. Speaking of poetry — yeah, a lost cause. I have three out there, and two ready to go…. But most poetry applauded and published these days is simply unbearable; I can’t stand it. And who the hell knows who Sandburg is/was… today??? Sad, to say the least.

  6. Chris Norbury  July 29, 2021 at 10:24 pm


  7. Joel Hageman  July 29, 2021 at 9:54 pm

    You sure it isn’t because the book is less than impressive?

    I’ve heard that good work eventually rises to the top. Maybe living artists don’t have time to wait that long, even for good material.

    Is that really the reason?

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of  July 30, 2021 at 11:00 am

      No matter how well written the book is, if nobody knows about it, nobody’s going to buy it. There is far too much competition out there.