Eight Real Reasons Why Books Don’t Sell!

April 4, 2014 in Articles, Book Marketing

Why Books Don't SellMany authors, who have huge aspirations for their books, can suddenly come down to earth with a bump.

My books just don’t sell!

But does that mean you should just give up?…………. first of all you need to consider why they are not selling and what you can do about it.

Review the questions below and answer them honestly…..they might just
give you a clue to where things are going wrong! 

Number 1Have you had your book properly edited and proof read? Is it really OK to try and sell a book that hasn’t been subjected to the scrutiny of an unbiased and independent third party.

When you write a book and try to edit it or proof read it yourself you have a tendency to see what you meant to say, rather than what you actually say, it’s as simple as that. This means that you will nearly always miss the little errors and lack of continuity that an independent assessment can usually spot immediately.

game overWhy independent and unbiased? Because family and friends will not want to upset you and may not tell you the truth about your book. You really need to employ the services of someone that just wants to help you improve your book and isn’t afraid to tell you the truth about what you have written. Fail to take this simple step and I am afraid it could be …..

 

Number 2

Have you commissioned a professionally designed book cover? When you publish your book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo or any of the other major distributors, the first thing a potential buyer sees is an image of your book, usually as a thumbnail. It is your first chance to grab their attention. Get this wrong and your book can fade into the background, passed over, never to be seen again.

Take the time to visit your genre on Amazon or any one of the other sites and look to see what the covers of the best sellers look like, how they stand out from the crowd. Clearly it is not a good idea to make an exact copy, but you can certainly get an idea about what colours, font and format are working best. Also remember the cover has to work both as a thumbnail and as a larger image on your book detail page. Just stop and think, will your hand drawn or painted cover really cut the mustard?

Number3Have you thought about your categories and tags? Choosing the correct categories and tags for your book is another essential element to success. Categories are the equivalent of the bookshelf you decide to put your book onto. Would you put your book onto the history shelf if it is a fictional romantic comedy for example? The answer is clearly ‘No’, and in this example it is glaringly obvious. But sometimes it is not so obvious, although even much more subtle differentiation can have a disastrous effect if you disappoint your readers. So choose wisely and relevantly.

Tags are another name for the search terms people enter into the search box when looking for a book to read, they are equally as important, if not more so, as categories. There are 2 aspects to this topic, first of all the chosen tags need to be relevant to your book and its genre and the second is that ideally they should be terms people are using to search for a book.

book tagsOne way of finding out what people are searching for is to use the predictive text function of the search boxes in Amazon i.e. when you start to type into the search box, Amazon start to make suggestions. Those suggestions are based on what other people have previously typed into the search boxes, in other words they are tags people are regularly searching for.  If you can find tags that are highly relevant to your book then it follows they might be good tags to associate with your book. A Kindle book lets you enter up to seven tags in your book details. Choose the right tags and you will exponentially increase your chances of being found by your  buying audience.

Number 4Does your description grab the attention of potential buyers? When you write a description for your book it is like writing an advert. Assuming your cover image has generated enough interest to bring a potential buyer to your detail page now is your chance to wow! them with what your book can do for them. There will be people that don’t want or even like your book, don’t worry about them, focus on the people that are likely to want it. Tell them what it is about, let them know it is for them and include a ‘call to action’ e.g. ask them to look inside,  pose a question that suggests they need to find out more or simply ask them to go ahead and buy it.

reference book marketingAdditionally, if you are writing reference books it is a good idea to add why you are qualified to write on your topic of choice. Demonstrate your authority and expertise so that potential  buyers are clear that you know what you are talking about.

Don’t be shy about adding a good review into your description as well, if you have had a good review that you think hits the spot, make sure people can see it.

Number 5Are your selling price expectations realistic? I know if you have written a good book that you will have put many hours of toil and effort into the process, but unfortunately that really isn’t the point!

What is the point is where your book sits in the market place and whether it offers good value for money in the eyes of a potential buyer.

They may like everything you have done in terms of the cover, the description and the first few chapters you have written. But if they believe it is over priced they are highly likely to leave your book on the virtual shelf and go to look for an equally impressive offering at a better price.

Your audience really is that fickle, they will always be looking for a bargain, especially when it comes to a digital offering! That doesn’t mean you have to give your book away either, you just need to be sensible. Examine your genre/category look for other books of a similar size, in terms of the number of pages, and authors with a similar status to yourself i.e. don’t compare yourself to an established best selling author with a range of books, unless you are one. Then price your book as competitively as you can against similar books.

To give you an insight into what eBooks tend to sell for take a look at this quote from Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords,  about eBook prices……. his numbers are based on actual sales:

  • $3.00 to $3.99 seems to be the price that brings the highest reward on average i.e. books sell well at that price and in sufficient quantities to return a better yield than books at any other price
  • $1.00 to $1.99 seems to be the price that provides the least reward on average

So if you are struggling to make a reasonable comparison and you are still at a loss, perhaps you can use these figures as a guide.

Number 6Have you made your book available in multiple formats? Different people read books in lots of different formats, printed books are still very popular but digital format is the now ‘not so new’ kid on the block that has taken the publishing world by storm, whether that is independent publishing or traditional publishing. Clearly the more formats you can offer your book in, the wider the audience you can reach out to. This is all a part of having a bigger footprint in the marketplace. For authors it concerns perhaps offering the book as a printed book, an audio book and of course a digital book. The latter comes with even more options, ePub being the main contender outside of the world of Amazon and KF8 being the new standard for Amazon’s ebooks for Kindle and Kindle Fire that has taken over from AZW; a proprietary version of the mobi format that was used exclusively by Amazon before KF8.

The bottom line then…. to make more sales – give your customers what they want.

More on this later when we discuss how many books you publish and why having more books published can bring you more sales, beside the most obvious reasons.

Number 7Have you got any reviews for your book? Potential customers need a little bit of a prompt and what better prompt is there than an honest review from a satisfied reader!

Notice I said ‘satisfied reader’ not customer. The reason for this is that you may have to accept the fact that, to get reviews, you have to give your book away to some people, especially if you are a brand new author. This is a perfectly legitimate thing to do and reviews do get included in search algorithms on major book distributor sites. So having reviews along with sales is extremely important when it comes to being returned in their search results.

book-reviewsAmazon have taken this a stage further and they actually give more weight to reviews provided by verified purchasers. I think the reason for that is fairly obvious, a satisfied (or unsatisfied) customer is more likely to give an honest appraisal of something they had to pay for.

Clearly good reviews are what everyone wants, but you should not be too disheartened by the odd bad review, you cannot please everyone and there are occasions when what someone says in a bad review may prompt someone else to make a purchase. For example if one person complains that a book was too short and lighthearted, another person may buy the book because they are looking for an easy read with which to kill a few hours.

You don’t have to rely on friends and relatives for reviews either, there are review sites on line where people looking for a free book will offer a review in return. There are also book bloggers that will offer a similar service, although the best ones are usually overwhelmed with offers so it can sometimes be difficult to get a review using this method.

Another way many authors gain reviews is by simply having a free promotion period i.e. you set a time when you give your book away and you publicize it as much as possible to get as many books out there as you can (Note: you can only do this on Amazon if you are enrolled in KDP Select).

You can never brow beat people into providing a review, but if you can get enough copies read there is usually a percentage that will come back and review the book for the benefit of others. Especially if you ask them to at the end of your book when it is still fresh in their minds.

Number 8How many books have you published? When you speak to an avid book reader and you ask them what is the first thing they do when they have just finished reading a book they really enjoyed? The answer is invariably that they look for another book by the same author. It is the nature of the beast, they want more of the same. If you haven’t  got another book for them to read then you will just have lost a sale.

One way to mitigate that problem is to try and keep a list of your readers from your social media activities or even better a list of subscribers to your own blog. Then when you do get around to writing another book you can at least email them and let them know there is another book available. Some authors will actually wait until they have more than one book to publish before they press the publishing button, this can be a particularly good strategy if you are planning to write a series of related books.

Other than that you just have to get them out fast and furious. One writer I know who has done that very successfully is David Leadbeater, actually to the extent that he now writes and publishes books full time for his living.

Another aspect to having more books published is that you have a more significant footprint on the distributor site, similar to the multi-format discussion mentioned earlier. With a bigger presence on the distributor site you have more chance of potential customers finding you and providing them with what they are looking for.

This is even more true of those readers who like to seek out more of the same from authors they like. With a single book offering, they may simply pass you by.

Also when you publish a second novel, it may be the one that pushes all the right buttons and takes off. I think it is fair to say that if that happens then there will be a natural draw towards previous books that may not have initially been so successful. Publishing a second or third book could then be considered a great marketing tool and for many authors may mean the difference between success and failure.

So there you have it, eight of the main reasons books don’t sell and we haven’t even talked about book promotion in any detail.  Many authors hate the marketing aspects of publishing books, so in a related article I describe exactly why authors that want to sell their books cannot afford to be shrinking violets

Images courtesy of photoXpress.com

Tell Your Story With An Infographic

January 18, 2014 in Articles, Book Marketing, Book promotions, Writing & Publishing

Book Writing Infographic

 

The world is changing and people are being overwhelmed by information.Communication is instant, huge numbers of people use smart-phones or mobile devices and life is fast moving and hectic. So it becomes pretty clear that pages full of text and little else are probably not ever going to be read, unless they come in the form of a book of course.

But you, as an author or publisher, still need to gain the attention of a public audience.

Enter the infographic, a new way to communicate. 

Infographics convey their message through a mixture of symbols, icons, graphical images and text. They give the creator a chance to be creative and the more creative you are the more attractive your infographic will be.

I used http://magic.piktochart.com/ to create the infographic above, I signed in with my Google+ account, but it could have been Facebook or I could have created a username and password. The point being that I was registered in literally seconds and was then able to view a few very short tutorial videos. Within 5 to 10 minutes I was then designing my very first infographic on Piktochart.

How to Write A BookI will be the first to admit that the resulting infographic is not the most creative you will ever encounter, but I can genuinely say that from a standing start, of never having used the program before, 2 hours later I was able to publish the infographic that describes How to Write a Book or NovelWriting a book.

Why is that important? Basically because it provides another medium with which I can describe what the book is about and share it through social media sites that are very much geared towards presenting graphical information in the form of an image.

Google loves text, the search engine relies on it to decipher what a page is all about, but social media sites like graphics and they make it very easy to share a graphic. So if the infographic is good and conveys its message in a clear concise way, there is no real reason why it couldn’t suddenly go viral around the Internet bringing lots of traffic to the associated link in the process.

Social Media Sites for Graphics

Remembering that you can upload and post to many, many sites. The principal ones being Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Scoop and many more. The latter ones becoming very popular because they are pretty much ‘graphic’ based. One of my personal favourites is Pinterest and I have already seen some image based pages being re-pinned more than a 1000 times and of course every pin carries the link you provided.

There are of course many sites that provide a resource that allows you to design an instagraphic, many free and many paid. The benefit of paying for the service generally means you don’t have to carry the resource link for the site, which for many will be worth the money. But for me I am not particularly concerned so I went with the free version.

More Infographic Resource Sites

I haven’t used any of the ones above so can’t vouch for how easy or hard they are to use, but I definitely found Piktochart easy to use and I would imagine that any of these others would be equally easy.

So Good Luck With Your Infographics and please rate this post if you like what you read

Publishing Books That Sell

October 4, 2013 in Articles, Book Marketing, eBook publishing, Writing & Publishing

Why Amazon are offering advice on getting a book Published? 

Amazon Breakthrough NovelsClearly Amazon are more than happy to publish your book as an independent author, but they are also interested in high quality writing that will be taken up by the public and sell in the millions. Selling books after all is one of Amazon’s primary objectives.

Recently I watched a video on Createspace that described the critical factors for ensuring that a novel would be accepted into and potentially win the ‘Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award’. While I was watching the video it became very clear that this was not only great advice for submitting a book to a publisher, but also for anyone wanting to write and publish a book as an independent author or publisher.

What Publishers Want

Publishers will look for different things dependent on the type of imprint they are reading. For example if the book is a fictional ‘literary imprint’, they will be looking at the quality of the writing, the way the paragraphs are structured and the style of the writer.

On the other hand if the book is a ‘mystery imprint’ they will be more concerned with the strength of the plot, whether it stands up to scrutiny and if it reaches a satisfactory conclusion.

Understanding this means that you can focus more on the most important aspects of the type of imprint you are presenting and make sure that you deliver on those aspects. That does make sense actually, because someone reading a mystery will be very disappointed if they guess the outcome too early or feel that there is not a satisfactory conclusion to the story, but may be more forgiving of the odd misspelling or typo provided the book delivers on its main promise i.e. it’s a cracking good mystery. That said getting all aspects right will do no harm :-)

Writing Fiction Novels with Strength

What does writing with strength mean, basically it means ensuring that your book has considered the 4 main publishing criteria and delivered them to a high standard:

  • Plot Development
  • Character Development
  • Originality
  • Writing style

In addition to considering these 4 main criteria  your writing also needs to be of a high quality with properly constructed paragraphs, correct spelling, good sentence structure and accurate punctuation.

You also need to understand the market you are writing for and where your book fits into that market. This understanding should be illustrated in your synopsis i.e. tell the publisher who the book will appeal to,  why you are qualified to write on the subject and why the book will appeal.

Many successful writers authors have learned their craft through studying the books of the best authors in their genre. Never assume that there is noting to learn from others, especially the best sellers. Look for the strengths to emulate them and look for the weaknesses to avoid them.

The Pitch

The pitch can be several things, it can literally be a pitch you have written for a publisher in the form of a synopsis or it can be a pitch to your intended reader in the form of a description on the product page of your book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Apple etc. This is what your pitch should do:

  • Describe what your book is about and why you are qualified to write on the subject
  • It should be framed and written in a language that the intended market emphasises with and understands
  • It should convey what the book offers, its strengths, why people will want to read it and what it will deliver
  • It should not promote itself as the next best thing in an established franchise i.e. don’t compare the book to Harry Potter or Shades of Grey. It should be standalone, new, original, with its own identity and appeal

Again it is always worth looking at the best in genre and what they have written as a description for their books to see what does and doesn’t work.

The Importance of Starting Strong

You only have to consider that a paying public, when considering if they are going to buy a book, will nearly always take the time to have a little sample read of a potential book before buying. Amazon offers a ‘look inside’ feature and many of the other big distributors have an equivalent feature.  It makes sense then that your first 10 pages (or 5000 words for a publisher) should be where your best writing should sit.

Once you have caught the attention of a potential buyer, to the extent that they actually start to read a sample portion of your book, the last thing you then want to do is lose them. Now is the time to hit them between the eyes, so how do you do that exactly:

  • Provide a strong compelling opening that will make your reader want more. Use a quirky dialogue that intrigues, start with a strong plot or write in a rich engaging way that immerses the reader in your writing so they don’t want to put the book down
  • End chapters with a suggestion that there is even more and better writing to come
  • A little snippet from me:
    •  Get straight to the point, leave your accolades and thank you’s etc. until the end of the book. A reader is less likely to be interested in those than the real story or content and if the people you are thanking are worthy they will understand why and those that are interested will still find them

These are some of the books that have been recommended by Amazon for their strong starts and have been highly rated in the ‘Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award’ as a result.

Why You Need a Biography

What many authors forget is that they are not only trying to sell a book they are also trying to sell themselves. The public will be more inclined to buy a book if they can trust the provider of that book, understand a little about them and what qualifies them to write for a specific genre or market.

A biography is the best way to communicate to a potential audience exactly what you are about, why you are passionate about what you write and how you know what you know.

Writing about the places, things and events you are knowledgeable about and are genuinely interested in will ensure your passion for the subject translates into your words and will be communicated to your reader. Writing for a market or in a niche you have no real interest in will lead to a transparency that allows your audience to see that is exactly the case. And guess what, they won’t buy your books.

Writing and publishing is a tough world, there will be countless rejections and a lack of sales, so patience and determination are the traits that any writer needs in order to succeed. There is help and support out there, you can join writer communities and engage on forums to find answers, share solutions and get general support. So if you are a writer why would you not use these valuable resources?

Always remember that there is something to learn and the right people to learn from are the best in the business. Also if you write well and don’t give up, you will eventually succeed. Especially with so many new resources now available. But at the end of the day if you write a good book and no-one finds it other than you, remember that you still did it and that in itself is a worthy accomplishment.

Related Articles

photo credit: cindiann via photopin cc

Are You Making the Most of Goodreads?

August 12, 2013 in Articles, Book Marketing, Book promotions, Writing & Publishing

Goodreads Social Media for BooksGoodreads has just  become one of the most important social media sites for writers and author on the Internet. Why? Because now it is owned by Amazon, the biggest distributor of books on the planet.

So why did Amazon buy Goodreads and why do they intend to let the site run itself independently? Those are deep questions and not that easily answered unless you happened to be a part of the purchasing decision, which unfortunately I was not. But I can hazard a guess!

Even Google is having to sit up and take notice of the power of social media, they have admitted recently that what people say on Facebook and Twitter now forms a part of their assessment of the overall quality and value of a website in terms of authority and ranking. The reason why is because social media is all about humans engaging with one another and sharing their opinions on pretty much any subject you can think of. In other words social media offers something no algorithm can ever do, a human perspective.

So now take a step back and consider this, one of the biggest social media sites for readers, sharing the books they have read and what they think of them. This is word of mouth communication and if enough people recommend a book other people will go and buy it. It is no more complicated than that.

Clearly Google deals in all and every type of information, but Amazon on the other hand is a selling site that deals primarily in books as one of their staple offerings. Simply put more people on Goodreads and other similar sites recommend what books we should all be reading than on any of the other social media sites. That has to be a very attractive carrot dangling in front of the Amazon marketing machine and as with other search engines they will have realised there is only so much their algorithms can do without a human perspective and what better human perspective is there to examine than one that comes from what is probably the top book review site on the Internet.

Shelfari Versus Goodreads

I did wonder why Amazon needed Goodreads when they already own Shelfari outright? But the answer may come from the level of freedom the members have, they are allowed to comment however they want on Goodreads, well as long as they stay within the law. But it seems on Shelfari that some of the moderators have been: let’s say a little over enthusiastic with their censorship. People have stated that they have not been allowed to express their true views. That’s not really the point of a social media site, especially one that exists to review and recommend books. But who knows, perhaps Amazon have realised that Shelfari has got itself a bad wrap and decided it is better to make a fresh start with Goodreads. Or they may simply consider Goodreads to be another string to their bow, after all they already own Shelfari and through their AbeBooks division also own 40% of LibraryThing. That’s a lot of ownership of book review sites and lets not also forget that anyone who visits Amazon’s own site can leave a product review (books included) whether they have purchased that product or not. Non-verified purchases don’t carry the same weight in the Amazon search queries as verified purchases, but they do count to an extent and give Amazon that human perspective right there on the product page.

Whether they start to meddle with Goodreads only time will tell, but if they have learned from Shelfari, they would probably be wise to leave Goodreads alone and just use the data they can get from it rather than trying to control peoples reviews.

Making the Most of Goodreads

So what does Goodreads offer authors? Well if you are an author you can, once you are familiar with the site, get yourself an author account instead of a standard account. This immediately provides you with several benefits:

  • You can add your books to the Goodreads book listings with your own description, cover image, links to distributor sites etc.
  • You can create an RSS feed from your blog straight into Goodreads
  • You can post videos
  • You can create promotional events
  • You can request reviews for your books from followers and friends
  • You can join groups and add your books to those groups

You can also use widgets like the one below to engage with other people. Remembering that social media sites are more about giving than taking. Help other people out and eventually they will help you out. For me personally I think that should mean that you do an honest review of any books you have read and not try to game the system in any particular books favour. It is a tough call, because one man’s meat is another man’s poison. So you could love a book and the next person that reads it on your recommendation may hate it, but there is nothing you can do about that. So just play the honesty card and eventually the people that agree with you will follow your recommendations and those that don’t will not.

Brian’s bookshelf: read

Jewels of French History Books - The Lauragais Story
4 of 5 stars
This book for me is really interesting because it is helping me to discover the region of France I live in. Clearly you hear what has gone on and you pick up snippets of past history, but to read a well researched book written about the …
tagged:
french-history-books and french-history
Eagle in the Sky
5 of 5 stars
One of my favourite books of all time. Wilbur Smith always manages an unexpected twist in his stories and this book was no exception. Loved it. Still think it is worth a review even though I read it a long time ago, in fact it might be d…
The Zanzibar Affair: A High Society Love Story Out of Africa
5 of 5 stars
This was a very well written book with many twists and turns, murder mystery and intrigue add to the plot, which is essentially a love affair that continued across more than one decade. Readers will be treated to a few surprises along th…




goodreads.com

 

Need a Really Effective Book Description? – Read On

May 24, 2013 in Articles, Book Marketing

Good Book Descriptions Sell BooksOne of the useful aspects of being registered as a KDP publisher is that every now and then you get sent the KDP newsletter and are invited to read some very useful articles. This week was no exception and one of the topics covered was the extremely important ‘how to write an effective book description’.

Why it is so important, actually critical, to write a good book description is because the description should be more accurately named ‘my best chance to sell my book’. It is your primary advert and the main opportunity you will get to hook a potential reader and customer. It can mean the difference between your book languishing inconspicuously among the crowded shelves or really standing out as a book that a buyer might want to read, put on their wish list or even better in their shopping basket.

It is for this reason that many authors might struggle to write a good description. They often don’t regard it as an advert, but as an extension to their writing prowess. The two need to be divorced, what is written in the book is one thing and what is written to sell the book is another.

As most marketers will know, a good advert is one that grabs the attention in a simple concise move that leaves the observer wanting  more. And of course, with books, the way to find out more is to open the cover and read the book; step 1 on the route to a sale.

What are the elements that contribute to a good book description?

  • Keep it simple, don’t try and tell the whole story just keep to the main plot and don’t be tempted to get into the ‘if and then’ scenarios. Concentrate on the key focus of the book and try to make sure the description makes an impact.
  • Less is more, bearing in mind that the objective is to carry your potential client swiftly to the ‘cover opening point’ (or ‘Look Inside’ on Amazon). Give them too much to read and too much of the story and you may lose them before they decide to open the cover. Keeping the description short and punchy is more likely to leave them wanting more.
  • Tell the your viewer about the story as though you were sitting in a bar having a chat to a friend and they want to know how much you enjoyed the story. Remembering that you are describing it in the third person and you are doing it right now.
  • Provide a smattering of power words that are compelling and highlight the depth of emotions felt, the danger present or the potential rewards.
  • Read the descriptions of the best sellers in your genre and see what you can adopt and modify for your own book, especially those parts that act as the hook. If you see a few words that make you think ‘wow’ I want to find out more about this, they are the hooks, the decision maker words that will take the reader to that next step.

To visit the full article on how to write an effective book description go to the CreatSpace page.

What about the search engines?

Something that many authors, or publishers for that matter, will fail to consider are the search engines. Amazon for example is a powerful player on the Internet and as a consequence pages they publish often get returned by search engines for relevant inquiries. This is especially true of reference books that discuss serious topics. But it can also be true of non-reference books and novels.

Book Descriptions & Keywords Clearly Fifty Shades of Grey is a bit of an obvious example to use. But you can see that just typing ‘shade of grey’ gave a second place for Amazon in the search results even before I had selected an option to go with.

But believe it or not, the same can be true of other less well known examples.  And what you should also note is that the highlighted Shades of Grey in the snippet below the title will either have come from the book title or the book description. In this example it was the title, but it could just have easily been the description.

Google (or any other search engine used) decide exactly what goes in the snippet from the relevant text available and will clearly try and match the search with the result they list. This is to show that the result returned is truly related to the search being made.

To get to the point then, if you include some words in your description that are searched on and are relevant to your book topic or genre then combine that with the power of sites like Amazon. There is a chance that it could be your book that is sitting at number 2 or 3 in the search results.  You can find out a little more about keywords and how they work via this link.

This doesn’t just work for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony and even sites like Smashwords carry a lot of clout with search engines, so if you are publishing a book and writing a description, this is perhaps one more aspect you might want to consider. Again don’t go over the top, identify one or two highly relevant keywords for your book that are frequently searched for and include them in your description. That won’t do any harm at all, as long as you don’t compromise the natural flow of the words and ensure the description still reads well. It is a human audience you need to satisfy, once they view the page, after all.

Get Adobe Flash player