Many 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!
Have 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.
Why 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 …..
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?
Have 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.One 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.
Does 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.
Additionally, 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.
Are 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.
Have 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.
Have 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.
Amazon 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.
How 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
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