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.Amazon Keywords or 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

Where Indie Authors Can Publish Their Books

December 12, 2013 in Articles, eBook publishing

Independent PublishingEvery Indie author will either know or strongly suspect that the best place to publish their books is on Amazon. There is a lot of information on this site on how to go about doing that and plenty of other online resources have discussed and advised how to publish books via Amazon.

Using KDP for ebooks or Createspace for paperbacks are two very good options and should be a strong consideration for any indie author.

But are there other options?

The quick answer is of course ‘YES’…. there are bound to be other options besides Amazon for publishing books. But then you need to know what they are and why.

With ebook readers growing ever more popular, what many independent authors do is to publish their books on Amazon and or Createspace first and then to use a third party distributor like Smashwords to get their ebooks published with other online distributors.

There is a good reason for this and quite simply put…. it is down to administration. Smashwords, for example, has positioned itself in the ebook distribution market place as a provider of services to independent authors. What they have done is to provide comprehensive help and advice that will help most reasonably computer-competent authors format their books ready for publication and, if required, provide an ISBN for the book. Then they convert the books to multiple formats that can be used on virtually all the ereaders currently available in the market place. Also, if the book achieves premium status, they will distribute it to multiple online distributors.

Achieving premium status depends on the formatting of the book prior to submission.  In other words – all relevant formatting requirements detailed in their style guide must be met.

They collect all royalty payments from the various distributors and once they have taken their cut, which is quite modest actually, they reimburse the authors with their net royalties.

At the time of writing, Smashwords can arrange for the distribution of an ebook (that has achieved premium status) to the following list of online distributors:

  • Sony
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Page Foundry
  • Baker & Taylor Blio
  • Library Direct
  • Baker-Taylor Axis360
  • Flipkart
  • Oyster

There is an opt out function for any distributors you prefer not to distribute through, either because you have already distributed through them independently or perhaps you just prefer not to distribute through a particular channel. This list continues to grow as Smashwords make agreements with new distributors.

You can of course go to most of these sites independently to try and set up accounts so that you can publish your book with them. But there will be stringent requirements that have to be met in order to get your book accepted, particularly with respect to formatting and you will then of course have to deal with the administration yourself on a distributor by distributor basis.

For authors outside of the USA you may well find that the distributors are also forced to withhold up to 30% of your royalty payments for the tax department (IRS). The only way around this is to apply for an international tax identification number (ITIN) and send a letter to each distributor advising them that you are exempt from withholding tax (provided you are of course). If, on the other hand, you are only dealing with Amazon and Smashwords you should really only need to advise them. I should mention here that I am not a tax adviser, so please ensure you verify what you need to do with someone qualified to do so based on your own personal circumstances.

This thread on Goodreads may help for anyone trying to get an ITIN http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/756351-dealing-with-amazon-com-and-the-irs—authors

What Are the Disadvantages of Using Smashwords?

There are definitely some disadvantages to using Smashwords, here is a quick summary:

  • They take a cut of your royalties
  • Even with their comprehensive style guide, some people still struggle to get their books formatted to a standard that will get them into the premium status category. The consequence being your book will only then be distributed by Smashwords and will not go out to the other distributors listed
  • Smashwords only sell a small percentage of books directly, mostly I suspect because it is more complicated to download a file and transfer it onto an ereader (even with detailed instructions being available)
  • There are file size limitations (10MB) and graphics, where used, need to be relatively simple and straightforward in nature
  • They only publish eBooks
  • You cannot upload books with DRM (digital rights management ) protection

A Quick Summary of the Advantages of Using Smashwords

Just a quick list of what the advantages are for an independent author publishing through Smashwords:

  • The potential to get your books listed with multiple distributors and with only one account to administer
  • Your books can be converted to multiple formats to suit most ereaders using an automated process
  • You can get free ISBN’s for your book
  • Publishers and agents can also use Smashwords for their clients
  • Growing in popularity with established social media presence that can be used for book marketing
  • A range of different tools and options available for promotion campaigns
  • Free link to printed books
  • Video facility for book trailers
  • A range of author profile tools including, interviews, social media links and blog feed.
  • Books are free of DRM constraints (likely to be appreciated by potential customers)

Who else provides Similar Facilities to Smashwords?

Of course you may not like the look of Smashwords or decide their formatting style guide is just too complicated, so here are a few other successful distributors that independent authors can use:

And just in case you haven’t explored the Amazon route for publishing eBooks, then take a look here http://kdp.amazon.com/  The most popular publishing platform for independent authors and where you are most likely to make reasonable sales. You can ask Smashwords to list you with them if you want to, but to be honest this is one option you are probably better taking care of yourself.

If you need help with any aspect of getting your book published and promoted then you are free to leave a comment or get in touch via the contact-us page.

photo credit: Enokson via photopin cc

Why the eBook Route?

March 21, 2012 in

Why The Ebook Route Is Attractive For New Writers

Getting published has seldom been cheaper. Or easier. And I’m not only talking about ebooks. Printed books can be produced to order, quickly, one at a time, but here set-up costs can be heavy and there are drawbacks for the unwary, with unscrupulous operators masquerading as real publishers after your business – the sort who instead of paying you, empty your pocket, and take no investment risk whatsoever.

However, with ebooks, aspiring writers with their wits about them can now bypass the submission marathon and become published authors in a matter of weeks . . . if they feel that impatient. Which I must admit most of us do!

Writing and Publishing Your eBook

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Offers Many Advantages

It’s the arrival of the ebook mass market that I’m really interested in, especially the one set up by Amazon with its Kindle ebook readers and Kindle Store. Publishers failed to appreciate what Amazon was doing to the market for their printed books, and indeed some are still protesting as their old-fashioned ways of operating are exposed for the rackets they were: ones that benefited neither reader or writer, or indeed the publishing houses themselves in many instances.

Why take the eBook route?The Kindle Store offers new writers a free platform to display their books; it’s one where they can list them, describe their merits, offer a profile of the author, and adjust the price of the ebook from one day to the next. Amazon do take a commission on each sale, but at rates that compare well with the abysmally low net royalties offered by traditional publishers. There are also ways to promote your books which may just get their heads above the precipice and into the bestseller category: Listmania, wish-lists and using your buyer profile to like them and promote the search tags. These are tools that can be used on Amazon to give a promotional push that should not be underestimated.

But if something sounds almost too good to be true, as this does, then what are the dangers, the horrors that might plague you as a newly published writer once your book is available for readers worldwide?

When you put your name on an ebook, then its shortcomings will be down to you. Nobody else. And to prepare for and ward off these disadvantages it’s necessary to split the marketing aspect into three facets:

  •  .  what does the ‘packaging’ proclaim, inform readers about treats to come
  •  .  how are the ‘contents’ displayed
  • .  how instructive, well-written or entertaining is the book itself

Taking these in reverse order, if your writing is semi-literate, poorly punctuated, and rambles as you attempt and fail to take your reader on a literary journey, then your reputation is punctured both as a writer (probably for good) and as a person (what will your friends think of you when they read it?). The same care should be taken with the writing of an ebook as you would devote to its printed cousin. Your draft should be planned, edited, proofread, and targeted from inception at an identified readership, and then it should respect it. Provide what readers are looking for and they will respect you and look out for your work in the future.

If you have a brilliant manuscript, the next thing to ensure is that it is laid out so that the software employed by ebook online retailers will display it well on ebook readers. If you pay insufficient attention at this stage – Amazon offers page upon page of advice but it’s not always easy to follow – then your work may look dreadful when viewed on ebook readers. And if that’s true, your book will neither sell or do you justice. My advice: unless you are comfortable with the jargon employed by computer and print people, invest a small sum in acquiring expert help – at least for your first book.

And finally we come to the marketing and ‘packaging’. Here we are talking about what visitors first see when they visit the Kindle Store or other online ebook retailer. Your ebook will commence with two things: a unique listing page, and a place where it sits with all other similar books in your chosen category.

To deal with your unique listing first, you will be asked to describe your book, categorise it, give it a title, price it, and provide an image of ‘the cover’, a reminder that while no ebook will ever exist outside the screen you view it on, publishers still think of it as a tangible thing that can be picked up! Every one of these things, if incorrectly done, will ruin your chances of success.

For the listings, your competitors will all be visible alongside a summary of your book, and because you are new to the listings, you shouldn’t expect to be number one immediately. You won’t be. You’ll more likely be number forty or fifty. But if everything you’ve done works as it should, your sales should rise over the following weeks as readers find your work.

One last point. I would strongly advise new writers to seek a little support when tackling this brilliant market for the first time. Editorial advice should ensure the minor literary flaws are eradicated soon enough (if they don’t then perhaps you shouldn’t be publishing just yet), technical support will guarantee a well laid out book, and an informative listing will ensure your book has a reasonable chance of being a success.

Seize the opportunity, I say . . . but take as much care as you can to produce truly professional work you can be proud of.

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