February 24, 2015 by Nathaniel Tower
So you just had a new book published. Congratulations, by the way. Huge accomplishment. How did you celebrate?
A week later, you look at the sales numbers. Disappointed? You were hoping to be on the next NYT Best Sellers list, but instead you only sold 20 copies, 8 of which were purchased by your mom. The royalty check won’t even pay for your celebratory dinner.
You instantly go into a rage. It’s complete horseshit! Amazon is shaving the numbers! You had over 200 likes on the Facebook post announcing the release. At least 50 of your friends said they were buying the book. What the hell happened?
Before you start burning down the Amazon warehouses and writing scathing posts criticizing all your friends for being liars, maybe you should stop and think about why your book isn’t selling.
It’s a problem we all face as writers. No matter how much effort you put into your writing, it never quite gets the attention or respect you hoped it would. That doesn’t mean what you’ve written isn’t good (although maybe it isn’t). But, as some salesperson somewhere once said, “You don’t need to have a good product to become rich selling it.” Likewise, a good product doesn’t guarantee you’ll be rich.
Here are 5 reasons why your book might not be selling:
1. You’re Only Marketing It to Your Friends and Family
Guess what? Half your friends don’t buy books. The other half are writers who are getting bombarded with dozens of new book suggestions every day. Do you really think this is your target audience? If you’re lucky, a handful of your friends (we’re talking maybe 5% of them) will actually buy your book.
Note: Likes and comments do not translate into sales. “Congrats on the book!” does not mean “Hey, I am going to buy a hundred copies and give them to everyone I know for birthdays, weddings, and Christmas.” If you want people to buy your book, you have to find an audience that isn’t your aunt or your friend from third grade. Don’t expect all your writer buddies to buy it either. Do you buy every book you see posted on Facebook?
2. You Don’t Have Any Endorsements
How can you expect people to buy your book when no one (aside from you) is telling them how great it is? If you want to sell, you need some endorsements. In the world of books, endorsements come primarily in the form of blurbs and reviews. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are great. Reviews in publications are even better. The more people are talking about your book, the better off you are. Hell, even a bad review can help drive sales.
Another form of endorsement is having a publisher behind your book. We’re living in a world where self-publishing still turns off some readers. There are readers out there who won’t even look at a self-published book. If you don’t have a publisher, you need more endorsements from reviewers and other readers. Of course, without a publisher, these can be harder to get.
3. Your Book Is Not Available In a Reader’s Preferred Format
Are you only selling your book through the Amazon Kindle store? While this is great because it lets you take advantage of KDP Select (countdown deals, Kindle Unlimited, etc.), it severely limits your audience. Most people in the world don’t have a Kindle. Most people without a Kindle don’t know they can read a Kindle book without a Kindle. And many people who know they can read a Kindle book without a Kindle don’t really care to do so. If you want to maximize your audience, you need to make your book available in as many formats as you can. That includes, print, Kindle, other e-book formats, and even audio. The more options available, the more likely you are to meet the needs of your audience.
4. You’re Selling Your Book for the Wrong Price
If you’re like most writers, you want a lot of people to read your book. You also probably want to make money from your book. If you price the book too high, people won’t buy it. That’s pretty obvious. But the same could be true if you price it too low. You might not sell more copies at 99 cents than you would at $4.99. Why not? Well, some people might just assume it sucks. After all, why would anyone sell their hard work for less than a buck? Find the price point that works for your audience. Look at top sellers in your genre to determine what people might be willing to pay for your book. Price your book competitively. If it’s self-published, you can’t charge as much as a Big 5 book. Of course, if you have a publisher, they might not let you choose the price. If this is the case, you’ll have to come up with other strategies. Fortunately, most publishers know how to price a book to make it sell.
5. Your Book Was Released at the Wrong Time
Timing is everything. Even the timing of your book release. If your book comes out on the same day as a bunch of highly-anticipated releases, you can’t expect to sell a ton of copies right away. Look at movie and music releases. How often are two highly-anticipated movies or albums released on the same day? When it does happen, they aren’t in competing genres. Know the release dates of other books and try to plan yours around it. Again, a publisher might not give you complete control over this, but you may be able to provide some input. If you are self-publishing, you can choose any date you want. If you pick the wrong date, your book might not get noticed at all.
Once your book is released, you may think there’s nothing you can do about bad timing. However, you can still deliver well-timed promotions in order to boost your sales. If you are always trying to market your book at the wrong time, your efforts will fall on deaf ears. Experiment with your promotion. Find the time of day and day of week that promotes the most engagement. This means trying different things. If you want to sell your book, you have to be a marketer, not just a writer.
So, are you ready to sell a million copies of your book? Maybe not, but if you make some adjustments to your marketing strategies, you may be able to increase your sales a bit. Market to a wide audience, get some good reviews, offer your book in a variety of formats, pick the right price, and time your promotions well. Sounds easy, right? Great, now go sell.