Selling a book isn't easy

Selling a book isn’t easy

Writing a book takes a long time, and for those authors new to self-publishing, the next step can be daunting – trying to attract readers willing to pay good money to buy your book. But first, they have to find your book.

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by newly self-published authors is, ‘why isn’t my book selling?’ While there are a thousand reasons why a book doesn’t sell well, there is one fact that many newly self-published authors often fail to realise. The book market and the ebook market, in particular, is well and truly over-populated.  These numbers tell the story.

300,000 books were published in the U.S. 2003.

411,422 books were published in the U.S. in 2007.

1,052,803 books were published in the U.S. 2009.

Approximately 3,000,000 books were published in the U.S. in 2011.

Over 15,000,000 ISBN numbers in 2012.

With these statistics, it’s easy to see where one new book sits. Lost in a huge crowd.

The fact of the matter is that it is getting harder and harder to sell books and for a writer new to self-publishing, there is going to be a lot of hard work ahead; just to get noticed. So what can you do to get some attention?

Firstly, write a damn good book.

This may sound simplistic, but have you had independent feedback about the quality of your book? Just because your mother likes it, this doesn’t count for anything in attracting attention or climbing bestseller lists.  Yes, we all love our own books, but you really need to know if other people will love it enough to buy it.

Does your title attract attention?

This is the most important few words of your book, and yet I see so many poorly titled books. Give your title a lot of thought.

Does your cover attract attention?

Especially when viewed as a thumbnail image. This is important as this is usually the first image of your book that a potential reader sees, so you really want them to click on it. Does it look amateurish? Look at your book cover as a thumbnail size image. Is it attention grabbing or a fuzzy little box? If you’re not happy, a small investment in a professionally designed cover is certainly not a waste of money.

Does anyone know your name?

I’m a firm believer in promoting your name as an author rather than promoting the title of your book or books. Getting known is vital, so use social media to build your name recognition. Yes, it’s slow going and hard work. But nothing is going to come easy in a crowd of fifteen million new books.

Use social media intelligently.

Don’t fill your social media streams with posts about the kids, the dog or details about your headache or hangover. Build a professional image of yourself and use separate accounts for your friends and relations chatting. You want to sell books not inform people about cupcakes. Build quality Twitter and Facebook Page followings as an author and concentrate on improving your reputation.

Be patient and don’t give up after 3 months.

It takes a long time to build your profile and to write enough books to be noticed. If you are expecting instant success through self-publishing, I would really suggest trying something else. It’s just not going to happen.

Set realistic goals.

In your first year with one or two titles, don’t expect to sell many more than one or perhaps two hundred copies. The average royalties earned by self-published authors is less than $500 per year, so don’t even think about getting rich quick.

Market your book. Don’t sell it.

Let’s face it, you don’t like getting ‘Check out my book‘ or ‘Buy my book‘ messages, so why would anyone else react differently to you? Guide your followers to you, your books and your blog and or website. Don’t just repeatedly post your Kindle page. It drives people away from you, not towards you.

Don’t pay for what you can do yourself.

There are many ways to waste a lot of money when it comes to publishing and marketing books and ebooks. Yes, you will have to invest as in any business, but be very wary of sharks! Avoid vanity publishers in particular. They really offer nothing for an awful lot of money. But you will need to invest a little in

Write more, write better.

With each book you write, you improve. So if you truly want to be a writer who will be noticed, keep writing, improving and learning.

But don’t give up on your dream!

I Wrote A Book – But It Won’t Sell

37 thoughts on “I Wrote A Book – But It Won’t Sell

  • 29/12/2012 at 5:53 pm

    This may upset some of your other commenters, but my debut novel was aimed exactly at the growing supernatural romance market, specifically angels in romance.
    This was not because I was chasing money, but because I wished to use this particular aspect of the market to introduce my name to the market. I love writing, I fell in love with the book I produced, but once the supernatural romance wave has dashed iteself against the rocks of time, I plan to return to complete my high fantasy novels and use the credibility I built to try to sell them.
    You will know in five years time whether of not this plan was a success or a failure. :D

    • 29/12/2012 at 7:00 pm

      I don’t know if I’m one of the commenters you were talking about, but what you say doesn’t upset me at all! I don’t care what genre anybody writes – it’s the quality of the book that matters! If you can write a book directed at a specific market and make it a really, really good example of that genre, I say, great!

  • 29/12/2012 at 6:30 pm

    I like the short and concise approach you chose for your article.
    I find it very helpful to compare and share my own experiences with those of fellow authors and writers.

    An essential point I learned, which is well reflected in your opinion is that marketing is an integral part of writing a book and to be successful, you have to start it well before you get to the point of publishing the book.

    So you build momentum and your success comes that faster – when you have a good book.

    be wonderful! and happy new year :)

    • 29/12/2012 at 7:59 pm

      Quite right Tom. The authors that are marketing will have success over those who are selling. The difference between marketing and selling is for some, well worth the time in consulting a good dictionary. :)

  • 29/12/2012 at 6:37 pm

    Hello Derek,
    Big fan of yours on twitter. First time to your website.

    This is an important post for someone like me: been writing for a while; however, I’m new to this mad business of book marketing. It really does make my head spin sometimes.

    Great post and equally great comment/responses.

    Thanks for taking the time to mentor, Derek.

    ~ Kurt

    • 29/12/2012 at 7:54 pm

      When I stop learning Kurt, I’ll stop posting. lol Self publishing in totally fluid right now, so what is true today could well be false tomorrow. But then, that’s half the fun. Trying to stay one step ahead is near impossible, so we all just try and keep up!

  • 02/01/2013 at 6:48 am

    Thanks for the great tips and encouragement. It really is stunning to realize just how many books are published in a year! I self published a year ago. I’ve been doing most of the things you recommend and sales have been quite good in the bookstores. Amazon kindle is another story though. Vey few sales there. I’ve been getting excellent reviews so that helps keep me going. I like your advice to keep writing though, that is what I must do when I’m not lost on social media.

  • 06/01/2013 at 7:09 am

    Great post though I’d add one more tip: When All Else Fails – Write More.

    Craft improves with practice. Sales improves with greater numbers of product to sell. A struggling new author can often improve their sales by buckling down and committing to better their craft and tightening their turn around between novels. Also, with self published books being the favorites of some truly voracious readers, being able to keep new titles popping to their attention helps them remember you and how much they enjoyed your previous book. It also helps to combat the “I’m not getting anywhere” blues, to submerge yourself in the creative act that you loved so much you tried to build a life around it; which then rejuvenates you for another round of the less fun stuff (editing, self promotion, review hunting etc).

  • 30/01/2013 at 6:01 pm

    Such a breath of fresh air. Thank you for stating simply and succinctly what every new (and most not-so-new) author needs to hear AND act on.This is why I love you :)

  • 08/06/2013 at 6:58 pm

    I figure it will take a few years to really see some sales, so I persist.

  • 09/06/2013 at 10:10 pm

    I’ve been self-published for 3 years. I have 8 novels out and a bunch of short stories. A sage author friend told me that it takes between 8-10 novels and 4-9 years to truly make it as an Indie. He should know, he just got to retire from his day job and write for a living- he makes several thousand a month off his royalties. So, that being said, I keep my nose to the grind, market as appropriate, and do my best to create novels folks want to read. I’m happy that my recent release, “Silks and Sand” has been selling on Amazon. Last month, I sold 50 copies- far better than any of my books have been doing. Time and timing I think played a big part with the Triple Crown races, perhaps folks were doing more searches. Who knows, I’m just glad books are being bought. Maybe this will bring me more readers. Hang in there everyone, our time will come.

  • 10/06/2013 at 3:17 am

    This was a great post Derek. Thanks for all of the vital information. I realize that I have a lot of work to do. Writing a book is just the beginning. As they say, just because you build it does not mean they will come.

  • 12/08/2017 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks Derek for speaking truth. There is no magic – no secret. Just to keep on keeping on. My second novel is sitting with my editor – the third novel is underway. Every day I try to do three things to move the career along. Just three. Consistent and steadfast. Thanks for reminding us that overnight is not realistic for anyone. Including all those terrific webinars that offer immediate results.

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