Monday, 22 September 2014

Why is my book not selling? This may be hard to swallow for some.

Why is my book not selling? Look at this if you want to sell more books. If you are easily put off, you may find this hard to read. There's some hard and true facts to consider.

Your book isn’t selling. So what is the next step? Check out these guidelines. There are no hard and fast rules and this is of course just my opinion but let's check it out and see if you find anything familiar. Most of the time people include a link to their book on Amazon and nine times out of ten people will click on and click off without buying. Why?

As noted we do not stick to rules, we go by guidelines in a fast paced constantly moving and updating mad interweb publishing world. It is crazy! There will always be some who get away with not doing any of the following, manage to slip through the net stealthily, but these are points to consider if you feel you do not know why your book is not selling. So first off; is your book available as an ebook?

The majority of self-publishing providers of indie authors will not have print distribution in physical bookstores, and you can hazard a guess that all the success stories in the last few years about indie authors and huge sales have come from ebook sales, not print.

Print books are what we are after on the whole, we all want the physical contact with the book we have written. What is better? What to have first? I say have both.

If you are after selling a lot of books on line, then you are going to want to have an ebook out first. You don't get your book out in a day, even if it is ebook, and you are not wanting it to go straight to the slush pile on the ebook floor. So we have to develop it. It has to be well written, well edited, and well checked over by someone other than a member of your family.

There has been a tremendous influx of books lately, and a rise in book buying in the last few months. A huge influx has been due to self-publishing in the last year. Even though traditional printing is also on the up, we have to give it to the world of the ebook.
A lot of people complain about this so-called white wash of ebook garbage, that anyone and their mother can throw together in a few hours, and it's as if these armchair critics who I imagine think they have made it because they got the publishing deal, and thought they could sit back on said chair and watch the money roll in. Well boy are these people in for a shock, the hard work has just begun.
Like I was saying, it is as if these armchair critics get the impression that we throw anything out there after a few days of cobbling it together. Could this be after the huge success of E.L James? You can just see minions of hungry housewives far too eager to put their own version of 50 Shades of Grey out there for everyone to read, after only having picked up a pen for the first time since their high school exam.
After all if E.L James can repeat that many words on every page why couldn't they? They  believed they could do it, they could see a dream of becoming another E.L James, their book would be better, sassier! They bought the outfits (several) to prove it.
The main focus here is the word believe. Believe you can make good sales even if you’re starting now. You need to believe. This is an incentive you must possess.
The ebook market is growing globally as new countries come on line and even within markets like the US and UK, ebooks are becoming more widely accepted.
 Its not hard to learn how to publish an ebook once you have spend some time with help and tutorial pages. Go to youtube to see what they have to offer on how to publish an ebook. They do simple step by step tutorials and some you may find so informative and well laid out they are picked up a lot easier.

People shop with their eyes so make sure your cover has been professionally designed if you are meaning business here. If you are not bothered about being overly professional, then stick to using your own sketches, and at least you will be left with the satisfaction of seeing your own work on the front cover, even if it is for sentimental reasons. It probably will not get you many book sales though. But you do what is important to you.
We all notice the sharp cover of a classy looking book, or the soft touch of a well sketched illustration with the right contrasting colours. You know the ones, they catch your eye as soon as you scroll down a page. They stand out, You want your book to be the one that stands out, so if it is book sales you want, or even a comment, get it done from a professional. Back to the drawing board. You need to be ruthless if you are out to sell books.
 If people make it to your book sales page and your cover is terrible, they will not click the Buy button. So look to this before anything. If your book is not selling come back to this point first.
Remember even if you are attached to your book, and of course it is your baby, do not be afraid to update it, give it a new look with a new cover, you can only see positivity from it. A new book launch, a new push out there for it. Present it again as if it is the first time you are putting it out, relive that passion you had and use it again. See the results come in. Perfect.

Don’t use a painting your child did or that you did yourself. Don’t try it yourself unless you are a half decent with a paintbrush. Don’t imagine if you have never done art before you can all of a sudden make a decent cover that looks presentable, let alone professional. Even if you are, don't expect the first few to reach your book pages, keep trying the same cover over and over and then get someone to choose one for you.
Then research your genre on Amazon and take notice of books that stand out in a good way. You can screen shot the best ones to compare even the best ones! Take some pictures of fonts you like, save these in one place you can refer to later.
Do check out the ebook cover design awards at TheBookDesigner.com to see some great covers and some truly awful ones. Then hire a professional cover designer, give them that information and work with them to create a professional cover.

If you don’t have a budget for this, go to elance and offer someone to make a cover. Google about a little until you find a site offering front covers within your budget and also and more importantly a cover that you would pick up to read yourself. Even try the site fiverr if you are really struggling and you do not possess a creative hand. Check their feedback first and their portfolio. Do not rush into making a decision without going back to it after a few days. Money can be thrown away like this, when making rash quick decisons. Do a thorough check over their feedback, ask questions, ask to see examples. Even if you are only paying a 'fiver'.

There are also sites that do good covers for budget packages. Learn to use google and to compare. Always save links, as you will not remember just from memory what you did a few hours ago, let alone what that great site was last week. (when you have so many you look through, just check your history to see how many you actually click on in a day).
Then you may have to work extra hard until you have that extra money. I believe this is not even negotiable if you want to stand out in the packed market place, pushing and shoving along with the rest of them. Stand out by learning to stand on shoulders to see what is out there in the front first.

Then we all know how important editing is. Especially new writers starting out.
You should edit your books until you can’t stand the sight of them any longer. Then put them to one side for at least several days. Edit again, and again, repeat. Get rid of a quarter of your words, boil it right down until you only have that quarter amount gone, yes gone! Most of your words are not needed. Edit and delete, edit and delete. Then consider hiring a professional editor to help you take it further, because you cannot see your own words after a point because you will not see your own words after a while as you know it so well. After a few weeks get it back out again and read it out loud. I promise you will even see things then you will want to change. Then edit them straightaway.

You do require more eyes, preferably professional eyes who will critique you honestly and tell you where the problems are, especially if the book is truly awful – and sometimes it is (and that’s ok because you can write another one). The more you write, the better you become, the better you become the more likely someone is going to pick up your book, The book with the knock-em dead blurb, and eye-catching stand out from the rest front cover just to make sure they do not leave the page or put it back down.
Back to writing and editing- ok, you will write, some days a lot, some days not, and some days you will not want to, and may consider giving up if it gets that bad, and it does, believe me. (All good, great, and terrible writers feel the same; you are in good company, all writing in the same boat if you open your mind to see).
And even if sometimes you want to give up, just put the note pad down (not totally out of sight like I have done, where you forget it even exists until you clean the wardrobe out for the seasonal clean) and turn your mind and attention to something else. There is nothing as good as a distraction for wanting to go back to writing and seeing it with new eyes again. You will pick it up soon and write again, because it is what you do, what you are meant to do. If it is in you, your passion will come through because you have to, you want to, you like to. Writing is you. There is nothing quite as therapeutic as writing it all down. Writing down all the silly things to refer back to when you need to remember what it was.

I have Stephen Kings ‘On Writing’ in my bookcase, he says to rest the manuscript for a while, get some distance from it, then read it again. You may be utterly sick and fed up with what you find, but this is called editing. Better you find this out now before it gets out into the book world for critics to review and no one buys it, unless they are your friends. If you have a book out now, ask yourself are the majority of the buyers you know? or have got to know through social media? Are they buying and reviewing for you? The hard fact is after so many months of slogging away, if the general public are not the main ones buying then back to the drawing board and go find some articles to read on editing, how to write stories, how to make characters. Then there is the fact that even amazing stories, edited professionally still don't make the first line out in the public. They go unnoticed or left behind. Even with an amazing front cover. Seek advice and if you just don't have that buzz, that thing that makes people want to read and never put down, then you are just going to write another story, and another. Maybe one of them will be decent, maybe one of them will be the one. If you write about your children, and it is only interesting to you and your partner, no-one else wants to read about it (unless it it mega funny, or has an amazing plot and twist). You are writing for your own personal reason, and don't expect it to hit the general public readers and be in any top lists. (Unless your slogging it out there for free a lot for free a lot of the time).


These are hard sad truths, but if you want to make a good book, you must be able to throw old stuff to one side, start again, start again, but always keep writing.

If you can’t afford a pro editor, then you can try using a critique group of readers within your genre, or join a group like the Alliance of Independent Authors to network with other like-minded authors in order to network and potentially barter your skills. Bartering shouldn’t be underestimated in today's economy.

But definitely do not publish your book if only you and your best friend, or your Mum, or daughter who majors in 'double wammy' Science, English and Math like it or god forbid edit it, or even write a chapter for you. They may be good but they are not professional. They will say it is a good story because they love you and do not wish to hurt your feelings most of the time. They have rose-tinted glasses on, just like yours! Make sure you do not allow a family member to read or edit unless you can be sure they are blunt and honest and know what they are talking about. Then make sure they are not the only one or the last one to do so.

Then you need to check if  you have submitted the book to the right categories on the ebook stores. You may think that everyone knows their category after all they should have been working on it for months, if not years, will, but no they don't always.You might not want to put it in a box or a genre or a category, but you have to because that’s how readers find it. The category and genre reader has expectations and if you don’t fit they will be disappointed. That’s not to say you need to follow any specific rules in your writing, there is always two sides to everything ... but when you load it up to the distributors you do have to choose which categories and tags to use and they need to be correct and meaningful.

You need some distance from your book in order to do this, but consider where your book fits within the on line bookstores. This means deciding on the categories, tags and keywords associated with your book.

To draw readers into your book remember readers are short on time, so grab them with the initial blurb and first page!
So when someone starts reading your article, you have just a few seconds to draw her in and convince her to keep going. The same applies to a query letter you have only a sentence or two to grab the editor and make him want to finish reading your pitch.



Remember, your articles and queries are competing with Internet surfing, administrative tasks, meetings, not to mention hundreds of other pitches and articles. Even the ironing. (Actually let's not talk about huge ironing piles). To help you draw the busy, distracted reader into your writing, think on this.
Say you start with a quote like this:

"On this particular morning she did not appear at the bottom of his bed as usual. I knew I never should have trusted her".

or

"Mr Scott didn't like silly girls. Especially silly girls with long black hair and black diamond shaped eyes. There was no way he was going to allow them to leave that place the night before Halloween. 
Marsha, the one with the black hair and the diamond shaped eyes on the other hand was going to leave if it was the last thing she did. Unluckily for her it was".

A quote that surprises readers, entices them, or leaves just a little to the imagination is a great way to keep their eyeballs on the page. Just be sure not to overuse this tactic: It’s so easy to use that many writers are tempted to rely on it for all their articles, and editors do notice if you’re a one-note.

How to get this magical quote or magical blurb or initial first paragragh i na submittance letter. The more you practice the better you’ll get at eliciting great quotes from your sources. Do the same with a quiery letter as you do with your editing. Keep writing it out until your left with the key words you will be sending. Do thye make sense, is it sharp, not too long and straight to the point.
Too many writers start off their queries and articles by drawing long descriptive paragraphs out, giving too much background, and generally boring the reader. One trick professional writers use is to simply lop off the first paragraph or two of their piece so that it starts right in the middle of the action.
For example, say you’re writing about your experience you have had, instead of going through a diary description from beginning to end, that will not enthrall your readers, start at the shocking part, or the exciting part! This will draw readers in.
If you were shocked by a statistic, chances are your readers will be, too. So use startling statistics to suck your readers in. Make your openign page eye popping or funny that draws the reader in and they either relate or want to know more!

Personal experiences are always go to write about, if a reader can relate to the situation you’re writing about that will make them want to keep reading.
Readers are drawn in by precise specific language and strong phrasing that gets your point across and not vague generalities.
It’s also important to match reader expectations and the promise of what your book delivers with what your book is actually about.

There is no point having a book with a pinky cool chic cover and it is in the animal section, or the horror because it they pass a spooky house. It won’t sell as well, however good it is.

There are some scam sites out there that will tell you to aim for the categories that will rank the best in order to have a Bestseller on Amazon. That’s just silly because your book won’t match the expectations of the readers and even if you get a bump in sales, it will bounce back and completely dry up very soon. If you have not already noticed this, and the only way to bump it up is to hard sell it for free! How many times does this happen.

You can choose a category that fits your book, not the book that fits the category. Learn all about this while you are having the down time from reading and editing your book.
If you’re struggling with this, choose several authors your book is like, not what you want it to be like, but what it is really like.That will help you find the right category.




Look for a great book on algorithms, to help you understand what is the right category, for example- David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Visible. Have you optimized your Amazon sales page with quotes from reviews, key punchy words to grab at you?

Buy Me buttons on some Amazon pages come with typos, grammar errors and awful boring descriptions. Some of them make no sense at all. Some are just the back blurb with no review quotes or other things that might draw a customer in.

Basically you need to treat the product description like a sales page. So you need to know how to sell just as much as how to write. And you thought beign a writer was easy?  People will not buy your book if your description is badly written or hard to understand because it’s an indication of the quality of your book.
If you want to see a fantastic example, check out CJ Lyons Bloodstained which continues to rock the Kindle charts. That product description is serious stuff.

You can format your sales description with coloured headlines and other funky HTML by using Author Marketing Club’s Premium service (which also includes a fast-track way to find appropriate reviewers). Have you priced your book realistically, or at least tried different price points?

It is important to say on pricing that no one has a clue how to price ebooks and authors are having success at many different price points. Check out articles on the best price points and you will see peopel have different opinions, and each say one will work and one will not, and then someone else just as educated/experienced will say the opposite. So it is what works for you may not work for the next person. You have to try it to see for yourself.
However, one author ask why his debut novel wasn’t selling, and when his page was checked, his sales page, the ebook was priced $12.99. It was his first novel and he had nothing else for sale.

However good your book, however marvellous the cover, your first novel is unlikely to sell at that price. Most ebooks are under $9.99, and a lot of fiction is under $6.99, with many indie books being under $4.

The 99c price point still has some power even after the algorithm changes but you might go somewhere in between, changing your price with promotions as well. I have my books at $2.99 right now so I make $2 per ebook. You get to set your own prices but there’s no way you’ll sell much at those very high prices

Have you done some kind of promotion or marketing to let people know it is there? Again, there are no rules and in fact, everyone has different results from different marketing tactics. Some hit a mega-success with none at all, but I do think that you need to hand-sell your first 1000 readers because they won’t just appear out of nowhere.

Remember: Marketing is sharing what you love with people who want to hear about it. You don’t have to be hard hitting sales with the scammy or pushy or the selfish ones who live in their own world, and would buy there own book 50 times just incase someone pops over for a cuppa. The unfortunate caller will go away with the book, unpaid for. Not call back again for 6 years.
 You are fooling yourself if you do this just so you can say it has reached the top million etc, and give an impressive look. Just be authentic and share your passion. If you are always out on twitter saying buy this, look at this review, but my book, buy my book, after a few days never mind a few weeks your retweets and favs will dry up, even from your most admirable fans.

If you need some starter tips, you should definitely be building your email list from your own website and also from a signup at the back of your book.

If you do that with book one, you will have at least some people to market to with book 2. It’s a start, and it grows over time. This is my only non-negotiable recommendation for authors, because you never know what will happen with all these sites we depend upon for sales. If they disappear, or the terms we publish under change, then your email list of fans and buyers is all you have.

I also believe that social media can sell books, but it is a slow build over time and you have to have other goals than just book sales, e.g. networking with peers and other authors. It’s not instant sales so you can’t rely on it. The whole author platform thing is massively useful in so many ways but it is only one aspect of book sales. Then you have to be incredible talented for knowing which key words to hit on and that others will pick up on. Always using media management is not the best way, as it gets repetitive, boring, samey, well you can understand why. Target those who are good with words, who are good at getting 140 characters into a tweet! see how they do it, follow them and retweet. How are they attracting people and drawing them in? Do they reply to every post, or does this make people unfollow because you are getting boring and just doing the same stuff again. Writing and marketing go hand in hand. There is so much to learn. You need one with the other. So unless you are amazingly talented, and know how to target audience, know how to draw them in, have what it takes with key words when used in a sentence in the correct way. To have people pouncing on your words, waiting for your tweets, as well as being able to write and edit and proofread. Unless you have what it takes and more, you may have to pay someone to do all of this marketing work and that can get a little costly.

If you have some budget you can pay for promotion, and track results.
Free books can sometimes be a great option, say you have multiple books, if one of them is free, it means people can discover your work with no risk. You can do this by making your book free on Smashwords and eventually Amazon will price match it.
Also reviews are critical because they give your sales page social proof and they feed into the book site algorithms.

You may consider giving away a lot of free books to people who might like the genre and ask that they leave a review if they like it. No hard sell, no pressure, no expectation. This is easy if you have built up a list from the last book, or if you have built a platform and in fact is one good reason to do this. Traditional publishing has been doing this forever so it is not a new or a scammy tactic.

Remember that not everyone will like your book and not everyone will leave a review, or a good review, but it is a start. Also don't respond and do ignore any bad reviews. This is smart and does not draw attention to it. Get onto the next topic on your 'to do' list. You must try to have a thickish skin to be a writer, if you are sensitive, and who isn't? write it all down ;)

You can also contact book bloggers or Amazon reviewers to get more reviews. This is hard work if you do it manually, but you can use the Author Marketing Club’s Premium service to short cut the process by finding reviewers for books like yours

Some sites have over 500 free articles on writing, publishing and marketing and there’s so many hours of audio for you to learn from for free. So before you moan about nothing works, make sure you have checked as much out as possible to pick up tips and learn them. Believe that you can be a great writer and you may even make an income from writing. Although it is not a get rich quick scheme.
Some fine authors are working their butts off to get their work out there. The recent success of Sean Platt & David Wright when they landed a deal with Amazon is because they work incredibly hard at writing all day, every day to produce new content for their market.
These guys are pros and they know it takes hard work to get there and hard work to stay there.

So please, if your book is not selling any copies at all, go through a few notes mentioned and see what you can do to inprove your writing and marketing.

Written by Karen Emma Hall
Read a little every day, lead a better life.