This post is part three of the series, “Three Reasons Why Your Books Don’t Sell.”
You put your heart and soul into every book you write. The last thing you want is someone telling you that your book isn’t very good. It’s heartbreaking. But the truth is, there are many poorly written books out there and they are harder to sell than a space heater in July. So get ready for some truth telling.
I get many emails from authors asking me why their books are not selling. I love helping people navigate the book marketing jungle. But I always ask to see a copy of the book rather than their marketing strategies first.
The reason I ask to see a book before we talk marketing is because I am not a writing coach. If the book isn’t written well or professionally presented (cover, description, and formatting), my marketing expertise is of little value. A book that is poor quality may sell a few copies out of the chute but sales will die off to a trickle if it’s not. This is usually the place where people start to blame their marketing for something that bad production has done. Even if your book is not the best you can make it, don’t worry yet. There are steps you can take to make sure your book is professionally written before you release it.
But here is the rub. These are not options. They are the requirements of a successful book. Few people are natural writers; most of us are not. The writer who just cranks it out and uploads a bestseller to Amazon with no help is an anomaly. Most of us have to work at it. So before you start marketing that book, make sure you have checked of these ten boxes:
- Research your target market before you start to write and make sure your book is marketable. Gone are the days where you can just write what you want with no thought to how the book is going to fit into a genre or category that fits reader expectations. This includes making sure of your category and keywords before you write a page. Resource: Read Chris Fox’s Write To Market.
- Be an avid reader of your genre. Know what’s out there in your genre. Are you a consumer of your own product? Do you know who the best selling authors are in your genre? Have you read them? Smart business people know the competition and customer expectations.
- Join reader groups in your genre—This is not to post about your book, but to do research and connect. Reader groups are a wonderful source of research to tell you what readers are looking for. Don’t be the loudmouth at the cocktail party. Introduce yourself gently and comment as a reader, not an author. Leave reviews on books in your genre that you like.
- Network with other authors in your genre. Join constructive (not whiney) forums and Facebook groups for authors. Go to writer conferences. Does your genre have a professional association? Consider joining. Develop a circle of authors in your genre you can rely on for advice, partner with for promotions, and get help finding resources.
- Make sure your writing skills are at a professional level. Take writing classes recommended by author friends. Buy books written by reputable writing experts. Find popular blogs that dole out good writing advice. Good writers are lifelong learners.
- Use beta readers to test your book. Beta readers are people who will give you feedback about the quality of your book before it is published. It’s their job to tell you where your plot fell off or where the story lost them. You cannot have thin skin when it comes to other people critiquing your book. Beta readers are not reviewers. You may find them on your advance reader team or through author friends. They are not your family members or friends that love to read books.
- Use editors. If you are a fiction writer, you may want to consider a developmental editor who helps you with structural issues in your book. Resource: What is a Developmental Editor and What Can You Expect? by Katherine Pickett on Jane Friedman’s blog. Line editors and copy editors can also help with grammar, punctuation, fact checking, and other technical aspects of your book. Resource: Copy, Line, and Developmental Editing Explained by Victoria Mixon.
- Have your book professionally formatted or learn to use formatting software. Every physical aspect of your book whether it’s the cover, the book description, or the formatting is the first thing readers see. Take every advantage you can to engage them
- Build an effective author platform. Long before your book is published, put together a website, a Facebook author page, and start an email list. You can build slow as you have time but you need to be working at it.
- Make sure you have an adequate budget before you start. Covers, editors, and formatting all cost money. If you skimp and cut corners because you can’t afford it then you may be disappointed with the results. Marketing can be done on the cheap but producing a book has to be done right. If you’re serious about making writing a career, start off on the right foot.
If your books are not selling well, it may be that one of the posts in this three-part series can help you pinpoint the problem. Publishing is a highly competitive business but you can succeed if you do the work.
Other posts in this series: