Why is my book not selling?
Updated: Apr 7
It can be frustrating if, after putting your heart and soul into a publishing project, your efforts aren't reflected in the sales figures. Don't despair if your book is moving in lower quantities than expected. There are lots of reasons why this might be happening and plenty of solutions too... It's too expensive
When you're up against more-established authors, you're competing with them on the basis of price as well as reputation. If a book by an unknown writer costs 30% more than one by an award-winner or a household name, which one do you think the average person is more likely to buy? Unless your subject is highly specialised and/or the type of book you've written is extremely rare, people aren't going to be willing to part with a disproportionally large amount of money for it. If you've published a massive hardback and are selling it exclusively online, the shipping costs will push the price up considerably too. Try lowering your price and/or offering free shipping for a limited time and if that has a noticeable impact, consider reducing the price permanently.
You're not promoting it enough Writing (and publishing) a book is only half the battle. The marketing of your work, and you as an author, can be a full-time job. Get in touch with local and national media, organise launches online and in-person (it doesn't matter if these happen long after the book has already released). Establish and maintain social media channels and post regularly. Connect with other authors and bloggers. Send newsletters and regularly hold giveaways and special offers. If you don't have enough time to promote your book properly, engage the services of a professional who can help.
You're not on social media
This is the cheapest and most effective way to reach a wide audience. It doesn't matter if you hate social media, your competition will be using it to connect with readers and make sales that could have been cgenerated by your book. If you have a mental block with social media, speak to a specialist who can devise a strategy that requires minimum effort from you.
You are on social media but you're not using it optimally
If you're either sharing too much or not enough sales-focused material, your posts won't entice anyone to buy your book. A hard-sell approach is off-putting and may even lose you followers. It is important to share material that shows your personality and offers something meaningful and compelling. This can be anything from glimpses of your DIY, gardening or baking activities to nuggets of useful information. But if you never share anything about your book, how will people know it's available or that it might be perfect for them? I'm regularly approached by authors via Instagram and when I go to their pages, I often have to scroll for ages before I can find any mention of their books. If it's difficult for me to see your book and I know you've written it, how is someone who isn't already aware of your work going to discover it?
You're relying too much on social media Social media is a fantastic, free marketing tool but it's not the only important one. Platforms often change their algorithms overnight and posts and pages that previously received lots of engagement can suddenly receive none. If your digital presence is confined to social media you are leaving yourself vulnerable. It's wise to have a website and use your social channels to drive traffic to it. And it's even better to build an email list capable of withstanding the ravages of fickle social media algorithms.
You don't have a website or an email list
Having your own website is another inexpensive but effective marketing tool. You can use it to sell books or to direct potential customers to online stores that stock them. It's an excellent way to collect email addresses and build a contact list (more on this in the next point). Don't forget to include a blog that grabs attention, establishes you as an expert or simply entertains. A blog will also help you rank higher with search engines. Don't have time to write blog posts? Hire someone like me to write them for you!
You aren't sending newsletters
Direct mails are a wonderful way to spread the word about new titles, upcoming books, giveaways and special offers, and to ask your readers for reviews. You can use them to share new blog posts and advertise launches, readings or other author events. If you haven't time to put one together, an experienced copywriter can easily do it for you.
You can't get anyone to review it
It can be challenging for debut or self-published authors, but don't despair. If you can't get your book featured by the mainstream media, there are lots of fantastic alternatives. Approach bloggers yourself or hire someone to arrange a virtual book tour. If you've published a children's book, get in touch with teachers and librarians and offer them free books in exchange for a one-line review. If it's a psychology book, try to get local psychology professionals on board and ask for an endorsement. If it's a book about the environment, see if your local green politician can give you a blurb. If it's a cookbook, find out if your favourite restaurant will share a review on their social channels or feature it on their premises. Amazon and Goodreads reviews are vital but getting your friends and family to leave five-star appraisals isn't going to help. You need honest and genuine reviews from strangers. Having a one star, a three-star and a four-star review will be of far more benefit than three five-star reviews. Algorithms don't favour uniform praise and potential buyers will also be suspicious. One way to get reviews from strangers is to make your ebook free for a limited time period in exchange for sharing their opinion online.
You don't have a catchy blurb or tagline
It can be difficult for authors to write promotional copy for their work as they're often too emotionally connected to it. But it's essential that your blurb and tagline be as persuasive as possible. After all, it will be going on the back of your book and your information sheets, and it will be used in online sales listings too. Descriptions written by authors are frequently too long and complicated but if you're stuck, a good copywriter can make the world of difference.
You don't have an information sheet An information sheet with concise and easy-to-read information will make you and your book look more professional when approaching bookshops, libraries, the media and potential reviewers. This is something a professional can put together for you too.
Your title, blurb and promotional materials contain typos and grammatical errors
I see this all the time with self-published books. There's no way I will purchase - or even agree to review a book - if there are mistakes in the title or the description. It's practically impossible to spot errors in your own work. I can't stress enough how important it is to hire a professional proofreader or editor - don't rely on your family and friends.
You have a sample online but it doesn't show anything
It's absolutely bewildering when a book sample only shows the title and cover pages. What is the point of that? It doesn't tell a potential buyer anything except that perhaps they shouldn't purchase this book. When I used to rent accommodation, the rule of thumb was to NEVER view a place that didn't have photos online as they probably have something to hide. If your sample doesn't show any actual content, it suggests that perhaps you're not proud of your work. A sample has enormous potential to hook buyers. Include some pages or a chapter that ends on a cliffhanger. Show off your artwork if your book is illustrated. And always leave people wanting more!
It's not easy to get hold of If shipping costs are too high or if you can only purchase your book from Amazon, that's going to be a barrier to sales. Consider selling copies through national bookshops and local vendors too. Get a stall at a market or festival and attend fairs and events that share your target audience. If you've written a parenting guide, attend baby fairs. If your book is about artisan cheeses, try selling it at farmer's markets. If you're based in Ireland, buythebook.ie is a fantastic online platform for generating sales in an easy and efficient way. I'm currently offering a discount on all my services to buythebook.ie members. Enquire with me or Rachel of buythebook.ie for more information.
You're annoying booksellers Never underestimate the power booksellers have in terms of impacting sales. I've worked as a bookseller on and off for over twenty years. There are books I will NEVER recommend - no matter how good or popular they might be - if I've had a bad experience with that author. If you're calling into bookshops, have respect for the people that work there. Don't call in at really busy times asking for an update on sales. Don't try to insist that they take more copies than they're willing to accept, especially if the ones they already have aren't selling. And don't be rude!
You're not supporting your local bookshop Most independent bookshops are doing their best to just stay open and they have a lot of overheads so every book they stock should ideally be 'earning' its place. If a bookseller agrees to stock a self-published book, they're giving valuable shelf space to something that might not sell. It's actually quite generous and supportive of them to allow your book to take up a spot that a more established author or a more lucrative title could occupy. So, try and support them in return. Offer to sign copies, do an in-store reading or ask the bookshop to collaborate with you on a launch. If you're an illustrator or an artist, offer to paint a window showcasing your book. Drop in free bookmarks promoting your work which the bookshop can give to customers. List them as a stockist on your website and promote their shop on your social channels. And say thanks! If you build a good relationship, they're more likely to not only stock your books but recommend them to customers. The cover is unappealing People judge books by their covers; they always have and always will. Your cover is your biggest marketing tool. You need a design that looks professional and appeals to your target audience. If your book isn't selling, the problem could be as simple as an unattractive or unsuitable cover. If it's too late to change the cover of your hard copies, you can still redesign the ebook and/or create a new digital cover. Then you could use the new design on your website, social media and sales listings and all your promotional materials for the physical copies, as well as on subsequent print runs. Announcing a 'cover reveal' for the new design might also be a way to generate publicity.
I hope this takes the mystery out of disappointing sales and enables you to turn them around. If I can help with any of the above, get in touch. Find a list of services and rates here and contact me here: firstname.lastname@example.org