Books not selling? A Troubleshooter Guide

Sometimes it can feel like you have done everything you possibly can to try and market and sell your book which can be difficult, especially for those who are self-published or indie because most of us have to face marketing alone.

There probably is always something else to try when it comes to marketing books but the problem might be before that. This post is a troubleshooter that will hopefully lay out why a book might not be selling by focusing on the basics. It is taken from experience which for me is nearly 6 years of being indie published with 7 books that have all sold well. Let us dive in…

The Basic Anatomy

To me there are no real rules when it comes to books but over the years I have concluded that they need to be a certain standard or at least have basic anatomy to have a chance of selling. That anatomy can be seen as two separate entities. Firstly the visual basics:

An enticing book title that matches the genre;

Professionally designed cover that also matches the genre;

An enticing proof read blurb.

Most probably my favourite book cover…

And secondly, the internal basics:

Professional or some level of editing that is reasonably practicable;

Professional or some level of formatting that is reasonably practicable.

These five basic things are important to get right or as right as possible depending on budget but I would say if you want to publish a book well then you need to invest in the right services. These five basics will eventually hook at least one reader in to the point where they might be interested in buying. If you think your book has these things, then the reason it might not be selling could be a little more subjective, so let us look at some more subjective factors that factor in to selling books.

Partially Subjective Factors (visual)

A fair price;

Book Rating/Amount of reviews.

Pricing and reviews can be an enigma sometimes. Price too low and readers might not think the book has value, price too high and readers think you are just in this for a cash grab. To me, the price and the rating kind of go hand in hand with review quantity being the key here. If your book has over 100 reviews, the chances are it has sold well and proven it can sell well so you have scope to maybe price a little higher. This stuff has no real concrete answer as it is based upon the individual book and author but my suggestion would be to experiment regularly with pricing.

In terms of average rating, for books, again it can be quite subjective. My book The Teleporter dances between 3.8 and 4.0 stars on Amazon regularly and has only gone up in sales as the quantity of reviews has grown. The Teleporter is my most successful book by a large margin.

I would say as long as the basics are mostly there, these partially subjective factors won’t effect your sales too much unless they are at the extreme (really high or low priced) and I call them partially subjective because over time you can work to improve these things. Reviews coming in should make the sales situation better while you also figure out the perfect price, so what else is there to troubleshoot?

Social Media

This deserves a whole section because a majority of the time, the reason a book isn’t selling is mainly due to visibility or lack of, so you have to ask yourself the question: what are you doing to sell your book on social media? Or sometimes what are you doing not to sell your book on social media?

Conduct

Being on social media and being published places you in the glass house that is the public domain. So now it is time to think about what we say and do at all times. Everything you say online; good or bad, positive or negative will most likely be seen by your following and may effect your sales – for those on Twitter, the majority of followers will see an argumentative response – this stuff tends to be overlooked and of course freedom of speech is something I fully support but my advice would be to keep things light on social media.

What can you do to sell books on social media?

The good thing about social media is that it is busy. Things move quickly and so its important to remind your following and the wider platform users that your book exists. You could just drop a link everyday but that will probably be buried by the social media platforms as they would prefer to keep you and users right there so its time use a little variety.

These seven things are a week’s worth if you spread them out because variety is key on social media- keep it light, conversational and occasionally about your work. Click on my tweet to see seven more ideas. As you can see, all of these things don’t mention dropping a link, if you can, put your book link in your bio or somewhere easy to find – algorithms on most platforms tend to suppress links sometimes.

My biggest tip about selling books on social media is to focus on convincing people to invest in you first. If they enjoy your content such as good conversation or even a little positivity that will go a long way towards selling. Consider social media platforms your stage and your books are available out in the gift shop.

It takes some effort and time to build a social media presence so what else can you do to sell books?

Check out my coaching sessions for more inputs on selling via Twitter

Quick-fire short term and long term Miscellaneous troubleshooting

(Lot’s of Things to consider)

Have you thought about advertising?

If so is it paid?

If so, is it with a reputable advertiser?

Have you thought about a temporary price reduction?

Is it just for a limited time? (this works well)

If so, have you informed your social media following?

Are you consistently present on social media? (this helps)

Are you supportive of others in the industry? (this helps build trust and trust helps sell)

Do you have multiple books available? (this helps)

Do you have stand alone and series books available? (this really helps)

Have you really considered whether your book really has the basic anatomy?

The final troubleshooting question is in red because if you have tried all of the above without a single sale then it is probably something before such as the basic anatomy or even social media conduct. Understandably Rome was not built in a day but eventually if you follow the advice in this post you will sell at least one book, I am 99% confident of that. Now this is all subjective which is my favourite word when it comes to publishing anything and means nothing is guaranteed.

The majority of my guides are received mainly by beginner or debut authors and so I will say this whole deal gets better over time. One slow release doesn’t seal your fate in publishing and especially after just one release. If you really want your book to be read you need to get yourself out there and more importantly create new content. This journey got way better for me after 5 or so releases and even then the results were slow. Regular blogging and social media posting drives my sales and this isn’t my day job but I treat it like one. Today I sell books roughly every other day and that is driven by the fact I have kept going.

Concluding Points

To conclude in as simple terms as possible, your book will most likely sell if:

It has the basic anatomy visually (pro cover, enticing title and blurb);

It has the basic anatomy internally (editing and formatting);

You have a decent conduct and regular presence on social media;

You try as many ways as possible to market yourself and that book.

Keep going, keep writing and don’t give up. Someday someone will read your work and it could change their life!

Thank you for reading, there were plenty of opportunities above to include links to my various free-to-read guides but I would prefer to leave them below so it does not interrupt the flow of this guide, so here they are:

A Guide to Selling Books on Social Media

The Twitter Campfire Analogy

Book Reviews: Some Quick Tips

A concise list of Book Promotion Websites

And finally, you’ll find the Basic Anatomy of a Book mentioned in detail via my author/blogger guide book Consistent Creative Content which is a concise, one-stop-shop for everything I have learned in publishing:

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