Monday, January 27, 2014

Why Don’t More People Buy Your Book?

Many factors go into the success of a book. To neglect just one of those factors is to miss giving your book the best chance it can have to sell well. Below I’ve listed just some of those factors.

The Cover. The cover is one of the most important selling points for a book and yet it’s often underrated. It’s the first impression the book offers. It has to express what your book is about, if not specifically, then in a subtle way. For example, it should show what genre the book belongs to, it should have recognizable elements, including a readable title, and it should look professional.

The Title. If a reader buys your book with a false expectation born from the title of your book, they’ll end up returning it and won’t buy any more of your titles. The title doesn’t necessarily have to be short, but it does have to give the right impression for the book. For example, a book titled Dead Man Walking will give you an impression that it’s fiction and might belong to crime, paranormal or horror. You’d be pretty certain it wouldn’t belong to romance. If your book is non-fiction, then it needs to be a lot more specific to hook any potential readers.

The Editing. Don’t underestimate the importance of professional editing. A book with many typos and grammar mistakes will pull a reader from the story. Not only that, but the author will lose credibility. The reader will be less likely to buy any more of your books.

The Hook. Because of the vast array of choice readers now have, it’s important to hook them early. If your beginning pages drag on, few people will be willing to read further. It’s an unfortunate fact of publishing. So give them a hook—a promise of great things to come--make it early, and deliver that promise in the continuing pages.

The Target. Sometimes a story has a way of writing itself. The author will get caught up and carried away. It’s a wonderful phenomenon when it happens, but there is a danger that the target audience is forgotten, or misinterpreted. For example, if you’ve written a story you want to target to teens, then you shouldn’t make the protagonist a forty-year-old woman. If you are writing the story for the wrong audience, then your book won’t sell.

The Marketing. Oodles of information is around to learn more about marketing--just check out the tabs here at our IWSG website--but to break it down to its simplest form: Know your market. If you aren’t marketing toward your audience, then you’re missing an opportunity. Also, you can’t always expect your readers to come to you. You’ll need to find out where they are and spend time in those places.

The Spam. While this point belongs in marketing, it’s so crucial it stands on its own. If you are spamming everyone and their dog about your book, then you will guarantee yourself a lost readership. Avoid the spam at all costs.

The Reality. Every writer who wants to sell a book needs a realistic idea of how many books they should be selling. Not everyone can be a J K Rowling. Also, for self-publishers in particular, it takes time to pick up momentum when you’ve released your first book. Don’t expect to sell thousands in the first month. On top of that, if you’ve only written one book, then sales won’t be as great as having a collection of books available. If readers like your first book, then they will be more likely to read your second, and so forth.

What are some tips and tricks you’ve found works best for selling your book/s? What are some other factors that may influence higher or lower sales?

Lynda R. Young found success as a digital artist and an animator for many years, and now as a writer of speculative short stories. Her work is published in a number of anthologies and online. She is currently writing novels for young adults. In her spare time she also dabbles in photography and all things creative. You can find her here: Blog, Twitter, Facebook


  1. I think these are all great points to mull over if you aren't seeing the success you expected. And before hand- for people who haven't taken the leap quite yet. Thanks!

  2. The cover is still a deciding factor for me. If it doesn't rock, I don't look farther.
    Be prepared to target more than one audience. You might be surprised to find a wider range of readers than expected.

  3. Thanks for these tips, Lynda. Having a body of work helps tremendously. My challenge is being in those places where readers are. I'm a wallflower, so naturally I lurk and won't say anything about my book. :)

    There are many ways and means though, so I'm always exploring.

  4. With the mass options available when it comes to picking the next book, the cover hands down always grabs me. I'll scan the shelves til I see something I like, and then decide based on the blurb if I'll invest the time :)

  5. Really good points, thank you. As a reader, I tend to stalk new to me authors whose work interests me to see if they have a previous work I can read, just to see if I like their style of writing beyond what the synopsis says. That's where, like JL Campbell says, having a body of work helps, because I'm then able to trust the author that they'll deliver what the cover and synopsis says a little bit more.

  6. Great points, Lynda. There's so much to consider. And it is really important to target your audience and branch out as to who you market to.

  7. These are excellent tips, some day I have a book out :). For now, must write it!

  8. One book rarely does it. Keep writing more.

  9. there are so many books with ugly covers... and then again, there are so many books with horrid covers which sell well :)

  10. I needed to read this now as those worries are more real now that I have a book coming out. I think I am realistic about the amt I might sell being it's my first book but the marketing part scares me.

  11. Great post, Lynda! When I self-published my flash fiction collection, working with the cover artist was a great experience, and I was so pleased with the result. I don't think I ever truly realized or appreciated how important covers really are.

  12. Fantastic points! Oh, and the spam... Glad you mentioned that one. I'll share this for you!

  13. Great points, Lynda! My book releases tomorrow and this is lurking in the back of my mind. Bookmarking and sharing!

  14. The editing is a big one for me, especially since I review books on my own blog. There is nothing worse than being distracted by poor editing. It takes so much away from the overall perception of the book.

  15. Covers sure do help sell way better than crap ones.

  16. Excellent tips Lynda!
    And I'm a sucker for gorgeous cover art... so yes, the cover is important, after all, it's the first impression...

  17. Those are all great points! I think it's important to remember that marketing takes time.

  18. I admit I've chosen books mostly or solely on their covers...sad but true. I love a well-done cover. But if the writing matches it, I'm hooked on that author for good. :)

  19. You point out so many great factors. Since I fall in the self-pub category, I'm learning to do more writing so people have something to read instead of just the one or two here an there.

  20. Very comprehensive list! Geesh, I don't even want to admit how I fall short in so many of these categories.

  21. I've heard some people suggest you should spam but I've never been comfortable doing it.

  22. Nothing worse than spam.

    Excellent post, Lynda!! Thanks so much for your words of wisdom.

  23. We can always write what we want to write, or what wills us to write it. But if we want to publish so that the word gets out to the intended audience, assuming it's other than ourselves, family and friends, these are some great considerations to keep in the mix. Thanks!

  24. Thanks so much for all the tips, Lynda. It's hard to be patient, but it helps to know that other debut authors have trouble picking up steam in the beginning too.

  25. The actual writing seems to be the easy bit.

  26. Query Girl, Thanks so much. Hope it helps.

    Nas, thanks

    Alex, The cover is a major factor for me. And great point about the book having more than one audience.

    Joy, I can so relate. Lurking is my middle name ;)

    sjp, It's rare I'll even get as far as the blurb when deciding on a book in a shop. And if I'm buying online, then the sample read helps me make the final decision.

    Damaria, exactly right. Trusting the author encourages the reader to buy more of the author's work.

    Natalie, branching out and going to new places to find new audiences is hugely important.

    D Biswas, yes! That's probably THE most important thing to do. Write!

    Diane, exactly right.

    Dezzy, that's why it's about more than just the one factor. Think how much more they would sell if they had a good cover though.

  27. Ooooooo, I was hoping against hope that you were going to tell me what MY book, in particular, wasn't selling.... unfortunately I think "The Reality" is the best answer.

    *runs away sobbing*

  28. Lynda,
    fantastic post! A MUST-READ for every author. I might add:

    1. Write lots of short stories, guest blogs, magazine articles and prequels for your next book. It's called content marketing and great to build a name as a professional author, especially for shy writers.

    2. Start marketing BEFORE or while you write your book. After publishing it is too late for a successful start.

    Cheers, Doris

  29. Terri, take in easy to handle bite-sizes and it will become less scary. You already have a great following :)

    Madeline, there's something special about seeing your stories come to life in a cover.

    Sheri, not a fan of spam either? ;) Thanks so much for sharing the article.

    Julie, oh!! Congrats and best wishes for your book release!!! And thanks for the share.

    MJ, you are so right. So often I see glaring mistakes in the first paragraphs. I lose faith in the rest of the book and stop reading.

    Pat, so many seem to agree, yet still there are so many books out there with poor covers. It makes me a sad panda.

    Michelle, exactly right. Thanks :)

    Sherry, yes it does.

    Carol, I've decided it's not sad. (I used to hate admitting this fact as well) It's a simple fact because it's the first impression a book gives.

    Angela, It's kinda great too because it means we get to write more!!! ;)

    Jessie, hehe, understanding them a little better will help hopefully.

    Susan, omgosh really?? People actually advise spam???? Oh please don't take that advice. Ever.

  30. Terri, I totally agree. Thanks. :)

    Mood, thanks

    Chip, you're welcome

    LuAnn, yep, this is for the author who wants to take their writing beyond the hobby level.

    Lexa, yep, being patient has never been my forte either. Hugs.

    Patsy, lol, yeah it can feel that way at times.

    Cathy, hehe, It's just not fair all of us can't be JKR :)

    Doris-Maria, GREAT points! Thanks for adding those.

  31. So many good points! And it's interesting to read the comments here about how many people use the cover to decide, too!

  32. Ugh, the SPAM...I've managed to avoid it for a long time, but with no sales in the past quarter, I've taken to mass marketing and I know I've offended my share. After this month is up...I'm done. The word is out there. What else can I do?

  33. It really is a Perfect Storm to get all of these working perfectly at the same time. Every time I read about how hard this whole thing is (and it is hard), I ask myself if I want to carry on. And the answer is that the story isn't going anywhere, so I might as well write it down.

  34. Great points that every writer should follow.

  35. Fantastic post. There's so much to consider in making a book successful.

  36. Meradeth, I think a lot more people are reluctant to admit to it too.

    g2taylor, best wishes with boosting your sales.

    Robin, exactly right. Writing and publishing isn't easy, but it's so worth it.

    msmariah, thanks

    Medeia, so very much!! Thanks :)

  37. Great post and so true... I keep hearing the same thing about needing multiple books to start getting really noticed.

  38. You always give the best advice, Lynda. I won't have to worry about spam when my book is ready. I'm petrified to market it! ha

  39. Love the Idea of not Spamming.
    It is a turn off to receive unwanted e mail, especially if it is in bulk!

  40. Hi, Lynda,

    How perfect to spell it out SO clearly. Excellent. Thanks for the tips!

  41. All excellent points. Even though I don't like to think I do, I'm guilty of judging a book by it's cover.

  42. I agree with everything you said. All of this needs to be done professionally, because each day more and more stories are being released. They have deep hope of doing exactly what we are.

    Each of us gets one chance to capture the reader and we can't afford to waste it--we must always do our very best. :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

  43. Yeah, the "reality" section is the most sobering part to deal with...even if you do everything else right,there's always a substantial X-factor. Cool post.

  44. Every word you posted is true and relevant. Thanks.

  45. I definitely agree about the cover - you aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but EVERYONE does it. Myself included. If there is any expense you should splurge on for your book, it's a good cover artist.

    Love the post, very useful!

    The editing is a big factor as well, but by the point it becomes an issue, someone's already bought your book. That isn't to say it's okay to have sub-par editing (I will cross an author off my list of to-reads if their books aren't edited well) but it probably is not the first thing people notice.

  46. TF Walsh, it makes a vast difference.

    Elsie, lol. Marketing can be daunting at first, but soon you'll find your rhythm.

    David, I don't mind the occasional promotional email, as long as it's extremely occasional and I know the person. It's the spamming of all the feeds that drives me crazy eg twitter, FB, G+ and it's all the same stuff.

    Carol, thanks

    Michael, so glad you liked it.

    Bish, nothing to be ashamed of. It's human nature.

    Anna, professionalism goes a long way.

    Mark, isn't it a shame there's still factors out of our control?

    Nana, thanks :)

    Emily, while editing may not be the first thing people notice, there is the issue of encouraging them to buy your following books. They won't if the editing is sub-par. There's also the issue of sample reading before they buy. I can usually tell if a book has been edited properly by the end of the first page, sometimes the first paragraph!

  47. Terrific post! I've found making the first book in my series free has helped attract readers.

  48. Christine, another great tip! Making the first book free is a great way to introduce readers to your body of work.

  49. Excellent points, but I would make an addendum of genre. If your book is a genre that is a bit of a niche, like erotica, it can make for a tough sell.

  50. Great post. There's much to consider here, but I wonder how much of all this is really luck. Don't get me wrong, I believe in hard work and effort, but sometimes I just wonder.

  51. All great points, Lynda. Another is simply "patience". Sometimes a book doesn't sell for a year and suddenly gains momentum. That happened to me. One of my titles sold maybe 5 or 6 copies a month and after 8 months suddenly shot to the bestseller list. I don't have a clue why, but it stayed there six months, so I'm not complaining. The great thing about ebooks is you have all the time in the world to find your audience.

  52. The others are truly right. These are excellent points. Especially #7. It's scary how many authors spam these days. If only they understood, they're doing more harm than good. Thanks, Lynda.