Why is that happening? Why aren’t your books selling on Amazon? Why does nobody want to read your books? Is this part of some global conspiracy to prevent you from becoming the next Stephen King? Without seeing your listing, I cannot say for sure. But from my own experiences, I have assembled a list of reasons that could be contributing to the lack of sales.
There used to be a time when writers like us would have to knock on the door of publisher after publisher, trying to find someone who would come to see our work as the literary masterpiece we knew our manuscript was.
Fast forward to the age of self-publishing, and now that is a problem left to the dusty ruins of history. Now, all you need is to spend your sweat and blood and electricity, to come up with a great book and then leave it to services like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to instantly throw you into the global book market.
Sounds perfect, right?
Nobody told you what could come after you hit that ‘publish’ button, though. You sit there in front of your computer, looking at the box titled ‘sales’ and expecting the zero to morph into a random string of numbers. A few days go by, but you find that zero still firmly seated inside its box, holding on to dear life.
Maybe it eventually gets replaced by some other number, but it’s a far cry from the thousands and thousands you had already pictured inside your mind.
There are so many reasons your book isn't being noticed, but don't worry! Luckily most of these things can be adjusted.
It just takes some trouble shooting.
- 1) You’re up against millions
- 2) You’re not considering the direct competition
- 3) You haven’t thought about the audience at all
- 4) You’re trying to draw from an empty well
- 5) You haven’t built your personal platform
- 6) Your book cover is not good enough
- 7) Your pricing strategy is incorrect
- 8) You have unrealistic expectations
- 9) You’re not marketing yourself
- 10) Negative reviews
1) You’re up against millions
Imagine stepping inside a new market hoping to sell some goods and earn some money, only to find that you have to walk 10 miles over to the other end of the market just to find some space to exhibit your goods.
This is the case with the global self-publishing market (multiplied by 100). To give you a sense of the scale, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscription mentions that there are over 1 million titles available in its store. Note that these are just the titles that have actually subscribed to the KU program – there are bound to be many more that haven’t.
That in itself is huge competition. There are only so many books any given person can read in a lifetime, and it’s highly unlikely that they will gravitate towards your book unless you play all of your cards right and have some luck on your side.
2) You’re not considering the direct competition
Sure, there are millions of books out in the world. But your real competition is going to be with those that are closest to yours, those that are most like the one you’re publishing.
If your books aren’t selling, go and research your direct competitors and make a list of all how they’re just better than you. Chances are, you’ll find a set of patterns that are prevalent in the market your book is targeting.
Mold your book and place it near your competition so that readers can see that you’re offering a potential alternative to the books they’re used to reading.
3) You haven’t thought about the audience at all
Talking about readers and competition is useless if you haven’t even considered your audience in the first place.
Ask yourself an honest question: when you were writing the book, did you have a clear picture of the person who’d buy your book and be interested in it?
Did you know which gender and age range your book would appeal to?
If you answer that you did not have a clear picture in your mind, then that’s a fatal flaw with your book. There’s no point in writing a book that has a story that appeals to young adults, characters that are best suited for children, and dialogues that make your characters sound like Pulitzer-winning authors.
Of course, this will not help you once you have already written the book. For now you might want to assess your book description and cover, as these are things that can be changed once you think about your target audience, at the very least.
Going forwards, however, when writing your next book, you need to pick a very specific audience and focus on building a story that the audience would want to read.
4) You’re trying to draw from an empty well
Every time you throw a bucket (book) inside the well (market) to get some water (money), you end up with an empty bucket.
Have you ever considered that maybe the well just did not have any water in the first place? That the market your book is trying to establish itself in, just doesn’t exist?
Maybe you’ve written a book on an obscure topic that no one is interested in, or you’ve written a book about a highly technical topic even though you are nowhere close to being an expert.
In all of these cases, you’re deliberately trying to shake a dead market to life, and that just is not going to happen.
5) You haven’t built your personal platform
Think about it: why would someone browsing a list of thousands of books stop by your book to buy it? What could be their motivation for doing so, unless they’re a relative of yours and doing it out of goodwill?
The truth is that in today’s age, authors who have their own platform and following through various social media channels, and blogs, have a huge advantage. They can announce and launch a new book and have instant sales.
The result is their book ranks very early in its category and Amazon rewards this by showing it to more people.
Now, I am not saying your only solution is to somehow acquire a large email list and huge following on multiple social media platforms. But I am saying that you should start to build this, especially if this will not be your only book.
Having your own space where you consistently provide valuable content to your followers so that they come to recognize and remember you, is all you need.
Use your author page to show them your personality; that you are a real person and intent to stick around in this book publishing scene for a while! You can also promote things like blog posts and ways to contact you via that.
One thing I did on my author page, was record myself reading my book aloud. While I cannot tell if this resulted in any additional direct sales, I have had fans mention it, so it has had some sort of effect.
Once you have built a significant and loyal following, of people who appreciate your work, when you announce that you’re publishing a new book, all of those people will flock over to buy your book because they know you for a source of value.
Failing that.... Just ask all of your friends and family to buy your nook as soon as it goes live to try and ignite a similar effect with rank.
6) Your book cover is not good enough
Surprise! Everybody judges a book by its cover.
What is the first thing potential readers will look at when browsing through a gallery of books: the book cover.
You don't shop by title.
Even though the adage goes that you ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, it’s impossible to not judge a book by its cover when you have hundreds of books to glance over before making your selection.
If your book isn't catching anybody's eye, they can't read that excellent description you've written or see that lovely HTML formatting you've done with it.
Not having a good cover shows the reader that you didn’t even invest the time or money required to make a professional and attractive cover, so why should the contents of your book be any different? Your cover is your first impression, so make sure you get it absolutely right.
Don't cut corners. This is the single biggest factor in whether somebody will stop scrolling and click, or scroll on.
If you do not have a creative eye, be honest with yourself and hire somebody who does. This doesn't need to be expensive, either. There are brilliant professional cover designers on Fiverr, starting from as low as $5.
Just be sure to view as many samples of their work as possible, share your creative ideas such as colour schemes and fonts etc. And be done with it.
There are also templates and cover designer tools you can use but again, without that graphic design flare you still might not be doing your work any justice.
7) Your pricing strategy is incorrect
Having a $29.99 book in a market segment where your competitors are selling their books for $14.99 is definitely not a recipe for success. In the same way, it’s also not a good idea to have a $0.99 book when your competitors are pricing their books way above that price point.
Why is that? Your book is way cheaper than your competitor’s books, so more people should buy it, right? Not quite. This will only make the reader feel that your book does not have anything of value as compared to the pricier ones (because of a higher average price) and so they will simply ignore it.
What should you do, then? Before you set the price for your book, research the average pricing of the books in your market segment, and figure out a sweet-spot that is close to the average but also does not push your profit margins in the negative.
8) You have unrealistic expectations
I have seen people happy with selling 50 copies in their first month, and people feeling miserable about how their book only sold 1,000 copies in the first week.
There is indeed such a thing as unrealistic expectations, and you need to step back from your bubble and consider whether you’re not already doing well in the market you’re selling in. Maybe you will find that you’re already in the top 10% of sellers in your market segment, and so you’re not doing as bad as you might think.
9) You’re not marketing yourself
Gone are the days when writer could just focus on writing and let their publishers handle all the marketing, announcements, and advertisements.
I guess that is one thing self-publishers take for granted. The work that goes into marketing and distribution. A few tweets to family and friends and we think the internet can do its magic.
WHen going down the self-publishing route, it is paramount that you understand You are now taking on the role of several jobs. Your first order of business is to grasp the gravity of this. Knowing how to market your book and then execute a solid marketing plan to get the word out about your book Is not optional it is essential.
If you haven’t paid marketing any mind, it is time to embrace the reality that unless you go ahead and strategist properly, there isn’t a good chance that you’ll get any reward for all the hard work you put in while writing the book.
Marketing does not have to break the bank, but it does require a strategy. Platforms like Amazon KDP and BookRix give you the chance to market to their existing audience.
Make use of this. There are many videos on Youtube where you can learn marketing strategies for free and how to run ads.
Did you know you can run sponsored ads against books like yours, in your genre as well as for those searching for specific keywords?
Find uncompeitive but relevant keywords in your niche and you can very inexpensively be reaching 100s to 1000s of new potential customers every day.
Pinterest is another one that works for a lot of people, you just have to be creative and immerse yourself in your niche to learn where the eyeballs are.
10) Negative reviews
This one is the most brutal reality-check of them all because it could mean your book isn't good enough or it could just be a quality control issue. Either way, it has lead to a permanent, lasting strike on your book listing, a negative review.
If you have had sales in the past but have since received negative reviews, even just one negative review, this may deter other people from buying.
Just think about when you shop for something online, reviews are more important than how good the product appears to be. And you know you have personally been deterred from buying something that has negative reviews.
It is even worse when the product only has a few reviews to begin with. That negative review could give the illusion that your book is 3/5, in general, despite what the review actually says.
It may not even be that your book is horrible. I have received a negative review because somebody said the book didn't arrive on time ( no fault of my own). Another time, I received a negative review because the customer's Kindle version wasn't showing up great on their device (a formatting issue on my part).
For whatever reason, you have that bad stain and it isn't going away.
This could be due to several reasons. Some writers try to write and publish a seasonal book to attract large audiences at a specific time, such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving etc. They want to make the most of that time period but end up rushing the writing or editing process.
Some don’t give too much thought to editing and proofreading at all, assuming that since they’ve spent so much time on it, everything must naturally be perfect. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Again, for whatever reason it happened - it isn't going away. So the best thing to do now is to acknowledge the negative review and see if it is something you can amend.
It could be a bad translation, a formatting issue, grammatical errors and editing problems etc.
Other things might be impossible to fix. If somebody just hated the storyline, there isn't much you can do about that. Well, there is one thing, but it is highly NOT recommended.
Some people counteract bad reviews with paid positive reviews. This is not something I have had to do nor recommend but I would be doing the page a disservice if I didn't mention it.
What you must understand about paying for such a service is that is Amazon get wind of it - that's it. Your account will be terminated and your lack of sales issue will be a permanent one.
Writing and publishing a book is quite different now than what it was just a couple of decades ago. However, where the new publishing paradigm has made ‘self-publishing’ possible, it has created a new set of challenges for every aspiring writer.
The guidelines set by major publishers aren't there anymore so this is a good thing and a bad thing in some respects. It is easy to hurriedly put our work out but we must do our due diligence and carry out our on quality control measures.
I hope the points I listed above help you get better in your writing journey and achieve success. Remember – hardly anyone succeeds with the debut book. Keep trying, keep failing, keep learning, and keep improving!