Often authors ask, “Why am I not selling any books?” after spending time, and often money, on pushing their books like crazy on self-publishing them. Here, we take a look at why that happens, and what you can do about it if you are in that exact situation.
1. Niche means niche, and if it’s niche…
Issue: A niche subject has a finite market, whatever you do.
Solution: Think of a new angle to market your book to a broader market. But accept that if you wrote a book about a real niche interest, such as coin collecting, corset making, or keeping a pet tortoise, you’ll only be selling to real fans of these hobbies.
Some examples of books that seemed niche, but went broader due to clever marketing include:
Stephen Hawking – A Brief History of Time
Angle - Book on astrophysics written by a man who has MN disease struck a note with the world, struggling with his own existence in time and space.
Marketing - This book was helped no end by a foreword by TV celebrity astronomer, Carl Sagan, at the pinnacle of his own celebrity, calling Hawking Newton’s successor.
The Black Swan – Nassim Nicolas Taleb
Angle - Everyone wanted to know about probability risk after 9/11 – and how it may help you get rich quick. The phrase “f*ck off money” became popular from this book.
Marketing - Be prepared for anything, and make your “f*ck off money” in a post-9/11 world.
Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
Angle - The idea that reality actually has magic woven underneath in plain sight struck a chord with everyone, not just young fantasy readers. Adults reading the book to their kids got hooked on the universal messages and style.
Marketing- Design. First sold for kids, a new more “adult-friendly” cover meant everyone could read these books on the train without shame.
Moby-Dick – Melville
Angle - The book is a classic example of a lost time in American history
Marketing - Timing, awareness, and editing. This book, that seemed to aim at American men interested in marine adventure, had scathing reviews, with one problem that since the UK edition omitted the epilogue, British reviewers read a book with a first-person narrator who apparently did not survive to tell the tale! Timing was also to blame, with interest in sea-faring waning in the US, in goldrush-frenzied America. The book ultimately saw a renaissance thanks to many scholars (including DH Lawrence) picking it up as an example of American Romanticism, and sales picked up after The Modern Library printed it in 1926. You could say professional reviews saved the book!
2. Your cover doesn’t cut it
Issue: Why didn’t you get a professional book cover after all that work? Beats me. It’s like setting up a beautiful designer-decorated store and then boarding it up with old newspapers. You’re not a professional designer, so whatever looks good to you may be under par, and your friends and family won’t have the heart to be honest.
Solution: Uh, get a proper book cover. It’s worth it. Use one of the best services out there such as 99Designs or CreativIndie to get a really good boost into the thumbnail sized beauties of the bestseller lists. Have a look at Derek Murphy’s Before and After gallery to get an idea of what a difference a really great cover can make.
Just remember: There’s always someone willing to do it cheaper…but this is one part of your book you shouldn’t go cheap with.
3. Your marketing copy doesn’t cut it
Issue: If your blurb is too vague, or doesn’t call to people, it’s doubtful it will sell.
Solution: Use strong adjectives to pull people in – these are known as “intensifiers”.
What are they?
Here’s a list that “intensifies” adjectives for use in copy:
- Scary – Terrifying
- Memorable – Unforgettable
- Great – Amazing
- Awful – Horrifying
- Unusual – Exceptional
- Funny – Hilarious
- Excellent – Mindblowing
- Sad – Heartbreaking
- Evil – Demonic, heinous
- Brave – Heroic
- Nice – Wonderful
- Good-looking – Gorgeous
- Broken (apart) – Shattered, torn apart
- Sexy – Erotic
Let’s try some of these words in copy:
The sad tale of a brave girl living through an awful experience in New York.
The heartbreaking tale of an heroic girl living through a horrifying experience in New York.
The scary story of trolls meeting evil gnomes in a nice land broken by unusual magical events.
The terrifying story of trolls meeting demonic gnomes in a wonderful land shattered by exceptional magical events.
A good-looking young couple from Oregon broken apart by evil deeds in this sexy crime thriller
A gorgeous young couple from Oregon ripped apart by heinous deeds in this erotic crime thriller
4. It’s All About You
Issue: Have you published a book about your own life? Is your memoir about what you did in your incredibly interesting career? Do you talk about members of your family and friends in anecdotes?
Solution: You may have a touch of the mememe’s. As self-publishing becomes more popular, it’s easy to think in old age that you’d better get your life down on paper for the masses. Unfortunately, unless you are someone with a remarkable story to tell, such as Olympian-turned aircrash survivor-turned Japanese POW Louis Zamperini (Unbroken), there is little about your life that’s going to entertain on a big scale (even Zamperini wasn’t vain enough to think he could write the book himself – Laura Hillenbrand did it for him). Best let this die down quietly, and let friends and family buy the copies they fancy.
5. Your book is offensive to others
Issue: Is your book about subjects that turn people off? Rape, animals being hurt, children being hurt, hate crimes won’t sell well if you dont have a solid angle to write about them. If you are writing fiction, why have you decided to go down these routes? Most books about abused women or children are by the victims themselves, and yet many people latch onto the idea of writing these subjects because they see them sell well and get interested in the violence angle. Perhaps you’ve written about Islam, Israel, or have Nazis in your book. Have you written a racist character? Why did you pick this topic? Are you qualified to be writing about these sensitive areas? You may find them interesting, but you will note that most books written on subjects like this that do well are written by survivors or experts.
Solution: There might be nowhere to go with this. If you’ve made the error of naively writing about a sensitive topic, you may have to move on to a new book, and it may be advisable to do so.
6. Your book just isn’t good enough
Issue: Maybe, when all is said and done, the book just doesn’t cut it. Self-publishing means you get to publish whatever you want to publish, but without a gatekeeper such as a publisher to give an honest opinion, the downside is you may not have managed to write a good book.
Solution: Get an editorial review, such as the package we offer at SPR. Not only is an editor able to give you a proper, professional opinion but you’ll get info on viability to market and readability scores etc. so you can go away and work further on your book to get it to a higher standard for market.