It’s a question I get asked a lot: “Why isn’t my book selling?” This question isn’t reserved for the author who is clueless about marketing. I’ve been asked this by savvy authors, even business people who can’t seem to figure out the system for selling.
Sometimes the reasons why a book isn’t selling are easy: the cover is poor, the content is not edited or the topic is unappealing. But in most cases that I’ve seen, you need to dig deeper. So, overlooking the obvious, let’s go a step further because the mysteries of selling might be a lot easier to fix than you think.
- Start Early: In many cases starting early means earlier than you think. Often, I see authors beginning their campaigns a month prior to book launch. If you do that, keep in mind that your results won’t show up for months (and months), often it takes up to six months to see anything you seed start to grow. That’s partially why marketing people will encourage you to start early because it can take so long to see results.
Limited availability: Having a book that can only be purchased off of your website isn’t a great way to promote a title. You want to make sure that the book is where your consumer is: on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and even if you aren’t stocked on a bookstore shelf, you want to be sure that someone can order it. Limit your book availability and you limit your success. If you don’t give your consumer enough places to get your book, they will probably get someone else’s title instead. Don’t let your marketing serve the competition better than it serves you.
- The rule of seven: You need to be everywhere. A lot. But what does that mean, exactly? It means that your reader (or potential reader) needs to see your book in a lot of different places. Have you asked yourself how many ways you are marketing the book? Are you active in any social media? Do you participate in blogs? Are you getting reviews? Think of the seven ways or access points that you need for your book to gain traction with the audience. Seven seems to be the magic number for many marketing people so go with that, use it as a goal. Your book should have access points in seven different areas. With so much out there begging for your readers’ attention you want to be sure that your book is getting an equal amount of attention.
Multichannel marketing: How many different ways are you marketing your book? No, I don’t mean the rule of seven, though this applies here, too. What I mean is how many channels are you using to market your book to the reader? Email? Video? Print mailings? A successful campaign is one that encompasses the rule of seven, so seven public channels to reach your reader, but also consider multi-channel marketing, as well.
- You don’t think this applies to you: Often when I give these talks, I have authors who say, “Well, this may be true for some, but it’s not really what I’m about.” It might not be what you are about, but I can guarantee you it applies to everyone, across the board. Are there success stories that break out of the norm? You bet, but it’s rare.
Now You Know, What Do You Do?
Let’s say that you’re reading this, you are knee-deep in promotion and thinking “oh, brother, this is me. What now?” A lot of authors just toss the first book out and focus on the second figuring they made the mistakes with the first and chalk it up to a “learning curve.” I don’t think that’s a great idea. You put a lot of work into that book, yes? Don’t you want it to succeed? I thought so. Here are some tips you can implement, right now, to get things back on track:
- Get to know successful authors: Yes, it’s good and cathartic to commiserate with other authors who feel their book isn’t selling, but beyond that it won’t really do much for your success. Step out of your comfort zone and start looking for authors you want to emulate. Successful authors who have it going on. Build your list. Find at least 10 authors in your market that are doing well and presumably selling books.
Investigate: What do other authors do in your genre? You now have a list of other, successful authors, right? If you’ve collected this list, follow them on their blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. Follow them everywhere, start to build your tribe. Get to know them almost better than you know your own marketing campaign. You may say “well, they have more money than I do to market!” That might be true, but I bet it’s not – not entirely anyway. Most of the really successful authors don’t get there with just a checkbook, they probably have a great sense of who their market is, what their market wants and exactly how to give it to them. I’m not telling you to copy, I’m telling you to learn from other successful authors.
- Google Alerts: Now that you have your list of fabulous authors, plug their names into Google Alerts and see where they show up. Yes, when I say investigate I mean doing just that. Do your homework. Why does this matter? Because the blogs they show up on will be great places for you to network, and guess what? All it costs is a little bit of time.
- Count the ways: How many different ways can a reader access you? Count them. I’m serious. You should have at least seven access points. Maybe you are syndicating articles, maybe you are on YouTube, maybe you are on Facebook, Pinterest, whatever it is it’s an access point. If you don’t have seven of them and aren’t sure where to start, go back to bullets two and three.
- Get rid of what’s not working: I was at an event a few weeks ago and talked to an author who was doing lots of Google ads. He was careful to stay within his daily budget, but he wasn’t sure if they were working. Why was he doing them? He had been to a seminar that talked about Google Ads and thought he’d give it a shot. Initially it did well, then not so much. He kept doing them because he thought eventually it would turn around. Sometimes things like ads have a lifespan, if you aren’t monitoring this stuff you’ll never know. Don’t hesitate to get rid of what’s not working and be brutally honest with yourself. Remember that if you keep doing something that’s not working it will take away time and probably money from doing something that could make your book successful. The choice is yours.
Distribution: Make sure your book is out there, and I mean really out there. You may hate it that Amazon takes 55% of your book sales but would you rather have 45% of a sale or nothing at all? Don’t have an eBook yet? Why not? It’s easier than ever to have your book converted to an eBook. It’s so easy I’ve known authors to do it in less than 15 minutes. It’s no longer a matter of whether you can publish a book; it’s whether someone can find it. You might not be in stores nationwide, but if you can be on online e-tailers that’s a big and helpful start.
- Persistence: Maybe the biggest piece of success is persistence. I know I sound like a motivational speaker right now, but it’s true. Persist, persist, persist. Often I find that authors are just weeks away from their success and they give up because of some of the reasons cited in the first part of this article. Persist even on the days you can’t be bothered. On those days do just one thing. Just one.
The key to success isn’t always easy or clear-cut, but the key to failure often is. If you have produced a good looking, well-written book but it’s still not selling then go back through this article to find the missing piece or pieces. Once you do, I can almost guarantee your book will start to take off.