Top 10 Reasons Authors Fail to Sell their Books

It’s not easy selling your books, especially if you’re a new author. Here are the Top 10 Reasons Authors Fail to Sell Their Books

  1. Writing for the wrong market, or for No Market
  2. Not polishing their Product and not packaging it properly
  3. Not focusing on Product Quality
  4. Ignoring Marketing Or Doing Ineffective Marketing
  5. Believing they are already great writers
  6. Not trusting the Experts and/or Thinking they already know everything
  7. Assuming their success in another field translates automatically into Selling Books
  8. Not listening to Feedback from The Market (i.e. readers)
  9. Not focusing on getting Reviews
  10. Treating it as a Sprint when it is actually a Marathon

Let’s jump into each of these

Writing for the wrong market, or for No Market

This is by far the most common reason an Author will fail to sell her/his books

  1. Is there an ACTUAL market for the book you are writing?
  2. Does your book meet what the readers in that market are looking for?
  3. Does your book satisfy the most important criteria for that market?
    1. Example: A Romance must generally have a HEA (Happily Ever After)
    2. Example: Historical Fiction must generally be historically accurate (you can’t have the Earl of Sandwich using a microwave)

If you don’t take away anything else from this post, please do take away the most important thing – You Must Write a Book for Which An Actual Market Exists

Not polishing their Product and not packaging it properly

This is a very common reason authors fail to sell their books. Infuriatingly, for everyone involved, authors will refuse to accept this reality even when it is painfully obvious

  1. An author will spend 2 to 4 years writing a good book with an interesting story line
  2. Then the author will do the ‘polishing and packaging’ in a rush and ‘on the cheap’. Instead of a professional cover designer they will get a $5 cover from Fiverr. Instead of a professional book editor they will have their wife/friend/dog edit the book. Instead of a proofreader, they will use Microsoft Word spell check
  3. So they have a good book hidden behind a terrible cover, poor editing, and lackadaisical proof reading

Would you go watch a Movie if the movie poster was done using crayons by a 10 year old? Probably Not. Yet you expect readers to somehow look beyond your homebrewed cover and somehow realize the actual story is a good one

Not focusing on Product Quality

In the end, you are selling a product

Which shirt/skirt would you purchase

  1. Option 1: Very well tailored, crafted carefully, meticulously finished, a lot of thinking put into it
  2. Option 2: The first draft – assumed to be perfect

Now, translate that into a book that is high quality, versus one that is ‘assumed to be perfect after the first writing’

  1. High quality book: Very well written, crafted carefully, meticulously edited and finished, a lot of thinking put into it
  2. Low quality book: The first draft – assumed to be perfect

You are selling a product and the quality of the product is absolutely critical

Ignoring Marketing or Doing Ineffective Marketing

Marketing is Just As Important as Product

It does not matter how good your product is -> If you do not have very good marketing to support your product

You need a few things to get Marketing for your Book right

  1. It should be Marketing that is aimed at, and works for, the people who buy books exactly like yours
  2. It has to be Effective Marketing – proven to work
  3. Quality of Marketing has to be given Just As Much Importance as Quality of the Book
  4. Marketing has to be treated as an ongoing endeavor
  5. Marketing has to focus on building your own direct channels to readers

Believing they are already great writers

This is by far one of the most puzzling things – why is it that so many brand new authors and writers think they are already ‘Great’ and already ‘Know everything there is to know’?

  1. Do not be thinking you are Stephen King until and unless
    1. You have sold as many books as Stephen King
    2. You can write as well as Stephen King
  2. Do not think you are a great writer
    1. People who are actually great writers realize that there is so much more to learn and don’t think of themselves as ‘great’
  3. Do not think you have learnt everything there is to learn
    1. Publishing Books has been around for CENTURIES
    2. You read what some random people wrote on the Internet
    3. You did some research and drew some conclusions
    4. That does not mean you already know everything there is to know
    5. Your unconscious incompetence is going to sabotage you

No one is born a great writer. Being good at your day job does not make you a great writer

The only thing that makes you a great writer is doing a lot of writing AND selling a lot of books AND constantly improving your book writing and book marketing skills

Not trusting the Experts and/or Thinking they already know everything

This is closely linked to the previous cause for failure (thinking you are already a great writer). In this particular case it is authors who think they are the experts at everything

  1. Do you think you can design better covers than professional cover designers who have decades of experience?
  2. Do you think you can self edit your book and do it better than professional editors?
  3. Do you think you can re-read your book a few times and catch all typographical mistakes? That a proofreader is not needed?
  4. Do you think that 10 to 20 hours of browsing on the Internet makes you a better marketer than people doing it for 10 to 30 years?
  5. Do you think that this entire profession (Publishing of Books) is a joke profession and you can just trapeze in and in a few weeks to a few months understand more and better than all the PROFESSIONALS who have been doing this for DECADES?

Unfortunately, a lot of authors and writers come in thinking they know more than everyone else. Then they burn all their money on things that don’t work, burn out, and miss their opportunity to actually sell a lot of books

It is very important to show a certain level of respect to a profession

  1. In some professions it’s easy to have respect for the profession. Try to be a firefighter without training and you die
  2. In Book Publishing it seems easy and straightforward – a caveman could do it. However, if you start thinking you are already an expert at everything – your book and your career die

Assuming their success in another field translates automatically into Selling Books And/Or It takes nothing at all to succeed in Books

This one is very interesting

  1. Let’s say you are a very good doctor. One day you get up and think – I’m going to be an Air Traffic Controller. How hard could it possibly be? I’m a Doctor after all
    1. Would the Air Traffic Control tower let you in? No
    2. Even if they did, would you be able to land a plane safely? Almost certainly not
    3. In nearly every profession, you would not expect to go in and instantly succeed
  2. Yet, in Publishing everyone is telling you – you are bound to succeed. It’s so easy
    1. Publishing is different because Self Publishing companies and ebook stores are motivated to bring in lots and lots of authors
    2. As are all service providers who make money from selling services to authors – because they make money whether or not the author succeeds
    3. That creates a very strong motivation to push the mirage that success in book publishing is easy
  3. Therefore, we have a ton of people coming in to Books and thinking that becoming a successful author is like playing Guitar Hero
    1. They have been sold the dream that by playing ‘Guitar Hero’ in the Kindle Store, they are going to become the next J. K. Rowling
    2. No one points out that you have to write a very good book, for a market that wants exactly such a book
    3. No one points out that you have to do very good marketing

This creates a scenario where people are coming into books very ill-prepared. Thinking that they just have to press the ‘Publish’ button and they are set for life.

To understand just how absurd the situation is – Consider that now people are selling courses on how to make money from the Kindle Store using low content books and zero content books

Basically, they are saying that making money from books is so easy you can even do it with books that don’t have any content at all

Not listening to Feedback from The Market (i.e. readers)

When your book is in the Market and when you start promoting it, the Market (readers) will give you feedback

  1. Whether or not they buy your book is feedback
  2. If they buy but don’t review, then that is feedback
  3. If they buy and leave bad reviews, then that is feedback
  4. If sales are low and reviews are high in number (and good), that is feedback
  5. If sale are high and reviews are low in number or bad, that is feedback

Most authors ignore all this feedback and instead focus on – What they want to Believe

You have to See Reality As It Is, not as it was, or as you want it to be

  1. If the book is not selling – there might not be a market for it
  2. If book is selling and very few or zero reviews, then quality needs to be improved massively
  3. If negative reviews, then listen to the reason they are leaving negative reviews
  4. If sales are low and reviews are high and good, then figure out if the market is too small, or if you are marketing to the wrong people
  5. If sales are high and reviews are low – then improve the quality of the book

Every thing is feedback. Instead of getting upset or discouraged or feeling insulted, listen to what the market is telling you

One thing that is worth pointing out – Sometimes the market will tell you that you are not cut out to be an Author. If the market tells you that once, it is fine to ignore it. If that market tells you that again and again, you must listen

Not focusing on getting reviews

Readers, in the end, only care what other readers say about your book

  1. Reviews means someone bought your book and cared enough to write a review
  2. Reviews are from readers i.e. people like them

You have to focus on getting reviews. You have to focus on getting reviews from Readers who Like Your Book

We cannot stress this enough

Treating it as a Sprint when it is actually a Marathon

Finally, perhaps the joint biggest reason for failure (alongside writing a book for a market which does not exist) is when authors think it is a sprint and they have to do things as fast as possible

  1. Don’t spend all your money in the first few months. Why? Because at the start you don’t know anything. You don’t know what works and what doesn’t work
  2. Don’t spend all your money and effort on your first book. Why? Because your first book is most probably not your best work. In fact, it is likely to be your worst work
  3. Don’t expect a miracle and instant success. NOBODY gets instant success. Forget people selling you snake oil. You are competing against people with very big brands and with decades of experience. You are not going to become a super hit with your first book
  4. Don’t burn yourself out. The cycle of making an effort, getting painful feedback that your book is not yet good enough, then again giving it everything, and again getting more painful and valuable feedback – can really take a toll. Treat it as a marathon where every stumble and every failure sets you up for great success
  5. There is no Get Rich Quick. So no points trying and testing ways to do things super fast and bypass hard work and time and building a reader base

Closing Thoughts

We each hold in our minds a view of what we think it takes to be successful. It’s very important to align it as closely as possible to REALITY. To What Actually Works. Lots of people selling you $400 courses and $10,000 marketing packages that will get you ‘Fast Success’ and ‘Secrets and Tips’

Those are all feel-good things to part you from your money

The only real success is built on the Core Fundamental Principles – very high quality books, written for the right market, promoted with great marketing, and an ever expanding portfolio of books, with an ever expanding reader base


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