It’s a common instinct among indie authors to look for advanced solutions to their book sales problems. There are a lot of places to turn to find these complex methods for increasing your book sales. But you really should consider the basics first when it comes to your books.
In authorpreneurship, like many sports, the fundamentals are extremely important. It’s only after you make sure that your foundation is strong, that you should go out there and try everything under the sun to get more readers. Here are four basic reasons why your books may not be selling nearly as much as they could:
1. Your Niche Is Too Narrow
There are plenty of success stories out there of books selling extremely well to a very narrow niche. But the success stories may distract from the overwhelming percentage of failures in those hyper-specific book categories. When it comes down to it, it’s much easier to find new readers in genres that have a lot of readers. If your tactics aren’t leading to results, then it may be because your niche is simply too narrow.
One of the easiest ways to determine this is to go to your Amazon Top 100 bestsellers list to check the rankings of books in your genre. A healthy genre likely has relatively strong books all the way down to number 100. If the books towards the bottom of your genre’s bestseller list are ranked 100,000 or above, then it’s possible that your genre may not be able to support your writing career as much as you’d hoped.
2. Your Cover Isn’t Good Enough
As important as the advice, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” is for not making quick judgments, that doesn’t mean that all your potential readers are following it. Covers are getting better. They’re improving for indies and they’re improving for trad pub authors. That means that a cover you used even two years ago might no longer be up to snuff. It takes money to make money, and spending 20-30 hours to learn Adobe Photoshop, probably isn’t the best use of your time. Instead, you should get a high-quality pre-made cover or you should get a custom cover done for your book.
Before you work with a designer to get your cover right, make sure that you’ve taken the time to look through the top-selling books in your genre. You want your cover to look like a good book in that niche, but you also want it to stand out. That’s not easy to do. But it’s something that successful books have in common.
3. Your Book Needs Work
No author wants to hear that their already-published book needs more work. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to hear that advice every so often. A book’s sample is one of the top reasons that readers choose to make a purchase. If your sample contains grammatical errors, boring prose, or a whole bunch of introductory material, then it’s not very likely people will pull the trigger. You need to captivate your potential readers from the beginning. Even if you just hire a top-notch editor to help you with the first chapter, that effort will be very worth it when it comes to hooking new readers.
Once you’ve gotten people to buy your book, the reviews will start pouring in. This is another time in which a not-ready-for-prime-time book will suffer. Errors or a problematic story/nonfiction book will result in bad reviews. Some “successful” authors have actually unpublished some of their old books. They’ve realized that the strength of their newer work better represents the kind of author they are. As you create stronger books, you may have to go back and do the same.
4. You Aren’t Marketing Enough
Spending 10 hours a week on Facebook and 20 hours a week on Twitter isn’t necessarily marketing. You need to make sure that your week includes effective marketing practices. Ask yourself how much time you’re devoting to your mailing list or other forms of direct connection with fans. Figure out ways that you can reach out to places where new potential readers are hanging out. Some nonfiction books might require travel to a conference on your niche, while a young adult series might be better served by connecting with a YouTube book review channel. Your books won’t magically market themselves when you spend a lot of time on social media. You need direct forms of communication and outreach to ensure that your book gets out into your new readers’ hands.
Advice That Nobody Wants To Hear
Everybody wants to get to the next level, but just because you’re doing advanced things doesn’t mean that you’re ready for them. Make sure the basics are in place. Even just taking the small steps necessary to solidify your author platform will make a major difference in your next few years of book sales. Don’t look for a hack, or some secret of the ages. Write good books, make them look good, and tell the right people about them. That’s going to make a whole lot fall right into place.