10 reasons people won’t buy your book

Most books sell under 250 copies. You think your book is the problem. It’s not.

Linda Caroll
Dec 4, 2019 · 7 min read
photo from pixabay

Trust twitter to provide a shining example of how authors shouldn’t promote their books. That’s kind of a lie, but only because it’s not just Twitter. It happens on Facebook, too.

I saw this on twitter today…


You know what followed, of course. A long list of people promoting their books, scrolling into oblivion. Oh, if it was only that easy.

It never is, of course, and it’s painful to watch.

Most books sell under 250 copies.

Maybe some authors are okay with that. I can’t imagine most are. It really sucks, because math. You know? Multiply the book price by the sales and subtract Amazon’s cut and I bet most writers didn’t even get minimum wage for the hours put into that book.

It’s not “just” about the money. I get that.

Writers have a story to tell, or something they want to get out there into the world. But actually selling the book would be nice, right?

Mostly, that doesn’t happen. Here’s why…

10 reasons people won’t buy your book

No one is born knowing how to market stuff. What’s worse, a lot of book marketers are internet marketers in disguise, so if you go looking for help, you’re going to find a lot of bad and/or ineffective advice.

Here’s the top mistakes that kill book sales.

— Note: If you want more info on any of them, leave a comment and tell me which one and I’ll write more. Also let me know if I should tag you when I do… :)

1. Your website is awful. Sorry, but it is.

A lot of publishers would rather their authors not have a website. They don’t want to be responsible for creating it, and most of the time, they’re awful.

One big publisher even said most author websites reflect badly on the author and the publisher. It’s true. Anyone can build a website these days. Building one that works is another story.

Here’s a quick test. Install Google Analytics. Then look at the bounce rate on your most visited pages. Especially your home page. Bounce rate is the number of people who take one look, and leave in under 29 seconds.

Or, look, vomit, leave, as a Google Analyst calls it.

I bet your bounce rate is over 50%. So, you work your butt off to get traffic and over half of them can’t get the heck out of there fast enough.

2. Your book cover is also awful.

You know that Twitter thread I told you about. There was dozens of “buy my book” posts — and then an ad for a real book. And by “real” book, I mean one that looked professional.

The difference made me cringe. There’s a lot of bad book covers out there.

In psychology, there’s a thing called a subconscious parallel assumption. It means we judge things by looking at them. We can say don’t judge a book by it’s cover all we want — but we all do. We can’t help it. It’s psychology.

If your book cover is awful, people won’t even click through to check it out. Because they can “already tell” it’s probably not great. And that’s a shame, because maybe it is. Maybe just the cover is bad.

3. You didn’t build a list while you were still writing…

A lot of authors think there’s no point building a list because they have nothing to sell yet. Then when their book is done, they have no list to announce it to. Which means it goes up on Amazon to zero sales. Maybe a couple friends or family. Which means Amazon isn’t going to do anything to help sell it, because that’s influenced by sales in the first few days.

4. You’re giving away your book, free

I know, some book marketers suggest this. A couple of them even say to give away your first 2 books. It works something like this — you put one book on Amazon, free. Then in the description, you tell people to go to your site and join your list to get another book free.

And you know what happens? All the freebie seekers download the book into a folder with 100 other free books. And then forget about it

I understand the concept of an opt-in. Trust me. I’ve worked in digital marketing for 23 years.

But here’s the rub. If your opt in can’t be consumed instantly, it fails. Because it will get ‘saved’ with a whole bunch of freebies. And forgotten. And then when you email your list, they don’t remember you.

5. You think book marketing and internet marketing are the same

Marketing books the same way internet marketers sell their “how to” stuff is a big mistake. Because here’s the thing — typical marketing-driven lists have low open rates, even lower click rates and very high churn rates.

Marketers do not care. This is part of the industry. They know their open rate will be under 20%. They know less than a quarter of the people who open will click. That few will buy, and list fatigue will happen.

They don’t care. They are selling high ticket courses and there’s no shortage of people who need to learn “how to” whatever they’re teaching.

That’s not you. You want to build a loyal audience that will buy not just the first book, but the 3rd and the 5th. You need retention, not churn.

6. You don’t *really* know who your reader is

Lots of marketers talk about building avatars of your “best” reader. The problem is they use demographics instead of psycho-graphics.

I read an article by some “professional” book marketer that tells of working with a client to help her build an avatar. This lady wrote romance novels. So he did the “research” and several hundred dollars later, told her that her “ideal readers” are white women, 25–45, who read romance. Wtf?

What does race have to do with it? So, no self-respecting black or brown woman would read her book? Ever heard of 50 shades of grey? You can’t make this stuff up. This is not how you build an avatar.

When you don’t know who your reader is, you don’t know how to attract them, much less retain them. Think about any relationship or friendship. Doesn’t it include getting to know each other? Building a loyal audience starts that way, too.

7. You’re blogging like the internet is your diary

Crazy story. Also, true. I went to the bookstore looking for a specific book. They were sold out. But I found a fantastic creativity book. So I looked up the author, because I wanted to follow her work.

Tough beans for me. Her blog is a mommy blog. Wtf.

So I signed up for her list just in case maybe her list was more geared towards her readers. Nope. Mommy blogging by email. I have nothing against Mommy bloggers. Just that my ‘skool daze’ years are a couple decades behind me.

This is what happens when you don’t really know who your readers are. You don’t know how to connect, or what to email them, so you end up running your blog like a personal diary.

Sometimes that works — more often it creates a disconnect because you’re writing for a different audience than your readers.

8. You’re wasting time on “personal branding”

This is another thing internet people convince writers of. You need a personal brand. No, you don’t. They think you do, because it’s their thing. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

What’s Stephen King’s personal brand? Horror.
What’s Rupi Kaur’s personal brand? Poetry.

What’s Liz Gilbert’s personal brand? Good question. Liz Gilbert. Because she doesn’t write in one genre. But she does Liz Gilbert like no one else. And she knows how to connect with her readers. That’s what you need to do, too.

You are your personal brand. You don’t need to figure out what your brand is, you need to figure out who your readers are.

9. You’re wasting time on Amazon algorithms

True story. Within a couple years of Google launching, half the internet was buying or selling “how to crack the code and get on page 1 of google” information. Or services.

So one of Google’s engineers (Matt Cutts) made a video. In in, he said something like this — “People. Stop. You do not crack the code and get on page one and we make you popular. You go out into the world and make yourself popular, and then we put you on page one.”

Amazon’s algorithms change almost as often as Google’s. The changes aren’t the point. What they’re trying to achieve is the point. At Amazon, what they want is to do is promote the books that are making them money. So they can make more money.

So you can chase algorithms until the cows come home — or you can learn the very raw basics. Good title, good categories, good description — and use your list to make some sales. Then the algorithm will like you.

10. You think your book is the problem. It’s not.

I hear this all the time. Writers post on Facebook and get some reviews and do all the stuff they’re “told” to do, and when it doesn’t work, they think their book must be the problem.

Maybe it is. But probably not. Even if it’s not stellar. There’s a lady out there making a living selling Yeti porn books. There’s a lot of really poorly written books that find their audience.

Because here’s the thing. If people aren’t buying the book, how would they know if the book is bad? All they’ve read is the preview. If that. And probably not even that. So it’s probably not the book.

If the book is bad, you’ll get sales and bad reviews. But if you have no sales, that’s probably not the book. It’s probably the marketing.

It’s almost always the marketing.

If you enjoyed this, sign up for my Friday emails and get writing and marketing tips by email once a week. :)

The Partnered Pen

MPP friends writing about life, love, and everything else in between together.

Linda Caroll

Written by

A notorious bad influence. Canadian. Get writing and marketing tips on Fridays at https://lindac.substack.com/

The Partnered Pen

MPP friends writing about life, love, and everything else in between together.

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