Showing posts with label what to do when your book isn't selling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label what to do when your book isn't selling. Show all posts

Thursday, October 18

What to do if your book isn't selling: Tips from Johanna Penn

What to do if your blook isn't selling: Tips from Johanna Penn

I love Johanna Penn's website, The Creative Penn. Not only does Johanna write fabulous books, but she is the author of hundreds of articles on writing that you can read, for free, on her site. And I highly recommend her blog.

Recently Johanna wrote an article about what to do if your book isn't selling as well as you'd like. Since I've been asked this question too, I give my 2 cents as well as share what Johanna had to say.

1) Make your book available as an ebook

I think this is great advice. Johanna mentions that she doesn't make a print version of her books available anymore because she found it wasn't worth it, and that's perfectly valid, but most authors do try and make a paper version available to their readers since some folks strongly prefer to read a paper book, even if it costs significantly more.

Also, having print copies of your book available can come in handy since some review sites only accept print copies.

2) Have a professionally designed cover

Compare your cover with the covers of books that are selling well in your genre. You want yours to be in the same ballpark--as similar to each of them as they are to each other.

3) Have your book professionally edited

Ideally you would hire a professional line editor or copy editor but, minimally, I think you need to get at least two other people to read your manuscript for errors in logic (eg, calling the same character different names) and typos. Johanna also mentions putting your manuscript aside for a time so you can come back to it with fresh eyes.

I find using a text-to-speech program to read back what I've written helps me catch a multitude of errors, from typos to awkward constructions.

4) Make sure you've categorized your book correctly

It can be difficult to know how to categorize your story. Is it a horror? Scifi? Fantasy? Urban Fantasy? Young Adult? Romance? It's difficult when a book can fall under all these categories. Which should you choose?

My critique group has been enormously helpful in this regard. Your readers can help you categorize your work appropriately.

Johanna suggests finding three to five authors who write books similar to yours and then looking at how they categorize their books.

5) Optimize your Amazon sales page.

Johanna suggests using quotations from reviews and make sure that you give the book's 'hook'. What's a hook? Here's an example, it's the hook for Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark:

Archeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. (Raiders of the Lost Ark, IMDB)
I've also heard this called a tag line.

6) Experiment with price

Johanna writes:
Most ebooks are under $9.99, and a lot of fiction is under $7.99, with many indie books being under $5.
An entire book--books even!--could be written on this, but that's a great one paragraph summary.

7) Continually put out new work

Hands down, the best way to market a book is to write more books, especially if your book is part of a series. Johanna writes:
The more books you have available, the more virtual shelf space you have, the easier it is for people to discover you. Plus if a reader finds one they like, they may buy them all so you make more per customer.

8) Promote your book

This is one of the reasons writer's build a platform. If you have a Facebook page, blog, twitter account, newsletter or mailing list then you're halfway there. This is a HUGE topic and I don't want to dash off some glib advice.

Don't constantly bombard your community with news about your new book--that doesn't work and turns readers off--but definitely do announce that you have a new book coming out and perhaps run a promotion for the first few days or weeks. This will help get the word out about your book and will reward your loyal readers, the ones who read your blog and/or subscribe to your newsletter.

9) Submit your book to review sites

Johanna discusses this in great detail and gives wonderful suggestions how to get Amazon reviewers to review your work.

It can be difficult to find book blogs that will review an independently published book, but you can do it, just keep your eyes open for opportunities. Also, check out the Book Blog Directory.

10) Give it time

Johanna's title was: Are you working your butt off? (grin)

Dean Wesley Smith advocates putting your book out on the market and then forgetting about it. Yes, certainly, do the best job you can--which means doing a professional job--but then don't fuss over sales. Write another book. Learn more about the art and craft of writing and the business of writing.

Johanna writes:
I absolutely believe that you can be a great writer and make an income from writing.

I have to believe that for you because I believe it for me, and I have left a stable job and steady income to take a chance on being an author-entrepreneur. I’ve been on this path since 2007 when I decided to write my first non-fiction book, so I am 5 years into working my butt off to change my life.
Johanna goes on to say that this doesn't mean you'll get rich and success will likely only come with time, perhaps a LOT of time. And it won't be easy.

That said, I hope you enjoy the journey. :-)

I encourage you to read Johanna Penn's article: Help! My Book Isn’t Selling. 10 Questions You Need To Answer Honestly If You Want To Sell More Books. She includes copious links to helpful articles.

Other articles you might like:
- 7 Tips On How To Get Your Guest Post Accepted
- Want Help With Editing? Try Free Editing Programs
- Amazon Ranks Authors In Terms Of Their Book Sales

Photo credit: Dawn Ashley

Monday, August 6

Indie Authors: Bad Sales? Redo Your Cover!

If you're approaching cover design for the first time, or your book sales are slumping, here are five ways your cover can help sell your book:

1) BIG Author Name
Make sure people can see your name, even on the thumbnail of your cover.

2) Genre Appropriate Cover
Make sure your cover clearly indicates the genre of the story you've written (e.g., sci-fi, western, romance, and so on). DWS writes:
... [C]overs need to scream genre. For example, I had a book I did called “On Top of the Dead” which was a pure science fiction story with aliens and everything. So what did I do to make sure it didn’t sell?  I put the lower half of a dead body in a street on the cover, making it look like a literary mystery. And, of course, it didn’t sell much. I just redid the cover putting alien spaceships hovering over New York City on the cover instead. Duh…
3) Write A Fantastic Blurb
a. Tell your reader what your story is about
Your readers want to know what your book is about, not about the events in the book itself.

I'm re-watching Lord of the Rings. Everyone knows the tag line for this series: Frodo must overcome countless obstacles to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom.

Actually, I just looked it up and here's the official tag line:
An innocent hobbit of The Shire journeys with eight companions to the fires of Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring and the dark lord Sauron forever. 

Here's my take on this. What you talk about in your blurb, your tag line, is the goal, what the book(s) is all about. The blurb isn't the place to talk about Frodo's stay at the Prancing Pony, or meeting Bilbo in Rivendell or Gandalf's amazing scene with the Balrog ("Thou shalt not pass!"). No. It is the place to tell your readers what your story is all about. What are the stakes?

That's one point. Another is:

b. Avoid passive verbs
Avoid them in your blurb and in your writing in general. DWS writes:
[W]hen I write a blurb, I ask myself what would make a reader buy this book? But if you use nothing but passive voice, the reader will automatically think your book is dull and never open it to the sample.
4) Use Common Themes
Have all your book covers for a series look similar and have all your book covers in a certain genre look similar. How do you do this?

- Use the same Name/Pen Name. One of my writer friends has one name for the first book in her series and another, a pen name, for the last two. My friend isn't indie published, a traditional publisher insisted she change names in the middle of the series and then didn't re-issue her first book! That is an extreme example, but try and use the same name for all your novels in the same genre so readers can find your books.

- Use the same font. Make the title font the same for all books in a series.

For instance, here are a few covers from Kim Harrison's Hollows series:

The font does differ slightly from book to book, but there is always a young woman on the front cover and you can never quite see her face. The look and feel of the cover is largely the same from book to book and her name is always pominent.

Here are two of the covers from Kim Harrison's paranormal series for teens:

These books are a better example of what DWS is saying. Look at the title fonts, they're identical AND perfect for the genre. Same model, different poses, subtle difference in the background color, but they are both pastels. Most important, the author's name is clearly visible.

5) Professional Look And Feel
Here are DWS's pointers:

a. Fonts: Make sure you can see them easily, which means they should contrast with the background.
b. BIG author name easily readable even in the thumbnail.
c. Small text near the authors name "such as 'Author of (another book title).'"
d. Put your tag line on the front of your book.
Here's an example:

I don't know if that picture is high resolution enough for you to see, but DWS's tag line is, "A Step-by-Step guide to Publishing Your Own Books". Perfect. Now you know what the books is about and why you should buy it. By the way, Dean's book is available on and well worth the read.

e. The cover art must be genre appropriate, must look good as a thumbnail, and go well with the font you've chosen.

All the information in this post comes from Dean Wesley Smith's article, The New World: Publishing: Killing Your Sales One Shot at a Time, and is well worth the read.

I'd like to add one more thing. When you're starting to put your cover together, when you're still in the 'getting ideas' stage, look at the covers of other books in your genre, especially those that are like your book. Make a list of 5 or 6. You don't want your cover to be too different from these because you want to tell your readers that if they buy your book that they will get a similar story.

Similar but unique! :p But that's a topic for another post.

I hope you read DWS's article, it's great. He's been doing this for decades and knows what he's talking about.

Cheers and good writing!

Other articles:
- Writers & Blogging: Should You Host Your Own Blog?
- Twylah: Turn Your Tweets Into A Blog
- How To Build A Platform: Why Every Writer Needs A Website

Photo credit: Excellent Book Covers and Paperbacks