But it’s also hard when sales aren’t meeting your expectations.
First, check to see if your expectations are reasonable (see Measuring Success and Five Year Plan). It takes time for word of mouth to spread, even when you’re doing everything right. Be patient.
If You’ve Broken Even With Your Book
If you’ve broken even with your book (say, within 6 months, or whatever reasonable expectations you’ve set in your Five Year Plan), you’re likely not making the “Why Isn’t My Book Selling?” mistakes. In that case, sow the field with a reasonable amount of marketing and focus on writing the next book. Write a better book. Write a series. Write in a different genre. The sales will come or they won’t. You don’t have control over sales; you only control what you write next.
If Your Book Isn’t Selling Well Enough To Break Even
- Cover (see Creating Covers That Sell) – a good cover isn’t just professional-level graphic arts; it has to instantly communicate genre and story and intrigue the reader enough to pick it up. Compare yours to the top-selling covers in your genre and see how it measures up.
- Blurb (see Blurbs That Grab You) – a weak blurb often means a weak story. This is not my judgement, it’s your reader’s. If you have a killer story, make sure it shows in the blurb. If you don’t have a killer story, see #5.
- Price (see Pricing Your Ebook) – first-time indie authors can command $2.99-$3.99 for their novels (this can vary somewhat by genre, but holds pretty true across the board). Here “first-time” is defined as “the first time a reader is discovering your book.” Indie wars have been fought over pricing, especially the 99cent and free price points. But no matter where you stand on the low-price end, pricing high can kill your sales.
- Genre – some genres simply have very small pools of indie readers or those readers are hard to reach (middle grade). Indie readers tend to be adults who read genre fiction. There’s room for all kinds of indie books to sell, but mysteries will sell better than young adult, and romance will sell better than everything else. This is true across the market, not just for indie books.
- Craft – if you’re not selling, your craft may not be ready. In Taking the Leap, I used the analogy of getting 80% up the mountain before you have something that will sell. And usually it’s the storytelling craft, not the prose, that’s not quite ready. Readers are shockingly tolerant of bad grammar and rampant typos; I’m not saying this is good, simply that it is true. However, readers will judge by the first page/chapter whether an author has a command of storytelling. If it’s not strong enough, they will not buy the book. By the end of the book, your storytelling craft better deliver on the promise of those first pages or those readers will not recommend your book to their friends (ergo, no word-of-mouth). All writers can improve their craft. I’ll posit that all writers can improve their sales by improving their storytelling craft, no matter how much they’re currently selling.