In the online writing groups I follow, one issue is brought up again and again: how hard it is for new self-published authors to sell any books at all, much less gain some traction.
2) Free reads! Some readers will return a .99 boxed set. Though just a few years ago we willingly went to a bookstore and paid $6.99 or more for a paperback, these days there are so many permafree and temporarily free books that paying even .99, much less $2.99, Amazon’s recommended sweet spot for my historical romances, can seem like a lit. Kindle Unlimited, which is $10/month, and Kindle Owners Lending Library are other options readers are choosing to lower their reading costs.
3) The rapid rise in book discount newsletters. I get at least 5 newsletters every day offering discounted, .99 or free books. I don’t have to search online but merely open and glance at the books available that day. With a click or two, that free book is mine. Even if I never read it. I couldn’t keep up with all of the free books I could get every day if I tried. These newsletters can be costly, so if you’re not selling, it can be hard to justify buying more ads.
4) What I call volume authors. There are some authors who are so prolific and successful that they can dominate the new releases or bestseller lists, making it harder for newbies to rise to the top. In one of my categories, 4 of the Top 10 bestsellers are by one author and 3 are by another. In some areas on Amazon, only the top three show up as recommendations, which I’m sure helps those books sell even more. These volume authors already have a huge following and promotional machine in place, which most new authors don’t.
5) The three bears syndrome. Novellas (usually under 40,000 words), shorter books and boxed sets (usually three or more books for .99) tend to dominate some bestseller lists, so that the standard full-length novel (300-400 pages) is no longer just right. Right now five boxed sets are in Top 10 medievals (I happen to have a book in the #2 box). In the Regency Top 10 are two boxed sets and four books under 300 pages (and that includes front/back matter and any excerpts) and one with 94 pages.
6) Reviews. Many newer authors may not be able to get reviews, so they can’t take out ads on sites that require a certain Amazon rating or number of reviews. Reviews can also be used on websites, in promotion, etc., but not if you don’t have any.
7) You only have one book. Everywhere I go, I hear that
a) one book is rarely enough. Some even advise waiting until you have four or five so you can set up a release schedule.
b) one release a year isn’t enough…to help get your name out there and keep the Amazon algorithms working in your favor. I’d planned to release four of my own books this year, but was invited to be in two boxed sets. So I had a new release every three months…and some say that’s too long.
8) The book itself and/or the book’s presentation. I checked the Amazon page of one author who commented about not selling. The blurb was full of errors.
Did you hire a qualified editor, and then perhaps have that editor or another one read it after you made suggested changes? Did you also use a proofreader? How does your cover stack up against books that are selling well? A newbie author should still have a bestseller-like cover. Is your subject matter in favor? Trends come and go. There’s the dichotomy of writing the books of your heart and writing something readers want. You should learn the market to know where your story fits. My fourth book might combine too many genres…time will tell.
9) Your platform. What have you done/are you doing to build your newsletter list (this is one thing I need to do better) and social media presence? Do you interact on Goodreads? Do you have a newbie website or one that looks professional?
10) Where is your book available? Is your book in the right Amazon categories? Are you “going wide,” meaning you’re available on many sites, or just on Amazon and perhaps going Select? I hear that more authors are going wide because of changes Amazon has made, but I sold far fewer books on B&N and iBooks, so I’m sticking with that.
What can you do to improve your ability to sell?