Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"Why aren't my indie books selling?"

We're nearing the end of NaNoWriMo month, when I write about writing (craft and business) rather than about science, emergency preparation, and disasters.

My bad first cover for my give-away story. Don't do this in public!

I see this question asked often around the web. I'm speaking to fiction writers here, as I'm no expert on non-fiction books. None of the following answers is original to me, and most selling indie writers would offer you a list in answer that I suspect would 90% match this one.
  • you don’t have enough books out yet. Get six out there before you worry. Bonus: you’ll be a better writer by the time you’ve written your sixth
  • you’ve picked a genre that almost no one reads. Traditional publishing, with its higher profile, can afford to try to break out a new genre or promote a cross-genre book. Indies do better by sticking to established winning genres
  • you’ve picked the right genre but failed to meet its conventions. Romance, for instance, requires a happily every after; if you fail to deliver that, your books won’t sell. Or perhaps you’re trying to sell short stories in a genre that expects 100,000-word novels
  • you’re writing stand-alone books. In most genres, series sell more copies
  • your cover looks amateur (though I admit this didn’t stop me from selling books at first). Buy a pre-made cover to begin with. You can find them on sale for $15. I like because he’s prolific and reasonably priced. 41 Days' cover I got from you've made your first few thousand dollars, put that back into better covers if you wish
  • your product description isn't a good, grabby selling tool
  • your “read inside” section is full of editing errors
  • you can’t write very well (yet)
  • you can write well enough, but your books are slow and bogged down with description. I know your eleventh grade teacher praised your description of a sunset, but novel readers already know what a sunset is. Type “Night fell,” and move on to action or dialog
  • you overpriced your books. No one knows who you are, so they will not pay 6.99 for your novel. Try .99 for a while
  • you aren’t releasing books quickly enough to develop a following
  • you are doing all that above right but are having rotten luck (but this is only true for 1-5% of you, so look earlier in the list for the real answer before you cling to this thought). Hang in there, keep writing, and your luck should eventually turn
In order to fix whatever is wrong, you need time and effort and a willingness to learn better. A significant percentage of people slapping books up on Amazon are doing just that--slapping up a half-baked book. That won’t result in success. First, learn to write well. (Hint: if it’s your first book ever, you probably haven’t yet.) Second, pay or barter for proofreading.

Third, look at the best sellers in your subgenre and see what those authors are doing with covers and product descriptions. Then buy a similar pre-made cover and write your blurb in a similar style.

Fourth, now that the problem is fixed, ignore that book and write your next book and your next. A writing career spans a lifetime, so get on with yours.

I guarantee you that here is NOT what’s wrong: you don’t have enough reviews/you haven’t run enough ads. Forget about that stuff until you have a completed series out or your first six books. By then, reviews will have likely taken care of themselves anyway. And by then, you’ll have likely read sufficient articles and forum posts by successful indies to know the very few sites where it’s worth advertising.

I wish you the best in your journey as an author-publisher.


  1. These are really good tips, Lou! I've shared them with my Twitter followers!

    1. Thanks, Dawn! A lot of kind people taught me, and now I'm passing it on.


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