Monday, January 23, 2012

Why No One Is Buying Your Book

The following is an excerpt from The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe:

Why No One is Buying Your Book

Have you stared at your book ranking, and sales data, and wondered why no one is reading your work? Are you disappointed that your story hasn't caught fire, or hit USA Today's front page?
If you answered yes, I want to share a secret with you. I want to tell you something, and it might hurt your feelings. I don't mean to be cruel, but I have to be honest.
No one has ever heard of you.
Readers do not know that you exist.
That can change, but for now, you have to know the truth. You have to face the stark reality that you're not famous, you don't have a cult following, and you're not a New York Times bestseller, yet.
One of the biggest obstacles for indie and small press authors to overcome is finding readers. You may have a great book cover, and your prose may be razor sharp, but lets face it, you are one in a million. Hundreds of thousands of books are published every year, and as a new/newer author, it's not likely that readers will search your name or title.
Depressing isn't it? Well, it can be, if you're subject to resignation. But if you are the type of person who sees an obstacle as an opportunity, you may have what it takes to climb out of the literary abyss and into the public arena.
The problem with publishing is that unless you have a platform, or a method to reach out to readers, you are like a grain of sand on the beach. People will walk on you all day long, but never know you're there. If you publish on Amazon, your book is thrown into the ocean of ebooks and will splash around until readers start buying. When they purchase your book, it'll stay close to shore where other readers can see it. But if you don't plan for a beach party upon publication, your book will drift off to sea and eventually end up in the south pacific, stranded on a lifeless island. 
If you publish on Barnes & Noble's Pubit!, iTunes, or Smashwords, it's even harder to get noticed because the sheer weight of new books will push you deeper into the water.
So what can you do? What does it take to lift your book above the crowd and get the notoriety you deserve? Good question. When I have the secret formula, I'll bottle it and sell it to ya for a thousand dollars per ounce. Until then, it helps to know that you are not being flat out rejected by the world, but rather, unseen. Understand that, and embrace it. Knowledge goes a long way when you are problem solving. Don't take it personally. Accept your reality and work to improve your position in the crowd.
You need to figure out how you're going to be an author that readers recognize. You have to build a platform. You have to brand yourself. You have to go into the big world, put on a pair of stilts and start shouting, "Hey, everyone, look over here! I write suspense novels with jaw-dropping twists. Anyone interested?" When you do that, someone will turn around and say yes. If you wrote a good book, they might recommend it to someone else. They could also write a review and encourage others to buy. But don't stop there. You have to keep walking clumsily through the crowd, hand selling your work to readers, bloggers, and reviewers everywhere. 
If you're no good with stilts, try the trapeze. If that doesn't work, hop on a unicycle or put on a clown suit. You may not get it right the first time around, but with a little trial and error, you'll discover what works and what doesn't. Just remember, what works for me may not work for you. I'm a lion tamer and that's somewhat daunting to the vast majority, so I wouldn't recommend it. Besides, you could lose your head.
Getting noticed, especially when you only have one book published, can be a slow process, more so if you are not actively building your platform. The truth is, there is no quick answer to growing an audience. Building an author brand/platform takes time, it takes multiple books and it takes creativity. 
If you look at the top right-hand side of this blog, you'll notice that I recently hit four-hundred followers. I'm excited about that because several months ago I didn't think I'd reach one hundred. Four hundred looks like a lot, but there are other blogs with a whole lot more subscribers than I have. There is always a bigger duck in the pond. But don't compare yourself to anyone else. Take an honest assessment of where you are and chart a realistic course that will keep the wind to your back, blowing you toward shore where the readers are. You might hit a sand bar on occasion, but that's okay. Authors wearing clown suits, splashing around in the ocean are likely to get a little attention.

~ Jeff Bennington, author of Reunion, an Amazon bestselling supernatural thriller.


  1. Howdy, Jeff!

    Great information as always. It probably hurts some to hear the truth, but they'll be better for it.

    Sorry I don't have anything valuable to add to the discussion, but I had to comment nonetheless. I love the "duck" comment. LOL! So true. :)

    Thanks for another good post.

  2. Writing is a labor of love. If you want to be a force on the sales lists you'll spend 100 times more effort marketing than writing. It may take you a lifetime or a catastrophic event for you to be recognized. Until then, keep writing.

    1. Man you are so right! Marketing is the key. Oh, yeah, make sure what you write is good but be a better salesperson!

  3. Jeff,
    That's good news. I'd rather be unknown than disliked. I can do something about being unknown, if you'll finish the book. Now, am I going to have to send an enforcer to your office to pick up my copy of The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe?
    This is an outstanding post by the way.

  4. Jeff, following up on Bert's comment, what if a person is unknown AND disliked? Should he continue writing? Only kidding. Great piece. I couldn't agree more.

  5. Jeff;
    Wonderful ideas. Especially the "more books, more attention" topic. One thing about reviews keep in mind "if you can't say something nice,....." Nothing will etch your name in other writers minds as much as a flame review that clearly indicates you never completely read the work.

  6. Great blog, Jeff. Yep, I liken it to having the best damn widget in the world but you are in the middle of the deepest, densest forest---hundreds of miles from civilization. Doesn't matter how cool or revolutionary your widget might be...if no one can hear you scream, they'll never know about it and will die, starving. We need to find our civilization. Cheers!

  7. I like all the circus jokes :) and the clown in the ocean bit. I'm seriously thinking about trying some of those ideas. Tho I don't mean literally. Building that platform sure takes a lot of practice and costumes and everything, indeed.

    :) also I thought this was cheerful. Reality is a bit more grim. You know the glass is half full, but full of what? That might be the question.

    Thanks for making me laugh a bit.

  8. Very inpressive. I like a guy who talks straight. It is a harsh world to new writers and writing one book and stopping is the death of many.

  9. Thanks, Jeff! Good to know someone who understands. As a newbie, I'm trying to be patient. :-)

    Best wishes on your writing career!

    Jan Romes
    romance writer

  10. Jeff - this was a great blog to read at this moment. Not taking it personal is very important and something I forget a lot. I also love the caution against comparing yourself to anyone else. Good job and thanks.

  11. This was the hardest part for me when I started self-pubbing. Self-promotion isn't something that comes naturally to me, and when I started doing it, it felt crass and I constantly worried I was irritating potential readers. (I still worry about that, actually.)

    But, without a big advertising firm doing your marketing, it's what you've got to do.

  12. Now to go out and buy a clown suit.

  13. How about a clown riding a unicorn, riding a unicyle, riding a giant ball?

  14. Great info, Jeff and you are so right about making sure you do all you can to create platform.
    I was thinking more like a legged ice hockey player who uses a stick with a razor edge...but I guess the clown could work as well!

  15. This as a great post. just published my first novel (self) and i realize this is a marathon not a sprint as I have sold 4 books so far the first week. I look at it as that's four more than I would have sold if I hadn't put it out there.

  16. @Kirkus ~ It is hard to hear it, but for some absolutely necessary. I heard it and it was the best thing for me.

    @Chris ~ Hi, Chris. Thanks for visiting. Come back some time.

    @James ~ Excellent point!

    @Bert ~ You can't rush perfection! HA HA! Seriously, we are spending many hours trying to get this out by mid Feb.

    @R.S. ~ Excellent analogy. Until then we must wander, meeting fellow tribespeople along the way.

    @Stephen ~ Aren't those the people who write?

    @W.Addison ~ Exactly. The best PR is to be silent. Never respond to a bad review. Any form of negativity in the public eye is bad… very bad (says my wife who graduated from IU with a minor in communications).

    @Uva ~ So glad I could entertain! I try to be funny, knowing full well that I often fail miserably. Thanks for the comment. Appreciated.

    @Dannie ~ That's what you'll get around here. Straight answers and zero Bull. Oh wait, I write fiction. Is that even possible?

    @Jan ~ Hey don't sweat it. You'll get there. All newbies figure it out eventually. I'll try to fastforward the learning curve if I can.

    @Red Mojo ~ Thank you. I appreciate the comment and I'm glad I could encourage you, too.

    @John, There's always a chance we could irritate some readers. In fact, it's a good idea to get used to the idea that you will NOT please everyone; not your readers, not your tweeters, not your neighbors. There are mean spirited people everywhere…except here at The Writing Bomb! : )

    @Jean ~ Be sure to change your profile when you get it. We'd love to see it.

    @Amber ~ YES! Through the flames of death…You go first.

    @Kathy ~ Whatever works. I dedicate a chapter in the book to platform building in addition to this post. I hope it helps and prevents you from getting cut in the process.

    @Anthony ~ Be prepared for many slow weeks and then spikes on occassion. You may not be able to pinpoint why sales increase. Sometimes it's a review or luck or an ad. The source of increased sales is hard to quantify. Thanks for dropping by

  17. Thank you for writing this, it's uplifting.

  18. Good post! Thanks for sharing this insight. New follower.

    The Overnight Bestseller

  19. Loving the positive flow of this post - its says: It may get windy out there, but with a great a big hug, you won't feel the cold too much. And the great big hug is knowledge and strategy of course. Great tips! X

  20. Nicely put. Sometimes it seems you have to do a circus trick to get a readers attention.

  21. So very true. I am a sad monkey. With the release of my first novel I've been thinking about a consistent theme and voice for my blog in particular to build that platform, and also, how to use twitter to get a following. It's all about being creative in new ways. Hopefully I can find something unique.

  22. @Volatal ~ You are welcome. Thanks for reading.

    @Michael ~ Thanks for following!

    @Shah ~ You came back! Thank you. Glad to help.

    @ Virginia ~ I think the next big think is circus agents for authors. Better get your clown suit.

    @ Matthew ~ Cheer up, my friend. Many a monkey has done well turning a music box crank on a busy street corners. I spent a year or more searching for my groove. Come back and watch for the release of The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. I talk about platform building.

  23. Well thanks for the optimism in the air/water. I don't think I'd wear a clown suit though!


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