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10 Reasons Why Self-Published Books Don’t Sell – and What You Can Do to Ensure Yours DOES

One of the biggest complaints I hear from self-published authors who found The Ultimate Book Coach after they published their books is, “My book isn’t selling. Can you help me?”

And 99.9% of the time when I look at their book on Amazon or their website, I can name several reasons why they’re having problems selling their books.

Here are 10 reasons why their self-published books don’t sell, and what you can do to make sure yours does.

1. Obscure subject—Books that do well are those in a popular niche. If you do an Amazon search and find hundreds of books in your niche, that’s a good sign. It doesn’t mean that niche is over-populated, it means that niche is hopping. Think of the diet and food industry. More diet books are being published every day, and they still continue to sell.

If you want to tell your personal story, ensure its success by tying your story into how-to steps your reader can take to change his or her life.For example, if you’re writing your story about surviving cancer, focus on a specific type of cancer (narrow your niche) and specifically tell readers how they can get the same results you did and how you got through it.

2. Poorly edited—Sure your close friends and family will buy your book to support you, but all it takes is one nasty Amazon review from a reader outside your circle to dampen your overall sales. If you have a list of devout followers who hang on your every word, you can get them to give your book five stars on Amazon. However, be careful as too many five-star reviews paired with a lot of bad one- and two-star reviews will tell the truth that your book is poorly edited.

Ensure your book’s content is clean and professionally edited by a book industry expert, and you’ll go a long way toward satisfying your readers and getting complete strangers to sell your book for you by recommending it to their friends.

3. Poorly written—Let’s face it, some books are badly written to begin with. Hiring a professional editor can help, but I’ve read some books that are nothing short of one sales letter after another trying to get me to purchase the author’s or the authors’ friends’ stuff. Affiliate links and recommending programs is fine in a book, it’s even a good tactic for increasing residual income.

But you can really tick off your readers if your advertising copy outweighs your knowledgeable step-by-steps. Ticked off readers leave nasty reviews. Do yourself a favor, and make your book more saleable by delivering solid benefits to the reader, not just trying to sell them more crap. Think of your recommendations for products and services as the icing on your content’s cake.

4. Unprofessional cover design—It’s been proven that a clean, professional, easy-to-read cover sells more books. Initially when self-publishing through vanity publishers started becoming popular in the early 2000s, these books had a bad reputation due to the other reasons in this article, but primarily due to poor cover design. Having studied cover design for over 10 years, I can spot a horrible template cover vs. one done by a graphic designer vs. a professionally designed cover by someone who specializes in book cover design.

And believe me when I tell you, your readers will know the difference as well. A good cover has a lot of elements that draw the reader in to click, learn more about your book and buy it. If you can only outsource one step of your book’s production, hire a professional book cover designer. You won’t regret it!

5. Bad interior design—Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign? There’s a reason book layout software exists. And there’s a big reason why traditional publishers use this software. MS Word is not a page layout program. This is one of the primary reasons self-published books get poor reviews or fail to sell, because books formatted in MS Word scream, “Look at me! I’m self-published!”

A professional book layout designer understands the need for different spacing in the margins, paragraph styles, bulleted lists and the importance of other styles staying consistent.

A huge indication a book is self-published using MS Word is if blank pages still have the header and footer printed on them. Especially if you want your book to bring you new clients, this screams, “I did this cheap to save money.” And your client will read, “I cut corners when I coach you or work on your projects.” With money harder to come by, people are more willing to pay more for a higher quality than waste money cutting corners that should never be cut.

6. Yucky formatting—In the world of eBooks, formatting is key. Bad spacing, words appearing at random, graphics overlaying text, whole chapters bolded and italicized… You name it, it could go wrong in eBook formatting.

The more complex your layout is, especially if you created a pretty print book with a professional designer first, the more you should invest in a good eBook programmer. These programmers specialize in eBook XHTML language (which can be different than your standard website code) and know what it takes to avoid most of these issues.

7. Rush the process—Producing a high quality book that sells takes time. The more corners you cut and the more you rush the process, the more it will show in your finished product.

There’s a reason traditional book publishers take an average of two to three years to take a book from rough manuscript to hard copy. They take the time to do it right. If you want to compete in the market, take time to create a high quality work, both in polishing your writing and producing your final book.

8. Bookstore Requirements—Having a book signing at a brick-and-mortar store can be a huge deal for an author. Not only does it feel great, but many Barnes and Noble stores get their guest authors to appear on local news stations and listed in newspapers.

This is free publicity! By meeting these rigid requirements, other marketing doors will open for your book. If your book doesn’t meet their requirements, you must focus on online sales and any you can sell out of the trunk of your car.

9. Expectations—Many authors set their expectations so high they’re sorely disappointed. You may sell one book or thousands, and what you need to ask yourself is, “If my message changes just one life, is it worth it?” If the answer is, “Yes,” you’ll be surprised once you touch that one life and sales begin to flow. If you expect everyone to come knocking down your door because you just hit the “publish” button on your book, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

If you’re not careful, this disappointment can quickly lead to depression and a sense of failure, and those are emotions hard to keep to yourself. Spread those feelings and no one will want to buy your book, no matter how good it is. Be realistic in your expectations, and surprised and excited at your success!

10. Marketing—If your book meets everything in the list above, it still won’t sell if you don’t market it. Even traditional publishers are reneging on their contractual obligations to market well-established authors’ books. It doesn’t matter how your book gets published, you must market it. You can do everything right, but if you don’t tell people about your book, they won’t buy it.

If you’re afraid of the big, bad “M” word, invest in some book marketing courses and teach yourself out of your fear. It’s the only way you’ll succeed as a self-published author.

Do these simple 10 things and watch your book sales soar! Do you have another tip? Share it in the comments below!

This article was originally published on The Future of Ink and is reprinted here in its entirety for our Magnolia Media Network readers.


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