Why your book is (or isn’t) selling

First off, contest news! I’m doing a rafflecopter and giving away a copy of one of my paperbacks signed to the winner! Check out details on my FB page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/KateMarie-Collins/217255151699492). 

Now, one of the benefits of the job I have (which I love), is that I can see both sides of the publishing industry. I have a perspective that authors don’t have. I also deal with a number of authors who come to me and are trying to figure out why their book sales aren’t meeting their expectations. 

First off, think about your expectations. Did you really think you’d be getting sales in the thousands of books from the moment it released? Even in the hundreds is unrealistic, without name recognition. Unless you have a household name where the random shopper can see it and think, “gee, I know who that is”, you’ve set your sights too high. Remember, it’s an average of five years of promoting, being positive, and talking about being an author that makes you found by readers. 

The same day your book released, it’s likely several hundred if not more books released as well. All by authors who aren’t known, like you. So, what separates your book from the rest? And what doesn’t?

For starters, your story has to have a good hook and be well written. You have to show the reader what’s going on, draw them into the story, make them care about the characters. Don’t simply tell them what’s going on. Give your readers credit for intelligence and watch how much you give out the same information. A character has curly red hair? Fine. But you shouldn’t remind the readers of that every single page, paragraph, or even chapter. They will remember, and they’ll get annoyed with you if you think they forgot from one page to the next.

Spelling and grammar: yes, these are necessary things. Very much so. Your mechanics don’t have to be perfect, but they have to be 98% there. Know the difference between their/they’re/there or was/were. Watch your verb tense, and how often you change PoV between your characters (head hopping). I know there are ‘rules’ out there about not using -ly adverbs. I ignore those. A lot of those ‘rules’ are more stylistic over anything else. But the basic grammar/spelling/punctuation must work or you won’t get the reader to stay with the story past one page.

Covers and blurbs: Yes, a cover must grab the reader’s attention. The same with a blurb. I hate writing blurbs, only because it’s really difficult to condense a novel into a few short paragraphs that entice readers but doesn’t give anything away. 

All of that is important, and will help sell your book. AS LONG AS YOU PROMOTE IT!!!!!!!!!!! Sitting back and waiting for everyone to magically discover you have a book out there is NOT going to work.

That’s the biggest reason, if you’ve got the above down pat, why your book isn’t selling. You simply have too high of expectations and you won’t work at promoting it. It’s not because of the following (though I’ve seen authors who are certain it is):

A single typo on page 47

Formatting is left justified over completely justified

A chapter heading (or single line) is not centered/indented correctly

Let’s go over why these things aren’t as big as you as the author think they might be. 

Typos are annoying, but they happen. No matter how often you look over a book, it goes through the editor, and a proofreader reads through it, typos still happen. A book is not littered with them if there’s only 1 or 2 out of 150 pages. And they are not what is keeping your book from selling. Okay, maybe 16 typos on a single page will hurt sales. This is why publishers have editors and proofreaders and have you look over the book before it’s put up for sale. If you’re self-published, spend the money to have a professional do these things. Or ask friends who can tell you if something’s not working over feeding you a line about how great it is. Fresh eyes on your m/s before publishing is a necessary evil.

Formatting: The industry standard is left justified. That means the left side of the page is lined up, but not the right side. Why is this standard? Because it keeps spacing looking like this (She slumped into the chair, defeated.) over this (She    slumped        in          the        chair,         defeated.) just to make the end of the paragraph even on both sides. It does not affect readability, nor is it something new. 

Chapter headings/extra spaces: This is something that happens typically with ebooks. When a file is uploaded to a site (Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, etc), it is converted into whatever format that retailer uses to distribute their books. It can look perfectly fine to your publisher and you prior to upload, and then have small spacing issues once it’s up for sale. The conversion process is to blame, not your publisher. And, while slightly annoying (I know, as some of my own books are like this) to the author, they are NOT the reason your book doesn’t sell. Nor can the publisher fix it.

What it comes down to is simple. Write a good book, show the story over tell it, watch your grammar/punctuation/spelling, and promote your book. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Because it’s not what’s keeping you from being that huge success you want to be. 


2 thoughts on “Why your book is (or isn’t) selling

  1. Thanks Kate for some good common sense. The justification thing does bother me a bit. Most books I’ve read have been justified left and right and I do think it looks tidier and more professional.

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