20 Reasons Books Don’t Sell (Part 2)

stock-624712_640You can catch part one from Monday here on the Watercooler. Feeling discouraged yet? You’re not the only one trying to make a go of it in publishing and it’s a tough business, but my post isn’t over yet, and I hope you’ll find some room to breathe by the end of this post. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

10:The book is poorly written. You didn’t get a good edit. This is more common with independently-published authors who don’t pay for developmental or copy edits, but not unheard of in traditional publishing.

11: All we hear is crickets. The book never got word of mouth or enough great reviews (50+). There is no tangible buzz about you as an author or the book. Like a movie that no one talks about will sink after week two, the same is nearly true with books. Most books can sell 3,000 to 5,000 copies with little buzz. But if a book has sold more than 10,000 copies, it’s because people are talking.

12: Publisher oversight. The ebook didn’t release simultaneously—and in effect the marketing and PR upon the book’s initial release went to naught – without the e-product available “on the shelves” during the launch. Years ago, one marketing director I was dealing with didn’t know Facebook could be used to promote a book (luckily his PR person did). While gross incompetence is rare, mistakes happen out of the control of the author or agent.

13: A book was written and it should have been an article. We’ve all read books that were all but over after chapter 4. The story was predictable or the points over-used. Yes, there is nothing new under the sun, but try to make sure you’re conveying content that you can’t get in a few blogs.

14: One careless word. The book had a swear word in it so Lifeway wouldn’t carry it. This happens a fair amount of times because authors insist that profanity makes it more “real” (which it might) and they’d rather sacrifice sales than not be real. As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working out for you?” If you want to play in certain sandboxes, you have to play by the sandbox’s rules. Sorry.

15: Setting and storyline. If it’s fiction, having a setting outside of America, England or Ireland. “Because I love Russia (or Africa or Thailand)” just plain rarely sells well in America. Or having a storyline that is not entertaining—and very hard—to read (i.e. child abuse, sexual abuse, deaths of key characters).

16: Changing reading habits. People don’t read as much as they used to. Or if they do, it’s blogs and articles that are free on the web. More true with nonfiction readers. The attention span of today’s internet-soaked reader has shortened radically.

17: Cheap buyers. People are waiting around for the free or cheap ebook that comes out a year later instead of spending $10 to $20 on a new book they know they will get eventually and pay less (or nothing) for. Also, the proliferation of self-pub’d books that have a lower price tag has put a dent in a traditional author’s sales.

18: Life happened. Something happened in the author’s life so that all of their well-laid plans to launch and promote their book flew out the window. Or it happened to the in-house PR person’s life. Or the outside PR person’s life. Or the agent’s life. Or their famous author friends’ lives. “Life happens” all the time, and I’ve seen more than a few books sink because cancer or a death occurred in the family of some key person trying to make the book a success.

19: Book retail has gone bye-bye. If you’re a Christian writer, the lack of stores to sell into can certainly be one place to put the blame. When I first started as an agent 21 years ago, there were 6,500 Christian bookstores. Now there are about 1,000. So . . . “no one walks into Christian bookstores anymore” is fairly true.

20: The industry. Frankly, publishing is hard. Every publishing house is working harder for less money. Every editor, marketing and PR person, sales person . . . is overloaded with work because margins are thin. If there is a “new normal” that will get us back to center in publishing, it hasn’t happened yet.

These 20 reasons, and likely a few others, would all not count a twit if people could just find out about the new books they want to read. Agents and editors are still finding great stories, fabulous writers and motivated publishers. The problem? Creating awareness for these great books! Retail continues to shrink, magazines are all but gone, and with over 100,000 new bloggers (on WordPress alone) starting blogs every day, it’s only a matter of time before most of us are tuning out all of the content coming into our inbox (if we haven’t already). How will people start finding out about all of these good books?

The newest and biggest elephant in the publishing room is this:  How, with the demise of print media and bookstores, do we find and target regular book-buying readers who are interested in a particular genre and book topic?

Faithhappenings.com was created to help answer this question. FaithHappenings offers the following unique benefits to authors, publishers and reader-consumers:

  • When a member checks specific boxes on their preferences, it will send readers an email when a new book comes out in any genre they enjoy and buy.
  • FaithHappenings also lists music and videos, independently published books and music, local events of every type, scripture, blogs, devotionals and much more… and all a member has to do is check a box to find out about them. It only takes three minutes to fill out a profile, and it is free to do so.

Check out www.faithhappenings.com. There are 454 local websites that carry local and national info, with a big emphasis on books!

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This entry was posted in Agent's Desk, Marketing and Promotion and tagged , , , by Greg Johnson. Bookmark the permalink.

About Greg Johnson

I’m the president of WordServe Literary in Centennial, Colo. and founder and president of FaithHappenings.com. More importantly, I’m married to Becky, and together we share six adult children, and are grandparents to seven. In previous years, I've been a Campus Life leader (10 years), Breakaway magazine editor (5 years), author or coauthor of 21 books. But for the last 22 years, I've been a literary agent privileged to work with a great family of authors and staff trying to make a dent for the Kingdom.

3 thoughts on “20 Reasons Books Don’t Sell (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: Cutting My Losses??? | I'm a Writer, Yes I Am

  2. Reading these two lists was very informative (if daunting). I’ve never read anything so straight and factual about what happens, not just why books are published (and end up in remainder bins at the supermarket), but why good novels are rejected.

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