20 Reasons Books Don’t Sell (Part 1)

books-21849_640When your book doesn’t move off the shelves or Amazon warehouses in vast quantities, our first tendency is to point fingers. There is something deep in the human psyche that needs to blame someone when hopes, dreams and plans don’t work out. Publishers blame authors, authors blame publishers (or oddly enough, their agents), retail might blame marketing.

The truth is, there will never be one reason why a particular book doesn’t sell. All any of us—author, publisher, agent, retail partner—can do is look in the mirror and ask, “Did I personally do all I could to help the process?” The other truth is, everyone who invests time in writing, agenting, editing, packaging, marketing, publishing, and selling a book wants the book to turn a profit.  We all want books to sell . . . every single book! Otherwise, none of us could stay in business.  So let’s disabuse ourselves of mistrusting motives of the key people trying to help our book—everyone wants to stay in business!

So why don’t books sell? It’s usually not because of a lack of desire, or effort, or skill, or hope, or prayer… it’s a myriad of tangible and intangible factors. Some an author can control, some a publisher can, and many are outside the control of anyone.

Welcome to the world of publishing in the 2010s. Times… they have changed. So what are the reasons a good book may not have great sales?

  1. Hundreds of books have been scuttled because a war or national tragedy took center stage right when a book releases. Suddenly, all of the great PR efforts and TV interviews set up get pre-empted, never to be rescheduled because everyone has moved onto the newest front list of books to promote.
  2. A bad package. It doesn’t happen too often these days; publishers like to make authors/agents happy. But cover designs do sell—or not sell—books. A great title that screams “must read,” a subtitle that grabs, back cover copy that says, “keep looking,” engaging table of contents, endorsements or a foreword by someone of note, a compelling first few pages… these are a few factors that can turn a book browser into a buyer.
  3. Champions leave. With uncertainty in the industry and publisher entrenchment these last five years, editors have been leaving or moving to different jobs at an enormous clip. Without an in-house champion to keep the book on track, details often fall through the cracks no matter who is following up. New editors must inherit projects, but if they didn’t acquire them, sometimes those books get treated like the red-headed step-child.
  4. Marketing/PR failures. A publisher had no effective marketing plan, or didn’t work their marketing plan no matter the agent effort or follow up. The truth is, the 80/20 principle is truer in publishing than likely anywhere else. Eighty percent of their marketing money goes to 20% of their books, because 80% of their income comes from 20% of their books. A huge fact of life in a very tough publishing environment. Sadly, these days, it may even be 90/10.
  5. Author ambivalence. An author decided they’d let others do the heavy lifting in creating awareness about the book. The writer took the attitude that “Everyone, other than me, should tell the world about my book—because I don’t want to be seen as commercializing anything; I’m above that.” Or, “God has called me to write, not to market my writing.” Or, “I’m busy writing my next book. I don’t have time.” Or, “I’m just not good at pushing my own stuff.” Spiritualizing or tossing out excuses about your inactivity likely means one thing in today’s book culture: a short writing career. God will more often “bless” hard and smart work. If you don’t believe in your work enough to champion it, rethink book publishing. Or, perhaps become a collaborator, you can write and not have to worry about promotion.
  6. Author platform. Ah yes, the scourge of authors everywhere. If you haven’t built enough potential readers into your sphere of influence through blogging, speaking, radio or social networking, publishers will just often say, “We can’t help you.” Why? See reason 20.
  7. Friendship failure. An author’s famous friends (the ones your proposal said were on board) who promised to blog, tweet and Facebook about it forgot, or got too busy, or finally read your book and didn’t like it, or have been doing too much of it for every other author friend they have and are just tired of filling their social networking space crowing about someone else’s product (when they have their own to PR).
  8. Small target audience. The book doesn’t meet a broad enough felt need. Niche books used to have a chance. These days they often do not.
  9. Topic overpopulated. The book has been done a million ways from Sunday and there is just too much competition on the subject.

Not all is as discouraging as this post might have started out—and how you might be thinking. I’ll continue my post on Wednesday with further analysis, but also a bit of hope that I hope will help shift the publishing paradigm and eventually change how we as authors, publishers and agents approach the industry.

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Take Beautiful Pictures with Instagram

I get random questions from people all the time, “Ingrid, how do I block my Aunt Beatrice who won’t stop tagging me in pictures that are not even of me?” These are the things I know. These are simple things to me, but to some of you figuring this out is like wrestling with air: impossible. So I always love your input on what to learn and how you can better use your social media skills to influence your tribe and build your readership.

What is happening in my social media world? My new obsession: Instagram!

Yes, I am a little bit late to this game, I know. (It is very rare that I am tardy, but on this one my friends, I AM!) My friends have all had it for a few years, and I have watched them. I have played with it many times, but it was for the “elite” iphone users. I have had T-mobile for years, and yes, they lock you into a contract, and then you are stuck. But Instagram for Android was released a few months ago, and I hopped on the bandwagon with no convincing.

Instagram is doing well. In case you didn’t know, Facebook bought Instagram for 1 billion dollars. You don’t even know what Instagram is? Well, check this out. Here is a picture of mine; right now I am at the Telluride Blue Grass festival.

What is Instagram? Instagram is a free and fun way to share your life with family and friends with edited fun photos. Each picture is taken through your iphone or android phone. You then choose to edit your photo through with very different filters. Instagram’s intuitive set up lets you link your photo to your social media world, either via Twitter or Facebook.

As an author, Instagram can be a valuable tool in using pictures to tell stories about your life and the life of your books.

1. Maybe if it is a novel, you can post pictures of things related to your characters; be creative. I would love to hear your ideas about how you can use this tool to create more buzz and excitement for your books.

2. Connect with your audience, your readers, and your friends. Publish your fun photos. Be creative and show a little bit of your world without intruding into your private world. Use this as a valuable tool to connect. It is a necessity to connect with your readers visually. Help paint them pictures of things you want them to understand about your books.

3. Hash tag your photos like you do on Twitter, and if you can, pick the same Twitter name for your Instagram name. I would love to hear your feedback and see your Instagram photos.

Follow me at @gridlocked on Instagram and Twitter. ☺ Let’s take beautiful and inspiring pictures.

P.S. My favorite new joke: How much does a hipster weigh? An Instagram. If you don’t get it, don’t worry. 🙂

Goodreads

Here is some Social Media just for authors and just for readers. You are probably thinking, “Am I dreaming?”

No! It does exist, and it is an amazing place to devote time and energy. This little heaven for authors is called Goodreads. Goodreads has approximately 4.6 million users. While it may not seem to be as grand as Facebook’s 800 million users, these 4.6 million users are just on Goodreads as readers!

Goodreads is a place people go to only to think about reading. What an awesome concept. There are no random pictures of kids, like on Facebook, pictures of things you can’t afford like on Pinterest. Instead, there are readers, some virtual books shelves, and people talking about BOOKS!  Think about this as Facebook just for authors and their audience.

What are some of the things that you can do on Goodreads?  You can create an author page that “fans” can share with others.  Within Goodreads, you can also start pages specifically for your book. ( I do not encourage people to start book pages on Facebook, just fan pages.  But on Goodreads, you can have both, and they link back to your author page.)  It’s designed just for you, the author. You can easily chat with your readers, add video clips, and link it to your Facebook and/or Twitter pages.

I recommend to authors that they spend money on Facebook, programming a page with their books, so it directs them to buy the author’s books. If you are an author with many books, start a store on your fan page. Goodreads does this for you! (Score!) If your book is on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, it is automatically connected to Goodreads.

Goodreads is super user friendly and very intuitive.  When you sign in, there are tips and tricks that are posted on their pages everyday.  It will give you more ideas and walk you through the site.  This makes it very easy to learn and be more adept in controlling the site. Have fun with this site, and don’t just put your books on it, but really get involved. Dialogue with friends, readers, and other authors.

These were my three tips from Goodreads when I signed in today.

My personal favorite thing on Goodreads is their quote section.  You can add quotes from your book or quotes from your favorite author. I love to search the quotes by words and topics. There are no ads with these quotes, and it is such a great resource for writing. Quotes are also a good way to promote yourself!

Goodreads is definitely a top social networking site for authors.

Go here to start your adventure as a Goodreads author. Also, here is some great information about how to effectively utilize all that Goodreads has to offer: Using Goodreads to Promote Your Books

Have you been using Goodreads to promote your writing? How so?

Finding a Publisher: 10 Steps to Success Part One

If you are a first time author and looking for a publisher, you need to know several facts about the book publishing business. It’s a big ocean to dive into, and remember: there are sharks. Like any kind of business, and book publishing is a business, there are people who want to make a quick buck out of naive and vulnerable authors, so avoid them at your peril.

Step 1 – Write the book. Publishers are not really interested in ideas. They want to see proof that a would-be author has the skill, the stamina and the discipline to finish the job. Publishers expect that a novel should be about 80,000 to 100,000 words long and, taking an average, that’s about 300 pages.

Step 2 – Before you send your MS to a publisher, have the courage to show your creation to someone who will give you an honest assessment of your writing. Don’t ask your spouse or best friend because they are not the best people to give you an honest report. Your local librarian might be a good place to start. It’s a harsh truth, but unfortunately the writing world is overcrowded with writers who have great expectations of themselves but have little talent.

Step 3 – Okay, you have written a book, and your honest critics say it is brilliant and should be published, well done! Now is the time to do some hard work trawling through the books, internet sites and writers groups who can aid you in your search and provide professional help and good advice.

In the UK there is a very useful publication called The Writer’s Handbook, and it is up-dated every year. The editor Barry Turner has done much of the leg work for you, and his handbook really is a useful and complete guide to agents, publishers, editors and copywriters.

I am sure there must be a similar publication in the USA, so go out and get your own copy. I know it seems daft, but you need to know your own book, what genre it is and even what sub-genre it falls into. Next get a highlighter pen and work your way through the handbook and mark out those publishers who publish novels similar to your own. Be meticulous in this exercise, for it will save you time in the long run. It’s a total waste of time sending your romance story to a publisher who only publishes science fiction. Read the small print carefully.

Step 4 – Having got your list of prospective publishers then check out the minutiae of the submission guidelines. Many publishers will not accept unsolicited MS. So do not waste your time, money and effort sending your MS along to one of these companies. When they say they don’t accept unsolicited MS, they mean it, and they probably have their own arcane reasons for this rule. 

Step 5 – There are many publishers who do accept ‘unsolicited’ MS especially from new authors, in the hope they are going to sign-up the ace in the pack and that might just be you.

Your publishers list may be getting shorter by now, but this is good because you are refining your search, and with every step you are closer to finding the right publisher for you.

What are some steps that you took to find the best publisher for you (if you have one)? What are steps that you need to take to find a good publisher for you and your book (if you don’t have one)?