Monday Musings–when your book won’t sell–and Author Update

Words: 1792
Time to read: 9 minutes

I’ll try to keep my musing short this week. I’m tired. I finished the second book in my rockstar trilogy. It came in at 92,633 which is shorter than the first one, but I didn’t expect them to be equal in length–not when the first turned out to be 107k. I created the file on February first, which makes no sense why I felt like I was working on this book forever, but I did.

Anyway, I’m proud of it and proud of the twists and turns that developed while I was writing it. I’ll have to take a break because while I know some of the backstory to both characters of the last book, I don’t know much else. I need to plot more before I start writing. In the meantime, I have a book coming out in May, and I’ll read that one more time and fix the back matter as I probably have the old covers to my duet there and maybe I’ll put the trilogy link there instead. They are better sellers no matter how much I push my duet, and there’s no point in beating a dead horse.

That’s part of my musings for today. Why some books sell practically by themselves and why some don’t. It seems every author has this issue. In fact, Joanna Penn said as much when I (finally) listened to her interview with Jane Friedman back in December. She said:

Because it explains why — like, I’ve got 35 books now, and most of my income comes from a handful of them. And, obviously, every single one I thought was going to sell, but it’s only a few.

JOanna Penn

It’s disheartening, in a way. Not because books are our babies and we love them all equally, but I put a lot of time into each and every book. I watched hours of construction accidents on YouTube to write Captivated by Her. Yes, I might have fudged on a few things because it’s a romance and not a crane operating manual, but I did a lot of research to write Rick’s accident and what caused it as realistically as possible.

Of course, I made two mistakes when I put them out: I didn’t offer them to Booksprout first for reviews, and I published them with covers I changed–wasting the bump Amazon gives new releases. With almost no reviews on either book, that time is nothing I’ll get back. What also didn’t help was that I waited two months between books, when really what I should have done is just released them together or a week apart like I did my trilogy. At the very least, I should have put the second one on pre-order so readers who read the first book would know the second is coming in a decent amount of time.

I can look back at those mistakes, but there’s no way to know that even if I had done those things it would have made a difference. I can always pull them out of KU and offer them to Booksprout reviewers, or take a chance with Amazon and put them on there anyway (I am definitely not comfortable doing that) or keep pushing them with promos and ads. Or, I can just let them go, which isn’t what I want to do, for obvious reasons. It doesn’t hurt to run low cost-per-click Amazon ads, impressions are free so you’re not necessarily wasting money setting them up, but looking at what a small backlist I have so far, it is a bummer that they aren’t doing better. Since their release last summer, they’ve made $214.62 together. To put that in perceptive, because I’m sure there are some of you who are saying that’s good, Rescue Me has made that on its own since its release in September.

I’ve moaned about this before, but actually, this is common. What’s depressing about it is when you have a very small backlist or if you only have one or two books out that aren’t doing well, you’ll have no sales or traction and you’ll have no idea why. Your book could have all the right things–good cover, good blurb, but just for some unknown reason it’s not “hitting” and the longer it’s out without sales, the faster it will sink. You can try to bump it up with a new cover, but if you’ve already spent money on a cover you’ll probably be reluctant to spend more–especially when positive results aren’t a sure thing.

When I re-edited Wherever He Goes, I thought about putting an illustrated cover on it instead of what it is now (it’s funnier than my other books and the content would have supported that change). I don’t have any experience with illustrated covers and I would have had to hire out. It’s not a gamble I took, one because the book is old, but two, an illustrated cover wouldn’t have fit in with the rest of the books in my backlist. I like the cover that’s on it now, and I think the blurb is a good one, but despite it being my favorite, no matter how many ads I set up, I can’t sell it.

What can you do when this happens to you?

*Realize that it happens to everyone. Not every author’s books are going to sell like gang-busters–probably not even Colleen Hoover sells all her books equally.

*Focus on the books that do sell–even if it hurts. The ad gurus tell you to throw your money at your books that do sell, and that’s good advice if you don’t have a money to gamble with. If your books already have a natural momentum or easily find traction with a little bit of help, no point in trying to push a rock up a mountain when it can tumble down on its own.

*In that vein, you can try different advertising strategies if you have a little money to play with. Maybe you can’t get any impressions or clicks on with Amazon ads, but with the freedom of a graphic, being able to choose a target audience, and being able to use as many words as you want in the description, maybe you get more interested eyes using FB ads.

*Another thing you can do is write and publish more. I don’t want to say eventually you’ll write something that will sell, because that just sounds dreary and after a while you’re writing for money and sales instead of writing what you love. Wherever He Goes is a road trip/close proximity contemporary romance. There’s nothing unconventional about it. I loved writing it, and that will have to be satisfaction on its own.

*Think about the risks you want to take. Series are great for read-through, if your book one is solid and hits the market in the right way. A book one that sinks won’t get read-through to the other books. It’s a conundrum I see on Twitter a lot. Authors love to release books as they write them (find some patience, y’all), and then they’re faced with the question of, Is my book not selling because it’s not hitting the market in the right way, or is it not selling because it’s a book in a series and the series isn’t done yet. Then they have to decide if they want to keep going. It’s difficult to find motivation to keep writing a series when the evidence, misleading or not, points to the fact no one wants to read it. That’s a lot of work for no foreseeable gain. For better or for worse, I write all the books at once and only release when they’re done. I put my trilogy up on Booksprout and let reviewers download all of them so they could read the books separately but also review the trilogy as a whole (many did in the review of the last book). You can say that I take my risk ahead of time, and I do. Wasted time is wasted time, but at least I’m not constantly worried about finishing a series if I’m not finding any readers. Had I done that, I would have been in the same predicament many are. Captivated by Her is half of a duet, but I could never let myself not finish the story. Even if you only have one or two readers, I feel you owe it to them to give them closure. Don’t make them waste their time…or their money.

What am I going to do next? I haven’t run a promo on Captivated by Her, and I’ll plan one soon. I wanted to run a couple of free days when I paid for my Freebooksy for Give & Take, hoping to piggyback off that sale (and promo fee), but its time in Kindle Select was about to renew and KDP wouldn’t let me. So I can buy a promo somewhere I haven’t before if they don’t take the number of reviews into consideration when they vet the books for approval. Otherwise, I’ll just have to keep running ads and hope for the best. I can throw myself at my readers’ mercy and beg for reviews in the back matter, but this where you have decide where you want to put your energy. It’s not that I want to let those go, exactly, but the trilogy I’m working on now needs my attention or I”ll never get them done by the time I want to publish them.

That’s all I have for this week. Besides writing and watching my Freebooksy sale results fade on my trilogy, I’m not doing much else. My coworker finished hunting for typos with my King’s Crossing series, and she loved it! That’s a relief, but even bigger is she didn’t find any plot holes, which would have been a bear to fix at this point. After my rockstar trilogy is finished, I’ll be getting those ready for release–I need to fix what she found and tweak the covers. I have a standalone plotted out that I’ll write next as kind of a palette cleanser, and then on to another 6 books series. I have two written and don’t want them to go to waste, so I’ll work on those for a 2025 release. That is too far into the future for me, and I can only focus on getting through each day and hoping it doesn’t freaking snow anymore. By the middle of March in Minnesota, we are all waiting for spring to come.

Anyway, have a great week, and if you have a book that’s not selling or ideas on how to fix that, let me know in the comments! Until next time!