After countless hours of writing, proofreading, and self-editing, your book is finally ready for publication. However, after you launch, sales are sluggish or nonexistent. Weeks and months go by, but your baby just isn’t selling. What went wrong? How do you determine the issue, or issues, and fix them?

In today’s post, I want to address 11 reasons your book isn’t selling, and offer suggestions to get you back on track, and making money with your book.

 1.  You Failed to Do Any Pre-Launch Book Marketing

This is a fairly common problem. Especially for self-published authors. You simply must begin marketing your book months in advance of the launch. This includes things like setting up your author website and social media accounts, creating a press release and media kit, and scheduling a book tour. Get my 10 pre-launch book marketing tips in a handy infographic HERE.

2.  The Cover is Terrible

Let’s face it, no one will tell you your baby is ugly, but they will judge your book by its cover. Does your cover readily identify the genre of your book? Is it eye-catching? Did you hire a professional to do your cover design?

Finding a great cover designer is easier than ever. If you need professional results on a budget, check out the many gigs available on Fiverr.com. Want to work directly with a professional designer for a high-end design? There are plenty of great designers on Upwork.com. Not sure about how to hire a designer? Contact us and we will help you get the absolute best cover designed within your budget.

Also, check out our post on 7 Ways Self-Publishers Fail at Cover Designs and get our free tutorial on Creating an Outstanding Book Cover That Sells.

3.  You Failed to Use a Professional Editor

Professional editing is an absolute must for any serious author. I always recommend my clients edit their own book until they can’t stand to look at it any longer. Put it away for a while, then come back and edit it again. Finally, hand it off to a seasoned pro for putting the finishing touches on the manuscript. Every author who follows this process for the first time is amazed at the number of errors that are found. This is because they know the story so well that glaring errors are missed.

Want to find an editor to work with? Contact Softpress Publishing or search the Editorial Freelancers Association for one specific to your genre.

4.  Your Marketing is Ineffective or Nonexistent

Assuming you successfully completed your pre-launch book marketing from number 1 above, you need to keep marketing your book after it launches. This requires creating a plan and sticking to it. Sometimes, however, even the best plans fail to produce the desired results. Ineffective marketing can usually be avoided if you know your target audience well and use strategies that are proven to produce results in your genre. Need help? Hire a publicist.

As you’re preparing your book for publication, study other new releases in your genre. What marketing tactics are being used? You may consider using ads on Facebook, Google, and/or some other social media platform. Personally, I have tried ads for several of my books on Twitter and Pinterest, but Facebook seems to get more traffic and results for my ad dollar.

Stay tuned to our blog, as I will be covering book marketing strategies in a future post.

5.  Your Book Fills No Void

Another reason your book might not be selling is that there is no audience for it. I was speaking to a potential client a few weeks ago and they wanted to write a book on racquetball. I did a quick search on Amazon.com for books on racquetball. Less than 400 results came back. None of which were published in the past 2-3 years. Quite a few of the results actually had nothing to do with racquetball. To top it off, only one had a sales rank less than 1,000,000 on the dozen or so that I looked at. The results on Amazon.co.uk weren’t any better.

The results above proved to me there is no market for such a book. The same could be true for yours. What does your book contribute that others on the market do not? Do you have a new and proven system for an old problem? What is unique about your work that sets it apart from others in the same genre? I’ve seen tons of new “get out of debt” books come on the market in recent years. Yet, most of them appear to be little more than rip offs or re-writes of Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover.

It should probably go without saying that this particular topic is something you need to research well before putting pen to paper.

6.  You Failed to “Go Wide”

How many buying options have you given your audience? If you only publish to Kindle, you’re missing out on all those bookworms that prefer paperback. You’re also missing out on all those who have a Nook instead of a Kindle device. If you only publish to Amazon, you have probably lost out on 20%-40% additional revenue.

Are your books going to be found in local bookstores and libraries? Do you want them to be? Just because you opt-in to “Expanded Distribution” on Amazon, does not automatically make your book magically appear on the shelves of local shops after it launches. It takes legwork and effort to get shelf space in most book stores.

7.  Your Book isn’t Categorized Correctly

Despite your best efforts, if you have placed your book in the wrong categories, no one will be able to find it online. Choosing the wrong categories is akin to placing your young adult romance novel in the cookbook section of a bookstore. It will simply go unnoticed. To learn more about choosing categories, read my post on How to Pick the Best Amazon Categories for Your Book.

8.  You Didn’t Use the Best Keywords

Perhaps you did your research on categories but failed to use strategic keywords in your book title or description. With thousands of new books published monthly, using optimized keywords is something you must do. Learn how to research keywords and key phrases in my article Amazon Keywords for Indie Authors.

9.  The Price is Too High

I helped an author publish a children’s book recently. It had full color interior and was 44 pages long. It happened to be a fairy tale within the public domain so there are plenty of other books similar to it on Amazon. When we got to the pricing, however, it was almost impossible to compete. Expanded distribution of the paperback wasn’t even an option as it caused the price per unit on Amazon to be quite a bit higher than what similar titles were selling for. We opted for standard distribution channels and set the price point to the midpoint of similar titles as a compromise.

So, what’s your price point for the 400-page novel you wrote? Trying to sell it at $29.99 when every other book in your genre is $17.99 or less? How much wiggle room will you have between printing costs and sale price? Can you be competitive, or do you need to research other printing options? Print-on-demand platforms are great because you don’t have to order hundreds of copies up front, but certain books may require you do this to be able to make any money.

This is another of those things you should investigate up front rather than at print time.

10.  Your Book Description is Not Interesting

More often than not, I find that authors have a difficult time writing a great book description. The cause for this is actually very understandable, however. Authors are pros at writing content in a particular style for their specific genre, not sales copy (ie: copywriting). And, if you stop and think about it, a great book description should be just that – sales copy.

Consider this: Provided your cover is strong enough to catch someone’s attention, your book description should be the hook that whets their appetite to know more about what’s inside. It should compel the potential customer to actually purchase and read your book. After all, authors typically prefer for their books to sell rather than gather dust on a shelf or linger unnoticed in digital cyberspace.

So, understanding your book’s description is an abbreviated sales brochure, how do you go about writing a great one? Here are my 9 tips for writing a compelling book description.

11.  You Have No Reviews or Many Bad Ones

Without a doubt, you must have reviews for your book. It gives it legitimacy and provides social proof. You should be very proactive with getting as many reviews for your book as you can. Especially just before and just after launching it. This is where your media kit comes in. Prepare a professional media kit and submit it along with an ARC (advanced review copy) of your book to journalists, bloggers, news outlets, and any other media channels you can think of to get reviews. Being proactive about getting reviews is much better than just sitting back hoping they will roll in. Read my article on book reviews HERE.

And, you might as well get used to the fact that you can’t please everyone. You will receive bad reviews from time to time. However, if you are regularly receiving bad reviews, they most likely aren’t random. What are the readers complaining about? Is there a consistent theme? Maybe it’s your editing, or lack of editing. Maybe your plot is incomplete, or characters aren’t well developed.

If it’s something you can fix, do so. Quickly! If not, learn your lessons and don’t make the same mistakes on your next manuscript. And remember, never respond to bad reviews!


While this isn’t an exhaustive list of why your book may not be selling, these are the most likely culprits. Examine each one closely and be completely honest with yourself. It may be one issue, but most likely it will be some combination of the above.

Have you found an issue with your own book sales that doesn’t fall into one of the above categories? If so, share with everyone in the comments below.

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