This post addresses the most common reasons that books fail to make money, and how to fix it and make more book sales with my 37 essential ebook marketing tips.
My entire business was built on the back of one single ebook, but most books fail to make money after the launch period.
How do I know? Because I’ve now written over seven books, and some of them have sold consistently right out of the gate and continued to sell for years after writing, and others got mixed reviews and were a real effort to promote and produce barely any recurring revenue.
So over the past year or so, while I took a mini-break from blogging, I spent a long time analysing my book sales, my marketing strategies, my feedback and reviews, and I’ve come to figure out why books stop selling.
This is a tough post for me to write, because it involves me making a BIG confession about my own work which is probably going to kill my book sales outright; but I’m sharing it anyway because I genuinely want others to learn from my mistakes – especially if you’re about to write a book or you’re about to launch one, or you want to know how yours can make more money for you!
When we’re done – I’ll show you exactly what to do to fix it, so don’t get disheartened when you relate to the reasons your books have stopped making bank. The truth is book sales can become a relatively healthy, passive income stream- yes, I said passive! – with just a few tweaks and ongoing maintenance, they will continue to generate sales and earn more money for you.
Why Your Book Isn’t Making Any Sales
1. Your Launch Tailed Off In A Negative Energy Spiral!
Hands down one of the most common reasons I see books ‘failing’ (though I don’t like using that word because everything is fixable, and if it’s not, well, you’re meant to learn the lessons from the failure so every a failure is really a win – yes even those that really hurt) is because of a launch that didn’t go exactly to plan.
What I mean by that is, usually a launch is planned with some livestreams, email campaigns, a ton of social media activity etc on day one.
It continues for a few days… especially while you add in some extra juicy bonuses (you did do that, right?) and your sales trickle in… maybe even flood in… but then… you’re not sure why… but they tail off…
And so do you. Somewhere you lost your vibe inbetween the writing marathon and the launch marathon, and you got tired, or wanted to give up, or you’re wondering if the few sales you had were really worth it… and you tell yourself you’ll get back on it just after you give yourself a bit of self care… but you don’t – not in any real or committed fashion.
Somehow it just all tails off, your lack of sales attacks your confidence and motivation, and your motivation and confidence impacts your promotion. (Yep, I get it. We all get the imposter syndrome and the Fraud Feeling).
2. The Negative Energy Leads To SOS
Shiny Object Syndrome, ladies! When you’re in that energy slump it can be SO easy to switch your focus to something else that crosses your path. You busy yourself in writing or recording posts about anything BUT your book, or maybe you take time out altogether! You’re avoiding your book sales and results – (and probably further promoting it too)! – because you feel uncomfortable. And it’s hard to get comfortable with uncomfortable, no matter what the pretty quotestagrammers tell you.
Suddenly you wake up feeling totally disconnected from the book you birthed into the world, and you kind of don’t even notice (except you do, but you pretend not to). Instead some new idea has crossed your mind, and you’ve decided to focus on THAT now, instead.
3. Lack Of A Follow Up Funnel
In the joy of completing your book and in your dying need to get it out into the world because
YOU WROTE A BOOK, GODDAMNIT!
You totally missed out or skimped out on having a follow up funnel or system in place, which almost always means, lost sales. We’ll talk about how to fix that in just a second.
4. The Oh GAWWWWWD Reason.
Ok here goes. Your book isn’t selling because um, it’s not a very good book. And that’s not me being mean or unkind but realistic (OH, check this out. The dreamer does do realistic sometimes after all). And I know because (aaargghhh) two of my books – still currently on Amazon – are terrible.
Ugh. This reeeeeeally is uncomfortable.
And it’s really not me being super-modest OR a weird backwards way of wanting to generate sales (though if you want a template of what NOT to do, sure, go pay the $2.99 and read and learn)! It really IS bad.
Here’s why. My first book was amazing. Lol 😉 but seriously, it was pretty good. And it sold. All over the world. It became a passive income stream. And even now I still stumble across the odd person asking for it or requesting it in my blog comments over on one of my other sites, and it was published almost six years ago and is only an e-book and it was littered with terrible grammar and spelling mistakes.
But you know – it was HELPFUL and genuine and came straight from my heart to my readers. (This is also not a sales pitch, just so you know, because it was about film photography as this was how my business began and I doubt you are into film photography because it’s still pretty niche. And it’s not available anymore anyway). And I poured everything I had into it.
The second one was also pretty good.
And then somewhere inbetween congratulating myself on my book sales and feedback- I started following lots of people online who were ‘expert kindle authors’ who told me I should write faster. That it quality didn’t matter, they said. What matters is just that you get your work out there!
So I did. And I published books quickly, sometimes just two weeks apart, and barely even proofread them, what mattered was quantity, not quality, when it came to cheap ebooks, right?
I learned this the very hard way. Which is why apart from this book, which actually I am quite proud of, I haven’t published anything else for a long time.
You need to be honest with yourself and ask – do people REALLY need this book, or is it a vanity project I wanted to create purely to boost my business?
My first books weren’t created for any other reason than to help people – and I think it really showed in the quality of the writing.
But my later books- I created as an entry point into my business funnel.
ARGH. This is isn’t getting any easier to admit! I’m NOT enjoying this one bit. So much for cathartic writing.
And this is where I messed it all up, I got mixed reviews (my lovely long term clients and followers gave the book great reviews because somehow I attract wonderfully big hearted women in my tribe, but people who had never heard of me and somehow stumbled across me on the internet gave me the big THUMBS down, as well they should)!
and because of that I stumbled into the energy spiral above and distracted myself with all manner of other things instead of promoting my books (or maybe editing them would have been at least a good place to begin).
So you have to ask yourself this – is my book REALLY actually any good!? If you have a sinking feeling it might not be – all is not lost. You can still use this book in a number of ways.
Like now, finally, I’ve been able to share this with all of you, so even though they were technically not great books at all, at least I’ve found some silver lining in them in that I can share the learnings with you so we can all move forward in this great publishing journey.
You could go back and rewrite or edit the thing, use it as a free optin, or extract the best parts and use them as blog content, etc.
Ok, so in case you’ve started to feel that little sinking feeling in your belly, after reading this list of why your books aren’t making you any money, here’s how you fix that.
I implemented these after publishing my first books and this one in order to maintain that high energy, positive vibes, and of course – sales!
How To Increase Your Book Sales And Earn More Money From Your Book!
1. Book Sale / Promotion Energy Slump?
Remember that a great portion of your sales (for anything online, not just for books) come right towards the end of your launch, or after the event! Why? Because as much as we like to think our presence is what shifts people to move forward, actually sales tend to come a bit like waves – they tend to take time to grow and peak. Everything you do before you reach that critical mass is what gets you to that point when the wave is at its highest –
And it’s usually the stuff people don’t see, under the surface!
So dust yourself off, and remind yourself that you didn’t get into this journey for it to be a sprint, did you? You know it’s more like a marathon! Find a way to pick your energy back up – remind yourself why you got started, create a new vision board, create a kick ass quotes board on Pinterest (yes, I actually have one of these lol, everyone needs some boss babe motivation every now and then!), journal, spend some time with successful people and let their vibe rub off on you, whatever it takes to get going again.
2. Consider How You Can Continue Your Publicity Efforts Differently
My first book took a YEAR of promotion to really take off – the launch period was great, but I started to get to the top of SEO results and make sales from social media after I got published in trade magazines and on blogs in my niche! THAT’s how I got to become ‘ an expert’, NOT from publishing the book itself! and I kept that up for over year! Eventually my name became associated with my niche because I simply made sure I was featured everywhere!
3. Create Your Follow Up Funnel Already!
Most people think this is some sort of hard sell where you push people who bought your book into buying some high-priced item. Noooooo. That’s super spammy. Use your funnel to build relationships! So send a series of your best content and show off your best work – beyond your book. Of course, you can mention other products and services too, but I’d keep the hard sell until you’ve built a relationship first. Or to be honest, not ever. I don’t do hard sells, period, because I think people are tired of it.
I’m a busy Mama, (busy reading homeschooling and traveling the world) and I don’t have time to read too many sales-only promo emails, even if it’s something I really really want. I want relationships with real people, because my time is short and our life is so squeezed digitally now that anything else isn’t needed. High five if you know what I mean.
I mean, youdoyou #canihashtagandeyerollatthesametimewithoutseemingsnarkybecauseimnot but I find a simple PS at the end of my personal emails work really well at selling and I have a super high conversion rate. Or did before I accidentally deleted my list of almost 20,000 people, but that’s a story for another day.
Look over your funnel, or create one if you haven’t yet.
My Basic Book-Sales Email Funnel
Mine tend to be as basic as this –
My books tend to have a call to action at the front and back, telling my readers where to find me and sign up for some awesome bonus.
Welcome email, followed by another email with my best content and maybe an offer in the form of the PS at the end.
Follow up email stating the bonus expires soon
Another awesome piece of content followed by a PS reminder which is literally just a one-liner
One ‘expiring in 24 hours’ reminder.
It’s that basic. They don’t get tagged or funneled or retargeted or anything at all that sophisticated, because I keep my business deliberately simple and streamlined.
What can you include in your funnel, or go back and include? Maybe it needs to be more personal, less salesy? Do you need more calls to action, or provide more great content so your reader doesn’t feel as though they’re being hounded by your promotion?
4. The Bad Book Fix
Seriously, you just fixed the biggest flaw in your book sales – admitting it wasn’t that great in the first place. This feels a bit gutting but it’s MUCH more productive than burying your head in the sand – now you get to go fix it.
What do you need to do to fix your book? It could mean a rewrite, it could mean a different point of view or tone, it could mean you gain more industry expert quotes to support your theories and research, it could mean more research and context, it might be something as simple as a better cover design or layout!
I’m in the middle of rewriting and editing both of mine – Amazon lets you upload updated copies whenever you like.
Ok, so ready to get your book selling more copies and creating a stronger income stream? This is my list of 32 ways to sell more books!
32 WAYS TO SELL MORE BOOKS + E-BOOKS
1. Set yourself a sales goal. Revisit your goal VERY often. A sales goal can work to keep you motivated and on-track, as long as you don’t let it become a tool you use to beat yourself up with!
2. Split your long book into two shorter books which gives readers more opportunities to buy and sales to increase and your following to expand.
3. Make the books part of an entire series. It increases readership, following, and sales, plus gives your books an overall theme or cohesive message, important for clarity to your readers – plus people like to make sure they have every book in a series. Remember Sweet Valley High!? Series aren’t just for fiction writers though, take your non-fiction material and gather it together around a loose theme.
4. Get published on relevant media publications. To make this happen, easy and manageable, write one piece of promotional content every week – two weeks.
There are lots of articles online which say getting published doesn’t increase your following or your sales – I agree. But they do help to establish you as an authority and somebody worthy of attention. I might not have set the world on fire as the world’s best ever photographer with my wedding photography business but I have a list of publication credits as long as my arm which helped to establish me as someone worthy of note when I released my photography books.
5. Blog consistently. Your blog will serve as your biggest sales tool, along with your emails. Write useful content, add a call to action at the end of it. You could replace the word ‘blog’ here with video or podcast or instagram or whatever else is your favourite form of communication with the world.
6. Make a print version. So an actual, real paperback, not just an e-book. Createspace from Amazon offer a print-on-demand service to make publishing a real book as easy as it gets.
7. Put books 1+ 2 together in one book or as a bundle offer (anyone else remember being thrilled as a kid when you found your favourite kids books in one series for sale in bundle? If anyone remembers the ‘Jinny’ horse series you HAVE to leave a comment below, sister)!
8. Give away book one for free as part of the Amazon kindle KDP promotion and then make sure you tell the world about it while the promotion is live.
9. Add links to book 2 in the back of book 1. Give those hungry readers somewhere else to go – and something else to buy.
10. Also at the back of book one – links to download some awesome style optin type thing to get clients on your list which gives you repeat opportunities to promote book two.
11. Send out free promo copies of the print version to beta readers, mother/ baby clubs / groups, mummy bloggers, podcast hosts, small parenting magazines, organic stores, (note – find the things that you like to read and where your audience are likely to hang out). I sent a TON of promo copies of my first digital book and people loved it!
12. Run Facebook ads – to the free version of the book and / or introductory chapters, and / or to a blog post with call to action at the end.
13. Pinterest advertising. Use rich pins and experiment with paid-for advertising to boost images of your book or blog post which leads to a call to action to purchase.
14. Create a book- or theme- specific IG account or a feature account. Use the link to direct to the free book page.
15. Hire a publicist. I wish I had done this. Seriously. I didn’t realise how amazing this actually is until one of my clients, who is a publicist, got featured with actual household celebrities reading her books and featured in NATIONAL – not just trade – media, as well as a children’s TV presenter doing the audio version of her book. WHAT.
16. Include link to your book in your email signature
17. Have a launch party for the print version. Launch date well and truly gone? Have a book party anyway. Or themed gathering.
18. Have an online launch party for the digital version
19. Include a ton of bonuses + gifts as an introductory offer. Or as a seasonal / celebration offer.
20. Have a look at how big books launched from my favourite authors – regardless of niche or audience. (Landing pages, bonuses and gifts, publicity and PR campaigns). Can you borrow any of their ideas?
21. Create a VIP reader group on Facebook, including easy access to books, gift card promos, exclusive content, giveaways, sample pages, etc
22. Talk on relevant stages – from libraries to parenting conferences and conventions, churches to online events or even TedX Talks
23. Join / submit to online book groups
24. Record an audio version
25. Advertise on your own blog in the sidebar
26. Blog post about it- pin your blog to the front page of your site
27. Create an affiliate program (especially good for launch party and promos) – this works well with high-price ebooks, not kindle ones as it’s hard to set up an affiliate program that works with Amazon.
28. Advertise on smaller blogs in relevant niche (focus on a load of small media to build up to a tidal wave). I did this and it helped my target audience to feel as though my book was ‘everywhere’.
29. Giveaways / competitions on blogs – yours and others
30. Amazon ads
31. Advert in print media (within niche)
32. Be a podcast guest and talk about your book
33. Ask your followers / fans / family to share the book for you.
34. Pin the life out of it – add it to relevant tribes, boards, communities and your own book-board.
35. Consider translating it into a foreign language to broaden your target market – this can be done quickly and cheaply by hiring somebody on Fiverr.
36. SEO the LIFE out of your book. I created an entire site for my first book (I started with just a sales page but I realised some supporting content would help it get found in search results)
37. Join NANOWRIMO and make it your plan to either write a new-follow up book or edit the old one. Nano is an incredible initiative where people all over the world join basically the write a book in 30 days challenge. It is a huge movement and super-fun too – I ‘won’ Nano a few years ago by hitting the 50,000 word deadline with a novel I never published. But I’m still super happy I did it – this was with a newborn too! 🙂
38. See if you can use Patreon to promote it in some way. You could offer people exclusive bonuses, bonus chapters, free calls, and your book for becoming your Patreon – the goal isn’t to just make sales but to increase awareness of your book and build relationships.
39. Have a mini-promotion in the name of autumn/ your birthday/ whatever where you repackage it with bonuses and splash it all over social media
Ok, that turned out to be 39 ideas! But I’m all out for now.
These strategies have ALL worked for me to sell my better-quality books 😉 They will help you to make more book sales and increase your passive-income revenue, as well as to boost your business presence too. But obviously the biggest lesson here is to take heart if your books aren’t selling – because it’s totally fixable – even if your books are terrible 😉
So – I’d love to know, has this post helped you? Or do you have any ways that you increase your book sales? I’d love to know – leave a comment below!