5 Reasons Why Readers Won’t Buy Your Book.

1.  They don’t know about your book.

This seems painfully obvious, doesn’t it?

With the rise of e-readers, the decline of shelf-space, and the sheer overload of information, getting noticed by a target audience is a lot like shouting your title randomly at a Rolling Stones concert.

Consequently, it’s more important than ever to promote.  As Cory Doctorow said, “My problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.”  (I love that quote, btw, even though I think he was referring to free reads on Amazon.)  You need to get the word out.

Possible solutions:  a well-planned launch… with plenty of time to lay down the ground work.

2. They don’t know what your book is about.

Think about how you buy a book at a bookstore.

You’re attracted by the cover.  You pick it up.  Then you flip the damned thing over, read the back cover, then crack it open and read the first few pages.

If you’re an e-reader, then you usually stumble across a title… and do the same thing, essentially.  You’re going to check out the cover.  You’re going to read the blurb. Then you’re going to read an excerpt, or a download a sample if one’s available.

This is where knowing your hook and your high concept is really, really helpful.  You might have about ten seconds to catch a reader’s eye.  Throat-clearing and “well, it’s about a girl, and she’s been…” will result in one quick click away.

Possible solutions:  make sure you’ve got a hell of a blurb; an excerpt on your book page; a sample on buy sites; an excerpt for digital distribution.

3.  They don’t know if they’re going to like it.

Why do bestsellers stay bestsellers?  Because in a lot of cases, they’ve earned it.  They’re a proven commodity.

It’s not merely a case of “oh, readers are unadventurous sheep who only want the same pap delivered in slightly different packaging.”  It’s “readers have been screwed and seen money go down the drain for wall-bangers.”

Right now, they want authors they can trust or a near-guarantee that they’re going to enjoy it.  How are they going to figure this out?

The sample or excerpt will go a long way towards easing that, but possibly even more important:  social proof.  That can come in a variety of forms:  cover quotes are huge. Reviews, either industry, book blogs or reader reviews on buy sites, are also influential.

Also, I would not overlook the promotional potential of libraries. I disagree with authors who want libraries to give royalties to authors.  First, I’ve worked in libraries and spent years there: budgets are tight, and I think if they paid royalties every time a book was checked out, in our economy, libraries would vanish.

Second, libraries are one of the best sources of promo out there.  Yes, there are readers who either cannot afford your book, or simply will not shell out the cash to buy your book (or any other book.)

You know what?  You’re not losing the sale, because they wouldn’t have bought it no matter what.  However, there’s a third library patron: the one who doesn’t want to spend the money because, again, doesn’t know whether she’ll like it.

So she reads it. And loves it.  And gets a late fee, because she doesn’t really want to give it back.  Next thing you know — she goes out and buys it.  And if you can hook her on a series from a library read?  I speak from experience: there is nothing as frustrating as waiting to borrow a series in order. A true fiction addict, once hooked, will go out and clear out your back list as soon as budget permits.

Possible solutions:  cover quotes from authors readers recognize; reviews and more reviews; and free reads and library copies don’t hurt.  Especially for the first in a series.

4.  They don’t know who you are.

I recently read a blog that said that readers don’t simply want to read books anymore: they want a relationship with the author.  “You are your brand” is becoming a bit more than a tired platitude as readers make buying decisions by not only checking out reviews and buy sites but your web presence, either on your site or on social media like Facebook and Twitter.  If you want to live like an online recluse, your book had better be frickin’ mind-blowing.

Possible solutions:  a thoughtful, authentic and accessible presence, online and possibly through speaking engagements/radio/face time.  A frickin’ mind-blowing book also helps. 🙂

4b. Corollary: they know who you are, and you’re bugging the crap out of them.

There are some authors who, in a fit of desperation born of knowing the previous four steps, lose their damned minds and consequently promote as if their lives depended on it. Every tweet, every post, the eight billion yahoo groups they belong to, the forums, the blogs they comment on…all get papered with the promotion equivalent of shrapnel as they try to ensure that people know about their book.

They’re trying to jump start word-of-mouth, but all they’re doing is convincing Those That Generate WOM that they’re desperate and irritating.

When you’re “your brand,” suddenly your book carries with it the mark of Cain: it could be the next Harry Potter, but nobody wants to crack it open because frankly, they don’t want to give you the sale.

Possible solutions:  the “friend test.”  For whatever promo you put out, think about it as if you’re telling your best friend…. one you wouldn’t feel awkward about telling that you’ve got a book out.  Someone you know would love the book, and wants to buy it.  Asking once is a reminder — hey, I’ve got this book out!  Twice, if she’s forgetful.  Nine times?  Now you’re nagging.

Or imagine if you, as a reader, were hearing what you’re about to be sending out. Yes, repetition is important — but if you got the same message, with no other benefit or information or “cookie” for the reader, five times a day every day, wouldn’t you start to get a little pissed off?  Wouldn’t your cursor hover over the “unfriend” box?

Other solution:  moderation.  Everything in moderation.

5.  They are not the Right Reader for your book.

Again: you’ve got the next Harry Potter, let’s say.  There will still be a bunch of people out there who will simply not buy your book.  They may have read the title, the blurb, downloaded the sample, saw the reviews on Amazon, discussed it with enthusiastic friends who say ohmygod have you read this yet you absolutely MUST!

But they’re still not gonna buy.

Maybe because they don’t have the money.  Maybe because they just can’t seem to connect with the concept. Whatever.  They’re just not your Reader.

Possible solutions:  know who your Right Reader is — and let it go.  You can’t sell them all.  Good news?  You don’t need to.

If you found this helpful, or know someone who might, please go ahead and re-tweet or re-post with one of the sharing buttons below.  Thanks!


Case Study: 10 Simple Steps to Promote a Novel, Part 2

I was grateful to be able to use Linda Cassidy Lewis as a case study on how to profile a Right Reader.  Since she’s a glutton for punishment, she’s graciously allowing me to use her again… this time to illustrate what I’d suggest be her next 10 steps for promoting her self-published novel, The Brevity of Roses.  Last week, we covered the first five steps to promote her novel. These are steps 6 through 10.

6.  Reviews, reviews, reviews. From readers this time.

Amazon. Barnes & Noble.  Goodreads.  This step tackles social proof, as well — that’s the thing that convinces people to try your book.  Even if they don’t know the other reviewers, if there are a lot of other people who say they’ve read it, good or bad, then people automatically think “well, there must be something worth reading here” and more easily plunk down their cash.

Don’t be afraid of bad reviews.  Even wretched reviews turn out to be helpful — they convince potential readers that you haven’t just rounded up your family and neighbors to put five-stars on your book page.  In fact, they often promote a sense of controversy: how can there be five star and one star reviews for the same book?  Obviously people feel strongly about it!

Don’t use reader reviews on your book page or your promotional items (unless it’s really colorful/memorable, and I mean really.  Like the World of Warcraft testimonial “my husband won’t have sex with me anymore” sort of memorable.  Or, on second thought, perhaps not.)  But you still want to get as many reader reviews as you can.

Two ways to do this:  offer a review based contest. This is where someone can enter for a prize of some sort (not the book! Because presumably they’ve already read it!) if they email you proof that they posted a review about your novel.  I’d suggest prizes be either a gift certificate (for Amazon or B&N, for example) or something similar… nothing too nuts, like a Kindle.  Make sure that you don’t say what kind of review it is (no “if you give me a five star review, you could win $25 worth of books!”)   Here’s a great example of Kalayna Price using a contest to “get the word out,” including reviews.

The other way:  a new service called Book Rooster.  I just found out about this.  According to their website, they have 2,750 readers signed up, although I’m still not sure what the split is among the genres they mention.  In Linda’s case, I’d recommend choosing reviewers interested in women’s fiction and perhaps literary fiction, as well as romance.  The cost is $67. If this gets more popular, I imagine they’ll be raising their price.  I’m also sure there are other services and “swaps” for reviews out there, but this seems simpler, if a bit pricier.  As I hear more, I’ll post about it.

7.  Guest post.

This is one of the best ways to generate both traffic for your site and sales for your novel.  The trick is finding places that are good for this particular project.

When I get a genre project, once I’ve read the novel and the author questionnaire, I start to plan the launch.  In a lot of cases, this means blog tour, a term I initially recoiled from but have since been won over to.  A blog tour is basically an organized set of guest posts and interviews, orchestrated as an event and promoted as same.  Either posted on an author’s news/events page or on a separate page of its own on an author’s site, sometimes with an advertising “badge” that can be distributed with a link to that page, every stop is listed & linked.  Every stop is also publicized on the author’s social media.  This helps the blogs where you’re stopping as well as your novel.I like to shoot for twenty stops, one week before to two/three weeks after a book drops.

Linda’s case is special, first because she’s self-published and a lot of review sites still exclude self-pub, and second because her book has already “launched” and many review sites don’t review already released material, preferring to emphasize new releases for their readers.  Also, there’s the previous women’s fic/literary fic thing that I mentioned earlier.

In Linda’s case, I would suggest she get in contact with the self-publishing tribe, which is very strong.  I’d look for other authors who write similar material, and offer to swap posts on each other’s blogs.  I would suggest targeting some of the writing sites I mentioned in step 2, like Writer Unboxed if at all possible, and write guest posts that fit the tone of the site.  Getting a guest post on a site like J.A. Konrath’s is obviously the holy grail, but worth investigating.

Beyond that, you might look for things that are similar to the subjects covered in the novel.  I don’t necessarily recommend spending a lot of tribe building efforts there, but if your Right Reader is a woman for whom family is important and journeys of self-discovery are fascinating, then websites, blogs and magazines geared toward those audiences are the perfect place to target for guest posts.  Someone as fascinating as Jonathan Fields might be approachable; possibly Think Simple Now or Goodlife Zen would be solid candidates.

8.  Consistent social media.

Linda already has the tools, and a very healthy tribe.  She’s got a blog with regular commenters, showing an engaged readership.  She’s got a good number of Twitter followers.  What do you do with that, though?

I would create a strategy.  First of all, you don’t want to spend your entire life posting to Twitter, and Facebook, and all of that.  There are ways to streamline the process.  If you use something like Hootsuite, you’re able to post whenever you post a blog, for example, to both social media platforms.  Some people think that this is “laziness.” I look at it this way: not everyone I know on one platform follows me on the other — and if I post it on Twitter, odds are good somebody will miss it but catch it on Facebook, and vice versa.  It’s hedging your bets.

Decide how often you’re going to post about what.  Promoting your blog posts is important, but if that’s all you’re doing (or worse, simply mentioning your book is for sale, or your multitude of blog tour stops, or whatever) then it’s going to be a “ME ME ME!!” fest.  Nobody wants to hear that — and few do, since most either tune out or unfollow.

The rule of thumb is 80% useful stuff to 20% promotion.  I’d add one element:  interaction.  It’s not simply broadcasting, it’s engaging with your fellow social media peeps.  Tweet or post about stuff you think they’d be interested in.  On Goodreads, post book reviews often, about books you enjoy that you feel your Right Reader would also enjoy.  Post about breakthroughs in psychology, or a blog that you found fascinating.  Share.

Decide on how many tweets/posts you’re going to do a day, and approximately when.  I’d say at least three — shoot for morning, afternoon and evening.  If you have a spare moment, peek in, and comment. I’m more of a Facebook girl than a Twitter peep, but I’m slowly being won over… and Google Plus looks like it may blow them both out of the water.  I think it’s okay to pick one that you love, and support it with the others.  That means you can post on all of them, but interact more on one.  I’d do that about twice a day.  Agree with someone, wish someone a happy birthday, give an interesting tidbit or an authentic point of view on a topic.

It seems so small… but it helps.

Don’t know what to say?  Again, 80% should be contribution, or useful and interesting stuff, usually re-tweets (shared links from someone else.)  Look for headlines that are clear, and obviously helpful.  Also, finding things that your Right Reader would find funny and resonate with are often the stuff that gets the most traction: here’s the place to share those YouTube videos you find funny, or web comics, or simply humorous blog posts.

9.  Track results.

If you don’t have Google Analytics on your website, it’s worth getting.  (Well, it’s free, so it’s worth even more.)  Why?

Not only will it tell you how many people (unique visitors, not just you jumping on every ten minutes to see how it looks <g>) visit your site on a daily basis.  It says how many people looked at what pages… which means you can see how many people read your blog versus how many people actually looked at your book page.  You can also see where they came from.  Wondering which people are coming from Twitter versus Facebook?  Or how many people typed a keyword combination, like “roses and romance”?  This will tell you.

Because I’m a beast with a spreadsheet, I would encourage a tracking metric of some sort, to see how many followers you’ve got (or lost) from month to month; possibly checking which posts were the most popular, via visits and comments; and seeing where traffic is coming from.  I’d also say check only once a month or so.  It’s easy to get obsessive about this stuff, and that’s not healthy, either.

10.  Write your next release.

This seems obvious, and perhaps tongue in cheek.  I couldn’t be more serious.  In the Wild West of electronic publishing (and self-publishing), there’s a documented reaction:  your next book boosts sales of your last book.  Those who are succeeding are often the most prolific. I’m not saying push productivity beyond all reason, or emphasize speed at the cost of quality.  I am saying that the best promotional tool is your next novel


So here, in a nutshell, is what I’d recommend for the next 10 promo steps for Linda Cassidy Lewis’s novel, The Brevity of Roses.

Sure this looks easy… but what if you’re stuck?

I was running an outrageous special this month, beta testing the Rock Your Promo service for $25,  but the ten spots are already gone.  Until the end of July, I’m still offering it at a discount, however.  For only $50, I can provide a Right Reader profile, a website evaluation, and ten “next promo next steps” for your project.  This price is only available until July 31st, because the amount of time it takes to tailor each is more than I’d imagined!

If you found this article helpful, please re-tweet… hey, it could be part of your “80% helpful sharing!”  🙂


The White Hat Promo Manifesto

After my last post, I got some valuable feedback from a reader who was “dismayed” that, in essence, I was advocating a new way of “infiltrating” the Amazon forums, or any forums, for that matter.  That I was suggesting ways to trick readers.

She was worried that my stance of connecting and giving it a couple of months before mentioning a release was a carefully crafted plan.

In re-reading my post, honestly, I don’t blame her.  I wasn’t clear enough.  So today, I want to make my position on promotion as clear, I hope, as possible.

But first, a lurid, “hooky” header…

How is book promotion like sex?

Let’s say you’re a single guy.

You’re lonely.  You’d like companionship, someone to spend time with, among other things.  You don’t consider yourself particularly adept with the opposite sex, and you’re shy.

What you do know: your chances of finding Ms. Right while staying in your hermit cave are between slim and none.

You realize that one of your biggest problems is you hate this dating thing.  You don’t know what to say, or do, and you don’t know when to say or do it.  You’re not sure why anyone would say “yes” and you fear the pain of hearing “no.”

You decide you need help.  You need a plan of action.

“Black Hat” or “Evil” approach.

You see an ad from a guy who teaches classes on how to be a “hundred percent success!” with women.  He’s a pick-up artist, a successful one.

In these classes, you learn how to ignore the pain of rejection.  You learn to be flamboyant and attract attention while minimizing your defects.  You learn who to prey on.  You learn how to use psychological cues to zero in on women’s weak spots, and improve your chances.

Above all, you learn it’s a number game.  For every five to ten women you offend, one will eventually succumb.  The key to success, then, is not in your attractiveness, or your compatibility. It’s in your persistence and the sheer quantity of your invitations.

These classes emphasize another number: your success rate.  How many women you “pick up.”

These classes do not teach you how to sustain a relationship.  Considering the techniques you used to get the connection, it’s not like you’ve got a strong foundation to begin with.

You’re able to manage a number of one-night stands, but at the end of the program, you’re right back where you started: alone.

“White Hat” approach.

You decide you don’t want to simply bag a large number of random women, and keep up the numbers game.  You want a meaningful relationship with one woman who is right for you.

You go to therapy.  You do work on yourself.  You accept yourself as you are, recognizing what you have to offer as well as what you have to overcome.

You get as clear about who you want, what’s a definite and what’s a deal-breaker.  You think about where women with the qualities you’re looking for are most likely to be found, and start going there.  If you’d love to find someone athletic, you join a hiking club or marathon training.  If you’re interested in someone who loves old movies, you’d join a movie club.

You might work with matchmakers.  You might try online dating.  You could let friends fix you up.  If you’re determined, you might try all of the above.  You realize there are a number of available paths.

Finally, when you meet someone, you’re gentle, non-pressuring, and you give the relationship time to develop.  You go for coffee.  Maybe dinner.  You date for a while.

When you do propose, she says yes.  But to keep the marriage going, you don’t take her for granted. You don’t ignore her and chase other women in front of her.  You don’t forget to send flowers. You appreciate, check in, and give your best.

All the above applies, almost exactly, to book promotion.

Predator marketing.

Hard sell manipulative tactics are like being a pick-up predator.  You’re looking to score a sale from anyone who’s half-way willing to buy.  Often, you try to bend the truth to seem more like what they’re interested in.  “You love thrillers?  There’s a mystery in mine!” you say, even though you know it’s really a comedy with a light, ridiculous suspense subplot woven in.  But you don’t care — you’re trying to close the deal and make one more sale.

If someone does pick up a book under these circumstances, odds are unlikely that they’ll become fans.

Congratulations… you’ve just made what I call a one sale stand.  You don’t have a relationship with your reader.  And like a pick-up, when you’re done, many of them will walk away feeling screwed.

Permission marketing.

Permission marketing, on the other hand, takes a bit longer, and takes more work.  Finding and connecting with your Right Reader is a lot like getting married. For one thing, you don’t just wander up to someone and say, “hey, you read books!  Want to buy mine?”  To stretch the analogy, that would be like going up to a total stranger and saying, “hey, you’re single, but appear to like sex!  Want to hook up?”

You need to know what makes your book special. That will tell you who your Right Reader is… the type of person who is looking for just what you offer.

Then, you can follow the relationship arc:  you “meet” the readers where they hang out (book blogs, websites, conventions) and strike up a connection.  You interact when you bump into each other in comments or on forums designed for interaction.

The reader likes what you’re saying — she goes to your blog, and learns more about you.  She knows and likes you. When your book comes out, she’s more than ready to give you a try.

If she’s your Right Reader, you’ve got a fan for life — one that, if you respect her with quality books and continuous appreciation, will be worth more than a hundred “pick-up” sales because it’s easier to keep her happy than spend the time and energy finding new sales.

Bottom line:

At Rock Your Writing, we only wear White Hats. Want to be a pick up artist?  Door’s over there.

If you wear a White Hat, please re-tweet or like this post.


Photo by A. Germain.