Five reasons why readers aren’t buying your book.

1.  They don’t know about your book.

This seems painfully obvious, doesn’t it?

With the sheer volume of ebooks being added to the market daily, with a very low barrier to entry, 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.”  You need to get the word out.

Odds are good you know that this is one of the issues. Awareness, building your reach, is the first and most important step in building a strategy. You’re going to need lead time to prepare for your launch, to make sure you take advantage of the narrow window of readers’ attention.

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.

You’re attracted by the cover, maybe. It was suggested because you bought something else, let’s say.

The next thing you’re going to do?

You read the book description.

That can be the difference between a sale and a reader clicking away. You need to be clear that this is a story they will be interested in. 

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 a bored reader retreat.

Keep in mind this doesn’t mean that you need to include every detail, and it won’t encapsulate your story perfectly. It doesn’t need to. You’re trying to tempt here, not argue a legal case. Think of the selling points. What about this story is perfect for your Right Reader?

Finally, an excerpt/sample is perfect if they want that extra bit of assurance, to showcase your writing style and truly hook them from the jump.

Possible solutions:  make sure you’ve got a hell of a book description; include an excerpt; a sample on buy sites; an excerpt (with a solid opening hook!)

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 most obvious: reviews, either on a book distributor’s site or on a review site like Goodreads or Storygraph. The more positive reviews you have, the more social proof you’re providing. Like it or not, people like that group reassurance. 

Second to that: if you can get positive testimonials from recognizable authors that write books that are comparable to yours, that helps reassure readers that you’re on the level.

Another avenue: encourage your existing fanbase, or reach out yourself, to get libraries to order copies of your books. There is definitely a pipeline of people who “test” books by borrowing them, and then purchasing those they deem worthy of spending their book budget on! 

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

[Note: I realize that getting reviews is often easier said than done, but there are ways. NOT purchasing them, by the way. Stay ethical!]

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 behavior on social media and your exposure in places readers hang out.  That said, social media tends to be more of a retention device than an awareness builder.

That said, there are influencers that do hang out on social media, and other ways to get your “brand” out there, by connecting with them. Be generous with review copies, electronically if need be. There is always the fear of piracy, or the belief that you’re cannibalizing your own sales. That kind of thinking is ultimately self-destructive, though. It’s not worth throttling your exposure to protect a handful of sales.

Also, be brave, and reach out to reviewers, podcasters, and others about being on their shows. Don’t overlook smaller venues, since the genre book community is just that: a community. Larger influencers are often connected to smaller ones, and if they see your book rated positively enough times, if you become ubiquitous among the lower-follower-count instagrammers, bigger ones will notice.

Possible solutions: Send out a lot of review copies, get connected with influencers… and make sure your own social media is consistent and attractive, even if it isn’t being used for awareness, per se.

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, thread, the eight billion Facebook groups they belong to, the TikToks and Reels, and Posts …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 Big Thing, but nobody wants to crack it open because frankly, they don’t want to give you the sale.

You do want to repeat in marketing, absolutely. The common wisdom is it takes eight (or is it twelve?) exposures to something before you take action. So you’re going to want to ask for the sale, and not be shy about it.

But you can’t just ask for the sale, especially if you’re not currently selling. Because they have no reason to trust you, as previously stated. So simply repeating the action won’t help.

Possible solutions: Provide value added content. During launch month, go great guns and push for the sales, but in between, you want to ask what you can do for your reader, not how can they pay your bills. You can still advertise; you can still pepper in actual marketing. But like the Pareto Principle, do an 80/20% split. The bulk of your content will be stuff your audience likes, the remaining 20% will be the product marketing. 

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

Again: even if you’ve got the Next Big Thing, there will still be a bunch of people out there who will simply not buy your book.  They may have read the title, the description, 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. 

Armed with these principles, you should be able to create a strategy that helps you identify where your sales “holes” are… and start getting more sales,