July 2013 was one of the slowest sales months I’ve had. I didn’t sell very many books last month. In fact, when the final numbers are tallied, it may turn out to be my worst month ever. There are excuses, I mean reasons, and I’ll get to those, but let me whine, I mean pontificate just a little while longer.
When I’m asked how many books I sell I like to say that I sell books every single day, and up until July that was almost always true. But, during the past month I had two days where the numbers on my sales reports did not change. Now, I realize I’ve been a very lucky guy and there are authors who haven’t been as fortunate as I have, but I’ve kinda gotten used to a certain consistency, and last month it just wasn’t there. For two days my sales dashboard remained dormant and no one downloaded any of my three books. As my author friends know, this also affects your rankings on Amazon. With each hour of non-sales, my rankings got farther and farther away from the coveted top 100, 1,000, 10,000 spots. My usual ranking for my most popular book, My Temporary Life, is in the 10,000 to 40,000 range but I watched as it fell all the way to the 80,000 mark. Fortunately, it didn’t last, and the numbers started increasing after the short delay, and my rankings climbed back up.
Funnily enough, as all this was happening, or not-happening, I didn’t really worry about it, and I’ll tell you why. Yep, we’re there-it’s excuse time. You’re probably thinking I’m going to mention that it’s summer and eBook sales are slower in the summer. Wrong. I’m not going to use that one. I do agree sales are slower in the summer but I made it through last summer and did very well, thank you very much, and more importantly, I have colleagues who are having a very good summer in terms of finding new readers for their work. So, the summer excuse won’t cut it. There is one other factor though.
Last month I did not actively promote my books. I ran a brief promotion discounting the price on My Name Is Hardly on July 29th but other than that I let them sell, or not sell, at their own natural pace. I also did very little blogging, I cut down the time I spent on Facebook and Twitter (and the world kept spinning around), and I was not interviewed anywhere, online or in print. Now, there’s a good reason for all of this inactivity and I’ll get to that shortly, but, getting back to my first point, I found it very interesting that, even with the amount of readers I’ve been fortunate enough to have follow me, and the reviews my books have received, my sales still stalled. It confirmed that my books won’t sell by themselves. They need some help.
I keep a schedule of my next six months of promotions. I tweak it from time to time, depending on what’s happening in the marketplace, but for the most part I know what I’m going to do and when. And, according to my schedule, last month I devoted all my efforts to, get ready, here it comes-Writing. Yep, I’ve been writing, and revising, and editing. I had a couple of days where I cranked out five thousand words (yeah, I couldn’t believe it either), and others where it was only a few hundred, but I left almost everything else alone, and moved forward with a couple of projects I really wanted to complete. I finished my self-publishing guide, and will publish that book at the end of August, I’m part-way through a Christmas romance I’ve been working on that will come out in December, and I continue to plug away on the third book of my trilogy.
I was told early on, before I published my first book that you shouldn’t release any work until you have a number of books written. That way, when you find your reader base you have content to supply to them. I didn’t listen. I released my first book and then began work on the others. And, to be honest, if I’d waited I would have lost out on some very good opportunities. I would have missed that magical time at the beginning of 2012 when self-published authors who released their work through Amazon’s KDP Select managed to climb into the upper echelons of the paid bestseller lists. And, if I’d missed out on that opportunity I wouldn’t have had the chance to find as many readers as I have. So, I’m glad I didn’t listen. Now, it’s catch-up time though, I need more books for my readers, and I need to stick to my schedule too. And, as part of that promotional work, I need to find new places to talk about my books. I keep a list of those sites too and I’m going to share that with you. IU has dedicated a special resource page for this purpose, titled Book Promo Sites.
56 thoughts on “How to Stop Selling Books Immediately”
Wow you took a break from promoting & I’ve been offline so I missed it? I did see the promotion you did as that hit my email.
Good for you for taking time to focus on your writing & giving yourself a promotion break.
Yes, the really amazing thing I’m finding is that when we’re offline we really don’t miss all that much, do we? Thanks Tasha.
Good post Martin. If we don’t promote, we don’t sell. Simple as that. As for having more than one book ready before you publish – I have three published and it has only been the last year since Missing Flowers has been published that I have seen any sales. Who knows what the magic solution is? I haven’t found it yet.
There are some books that just catch fire and go, or find their place and stay there and consistently sell. Mine don’t, I have to keep trying to get the word out there. And, I have to keep writing too because you never know what that next book is going to do…
Thank you, Karen.
Love this article Martin. It is the only excellent reason to stop marketing. Eileen is always saying the best marketing for your book, is writing your next book. Bravo for the reminder.
Thank you, Kathrin. Bob Mayer probably gets tired of me quoting him but, he says “Content is King and Promotion is Queen”, and he’s right.
Great reminder, Martin. Thanks for sharing with us!
You’re welcome, Deette, thank you.
I tend to be haphazard when it comes to promotion, mostly because I really have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. You have made it patently obvious that that needs to change. Now that Book there is almost ready I’ll need to become more focused. Thank you for the reminder.
Yvonne, I so agree with you. That is me. I do this and that in promotion and don’t seem to follow a real plan. Gotta change that!
I’m new here too, so I certainly don’t know everything, but I highly recommend having a three or six month schedule. It helps take the pressure off. Thank you, Yvonne, and thanks again, Karen.
I’m with all of you, I don’t have a plan but I like Martin’s idea of a schedule of promoting and marketing. blogs, interviews and stuff.
Great post Martin, and point taken about the need to promote, but on the bright side, just a couple of days without sales? I wish. 😀
Thank you, Andrea, and yes, every time I see that someone has taken a chance on one of my books I’m reminded of how lucky I am.
What with last winter’s move (not done YET!!!) and things that needed doing at both the old place and the new, I have not done any promotions since March. Zip. Nada. Nyet. Nuttin’ Honey. I’m selling a few books every month…and you know what?…I’m good with it. Ferris’ Bluff has been out almost 2 years now, that’s a year and a half longer than if it had been trad -pubbed, and I’m starting to get increasingly demanding messages to get off my ass and finish the sequel! I will, but not until this winter. Too much to do. Too much to do.
There is life beyond your books, and the experiences may well lead too…uh…more books. With new characters and plot lines and undertones. I guess I’ve come to grips with what I perceive as a sort of desperation by some writers (myself included at one point in time) to keep things in a certain place and sales at a certain pace.
Yes, I agree, Fred. I’ve had a move this year myself as well as several other incredibly time and energy consuming challenges. Balance is hard to find sometimes, isn’t it. Thanks for weighing in.
Martin, you’re right about that “no marketing = no sales” equation. I hate that.
I hate the equation, I mean — not you! You’re awesome. 😀
lol, thank you Lynne. You’re awesome too.
Something to think about while I struggle to finish the first draft of Left Alone before I leave for SA…will get serious after I get back but then I will be into revising again!!! Perhaps your self-publishing book will inspire me. Cheeers
I should have my self-publishing book published by the time you’re back, Lin, so get ready. I love your title by the way, and thanks for commenting!
Excellent post, Martin, and I have to admit, like Yvonne, I struggle with the promotion side and it shows; I am trying to remedy that though.
Good Stuff, TD. I hope the list of promotional sites helps you. Appreciate you commenting and very much enjoyed your book video this week!
Good post and so agree!
Thank you, Amber.
Timely post. I’ve been spending most of my time on promotions lately, and very little on writing. Finding a balance between the two may be my greatest challenge.
I’m not there yet either, Leana. In fact, the way life changes all the time I’m not sure I’ll ever be truly there. Need to keep trying though for sure. Thanks for commenting.
LOL Martin! A prescient post! I took the day off to play on the water with my cousin from Holland and completely forgot I had scheduled a blog post I needed to pimp. No rest for the wicked, eh? ;-D
Yes, but you know what, I’m positive you made the right choice. And now you’re probably filled with ideas from your day off. Thank you for commenting.
I can not thank you enough for this post. The past 2 months have been dreadful and I was at a loss on what to do. My time is so limited in the summer to dedicate to researching which companies I should advertise with. I have already scrolled through your list and hit one of the companies that seemed like a good fit. Timing is everything and this post was right on time for me! IU has been an enormous resource for me in navigating the curves and dark alleys of self publishing. The talent here is unbelievable. Thank you.
Susan, messages like that help show us that we’re on the right track, thank you. And, I’m glad the list of promo sites was helpful. My book that’s due out at the end of the month, (here comes a plug, get ready), will have a full list of resources in it.
Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts!
Consider one already sold! And by the way, I told the company I chose that I received their info from you guys at IU. I felt it was important that they knew
Very timely. July was actually my awesome-est month, but sales are lagging in Aug. Need to get off my duff.
Good for you, Rasana! As I said, I’ve heard of some authors having a great summer in terms of sales. Readers buy books every day. Thank you for commenting.
It is difficult to juggle the promotional with the creative. I, like you, have focused on writing – completing the next murder mystery and I think it was the correct decision. I have sold a few books so far this month despite little promo and have quite a few people waiting for the mystery. We’ll see.
You have been very helpful in supporting my marketing efforts, and I thank you for that. I am looking forward to the Christmas story. 🙂
Thanks Lois, and I’m sure you’re right. When that hot Christmas buying season hits we’ll have something that not everyone else has-Content. We’ll have books for our readers.
Thank you for commenting, my friend.
Books don’t sell themselves. I recommend spending 25% of the time marketing, 75% writing. In a disciplined, regimented manner. Because no matter how impassioned your writing, it won’t matter if readers can’t find it. So you need to do both. Sigh…
That’s great advice, Russell, I’ve heard you suggest it in other articles. I don’t think I’ll ever get to that 75% level but I’m putting more and more time into writing and less into marketing all the time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
I agree with Russell although I think with less than 5-7 books released the ratio of writing to promotion should be more like 80/20.
It’s hard to argue with Russell’s formula when you look at how successful he is, but quite honestly I’m at the same level as Kathrin. I’m trying to maintain that 50/50 level right now. It’s growth though, just gotta keep learning and moving forward.
Russell also has a lot of books out. But I’d say if you are writing 75-80% of the time you are on the right track to hit the kind of success he has. It’s hard to believe he’s only been at it for about two years.
It’s more like 50 / 50 isn’t it? And that’s a good day. ; )
April and June I was on TV for my books – large programs – I sold about 20 each month. I had an article in a fab magazine in July – I sold 4. Even with huge exposure such as that the numbers weren’t mind blowing. But, I wonder, what would the numbers have been like if I hadn’t had those gigs? Multiple strategies are essential. relying on just one ( even if it was BIG) doesn’t seem to cut it. I had visions of grandeur. It put me in my place quick. I have to have a lot of resources in use to get anywhere. My new goal is to have 2 or 3 things a month out there.
My sales have been horrible this summer, and unlike you I do blame it on the fact that it’s summer. But not for the reason people might typically think.
I’ve been vacationing/traveling/writing/editing a lot since mid June, and all of that takes away from my promo/marketing time. I make sure to jump on every day and check the social media sites briefly, but that’s about it. So, it’s my own fault really.
Yes, but you’ve been writing. I tend to forget sometimes that that’s the number one point under my job description. I hope you’re having a nice summer, Natalie.
Thank you Martin for an exellent example and also agreat inspiration to get a plan together to map out the next three to six months out. You are my inspiration and yes, I follow your example. Thank you for all your help to those still climbing mountain, you Sir are wonderful because you help those around you as well. thank you.
You’re very kind, Wendy, thank you.
Great post and reinforced my own experiences too. I’ve had a quiet few months with Gunshot Glitter, there’s been little networking as I’ve been writing. I think though when you get to a certain stage of public awareness, word of mouth through readers really helps. But it takes effort, time, talent and luck to reach that point. Thanks for sharing, Martin!
Thank you, Yasmin. Good luck with Gunshot Glitter, it’s a great title.
I was fortunate to have a nice pop after running a free promo the first day my book was out, but August first everything tanked. I’ve been writing, but your post is a great reminder that writing isn’t enough anymore. I really need to get out there and be visible. Thanks, Martin!
You’re welcome, Jodi. I’m glad it helped and congrats on your free promo.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us all. You always manage to encourage, teach and bring humor through your writing.
Thank you. It’s great to see us all progressing, isn’t it. When I think about twelve or even six months ago it’s gratifying to realize that we’re all moving forward and becoming better at what we do. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Thanks for the list, Martin. It contains several I don’t have in my publicity folder, and I’m especially interested in the UK links, since I write cozies (among other things).
You’re welcome, Helen. Good luck with it.
Hmmm… no marketing. This is probably why sales for my book aren’t doing as well as I’d like.
I can relate, Sean.
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