The Truth about Book Sales

Here is a saying that is true and accurate:

Books do not sell themselves!

Here is another saying that you can hang your hat on:

Selling is hard work!

That’s right. Selling anything is hard work. Selling books is no exception. And actually, just running a small business is hard work.

The NFIB (National Federation of Independent Businesses) estimates that over the lifetime of a business, 39% are profitable, 30% break even, and 30% lose money, with 1% falling in the “unable to determine” category. The NFIB also reports that most new businesses are very small with more than two-thirds starting in the owner’s home. Sounds like most start-up publishing businesses.

So, to get back to my original statement, books do not sell themselves. I know this from personal experience.

A few years ago, the publisher of one of my books went out of business. When that happened, the rights to the book reverted to me. I had never put much effort into marketing this book, neither had the publisher. As a result, the book had never sold very well.

Not wanting to put the book out-of-print, I converted the book to a PDF ebook and placed it for sale on my publishing house’s website. Then, it promptly fell off my radar.

Over the past year, I have done nothing—I repeat, nothing—to market this book. Guess what? I have not sold a single copy of that ebook. Not one.

Yes, it is only for sale on one website, making it hard to stumble across, but the real reason it is not selling is because I am not selling it. Books do not sell themselves.

I can’t tell you how often I hear from discouraged self-published authors that their books are not selling. Most of the time, these authors are doing very little to market and promote their books. It really is a no brainier: No pain, no gain.

If you want to sell books, get out there and work your fanny to exhaustion. That’s the only way your book will sell.


Book Promotion Extraordinaire

To what lengths are you willing to go to promote your books?

Ayelet Waldman recently said the following about promoting her novels. “I find the process of self-promotion excruciating. I’m sure there are plenty of people who think ‘she’s so tacky.’ And I say: ‘I have four children to feed. I wish I had the luxury of not being tacky.’”

The gentleman in this video is promoting his book on the street using his harmonica to grab people’s attention and offering free copies of the first chapter of his new book.


Are Your Book Sales Struggling?

“I’m doing all the right things, but the book sales just aren’t following.”

This is a common complaint I hear from self-published authors. When this happens, discouragement can quickly set in derailing continued marketing efforts. Some authors even get so discouraged that they give up.

If you feel this complaint could be coming out of your mouth, let me offer you a dose of encouragement.

When God calls you to write and publish something, he has a reason. Sometimes that reason can be more about what He wants to do in you through the process than what he will do with your book. Other times that reason may be more for a small, select audience that needs to hear the message in your book.

I remember when I was new to the self-publishing world and the reality of how hard selling a Christian book was began to sink in. I often felt like I was spinning my wheels but only advancing mere inches.

I had given a copy of my board book set, Baby Bible Board Books: Stories of Jesus, as a baby shower gift to a young lady in my church. This woman also happened to have a toddler. The next week, this mother approached me just gushing about the books. She told me that her two-year old daughter loved the books so much that she would take them to bed with her.

What a blessing those words were to my heart. That is exactly what I had envisioned when we designed the books. I wanted these books to help the youngest children fall in love with Jesus. To hear that God was blessing my desire for children to fall in love with him through my books provided just the encouragement I needed to keep on putting effort into promoting the books.

I think Deborah McCarragher would agree with me. Deborah wrote a book encouraging Christian women to continue to pray for the salvation of their unsaved husbands. Deborah tirelessly promotes her book. One of her readers wrote and told her, “After 11 years of praying for my husband, I had given up hope. God placed your book in my hands at just the right moment. Biblical material written for women under our particular circumstances is hard to find. Mission Possible is full of scripture and practical advice. Thank you for being a part of restoring my hope.”

After publishing her book Parenting Moment by Moment, Carla MacLachlan received this message from a reader. “God has used your teaching to challenge me to apply Scripture in my life in a way that is life changing. I now have committed to daily share who God is, share His Word, and share what He is doing in our lives with my daughter.” Exactly the purpose Carla intended for her book.

Tom Clarke published his book, A Garden of Love, to help people experience the love of God through flowers. Tom has run into roadblock after roadblock in promoting his book, yet God sent a reader to encourage him. This reader wrote, “My husband and I were touched by the depth of spiritual application for each flower in your book. God’s creation has so much it can teach us!”

Take encouragement from these stories. Promoting your book is not just a physical thing. It is a spiritual battle. There is a Prince of Darkness who does not want your book to bring glory to God.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 (NIV) Be encouraged today and persevere.


Could Just One Page Sell Your Book?

Some people believe so.

It’s the whole idea behind two websites that believe one page of the interior of a book demonstrates the quality of the whole, and thus sells a potential reader on the book.

These two websites and believe that the 99th page of a book is all a reader needs to see to decide whether he or she will purchase the book.

It’s an interesting idea. I am not sure I am completely sold on it.

Here is the 99th page of my book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. Does it make you want to buy the whole book?

At least the 99th page of my book does show that the book really does list specific resources with contact information so that publishers and authors can find and use the resources listed in the book.

What about your book? Would page 99 convince you to buy your own book? Would it convince others? —and— Do you think the 99th page test works better for a fiction or a nonfiction book?

Try it out. You can submit your book’s 99th page to Listing on this website is free, and who knows, you might actually sell more books.