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.


4 thoughts on “The Truth about Book Sales

  1. Good points Sarah – work means getting your hands dirty (and your mouse pointing) if you want any results for your efforts. Each book is unique, and so are the marketing techniques. However, no one will ever know about your book unless you reach your target audience – and that takes time & effort! Thanks for your “pep talk”!


  2. Your welcome Deb. Selling books is just plain hard work and we all need a good dose of encouragement and a “keep at it” every once in awhile.


  3. You might also try putting it up on Kindle or PubIt and see what happens. Other books with your name on it in the same store will help sell it better than it doing nothing on a site few have heard of or have reason to visit.


  4. Thanks for the suggestion to put it up on Kindle and PubIt. Good advice. However, the book I mentioned is not in the same genre as my other ones and has a very niche market that takes specific marketing. So I haven’t been willing to invest in the time that would take.


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