You have an amateurish cover and/or your cover doesn’t fit in with the established conventions of your genre.
There’s a lot of bad covers out there. We’ve all seem them. Some of them are embarassingly bad. Look, not everyone is good with photoshop. And money is tight for most of us. We can’t just go splurge for a $50 or $100 cover. But that’s why there’s stock photo sites. Here’s the thing, like it or not, your cover in a lot of cases is almost as important as the writing in your book.
How? Because if you have a lousy cover, most people won’t click through and even read your book. There’s a simple fix for this. www.istockphoto.com, www.dreamstime.com, and www.shutterstock.com all offer very affordable stock photos. Sometimes as low as $5-$15. And trust me, that money will be well spent.
There’s more going on than just having a professional cover though. Equally important is that your cover fit into the established conventions of your genre. What do I mean? Take a look at the top 100 of your genre. You’re going to see a lot of similar covers. For romantic suspense, that means a shirtless dude with a gun. For science fiction, that means a spaceship flying between planets. For political thrillers, that means an ominous picture of the Capitol building or the White House.
Now some of you maybe thinking “I’ve seen that cover 100 times before. I’m going to do something different with mine.” Big mistake. There’s a reason there are so many common covers–because that’s what readers want. So much of the time, authors do what they want instead of what the readers want. But in the end, it’s the readers buying the books. And they want a familiar cover. Give it to them.
Your blurb doesn’t make the reader want to know what happens next.
Your blurb serves one purpose. And it’s not to just to succinctly summarize your book. You aren’t writing a book report. You’re trying to sell the reader on your story. A lot of the time writers try to cramm plot points into their blurb instead of doing the more important thing–teasing the reader.
You have only a few short sentences to get a reader to either click on your sample or one click and buy your book. The goal of those sentences is to make the reader want to know what happens next. If you haven’t done that, if the reader doesn’t care what comes next, they won’t buy your book.
How do I make the reader want to know what happens next? You need to give the reader a hook. You have to build the tension. If you can do that, you’re that much closer to a sale.
You’re charging too much for your book
A lot of writers try to tell readers how much their book is worth. But it’s the reader that gets to decide what your book is worth. And they do that with their wallet. If you’re not getting the sales you want, you’re charging too much–plain and simple. Now how much is too much?
Here’s the thing, that varies per author. For Joe Nobody, the sweet spot is $9.99. For Rusell Blake, sometimes it’s $4.99 or even $6.99. For a lot of indies, it’s $2.99. And sometimes, as much as it may pain you, it may be 99 cents.
You wouldn’t believe how many completely unknown indie authors are charging $3.99, $4.99, or even $5.99 for their books. Some think about the time commitment they put into writing the book or the page count of their book. But in a landscape where there are six and seven book 99 cent boxed sets promoted by Bookbub onto the top 100, pride will get you nowhere.
I’ve found that the sweet spot for most indie authors, especially those just building a name is either $2.99 or 99 cents. Now we can easily have a price war debate, but I’m not going to do that. Every book and every other is different. All I can say is this–if you put your book at $2.99 and you aren’t getting the sales you want, lower that price to 99 cents and see if you can move more copies.
It’s also important to look at the other books in your categories. There are some categories where $2.99 indie books thrive. In other categories, it’s 99 cents for indies or bust. Don’t get caught up in what the traditional authors are charging. They have name recognition. Price is one of the few things that can set an indie apart. Don’t give up that slim advantage.
You’re not making the best use of your keywords
When I first started out, I dind’t give much thought to keywords. If I wrote a romance or romantic comedy, I’d put “romance,” “romantic comedy,” “comedy,” and move on. I wanted to find the most convenient keywords that described my book. But guess what–go type in romance, or zombies, or even new adult into the amazon search box. That will net you 731,414, 1976118, and 360326 results respectively. Good luck standing out in search categories like that. There’s a better way to use your keywords. Two ways actually.
The first, is to put niche keywords in. What’s a niche keyword? When you search romance on amazon, a number of highligted terms are listed on the left side of the screen. Things like wedding, honeymoon, etc…Those are niche keywords. If you put those in as your keywords, your book will appear somewhere along the line in those categories. That’s one way to use keywords.
The other way, and my preferred way, is to use keywords to get into more subcategories. Did you know that you can get as many as 8 categories for your book? Well, you can. I’ve done it–all through the use of keywords. There are certain categories that you can only get into through the use of keywords. What are they? Check them out here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A200PDGPEIQX41
Now, mind you, to get into those subcategories, you have to have selected the general category first. For example, if you want to get into first contact, which is a sci fi subcategory, you have to select science fiction as one of your categories, then put in first contact as one of your keywords.
With seven keywords to work with and two categories you can select directly from your KDP dashboard, that means your book can be in as many as 9 categories (although I’ve only managed to get 8 so far). The more categories you’re in, the better your odds are of someone discovering your book.
Also check out our blog post: Amazon Keywords and Categories Explained.
You’re not making the best use of your categories
A lack of visibility is your biggest hurdle when you’re just starting out. There’s over four million books in the kindle store that you’re competing with. And if you’re writing romance, there are over hundreds of thousands of books alone that you’re directly competing with. If your book doesn’t have any eyeballs on it, odds are you aren’t going to get a lot of sales. And charting in your category is a great way to get extra eyeballs.
Problem is, a lot of writers post their book into two hugely competitive categories and it just sinks. For example, if you have a paranormal romance, the easy categories are fantasy/paranormal and romance/paranormal. But the problem is, the number 100 book in romance/paranormal has a 2372 rank while the number 100 book in fantasy/paranormal has a 3086 rank. That translates to about 50-75 sales a day just to be the number 100 book in the category. Good luck doing that if you’re just starting out.
Paranormal romances aren’t the only books like that. Almost all of the mega categories are crowded just like that. To stand out, you need to find a category you can chart in on only a few sales a day. That way the exposure in the niche categories can get more eyeballs on your book and spur more sales.
For a list of great subcategories that you can chart in on less than seven sales a day, you can check this out: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,172094.0/topicseen.html
You’re not writing to market
There are two different worlds in writing. One is writing what you love and the other is writing to market. Sometimes those worlds overlap. A lot of times, they don’t. For those that happen to love writing about shirtless dudes running around with guns or angsty sexy stories about college students, or tense thrillers, you can do that and make gobs of money. But if you like niche things like comedy, or steampunk, or some other less popular genre, chances are what you love will cost you sales.
Now I’m not going to tell you what to write. I’m just going to tell you what sells. Go the top 100 overall–all those books are selling over a thousand copies a day. They are selling more than 4 million other books in the entire store. And for the most part, they are romance, mystery/thrillers, with some sci fi, fantasy, literary fiction, and non fiction sprinkled in. The readers have spoken. They’ve told you what they want the most. It’s up to you if you listen.
It can be frustrating when you write your heart out and see other people selling leaps and bounds beyond you. But part of that is expectations. If you’re writing a steampunk book, there’s a ceiling to your sales that is a lot lower than a new adult book.
But there’s good news. If you’re writing romance, mystery/thriller, sci fi, fantasy, or horror, you can still make a good living. You may not hit the self pub lottery, but you can still bank $3-5k a month or more. How do you do that? By writing to market.
Read throug the blurbs of the top 100 books in your genre. The plots may not be mind blowing. The characters may not be terribly original. The writing may not even be that good. But all these books will have one thing in common–they were written to market.
The idea of writing to market is simple. Find out what the readers want, and give it to them. Usually it’s vaguely similar to a story they’ve read before with a little twist. That’s what Twilight did. That’s what 50 Shades did. And that’s what you can do too.
The key is not to force your ideas on the market. It’s to give the market what they want. And the best part is, the market has already told you what they want. Look at the top 20 books in your category. That’s what they want. The readers have spoken. Will you listen?
No one knows your book exists
This one I’ve already written a long post about. Instead of retyping it, I’ll just link to it here: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,162294.0/topicseen.html