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If you’ve self-published a book and are having trouble selling it, you’re not alone. These days, it’s harder than ever to sell books. Many authors go through all of the hard work to bring a book to life, only to watch it sit on the virtual bookshelves left unread. It’s heartbreaking. They hope that by simply putting it out there, readers will hear about it. 

But it’s an unfortunate truth that you have to actively market your book if you want people to buy it (regardless of whether you self-published or traditionally published), and this can often be more difficult than writing the book itself. 

So if you’re suffering from low book sales, here are eight reasons why your book may not be reaching readers. 

low book sales

Wondering how to sell a book?

For those struggling with low book sales, here are 8 Reasons Why Your (Self-Published) Book Isn’t Selling

1. You aren’t doing outreach

Outreach can mean a lot of things, but in short, it’s contacting everyone in your network who might help you promote your book. Do you have a wide circle of family and friends who would be interested in your book? And do they perhaps have a large network they’d be willing to share it with? That’s the easiest place to start. Many authors hesitate to ask the people they already know for help, for fear of asking too much or being too self interested, but it’s important to keep in mind that the people in your network are usually very happy to help you. If not, that’s okay, too. At least you asked. 

On a larger scale, you could organize a more in-depth outreach campaign like the ones we do for our author clients, where you could list all relevant influencers, podcasts, media outlets and organizations that might be interested in interviewing you and/or sharing your book with their following. This can be time consuming and daunting, but sometimes grassroots campaigns have the most success.

low book sales

2. You aren’t advertising it

If your book is available on Amazon, it’s a good idea to try Amazon advertising. The beauty of advertising on Amazon is that their users come ready to buy, not just browse, so if they see your book while searching for a related book, they might just add it to their cart and give it a try. Amazon ads are relatively inexpensive, and you can target by search terms, related products, or both. 

The downside to ads is that it’s not a “set it and forget it” platform, and it takes some upfront learning plus constant moderation to get your ads to perform well, but the upfront cost and time can often pay off in the long run. 

The beauty of ads is that your book will find its way into the hands of readers who might never have found it otherwise. And if they like it, they’ll spread the word, leave you a review, etc. So, even if your ads break even at best, or cost a bit of money for each sale, it can have a lot of unmeasurable benefits as well.

3. You don’t have any/enough good customer reviews

As an author, you’re probably already all too familiar with the importance of getting reviews on your book. If you’re relying on Amazon for sales (and, especially if you’re advertising), you’ll want as many 5-star reviews as you can get. Say what you want about reviews, if a potential reader stumbles upon your book and it doesn’t have any, they’re probably going to buy the one that does. 

It’s worth using part of your outreach campaign to ask for reviews. It can sometimes be tricky to have your friends and family do it because Amazon’s technology is very smart, but it’s worth asking them to try. Fifty percent of the time, it’ll work!

4. You didn’t publish an audiobook

Another reason for low book sales is that you haven’t offered your book in every format your readers prefer. We always recommend making your book available in ebook, paperback and audio. You could opt for a hardcover instead, but there should be a digital version, a print version and an audio version. 

A lot of authors forgo creating an audiobook because it can be a costly and timely undertaking, but audiobook sales are through the roof these days, and many readers have taken to only buying books available in audio. They like to listen on their commutes, or while running/hiking, or working around the house. If one of these readers shows up to your book page and doesn’t see an audiobook available, they’ll likely leave without purchasing anything.

5. The cover looks unprofessional

It can be hard to look critically at a cover you undoubtedly love, but sometimes the reason a book isn’t selling is because the cover wasn’t designed well, or it wasn’t designed with online sales in mind.

When you self-publish, your book will largely only be available online (as opposed to in bookstores), so it’s absolutely essential that your cover is eye-catching and easy to read in a small, thumbnail version (just scroll books on Amazon to see what we mean). 

The key thing to remember here is that the first step is getting someone to click on your book (ie, people do judge a book by its cover!), and the second step is for the book description and reviews to convince them to buy it. If they aren’t first intrigued to click through to read what it’s about, you might want to consider hiring a cover designer to make your book stand out.

low book sales

6. Your book description isn’t working

If readers have found your book page on your website or on Amazon, the next step is to make them want to buy it. The cover got them here, and now the description has to close the deal. If your book description isn’t compelling enough, or doesn’t accurately portray the message of your book, they’ll likely keep searching for their next great read. It’s important to keep in mind that your book description needs to entice them to want to read more (the whole book, ideally), so don’t be afraid to give up some of the plot in order to get their buy-in.

7. You aren’t on social media

Many people and, dare I say, especially authors, love to hate social media. But it’s a necessary evil these days, and can be a great tool for marketing your book. While growing an engaged social media following can be a bit daunting, it’s important to remember that you don’t need millions of followers to be successful; you only need a few hundred people who are actually interested in what you have to say. They’ll engage with your content and, if it speaks to them, buy your book. 

Having a social media presence will also allow you to run ads to your page or your website, or even directly to your Amazon book page, if you have the desire.

8. You aren’t treating it like a business

Since you’ve already published a book, you’ve probably heard the term “authorpreneur”. It means that as an author, you’re now a small business owner, and your book is your product. You might have other offerings too, like courses or coaching. But it’s important to treat your book like a business, and to understand that no business works without good marketing. 


If you’ve made any of the above mistakes, it’s okay! There’s plenty of time to course correct and there’s no better time to start than now.

Download our free ebook to learn how to run your book launch!

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