The ugly truth about self publishing is that most self-published books entering the marketplace are going to fail – and it has nothing to do with how good the book is. 

Many of the books out there that just aren’t selling have the potential to be successful, they just weren’t given the proper chance. 

So why is it that most self-published books fail? 

1. They Skimped on Quality

Nothing screams self-published more than a book that looks self-published. What do we mean by that? Books with Amazon-generated covers, or that weren’t professionally copy-edited and proofread because the author was in a hurry

While self-publishing may seem like a way to save time, if your goal is to put out a high-quality book that people will want to purchase then you can’t skimp on quality, and that means investing in things like:

These are steps you can’t skip if you want your book to be successful. 

Other areas where authors may be tempted to skimp on quality or save a few dollars is by not purchasing their own ISBNs, and not using an imprint when they publish. 

Amazon will let you publish a book without an ISBN, but that means you can only publish the book through Amazon. If you want to also publish through IngramSpark, Draft2Digital, or any of the other self-publishing systems you will need to purchase your own ISBNs through Bowker.  

2. They Didn’t Have a Marketing Plan

Self-publishing a book requires more than just uploading your files and hitting the publish button. You need to have a plan to sell your book to readers that goes beyond uploading a copy to Amazon KDP and IngramSpark and hoping readers and bookstores will find it. 

While both these companies publish your book with no up-front costs, the marketing piece falls on you my friend. Without a book marketing plan that kicks off well before your book launch and ideally extends for 12 months or more after publishing, your book won’t stand a chance of selling.

A good marketing plan includes things like: 

There are all kinds of things you can have in your marketing plan that will increase the chances of your book being a success. While there are kinds of marketing you can do yourself that are free, it’s always a good idea to have a marketing budget in mind so that you can pay to play as well. Determine your budget ahead of time so you are ready when your book launches. 

3. They Didn’t Prioritize Metadata

Marketing your book also happens on the back end. This includes picking the right keywords, writing a compelling book description, and finding the best book categories. 

While these things might not feel like marketing, they are free tools you can use to hone in on the right reader and try to capture their attention. 

4. They Didn’t Have an Audience 

It is impossible to sell a book without an audience. Too many times authors publish a book and then they sit back and wait. 

When no one is buying their book they think about creating an audience for their book so they start a Facebook or Instagram account. They start posting about their book hoping someone will notice and want to buy it. Unfortunately this is backwards to how it should be done.

Building an audience that is engaged with you as a person (not your book) takes time; like a minimum of 12 months and that’s if you are actively posting engaging content and using Facebook ads to build your following. 

Growing your following has to happen before your book publishes so that you already have a group of people you can connect with in one place to let them know when your book launches. 

An email list is another great way to build your audience, but that takes even more time than growing a social media following. Growing an email list will require establishing both an author website and lead magnets, both of which are things you can be thinking about while you are still writing your book (even if you aren’t planning on self-publishing). 

Since traditional publishers will also want to see some sort of author platform before they buy your book this is a crucial step for all books to succeed. So even if your book is in its infancy form and not on paper yet, think about audience building right now. Do not wait until your book is published. At that point it’s nearly too late. 

5. They Tried to Do Everything Themselves 

You wrote a book for a reason. And the truth is you were the only person who could write this bookMaybe you are an expert or a thought leader and you wanted to get your ideas out in the world. What makes you the right person to write this book? 

While you are the only one who can write the book, that doesn’t mean you are the only one that can do everything. Asking for help – especially expert help – is a great way to make sure your book succeeds. This could mean hiring professional copy editors, interior designers, cover designers, and sometimes even book marketers. If you are still at the beginning of your writing journey this also includes hiring someone to design an author website for you. 

While self-publishing is the DIY of publishing for a reason that doesn’t mean you can’t hire an expert when and where it makes sense. In fact, nearly every successful self-published book had some aspect that was left to the professionals. 

If you would like help with your self-publishing journey, book a free consultant with our CEO Joel Pitney

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