7 Reasons A Self-Published Book Has Low Book Sales

Book Fails To Sell

Getting a self-published book to sell well is not easy

Many self-published authors fail to give their books the best chance of success because they are in such a rush to publish that they overlook so many of the basics.

Quite a lot of authors new to self-publishing clearly get so many basic things backwards, upside down and back the front. The result is usually very low book sales.

Getting a book or ebook published and available for sale on Amazon is the very last step in the process, and not the very first.

To give a new book any chance at success and gaining book sales, a lot of planning, preparation and good old-fashioned hard work is needed before bringing a book to market.

It is the lack of this process that causes so many new authors to become disillusioned with self-publishing when they find book sales are very scarce indeed.

It is worth knowing that publishing a book, by any method or means, is always a gamble.

Big publishers bank on getting only a handful of the titles they publish each year to sell very well, and then hope that one or two will take off and hit the bestsellers.

As for the many titles that fail and have poor book sales, well, that is how the book publishing business works. It’s a risk.

The same applies to self-published titles, and more than likely, at around the same percentage of success. Many will fail, while only some will succeed.

To get a book toward the successful end of the equation, you need to take the time to produce a great book.

You have to plan how to market and promote, build an online presence and define the book’s market appeal.

If you can avoid the following seven classic mistakes new authors often make, then you will be giving your new book a far better chance of success.


1. Publishing a poor quality ebook or bad book.

Without a shadow of a doubt, a book that is badly written and structured, poorly proofread, badly formatted and full of errors and typos will fail miserably. No one enjoys reading books full of errors.

If you rush into publishing before your manuscript is up to an acceptable standard, it can only be a sales disaster.

Checking your manuscript thoroughly before publishing is vital. You can use free tools like Grammarly or Prowritingaid to help find many common errors.

Even if the manuscript is a good book, a sub-standard book cover is another sales killer.

Using homemade book covers might be cheap, but they look cheap too. Readers and book buyers really react badly to awful book covers.

Another vital element is your book description.

A two-sentence summary is not a book description. Nor is a long preview read of the first chapter.

A great book description works in quickly hooking a book buyer’s interest, yet so few authors take the time to get this important element right.


2. Promoting a book to no one.

Blasting out social media posts or blog posts about a new book is usually pointless anyway, but even more so if they are to almost nobody.

Publishing a book and then thinking, “oh yeah, I need a Twitter account and Facebook page,” is such a common mistake.

New social media accounts have so few followers, and then bombing your handful of new followers with a book can only lead to losing them all in a hurry. It is not a good idea because it is totally self-defeating and will not sell books.

Building a big social media presence takes time. It absolutely has to be done well, well, well before publishing. Promoting your book needs to begin a long time before you publish.


PWA stengthen

3. Self-publishing is free, isn’t it?

Yes, hitting the publish button on Amazon, Smashwords or Draft2Digital is totally free. But that’s about where the free part stops.

Making a profit in business almost always comes after making an investment, and self-publishing is no different.

Investing in a professional book cover, editing, proofreading, book promotion and advertising are all expenses that are necessary for successful self-publishing.

This doesn’t mean at all that you need to invest thousands of dollars like traditional publishers do. But without a modest budget and investment, it will be hard to succeed.


4. My book is for everyone!

Well, no. Books are categorised by genre for a very good reason.

Only certain readers read certain books, and they have very particular tastes in what books they buy and read.

Taking the time to learn and understand the demographics and type of reader your book is aimed at becomes a huge benefit when it comes time to bring your book to market.

Trying to promote and advertise a romance novel to avid readers of spy novels or science fiction is going to be a big waste of money.

However, knowing what defines your small market niche will put your advertising and promotion expenditure to much better use.

New authors rarely spend enough time researching competitive book genre categories and search keywords before they publish.

Understanding how powerful Amazon search keywords are is a vital step in helping book buyers find your book.


5. It’s trending, it’s trending!

Following a new trend is like being the last in line for a new iPhone. It will be sold out before you get to the head of the queue.

Vampires where in a few years ago, before 50 Shades started a new soft erotica trend, and next week it will be something new.

Perhaps that is the key. Don’t follow trends, start a new one.

Or better still, stick to what you know, and wait for that to be a trend again. Anyway, it takes so long to write a great book that ten trends will have come and gone before you have finished.


6. It was hard work for me, so my price will be high.

Pricing an Amazon Kindle ebook above the market never works. Sure, it was tough to write your book, and you might think that $9.99 is a fair price in return for your hard work.

Unfortunately, the publishing industry and the book market do not work on how you feel or think.

Book pricing is extremely sensitive and if a book is outside the ‘buying range’ it has little hope of selling.

Before deciding on the cover price, look at books that are in your genre and price according to the market, and not your ego.

It is far better to sell 100 ebooks at $0.99 than no ebooks at $7.99.


7. Quick, quick, quick! Publish it!

This is by far the most common reason a book by an independent publisher does not sell.

Rushing into self-publishing a book without a plan is a recipe for almost guaranteed failure. It is really putting the cart before the horse.

No plan, no preparation, no base, no followers, no promotion, no launch, no build-up, no budget and no sales.

Self-publishing is not a race.

It is the process of bringing a quality product to market for people to buy. No amount of wishing and hoping will help, but planning and preparation certainly will.



If you are planning to self-publish, give you and your book at least a chance of success by taking your time and getting the essential elements in place before you publish.

Most self-publishing problems arise from rushing too quickly into publishing a book.

Make sure your book is of the highest quality. Pay for a great cover. Write an absolutely fantastic book description.

Know your niche market and build a social media presence based around it. Develop a book promotion plan and budget.

Do all this BEFORE you publish. Then you will have a much, much better chance of success with your book.

If your book is already published, read our article about how you can always improve your book and help it sell better.


Further reading: What You Need To Do Before You Self-Publish A Book


Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

11 thoughts on “7 Reasons A Self-Published Book Has Low Book Sales

  • September 2, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    A fine post like this one reminds me to always be looking at expanding my reach before the writing of my book is completed.

  • August 9, 2018 at 1:25 am

    Hello. Great article full of good tips. I’m just in the process of trying to gather some online prescence via Twitter, thinking about tackling FB soon. I’m a good couple of months from having a completed script but on a right budget. Is anyone able to advise on costs, e.g. for book design and any recommended marketing methods?
    I’ve also seen a few things about giving the first few books away for free to build up following, but do people associate a $0 price with poor quality when it comes to books?

  • May 28, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    Such a shame when authors aren’t promoting their books well. Like going to Twitter and Instagram hashtags for the book genres and commenting on readers’ posts. That’s how you start conversations and expose your profile to readers. Not by tweeting out into the ether with no followers.

    Engage first and followers will follow as time goes.

  • May 26, 2018 at 4:45 am

    Decent and bookmarked. However, non-genre novels pose a real marketing challenge. Let’s say you’re an unknown author publishing a book titled “Odd Thomas.” What do you tell readers? Horror? Mystery? Romance? Thriller? The reality is you tell them “Dean Koontz.” We all know off-beat novels that defy easy description. Or genre novels that really aren’t. Take science fiction. I’m thinking Michael O’Brien’s Voyage to Alpha Centauri, or the more familiar C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet. Both involve traveling to another world, but I think science fiction readers would be scratching their heads.

  • April 27, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    I am about to publish my seventh novel and know I have a limited readership ( mainly over sixties) but the launch is always a joy, especially as I ignore bookshops and use places that feature in the book. I do use twitter but steer clear of facebook although I know it helps sales. My selling point is that the books are set locally. For the first time (!) I have done an advance information sheet. Like most self publishers I always used to wait until I had the copies in my hands before I started marketing.
    There are very few of us left that rely on selling paperback copies and it needs the author to do a lot of self promotion. I use talks to groups and always have copies in the car.

    • April 27, 2018 at 7:11 pm

      Awesome to know Julie, thank you :)

    • October 5, 2019 at 5:47 am

      What a great idea! Some of my stories are local as well, I’ll keep that in mind for my next launch, Thanks, Julie!

  • April 8, 2018 at 11:23 pm

    Hi Derek, great points. I published an eBook a few years back now and I did not promote it enough. I was exhausted after writing it while still blogging and having a full time job. I hope to do another some day soon and promote it much more than I did the first one.
    I’ve read too that it gets easier when you do more than one eBook too :)

  • December 29, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    These are great reminders that when you self-publish, only you can make it a success. I know, I’m learning the hard way. Don’t follow my example. Happy New Year

  • December 29, 2017 at 3:12 am

    This sounds like good common sense advice to me…and yes I have ruminated and all those things but little by little have or am getting the basics in place so this post served a very useful purpose ( for me) and gave me hope, encouragement that I am on the right track and while my book most likely won’t be top of the best sellers list it will be something I can be proud and the people who purchase it…Well if some love it like I do then to me that will be an achievement and if this granny can get a best seller ( I can dream) then that will be my wow moment…So thank you and I wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year :)

    • December 29, 2017 at 9:34 am

      Success can come in many forms, Carol. I wish you the very best of luck with your book.


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