In all forms of publishing, there are those few books that sell well, some that do okay and followed then by a lot of books that fail completely.
This has always been the ratio of success in publishing.
A few winners but a lot of losers, and it is why book publishing is a gamble, no matter by who, or how a book is published, you can end up in the bad books.
For self-published authors, one of the most difficult decisions to make is to admit that one of your books is well and truly in the last category. A bad book.
There can be many reasons why a book fails, but trying to pinpoint them for your book, which you love, of course, is terribly difficult, and even painful.
It took me many years to understand that no matter what I thought about my books, the only opinion that really counted, was the opinion of the reader.
When I finally stood back from my thoughts and concentrated on what readers thought about my books, I came up with three groupings for a book that is not doing very well.
They are liked, disliked and ignored.
All authors would prefer their books to be in the first category. But the reality is that even with a lot of hard work and effort it is difficult to achieve a runaway bestseller every time.
These are the books that while probably not necessarily bestsellers, they sell consistently, attract positive reviews and usually do well on promotion.
For books in this category, I often believe that doing little is the best thing to do. While there will always be the odd negative review, it is the consistency of sales that is important.
Even if it is only 10-20 sales a month, something is attracting buyers, so apart from perhaps trying a new cover or editing the book description, I wouldn’t change too much.
Sure, it may never sell better than it is doing, but it is a book that can only help enhance your reputation as a writer, by collecting mainly positive reviews.
When you have a book that collects a long list of negative reviews, there are two ways of looking at it.
One is that it could be a horrid book, and the other is that there must be something about the book that is attracting people to it.
Otherwise, it wouldn’t be getting so frequently rubbished. Another odd fact is that books that get a lot of reviews, even very bad ones, increase in sales ranking due to the number of reviews.
But, there is urgent work to do with a book such as this because believe it or not, it really has the potential to be a good seller.
The first task is to analyse the reviews and look for common factors that have been criticised. If these issues can be addressed with a re-write or perhaps better, with the help of a complete edit and proofread to overcome the weaknesses, the book stands a good chance of success.
The second task is not so easy.
Find the positives. Try to look at what has made the book attract so much interest.
Perhaps it could be the cover, the book description or more likely, that the first few pages, which were available in the book’s preview, were well written but later on in the book, the writing standard fell away or the story lost its way.
With work, a disliked book has potential so don’t waste the opportunity.
These books are the ones that attract no interest at all, let alone sales, and also probably fail when they are offered for free.
There could be many reasons but most likely, it has a weak or unattractive plot that the book description can’t even ‘spin’ it into something interesting.
Other reasons could include having an awful cover, a poor book description, listed in an inappropriate category or possibly, that the beginning of the book is killing what may be a more interesting story later in the book.
For whatever reason, a book such as this is a prime candidate to be unpublished and removed from sale, as it can only hurt an author’s reputation.
Sure, remedial work can be tried, but there really are times when it is best to stop wasting a lot of time trying to revive a dead dog and spend the time more productively on writing a totally new book.
Having written a number of books now, I can tell you that I have had my fair share in each category. Yet, no matter how much thought I have given to a book before release, I never know in which category it will go once readers have their say.
Some have been a surprise and were liked, even though I was not sure about them. Whereas others, which I loved writing, have flopped into the ignored pile.
Two of my books, which now sell moderately, yet consistently well, were originally disliked when first published, but after complete revisions, they then performed much better.
Why should you bother?
Simple. There are now over 6 million ebooks on Kindle and 53 million books in total on Amazon, so competition is not getting any easier.
It’s important, especially now that paid promotion is becoming a normal part of book promotion for self-publishers that you don’t waste money on books that will never be winners.
No matter how much time and money you spend a bad book will never sell.
Find your liked books and promote the hell out of them, but don’t waste your money on the disliked and ignored, until you have at least taken some action to help their chances.
Books are always a gamble once they hit the market. Ask Hillary Clinton!
That’s the nature of the business, so take the good with the bad, but above all else, never give up, and never give up writing. The old adage, write a better book, is very true.
Your next, as yet unwritten book, could be one that readers love.
I started my working life as a lithographer and spent over 30 years in the printing and publishing business.
Originally from Australia, I moved to Switzerland 20 years ago. My days are spent teaching English, writing and wrestling with technology while enjoying my glorious view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.
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