The 7 Leading Reasons Authors Fail to Market and Sell Their Books — and How to Market Your Books Smarter!

by Karen Jonson

Did You Sell All the Books You Wanted to Sell in 2013? — Or Did Low Sales Crush Your Dreams?

If you didn't sell all the books you wanted to sell in 2013, resolve to overcome your book marketing challenges in 2014.

If you didn’t sell all the books you wanted to sell in 2013, resolve to overcome your book marketing challenges in 2014.

If you didn’t sell all the books you hoped to sell in 2013, the problem is likely related to one of the top seven reasons that authors fail to successfully market and sell their books.

Do you recognize your book marketing problems in this list?

If so, make a New Year’s resolution to conquer your book marketing problems.

1. No Marketing Strategy.

Too many authors spend all of their time on book marketing tactics, like relentlessly tweeting about their books, posting book sales offers on Facebook and LinkedIn, and asking everyone they know to buy their books.

However, every one of these tactics and others like them are likely to yield unsatisfactory results.


Because they are not executed according to a specific strategic game plan. They are just random, one-off attempts to sell a few books.

But with a strategy in place, every promotional seed an author plants is part of a bigger plan.

Every action is specifically designed to add value to a plan that is robust, comprehensive, and ultimately more effective at creating an ongoing, powerful book marketing program than merely engaging in random acts of marketing.

2. Failing to Give Readers a Map to Discover Your Books.

We tend to thing of book selling as pushing our books in front of readers.

But I think there’s a more powerful process that many authors are missing — giving potential readers a map to discover your books.

This book discovery map approach accomplishes several important objectives including:

  • Eliminating the obnoxious “buy me, buy me, buy me” approach many authors take.
  • Widening the net of people who discover your books.
  • Getting better results with less effort.

3. Ignoring Your Blog — (or Not Even Having One!).

Authors who don’t have blogs rely on their social media sites to communicate with followers, fans, and likes.

This is a huge mistake.

The number one reason is that you do not “own” your followers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social platform. The companies own these platforms — and this means they own your followers.

They can do whatever they want with your followers — advertise to them, delete them, or weaken your connection to them.

Here’s a classic example: Facebook controls how many people (who liked your page) actually see your posts — and this number has trickled down over the past few years.

Some say it is currently 5 to 10 percent. Others say it’s as little as 1% in some cases.

Is reaching a small percent of your audience a smart marketing strategy? Certainly not.

Guess where you are assured of reaching 100 percent of the people who opt in to follow you?

Your blog.

4. Failing to Capture Prospect Emails.

Even having your own blog is not enough to boost your book marketing impact.

What you need is a group of people signing up to regularly receive your blog updates and other emails from you.

And this means you have to capture the emails of prospects who want to stay connected to you.

This involves having a reliable auto-responder, a compelling call-to-action, and a valuable freebie offer.

This is how you build a list of prospects that you own!

5. Using Social Media Incorrectly.

The rapid rise of social media as a way to communicate with people is a lot like a gold rush.

You know there’s gold in them thar hills — you just don’t know exactly where it is, how to get to it, what tools you need, and how long it will take to hit the mother lode.

With any gold rush, many prospectors will fail. They will waste time, use up resources, get frustrated, and quit.

Does that sound like your experience with social media?

If so, it’s not the fault of the social media platforms (though we like to blame them with a succinct: “Oh tweeting doesn’t sell books!”).

When the reality is that you are likely using your social media assets incorrectly.

What you need to do instead is set up social signposts within your Book Discovery Map.

6. Lack of Subtle Selling Skills.

Like social media, many authors are using all of the wrong techniques for selling their books.

While many authors profess that they “don’t like selling” or “don’t want to sell like used car salesmen,” too many authors just blast out “buy me” messages and call it marketing.

Instead of trying to hit people over the head to get them to buy your books, you need to craft “sales” messages that help readers decide that they want to buy your books.

7. Failing to Analyze Results.

Even big companies don’t always do an excellent job of analyzing the results of their marketing efforts — so don’t feel bad if you are weak in this area.

However, engaging in regular marketing analysis is a powerful step in the direction of realizing your goal of selling a lot of your books for two simple reasons:

  1. You’ll figure out what is working and what isn’t so you can do more of what works and eliminate what doesn’t work.
  2. You’ll bring strategy to your book marketing effort, which will elevate your attitude, habits, and approach to your life as a book marketer.

If your book marketing plan has fallen victim to one of more of these seven deadly mistakes, it’s time to take your book marketing program in a new direction in 2014.

It’s time to market your books smarter!

Next week I’ll be announce the opening of my new Market Your Books Smarter Workshop.

This workshop will lead you through the entire process of creating a powerful book selling system that eliminates every one of these problems.

Stay tuned for the January 6th announcement — when the doors of the Workshop open for new students to register.

Here’s to hoping 2014 is the year you set up a book marketing process that helps you sell more books than ever before.

Now that would be a Happy New Year, indeed!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

June Jewell January 2, 2014 at 8:52 am

Great points. My biggest issue is that I don’t have time to do what needs to be done. I really need an assistant and have hired and fired two already. Where can I find an experienced book marketer that will do the daily work that needs to be done on social media, etc. to help my book get found. I have a highly specific niche market, and the VA’s that I have found are not interested in the B2B market that I sell into.


Karen Jonson January 2, 2014 at 9:07 am

Hi June,

Thank you. And congratulations on being able to hire an assistant — many authors can’t afford one.

I would say to place job ads where you’ll get a large number and then pick the one that seems right. It’s also important to spell out in detail what you will expect of the assistant so that they understanding going into the relationship exactly what they have to do.

Best of luck.


Patricia January 3, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Hello, I have recognized some of the problems marketing my book. One that I do not pay very much attention too is #7 . I have Google analysis but find it hard to understand. #6 Crafting a sale message is another area I find difficult. #2 I have a website and book page links but I have not sold one book from my website. I show up #1 in search engine I have yet to discover the why.

Thanks for the insightful information and I will await to hear news about the coming workshop.


Karen Jonson January 4, 2014 at 5:03 am

Hi Patricia,

You’re welcome. I’m happy to hear the article helped you recognize some of your book marketing issues. These will all be covered in the workshop. As I said, you need to create a Book Discovery Map, so that people interested in your subject matter can find you.



Mary January 4, 2014 at 8:27 am

Hello Karen,
I identify with most of the items that you mentioned as marketing problems! I do not fully understand the concept behind social media and have a VA to assist with that aspect, however I have not had many book sales at all. I am a little frustrated with social media and do not see the benefit in terms of book sales at this point. I will discuss the items that you have identified with my VA and look forward to your workshop.


Karen Jonson January 4, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Hi Mary,

It sounds like you need a solid system for selling your books. My course can help you set that up. It’s confusing at first, but makes sense once you learn all the moving parts.

It would be great to have you join the workshop.

Best regards,


Elizabeth Armenta January 5, 2014 at 5:24 pm

I think you make a great point about diverting people to a blog (and getting them to subscribe to it). Social media just doesn’t work the same way it used to. The Facebook algorithms are pretty frustrating and really don’t work anymore. They want you to pay now.

So I think we all need to change the way we are approaching social media. It is no longer free advertisement. I think focusing more on a blog is a really smart – and free! – alternative.


Karen Jonson January 5, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Hi Elizabeth,

It’s great to hear that you have come to this conclusion too! The more authors who realize this, the more success they’ll have at selling their books.



Karen Jonson January 6, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Hi Elizabeth,

It’s great that you are already realizing this. It’s so true — social media is changing daily. And authors have to stay on their toes to make changes with systems no longer work.

Thank you for reinforcing that point.



Kristen Steele January 22, 2014 at 9:31 am

Every author should have their own website and a blog component of the website. Like you mentioned, you don’t own your social media pages but you have complete control over your website. As an author, it shouldn’t be difficult to write a few blog posts a week that help generate exposure and traffic to your website!


Lidia LoPinto March 22, 2014 at 2:59 pm

I am trying to sell books that currently have unfortunately low demand, in the eco thriller area. They are of course, very important books about our future. I am about to join your class to see what can be done about such less traveled genres. Currently my approach has been to slip these books into categories and keywords that are not typically associated with the environment. “Widening” as you mentioned. I am also seeking advertisement with Facebook as an approach because they can target environmentalists. I look forward to additional help from your course.


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