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Four Reasons Readers Don’t Buy Your Books (it’s not your prices)

by Nick Stephenson in Books and Writing

I’m kicking off today’s post with the following question: can you spot the important difference between these two vintage car ads?

Advert #1


Advert #2


I first came across this comparison on a popular sales psychology website [link below], and it got me thinking… how do these kind of (genius) persuasion techniques apply to your career as an author?

As it turns out, they apply big time.

You see, whatever people might say, books – especially ebooks – are cheap. Most self-publishers who sell books on Kindle (or wherever) set the bar at $2.99 – $5.99 per title.

And I just know you break out in nervous sweats at the thought of charging more than that. I know I do. But price isn’t the only thing readers care about. In many cases, it isn’t even their top priority.

Raise your hand – ever dropped your book prices down to 99c in the hopes of picking up some much-needed sales?

I know I have. But the main problem isn’t to do with price. $2.99 or $3.99 or $5.99 isn’t a lot of money. It just isn’t. The problem is all about POSITIONING.

That is, making your prices seem like a good deal. And that’s where your sales message comes in. In the case of the car advertisements above – the sales messages focus on what’s important to the prospective buyer and frame it as a benefit.

What constitutes one model’s chief feature (a quiet engine) is something the other model’s customers don’t care about. It’s not part of the deal.

The Rolls-Royce drivers want opulence and calm. The Land Rover crowd want power and ruggedness (which they associate with a noisy engine).

It’s about giving people what they expect. Instead of selling steak to vegetarians, we need to learn to sell rib-eye to the carnivores.

Think about it like this – millions of people spend $50,000 – $100,000 on a college education. Or $30,000 on a new car. Or $500 on marketing and advertising for their business. Or $200 on a new cover design for their book (you can substitute your own numbers – but you get the idea).

And this doesn’t feel like a bad deal. Because you’re getting what you expect at the price you expect to pay for it. You trust the person or business selling to you. It feels like a good deal, and you’re more than happy to pay.

Because you understand the value.

But when you present your book to the world, chances are 99.99% of your target audience has never heard of you. They have no idea what to expect. Why should they? They don’t understand what value you provide.

So, while $3.99 or $5.99 isn’t a lot of money – you’re actually asking people for something else entirely.

You’re asking them to trust you. You’re asking them to invest their time, their expectations, AND their money. Which is a big ask if you’ve got no relationship with your prospective reader to begin with.

This is why free books work so well. They give you a chance to prove your brand. But there’s more to life than just slinging free books around the place. At some point you need to start earning a living, right?

Which brings me to my main point. There are three types of reader in this world:

– First, those who will buy ANYTHING you publish without even thinking twice.
– Second, those who will NEVER buy from you.
– Third, those who aren’t ready to buy… yet.

It’s our job as authors to convince everybody behind door number three to take the plunge. And when you learn about the reasons why readers aren’t buying from you, you’ll understand how to overcome these problems.

It turns out, these reasons can be boiled down into four main obstacles (see below). When you learn what these are and how they apply to your readers, you can overcome them. This inevitably leads to more sales, more visibility, and more readers.

When I learned how to do this properly, I saw a huge increase in the number of books I sold – both via Amazon, etc, and through my email list. And it turns out, the concept is a simple one:

Figure out your readers’ obstacles – and deal with them before they even become an issue.

And those four obstacles are:

1- Indifference
2- Skepticism
3- Fear
4- Procrastination

[source: Derek Halpern, Social Triggers, 2014]

Let’s go through each of these in turn…



This is a biggy. With countless other things a reader could be doing besides making their way through your book, why should they commit 6-12 hours of their life to reading what you’ve got to say?

This is especially difficult to overcome with fiction. At least with non-fiction, you’re helping people figure out a problem or addressing a concern they have. It’s easier for a non-fiction title to be relevant and, more importantly, to provide a tangible benefit.

The reader has a problem. You can solve the problem. Money changes hands, you deliver the solution. Easy.

With fiction, it’s a little less clear cut. At the end of the day, you’re providing entertainment. Nobody NEEDS fiction. It doesn’t solve any of life’s problems – other than an escape from boredom.

But your readers have other choices. They could be watching TV, playing video games, going to the movies, taking long walks, playing sports… the list goes on.

And this is where indifference can be a killer. Whether you’re priced at 99c or $9.99, it’s not going to make any difference to these readers. They have to care enough to even look at the price tag before this even becomes an issue.

So, your job as an author is to show the indifferent readers why they need your book. What tangible, measurable benefit will it provide?

You ever see a book, or a TV show, or a movie and think: “I’ve got to get that!”? Ever spend $25 on a hardcover book from your favourite author, even though the ebook edition is much cheaper? I know I have.

That’s because I’m not indifferent about these authors. I know they’ll provide a rockin’ story and interesting characters. I understand the value – and I’m happy to spend $25 on a hardcover to keep in my collection. And I’m equally happy to spend $5 on the ebook edition the second the title comes out.

Because I know the book will give me 6-12 hours (or whatever) of quality entertainment.

So, how can you overcome indifference in your readers? There’s no trick to it. You have to communicate the value of your brand and make it clear what you’re delivering, how you’ll deliver it, and to whom. Who is your target audience? What will people “get” from reading your book? If this isn’t clear, readers won’t understand your product.

They just won’t care. And dropping your price to 99c isn’t going to help you.


This reader doesn’t believe you can offer a quality product or experience. Perhaps you don’t have credentials, or perhaps you have some spelling mistakes in your product description. Maybe your covers look like they were drawn by a toddler.

The skeptic is a potential customer – but for some reason he or she doesn’t think you can provide the value you claim you can. So, even if we can overcome the indifferent reader, the skeptic is having issues believing you can deliver.

What are you doing to prove that you’re a credible author? Are your covers, formatting, editing, product description, etc, all up to snuff?

Remember – a professional-grade book is the cost of entry in this business. You’re not going to win any awards for having a book that looks good (well, you might win a cover-design award). But a quality product is the minimum expectation. The days of slapping an MS Paint cover on a badly-formatted title are (thankfully) long gone.

How many reviews do you have? Are reviewers enjoying your work? Do you have any testimonials? Any awards? Hit the top of any charts?

These are what I call “trust indicators”.  Little snippets of evidence that you are indeed a competent author, and that readers are enjoying your work.

To overcome the skeptical reader, you have to prove you’re up to the task. Only then will they even consider buying your work – whatever price it might be.


Where the skeptic is focused on why YOU can’t deliver, the fearful reader looks inwards – at themselves. The fearful reader worries that, while you clearly have a good product, that your book is somehow not for them.

Perhaps they have too many books to read already. Maybe they are worried that your story or your advice is something they won’t enjoy or won’t put into action.

Unlike the indifferent reader, the fearful reader knows the book is for them. But their own personal issues are getting in the way.

This is particularly problematic for non-fiction. Consider dieting books: you’ve got a product that can help people lose fifteen pounds in a month. You’ve got great reviews, testimonials from top nutritionists, and you’ve been featured on some of the biggest fitness blogs.

The fearful reader isn’t swayed by all this. At the end of the day, the fearful reader believes (in their heart) that, no matter how good your advice, he or she won’t be able to put it into action.

So how are you going to overcome this?

NYT Bestselling Author Tim Ferriss is an expert at dealing with this particular issue. Ferriss uses case studies and real-life testimonials from members of the public to PROVE his methods work. For anyone.

Never been able to stick to a diet long enough to see results? Never fear – Tim Ferris has two-dozen case studies from people just like you who have managed to make simple changes to their day-to-day lives… and have lost a ton of weight.

The fearful reader believes your product is good quality. But they won’t buy it because they believe they won’t be able to benefit from its value. It’s your job to prove your book will help these readers, despite their fears – and it’s your job to communicate that clearly and assuage them.


We’ve all been guilty of this. A new book comes out, it looks great, but for some reason we just don’t feel compelled to buy it right now. A few days later, and we’ve forgotten all about it.

This reader knows the book is a good fit for them – but they just don’t take action and buy it. So, how can you help this reader take action NOW, rather than later? Because “later” is a downward spiral towards a lost sale.

Limited-time promotions or bonuses work well. Scarcity is the key. Tell someone they can’t have something if they wait – if you’ve done your job properly, they will take action.

For fiction writers – perhaps you have a book bundle you can offer for a limited time. Instead of dropping your price, perhaps you can have a “sale without a sale” and offer a special bonus for anyone buying your books within a certain time period.

For non-fiction, maybe offer video training. Or a cheat sheet, or resource guide. The possibilities are endless. But the key is to get these procrastinating readers to take action RIGHT NOW rather than waiting.

And we all know this works. This is the reason Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year – because everybody knows they’ve only got 24 hours… and then it’s over. So people take action. People who would never normally splurge spend a heap of cash because they know it’s their only chance.

The same is true of buy-one-get-one-free offers. Or three-for-two. You don’t need to lower your prices, not necessarily – you just need to offer something of value for a limited time. Instead of dropping your prices, why not add something on and keep your prices the same?

Here’s an example of an email I sent out to my fiction readers – take a look at the two peaks in the sales graph:

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 22.24.07


This is the sales graph for one of my novels. I launched it back in August 2014, and emailed out on the second day. The first email simply told people the book was available and listed out the blurb and cover.

The second email I sent 16 days later was a little different. This time, I offered readers a free copy of one of my backlist titles if they bought a copy within 48 hours. All they had to do was email me with the first word from Chapter 41.

The result? 98 people bought the book from the first email. 215 people bought from the second email. And I didn’t even need to drop the price.

Why? Because I was dealing with these readers’ procrastinatory behaviour. And if it works for me, it can work for you too. Give it a try – run a “sale without a sale” for your readers. See what happens.

What I want you to do Next

Okay, I get it. The burning question is: how am I going to be able to communicate these messages to my readers? There’s only so much information you can put in your Amazon product descriptions.

The answer, as I’ve said before, is to build a direct line of communication with your readers. One that doesn’t rely on Amazon, or Facebook, or Twitter. If you can reach your audience direct, you control the message.

And the best way to do this is via email. If you’re collecting your readers’ email addresses, and building a relationship with them, you can easily overcome the four obstacles I’ve listed out above – before you even offer something for sale.

By which time, you’ve already dealt with every possible issue your potential readers have. The result? Better sales, better visibility, and longer-lasting relationships with your audience.

This is the key to how to sell without being “salesy”. Build your brand, build your relationships. Offer value. Then offer something for sale. And you’ll get results.

If you want a step-by-step guide to getting started on your email list, go download “Reader Magnets”. This free ebook will show you how to put this process in place and start building your email list – click below to grab your copy:



Now, if you enjoyed this free article (and the free book), please take a moment to share this page with 3 of your author friends. Or post a link on a forum, or on social media. And if you’ve got any questions, leave a comment – I’ll be dropping in for the next 24 hours or thereabouts to answer any burning queries.

In fact, let’s get a conversation going: what’s the number one reason readers don’t buy your books? I’m sure you have some theories. Share them in the comments.



  1. Richard Fox says:

    Why don’t readers buy my book… (

    I think it’s the book description. Copy isn’t my strength.

    Another issue: The book purports to be part of a series, but nothing has been added to the series in almost a year (Book 2 will be out in January).

    Cover, price and review quality are all top notch (in my opinion). Maybe there’s some other factor I’m blind to that’s hurting sales.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      I had issues with copy at first – I just found other books doing well and adapted their style a little. It takes practice, and it helps to bounce these things off other people (maybe a Facebook group or a forum). And yes, following up on your series is a good idea!

      1. Antara Man says:

        “Steal like an artist” definitely. Some people like mark L. Messick would want 300 bucks simply to write a blurb and it’s crazy. I am seriously thinking about hiring someone on Fiverr but I am more confident when I do the important things myself.

        1. christina paquin says:

          Don’t go to Fiverr. So.e of those people including so called editors are dishonest and Fiverr will not back up the customer. If you have a bad experience you’re on your own.

          1. Richard Stone says:

            I don’t like most on Fiverr. I use jamesboulay with my new books. It’s not the $300 mark charges but he gets me competing data, a title, subtitle, keywords, description, SEO on my listing. Others? Suck and you’re on point. I’ve tried about 80 or so myself for the things above including Derek doepwhatever for titles and such and was not as impressed with jamesboulay or jamesbouler, can’t think of his name off the top of my head.

        2. With Fiverr, you get what you pay for, that being the reason why I do not offer my software development services on that site. Come back to me at FiveThousandrr.

      2. Ufuomaee says:

        I opened a Facebook group specifically for my book, The Church Girl, (, and have over 300 members, and it is still growing. I post and interact with these people, but when I released my book this week, only two people have downloaded and one person has pre-ordered the hardback (and I can’t be sure that they are people from the group).

        It is so sad, because they asked to join the group and were so excited about the book coming out. Lots of likes and encouraging comments before the book was released, and now zilch. I wonder if it is the price, but I don’t want to reduce the price. I am selling it much lower than I valued it. It is actually two books in one.

        My email list specifically for the book has 8 members (those who subscribed for notification) and my newsletter is about 190 subscribers now, and I really do not prefer the email list. I feel like I would be bugging people to post often, where as in the group, it is like the shrine of my book, and everyone there knows they are there because of the book, so I expect that they will be happy, even if I post several times a day about the progress, which I actually don’t. My recent posts about the books availability have received the lowest response (sometimes nothing at all), and I keep wondering if people really know that they signed up because they said they wanted to buy the book.

        I don’t know why people say email is better than interactive groups and forums dedicated to your book, but I would like to learn about email marketing.

        Thanks for this post!

    2. Shari says:

      Try making your book description look like Nick Webb’s. When I look at yours, it’s hard for my eyes to focus. Too many words and white spaces.
      Try something like this one:

      The year is 2650
      75 years ago, an alien fleet attacked Earth.
      Without warning. Without mercy.
      We were not prepared.
      Hundreds of millions perished. Dozens of cities burned.
      We nearly lost everything.

      Then, the aliens abruptly left.

      We rebuilt. We armed ourselves. We swore: never again.
      But the aliens never came back.

      Until now.

      With overwhelming force the aliens have returned, striking deep into our territory, sending Earth into a panic. Our new technology is useless. Our new ships burn like straw. All our careful preparations are wasted.

      Now, only one man, one crew, and the oldest starship in the fleet stand between the Earth and certain destruction:


      1. Robert Doucette says:

        I apoligize for getting off topic, but I’ve always wondered, why do sci-fi blurbs so often say, “It’s the year XX”, or “The year is XX.” Isn’t there a more dramatic way of setting the story in time?

        How about:
        Humankind’s golden era of peace and prospersity ended in 2575.
        An alien fleet attacked Earth.
        Without warning. Without mercy.
        We were not prepared.
        Then, the aliens abruptly left.

        We rebuilt. We armed ourselves. We swore: never again.
        But the aliens never came back.

        Until now.

        With overwhelming force, after 75 years, the aliens have returned,…

    3. emma Right says:

      Hi Richard,
      I read your copy. Personally, I think it sounds exciting and I am almost inclined to read it. But I won’t be reading the book–why? Because it’s not the genre I enjoy or read. So maybe it’s a question of reaching the right readers/audience. I empathize with you because one of my series (soon to be two different sets) are in the Princess storybook for girls genre and I’m still wondering if I should spend $$ to get readers/ or their moms. Maybe you can research where exactly people who love military type stories congregate–FB groups, people who like guns (oops!) ex-military…

    4. Frances Cristina says:

      Richard Fox,
      I am not an author. I’m a reader. I read the article just out of curiosity. I think the lady who said your blurb was too wordy is right. Sounds weird, because we are readers looking for books with words in it, but it is true. I don’t read a lot in your genre. The books I tend to choose in it grab my attention. Their blurbs aren’t wordy. Wordy in a SciFi description just says to me I’m going to get bored somewhere in the book. Not that I want it too short either. Too short tells me the excitement might end before I’m ready. What you need is to perform a balancing act of just the right amount of words to convey, “you will not be able to put this down excitement”. That means short sentences, highlighting action. Notice that I use excitement and action. Those are two things I tend to look for in your genre. If I don’t get them in your blurb, chances are I won’t get them in your book. The other part, for why I may not choose your book, is I don’t know if I want to invest. Your book is part of a series. It is not the first one. What I want to know is, can I read without reading the book before? If the answer is yes, then you need to say that somewhere. If it is no, than you need to tell me that the first book is FREE or specially priced and that I need to read it first. I also want to know, if I decide to read your book, can I stop at the end or do I need book three? You want me to be invested to go on to book three, I know. But what I want to know, in this blurb, is can I read this as a stand alone and be happy? If I can, chances are higher that I will choose to keep reading the books after. When I am shopping for a book, most often, it is because I want something to read immediately. This means I need shorter, more engaging, more entertaining, more informative blurbs. I’m going to give you 10 seconds because I know I want to read NOW. We are no longer very patient, I’m afraid. Also, never have a boring cover or title! The cover/title are what makes me stop to give your book more attention if I am just browsing through. This is only my opinion but I hope it helps you, (and maybe someone else).

      1. Ufuomaee says:

        It helped me! I don’t know if my book is in your genre, but what do you think of my cover?

  2. Graeme Ing says:

    Discoverability. They can’t buy my books if they don;t know they exist. I can get good sales (and reviews) when I can get my book in front of strangers. Discoverability is what I struggle with.

    1. Janet Flavell says:

      I agree with you Graeme. It doesn’t help, when I do not plan to write any more books either.

    2. Karen Hedges says:

      This is the nub. I can’t get my book to show up on Amazon searches. Space adventures come way down the list after Star Wars sadly.

    3. Samantha says:

      Do you read within your genre and connect with other readers through book clubs, discussions, & reviews? That is a great way to build a relationship with the people most likely to buy your book and support other authors at the same time.

  3. atothewr says:

    Great advice. I think the email is where I am lacking. Noise Trade has helped me with some of that. Do you have any thoughts on what is a compelling email – an attention grabber?

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      I find that anything with a clear purpose works well – and if you’re delivering value (and it’s obvious what that value is) then you should get a good response rate. It might be worth signing up to a few mailing lists to see how others do it – check out Pat Flynn at for some good examples.

      1. atothewr says:

        Thanks for the tips and help. Fingers crossed I can make it work.

  4. T.K. Rapp says:

    People don’t know me. And if they do, they tend to be disappointed by my lack of descriptive sex.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      I get that all the time… :p

    2. Danny says:

      Perhaps you should use more adjectives? 😀

    3. J. Step says:

      Interesting comment. I was actually worried that some of the adult content in my upcoming novel was TOO descriptive.
      Maybe I’ll leave it just the way it is.

  5. I’m finding it confusing how my MailChimp contacts aren’t all opening or clicking on emails. Not understanding what I may be doing wrong. This is a great article. I’ve enjoyed what you are sharing and am ever so grateful for your giving heart. Good luck with your new little bundle coming! 🙂

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      not everyone opens or clicks – if 50% are opening, you’re doing fine. Anywhere from 5% – 25% people will click, but it all depends on what your link is!

      If you’re getting less than that, try tweaking your subject lines to be more intriguing 🙂

      1. I’ll have to give it a whirl. Thanks! 🙂

      2. emma Right says:

        I find that emails and figuring what to write (am a fiction author) etc tedious. Unlike non-fiction authors who can write regularly to their subscribers giving them useful info, how useful is my information about an imaginary story world created in my head? This is my struggle. I give out 4 reader magnets–2 princess books and 2 full-length teen novels. After this I write some auto-responders –about 5. Then I hit a dead-end. (Time to punch a few holes in the wall!)

        1. Maria says:

          I get you. Here’s some ideas.

          1, Create an author’s journal. You can do it in a blog or at Then send a link to your list once a week, month, etc. with a blurb or initial paragraph. Think of Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke or the Diaries of Anai Nin. It is about the things you reflect on, the things you see and how you experience the world As creatives, we often do not realize that we see things in a unique perspective and this can in itself be enriching to others.

          2, Create flash stories, poems and other quick fiction. I create a weekly flash story, a weekly poem, a weekly prayer (like a poem but in the form of prayer). I write them all in one day. See my blog at:

          The one-minute approach attracts a lot of people. A 1 minute story is easy to write and read. A perfect example of this is Paulo Coehlo’s blog.

          3. Paulo also sends stuff to meet other authors, of new books he likes, of quotes he likes and then makes his own reflection. I love his blog!

          4. Authors of historical fiction –whether romance or mystery or whatever– have loads of extra information. Share the historical facts you have researched. Places, customs, photos, etc.

          I hope this helps.

          1. Jeff says:

            These are great suggestions, Maria!

    2. John Ling says:

      Hi Ellise

      I’ve experienced the same problem as well. What I’ve discovered is that MailChimp doesn’t track email opens and clicks with 100% accuracy.

      I confirmed this when I talked to a friend who had definitely opened my email, and yet, my email service didn’t track that.

      Somewhat unfortunate, but it’s important to bear in mind that email tracking isn’t an exact science.

      Hope this helps!


      1. Not as efficient as I had hoped. But thanks for the feedback. 🙂

        1. Nick_Stephenson says:

          If people are viewing your emails in a “preview” window, it won’t register as an “open”. But you’ll never get 100% opening your messages – but compared to the <1% engagement you get from paid advertising, email is orders of magnitude more effective once you've built your list up a little 🙂

  6. Mark L. Messick says:

    I think my number one struggle right now is simply building an email list.

    My books are selling decently (one hovers around #5,000 paid, the other rarely goes above #25,000) but that’s only because of help I’ve been given. (The fruit of many, many, MANY months networking with different authors.)

    I don’t currently have an email list big enough to sustain my books all by itself. (I’ve only got around 340 subscribers. Granted, I just started my list in September, but the process just seems so slow.)

    Do you have any tips Nick?

    Do I need to change my offer or the blurb in the front of the book or the landing page? (You can view the sign up request using the Look Inside feature on Amazon: )

    What do you think I should do to increase sign ups? (I currently have about a 10% conversion rate. For every 100 sales I get 10 email subscribers. Roughly.)


    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      10 – 15% is about right for non-fiction… you might see an improvement if you add a big, shiny image to your call to action. But the best improvements will come from getting more traffic (Captain Obvious, right?). This is why I like free promotions and permafree – up to 100x the traffic to your book, for free. Or tens of thousands of hits if you pay for advertising. It’s a great way to build your list. You might want to consider doing some permafree titles that compliment your main book(s) and funnel more traffic to your signup page, or running some free promos if you’re in KDP Select. It definitely works!

      1. Mark L. Messick says:

        Nick — I actually did the perma-free thing for a little while, but I found that downloads-to-email-subs conversion rates plummeted. Like, less than 1%. For every hundred downloads, I was getting less than 1 new subscribers Sure, I was getting hundreds of downloads a day, but that stils only a couple of extra subscribers. I may try the perma-free strategy again in the future, but right now releasing a book for perma-free would take a huge chunk out of my Income (because both books sell well). Once my Kindle business is more stable, and I can afford to release a book or two for perma-free, I may do that and hopefully see an increase in email subscribers. 🙂


        1. Nick_Stephenson says:

          My pleasure – it’s definitely possible to get 10%+ with permafree, so long as you’ve got a compelling call to action and an easy signup process. And putting something new out (and making it free) shouldn’t eat into your existing sales. Definitely worth looking at 🙂

  7. Antara Man says:

    As a reader I can tell that number 1 and 2 are the biggest obstacles for buying a book. As a writer, I feel the same applies to my potential to be readers.What I found indeed very hacking is networking and getting in the mouths and minds in other more successful than you writers. I think what really makes a difference is networking, smart marketing, email marketing and of course great content,

  8. Judy Lawn says:

    Hi Nick
    Yes, I can see I have to get on with building my email list. I only have a few people as yet, but will work toward getting more readers on my list – especially with my next book due out soon.
    Thank you so much

  9. Great article Nick! I struggled with selling books to even my own family and friends when I got started until I learned a lot of these lessons through both study and trail/error. My own break down for what reader’s need to make a purchase is this:

    Believe the book is valuable in itself (Overcome Skepticism)
    Believe the content will work/be entertaining for the reader (Overcome Fear)
    Cares about the book’s content and finds it unique (Overcomes Indifference)

    I know I have a tendency to procrastinate on a purchase unless there’s a sense of urgency. This is why limiters, such as your method to buy within 48 hours to get a free book, are so valuable.

  10. Brett Brooks says:

    Wow. Great article. It hits so many points that I have not seen discussed elsewhere. The added bonus of the email-growing book only makes it that much better. I want to thank you personally. So…thanks.

  11. Kristen says:

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post!
    It’s the little changes that produce the most significant changes.
    Many thanks for sharing!

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  13. JA Andrews says:

    Discoverability. And Discoverability.

    Oh, and no one can find me.

    (Thank you for your class and the excellent FB group that goes along with it. i’ve learned a ton and met great people to work with. I have one book out and am working hard on book 2 and working on being satisfied with the early stages of trickling success. For now, I’m just focusing on things that will make my book and brand more visible.)

  14. Noelle Hart says:

    Hi Nick, I’ve just started organizing the “reader magnet” thing to start an email list. I have a 3 book series out and plan to use the first in the series as the funnel book, and give as an incentive to sign up another book that is not in the same genre (well, not exactly but close). The series is romantic suspense and this freebee novel is a women’s fiction novel with a dark side. I’m wondering if this freebee will put people off of buying my romantic suspense novels (I plan to launch another that is standalone) once they read the “dark side” novel. What do you think?

  15. Thanks for the info Nick, planning to publish all my books on the other 7 sites. Started updating or publishing FB, Blogspot and SlideShare pages for each book. Then turn my TES resources into books and repeat the above steps.

  16. JaNese Dixon says:

    I’m with fellow authors above your state “discoverability” as the possible disconnect. I launched my only full novel many years ago. At the time I did marketing online and off and I’ve sold a quite a few books but I want to reignite it. I have great reviews and its a good story. Thus, I’m writing a new book and collaborating on two anthologies. My goal is to get my name in front of more people and use the strategies in First 10k to take it from there.

  17. Tracy Krauss says:

    There is such common sense in what you have to say,but it is exactly the kind of thing that people miss. I’ve already bought your premium training program and it is quite possibly the best investment I’ve made in a long while.

  18. Angelique says:

    My books aren’t published yet, so that is my biggest challenge. I do have a very small email list. I hope it grows when I finish the short story I plan to give away.
    As a reader, I always use the blurb or description to decide. I never look at reviews or other statistics. If a book intrigues me, I may read the first few pages before I decide about the purchase. I seldom, if ever, purchase a book when the description section is all reviews and praise. I want to know WHAT the book is about, not what others think.

  19. M J Logue says:

    Interested to know what you think about this one: people don’t buy my books because I write historical fiction about one of the least sexy periods in history, and about the unsexier of the protagonists….
    Well, they do buy ’em, but only enough to keep the cats in cat food, instead of to keep me in the manner to which I’m accustomed!

  20. Icy Sedgwick says:

    I blog about folklore and I started adding flash stories to the bottom of my posts that were inspired by the folklore I’d blogged about. As it related to the short stories in my reader magnet, I found I at least got a trickle of new subscribers who had been sufficiently impressed by the free public story that they wanted to try the free ones that they ‘bought’ with an email address. Might be a slow and steady way to build my list but it’s a neat way to combat the ‘who are you?’ and ‘why should I bother?’ problems!

  21. James Griffin says:

    I’m not hiding anything. I simply don’t have a website to list yet and won’t have one until I get time to use the optimize press software I just purchased based on a recommendation in your course.

    However for me I think the single biggest reason people haven’t purchased my first book is that they simply don’t know it’s out there. Up until I started your course I had no idea of how to make even a tiny percentage of the huge Internet audience aware that I even had a book. I had/have no website and no idea of how to get people to look at a website. Also I have been working with almost 0 funds so could not simply go out and find someone to try to sell a book for me.

    The single biggest expenditure I have made to try to sell my book is the combination of your first 10,000 readers course and the optimize press software I just paid for based upon your recommendation. I am now in the process of trying to carve out time to first complete your course and then create an effective marketing program for my one published novel, write at least one more novel by year-end, complete the editing of my 140,000 word Vietnam novel, and then publish and sell that novel also.

    1. emma Right says:

      Hey James, Just an idea–have you tried Leadpages ($29 a month I think–and no need to pay for server etc. It’ll at least give you a chance to collect email address, and connect this to Mailchimp as per Nick’s advice. Then when you have a website you can stop Leadpages and migrate to your site. Rocking Self Publishing (Simon Whistler) recommends to buy your website URL–about $9 for a whole year. Anyone can afford that!

  22. Robert Doucette says:

    My apologies if this question has been raised before. It seems I need a brand for my work mso people know what to expect but as a beginning writer I am experimenting with mulitple genres. Romance, Mystery and SciFi. Should I have three brands and three email promotion strategies? Should I seek an “Uber-brand?” Create a brand associated with “high adventure, crisp dialog and sizzling sex”?

  23. JL Simpson says:

    I give away a ton of copies of my free book, which is book one in the series. I get five or six sign ups to my mailing list from this book for a free copy of book two but almost no sales of book three. Considering I give away 50 to 60 books a day on Amazon I would have thought I could get more than 2 sales a day. I recently changed all my book covers and that saw a huge improvement. Prior to that even Facebook ads for the free book were a waste of time. I can only assume people are downloading the freebie from Amazon via the Facebook ad and are parking it on their ereader or are reading it and hate the damn book. I can’t do anything about people who don’t like the book and I have no idea how to motivate people to read the book they downloaded for free.

  24. Struggling with getting my word document to separate/format into chapters using Scrivener. Any suggestions? Should I search out writing friends that has pub ebooks already? Pleas advise. Thanks!

  25. Susan Fox says:

    As always, Nick, your wisdom brings such clarity on what to do. Thanks for helping us authors do better.

  26. Frank Daley says:

    I’ll be publishing a historical adventure novel, Barricade: Dollard des Ormeaux and the Battle of the Long Saltine this fall. It’s set in and around Montreal in 1660 in the French /Iroquois wars between the French explorers and their allies, the Huron and their enemies, the iroquois. Think The Canadian Alamo. I get the requirement of a giveaway so I am writing a short novel set in Moscow in 1958, a murder trial for that purpose. The themes are periods are different and not part of a series so I have that problem. At least potential readers will be able to see whether they like the writing. No 1 and 2 are the main obstacles at this point.

  27. Brian says:

    Because I’m reading your website, I realize that I’ve been doing everything wrong. I hope to take your next class

  28. Nick,
    Nice post. Gets to the core of the problem without a lot of fuss.
    There’s a lot more to ad copy-writing, mostly complications.
    The comments reminded me that a few of those examples work because they start out with a good hook. (And the old AIDA maps pretty well with the three/four act story, if you consider it.)
    Anyway, love your course. Getting through the last of the bonus material now. (Pug book unboxing video was delightful.)
    Looking forward to your new release…

  29. Karen Bate says:

    Sadly, I did offer a “sale within a sale” with the release of my fourth book. Result? ZERO sales! Promotion has been the bane of my existence. People who read my books tell me I have a quality product, but I can’t seem to spread the word. Sigh….

  30. I have written and self published one book via Createspace and only sold 35 copies in 2 months. My book’s Facebook page has over 200 likes. Why aren’t these people turning ‘likes’ into purchases? I think it might be the description but I don’t know how to improve it.

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      Mitchell – forget Facebook right now, build that email list. Organic reach on FB is around 2% so out of your 200 followers, only 2 (maybe 3 on a good day) are even seeing things you post on there. Go download the ebook and get cracking!

  31. The comment that I get mostly on why they don’t buy my children’s books is because they “don’t have little ones.”

  32. Dawn Walker says:

    I wrote a children’s book 21 yrs ago and finally published it in April 2016…have had 5 sales at Amazon….It is full color all pages beautiful illustrations (cost me a bundle) and I had to go through a publisher because I had absolutely no clue how to find an illustrator or editor…I don’t have an email list and have no clue how to even start a list….So, how do I get my sales up? How do I start an email list? and even if I had one, what the heck would I say to the readers? I do have a facebook page, but only 74 likes… Here is the link to my book:

  33. Birgette says:

    I bought a book from a local author that was advertised on the local buy swap sell page on Facebook. Bought simply because they were a local author, and they had a heap of printed books they had self-published. Price was $6.99 + $3.99 postage (printed book) for a short story. “Book” turned out to be maybe five postcard sized pages of a very short story. Doubt it would have filled 3 Microsoft Word Pages. Would not buy from the same author again as it was not what I *personally* expected from a book at that price. In talking with the author, she had not thought of promoting the book herself when she was writing it It’s not available on Amazon (she doesn’t know how to do that). She has no website and had not thought about how to accept payments.

  34. Brenda H says:

    I’d love to know where readers are for Romantic Comedy. People love it when they read it, but it is like a second book to another genre on their reading list. I have an email list for book two. My target audience is mostly female and over 35 but I have found men read it too and laugh as they see themselves in the male character. Book clubs read it as it is thought provoking behind a light hearted read. Are there any specific book club sites?

  35. Edwin Stark says:

    Sigh.. and here we go again… just another selling advice article…

    Sometimes, SOMETIMES, we might just as well admit that some stuff is completely impossible to sell no matter what we try. Lemme offer you some advice in turn… never, EVER write in the satire genre. I’ve got some nice reviews, the branding reassurance that the reader will get an amazingly funny book is well established… and yet, nothing.

    I give up.

    1. Robert Cooper says:

      Right, Edwin. Sales advice is okay if you’re selling a Rolls or a Range Rover. You might have a book in five million, but it is exactly that: one book in five million. Make a decent cover. Enlarge it one hundred times. Place one monster copy outside a bookshop. People will notice your book. Guaranteed.

  36. There are issues on amazon that I do not understand. I have fifty-five novels available and they sell. I make a living. I have never advertised, don’t actively sell, don’t run an email service and don’t communicate with my readers, so it confuses me why some months my income goes crazy. And others not so much. In June 2012 it peaked at £3000 for that month. Why? Why that month? I did nothing different at all. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that something is happening within the inner workings of amazon about which I have no idea.

  37. Danie Botha says:

    Neat article, Nick.
    Overcoming the 4 obstacles is not easy – but do-able.
    I am not there yet – the books selling-part. The plan is to be live in 4 weeks time.
    That was part of the “delay” – holding back Book #1 (Funnel book), wrote a 25,000 w novella, (Reader magnet), the prequel to Book 1, (had it copyedited, new cover etc. – and that takes time!)
    Simultaneous launch end November 2016.
    Will let my 10kR buddies know how I fare!

    And it’s essentially the underlying message in Nick’s course: QUALITY (from content, to editing, to blurb copy, to cover) and QUANTITY is required.
    Those two aspects, PLUS, following a marketing strategy, step-by-step (as in YF10kR.)
    Thanks, Nick!

  38. Shirley Wine says:

    Great content and great ideas here. Thank you Nick for generously sharing your expertise. Since the RWNZ Conference in August this year I have been working on building my email list with fairly moderate success. I am going to try some of Maria’s ideas to liven up my newsletter.
    Not sure how I’d go on the prayers, but writers do see things from a different perspective.

  39. Andrew Claymore says:

    Nick, I love what you did with the ‘Get a title from my backlist’ email, but I wonder if you might get a longer algo boost from Amazon if you broke that into four or five separate mailings on separate days. That tells the algorithms that they’re not just seeing a spike that needs to be minimised in the calculations. I figured I’d suggest it, though you probably already know it and simply did it this way as an example of the power of your suggestion.
    Do you send a Mobi file to each reader individually when they respond with the appropriate word or do you automate it through Mailchimp? Seems like a lot of work to mail individually but it’s still a great way to build the connection with readers.

  40. Chris says:

    Not so much what makes readers go to your books… but what can put them off.
    Even minor factual, or technical, errors in the opening blurb or promotion for a book (as can be found in the header to this post – did you spot it?) will put readers off. They immediately begin to doubt the author’s credibility.

  41. I’m an unknown quantity in a saturated market.

  42. While my sales aren’t what I would like, I know of several people who have read one or more of my books- a few who bought more because they liked what they read in another. Most of the buyers are NOT people I know personally. For some reason people will not write reviews even though they often make comments on a FB post or blog that it was a “great story”.
    I really think if I had more Amazon reviews it would help sales. I have tried creative ways of asking for honest reviews and have come close to begging those I DO know… but nothing comes.

  43. Trialia says:

    Only three types of reader, even broadly? Really? For some authors I don’t fall into any of your three listed types. “Always, never, maybe” might be a better way to put it, and if it were that I might agree, but “haven’t read yet” as a strictly separate category from “never”? Not always.

    In addition to your ideas, authors’ public behaviour has a great deal of influence on whether I’ll read their fiction or not (if they pride themselves on not reading anyone else’s works I probably won’t, and if they insult negative reviewers in tweets or visible conversations I certainly won’t, for a couple of examples), as do a few things about books’ content (I have PTSD, and if I hear there’s triggering content, I may avoid it). If an author has more than one book out, I’ve been known to love one book and loathe another, or the same with series. One author I usually read “sight unseen” has a particular series under her alternate name that I just can’t touch, as it squicks me too much, but everything else she’s ever published I jumped at, and I usually pre-order too, even though I’m on disability and not well off.

    That’s the grey ground in between your categorisations, I suppose. But good luck with the rest.

    1. My thoughts says:

      Some writers may not read other author’s fiction for fear of plagiarising and in order not to be influenced, so they can write “fresh”. At least, I read back in the early 90s that Bono had said that way back when (hearsay). That he wouldn’t read poetry books or stuff fans gave him so his writing songs would not be compromised. It made sense.

  44. Guido Henkel says:

    If things were only that easy and predictable as you make them sound, Nick. The truth is that thousands of authors who do everything right still don’t sell any mentionable number of copies.

  45. Anderson says:

    It is difficult for the authors to sell more copies of their books and one of the reasons is that readers mostly buy the books of the famous authors, because they think that the famous authors would provide great materials in the books. The reader fear buying the books of the new or unknown authors, because they think that they might waste their money. But many unpopular authors have written very informative and great books. I think that the authors should advertise about their books to spread the awareness of their books . So, that they could increase their book sales.

  46. Hi Nick, thanks for this thought provoking piece and the e-book, which I look forward to reading. I have one book out, and currently rewriting my second. I also blog at Mummy Tries.

    Become the Best You is a self-help book / memoir detailing how I overcame challenges that a dysfunctional childhood left me with. From self respect issues, correlating with abuse and bullying, to borderline alcoholism. I lived life in self destruct mode for many years, until I realised my past was going to seriously screw up my future. In every chapter I share a personal story, then give short, sharp bursts of inspiration to help the reader tackle their problems.

    The book has been well received by anyone who has actually read the thing. I’ve got great reviews, the book was edited well and has a decent cover. I’ve been told that the tone is perfect, and rather than reading a self-help book, many have described it as feeling like they’re sitting in a cafe with me having coffee.

    I just can’t get the book in front of the people who need it most. Do you have any suggestions for me?

    Many thanks, Reneé

  47. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  48. Honor says:

    Hi Nick, I have tried many routes to being discovered, I have improved the product quality. They were repackaged, re-edited, restructured so the quality is high. Currently I have written > 20 novels and rising! I tried KU then going wide. I had 8 books upon KDP but no joy. I agree with the methods you employ some of which I did before I encountered your club of Joanna, Mark, Bryan, a few others and yourself!
    BUT I tried doing FREE it got me nothing, no one signed up on my email list and took my offers. On the other platforms the same book sold at $4.99 I still have a trickle of sales without promotion. As the results were pathetic I have removed all but one of my books from Amazon. I am constantly assessing and analysing the business. I am baffled!

  49. Muito obrigado por compartilhar

  50. Val Tobin says:

    Excellent article. Gives me a lot to consider.

    I was told recently that I need to brand myself, not my books. My stories explore moral issues and touch on psychological and metaphysical concepts.

    For example, my recent release deals with a murder victim in the spirit world who wants to track down her killer. All killers are evil, right? At first, her motive is revenge, but that evovlves as she gets to understand why he did what he did.

    Promoting it as speculative fiction or science fiction doesn’t reflect the true nature of the story. However, I hate talking about myself. I’m an introvert. Yet the marketer I talked to said if people knew more about my background (what a long, strange trip it’s been as the Grateful Dead would say), they’d be more likely to buy my novels.

  51. I recently watched the Smashwords self-published pricing guide video: they were adamant that FREE works. Give a title away with all your other work listed, they said. So I did – Zero! So here it is, FREE. The Gold Star Kid & The Dream Angel with the free audio book too… Enjoy (PS limited offer only (Not)… Thanks!
    Good morning: as a newly self-published author I have realised that writting is the easy bit! Trying to get published is near impossible! So please may I share this work FREE with you all in the hope that you find it most enjoyable. eBook and audio. Thank you!

  52. My thoughts says:

    1) Price has EVERYTHING to do with it. $34 and up is the starting price of all of the books I have on my want list. Can’t afford that. Whatever happened to $7.99?? In this day and age of “no one reads, except blogs and internet pages” it would seem to me a paper back would have long dropped down to $2.99!
    2) I never buy non physical books (the kindle thing? eBooks? Not sure what you call them!) I hate holding a tablet, it hurts my palms. Plus ever try to skip to page 580 in a 700 pg PDF? There’s no way to jump and scrolling down is a pain; it keeps jumping up!

    3) I also won’t buy it if I can’t read a preview (I’m talking to you eBay sellers of old books: you have so many cool titles that drew me in. I click your ad and silly you posts 24 photos of the cover, the spine, the defects, the templates and… NO reading excerpt! Hello? Think readers in a bookstore; I grab the book, I leaf thru the pages. I sit down. It grabs me, I pay for it and go home. (Own tons of books, last bought one in the 90s).

    4) Finally, I will not buy a book if it has Amazon reviews that say there’s tons of typos, bad form, bad syntax, bad cheesy writing. I don’t care if it has 4.5 stars, I always read the negative reviews first, then a few positive. After having taken a look inside, I make the decision. If there are reviews on typos and bad writing, I don’t even bother to click Look Inside!

    Thought I’d add my reasons. In case writers were interested and other readers felt the same.

  53. Alena Sham says:

    Thanks so much for this post. I love the way you can make things simple and doable and cut through all the confusion. I have your book and it is great too. 🙂

  54. 33Modesta says:

    I must say it was hard to find your blog in search results.

    You write interesting articles but you should rank your blog higher in search engines.

    If you don’t know 2017 seo techniues search on youtube:
    how to rank a website Marcel’s way

  55. Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Very helpful info specially the last part 🙂 I care for such information a lot. I was seeking this certain info for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

  56. The other day, while I was at work, my sister stole my apple ipad and tested to see if it can survive a 25 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My iPad is now broken and she has 83 views. I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  57. buzzmytech says:

    If things were only that easy and predictable as you make them sound, Nick. The truth is that thousands of authors who do everything right still don’t sell any mentionable number of copies.

  58. Jason Moser says:

    The reason most people won’t buy your book is because they can’t find it among the hundreds of thousands of other titles out there. Unless you as an author already have a name for yourself, it’s very difficult to get it out there. You can’t rely on organic traffic (search engine traffic) to build your fan base (email list). You must get your name and book titles out there in front of the RIGHT people. Like one comment said above… It wasn’t their genre, even though it sounded interesting from the copy. There are people out there that are only interested in certain genre and they will never buy your book. You don’t want to waste your marketing on them. You need to tap all your marketing resources toward the right Target Market, and in order to do this, you must know who your target market is.

  59. David Cray says:

    Great, article! Every day that passes I have learned something new, I have faced many difficulties but now I will continue to follow with my best.

  60. Ricardo Williams says:

    This is great information. A friend of mine recommended you to me. You have a lot to offer fellow authors. I am thankful to gain from your knowledge. I developed a platform on Facebook to bring motivational authors and audience together in the group The Self Development Authors Classroom Club where we give our audience the best we can find in self help. I will share your work and invite you to join our group. Thank you.
    Ricardo Williams
    Author of Unchained Mind

  61. Ricardo Williams says:

    This is great information. A friend of mine recommended you to me. You have a lot to offer fellow authors. I am thankful to gain from your knowledge. I developed a platform on Facebook to bring motivational authors and audience together in the group The Self Development Authors Classroom Club where we give our audience the best we can find in self help. I will share your work and invite you to join our group. Thank you.
    Ricardo Williams
    Author of Unchained Mind

  62. Ram Sharma says:

    Hi! Maybe it will be in your genre, tell me how the description is please!

  63. Priya R says:

    This is a very helpful blog! Thank you!
    I generally use for promoting my books online to buy. It is a good platform but I am looking for ways to pomote them more.

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