The Second Hardest Question: Why Isn’t My Book Selling?


In my last email, I shared the toughest question I’m asked—will you read my manuscript? In this email, I’ll tackle the second most challenging question I receive from authors—“Why isn’t my book selling?”

I’ve worked on both sides of books during my career. I’ve sold books and published books. I’ve talked to real customers who want to read a good book. And I’ve met with and published passionate authors who wish to have their message or story read. The question is how to bring these two groups together so that the customer/reader finds the content they need. In my book 7 Tips for Marketing and Selling Your Book, I cover some of the fundamentals but have some other thoughts.

One of the first questions I ask an author who asks me this question is, “Did you write a book proposal before you started writing?” Unfortunately, I almost always get a puzzling look and a question—“why do I need to do that?” Here’s why:

  • This book proposal idea is necessary for both self-publishing and traditional publishing. Writing a proposal helps you identify your content and your market. A good proposal (and I have a template on my website) will help you think through who will read your book. Are they adults, teens, or kids? If you are writing to a felt need, who are the people who should read your book? What is their demographic? Where do they hang out on social media? How will you find them? How can you join them and add value to their “tribe.”
  • Writing a proposal also helps you to identify your book’s competition. Yes, Amazon carries millions of books, and you need to identify competing products and make sure you understand why your book is different. How does it differentiate from the rest? Why your book? If you are writing fiction about a rebel lawyer who solves an incredible tangle of underhanded dealings, why would someone buy your book over John Grisham? If you’re writing a leadership book, why would a person buy your book over hundreds of new leadership books that come out every year?

A second question to ask yourself when you feel your book is not selling is, did you create a marketing and selling plan before you started writing. Yes, that’s not a typo; you need to have a plan before you begin writing. As I mentioned above, you need to know your potential reader and how you will reach them once the book is published. You need to develop a marketing and selling strategy, whether you’re self or traditionally published. Author friend, the heavy lifting of selling your book is on you. It would be best if you created the buzz for your book. It would help if you let people know why they should read your book over the thousands of other books they could choose. And social media isn’t the only place to make connections. You need to think about traditional media as well. Appearing on traditional media sells books.

Now, what if you’ve done both things and still not selling books? You need to dig deep into your marketing/selling tactics and your content. You need to take a hard look at what you’ve done, and if it didn’t produce the expected results, why didn’t it? You need to determine if your content didn’t hit a felt need about which people want to read. You may have misjudged your target audience. Maybe you’ve written a memoir, and it’s your story for your family only. Perhaps you’ve tried suspense fiction, and there’s so much competition that your tactics can’t be heard above the noise of other, more recognizable authors.

Writing a book includes much more than sitting at your computer and laying down thoughts in MS Word or Pages. Good content is lovely, but it’s wasted if nobody knows about it. And, no amount of marketing and selling strategies will move readers to purchase poor content. So you need to balance your marketing and your writing so that both areas are best as you can make them.

I’d welcome your questions. You can always reach me at

Image by


Leave a Reply

  • Search

Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

©2014 Wayne Hastings. All Rights Reserved. Site by Birdsong Creative.