I am often asked why one book sells and another doesn’t. This question comes up particularly when a book doesn’t sell in spite of wonderful media coverage and glowing blurbs and reviews.
After two decades in publishing, I’ve found that people tend to buy books for one (or more) of the following reasons:
Enjoyed a previous book by the author
A fan/follower of the author (think: politicians and celebrities)
A fan of the genre or category (think: sci-fi/fantasy or gardening)
The book will solve a problem they have or will make their lives better
Heard the book is a must-read/offers great storytelling
That last reason—by itself—is the hardest to leverage. Building word-of-mouth from scratch takes a great book and an amazing amount of work on the part of everyone involved (especially the author), and there are still no guarantees that people will fork over their hard-earned cash when they could just as easily buy a book for one of the other four reasons.
When was the last time I bought a book by an author I’d never heard of… and why?
If you’re a first-time author, the answer may tell you something about why people will (or won’t) buy your book.