by Barb Drozdowich
Hi there and welcome. I come to the publishing world from the realm of technical training, not from a creative mindset. I look at the author world, the world of books, differently than many authors. Because of this, I see common errors that indie authors make which can result in loss of sales. Today, we are going to cover 5 common mistakes and easy fixes for each.
Indie Author Mistake #1: Failure to Think Globally
The first error we will talk about is the assumption by many authors that their audience is a local one. From setting up a table at a local market to sell books, to relying on readings at local coffee shops or bookstores, many authors focus their attentions at only local readers.
To be fair, they are relying on common time-honored activities that have existed in the book world for decades. Gathering some friends to celebrate a book launch is wonderful, but if this leads to the author having a only a local focus, they will miss out on “talking” to their actual audience.
Very few books are only suitable for a local audience. An example would be a detailed guide to local hiking trails. One would assume that the audience for that sort of book would primarily be a local one.
Most books are sold to an international audience. An author who focuses on their audience being an international one will look to a social media platform, a website and perhaps a newsletter to market their books. They may also consider using Facebook/Instagram ads or Amazon ads in their marketing efforts. An author focused locally might not consider these options.
I regularly sell books to readers in Canada, US, UK, Germany, Spain, India, Australia, and Japan as well as many other countries. What countries do your books sell in?
Indie Author Mistake #2: Dependence on Amazon
The second error to consider is indie authors who focus their efforts solely on Amazon.
There are a lot of “experts” out there who try to convince authors they can make a million dollars by selling a book on Amazon – and it is SO easy.
My antennae always go up when someone tells me making a lot of money is easy!
Are there authors who are successful solely on Amazon – yes – but this should be a reasoned choice. Amazon offers authors the ability to enter their books into KDP Select.
Pros and Cons of KDP Select for an Indie Author
For those of you unfamiliar with KDP Select, it is the ability to sell e-book versions of a book only via Amazon. (Amazon doesn’t care where you sell paperbacks.) Entering a book into KDP Select allows access to some promotional tools that aren’t available to other authors. It also offers a few other bells and whistles. Many books do very well when enrolled in KDP Select and sold only to an Amazon audience.
However just like children, all books are different. Don’t assume that just because a friend’s books do well in KDP Select, that your books will also.
Going back to the idea that book sales are international, focusing on Amazon presents some roadblocks. There are geographical restrictions to Amazon sales.
Amazon doesn’t service all countries. There are readers in quite a few countries that cannot purchase from Amazon.
Many people have a negative opinion of Amazon. I have had authors actually refuse to list their books on Amazon. Their comments make it clear that they feel Amazon is the anti-Christ. Some readers also have a negative opinion of Amazon. There are readers who would never purchase a book from Amazon.
Paper books can be published through IngramSpark, many different primary & secondary retailers as well as distributors like Draft2Digital to widen the availability of a book and offer more choice to readers.
Are your books only available on Amazon or have you dipped your toes in other waters?
Indie Author Mistake #3: Reliance on Bookstore Tours
The third error I commonly see is indie authors who focus on only selling books via bookstores. In my local area, I see authors driving hundreds of miles, going from bookstore to bookstore in person. They try to convince the manager of each store to carry some copies of their book. In some cases, authors are successful in leaving copies. Some bookstores will agree to copies for consignments sales.
Most bookstores – especially the smaller ones – stay in business because they know their customers. They carry books they know will sell – that their customers will like. Books without an audience – by authors without a track record – don’t contribute to the bottom line of a bookstore.
Not only is driving from bookstore to bookstore using valuable writing time, authors need to look at the ROI of this activity.
- How much does the gas cost?
- What about the wear and tear on a vehicle?
- How much is an author’s time worth?
All great questions to ask. How does going from bookstore to bookstore address the pursuit of international sales? I always suggest that authors spend their valuable time pursuing a wider audience, than traveling from bookstore to bookstore pursuing a narrow audience.
Honestly, I often get pushback from authors when I try to discourage them from personally going from bookstore to bookstore. The strongest reaction comes from authors who grew up with their only source of books being bookstores. Many don’t consider online purchases to be a potential significant source of sales.
All things in moderation. Visiting your local bookstore and ask about doing a book launch or having some copies of your book on the “local author” shelf is fine as long as that is not your only marketing focus.
Indie Author Mistake #4: Failure to Hire a Qualified Editor
Error number four – indie authors who hesitate (or don’t) spend money on qualified editing. A qualified editor is not a high school English teacher or someone who “knows grammar.” A qualified editor is someone who knows the genre you write in; who is immersed in your genre. Also, a qualified editor is someone who can help you understand how to make your book better, more saleable. Someone who can teach you.
The ROI on qualified editing is significant. It will impact sales and will help you ward off those critical reviews. In today’s world of online reviews, the last thing you want is a string of reviews that comment on the need for editing.
For those of you who really lack the money for editing, take a step back before publishing. Save the money for an editor; start a ‘Go Fund Me’ type of fund raising. There are many ways to get some help from an editor that don’t need to cost thousands of dollars. If this is something you are interested in, reach out and I can offer some suggestions.
(And for info on how to connect with the right editor, see editor Jodie Renner’s post for us last month–Anne)
Indie Author Mistake #5: Focus on Paperback Books
This one is a common one in my neck of the woods. Don’t focus on only selling paperback books.
In my local area there are several self-publishing companies who actively discourage authors from “bothering” with “that e-book fad” as “it is dying anyways.” In fact, focusing solely on only one format is not helpful.
Most authors – especially new authors – have always wanted to see their words in print. They picture holding their book in their hands, seeing their book on bookstore shelves. That being said, most multi-published authors – especially fiction authors – will tell you that the vast majority of their sales are from electronic copies, not paper ones.
There are many reasons for this. Let’s look at 1) cost, 2) ease of use and 3) impatience.
- E-books are cheaper and easier to access in many areas of the world. Postage can be very expensive in many countries. I am in Canada and when trying to fit my need to read in my existing budget, I can fit a lot more e-books that I can paperbacks. I live in the country and the closest bookstore is quite a drive.
- My mom – like many older adults – has arthritis in her hands. Holding a book open to read it can be a painful experience. She may not be very comfortable with technology ☺ but she can read on her kindle app on her tablet. When she travels, she no longer packs the paperback books she wants to read. She just puts her tablet in her purse.
- In our world of instantaneous gratification, delivery of an e-book to a Kindle within seconds of purchase is very gratifying! No more waiting for the postman to deliver a book.
Generalities can be made. Children’s books, some non-fiction and glossy coffee table books are often more popular in paperback. Genre fiction is often more popular in e-book format and audiobooks are a fast growing format which is popular across the genres.
I challenge the multi-published authors in this audience – what percentage of your sales are from what formats. I write non-fiction and the majority of my online sales are paperback.
by Barb Drozdowich (@sugarbeatbc) October 10, 2021
What about you, readers? What other common errors do you see indie authors make? Since you are reading Anne’s blog, I’m sure you have read about other errors that have been written about over the years. Share your thoughts in the comments. Let’s help those beginner authors not make some easy to avoid mistakes!
Barb Drozdowich maintains this website. She lives in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada and now that her daughter drives, she doesn’t get to leave the house. ☺
Barb spends most days with the princess puppy helping authors not waste time they could be spent writing their next book.
She has published 27 books – most are non-fiction focused on the needs of authors. She teaches regularly and has several online courses focused at the needs of beginner authors.
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