I Think I Know Why Most “Self-Published” Authors Fail (to sell books)

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“Do you know what truly, honestly separates people who succeed from those who fail? It’s simple:  People who do the work succeed. People who don’t fail.”

– Sean M. Platt, and Johnny Truant, Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success) (p. 405). Sterling & Stone. Kindle Edition.

You might recognize this quote from last week. I’m reusing it because it’s still directly relevant to the topic I want to briefly discuss this week. Which is simply this: in order to sell books, you have to either get good at marketing or hire someone to do it for you. 

I’ve always been kind of a slow learner, so forgive me if this super-basic realization I’m having comes off as exactly that. But still, if you’re a writer or some other form of creative entrepreneur, it may be worth hearing this again. Let me explain. 

In fact, the phrase I used above–creative entrepreneur–perfectly illustrates the way I believe you have to think about selling art in the modern world. There’s two sides to the coin. The creative part–writing the books, painting the canvas, making the video–is one side. And the selling part–introducing your product to the market, identifying types of buyers, making adjustments based on new information. You can’t make it on just one side of the coin.

Given the fact that I’ve been slacking for the last two weeks, ever since I finished the latest draft of the book I’ve been working on and sent it out to beta readers and editors for review, I can attest to the fact that the creative side and the business side are two totally different things. The writing side is manageable for me . . . but the marketing side is . . . well, let’s just say it’s hard to get motivated for it. 

And earlier this morning, as I was procrastinating on tackling the first item on my to-do list for marketing this week, I realized, suddenly and very clearly, why it is that most “self published” authors sell less than 500 books. It’s because we don’t do the work of marketing. Very simple. 

I actually have some experience with marketing, and I still don’t want to do the work. So I can imagine how a writer with even less experience might feel. You think to yourself, “I’m a writer. My job is to write books.” And so that’s what you do. But without the marketing side, you’re like the teenage guitar prodigy jamming in his room. There’s no way it can happen until you open the door (or at least turn on the camera). 

So then, I think it comes down to a simple if/then statement. If you don’t have marketing, you won’t sell the art. And if you can’t or won’t do it yourself, and you still want to sell books, you probably need to have either money or good friends or a combination of the two . . . because, one way or another, somebody’s gonna have to put in that work. 

Let me just leave it at that for this week, because I have some stuff I’ve been meaning to get to . . . 

Published by New Bayou Books

Jason P. Reed started New Bayou Books to spark a revolution in South Louisiana literature. The goal of the company is two fold: to discover great new writers from Acadiana while building a global community of readers and listeners. Join us! Sign the enlistment form.

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