Author Problems: How to Deal with Low Book Sales and Authors Quitting

This is a topic I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Book sales are low, authors aren’t making any money, writers are giving up, authors are quitting. It’s better to try anything else except writing fiction, because that’s not going to get you any money. Over the last couple of months, I’ve seen several authors complain about their low sales, how Kindle Unlimited is killing off everyone in the publishing industry, especially writers, how they’re glad they’re not in it for the money and so on. The groups I am in are almost always filled with conversations about how to achieve successful launches, how to better promote yourself, how to make more money as an author. And by more money, I mean enough to survive on it.

How to Deal with the Discouraging Facts

It is hard to focus on turning writing into a career if those you admire are talking about quitting because their books don’t make them any money. It’s their right to focus on a different career path, but if you hear more people you admire complaining about low figures, it will get to you. If those you consider successful suddenly tell you it’s not worth it, you’ll feel discouraged, even depressed.

Personally, I get a little angry. Others I know have downright cried over this, then got a bit pissed and motivated. No matter how you deal with it – a shouty rant to the walls or a good cry – let yourself feel whatever you are feeling when reading such discouraging news. Then take a few breaths, or sleep on it, or relax for a while. When you’re ready, my best solution for you is to think about it logically. Analyze cold hard fact. Try to find out everything you can about how some authors approach releases, what they invest in, how much work they do to promote new titles, how many books they’ve released, is it their main career or a side job? Once you know what numbers and effort you are talking about, compare it with your numbers and your strategy. And make sure you track your own progress! You don’t have to be as obsessed as I am, but tracking monthly, quarterly, and yearly progress in Book Report (even if that only works for Amazon) is a life saver for me).

With the flood of posts about book sales being abysmal, I had to try really hard to focus on what’s important. This is what I do to analyze this situation and decide whether the plans I’ve made for the year are still the best I could have come up with.

  • Come up with a list of authors including: those saying sales are low, those saying they were done with writing, and those who I admire and assume are still doing well
  • Analyzed their process: how many titles do they publish a year (average), what type of books do they write, what is their release promo routine, what is their ongoing promo routine, what ads to they run if any, what results do they have.
  • Tried to assess what works and what doesn’t and then adapted all of that to my own plans for the year
  • Analyzed my own numbers and goals: this year compared to last year, this quarter compared to the previous, future plans, etc.

What I’ve realized is there’s a huge difference between full time and part time authors. There’s a difference between those who do more promotion and advertising and those who don’t. And there’s a difference between genres and types of books you write.

The second big conclusion was that I am doing better than last year – more releases, more sales, more exposure. And that the second quarter (which is not finished yet, mind you), is better than the first quarter of the year. Are my numbers anything to write home about? No, but I already knew that, and I am working on getting them higher. So far, I have visible results.

How to Come up With Strategies to Increase Your Book Sales and Success

“I am not in it for the money” is a phrase I see thrown around a lot. And that’s good, it’s awesome that we write for more than just the money we could make. Yet wanting to make a living with your writing should not be taboo. You can still write the books you’d want to read, and try to make more money. See what I did there? I said books you’d want to read, not something you’d just want to write, but not necessarily read. Yes, books are about entertainment, education, thinking, culture, broadening perspectives and reconsidering certain things, but they will fail at all their goals if no one buys them in the first place.

If you have a good book, it’s perfectly okay to learn what cover, what keywords, what promotional strategy would sell it. You should know what to ask of your cover artist and how they can help you get a cover that is creative and beautiful, but would also sell the book to your intended audience.

Should You Write to Market?

When people like Derek Murphy from CreativINDIE talk about writing to market, they always have to add that it’s a controversial idea. And it is. It smells of selling out. But if you have a good story, being aware of what the public wants is not a bad idea. Just because tons of people think FSOG is crap doesn’t mean people don’t want more good BDSM books! It’s okay to write them if they are around an enticing story and relatable characters.

That said, I’m well known for not making things easier on myself 😀 Open endings, going against the trend with how shifter bonds work, a cliffie in my debut novel, I’ve done it all 😀

Who to Learn From?

I try to learn from everyone: people who are experts in selling their books and making shit tons of money (like Derek Murphy), people who turned a debut novel into a full time writing career because a. they were lucky and b. they put loads of effort into it, people who know how to build a platform that allows you to sell a product, authors that I love and are hugely successful, despite not doing a ton to sell said books. I learn from formatters and designers and other marketers and authors.

I am subscribed to newsletters from travel bloggers, authors, creators of all kinds, marketers, fitness experts and so on. I do pick up things from every one of them and I apply whatever works to my own book writing and selling plans.

Be Honest About the Time and Resources You Can Invest

Writing fiction is not all I do in what work is concerned. I do freelance non-fiction writing on the side and manage a couple of travel blogs. I also occasionally run blog tours for other authors. At this point, those (especially the non fiction bit) bring in more money (and with significantly less effort) than my books do. So I can’t invest all my time in my book writing career because I still need to pay bills 🙂

What I do instead is schedule time for drafting, publishing, marketing, and promoting my new fiction releases and my backlist. I made a strategy for the entire year on what to publish and when, what to draft and when, which parts of my author platform to focus on and how to grow them. Which events I could work into that plan to meet my audience. My goal is to have fiction writing account for 70-80% of my income and my career. So for now I invest all the money I can and all the time I can free into it.

Is There Any Guarantee You’ll Sell More?

There are no guarantees. But you certainly won’t make a living as a fiction writer if you give up because authors you look up to are calling it quits or complaining about sales. If you want it as a career, than writing is a job. You have to give it your all, time, effort, dedication, and try to make it work. It might not, sure. But then at least you won’t have any regrets.

The only reason you should quit writing is because it doesn’t do it for you anymore. You don’t want to write, or it’s not making you any money, or you just found something that you’re more interested in. That’s fine, but it should be about you and your choices. Don’t let discouraging news and experiences bring you down. If you do, you’re bound to repeat the pattern in your next career. Someone will always be more successful than you. If you’re happy where you are, with your results and your growth, nothing else matters.

Love my blog and my writing? Get another taste and it or support me by checking out my books. You can start with my free books and then find out more about what I've published and where to get all those titles.

all books free books

A pleasure to meet you! I’m Alina Popescu, an author, traveler, and hopeless coffee addict. I write urban fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, and sometimes even contemporary stories. A significant number of my books are LGBTQ fiction and romance.

read more

2 Responses to “Author Problems: How to Deal with Low Book Sales and Authors Quitting”

  1. Mary Anne says:

    Fantastic post!

Leave a Reply