The #1 mistake self-publishing authors make with their book marketing

This isn’t actually a huge deal, but my recent book on book marketing isn’t doing so well (ranking at around 5ok). But that’s embarrassing because books about book marketing should do well, right? I mean, if it’s a good book and they guy knows about book marketing, it should be smoking!

But that’s not true, because, as I point out in the book, success will always depend on the number of people who are searching for what you have. That’s why it’s so much easier to write in a popular market.

If you write something people aren’t looking for, you’ll have to work much harder to reach them, and then you’ll have to convince them to be interested.

What I really needed to do, but didn’t, was check how many people are searching for which keywords (I use KDPRocket for that).

Then I would have known that only 893 are actually searching for “book marketing” on Amazon. Even if I convert 10%, that’s only 89 sales – a couple a day (which, not incidentally, is just about how much I’m selling).

So, how do I sell more books?

Well that’s the problem. I’m already ranking really well for my keywords, and I show up when people are looking for book marketing, and my sales page converts well enough (though it could be better). But I can’t make more people search for what I have to offer. I can’t reach out and educate them on what they should be looking for.

Instead, I have to change my pitch to match what they think they want.

Self-publishing” gets searched for about 2,000 times, so I need to make sure I focus a little more on that keyword and use it in my list of benefits.

If I do a ton of work and effort, I can increase the visibility a bit, and maybe get to 5 or 10 sales a day. Which is worth it, and if I publish 20 similar books, could become a lot of money.

But the easier thing to do, is write books that align with a bigger market before you start writing. I write books about self-publishing or book marketing because they introduce people to my services and businesses, but they don’t make a lot of money – it would usually be better to give the book away for free and reach more people than try to sell 5 or 10 a day.

For non-fiction, I need to consider all aspects of the writer’s process – for example, “writing prompts” has almost 5000 searches a month on Amazon. Which makes sense: a lot more people want to write a novel than have published a novel and want to start marketing it. Also, most authors who want book marketing aren’t really looking for cheap tips on Kindle – they’ll look for a publicist to help them. 

So even though I think it’s a pretty great book, the market I wrote it for is very small.

Instead I can write some books on “writing prompts” that will get more views. “How to write a book” also has about 5K searches. So I should be writing books about things more people are looking for, if I want them to sell better and reach more people with less effort.

But what if you don’t want to?

A lot of authors say it would kill them to write something else, rather than what they want to write. 
That’s fine.

Personally, I wrote a bunch of novels about mermaids, time travel, and lesser-known mythology. Those novels are doing pretty well and earning money, but it’s limited a lot from the fact that I’m not using any of the most popular keywords people are actually searching for. If I added some witches, vampires and werewolves into my book, I could have used those keywords.

I won’t be writing shitty novels to catch fads (vampires have been #1 for a couple decades, they aren’t going anywhere), I’ll just be tailoring my stories to include some familiar characters that readers enjoy most. I love writing, but I understand that I don’t deserve to get paid unless I can satisfy reader’s expectations; it’s a balance between what they want to read about, and what I want to write about. It’s a balance. I can’t give them exactly what they expect or copy other bestsellers, that won’t satisfy them.

I have to hook them with the keywords and then present them with a new (but not entirely new) reading experience.

You can check out the book here, or get it free when you sign up to my list.

About Derek Murphy

Derek Murphy is a book designer with a Ph.D. in Literature. He's been featured on CNN and spoken at dozens of writing conferences around the world. These days he mostly writes young adult fantasy and science fiction, while helping authors build profitable publishing platforms. Find me
  • Thanks for sharing such an honest post. It really is about finding that balance. Ultimately, writing what you want to write is going to result in a better product, but you need to understand it might not translate to many sales.

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