Topic of the Night: Blaming the Reader
I got a letter from a very angry person about how his books weren’t selling at all and it was all because readers were too stupid and couldn’t find his books in all the crap on Amazon.
Now normally, I just laugh and delete letters like that as hopeless. With this person, I should have done that, but instead I wrote him back a letter basically saying that the readers were never at fault, more than likely it was his covers or blurbs or writing. He might not like what I would say, but I offered to look at them if he sent a link.
Yeah, you know what’s coming just like I did, but alas, I had to see if I was right or not. Call it standing in front of an oncoming train just to see the pretty light.
He sent me the links.
And I looked.
Oh, I never should have, but I did look, heaven help me.
He was doing everything he could completely wrong for discoverability, including only having five or six books. Everything he did was aimed at making sure no reader would pick up the book.
Let me list some of the problems…
For fiction books, he had taken photos of mostly naked women himself (clearly) and put them on the covers, with no design at all. None. Title in bad font and his name in bad font.
Blurbs were as you would expect, dead dull and passive.
He had them shelved in genres like mystery and thriller and so on, not in porn where they clearly belonged (from the cover at least).
I opened up three of the books, and there was no design on the inside, not even a title page, other than the first words you read were “Smashwords Edition.” And this was on Amazon.
And his stories started with people talking, nothing else. White room. And normally I never see typos, but the openings were riddled.
So except for the typos, I told him all this.
I got back a letter still blaming the readers, that too many books were being published, and that readers could never find his work. That he was proud of his work and his covers and that was that.
So, as I expected, I should have deleted the letter with a laugh instead of wasting my time on someone with no hope at all.
But this attitude of blaming the readers sort of stuck with me.
Folks, let me be blunt right here. It’s not the reader’s fault your books are not selling.
Writer/publisher carry all the responsibility completely.
Here are main reasons your books don’t sell even a few copies.
… Your covers looks like they were done by an indie writer. (And you haven’t even bothered to imitate with your covers the cover of a bestselling book in your genre. That would be study and you would never want to do that, right?)
… Your blurbs boringly tell the plot of the story instead of actively telling the readers why they should read the story.
… Your openings start with no depth, meaning no character, nothing, and putting that in on page three or ten won’t help you. Readers will never see it.
… You have too few titles out to trigger any sort of discoverability and readers following you.
… You think you know how to write because your English teacher praised something you wrote so have not bothered to take any craft classes or even read any books to learn how to be a better storyteller. After all, your words are golden.
… You haven’t spent any time or effort letting the larger world know your books are even there outside your few Facebook and Twitter friends.
… And even worse, you put your book in the wrong area, wrong genre, with bad tags, so even if someone does find it, they would never buy it. Ever.
And so on… like you are too cheap to find a copyeditor.
Folks, readers are never, ever to blame. If you don’t have the amount of sales you want, take a hard, cold look at what you are doing to not attract readers.
— If you only have a few titles, just put your head down and keep writing and learning covers and blurbs and better storytelling.
— If you have over twenty titles out, how many are branded with each other? Covers, blurbs professional or do they give away plot? Or are under three names?
— Have you had someone else read your book and tell you what it is? Authors never know what they wrote. None of us do. So have someone tell you what you wrote and listen to them and get the book on the right shelf.
— Get word out to more places. If you draw a blank on this past Facebook, Twitter, your newsletter, and Goodreads, you have found one reason right there.
— And lastly, are your expectations in the right place on sales? Are you selling enough to get a 10% ROI and still upset?
When you find yourself making some excuse about how hard it is to get your books found these days, or how readers don’t appreciate your little niche or things like that, step back and shift that blame squarely where it belongs.
Back on you.
The fun of this new world is that you are in control.
You can’t blame others if you are in control. You can only look at your own business and figure out the problem and move forward.