I can’t speak to that particular author’s sales, but the answer is usually simple: because you’re relatively unknown, and that means few people are actually buying your book!
Without the marketing muscle of a big publisher behind you (who, by the way, give tons of books away for free), you’ve got to generate buzz outside the traditional channels.
Yes, you should still aim for the same targets (reviews from respected book critics, TV media coverage, etc.), but you should also be realistic; some of those avenues will be closed to you, and that means you’re going to have to attract attention in other ways. As a DIY publisher and author, your book promotion methods are usually more person-to-person, more grassroots.
eBook lending can be your friend
If your book is quality, you can use these kinds of tools to generate interest and get people talking. Once a few people are talking, you can engage them directly to keep their enthusiasm burning—and that’s how the fire gets started. If your book becomes hot, then people will start paying for it because the “marketplace” (readers) has told them it’s worthy something.
Sadly, the publishing industry and many authors are making the same mistakes as the music industry, doing everything they can to fight a battle against both illegal piracy AND legal sharing/lending communities, rather than embracing sharing as a vital means of book promotion.
The power of FREE
As a DIY author, you aren’t going to be mailing thousands of physical copies of your book to every magazine, journal, review, TV network, and radio station that has a book critic. Heck, you might not even be printing physical books at all. You aren’t going to shoulder giant distribution costs. You’re not going to be paying for end-cap real estate in all the big chain bookstores. Since you’re a leaner self-marketing machine, you can afford to “lose” sales to book-lending and even (dare I say it?) file-sharing sites.
As an author, your writing and promotion time are precious, and you should be rewarded. BUT… where traditionally-published authors have their million dollar marketing budgets (if they’re extremely lucky), you have the power of word-of-mouth—and no one is going to be talking about your book if no one has read it yet.
Book-lending, reading recommendation sites, pricing your book at $0.00 for a limited time—these are all great ways of getting readers interested.
Oh, and if you’re still opposed to book-lending, remember these two words: public library!
Did you ever hear anyone argue that library lending was killing book sales? Well, maybe once upon a time.
[For more information on book lending, and the industry’s fight against it, check out “The eBook Lending Wars: When Authors Attack.”]
What do you think? Should authors be open to giving away their books for free and book-lending as they build their platform? Or should writers be paid for every last download? Let us know in the comments section below.