Why One of My Books Sells and The Other Four DON’T

Why One of My Books Sells and The Other Four DON’T

Let’s cut straight to the core. I have one sci-fi book, Fear The Liberator, that sells. It has made me thousands of dollars, around 5K or more, in the last six months. Not a bestseller, but up to this date the most successful book I’ve ever published. Unfortunately, the four other books I have published bombed by comparison, bringing in hundreds of dollars combined. In this post, I want to reveal the three major tips on why one sales and the other don’t…

1) Your cover must be 100% genre specific

Listen, I’m an illustrator. I like over-the-top, colorful covers that stand out like a dancing pig doing a somersault on a suborbital jet. But the truth is, every unique cover I slapped on my books killed sales. How can I tell? Because these books made low sales in the first days of the release, before anyone had a chance to read it. I was super-pissed and asked my super-successful indie sci-fi authors who judged by books, my description and then my cover. Their verdict?

They told me my covers were too unique. They said a space opera needs a big-ass spaceship and that would bring in all the sales.
I said BS, that’s way tooooo simplistic.

Then I created a spaceship cover for Fear The Liberator and it started selling from day two.Two weeks later, it sold up to 20 units per day and resulted in 13,000+ paid pages getting read PER day.

For sci-fi, especially space opera, it really means slamming a big, fat spaceship on the cover. For thrillers, add a BIG BOLD FONT on the cover, some city background and a silhouette running. For fantasy, use ze swords, shields and orcs, elves, dragon and fantasy landscapes. Romance: schmaltzy stock models touching each other in cheesy colors and floral fonts.

Not creative in the least, but it sells, especially when you don’t have a brand name. Yet.

If you need inspiration and/or DON’T have any clue about cover design and you work with a cover designer, google your favorite and successful traditional genre authors and check out their books. Copy them.

Here again, in fancy b-quote framing:

Your cover must be 100% genre specific.

2) Categories matter a lot. Like, more than you think.

Why? Because they give you exposure. The more categories your book ranks in, the higher the changes of potential readers finding your work on Amazon. Picture your book as an exhibitionist flashing in as many malls as possible.

But so many indies and even traditional writers DO it wrong.

I look at traditional author books on Amazon and cringe when I see their terrible category positioning. They often rank in only two categories, one in literature and one in genre fiction. Thanks to my voracious appetite for anything self-publishing related, I’ve DEVOURED Amazon ranking keywords. I sucked at categories for my first books, that’s why no one knew about them. By the time I released Fear The Liberator, I was so much smarter:

Amazon categories
Getting a categorygasm yet?

Please, please, please.
Treat your book like a website that has to rank high on Google.
Now substitute website with your book, and Google with Amazon, and you understand the importance of categories.

Check out the official Amazon keyword page and get a feeling for which words in your KDP keywords section are relevant to you. Then use the relevant words. As many as you can. Go, go, go.

3) You have to push your books actively

In 2016, books don’t sell themselves anymore. A few years ago, when I was hardcore-listening to Sean Platt’s and Johnny B. Truant’s publishing bro-versations, it sounded like you just have to keep shipping good books and once you reach the magic five, you were making constant sales. Not anymore. One properly marketed book can make you more moolah than 10 un-marketed books.

So what am I doing? I’m doing a KDP countdown deal this week and focus on book newsletters like Bookbub but much smaller. Explained: Kindle countdown deal means a week of Amazon promotion through incremental price increases.

Wut? Simple.

Let’s say your book costs 4.99 and you make a countdown deal for five days. On Monday, it will be priced 99 cents, on Tuesday, it goes up to 1.99, Wednesday 2.99, until it becomes 4.99 by the end of your countdown. The idea is that a lower, temporary price will lead to more sales. We’ll see.

Book newsletters are basically HUGE lists with thousands of eager readers. Bookbup, as mentioned, is the biggest, most expensive and hardest to get into, but there are many smaller ones. Google them. In essence, you check out a book newsletter website and fill out their forms. Genre, description and a link to your Amazon book page where it’s listed. You then pay this newsletter anywhere from 10 to 100 bucks, and they send out an email to their list where your book gets mentioned and linked. In the best case scenario, thousands of readers click on the link and buy your book.

Alternatively, there’s Facebook ad marketing, Goodreads giveaways and stuff like that, but I don’t have enough experience yet. Soon.


“Write and they will come” worked in 2012 and in your wettest dreams, but not in 2016. Genre-specific cover, good categories and a little marketing have turned Fear The Liberator into a success for me. Learn from me and become more successful.

What’s your best book selling trick in 2016?
Please share this post if you found it useful.

  • http://iamrosa.com/ I Am Rosa

    What I don’t understand is how books get so many categories?? For example, you have 18 listed. Kindle only lets me select 2.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Amazon asks you for two main categories. Below that, after it lists age restriction options, it says:
      Search keywords (up to 7, optional)

      It’s optional, but important. There, you add more! It’s easy to miss.

      • http://iamrosa.com/ I Am Rosa

        *blink…..blink …..* You can put categories in there???? DUDE – how is this not in EVERY self-publishing article and book??!!??!! I’ve been putting keywords like “happiness” and “self-improvement” … I must remedy this NOW ….

        (((Virtual hug)))

        THANK YOU!!

  • http://garaughty.com/ marti garaughty

    Thx for the insights!

  • joeybot

    Most likely it’s because no one cares about you or your garbage work. Wow, you made 5K…with the amount of effort you put in, that’s what, fifty cents an hour? You’re living the life!

    • Jon Del Arroz

      I care about everything Mars Dorian says, incidentally. Go back to your little sad world and let the big boys chat about how to market our actual work.

      • joeybot

        Sorry I upset you, honey.

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