Why Your Book Might Not Sell Well (in the Kindle Store)

I just had an exchange with a PressBooks user, who wondered why their book is not selling well in the Kindle store, which, I imagine, is a common question for authors. I answered:

  • imagine that your book is in a bookstore
  • imagine that bookstore makes it very easy for readers to find a book if they know the title or author
  • now  imagine that that bookstore has 1.7 million books in it
  • what will inspire people to look for (and buy) your book, rather than another one?

To put that in context: imagine you live in Kansas  City (population 1.7 million), and that a tourist is visiting your city. What are the chances that that one tourist will buy you a coffee tomorrow? About the same chance that they will buy your book, if it just happens to be in the Kindle store. (Statistician’s caveat: there are far more visitors to the Kindle store in a day than there are tourists visiting Kansas City).

That is: getting books into Kindle is easy; finding ways to get people to read those books is another story altogether, and is the hard part. And this is the difference between “writing a book” and “publishing a book” … writing a book is an easy or hard exercise in creativity. Publishing (self- or otherwise) is the business of connecting readers to writing.

I don’t think we know yet what really good publishing looks like in this new world, except that if you crack into a good slot in Amazon’s recommendation algorithm you are in good shape.

So to some degree, then, the publisher’s (self- or otherwise) “job” is to figure out how to do well for their books in Amazon’s search and recommendation algorithms.

If you publish books, perhaps you are already spending significant resources on testing and analyzing how best to succeed in Amazon’s search engine?

5 thoughts on “Why Your Book Might Not Sell Well (in the Kindle Store)

    • And that difference is bigger the farther you get away from the big publishers. At a big publishing house it’s the marketing department that decides the size of the advance, not the editor. So proposals from the get go are pitched to marketing departments. Writers who survive on advances structure the content of their book accordingly.

  1. Hello, Νeat post. There’s an issue along with your website in internet explorer, would test this? IE still is the market leader and a large component to people will miss your fantastic writing due to this problem.

  2. I have a book that I published on Kindle. Is there any way to find out
    how well it’s doing? Like to know how many copies have been sold to date?

  3. I published my first book “The Sea Maiden” which was not edited enough back in 2011, (I was inexperienced with KDP and reviews when I published) and so the grammar Nazi’s killed my sales with several bad reviews which have remained at the top, I believe this is unfair…since I have since edited and been getting better reviews, but those reviews do not appear at the top you have to dig for them below and so my book isn’t selling.

    What else can I do? Should I take it off KDP and try Smashword or some other online publisher?

    I don’t have a budget for expensive marketing so please advise.



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