Books DON’T sell themselves

No matter what we dream of in fantasy land, reality is always waiting to jump out from the shadows and remind authors that there is more to the job than just writing. It sucks. Many of us wish that the work will speak for itself; that readers will catch on and spread the word like wildfire.


Lala land is a nice place to visit, but it doesn’t create sales. Books are everywhere. More people are ‘writers” than ever. The market has expanded to include sub genres for sub genres but even so there is so much reading material to choose from that many bookworms stick to what they know.

Names are important in writing. When polled, readers still list the author as the most important factor in deciding to purchase a book. That hits indie authors hard when the industry is already built to favor mainstream artists.


The cutesy, “as long as I reach 1 reader,” approach is all sunshine and rainbows. It also fits really well on a cat poster. I’ve edited for a lot of self-published authors who say they don’t care about sales, but then they turn around and question why they’re career isn’t flourishing to their expectations.


A writer writers, but an author publishes, markets, connects with readers, does books signings, keeps up on social media, and more. Books DO NOT sell themselves!


Let me say it again in case you didn’t fully comprehend the gravity of this truth: BOOKS DO NOT SELL THEMSELVES!


Even New York Times Best Selling authors have to do book tours and promote work.


Because life’s not fair?

Because being a writer is hard?

Because the publishing industry is a business?


Well yes to these things, but mainly because we all have lives. Readers don’t just fall from the sky. They don’t stumble upon your book and think: Gee I have all the time in the world; I should test out this author right now.


If you write just to write, get a journal. If you publish just to be read, get over yourself. The connection between an author and their readers is much deeper than sales. It’s a bond that’s built on trust. When a reader picks up your book, they are trusting you to give them something special. Whether that’s an escape, factual information, poetic metaphor, tears or a laugh, it matters.

Reaching out to audiences is the most important aspect of an author’s career. Posting online, responding to messages, and getting out to events exposes book lovers to new material and gives them an experience that they can connect with.


The indie publishing world is full of pros and hacks. I’ve been both and I’ve worked with both. There is nothing more disappointing than finding out your own publisher doesn’t have any book blog or reviewer contacts. There is also nothing more lazy than a writer who makes excuses to avoid their readers.

Writing is a sacred form of communication. It has evolved beyond scratching out simple lines of “he was…” or “she looked…”

I have a love/hate relationship with “inspirational” writing quotes at this stage in my career, because some are just encouraging laziness and/or stupidity.


Yes, it is true that what someone writes is unique and different in their own way. But not really if they haven’t developed the skills to record their thoughts in a way that no one else has presented them.

Sure, we all wish to hit the publishing lottery and stumble onto the best seller lists without putting forth much effort, but novelties wear off. Readers are not stupid. They know what they want and they don’t enjoy impatient authors shoving half-polished work in their faces.


Becoming my own worst critic is the best thing that has ever happened to my writing. No one can pick me apart as well as I can. This gives me the advantage of knowing what I need to improve and what I can celebrate.

Books do not sell themselves, authors do.

11 thoughts on “Books DON’T sell themselves

    1. writerlady says:

      I’ve been burned by too many self-published books. As mentioned in this piece, a lot of self-published authors don’t market themselves properly and then wonder why their books don’t sell. Self-publishing can be helpful for the right writer, but most just use it as a shortcut to promote their unpolished writing because they fear rejection and don’t want to have to climb the publishing ladder.

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