Book Sales Declining in 2017? What to Do?

The storm is moving in, if it isn't already on top of you. What are you going to do as your book sales decline?
The 2017 storm is moving in, if it isn’t already on top of you. What are you going to do as your book sales decline?

Over the past few months, after a less than spectacular Christmas season at Amazon for book sales, I’ve seen a slight drop-off in sales. It’s OK. This has happened often over the last ten years of selling at Amazon. 2017 probably won’t be any different.

There have been some ups and downs, but they always came back to a nice level that I couldn’t possibly complain about. The drops have never lasted more than two or three months, but maybe this one is more serious.

What can you do as a writer when your sales drop?

First thing I did was take a good look at Smashwords.com and what it was doing for me (or, not doing for me). It wasn’t doing enough. I had decent sales at Apple and some at Kobo through Smashwords, but Smashwords itself isn’t doing anything for me. In the past I would make around $3,000 per year from them. I think the most I ever made there was about $1,100 for a quarter. That was decent enough and I wasn’t complaining. Then, with this drop-off in sales, Smashwords was giving me around a quarter of that. That sucked and I decided to go all-in at Amazon so I could take advantage of some of their promotions you can only offer readers when you go exclusive with them.

So, I yanked all books from Smashwords (unpublished them, they’re still there if I want to publish them again) and told Amazon I was exclusive with them for all books. I didn’t expect much because that gravy train already ran off the track a couple years back. There is no immediate and major jump in sales once an author does this, like there was in the past. I wondered if, since I had over 20 books published with Amazon, it might make a difference immediately. It didn’t. I’ve been selling some through their borrow program, but overall it probably puts me even with the loss in sales from Smashwords.

Step two was I started promoting some of my books with special prices on Amazon. This has helped a bit, and I’m happy enough. Sales are nothing like they were six years ago, five, four and three years ago, but I really cannot complain. I’m not the best writer in the world, and I’m making about what I could expect at the moment. Actually, I’ve been jumping up and down inside my head for years thinking about how much money I made with books that I finished a long time ago. I love the fact that books sell on and on whether you do anything more for them, or not. I can publish them and ignore them. That’s the perfect online business model for me because I don’t want to be bothered once they’re done.

The third thing I’ve done is focus on writing more books. Though I can’t seem to find the passion to write more fiction set in Thailand, this is what readers are writing to me about. ‘When is the next book?’ they want to know. Hmm, great question. I wasn’t planning on anything anytime soon, that’s for sure! But, fiction appears to be where it’s at. Fiction series in particular. Currently I’m in the middle of writing three books. One is pure fun. One is pure dread. One is some sort of blend, and a foray into a new genre that I’m not sure I’m any good at at all. I’ve been trying to nail down exactly what I am best at – and focus on that.

So, these are the things I’ve done over this past six months of declining sales at Amazon and Smashwords. What I’ve not done is revise covers, descriptions, edit books further that I’ve already published. Most of the books are getting decent reviews of three to four stars, so that’s pretty good. I’ll take it. I think it’s a good idea to give it your best shot and let it go. Watch to see how the book fares in the reviews and then move on to write the next book.

Have your sales dropped off? What are you doing to counter that? Anything?

If you need help in 2017 – with ANYTHING related to book publishing – let me know.