Why most books don’t sell much on Kindle

There’s a new phenomenon out there for writers these days. It hasn’t got a name, but it’s there, and I suspect most of us have encountered it.

Click to buy…pleeeeeeaaasssee! (Whimper, whimper…)

You write a book. You decide to publish it yourself, spend a lot of money on cover artwork, proof-readers and so forth, and start revving up promotions on social media – blog, Twitter, various of the services and so on. It’s all carefully planned and designed to create a buzz. It takes hours of hard work.

Then the book’s released and – nothing.

A few sales trickle through. That’s it. After a while it’s sitting there at the two-millionth rank on the Amazon seller lists, and nothing you do seems to be able to shift it.

That happens to commercial publishers, too, who add Amazon Kindle to their ways of distributing and selling.

What’s going on is pretty clear. Sure, some books do make money. But most don’t. Why? The field is absolutely swamped.

I’ve seen figures suggesting five million or more books are available on Kindle, and about 20,000 are added daily.

These sorts of numbers create two challenges. One is discovery. How can your stuff be found amidst the flood of everybody else’s – all of them being promoted with exactly the same tools in the fight to rise up Amazon’s ranking?

The other issue is that even if your book is discovered, it’s one of many, many such books flowing past the potential reader. Setting aside price – which is often ‘free’ – the main commodity that rears its head is time. Who’s got time to read all this stuff?

What can you do to promote your book ahead of the others? Not a lot, because everybody else has exactly the same tools, and these days most social media and services are striking the same problems of scale, hence reader discovery, as Kindle. Take blogging. A specific number of posts published worldwide is hard to obtain, but according to Quora, something like 1.97 million are released daily on WordPress alone, for 59.3 million a month. The site Worldometers, drawing from all blogs, suggests about 2.5 million posts are published daily on all platforms.

Once again, things get lost in the ‘noise’ – and who’s got time to read everything these days? I subscribe to only a limited number of blogs, deliberately, and even then I don’t get time to read every post by everybody I follow.

As for books – well, it’s become a lottery. And sometimes, somebody wins big. But not often.

I’m not sure what the answer is other than persistence and a lot of time pushed into promotions. Thoughts?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2018


10 thoughts on “Why most books don’t sell much on Kindle

  1. I’ve been tempering my expectations for my first pre-order release for months, and yet, when I hit submit earlier this week, I started checking all of my accounts compulsively for any sign of a pre-order surge. 1 person has pre-ordered so far, and I’m ecstatic about it. I am absolutely certain that I want to go through this entire process again for my next book, and the next, and the next. Will they sell? I don’t know. I just want to put my stories out there. Persistence is key.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Tempering of expectations is pretty much a given. Also persistence and not going into debt to support one’s writing projects. A bit of notoriety can be helpful, but even that is harder to pull off these days.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Reblogged this on newauthoronline and commented:
    Matthew is absolutely correct that the Amazon Kindle store is swamped with books rendering it extremely difficult for authors to get discovered. I would add that readers also face problems in finding your books, (if you are J K Rowling everyone has heard of you, however if you happen to be one amongst the millions of Ms and Mr Smiths just how, exactly do you get noticed)?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. That’s the reality- too many books and too many giving their books away for free devaluing books and the entire process.

    Amazon/Kindle seemed like a saviour of books but in reality they’ve diluted the market so badly it’ll never recover.

    I think the only way to have a bestseller is spend thousands or hundreds of thousands on promo/ or be a celebrity.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I suppose it is a good thing that my writing comes because the stories demand to be told. I have tried to suppress the urge for years to no avail. Call it writing for passion not for profit.


  6. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I’m as bad as a lot of others. I follow several authors and like their books. I’ve bought several, and have more I’d like to get. I have a lot of author friends and buy their books since we see each other often. Like Matthew, I don’t have an answer. I’ve asked the Lord to help, but I think He’s leaving this up to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve taken the classic approach of having a hat and name tag day job. Yes, of course I cling to the faint mad hope of literary glory… but in the meantime having another income frees my writing to be exactly what it needs to be… an extension of self. Pure.

    Liked by 2 people

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