Writing a flop!

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Thread: Writing a flop!

  1. #1

    Writing a flop!

    As writers we are always quick to talk about our successes, but rarely mention the failures.
    So I thought I'd pen a thread on that very topic: The many ways that a book can flop!
    Having just had a book flop like a fish, I figgered I had plenty of material to work with.
    (The image above is the result of a #3 failure.)

    So a book can end up being a flop for a variety of reasons. here are a few:

    1) You wrote a shitty book. For most new writers, this is the first issue to overcome; writing well. Most of the time when I see books fail for this issue, it's because the writer was not ready to publish. Many of you have heard my adage "The first 200,000 words are just practice..." and this is where that comes into play. It takes experience to master writing. Never rush to publish!
    Symptoms of a shitty book are; bad reviews. The few people who bought that turd will let you know if it stunk up the room.

    2) Your cover or blurb were bad. This is a very common issue. Writing the blurb is harder than writing the damned book! Also, most people do not have the skills to make their own cover. I see some bad-hat every day on twitter from people who decided to save a few bux and made their own [awful] cover. People DO judge a book by the cover.
    Symptoms of a bad blurb/cover: Few sales besides friends & family. The reason is that buyers never got past that awful cover.

    3) No one is interested in that topic. It is possible to do everything right and still fail in publishing. My recent book, Ming the Merciless is a fine example of this. The content was good, the cover used professional artwork, blurb was tight, and I even paid $$$ for advertising....but in the end no one had any interest in reading about the Ming. I shoulda known after seeing how badly the movie had bombed back in the 80s.
    Symptoms: Good reviews, but very few due to low sales.

    4) No one heard about your book. This is something that happens often in the current market. There are about 70,000 books published on Amazon every month, which means that their existing pool of books is in the millions. If you just throw your book up on Amazon, without any advertising, or social media...it will sink faster than the Titanic. Nowadays, you have to really market a book hard BEFORE release day, or it will be swallowed up in an ocean of books.
    Symptoms: Lack of activity around your book on Amazon will lead to poor genre standing, and the numbers will only get worse.

    5) All of the above. It is possible to commit all of the aforementioned sins in a single body of work. Not surprisingly, it happens frequently. Too often people think self-publishing is the easy way. They think you can just throw up a half-baked book on Amazon, and movie producers will be lining up to buy it. The truth is, you should only consider Indie-publishing if you have the full spread of skills for the job.
    Symptoms: Low sales, few reviews, and the ones you get are scathing. In some cases your book may even be featured on uglybookcovers.com. If you used the default artwork in the Amazon cover builder, then you will find yourself in this category.

  2. #2
    I think this is a useful post - thanks for sharing it!

    I'd add a bit of shading to reason 4), I think, by saying the right people didn't hear about your book. As you note, there are a couple thousand new books put out every day, which makes it really easy for a book to get lost in the flood. But there are also a hell of a lot of readers out there. It's not necessary, or even advantageous, for all of these readers to hear about your book - it's only important that the right readers hear about it. The target market.

    People resist genre classifications and want to write what their muse demands, and this is great if writing is the main goal, but if selling is the main goal, it's a problem. Genre classifications make it possibly to connect the book with the right readers for that book. There may be two thousand new books a day, but there are only, maybe, a hundred new books in a specific genre. If your book fits easily into that genre, you're swimming in a much smaller pool and it's much easier to reach your intended market.

    So I'd add another element to your list, I think, for books that are, by their very nature, hard to market (b/c they don't fit into a tidy genre) and/or for books that are marketed to readers who are never going to read the book regardless.

  3. #3
    What do you think, Ralph, went wrong with this book in particular? I'm curious.

  4. #4
    When thinking self publishing spend less on layout and print and more on moving the sales of the book. There is also the question about the first book. Does the writer need to listen to reviews to improve his chances at sales. Is the writer workshopping his work?

    If that's the cover to writer's book; it stinks. I could design some better in twenty minutes. Imagery would help sell a book. At least to question what is in the book if it is suductive enough to cause a reader to pick it up to browse through it. Color contrast with simple title that incorporates the image on the cover in someway make someone open a book. Also with poetry in the book needs an order to the poems; it is vital to for the book to form a kind of layout that moves in a direction in some way through the complete book. A lot of thought needs to be gone into to form with a conscious construction of some kind. What is the progression in the book? This is vital to any publisher. The progression could be done through the order of each poem moving into the next poem; or the progression might be by chapters headings that build one group of poem again another group in the book to form literary progression on some sort of overall topic.

    Just my thoughts.

    Give it some thought before ever sending it to a publisher. Really have the context of the book well thought out. So that when the unknown reader gets the manuscript they actually say OH WOW. This person spent some time putting it all together beyond even writing the manuscript. That's the kind of concept they want to see when they start to read a manuscript. And this holds true for self publishing as well. They will actually want to work with you more if you have the book's context already worked out for them to see, including index and other formal pages. Where poems were published. personal history in a cover letter, etc.

    a poet friend
    RH Peat

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    I'm curious about your costs, Ralph. It looks like you are factoring in the costs of book fairs to the cost of this one book, but is the dollar amount not based on the entire fee? If so, doesn't a book fair allow you to showcase all of your books? If not, if this is the cost of a single book or calculated through division, the costs of book fairs (which I know nothing about) seem extremely high -- are they worth it?

    Overall, I found your advice very useful and it kind of supports my feelings about publishing. I feel like it's a good argument for pursuing traditional publication in the event that option is feasible and/or the writer (me) lacks the sales and marketing knowledge. $732.79 is a lot of money to risk I certainly would not feel comfortable about being that much in the hole before a sale.

    A couple other questions for ya:

    - Is spending $150 on a cover a good idea? Given the strength of ebooks where covers are -- I would assume -- less important than in a book store, and the fact you can get cheaper, serviceable (though perhaps less strong) covers for far less than that (not the free ones, but - say - commissioning a freelancer to put together a simple yet non-shitty cover for maybe $50) $150 seems like a lot of avoidable cost. Similarly, with the custom font, I can see why nobody wants their cover in Comic Sans, but is a custom font for $30 as opposed to merely a more tasteful font, downloadable for a buck or two, a good investment?

    - Ads... I have personally never bought a book because of a banner ad, though I have looked at a couple. In any case, I feel like $100 for an Amazon ad is a lot. I'm not saying it's a bad investment, and you'll forgive me if this is ignorant on the workings of Bezos, but isn't there an option to simply have a book marked as 'promoted', bringing it to the top of the listings for awhile, rather than an actual ad? I don't buy books based on banner ads but I do buy books based on how easy they are to find and if a fee guarantees top-placement in a listing that would definitely help. Not sure if maybe that was included in the $100...?

  6. #6
    My experience of self publishing so far in just over a month regards the online advertising is dire. To produce an ebook/paperback it is very helpful online and with Amazon. But the advertising is totally set up to suit the hosting companies and not the advertiser.

    You have to spend at least a $dollar per click to even get shown on Amazon kindle ads which really hammers any possible profit out of book sales.

    I have been involved in internet marketing for nearly 10 years and Google Ads is far more direct to the possibly purchaser and cost worthy than Amazon and Pinterest. But does Google Ads work for book sales? I have yet to find out.

    If I was to do it again I would rather try Traditional publishing.

  7. #7
    Title? Ming was the loser, and a pretty much nothing character as I remember. I might have gone for something like 'Enemy of Flash'
    Visit my website to read and connect to my 'soundcloud', where you can listen to stories songs and more
    Hidden Content

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  8. #8
    I may self-publish this year as I'm becoming aware / slowly accepting that I am probably not the ideal client for an agent. But anyway, I always thought I would try some guerrilla marketing tactics - cryptic stickers on lampposts near bookshops, sneaky inserts into magazines, a simple pencil or biro drawing for a cover that I can do myself, some tie in / SM campaign leading to a mysterious website that hints at more info (before dumping the potential reader into an amazon page or whatnot). What are your thoughts on that? It just seems to me that all the millions of self-pub book ads are incredibly generic, so doing it differently excites me.

    The only thing that I find a little offputting is all the social media side of things. Churning out identikit clickbait and engagement fodder just depresses me, not least because there are so many high-profile accounts there it's hard to compete, imo.

    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge

    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"


    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous


    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!

  9. #9
    I suppose before you start. You should ask yourself....If I wanted to buy a book. Would I go to Facebook, Twitter or a place that sells books?

    Your answer may be there.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Biro View Post
    I suppose before you start. You should ask yourself....If I wanted to buy a book. Would I go to Facebook, Twitter or a place that sells books?

    Your answer may be there.
    I see your point, but I'm not sure it's in keeping with general advertising theory. There are ads everywhere (including in our homes when we're watching TV, on the internet, etc.), not just in the places we go to buy specific products. I guess the idea is to MAKE people want to buy a book (or whatever other product).

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