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Top Reasons Why Some Books Sell, and Others Don’t

The BookWalker Why Some Books Sell and Others Dont. Marketing Tips and More

Warning: Some are hilariously obvious that you might catch a brain fog wondering why it made its way on the list. 


Let’s start! 

Know Thy Marketing.  It doesn’t need a marketing genius to figure it out, right!?  But, lo and behold!  Not knowing what type of book promotion and when to run sits on top of the list of why some books fail while others flourish.

It’s not all about the features and benefits of a paid (or freemium) service but knowing how relevant the service is to your marketing direction.

“It’s not all about the features and benefits of a paid (or freemium) service but knowing how relevant the service is to your marketing direction.”

Unless you hire a P.R. firm or personal author assistant ( or publicist), you need to have an author platform and manage it.  All your marketing stints and stunts should lead back to your platform to grow your readership (mailing list & reach), brand, and media relations.

For clarity, let’s cite some examples, but as you might be wondering what an author platform isfirst, let’s try to answer that; what is an author platform?  An author platform is the authors’ ability to market their books and reach the intended readers, share their ideas, and sell books because of who they are (branding) and who they can reach (platform’s strength). 

Is it important to have an author platform?  

The publishing industry is a creative endeavor as well as a business.  A book is judged by its content and writing style, but book sales are equally important to the publisher and acquiring editors.  A vibrant and well-managed author platform increases the chance of producing a bestseller.  The scale of an author’s platform can play a significant part in a publisher’s decision to acquire the title or offer a contract.  If you’re querying, don’t be surprised if an acquisition editor ask you, ‘how huge is your mailing list?’

Once in the literary industry, all you needed to be a successful author was your writing skills—but times change, and today you need more than that.

Mailing List The BookWalker


Now let’s get back to the list and examine why not knowing what marketing to get is on top of the list. (More about the author platform for your’ later reading list.’)

Here are the most common advertising services authors often ask us if it were a good fit. Don’t get me wrong; this is not to vilify these services.  On the contrary, these are excellent book promotion tools, but you need to know if it’s a service you need nowlater, or neverand what you can do to maximize your marketing run. 

Side note: Marketing Versus Advertising: How is it different?

Let’s say you’re considering getting an Online Radio Interview.  The features look perfect for your book; The showrunner has a large fanbase, and the interview will be aired to an eager audience.  You are a guest of a show/segment,’ and you have to pay for the ‘radio airtime.’ No problem.  Fair deal.  You’re thinking, it’s a perfect service!  But, do you need it now or later, or never? ( OK, let’s examine closely. Be judge, jury and marketer. ) 

The service pitch & promise: Your ‘interview’ will be heard by a large audience in x number of places. ( The service seems promising, right? )

Here’s the question:  Whose audience? Yours or the showrunner/segment owner? 

The Explainer:  Online Radio is streamed online.  Showrunners or segment owners charge fees to guests (you) or show hosts (interviewers) to cover the production costs they themselves have to pay for their platforms.  It is either pre-recorded or live via microphone broadcasts streamed over the internet. 

The Problem: Online Radio listenership is growing, but who ( and how many ) is tuning in at a given time for a given show? Unlike YouTubers and influencers who can authenticate the actual number of subscribers, oftentimes, there is no way to verify the exact number of subscribers for online radio.  Don’t mistake the segment host’s fanbase as the platform’s fanbase. ( To put it simply, John or Jane’s listeners are not your listeners—so, don’t mistake these listeners as your listeners. ) 

Let’s assume a listener is tuning in. Truthfully and statistically, do you expect the segment listeners to remember your name or your book’s title for the rest of their commute and still be inclined to purchase your book upon rolling the driveway?  What would be the listener’s call to action after the interview?  None. ‘Listeners are not prompted to click any links.  Fine.  They are not being routed to your webpage.  Fine.  And five minutes later, they forgot about the interview!  Whew!  Now, that’s a fact—the data—the science and behavior of the online radio community or every consumer of every industry—readers need to be reminded at least 15 times before they check the book or begin to be interested in it.

Listening and attention span is short-lived—it’s an attention economy. Did you get any chance to reconnect with the captured audience— if there was indeed any?  No. Those listeners just moved on.  End of the show, but your ad budget was consumed, and what you’ll get is an audio copy of the interview—that’s it. 

Is it worth it? The answer depends on your marketing goals. What is it that you want to achieve from the advertising? 

The Verdict:  Unless the fees are minimal or listeners are made to sign-up to a mailing list, this service should be on your do-it-later-or-never list.  Ever wondered why zoom presentations are more effective than online radio?  Or why virtual book tours are the preferred way of traditional publishers?  Simply because those who signed up for the program are readers who opted in and wanted to listen to what you have to say, and not random people who never wanted to listen to you.

Yes, it takes a lot of work and time to build an audience for virtual book tours or entice and engage an audience to sign-up to your mailing list, but which would you choose; shout to an empty hall hoping that someone will hear or whisper softly to an audience so willing to listen to you? 

The BookWalker Mailing List Emily Giffin Meant To Be


Let’s review another service. Screenplay/Teleplay/Script.  Authors would often inquire about movie contracts or any program that could get them a movie deal. We have no wish to rain on your Hollywood parade, but you don’t need this service unless requested by an acquiring agency, and almost all the time, it’s the agency who would pay for it. 

Let’s be brutally honest here; the movie industry is an entertainment and a money-making business.  Why would film people be interested in a book if it didn’t fly off the shelves?  They need to know the book’s viability and if it has a commercial leg.  If there’s no growing fanbase for the book, would they even give a minute to consider thinking they can sell your story because of a script?  These folks have access to award-winning and experienced scriptwriters.  They have tons of ideas and open access to projects in development limbo that languished unexpectedly, waiting to be rediscovered.

If you think a screenplay is the shortcut to movie deals, truth be told, that’s a wrong notion. Book-To-Screen adaptations happened not because of the script/screenplay.  Read-to-Reel happens because of the author’s fanbase and the behind-the-scenes management. Let’s look at Emily Giffin’s debut novel Something Borrowed.  The book was published in 2005.  With a steady growth of the author’s fanbase —a groundswell of following— and excellent management, the book was adapted into film in 2010.  It’s the fruit of hard work, patience, and great networking.  Now, thanks to the success of Something Borrowed and her other novels, Giffin is worth anymore from $1 to $11 million, according to and

The Verdict:  Unless you don’t mind spending five-figure on a script, this is a NO GO.

Sidenote: Click here to read more: A closer look at books-to-film deals: Option versus Shopping Agreement


Fun Trivia.  Did you know that you can submit a script at zero cost to Warner Bros Writing Program or submit at a minimum cost of between $30-$100 to BBC Writer’s Room, IMDB, Stage32, The BookTalk Studio ( proudly our very own movie production company. )

  The BookWalker_Emily Giffin_Why Some Books


Okay.  Need more examples? Here’s another; A Website.  Now, this is a must-have for authors.  It is the reader’s portal into the author’s world, and it’s a place where authors can showcase their books and creativity.  The authors’ website/microsite is vital in building relationships with their audience and is one of the three main components of building your reader mailing list. 


Here’s the explainer and the problem: Having a website is one thing, and driving traffic to your site is another.  Websites are dead if there’s no site traffic—no visitors, no sign-ups to your reader mailing list. 

The Verdict:  It’s a must-have.  Important note: it must be well-designed, optimized, and managed.  Otherwise, it’s dead.

Do you want us to review another marketing service? Okay.  Let’s talk about Digital Magazines.  This is easy.


The Verdict: Unless it is the Publisher’s Weekly, forget it.  And don’t get the service from an intermediary—go book directly with Publisher’s Weekly.  You’ll be surprised by how low the rate is! 


Lately, we’ve been receiving gazillions of requests to review a particular marketing ‘service.’ Word of caution: Shy and walk away from anyone offering this service; ‘Literary Agent.’  In all likelihood, it is a scam.


The Pitch & Promise: No fees, and it’s commission-based.  OK, sounds interesting.  It seems. 


The Problem: After the initial hook, they will ‘advise’ you to have the book revised, edited, and republished with this-and-that companies.  Got the picture? 


The Verdict:  If you don’t have a prior work relationship with Literary agents, they don’t call or email authors out of nowhere.  Literary agencies do it through its aggregators, and agents are listed; if they are not, it’s a scam.  

Dead giveaway.  The title: Senior Literary Agent, Senior Editor, Book Scout, Independent Literary Agent, when you see these titles, shy away. 


How To Build Your Mailing List The BookWalker Need Help


Reader Acquisition Cost.  If you’re not trying to build a reader mailing list, in reality, your marketing strategy is getting expensive, and it is costing you more than it needs to be.  In marketing a book, you should know your reader’s acquisition costs.  Typically, when it is your first time marketing a book, your reader’s acquisition cost is high, but as you progress, the cost of acquiring readers should be lower, ideally—that is, if you have planned your marketing.

Almost all bestselling authors agree that the secret to their book’s success is in their reader mailing list.  Their marketing efforts lead to growing and building their reader’s mailing list.

When you promote/market books, the targeted recipients don’t necessarily and immediately pay attention to the advert.  The readers’ behavior is, ‘I’ll get this book later, or I’ll check it later’ then later becomes never—forgetting you and your book.  Now, that is costly to repeat the process. 

By getting them to sign-up to your mailing list, you’ll have the chance to reconnect with them.  Your readers’ list, when built correctly, is a collection of readers who have the potential to become your super fans.  When someone subscribes to your list, they are saying, “Yes, tell me more about your books,” “Yes, I want to know more about you,” and “Yes, I am interested in what you write.

Your marketing campaign’s goal is to acquire new readers for your list.  As you grow your mailing lists, the cost to acquire new readers get lower and lower.

Those who signed up for your mailing list have a 90% chance to purchase or recommend your book.

Next time you’re considering what marketing to get, try building your mailing list.  To learn more about building a mailing list, please visit this post: The Good, Better, Best of Building an email list.

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