“But I Don’t WANT To!” How Authors Self-Sabotage and Hold Themselves Back

I saw this gem go by in a self-publishing Facebook group the other day, and I had to hold myself back from writing the comment that I knew would make the author cry and/ or give up.  Isn’t it so frustrating when the answer is contained in the question?

The question went something like this:

“Regarding advertising on Amazon, my ad has been running for a week and has had 6,000 impressions but zero clicks and zero sales.   What could be the problem?  Should I change the ad copy?

Side note:  DO NOT TELL ME TO CHANGE THE COVER, because I already paid big money to have the covers of the next four books in the series created with this same design.”

Me:  “Change the cover.”


Me:  “Sorry, but that is the answer.”

Actually, I was not 100% correct.   No one KNOWS what the answer is, but as long as he insists on using that same cover, he’s never going to know.  This is the kind of author that hires you, argues with everything you say, does not take your advice, complains about everything, then eventually blames you when they don’t sell enough books.

This is one of the biggest barriers authors face on the road to success— they get stuck on something, then refuse to do the “trial and error” that is absolutely required to make a business endeavor successful.  That is to say, they have fallen in love with their cover (or their words) and will insist on sticking with it, even if that means that book (or, in this case, the whole series) does not connect with its target audience and therefore does not take off in the way they would want.

This divide between creativity and business is the thing I have seen the most with authors, especially self-published authors.  They don’t WANT to set up a website, do social media, build a mailing list, run paid advertising, and then go back and constantly tweak each part of that equation until they find the combination that sells the most books.  What they want is to eke out minimal effort and have their book become a bestseller.  WRITING the book was hard enough.  They don’t want to work anymore!   

God forbid you are the expert that points out the problem. Then you become the mean bully and the author becomes the victim, and it is YOUR fault they aren’t selling any books.

This is why I got out of the business of making author websites.  I will occasionally run a paid advertising campaign for an author, but only if I have met with that author and impressed upon them that a) paid advertising takes some time/ trial and error to set up and get to the right type of ad/ keyword combinations for your book or books, b) advertising results are rarely a “dollar in, dollar out” situation because reporting is skewed/ delayed and because advertising is overall about creating momentum, and c) that advertising can sometimes bring to light disturbing truths about your book or books, such as:   your covers are bad and need to be changed, your writing is bad and needs to be developed, and so on.

No one likes to hear these things, of course.

My point is that authors are often way too emotional to be successful.  Once they have spent all of that time (and sometimes money) writing their masterpiece, they are too emotionally attached to ruthlessly do whatever it takes to get that book to be successful.  Does the cover need to be thrown in the garbage can?  Maybe.  Did you pre-pay $1000 for that cover and a cover just like it for each of the next 4 books in the series?

I don’t care.   Amazon doesn’t care.  Clearly your potential readers don’t care.

Overall, I try to stress to authors again and again that BOOKS ARE BUSINESS.

The successful authors are the ones that listen and change their products accordingly.

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