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10 Obstacles to Selling Your Book

A bulldozer

Your book will be ignored.

That’s our starting point.

We’re not selling Harry Potter or Mickey Mouse. Those are well known characters people already know. That's powerful.

We don't have that, yet. We’re selling our own characters and our own stories, which means we’ve got a cliff to climb. But that’s okay, because there are things we can do to turn a cliff into a hill.

Let’s think about some of the obstacles that might stand in the way of a stranger buying a copy of your wonderful book, and begin to think about how to address them. To me, addressing these obstacles in advance is the essence of marketing.

How do you market your book? One way is to remove obstacles from people buying it.

A quick note: There is no book that is for everyone.

Your book isn’t for everyone and it shouldn’t be. Your book is for its audience, however big or small. There’s nothing wrong with excluding the “wrong” audience, but we want to avoid obstacles that will exclude the “right” audience.

Let’s quickly look at 10 obstacles to selling your book. These are key features that might disqualify you from a sale:

  1. Book Cover Your book cover can put off a customer because it’s low quality, or it can perform the crucial step of causing them to pick up the book. Once your book is in a customer’s hands, the rest of the elements can persuade them to buy it.

  2. Subject Matter We’re drawn to a subject matter either through interest or novelty. A firefighter might like a book about fighting fires. A person with an autistic child will be interested in a book about autism. Or you can have the most mundane subject matter, but present it in a fresh way. The appeal of the mundane is universality, so putting a new coat of paint on a familiar subject is great.

  3. Art Style Art sells children’s books. The key word here is “compelling.” The art doesn’t have to be beautiful, or technically amazing, or anything other than compelling. Boring art is the death of your children’s book. It would be better if your artwork was ugly and interesting than well-drawn and boring. The artwork in Pete the Cat looks like something a child could do, but it’s compelling, which is why it works (absolutely no shade at James Dean’s artwork).

  4. Quality If a book looks low quality we assume it is low quality. These signals of low quality include inappropriate fonts, low quality artwork (either pixelated or poorly made), bad formatting, too much text on a page (the space between lines is too tight), no copyright or credits page, etc. Anything that signals to the potential buyer that your book is second-rate, amateur or low quality is going to cost you sales.

  5. Price I’ve seen hardback children’s books sold for $35. That’s a big ask when I can buy other professional quality books for a fraction of that price. There’s no need to try and hit a rock-bottom price. However, books are a volume business, which means you should probably try and order enough books to bring that price down, which means you can sell your books cheaper and make the same amount of money. There’s a big difference between buying 100 books at $11 / ea and 500 books at $8 / ea. You could sell them both at $15 and make either $4 / ea or $6 / ea, which would turn out to be a difference of $2,600 profit if you sold every book. Sell those same 500 books for $20 each and you’ve now made the difference $5,400 in profit. Go to Amazon and check the prices of other books in your category. Price accordingly.

  6. Author You’ll be selling one-on-one in the beginning. This means talking to people, getting to know them and telling them about your book. Be likeable. Learn to sell. When you're selling online, your personality is going to go a long way. Cultivate it.

  7. Ease of purchase My kids get a lollipop every time we go to the grocery store. Why? Because it’s right there at the cash register. If you can make your book as easy as possible to access and purchase you’ll sell more books (both online and in person). Don’t make people do one ounce more work than necessary.

  8. Reviews When I buy books on Amazon I hit the reviews immediately, both to see how many there are and whether they are positive. This is both a form of social proof (if other people are buying it must be good) and quality filtering.

  9. Familiarity We like what we know. We buy when we feel comfortable. If you can build familiarity into your book by exposing it to people constantly you’ll increase your chances of selling books. People often need to see something multiple times before they’ll buy.

  10. Ask Ask and you shall receive. The opposite is also true. Don’t ask and you won’t receive. Whatever you want a person to do—such as buy your book, leave a review, tell a friend, share a post—you should ask them directly. You might have to ask more than once.

No book is for everyone and I wouldn’t want them to be, but we can remove stumbling blocks from the people who “should” be buying our books.

They’ll be happy because they’ve got a new, awesome book; you’ll be happy because your creations are positively impacting lives. Give your books every possible chance to find a home with every person possible.

Jason Fowler Signature


Publishing your own books can be daunting. There's a lot to know, and you'd probably rather write than learn how to do the hundred other things necessary to make your book a success. If you'd like to talk about it, book a free consultation call with me. Maybe I can help get you moving.

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