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"I Have a Ton of Reviews for My Book, but It's Not Selling!"... and Other Mysteries of Book Marketing

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Over the years I've heard this phrase thousands of times. Authors getting great reviews, getting awards, even local media and still, book sales aren't happening. When you have external validation, it's hard to really understand where the disconnect is, isn't it? Sometimes though, it may be just a matter of taking a closer look and analyzing your marketing using a different lens. Let's take a look at some things that you may want to consider:

  1. Leverage: First and foremost is leverage. How are you leveraging all of these other things? If you're not, you might consider it. It's easy enough to slap an award sticker on your book, but what else have you done to promote this? Consider:
    • Announce it locally: Especially if you won the award. Honorable mentions are great, but not as appealing to local media.
    • Contact your local bookstores. If they've said no before perhaps adding an award to your resume might entice them. Remember people like what other people like. The same goes for bookstores.
    • Add it to your website. That's a given. Same for your email signature line.
    • Reviewers: If you have reviewers that are pending, meaning you're targeted them with no response, why not make a second (gentle) sweep and let them know you won this award?
    • Endorsements: If you've been after high-profile endorsements for your book but they keep eluding you, you may have a better chance of it with an award in your pocket, so try pitching them again.

  2. Reviews: If you have a lot of reviews and aren't seeing a lot of sales, I would say take a lesson from the "leverage" piece above and see if any of it applies to your pulling in more reviews. For example, if you have endorsers who haven't responded to your requests, or bookstores that have given you the brush-off, this could be a great way to gain their attention. The same doesn't apply to reviewers, however. Most reviewers aren't swayed by books that have tons of reviews. They either select the book or they don't, so don't push this one too hard.
  3. Engagement: Sometimes when we get a "hit" somewhere we tend to focus all of our energy there. That's a great thing, but maybe now it's time to step back and see what else you can do that you haven't focused on. Try engaging readers. When was the last time you sent a round of thank-you notes to reviewers who reviewed your book, or posted a thank-you on their blog? If you're getting a lot of comments on your website, or on blogs or interviews you've done elsewhere, I would encourage you to connect with readers there, too. Additionally, have you considering getting onto GoodReads, Library Thing or Wattpad and building readership there? And a final note on engaging: If you're a fiction author perhaps you should consider engaging your readers with your characters . If you can get your readers to fall in love (or in hate) with your characters, you can really build a strong audience that way.
  4. Media gets media: Some authors also come to me saying, "I've gotten tons of local media but nothing nationally." This is also pretty typical but here's something you can do. Media loves media and the more media you get, the more you'll get -- if that makes sense. When you pitch yourself to national media, include a one-sheet of all of the places you've been featured. Even if it's in your own town.
  5. The plight of book reviews: Do book reviews really sell books? Candidly, it's hard to know. I do know that lots of exposure sells books but it's really about the right kind of exposure and, beyond that, it's about exposure in a myriad of areas. If you've been heavily focused on getting a ton of book reviews, and your Amazon page is populated with more fond words than you know what to do with, maybe it's time to move into a new area of promotion. Content, content: There was a discussion around content during a recent event I attended at both Digital Book World and Tools of Change. Both of these programs had folks talking about the importance of free and also of putting out frequent content. Don't wait 18 months to release a book which leaves your reader hanging for more from your characters.
  6. Realigning your perspective on book sales: Truth is, most of us think we should be selling more than we are. We hear the "average" in book sales and then on the flip side, we hear about folks like Hugh Howey who is selling zillions of copies of his book. Where's the reality? Well, the answer is somewhere in between. If you have all these awards and are selling a book a day, I would say that depending on your market that may not be a bad start. For example, if you're sitting in the contemporary romance market, that's a pretty cluttered category so you may not sell as many as if you were in something more niche. I've seen some authors who can't get beyond selling a book a month. Seriously.

Reviews, awards, and nods from important people in your industry are fantastic, but like a tree falling in the forest if you don't tell folks about it, no one will know. Yes, you do often have to hit readers over the head with things if for no other reason than people are busy. Got an award? Shout it from the rooftops. Got tons of great reviews? Let's see if that can be a stepping stone to something else.

In the end, everything is a pathway to something else. If you get a bunch of awards for your book and figure your work stops there, that's a big mistake. Follow the path to something else, which will take you to something else, and so on. At some point at the end of that road you may very well find a pot of gold, and, you'll likely be selling more books.