Authors: Dealing with the Downs

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Sales inherently fluctuate. Even if over time sales grow, there will still be some day-to-day fluctuations. There are also seasonal effects – i.e. any given type of book tends to sell better during some months than others. The economy is a factor, too.

As long as there are some sale every week, there will be some periods where sales are slow and some periods where sales are better. There will be both.

When sales are peaking, you’re thinking, “Now that’s more like it.” But they often don’t stay that way. Even if there is long-term growth, there will be a few periods where sales decline. You can count on it.

When sales are in a valley, you’re thinking, “What happened to kill the sales?” Remember, there will be valleys even when nothing has changed. Don’t panic. Exercise patience. Sales may pick up in a few days. If it’s the end of the month, maybe sales will rebound next month. Some months are also better than others. A downturn in sales for a few days doesn’t necessarily mean that sales have stopped dead.

If sales decline and you also notice something else, like a bad review, your first thought is that the review killed your sales. But it could just be coincidence. Many times, a review doesn’t have the effect that we might predict. Be patient. Sales might just rebound in a few days.

Unfortunately, sometimes sales do decline. Sometimes, a book sells frequently for a short period after its release, and then sales decline. Sometimes, reviews do influence sales. Sometimes, there are external factors that we’re not even aware of – like a change in Customer Also Bought associations and other marketing recommendations online. (Sometimes, though, external factors boost sales, like a recommendation posted somewhere online that you weren’t even aware of; and more often than not, Customer Also Bought lists provide a sudden boost.)

But if you panic that sales are dying every time your sales go through a valley, you’re likely to be causing yourself a great deal of unnecessary anxiety. It can take a couple of weeks or more to properly project sales trends.

Similarly, don’t let each review – good or bad – determine your happiness. Try not to let other people govern your emotions. Hopefully, many of the reviews will be good. See if any critical reviews have merit that can help, then try your best to forget them.

Focus on your next book and on marketing. These activities will keep you busy. And these are the best things you can do to improve sales.

When you’re going through the downs, the worst thing you can do is react emotionally in public and ruin your image as an author – that can have a much worse effect than anything you had been worrying about. Avoid posting complaints: You don’t want customers or reviewers to see them and view this as unprofessional, and you don’t really want to bring others down by spreading negativity.

Sure, you want to receive comfort and support. Try to find private (i.e. not your blog or social media) ways to seek this, or strive to find positive ways to reach out. For example, ask for advice in a tactful way that focuses on encouraging suggestions instead of ranting about the issue. If you need to write a rant to help get it out of your system, keep it private (just as you would if writing in a diary).

Remember that all authors experience the ups and downs of sales and reviews (except for the rare author who has the ability to ignore these things).

Enjoy the ups, and ride out the downs. Keep writing and marketing, and these activities may help make the overall trend grow in the long run.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

16 comments on “Authors: Dealing with the Downs

  1. I am glad I learned this before anything bad happened, I am afraid that I might have “reacted” rather than “acted” to try to improve things.. Sound advice.

  2. Great post! I hope one day to be able to experience this fluctuation of sales valleys and peaks (quarterly royalty reports kind of take the thrill away from checking in each day to see how your sales are doing, lol).

    • Quarterly reports have some benefits (maybe fewer thrills, but also less anxiety). 🙂 Even authors who can check royalties daily can often (at CreateSpace, for example) pull up a customized report to compare quarters. On July 1, I always like to see where I stand, since it’s halfway through the year.

  3. “Similarly, don’t let each review – good or bad – determine your happiness.”

    Excellent advice. I wish more authors would realise their error in obsessing over a single negative or positive reaction.

      • I was very lucky. I slowed the ball by creating my own friction. Working on releasing a self pub as well as a traditional at the same time did not afford me the time to obsess over either. Great answer by the way, but you do that.

  4. Thanks for this great advice. I’m glad I read this BEFORE I launched my books, to prepare myself for the inevitable sales valleys. I will practise patience and just keep writing and marketing! 🙂

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