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Are You Self Publishing Too Many Books?

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.

If you self publish too many books, does it hurt your sales?

If you self publish too many books, does it hurt your sales?

An author was planning to self publish the last book in her book series. She wondered what happens after that last of several installments is published. What should she do to keep people engaged—and buying!—after this last book launches? Blogs? Polls? Swag (promotional products)? Her concerns also stemmed from Amazon advertising she was doing for her books that was gaining little traction. She also shared that she feels lost with her social media presence. Plus, she was planning on launching even more series of books.

Some authors just keep writing, writing, writing and publishing, publishing, publishing. This helps channel their abundance of creative energy. Other authors get an emotional high from accomplishing so much writing. In their defense, there is a popular theory that your next book helps market your last book. That is true to a point. If a reader likes your work, they’ll probably want to check out other things you’ve published.

The danger in this mindset is that authors think that by merely self publishing more and more books, they won’t have to do any marketing to sell books. But they end up having a lot of books on the market, and not a lot of sales. Then they switch into desperation mode, spending too much on marketing tactics that do little for their books’ future.

So how do you kick the habit of self publishing too many books?

Stop Writing, Start Recruiting

Stop writing right now. You can go back to it later. But I want you to take a breath and figure out how you’re going to build your author platform, your fan base, before you self publish even one more book. How are you going to use social media to recruit new fans? Recruiting more fans is the only way to increase your pool of book buyer prospects.

Instead of spending your personal energy and resources on yet another book, shift to spending them on building and, more importantly, maintaining your author presence on social media. Then when you launch your next book, you’ll have more fans who can potentially buy your book.

Understand Your Numbers and Your Motives

I’ve observed and estimate that only 1 percent of your total reader fans will actually buy your book. So if you add up all your true followers on all your social media channels, and multiply that by 1 percent, you’ll see about how many book sales you might be able to realistically make.

If you have a small fan base, don’t be surprised if your sales are small, too. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve done anything wrong. Be realistic about what’s possible for your niche genre or topic. Some niches just can’t deliver a large number of sales prospects, no matter how much you do with advertising or social media.

If you’re self publishing a lot of books just to express yourself and get your work out into the world regardless of the sales response, then publish away! But if, like the example author, you’re having anxiety about not making sales, then hit the pause button and recalibrate your expectations and your efforts.

Realize that advertising on Amazon is not the way to build new fans, even though it may encourage some random sales. Your book sales efforts start before readers ever go to Amazon. Amazon is only there to complete the sale, not build demand.

In contrast, advertising on social media can be useful for attracting new readers and fans. Your overall ad intent should not be one of “buy my book.” Rather it should be, “If you’re into this, I am, too. Follow me so we can talk about this.” These ads would be run on Facebook and Instagram, or any social media network that you and your unique fans use regularly.

Be Consistent

On social media, don’t talk about everything that comes into your mind. Center your social media conversations on a few main topics related to what you publish. An occasional personal or off-topic post is okay. Just don’t be unfocused by jumping from topic to topic.

Having a regular posting schedule also helps. People begin to expect to see something from you. If it’s conversational, not promotional, they might even look forward to your quality content, whether it’s blog articles, podcasts, social media posts, or videos. I suggest limiting your promotional posts to about 10 percent of your total posts. As a side note, steer clear of fake engagement (e.g., useless polls such as “vote for your favorite color”) and clickbait. The social networks frown on them and they don’t build genuine engagement.

One of my author friends who writes in the horror genre does an excellent job on social media. Even though her tribe isn’t huge, her focus is very clear. She posts regularly about the paranormal, pagan lifestyle, horror movies, her favorite spooky holidays, and related topics. There’s little doubt of what she’s all about. That’s the model to building your author brand and book sales.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2020 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 17, 2020:

Adrienne, I've also seen a ton of writers with just the opposite problem. They just can't stop writing. The problem is they don't take a breath to figure out where their sweet spot is. Eventually they do get worn out and abandon their writing altogether because "it's not working."

There is definitely an emotional jolt from writing, even the kind of stuff we write here on HP. But blogging and article writing are a bit different than books, especially fiction. Nonfiction topics lend themselves to more frequent posting. Posting an article is a much lower investment than the book process. There's a lot more marketing and production on books. So these over-publishing authors are spending way too much on their writing adventures.

Thanks for adding that perspective to the conversation! Have a wonderful day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 17, 2020:

Hi Doug! Well, publishing several books for a series can work for some audiences and topics. And as you note, keeping consistent helps.

Where it really becomes a problem is with unfocused writers. They're doing everything and not being good at anything.

And who wouldn't want to sell more books? I'm raising my hand to that. :)

Thanks so much for chiming in! Good luck with your book series!

Adrienne Farricelli on September 14, 2020:

This is interesting to read as I am used to hearing so much about authors having writer's block and then you have those publishing too many books, one after another. Getting an emotional high likely makes writing quite addicting. Perhaps that's how some of us must feel as it seems we can't seem to go for too many days without writing an article.

Doug West from Missouri on September 14, 2020:


Good article. I guess I fall in the writing and more writing camp. I am working on book 49 of my "30 Minute Book Series." I have noticed that people that buy one of my books in the series are likely to buy another one. I attempt to keep a consistent style and level of depth in books that some people like. As always, I would like to sell more books!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 14, 2020:

Bill, the good thing is that you're totally aware of the fact that if you put your work out there, it may not make sales and you're okay with that.

But I'll tell you that the crying by authors in the forums about not making sales is just crazy. Then you hear what they're doing. Some of it is ignorance of the business. Some of it is hubris. At least their stories make great inspiration for my posts.

I keep hearing all the stories about the smoke and wildfires out west. Some of my social media friends are in the middle of it. Oh dear. Hope everyone stays safe! We finally got some rain here. So maybe we can now send some your way.

Thanks, as always, for your perspective! Take care and have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 14, 2020:

Marie, there's nothing wrong with writing, writing, writing... as long as we're clear about what we want to accomplish. Thanks for making that great point! Have a wonderful week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 14, 2020:

Hi, Liz! You make a great point about the technology issue. While Amazon/KDP and others like them have enabled so many authors to get their work into the world, it's created another problem by having no barriers to entry. While I'm not sure that I want to go back to the world where the traditional publishers rules, I would love to see some bumpers and barriers to help steer authors in the right direction.

Thanks for making that great point! Have a good week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 14, 2020:

Hi, Linda! Someday you might get around to that book. But seriously, you're probably making more impact (and likely income!) with all the wonderful work you do here on HP. Books are a tough road. So if you do it one day, do it because it's just something you really want to do.

Thanks, as always, for your kind comments! Have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 14, 2020:

Peggy, I agree that we need to evaluate our results and options from time to time, even on HP. We can get so caught up in the doing, that we don't look at what we're doing.

Thanks for chiming in! Have a wonderful week!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 13, 2020:

It makes perfect sense to occasionally step back and do some analysis of the reasons why we publish things such as books, or even posts on this site, as an example. If it is not profitable, we should probably do some adjustments unless it is for simple entertainment and self-satisfaction, and we could care less about the results.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 13, 2020:

This sounds like some more very helpful advice. If I ever get round to publishing a book, I'll read all of your articles about the topic again. They are a great resource and contain some thought-provoking information.

Liz Westwood from UK on September 13, 2020:

You have addressed an interesting conundrum, which is a consequence

of modern technology. Taking the old fashioned publisher out of the equation seems to create problems. As ever, you make valid points and give good advice.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on September 13, 2020:

Never! Write like Shakespeare, write like Hemingway or Bradbury, but just keep on writing!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 13, 2020:

I wish I was younger and actually cared about the sales, but I'm not and I don't. Call is a passion; call it a hobby for an old man; I just like writing books and tossing them out there. Publishing costs me nothing, and I have no expectations, so there you go.

So smoky we can't see to the end of the block here in Olympia. Pray for rain, which is a weird thing to say in Olympia.

Happy Sunday my friend!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 13, 2020:

Flourish, I LOVE the creative rabbit hole with no bunny following! :)

You've touched on a very important point that I didn't include, and probably should have. Yes, get better at your craft! This is the bane of self publishing. While it has enabled so many to get their work into the world, there are no speed bumps or bumpers to keep authors from doing stupid things. I see it all the time. Dear Lord, I can barely stand reading some author forums. I just want to scream. Luckily, my HP buddies (like you) let me rant.

Thanks, as always, for adding your thoughtful commentary to the conversation! Have a delightful day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 13, 2020:

Hi Maria! Yes, I think as self published authors it's good to take a break once in a while to reassess what we're doing. Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for commenting and have a beautiful day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 13, 2020:

You're welcome, Miebakagh! Have a wonderful day!

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 12, 2020:

Sometimes less is better. If they are that productive with little benefit, they probably need to step back and ask themselves why they are doing this. If it’s for the simple glory of being a published author then so be it but either get better at the craft or market the beautiful work like it deserves (because the world needs a book that fabulous). Chances are their body of work suffers some quality issues or they’ve pursued a creative rabbit hole and no bunny is following.

Maria Giunta from Sydney, Australia on September 12, 2020:

This is a great article, thanks Heidi. I like the idea of taking a step back from writing and working on your marketing schedule. It's not easy being self-published and doing all your own work, but it is doable and your tips in this article are a good start.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 12, 2020:

Hi Heide, thanks for the informations.