Claude Bouchard Books

Crime thrillers and other stuff...

Ramble On

What Makes a Book Sell?

Posted by bigceebee on February 17, 2012 at 4:05 PM

If you’re here to learn the answer to the above question, you’re out of luck because I’m asking it myself. What does make a book sell? Why do some books suddenly blast into the Amazon stratosphere while others sell a copy or two monthly, if that?


Of course, I understand that if an author releases a book and makes no effort to get the word out, chances are high nobody will buy it. Or if a book leaves to be desired due to a poor story or sorry grammar, spelling and presentation, we could expect sales to go stagnant as word of mouth gets around.


But what about when an author with solid writing does get the word out and works at bolstering sales through social media, website, blogging, reviews, interviews, cross-promotion, specials, giveaways, reasonable pricing, etc yet still fails to see any sky-rocketing phenomenon? This is a mystery which baffles me as well as many others writers I know.


I’m not saying I’m not getting any sales because I am. Though I don’t divulge specific numbers, I will state people are buying my thrillers daily and I’ve sold several thousand to date. What I have yet to grasp is what it takes to really get noticed and jump to the next level. I’ve developed a strong presence on Twitter with 237K+ followers and receive 4K to 5K visitors to my website monthly. I would have thought that this, combined with a growing number of strong reviews, would result in exponential sales increases but so far, the exponent is rather small.


If I take Vigilante, the first of my crime series, as an example, it now has 33 reviews, 30 which are 5 stars and 3 which are 4 stars on My sales are such that it ranks consistently anywhere between #15,000 and #45,000 day after day. Comparatively, I see other novels in the same genre with a similar number (but even more mixed bag) of reviews ranking under #1,000. ASYLUM, my stand-alone psych-thriller released last July, has garnered 13 reviews to date,12 of which are 5 stars, yet currently ranks at #170,000.


Adding to my confusion is a growing number of dedicated fans who have read and praised all seven of my thrillers to date. Many downloaded my latest, Discreet Activities, and read it on January 31st, the day it was released and are impatiently awaiting my next which I just started writing, all of which tells me my work is worthy.


So, what am I missing? What makes a book sell?

If you're wondering which books I'm blabbing about, they're all right here:



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Reply Howard McEwen
04:54 PM on February 17, 2012 
Thanks for the honest piece. I'm not a thriller reader but have noticed your presence and figured you were a big dog in this business of our. Glad to hear of other quality writers trudging through the slog. I believe much success is waiting for lightening to strike. While that seems rather passive I can wrap myself in tinfoil and hold a big long metal pole to attract lightening. That's what you're doing and I'm trying to do.
Reply Kim Aleksander
10:23 PM on February 18, 2012 
Bonjour Claude,

First, congratulations on several fronts. It seems from afar that you're doing quite well writing, publishing, marketing, and socializing in the indie stratosphere.

Second, to answer your question, and this is no magic bullet by any means but more of a theory that you and your fans might take interest and comment on: The indie writer does not have the marketing machine of the big publishers behind them.

Why does that matter? Well, because you?re not going to find too many self-published books when you go to the bookstore for one. Most indie writers stay in the Kindle and POD realm. Also, unless you get a boost from Amazon like Robert Bidinotto and get selected for an Editor?s Pick, all your marketing and promotion is still confined to a smaller audience.

Sure, 200K Twitter fans is nothing to sneeze at, but there is a large population of readers out there, and I?d say the majority of them are not tuned into the social media pulse of the self-publishing community nor do they go there looking for books.

In short, what I?m saying is that there is a larger audience base that indie writers have a very hard time tapping into. Let?s call them Joe Reader. Joe Reader goes to the bookstore and shops on Amazon, B&N;, etc. Just like you, he buys milk bags at Costco. Heck, there?s even books at Costco, and he might buy them there, but they won?t be indie books. Joe Reader receives recommendations from Amazon and other bookstores, and the majority of these books are already best sellers. I?d say it?s rare that Joe will receive a recommendation that says, ?Hey, check out this unheard of Indie writer?s book.? Joe Reader probably doesn?t shop past the first three clicks of pages in his favorite genre. Joe Reader may even belong to a book club, but it?s probably not GoodReads. He probably doesn?t know what Library Thing or Kindle Boards are.

Pretend you knew nothing of social media. Where would you look to buy your next? That?s Joe Reader. Not really; but you get my point, right?

So how do you sell more books? Well, I think that you are on the right track. I?m a firm believer that if a book is good enough, readers will find it. Then word of mouth marketing kicks. You?ve already got this happening. Robert Bidinotto did this too, but he?s also found a way into Joe Reader?s realm. I think that Amazon had a huge hand in that by selecting his debut novel as an Editor?s Pick. They did this because he had a lot of good reviews, apparently. If you read those now there?s a lot of really nasty one?s too. I?m not sure, if they were there prior to his success, but I?d imagine that there are a lot of ankle biters out there.

It sounds like you?ve got all the right stuff. If it hasn?t happened yet, I?d say, be patient and keep writing. Good things take time.

All the Best,

Reply jake
03:43 PM on February 20, 2012 
What Makes a Book Sell?

All I can suggest it to try targeting your SEO and advertising etc, *MORE* (towards likely people with similar interests) if at all possible. Good Luck.

- jake

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