12 Reasons Your Novel May Have Flopped

Did your book flop?

Before we get into whether or not your book flopped, let’s talk about what constitutes success for YOU. Some writers need to be on a best sellers list. Some need to sell a certain volume of books. Some need to bring in a particular dollar amount. Some want recognition from 5-star reviews. Others want fans to love them. Of course, many authors want a little bit of all of this, but does that mean if you don’t earn what you expected to earn or if you don’t have all 5-star reviews that your book flopped? That’s up to you to decide. Everyone has different standards and expectations for each book. We don’t necessarily expect our first book to do as well as our tenth, but we’d love it if that happened.

But . . . Let’s say your book flopped. Can you remove yourself enough from the situation to be honest about the cause of this failure?

Here are a few reasons books don’t do well.

-The book wasn’t edited. (While readers will forgive a few typos and grammatical errors, they’ll give your book a bad review if it obviously hasn’t been edited.)

-The cover wasn’t appealing. (Readers often judge a book by its cover, so make sure they love yours.)

-The novel was too long or too short. (If your story is really a short story, novelette, or novella, market it that way. Don’t call a novella a novel.)

-The book was too expensive or too cheap. (Sometimes, readers are nervous about paying a lot of money for a book by an author they haven’t read. But, that doesn’t mean they’ll rush out and grab a free copy or a $.99 copy. Some readers associate cheap or free books with poor quality. Does that mean you shouldn’t sell your books for $.99 or give them away? No. Low prices certainly work for some authors. The question you need to ask is if high or low prices work for YOU.)

-The novel didn’t have many reviews and the reviews it had were clearly from friends and family. (I’ll use Amazon as an example here. If your reviews don’t have “Verified Purchase” beside it, readers might assume your friends or family wrote them. The sooner you can build credible reviews, the better.)

-The book had all 5-star reviews. (This should be a good thing, right? Not always. Sometimes, the occasional 1-star review can add credibility to all your reviews because it shows you didn’t buy them.)

-The book didn’t follow the genre rules and readers’ expectations. (If you wrote a romance novel and killed off the hero, readers won’t be happy. They expect the hero and heroine to be together at the end of the book. Know your genre and keep the readers’ expectations in mind.)

-The novel didn’t deliver on its promise. (If you start the story off with dragons, but the story isn’t about dragons, you’re setting the reader up. If you begin with a funny first chapter and the rest of the book is dark, you’re not delivering on your promise of a humorous book.)

-The book wasn’t promoted well enough. (This is tough whether you’re an indie author or a traditionally published author. How do you know when you’ve done enough promotion for the book? How do you know what worked and what didn’t? Next week, author Gemma Brocato will be here to talk about promos that have worked for her.)

-The novel was marketed as the wrong genre. (For example, readers will give your book a bad review if it was marketed as a mystery but is really a thriller. I’m surprised at how often this happens, and readers will call you out on this.)

-The book didn’t have a compelling enough story and/or characters. (If the story or characters didn’t draw the reader in, and there are plot holes or the characters aren’t fully developed, the book probably needed more revisions before being published.)

-The novel was poorly written. (Unfortunately, with indie publishing as popular as it is today, people think all you have to do is write a book and put it up on Amazon. Voila. You’re now a published author. Technically, that’s true. However, if you want to be a successfully published author, you need to take the time to learn the craft of writing first. Readers expect novels to be written a certain way, and when they aren’t, readers leave bad reviews. Don’t rush the process. Getting mostly bad reviews is no way to grow your career.)

What are other reasons a book might have failed?

Update: My next available substantive aka developmental editing slot is January 26, 2015. Check out my website: www.labelleseditorialservices.com for more details about my services and rates or contact me at labelle@labelleseditorialservices dot com.

Lynnette Labelle

This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 12 Reasons Your Novel May Have Flopped

  1. Graeme Ing says:

    I think you pretty much nailed the list, and for some people it might be many of the above. It might also have failed through pure luck, or lack of it. Even masterpieces sometimes don’t sell at first. Which leads to another reason: It’s subject matter just isn’t in vogue right now. Obviously I’m not suggesting chasing trends – that never works – but maybe the book is ahead of its time, maybe it will sell like hotcakes 2 years from now if re-marketed along with something topical.

  2. Lynnette Labelle says:

    Graeme: You’re right. Luck (good or bad) can be a factor. Nothing we can do about that. 🙁 The same goes for bad timing. By the time a trend is discovered, it’s almost too late to ride that wave. And it’s hard to know what readers will like or when they’ll like it. All we can do is try. 🙂

    Lynnette Labelle

Comments are closed.