What happens when an author's books are not promoted?


TonerBuzz reports, “Including self-published authors, the count reaches close to 4 million new book titles each year.” … “So Many Books, So Little Sales—Even though there are a lot of authors publishing books, most authors don’t sell many. The typical self-published author sells about five copies of (their) book. The average US book now sells less than 200 copies per year and less than 1000 copies over its lifetime.”


How Many Books Does the Average Person Read? The answer from Words Rated: “The average American reads 12.6 books per year, including the books they started reading but haven't necessarily completed. If we count only fully-read books, the average American adult reads just over 5 books per year.”


What about traditional book tours?

“Here I go again, off on book tour—the aspect of the writing business I like least. I know, I know. ‘Ingrate,’ you're thinking.” — “There are 5,500 adult trade fiction titles published every year, and a tiny percentage of those books' authors get sent on tour, and you're griping?" —  “Assuming that an average 10-city tour costs, say $25,000 (toting up airfare, hotels, escorts and co-op advertising), most book tours are far from cost-effective in terms of the number of copies sold at signings.” — Publishers Weekly


If traditional book promotions are not cost effective, why do they do it?  It’s a gamble, to create buzz, word of mouth, readers telling other readers about a book they liked, that they heard about “through a promotion.”


Still, I’m an indie author (self-published), and my work had 1,318 paid orders in 2023—1,289 digital and 20 print. Then there’s the combined “Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) read and listened by customer who borrow your book from Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Audible Plus (non-ACX titles).” That number adds up to 238,709 pages (Amazon pays less than half of one penny a page through Amazon KU).


In 2023, those orders and page reads earned $2,381.22 in royalties.

At the same time, I’ve labeled two of my books losers. More on that later.


How did I defy the odds since I do most of the writing, publishing, and promoting­alone?


The key to finding readers is that bold word in the previous question, and I run the gamut when it comes to promoting, that almost never pays for itself just like most traditional book promotions. However, if your work doesn’t sparkle, promoting is a waste of time and money. That’s where the Brentwood Writers Critique Group comes in, and the other two critique groups I also belong to. I think Brentwood is the best of the three, but don’t tell the other two that.


The first two steps in prompting your books are the covers and blurbs.


The BBC says, “Covers can be a swift way to signal genre, but the good ones do more than that. They give face to a book’s personality. They’re what will make you pick it up in the first place, then keep it on your shelf to remind you what it meant to you. … All this means cover design is more important than ever.” 


If a cover doesn’t do that for readers, few if any will ever read that book.


Next, the blurb. Author Craft says, “A blurb on the back of your book or an Amazon page or any other website, is your sales pitch. Once your title and cover have drawn your potential reader in, the blurb is what is going to make the difference between your book being cast aside and that all important sale. You have one chance to introduce your book to the reader, so you need to make it count. … A blurb is essentially a compelling hook that captures your book.”

I suck at writing blurbs, so I paid Best Page Forward to do it for me. If you prefer writing your own, I recommend learning from Fiction Blurbs The Best Page Forward Way. The Kindle is $4.99 and the paperback $9.99.


The first line of each blurb is the bait for the hook.

But only if the cover did its job first.


An outcast foreigner. A quiet lover. The fate of the Far East.


This historical fiction stayed on Amazon’s top paid 100 bestselling list for Asian Literature (Kindle Store) for most if not all of 2023. The last time I checked, it was still there. Sometimes it also lands on the top 100 list for Historical Asian Fiction.


He fought for his country. Now he’s home and engaged in the deadliest of battles.


During this thriller’s last, heavily promoted Amazon Kindle Countdown deal, the last week in November 2023, it landed on all three of its categories top paid 100-bestselling lists and stayed there for all seven days, triggering Amazon’s free promotion engine through December.


He’d give his life for his country. But this time, it’s personal.


An innocent man. A traitor’s crime. Proving himself not guilty could cost too many lives…


He craves to change his philandering ways. But is his debauched lifestyle about to be ended by a deranged killer?


Once an author has the right cover, not what the author likes, but what readers might be attracted to for that book’s genre, and the blurb that draws in your potential readers to start reading the book, they are ready to promote their work to the world.


Why bother learning how to do that if they don’t have the first three elements?


A well written book

An eye grabbing cover for its genre

And a blurb that hooks readers and reals them in



Writing is either a hobby, therapy, a business, or a combination of the three.

That is the author’s choice.


Making choices is also why I never promote one of my books, a memoir named Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, that had no orders or page reads in 2023.  Not one. Showing what happens when we decide not to promote our work. That is a loser by choice.


Then there’s my biggest loser, an amateur sleuth murder mystery, The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova. Published in early 2015, no matter what I do to promote this one, it’s a struggle to find readers that want to give it a chance. In eight years, with only 148 orders and 3,242 page reads, it has picked up 23 ratings with 4 reviews. I think this goes to show us that not everything we write will find an audience. This mystery’s last promotion was January 2023, cost $265.15, and had 11 orders and 19 (nineteen) page reads. And yet, I’m tempted to try again sometime in the future, maybe in a few years.


The memoir, for comparison, came out in 2014, has never been promoted, and reached 48 ratings with 32 reviews, and 421 orders. No page reads since it’s not in Kindle Unlimited.


What about the four I’ve promoted heavily over the years?


My Splendid Concubine has reached 1,419 total ratings, 376 with reviews. It’s also had 24,199 orders and 569,639 page reads through Kindle Unlimited.


The Patriot Oath (241 ratings, 35 with reviews), and its sequel Never for Glory (46 ratings, 4 with reviews) combined, have had 2,214 orders, and 287,577 page reads.


Running with the Enemy, in last place for work I keep promoting, has reached 100 ratings, 21 with reviews, 490 orders, and 20,494 page reads.