Reasons your book isn't selling: Poor Author Packaging

Welcome back to Reasons your book isn't selling, where every Wednesday I discuss common mistakes I see authors make that are hurting their book sales. Last week I talked about poor book packaging.

Today's reason your book isn't selling: Poor Author Packaging
As authors we are super focused on our books, and we should be. But the downside is that we tend to forget that we aren't just selling books. We are selling a reader experience, and we are part of that whether we want to be or not.

Before we talk about author packaging I just want to dispel this notion that authors don't need to worry about this. We do. Let me give two modern examples of authors doing this right. Jennifer Armentrout and JK Rowling. Both of them have amazing fan interaction for their series (Lux and Harry Potter respectively), even though those series ended a while ago. Yet, they both actively engage on social media AND continue to provide their readers with new content so they can keep existing readers engaged and pull in new readers. They are both doing it right and because of that, their series continue to see amazing success even though both authors have moved on to other projects. Your author package absolutely matters. Now, let's talk about what that means for you.

1. Photo time
Look, I get that professional photos can be expensive and getting your picture taken is akin to stabbing yourself in the eyeball with a blunt pencil. But your online photo matters. I see a lot of authors who use pictures of their kids, their cats, their 'fill in the blank'. And that's fine, if you're a big name author that has already built up amazing fan engagement. If you're JK Rowling, feel free to use your cat as your image. But since none of us are JK (unless you are, and then "Hi, I'm a huge fan"), we should be using a good photo of ourselves. This allows readers to see that we are real people and literally puts a face to the name. You can fight me on this one if you want to, but you won't be doing yourself any favors. Just get a good photo and use it.

2. Be consistent
This is more than just using the same photo everywhere. This is about creating a brand that encompasses you as an author and sticking with it. In addition to your photo, this is your color choices, images you use, and the tone of your interactions. Chuck Wendig is a sarcastic, potty-mouthed, truth-teller. It's what he does. When I visit his blog or follow his tweets, I know exactly what I'm going to get and that's okay. That doesn't mean Chuck can't sometimes be serious or sentimental, but those are exceptions to the norm. And that's good. Because even though I've never met Chuck (though I'd love to, so if you're reading this "Hi"), I feel like I know him. And I feel like I know what I'm getting with his books. And that's the kicker.

If you aren't sure what you're doing with your platform/brand, check out my Platform Pick-Up Series for tips on getting your platform into shape.

3. Woeful Website
Your website is your home base and is the place you hope readers come to learn more about you and your books. Sadly, too many authors treat this website as a second thought. Slapping something up and hoping anyone reads it. The thing is, you can't expect readers to take you seriously and see you as a professional worth reading if you don't show them you are a professional.

I'm not suggesting you need to go out and spend a ton of money on your website/blog. There are a ton of free tools out there. I think my site looks great (totally biased opinion) and the whole thing is done on the free Blogger platform. The only exception is my domain name and if you have books out there, I highly suggest you spend the cash to buy your domain name. I reserved mine for five years and I think it cost me less than $50. Totally worth it.

A professional site shows clearly who you are and what you are doing. It uses professional looking fonts and images and isn't overly cluttered with a million add-ons and all those little extras you can throw on a site. In short, it looks like someone took time to craft it, because you did take time to craft it. If you aren't sure what to do here, go do some stalking of your favorite authors and then copy what they are doing. No sense in reinventing the wheel.

4. Tell me about your books
A lot of authors make the mistake of going overboard on promotion and spamming the world with their book links (more on this in another post). But there are just as many authors who take it too far in the other direction. They never mention their books on social media. A visit to their site takes a multitude of clicks to discover that they actually have books out there to read.

Don't make your job any harder than it has to be. You don't have to shove your books down everyone's throat. But if I go to your website, I should be able to tell from the first page that you have books available to buy and read. It's hard enough to get eyeballs on your website and social media posts, don't waste the opportunity when they finally make it there.

5. You must engage
Gone are the days of writing in obscurity in a cabin by a lake. If you choose obscurity, don't be surprised when your books follow you there. Thousands of new books are published every week. Every Week! My newest book is less than a week old and it's already old news. And the unfortunate news is that your books aren't going to sell themselves. That means it's up to you, regardless of how you are published. You the author need to engage with fans and potential new readers if you want your books to be found.

I'm not saying you need to spend 40 hours a week pumping out tweets, blog posts and Tumblr updates. But you do need to have a presence and it needs to be a positive one. This should go without saying, but I've seen it one too many times. Readers don't want to engage with an author who is constantly whining about book sales, or Amazon, or big publishers, or life in general. I'm not saying you can never complain or that you need to be a false little chipper blue bird. But you can't be an Eeyore and expect readers to flock to you. Be genuine and you'll be fine.

Obviously there is so much more to the whole package of you, but that could be a month's worth of blog posts. The long and short of it is, if you want readers to see you as an author worth reader, then that's the image you need to show them.