Most advice that I give to authors focuses on techniques for success. You probably know that I’ve helped both fiction and nonfiction books hit the New York Times bestsellers list. But, let’s be honest. Not every author becomes a bestseller.
In fact, most authors fail at selling books. For example, the average nonfiction book sells less than 250 copies per year. Worse, I’ve lost track of how many authors have told me they invested over $10,000 into their books and never recouped a penny. The business of books can be brutal, which begs the question:
When should an author quit?
Writing books is not for everyone. It takes a ton of time. It demands a special drive. And, it requires a specific set of skills to succeed.
If you’ve tried to publish and market a book but things didn’t work out, don’t be ashamed to quit. There are much better things to do with your life than to stay chained to a book that is losing money. Here are five ways to determine if the best course of action is to quit:
1. No passion for writing
When you decide to become an author, you essentially become an entrepreneur. Ask most successful entrepreneurs for the secret to their success, and they will all say the same thing: passion.
You must feel passionate enough to wake up every day and enjoy writing a new manuscript, connecting with readers, building your email list, maintaining social media, etc. If you don’t feel any passion for doing these activities, then you’re in the wrong line of work – or you’ve picked the wrong hobby. That’s okay. It is completely acceptable to quit and explore new options that are a better fit for your interests.
2. No confidence to promote your book
When it comes to selling books, remember this principle: the first sale is always to yourself. If you can’t get excited about telling people to buy your books, guess what? It will be extremely difficult for people to feel excited about reading them. Readers feed off of the confidence that an author portrays.
Notice how well-known authors proudly launch their new books into the world. They’re not ashamed of what they’ve written. They believe it’s good prose, and they want you to enjoy it. You may define their behavior as “shameless plugging.” But, don’t confuse shameless plugging with confidence.
There are over 19,000 new books published every week in America. With that level of competition, you must exhibit confidence to give your titles a fighting chance to survive. If you lack a sense of confidence about your books, then it’s probably best to quit.
3. No desire to embrace the data
Now more than ever, being an author requires working with data. You must learn how to decipher the numbers related to your email engagement, Facebook ads, Amazon ads, sales reports, etc. For example, the only way to make online advertising profitable is to study the keyword reports every month and make the necessary adjustments.
An unwillingness to embrace data is like choosing to fly blind. You’re trying to get somewhere, but you can’t see where you’re going. The benefit of data is that it enables you to identify what’s working and what’s not working.
For example, I spent over $7,500 last year on Facebook ads. But, the data showed that those ads only produced $1,500 of sales, which means I lost $6,000. What did I do? I reduced my expenditure on Facebook ads this year and put my money into tools that produce a better ROI. If I hadn’t taken the time to study the numbers, I’d still be wasting a lot of money. If you’re allergic to data, you’re not ready to be a modern author.
4. No positive reviews or endorsements
You may love your books. But, if readers don’t love your books, you’ll never have a career as an author. How do you know if readers love your books? You can tell by the number of Amazon reviews and endorsements you receive.
When people really like a book, they have no qualms about publicly stating their feedback on Amazon. Likewise, if you’ve written an excellent book, it’s fairly easy to ask your peers for an endorsement and get their approval.
If you’ve published a book that’s at least 12 months old but has less than 25 Amazon reviews, that’s not a good sign. People don’t like your book, or they weren’t impressed enough to leave any feedback. In addition, if you’ve asked other people for an endorsement but nobody responded, the lack of interest could signal that it’s time to quit.
5. No money coming in
Above all, if you’ve published several books and failed to generate significant income, then I suggest exploring other ways to make money. Books are low-priced products, which makes turning a profit notoriously hard. Never continue to throw good money after bad, especially if the other points I’ve covered above apply to you.
There is nothing worse than fretting about paying your bills. Calling it quits as an author may be the wisest step you could take to improve your emotional health and your finances. There are numerous ways to make money other than writing books.
In fact, I believe that everyone has been given unique skills by God to enjoy a specific purpose during their life. If you’ve never uncovered those skills or found a career that excites you, pardon the obvious pun, but allow me to suggest a wonderful book:
What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles
This excellent resource has sold over 10 million copies and personally helped me navigate a critical time earlier in my career search. I highly recommend it.
Never be afraid to quit something that isn’t working. If writing books hasn’t worked out, you are not a failure. You just need to find the vocation or avocation that fits you. Walking away from a dead-end street is the best way to find the right path for your future.