Has Coronavirus Affected my Book Sales?

And what can I do about it?

the shit has hit the fan

There’s no beating about the bush. COVID-19 has affected the sales of pretty much everything, from cleaning products to crude oil. Some go up, and some go down. What people believe to be essential goods go up, including, rice, water, hand sanitizer and, for some goofball reason, toilet paper, while all that is thought to be non-essential is left on the shelf.

That includes, of course, fun stuff. In moments of perceived crisis people will lay off the entertainment and focus on the essential needs. They will not buy new entertainment, and focus on what they already have, which includes Netflix and other streaming services, which are going crazy with views. Reading is of course a popular form of entertainment and you’d think that, what with Prime Video and other useful products that get delivered at home, Amazon would also prove to be the go-to place for books. Apparently though, that is not always the case.

Some indie authors are definitely feeling the wind of change regarding the current situation, although it too seems to be blowing in different directions. Some have noticed little change, some have reported dramatic drops and others have tried to make hay while the sun shines and quickly patched up guidebooks on how to survive coronavirus, which were so roguish Amazon decided to restrict their sales.

So what can you do if your book isn’t selling well right now? Surprisingly, the answer is “What does ‘now’ have to do with it?” – wait that’s not an answer, that’s another question. The answer to THAT question is: nothing. Book sales are not a fixed point, they change with the market, with the taste of the readers, with what’s trending in movies or in media. The way Amazon had to actually stop people from throwing their money away on virus survival guidebooks made from copied articles found on the web is a lesson on how fluid the situation can get. So what you CAN do, to answer the original question, is dedicate some time to develop a more solid and constant asset: your brand.

Your brand is what defines you as author. Not just your name or your genre. It is your overall literary footprint. Who do you think about if I say “elves and dwarves?” Tolkien. His fantasy creatures have become the blueprint for all other such characters in fantasy novels. Also, Tolkien actually tweaked the correct plural form “dwarfs” into “dwarves” which is now an acceptable alternative, so he injected his brand in the English language, the sly devil.

What is your brand? A fictional place where all your stories take place, like Pratchett’s Discworld? A strong character which identifies your entire genre, like Sherlock Holmes? A niche genre only you write, such as fantasci-fi fortuitous humor? (Sorry, that one’s taken). If you are not sure about this, your readers will not know how to reach you, they will be drawn to more identifiable brands.

Once your brand is clear, look at your social media. Are you presenting yourself in a way that is coherent with your brand? Will someone who lands on your webpage or your Facebook page know it’s the same author?

Will they just find a long list of posts with Amazon links slapped on to them? Do you know how many indie authors share the “Amazon Link Spammer” brand?

In moments like this, where you’re stuck at home and the grimness of the situation is eroding at creativity and writing moves along slowly, and you look at the sales and (some of you) suddenly wish you hadn’t, dedicate your time to polishing your social brand. Unify your presence on the Internet and make your voice, not your links, be heard. Social networking is more for you, and less for your books, that’s more of a job for websites and newsletters. Once you have defined your identity and made your literary footprint, readers will come to your website and subscribe to your newsletter.

P.S. If you need a little incentive for your writer’s block, check out my article about authors and their egos.

Thanks to author Slaven Vujic for the inspiration.

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