Three Ways to Revive the Fortunes of a Dying Book – Dave Chesson | Guest Post


Many writers know the frustration of putting their time, effort and hope into a book, only for it to fizzle out after launching.

It can be incredibly disheartening when books don’t perform as well as expected. One response is to simply move on to the next project, giving up any hope of the previous book’s fortunes changing.

While this approach is entirely understandable, it’s often mistaken. Many books contain the potential for success. Tried and tested methods exist to help a poorly performing book change course and become successful.

Authors have had significant success in resurrecting poorly performing books by –

  • Revamping the book’s cover and description
  • Advertising the book through effective channels
  • Repackaging the core content of the book into a new offering

It’s not possible to revive every book out there. Some are simply not good enough to succeed, no matter which techniques are tried.

However, if you’ve invested your time, effort, and money into a book which isn’t performing well, what do you have to lose by trying? Either you resurrect your book’s fortunes and experience the success you originally desired, or you move on to your next project with peace of mind, knowing there was nothing more you could have done.


Improve the Packaging, Not the Product

According to the classic 4 Ps of marketing theory, commercial success comes down to product, price, packaging, and place. It’s essential to get the right balance between these four elements for your offering to succeed.

Books are no different. Often, the written content of a book is absolutely fine. However, the book’s ‘packaging’ (its cover and description) put readers off discovering just how good the writing is.

This is especially true for independent publishers. The market is absolutely crowded with books. However, consumers are spoiled for choice and have a short attention span. It’s therefore essential to package your book in a way which is able to capture a potential buyer’s attention, and entice them into taking a closer look.

Some of the indications that the problem with your book is the packaging and not the book itself are –

  • The idea behind your book was carefully considered (in the case of non-fiction, your book offers clear benefits to a defined audience, in the case of fiction, your book offers fans of a particular genre everything they expect in terms of plot, character and convention)
  • Your book has been edited
  • The written content of your book has received positive feedback from credible sources
  • Your book cover was not professionally designed, or was designed by someone without specialist knowledge of your genre or niche
  • Your book cover is old and no longer is a good fit for the modern market

If you suspect that the way your book is packaged is part of the problem, it’s worth soliciting feedback before investing time and money into revamping the packaging.

Any of the following three ideas can be used, either in isolation or conjunction, to determine whether it’s worth focusing on repackaging your book –

  1. Taking an honest look into whether your book cover design and description compare favorably to similar books which are performing better. Are there any elements of the other books’ covers or descriptions that yours lacks?
  2. Getting feedback from relevant readers as to their opinion of your book’s cover and description. Are there any common criticisms worth taking on board? This is a good way to overcome any blind spots you may have to your own work.
  3. A/B testing a new cover idea. If you have a new cover idea or description in mind, you should consider testing whether it performs better in the real world before re-releasing your book. Pickfu is a useful service for doing this.

Often, seeing your book succeed is a matter of presenting it in a more attractive way. This decision should be based on evidence and real-world feedback.


Promotional Push

The old adage ‘build it and they will come’ definitely does not apply to self-publishing.

Sometimes, there is nothing wrong with the book itself, or the way it is presented and packaged.

Instead, the problem is the way the book has been promoted. Broadly speaking, two types of problem exist in this area –

  1. Choosing the wrong marketing channels
  2. Choosing the right channels but with ineffective ad images/copy/audience targeting

For a marketing channel to be effective, it needs to offer the potential to promote your book to an interested audience, at a cost which will offer a reasonable return on your investment. Any marketing channel worth your consideration should have a track record of success with books similar to your own. The cost of marketing should also offer a realistic prospect of profit.

As well as choosing the right promotional channels, you need to ensure that your book is presented with attractive copy and images. Thankfully, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Simply analyze effective ads on any given marketing channel, determine what they have in common, and apply this to your own promotion.

If your book isn’t performing as well as you hoped, a promotional push could be the best solution. Don’t doom a book to failure before spreading the word in the best way possible.


Converting Core Content into a New Book

The most comprehensive option for reviving the fortunes of a poorly performing book is to repackage the core content or concept of an existing book into an entirely new title.

This is the best option when your book contains some good ideas or elements, but has sufficient weaknesses that will always hold it back from succeeding.

Almost every great book and film has been through this process. For self-publishers, the insight into a book’s weaknesses often doesn’t become apparent until after publication. Negative reviews can often be the best window into a book’s weaknesses, and subsequently what must be remedied for an entirely revamped version.

Some possible approaches for this idea include –

  • Retargeting a non-fiction book to a more specific audience. Sometimes, by aiming to please everyone, the books end up pleasing no-one. By focusing your ideas on the needs of a more narrowly defined audience, you can often create a more helpful book.
  • Keeping the core of a fictional story, but making significant alterations. For example, your fiction story may have received praise for its plot, but readers didn’t find its characters appealing. Rather than starting from scratch, keep what works, and discard what doesn’t.
  • Updating an older book for the modern market. Sometimes, your book’s problem is down to age. The main concepts and ideas may work well, but need reforming for a modern audience.

If your book hasn’t performed as well as expected, it doesn’t mean your time creating it was wasted. Instead of seeing your book as a failure, see it as a prototype which you can improve and repackage until it succeeds.


Book Revival Final Thoughts

Hopefully you now see that a poorly performing book doesn’t have to be the end of the road. Before you throw a book on the scrapheap, consider whether –

  • The book itself is fine, but its presentation could be made more appealing
  • The problem isn’t with the book, but with a lack of promotion, or the wrong marketing channels
  • The book’s core content and concept can be reworked into a better overall offering

Ultimately, a book represents a serious amount of your time and effort. Don’t condemn it to failure before giving it every chance possible of revival.


Dave ChessonBIO – Dave Chesson

I’m 34 years old and an 11 year veteran of the US Navy. I was also a military kid and so have lived in all corners of the globe. But that’s not what defines me. After my family, my real passion is books, but more specifically the new world of Kindle e-books. I’ve made a pretty decent side income out of them. 

You could say ‘I have a certain set of skills’? 

If I had to describe myself, I would start by saying I’m a husband and a father first and foremost. But when I am not playing dress up or chasing the Bogey Man out of the closet, I am an online entrepreneur specializing in Kindle e-book marketing.


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