The Subtle (But Common) Mistake That’s Killing Your Book Sales: Guest Post from Beehive Book Design

This post is a guest post by Jeremy and Alise of Beehive Book Design, experts in ebook formatting and packaging. Take it away!

Have you ever heard this?

Self-publishing isn’t professional.

Anyone can self-publish a book. You don’t have to have any skill.

Self-published authors aren’t real writers.

As self-published authors we can sometimes have an uphill climb to convince potential readers that our book is worth a look. Despite some high-profile self-published successes out there, there is still considerable stigma around self-publishing.

The beauty of self-publishing is how easy it is for any author to publish their work. But too often, we forget that just because anyone can do it, doesn’t mean anyone can do it well. Crafting your story takes skill and artistry. Most self-pub writers work very hard at that. Revising your story takes an expert eye. Smart self-pub writers bring on professional editors to critique and proofread their novel.

But packaging your book—meaning paying attention to the formatting of the eBook—also requires skill and attention to detail. Yet for many writers, it’s an afterthought. If the formatting of the book is wonky (broken links, strange fonts, missing chapters), a reader will end up frustrated (and leave a bad review). Even if a reader can’t articulate what’s wrong with a book, they can sense if something is wrong. And they’ll stop reading—even if they aren’t quite sure why.

So if you’ve self-published a book and are struggling with dismal sales despite your best efforts, it could be that your formatting is killing your sales. Read on for some of the subtle formatting mistakes that can instantly signal to your readers that your book is self-published and “unprofessional.”


Your cover looks homemade.
Okay, technically your cover isn’t “formatting,” but we’re including it here because your cover is your first (and last) chance to grab your reader. If your reader is scrolling through the Kindle store and doesn’t give your book a second glance, you’ve already lost them. It doesn’t matter how good your story is if your cover doesn’t attract readers.

The most important thing your cover needs to do is look professional. (It doesn’t need to be designed by a professional—you can teach yourself!—but it needs to look that way.) A professional looking cover is enough to get past that first hurdle of a reader automatically discounting your book because it looks “homemade.”

Your book isn’t speaking the language.
Good writers know that all books, all genres, have specific tropes and cliches that readers clamor for. But most writers don’t think as much about how those conventions and expectations extend to design and formatting. This starts with your cover, of course, but continues as a reader picks up your book to look inside. And we’re not just talking about plot!

The colors, fonts, and design elements of your novel should reinforce to your reader that “yes, this is the kind of book you wanted.” Do the interior font choices look like what a reader expects of a romance novel? Dystopian YA? Science fiction? Many readers may not be able to put their finger on exactly what makes a book look like a serious nonfiction book, or literary fiction, or pulpy sci-fi, but they’ll feel it instinctively if something doesn’t look right. Design choices in covers and formatting that aren’t quite right will often put a reader off and communicate that your book is not professional.

In short, the formatting of your book should match the content and genre of your book. Your formatting is part of the packaging of your book as much as your cover is, and, just like a cover, it’s not something to try and whip up yourself at the last minute. Formatting needs to show your readers that you understand the genre, and that you have put care into the way that you’re presenting your work.

Your book has inconsistent or just plain bad formatting.
Of course, there are also the less subtle formatting mistakes that can really kill your book sales. In these cases, truly awful formatting will likely get your book returned by the few customers who do buy it—the book will be literally unreadable. And Amazon will certainly let you know that your book is garnering complaints from readers. They care FAR more about the reader experience than the author, and if your book is making people frustrated because of multiple glaring errors and formatting that makes reading challenging, your account is likely to get shut down.

Bottom line: Subtle Formatting Changes Can Give Your Book an Edge
Beyond just having a well-edited book and intriguing story, here are a few things that can give your self-published book an edge and boost sales (all of which we do at Beehive Book Design):
● A well-organized and clickable table of contents
● Genre-appropriate chapter headers, drop caps, ornamental breaks
● Embedded links to your social media accounts and mailing lists
● Smart links to your back catalog that take readers to the appropriate store for their country and device—increased sales!
● Page numbers and footers in print copies that are correctly positioned and genre-appropriate

You shouldn’t have to figure this out on your own. You’re a writer, not a formatter, and struggling with hand-coding your eBook files or clunky conversion tools is a waste of your time and energy. When you invest in professional formatting, you’re sending a message to your readers that your books matter. And that’s what publishing is all about.

About Beehive Book Design
Beehive Book Design was launched by two authors interested in using what we’ve learned in nearly six years of self-publishing our own books to help other authors succeed. For authors, by authors isn’t just a slogan for us, it represents our mission as a company – to support indie authors and make self-publishing less complicated. We are passionate about self-publishing and we are here to help you every step of the way.