The Top Reasons Non-fiction Books Do Not Achieve Success

Updated February 2, 2023

This list can help you make profitable changes to your book

Why is my non-fiction book not selling more copies? Why is my book a failure? Why do I feel unsuccessful as a self-publisher? The answer is not always as obvious as it might seem at first glance. The results of this survey might help you reassess your book.

The Professor Can Help You Sell More Books!

What You Will Learn
1. You will learn what steps you can take to fix your book and improve its sales.
2. You will learn how to define success for you and your book.
3. You will learn how and why introspective thinking about your book is essential to its success.

Why is my non-fiction book not selling more copies? Why is my book a failure? Why do I feel unsuccessful as a self-publisher? These common questions can sometimes be challenging to answer. And the answer is not always as simple as it might seem at first glance. But there is hope for you and your book to achieve success.

Take a Hard Look at Yourself and Your Book
If your book is barely making any sales compared to other books in its sales category, you can make several powerful and practical changes to help improve your sales. But they all involve some introspective thinking about your book and will involve some hard work.

The Fix Is Within Reach
The list of reasons given here will help you to re-evaluate your book and everything you are doing to sell it. This list covers the most common reasons a non-fiction book isn’t selling or gaining any traction with an audience.

The Top Reasons Non-Fiction Books Do NOT Achieve Success (Infographic)

How Do I Define Success?
We can have a personal definition of financial success, one for personal success, one for business success, etc. And each one will be a bit different. But I believe that most of us writing non-fiction books are trying to achieve two primary, fundamental, overarching, basic goals:

Goal # 1. Financial Return
Some amount of financial return for the hard work we put into creating and publishing our books; and,

Goal # 2. Critical Acclaim
We all want critical acclaim for ourselves and our books from our peers, co-workers, readers, family, customers, clients, etc.

Thank you to Joel Friedlander of for linking to my blog post from his blog Carnival Of The Indies #112

The Top Reasons Non-Fiction Books Do NOT Achieve Success

Reason # 1: No market need: Is there an actual need for the information in your book? Is there a solid audience who can benefit from your book? If not, you will not sell any books.

Reason # 2: Weak solutions/value: What unique insights do you have that can help others find answers to their questions and problems? Standard cookie-cutter solutions won’t help you sell more books.

Reason # 3: Unattractive cover: A cover that looks unprofessional, amateurish, and unthoughtful will turn off book buyers. They will lose respect for you even before they open your book.

Reason # 4: Written for wrong audience: You must understand your audience before writing your book. If you don’t, your text will be confusing, help no one, and sales will suffer.

Reason # 5: Not enough marketing: Marketing is more about reaching out to a particular audience and showing them you have the answers and solutions to their problems. It’s less about the quantity of money that you spend on advertising to an overly broad market.

Reason # 6: Weak social media: At the very least, you need one central place to show your audience you are one of them, you understand them, and you have solutions for them. You only need one or two good outlets to reach your core audience. A website or video channel, for example.

Reason # 7: Weak author platform: Whichever social platform you choose, you must commit to it and make it great. Having too many author platforms and not maintaining them is a total waste of time.

Reason # 8: Confusing title: For non-fiction, your main title must grab them quickly. It’s your subtitle that tells them what your book is all about.

Reason # 9: Not using an editor: Nowadays, it’s not difficult to find a book editor that has some knowledge and experience with the subject matter of your book. You can do it yourself, but do so with great care.

Reason # 10: Not using a designer: The book’s interior is important for many non-fiction books. It’s common for non-fiction to have pictures, graphs, drawings, quotes, charts, glossaries, indexes, etc. It is also common for non-fiction book buyers to consider the interior as important as the cover in their buying decision.

Reason # 11: Wrong cover price: Spend lots of time on Amazon and at a bookstore, looking at other books like yours. Especially looking at recently published books and books actually selling. You’ll start to get a good idea of what your book can realistically sell for.

Reason # 12: Saturated genre: Of course, it depends on the particular genre. Some genres can easily absorb many new books. Some, not so much. A saturated genre means you will need to be more adept and creative when it comes to how you write your book, design your cover, market your book, use social media, etc.

Reason # 13: Weak self-promotion: There is nothing wrong or inappropriate with self-promotion. Self-promotion simply means getting attention for yourself in ways that prove to your audience that you are an expert in your topic or genre. This can be as simple as writing your blog, publishing magazine articles, or becoming a guest on a news program.

Reason # 14: Wrong publisher: I’ve never dealt with a traditional publisher. So, all I can say here is that with a lot of research about the publishers you are considering, you should be able to minimize the problems you might encounter. It’s probably a good idea to email other authors that have chosen the same publishers you are considering and ask a lot of questions. And then find a good lawyer that has legal experience in the book publishing industry.

How I Gathered the Survey Results
They were based on my discussions with 47 authors who have written and published at least two non-fiction books.

Their answers were based on:
1. Their personal experiences.
2. Their knowledge of the book publishing industry.
3. Their discussions with other non-fiction authors.


Those 14 reasons show some of the most common mistakes, missteps, and errors that can slow you down from achieving a financial return and critical acclaim for you and your book.

But, with hard work and research, some honest assessment of your writing and text, and forcing yourself to make some hard decisions about your book, you can fix any of these problems. And by doing so, you will be well on your way to creating a successful book to help you achieve your personal and financial goals.

This list should also give you hope and a renewed interest in improving your book and increasing its sales. If you give up now and don’t make the improvements, your text will remain a failure. I’m sure this isn’t an option for you.

You wouldn’t have gotten into self-publishing if it was. If you’re here on my website reading this, I know that you are just like me – stubborn and determined to succeed.

Now get back to work and fix that book. Writing, self-publishing, sharing information, and teaching others, are not some passing fancy for you or me. We were born to do it. We can’t stop doing it. All the better we can make money doing it.

Questions to Think About
1. What were some of the fixes that helped you improve your book’s sales?
2. What are some of your sales expectations for your book – before and after you posted it on Amazon?

About Joseph C. Kunz, Jr.

I am an author, husband, father of twins, grandfather, and small business owner near New York City. I created this website to share my self-publishing and small-business adventures, insights, and experiences.
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