What do you do if your indie book is underperforming?
First of all, what's your definition of "underperforming"? If you already have books on Amazon, you probably have a rough idea of what sales numbers you've achieved in the past. If it's your first book on Amazon, don't expect to be outselling J.A. Konrath right away.
In my case, most of my books seem to stay in the same range of sales rankings once they get rolling, so when one of them doesn't match up with the others, I figure that one might be able to be improved. Don't compare apples and oranges, though; if you have an erotic vampire romance and a sweet Western romance, it's highly likely the first will outperform the second. That's not something that needs fixing; it's just a normal pattern of sales.
Secondly, how long has the book been live? If it's been a month or less, don't stress. My experience, at least, has been that books need a bit of time to find their legs and get into the race. (If your book was a bestseller from its very first day on Amazon, I really don't want to know about it:-). If it hasn't been very long, wait and see what happens. But if your book has been up for several months and still isn't selling very well, it might be time to tweak. So what do you tweak?
1. First, and most obvious, is the cover. Take a long, objective look at it and see if anything looks wrong about it. I know, I know-- you made it and it's your baby, just like the book, and you think it looks awesome. Maybe it does look awesome. If so, then consider whether it's right for your genre, and what it conveys about your book. (In an earlier post, I discussed my redo of my Isn't It Romantic? cover and how I thought readers might be thinking it was a sweet romance. With its new, nude cover, it's my best seller this month.)
If you write romance, do consider something sexier if you write sexy. If you write another genre, be sure that your cover is clearly saying thriller or horror or whatever it is you write. And look at it as a thumbnail (as most of your readers will) and see what it looks like. Does it have a strong central element that jumps out at you? Can you read the text? Can you even see what the picture is of when it's tiny?
It's also possible your cover doesn't look as awesome as you think. Few of us can turn out professional-quality covers, but look at it with an objective eye and ask yourself if it looks like the serious effort your readers deserve. If not, go back to the drawing board and try again.
2. Your description. Read over your descriptions. Are they pithy and to the point, while still describing the main conflict of your plot? If not, rewrite them and post the new descriptions. If your books are backlist and you have previous glowing review quotes, consider adding a couple of those, too (excerpts only, please; not only is it a violation of copyright to post a whole review, but you want to keep it short and punchy).
3. Your promo. Consider promoting a bit more on the Amazon threads and Kindleboards. Yes, I know, some people worry that the promo threads on Amazon are just authors talking to each other. Maybe so, but my sales are coming from somewhere, and I'm really not doing much to promote besides chatting on the Amazon boards. Also, try to step out of the "read my book!" mentality and try entering the conversation on various boards.
Conversely, if you're promoting every day and your sales aren't doing well, then cut back. Too much promotion can be as bad as too little. Try promoting only once every few days. It's weirdly easy to get addicted to promoting yourself-- sometimes it feels like the only control you have over your sales, and so naturally you want to do it all the time. That's not the way to do it, unfortunately. Remember that sales on Amazon are a long-term thing, and tend to build with time. If you tick off people, you risk losing readers who might buy your books down the road.
And make sure you keep your public posts unrelentingly positive and friendly. There are trolls on any board who will try to engage you in battle. Don't let them. You're too professional to quarrel with readers, or even other authors.
Otherwise, check your other promo and make sure it's adequate. Do you have a blog? Twitter? Facebook? And how does your website look? You don't have to spend a boatload of money on a professionally designed website, but do make sure yours looks decent and hits the high points. Real life example: There was a new writer on Amazon the other day trying to sell his $18 AuthorHouse book, with no excerpt on either his website or on Amazon. No one is going to buy a new writer's book if they can't sample the writing. If your book is on Kindle, there's a sample already on Amazon, but another one on your website won't hurt. And don't forget to add some information about you and your upcoming books!
If you have more thoughts, feel free to comment.