There is a lot of advice about writing and self-publishing. A recent tread from the kboards Writers’ Cafe, Time to Hang It Up, tackled the problem of a writer with academic credentials and several years of self-publishing experience, who, despite of being prolific and writing in popular genres, is unable to get any traction selling their stories. In retrospect, I wish I could have read some of the comments on the thread before I self-published. Finding them still relevant, I summarized pieces of advice worth keeping in mind.
- “Here is the truth that most hopeful authors have to face:
Anyone can write books and publish them on Amazon.
Not every book published on Amazon will be purchased and read…
The odds are high that any given author will not make much money selling their books. How does an author defeat those odds?
Amazon’s algorithms try to understand a customer’s buying preferences based on their past purchases and show them books similar to what they have purchased before. The algorithms ACTIVELY try to sell books to customers…BUT… and there is always a but:
A new book has to find its first readers in order for Amazon’s amazing algorithms to see it, categorize it as something customers will want to buy. In other words, that book has to become visible before those algorithms will put it in front of new potential readers (aka Amazon customers). That means that a new book has to capture some readers on its own before Amazon algorithms will start selling it.
To capture those first readers, a book needs: Cover. Blurb. Categories and Keywords. Preview. Product quality aka a cracking good story and characters.
The reader buys the book on the assumption that they will get a certain kind of reading experience. If the author fails to provide it, the reader will put the book down, may return it, and not pick up another by that author again.The biggest killer of book sales is a slow start.
If a book has all of the above in place, the book, once released, goes into the new release lists and there are hungry Amazon customers out there searching the new release lists every morning. That’s how a new release gets traction right out of the gate. Amazon algorithms see that a book is selling right out of the gate and takes notice. It perks up. Ahh, this book is selling itself. WE CAN SELL IT EVEN BETTER!
Amazon WANTS to sell books. But it isn’t going to waste its time on books that won’t sell, for whatever reason. YOU, dear aspiring author, must do the work to get your book visible on Amazon. It’s not easy and it’s a long shot, but it is done EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Amazon is not a meritocracy based on literary quality. It is a market based on what customers want to spend their hard-earned money on. If a book does not appeal to those customers, for whatever reason, they will not buy it and Amazon will not try to sell it.
I would also advise sending your book out to reviewers in your genre. This involves some legwork on your part and is time-consuming, but if you send out review copies, you will get reviews eventually, if your book is good enough, and that will help.” Sela
- Everyone — everyone — who can write, can write a book.
If you want to write your book for love of writing and don’t care about being read or making money or making a living as a published author, great! You have done what most humans never accomplish. You have written a book. Congratulations! You have expressed yourself in an artistic pursuit and that is one of the greatest experiences a human can have.
If you want to write that book and you also want it to be read by actual people, and you don’t care about making money or making a living as a published author, great! You can post your book online at Wattpad or on your blog, or any number of places where people may run into it and read it for free. Congratulations! You have written a book and it is being read. That is great.
If you want to write that book and you want it to be read and you want to make money selling it, but you don’t care about making a living as a published author, great! You can write your book, publish your book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play and you can hope to sell it. Even if you only want to make a bit of money, part-time money, now is when the marketing part comes in. Why?
Because Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play are all markets. They sell products. They have customers. Selling products to their customers and making money requires some degree of marketing.” Sela
More nuggets of wisdom:
- “Readers don’t need to have “academic reasons” for liking or disliking a book.” dianapersaud
- “You need to write books people actually want to read not what you think they should read.” NeedWant
- “Some books will never sell, no matter how much advertising you throw at them.” Nicholas Erik
- “If your goal is to make money, being “good” isn’t important. Writing books that people want to read is.” valeriec80
And if one finds that self-publishing isn’t for them?
- “It’s okay to give up. It’s okay to mourn a dream you have spent years trying to achieve. And it’s okay if you don’t know what else there might be out there if not this thing. But there might be something else for you and if you feel like you’re done with this, you’ve given it your best shot and it just didn’t happen, it absolutely might be time for you to give yourself permission to dream another dream.” Link5