Like many writers, I’ve experienced my share of frustrations. For me, the biggest of those frustrations is the difficulty of finding readers. Like many writers, I’d be happy to become famous and/or rich as a result of my work, and like most writers, I probably won’t.
If you’ve been paying attention to the publishing industry over the last few years, you’re aware that it is in such a massive state of flux that even insiders don’t know what’s going on. E-publishing, self-publishing, and an independent publishing renaissance have all been game changers.
It may never have been easier to publish a quality book. But it has definitely never been harder to attract readers. Two years ago, I did a promotion on Amazon.com, where I offered a Kindle version of my mystery novel Mediterranean Grave for free for three days. I publicized this on Twitter, my blog, and on Facebook, and I gave away nearly 2,100 copies.
Last week, as part of my E-Book experiment, I offered my new e-book The Mummies of Blogspace9 free on Amazon.com for five days. I promoted it on all my networks, blogged about it, Twitted about it, wrote several posts on Novel Spaces, featured it on all my networks, and spent $130 for promotion. I even made an animated book trailer! Ultimately, I gave away 304 copies.
I had my best day on Friday, April 19, when the book jumped to Amazon rank 2,640 for free books. That means that on my best day, there were still 2,639 books being given away in greater quantities than mine.
This is saddening.
I found myself thinking of our recent California housing crash, when so many houses came onto the market that even beautiful luxury homes could he had for a fraction of what it cost to build them. I think that’s where the publishing industry is right now.
Supply is rapidly and radically outpacing demand. That being said, I’m not going to give up writing, and I don’t know anybody who is.
I have been blogging, posting, Tweeting, and Facebooking regularly for a long time. And many of my fellow writers out there are doing this as well, developing and maintaining a platform. If anyone out there is finding that this has worked for them, and that they are satisfied with their sales, I would like to hear from them.
I’m not suggesting that a platform is a waste of time, or that it’s not worth doing. It remains an essential part of our toolkit. I’m not going to stop. But as a strategy, it’s incomplete.
If the editors, agents, and other gatekeepers of old are gone, as they seem to be, then the new gatekeepers are us. We are readers before writers, and we are reviewers. I review books regularly and religiously, and I look at reviews before I pick a book. I might not read all the reviews, but if a book has 200 good ones, and I was interested anyway, I’ll probably pick it up.
What I won’t do is stock up on low-priced or free e-books just because I think I’m getting a bargain. I’ve never downloaded a book that I don’t plan to read, and I don’t know anyone who has. I just don’t want to read something if I think I’m going to waste my time. So without question, I’ll pick a free book with fifty five-star reviews over a more expensive one with fewer stars.
So what does this mean for us writers? I think it means that in order for our work to get noticed, we need readers and we need reviewers. And we’re not going to get readers without reviewers. Maybe the most effective thing any writing community can do for its members is to regularly and honestly read and review the work produced by those members.
Because once you have fifty reviews for your book, you start to get noticed. And once you start getting noticed, readers read.
It should go without saying that a poorly-written book is not going to sell, nor should it. And a dishonest review is going to get you nowhere in the end. But until we can work together as an effective guild of artists, we're just disparate groups of writers hoping to make it into the big leagues.
If that sounded like a request for reviews, it is. Read my book. I’ll read yours. If you don’t like it, you can tell me. I’m already old and cranky. But if you do like it, hey, do me a favor and let everybody know.
My e-book experiment isn’t over. I’m going to wait until I get twenty-five good reviews, and then I’m going to submit it to Book Bub, in hopes that they can blast it all over creation to attract more readers. One positive note - I had hoped that this experiment would draw attention to my other books. And it did - I sold twenty-four more copies of my other novels than I had the week before. Not a lot, but it's not nothing.