Seriously. Man, I hate crowds. My wife can attest to the fact that I get mini-panic attacks when the crowd at Wal-Mart of Target or wherever we happen to be is too thick.
I’m beginning to get that same sort of feeling about this whole self publishing world a lot of writers, myself included, have been occupying. Now, I’m only about 16 months into this self publishing thing, but it’s already getting quite tiresome.
The rule of thumb…one of the few suggestions from successful self-pubbed writers that actually seems to work…is to not waste much time on marketing your latest release. Instead, use that time for writing your next book. I have done that with The Hollows and the sales for the book show the lack of attention I have been giving it.
Truth be told, the period of time between March 1st and right now has been the absolute worst for sales since I started with The Masks of Our Fathers last February. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I did basically no marketing for The Hollows (or any of my other books for that matter) in that time frame. Instead, I have been working on the next two Everything Theory books, the non-horror personal project, and mapping out a story that is now making me very afraid.
But I think there are other reasons, too. Let’s face it, kids. The market is getting saturated. If you can’t manage to land your title on Amazon’s Top 100 list, you’re likely not going to get much movement. I did the “go free” thing about 6 weeks ago and the sales that followed were okay at best…certainly not worth having given away over 300 books for free in the course of a weekend.
I think the new world of digital books has brought with it a new consumer. And I understand it completely (while also resenting it). Of the 26 titles I have on my Kindle right now, I believe 6 of them were FREE and at least 12 of them were only $0.99. Add those titles to the nice stack of paperbacks and hardbacks I have from Christmas, and I have about 35 books to read. Sure, I’ll get to those Kindle titles eventually, but most of them will probably be no time soon.
Essentially, I inadvertently stock-piled free and cheap titles. And I hate myself for it a little bit. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this, but as a writer and a reader, I almost feel like I am devaluing the authors by doing this.
But that’s almost an entirely different topic. The crowding issue…yes, there are some really bad books out there (and hell, who knows…a lot of folks might list mine among those bad books). There is atrocious cover art. There are people putting up terribly formatted ebooks.
And while the stigma of self publishing has basically been kicked in the cajones over the past 2 years or so as readers have learned to sift the crap from the cake, these titles are only adding to the crowd.
A perfect example for you: there is a bookstore in Lynchburg that I love. The entire upstairs area is crammed with used paperbacks that range from $0.99 – $3.99. There are SOME big name titles (King, Grisham, Koontz, etc.) but most of the titles are from authors I’ve never heard of. For the past 4 years or so, I’ll swing by there and pick up random titles by random authors.
The good part of this is that I discovered Sarah Langan through this. I also picked up a surprisingly well written horror/adventure novel about Bigfoot (check out Dark Woods by JC Kumar). On the other hand, I discovered some of those wretched compost heaps that actually served to make me feel much better about myself as a writer. Quite a few of them, actually.
And it makes me think that finding a title or new author through Amazon’s Kindle store offers about the same chance (for authors and readers alike). Sure, a great cover and blurb will help. But really, in such a crowded environment where titles are stacked from floor to digital ceiling ( a ceiling that only gets higher and higher, mind you), can’t we just face the fact that being found in such an environment comes down to a lot of luck in the end?
Of course, I could be 100% wrong. And if you feel that I am, please offer some new insights in the comments.