As a self-published author, I often find myself feeling in need of keeping up with the Joneses. There’s not much for documentation on what really constitutes growing success or measurable success within the self-pub market (outside of the ones who rise all the way to the top). In fact, much of the information is rather faulty, as many authors like to make themselves appear to be doing much better than they truly are, and overall end up skewing the facts quite a great deal.
Now, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a large amount of information for self-pubbed authors to read…just not a whole heckuva lot of it that can be trusted. Too many people want to tell you either how easy it is to become a great success and look at me and how successful I am and buy my book…or how completely impossible it is to do anything as a self-pubbed author and you’ll never make it and buy my book, and also submit your manuscript to my literary agency/vanity publisher so I can review it and ultimately tell you it sucks but you can pay me lots of money to make it better.
In other words, everyone has their thoughts, but the facts behind it all are still somewhat analogous, purely because there is such a large number of people self-publishing out there, for such a large number of different reasons, that it’s really difficult to really know what numbers are real. I mean, some numbers include books that people put up just for their own families to be able to purchase, such as family cookbooks. Some numbers include small-run publishers who really are very little more than a final check/self-publishing aid for authors.
In the end…there’s a whole lot of information, but very little conclusive evidence to tell you how to know whether you’re doing okay.
In the old world system, you had an agent who would be there to constantly reassure you, whether or not they truly should…in the self-publishing world, you are required to rely on friends, family, and fans, to keep you feeling validated.
So, because I’m not so good at inconclusive data, I do a lot of reading on the publishing world in general. I like to see what the big dogs are doing, get some information about how their books move and how their authors actually get fan bases built. Even J.K. Rowling took a little while before folks actually latched onto her books. The question is…how did she get those people to read it in the first place.
Now, obviously JK is a bit of a stretch for me to compare myself with because, well, she had a huge publisher behind her and a powerhouse of a book. I’ve got nothing behind me and…well, a couple of cute books that I think are pretty fun, but, you know, yeah.
But anyways, I read, I look into the authors who are getting publishing deals and see what really makes them different from me, I look into the self pubbed authors who actually make it into the publishing world news and see how the heck they got there, I read and research and review and see what I can do to, in some way, emulate their success. Because, ultimately, I want people to read my books, right? These people are actually getting read…in a world where people don’t read…and have way too many books to choose from already.
Here’s the thing…I’ve found that there is still nothing that guarantees success, outside of already being successful. In the blogs and such that I follow on the topic, the number one thing that I get notices about is celebrities getting book deals…celebrities who, in many cases, should not be getting book deals, so are therefore having ghost writers put things together for them and having their names slapped on the cover afterwards.
Then I hear about already successful authors who are moving into self-publishing. Cool…I really want my own pool to get even more filled with the hot ladies of the book world.
But something new has started coming across my plate on a regular basis…lists of the best selling self-published authors.
Here’s the thing…I have absolutely no clue how these lists are developed. The names who show up on them are not names I’m familiar with, yet by the time I get to look at their ranks on Amazon, they are definitely, in fact, up at the top. The question that follows for me is, did that happen because they appeared on this list, or where they really, in fact, that big of a deal. Of course, the phrasing these lists use is weird as well, as the book they list as being number one for this week was stated to have “debuted at No. 1”, which isn’t entirely inaccurate as I’m guessing this is the first time the book has been placed at the number one spot on this list…but it’s been out for two years already. Not new by any means.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s very possible this book deserves it. There’s a large number of high-starred reviews attached to it on Amazon and it does appear that this author has worked through all of the important marketing tools any self-pubbed author can (you know, the things I don’t do, like blog tours, or…you know…making sure people leave me reviews). But I can’t help feel that there’s a great possibility this book required a great deal of game playing to get where it is, as opposed to getting there purely by merit.
That may sound like sour grapes, but I’m saying this purely out of a disappointment in the system. This author had to play the games (once again going by information showing in the reviews) in order to get where she is today (which, to make sure you’re aware, she has several books in this series…like nearing 10 I think, and they all appear to be in the top listings on Amazon right now)…I have a feeling that the quality of her work came secondary in getting her to where she is.
But these games aren’t documented, at least not well. There’s no sure-fire way to sleep your way to the top (not that I would if I could). It’s all just a crap shoot. Authors who want to be successful have to try every trick in their arsenal to get some form of respect. And it will still take time after that. Like I said, the book listed above, it took her two years to get that one to debut on the list of best-sellers. Two years of working the system before she finally became recognized for that.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I have no real desire to work those methods, as I’d rather focus on honing the craft of writing than the craft of marketing. But I find it interesting to note what all goes into getting anywhere in the publishing world today. And this post hasn’t even touched the tip of the conversation for when it comes to the traditional publishing world. Heck, that’s why agents exist, to play those games more effectively for the author. And, the way I hear it, even then it’s almost impossible to be seen in the midst of the horde.
So…the morale for today, kids, is that you should never write for success. Write because it’s in your blood.
Also…leave reviews, or at least tell an author when you enjoy their work (or even if you didn’t). It makes us not-yet-successful authors feel a little less invisible. 🙂
Have fun out there!