|Picture from stock-xchnge by Andreas Krappweiss|
The concept is so beautiful, like The Field of Dreams. If you write it, they will come.
Only what if they don’t?
I read this NY Times article the other day on buying positive book reviews (I’m going to get to that in a minute), but the article claimed that more than 300,000 books were self-published last year, and that number is only going up. It could be more than doubled next year. Granted not all of these books will be in your genre, but if only 1% of them were, there would be over 3,000 books for consumers to search through to find your gem. And that is only including self-published books. You would also be competing for attention with all the traditionally published books, which could include every book that has ever been published in modern times. That is a lot of books waiting to be bought on Amazon. So how do you get your book to stand out above the masses?
Self-publishing is so easy, but self-promotion is so tough.
It is hard to proclaim to the world how wonderful your book is. No one is going to take you seriously. You can become really annoying if all you do is talk, tweet, and blog about your book. It is so much better if that comes from someone else.
Which brings us to the NY Times. According to the article (link above), some authors paid a man named Todd Rutherford money to write positive reviews for their books. He charged $99 for one review, $499 for twenty, and $999 for fifty. Before too long, he started making $28,000 a month.
I think this practice is dishonest and shady, and I feel that Mr. Rutherford was taking advantage of authors desperate to get some attention for the books they put their heart and souls into. I seriously doubt that very many of them actually made that money back in sales. But I do understand why the authors chose to buy reviews.
Reviews should be for the readers, but good reviews and high ratings can help sell books because someone else is singing the praise for your book, making them more trustworthy. However, if you have few or no reviews, your book isn’t going to look too promising. And if just one of those reviewers gave you a low score, that is going to substantially affect your book's overall rating. Furthermore, if other writers are artificially inflating their positive reviews, this is only going to make your book look worse than everyone else’s. I can definitely see the dilemma these writers are in.
Still I don’t think that lying and manipulating consumers is the way to go even if it has been the corner stone of all advertising. Books aren’t the only products with fake positive reviews (see the NY Times article above).
I wish I had some real answers on how to get your book out there in a more honest way, but I don’t. I’d be horrible at self-promotion which is one of the main reasons I want to go the traditional route (yes I do know this also requires some self-promotion, but hopefully, I'd get some help). For good advice go to Amanda Hocking who actually achieved that level of success from self-publishing that we all dream about. Sheena also did an excellent post on how youtube videos go viral and how that can be applied to books. While I think they both give great advice, it really comes down to getting your book into the hands of the right people, and there is so little control you have over that.
I think the truth is that there are no real short cuts to this publishing thing. You either struggle to capture an agent or publisher’s attention or self-publish and struggle to capture consumers’ attention. Either way, you need to find a way to stand out, and while there may be tricks to get yourself noticed, you won’t create a buzz unless you’ve written something that really resonates with readers. Only then will they talk, tweet, and blog about it and hopefully, recommend it to their friends. So no matter what path you choose only one thing truly matters, you need to write one amazing book. J
So what are your thoughts on self-promotion?