Friday, January 27, 2012

Wild West Sales for Self-Publishers

by Stella Atrium

Before iTunes, Smashwords and 99¢ eBooks on Kindle, the rule of thumb for a performer who wanted to attract the attention of industry big wigs was to show that he had 1000 loyal fans. We are in the Wild West stage of selling books just now where anything goes and the lowest bidder wins the most traffic.  But traffic and fans aren't the same creature.

supergirlA fan tells friends about his favorite performer (like a review), plays the tunes at parties (like a book chat group), and wears a t-shirt with the band logo (like buying a paperback). A fan RETURNS for more products from the same performer and put down his money at retail prices.

I don't understand free ebooks on Kindle or Smashwords.  The writer spends all her life writing this book at the sacrifice of so many other activities and time with loved ones. Why devalue the product?

Besides, most self-published books on Smashwords are not-ready-for-prime-time first writings. Do you really want to be part of that group?

I'm not convinced Twitter traffic translates to sales, either. I see writers promoting each other, or cross-promoting with reviewers and handlers.  The writer is like a candidate surrounded by members of the press and cannot reach past the loud-talking reporters to find a voter willing to shake hands. store

Maybe the audience we are seeking aren't even among our followers on Twitter.

Years ago I fooled around in non-profit theater in Chicago where attendance was one-quarter house on a good night and theater groups lived for reviews in The Reader and grants from Thorten Foundation. The truth was that no matter how well produced the performance for acting, directing, or set direction — the audience for live theater was sparse, even at low ticket prices. A producer in this arena could not expect to see returns on her investment.

geekThe plethora of giveaways on sites trying to build loyalty (for the site, not for the writer) is similar to non-profit theater in Chicago. Except for a couple break-out sites that facilitate the reading community like GoodReads and LibraryThing, the audience just isn't there.

How does the self-publisher gain those 1000 "loyal fans" for convincing evidence that her writing rises above the pack and is worthy to become a book-of-the-month choice for reading clubs?

Reputation is everything. There are several levels of reputation, though. Listed are 10 types to avoid.

  1. The Situation — Anyone can show his navel and get others to look.  Be sure there's integrity and a reason the fan should return.
  2. Always free — If it's free, that means you couldn't get anybody to buy it. Have a little dignity.
  3. Trading favors — My back doesn't needs scratching. Because you asked, I know you haven't found true fans yet.
  4. Inflated claims — "If you liked Jurassic Park, you're gonna love my self-published book." I always turn away when the writer claims to be like some other writer.
  5. Five-star fan reviews on Amazon — Really? Were they posted by your mother?
  6. Twitter Blanket — the same note every two minutes announcing the launch of your book. Your followers already read the announcement. Nobody else sees it. Who are you talking to?
  7. Begs for reviews or retweets — Be patient, a quality reviewer will find a quality book soon enough. Building brand loyalty only happens over time.
  8. Writer blog tour — Sponsored by another writer in a chat room where only writers sign in.
  9. Salacious claims to increase traffic — Fool me once and "unfollow" is my next gesture.
  10. Purchasing followers — Get real!

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