There have been quite a lot of articles around lately about how free and very low priced books are creating a large band of readers who are not prepared to pay for regular priced ones, thereby swiping the food out of “legitimate” authors mouths. That’s fine. People who are never going to pay for a book don’t matter, and probably wouldn’t buy your book even if it suddenly became illegal to ever give one away for free anyway. You’re in charge of the pricing of your work, and if somebody wants to read it they will buy it. Regardless of what all those intrepid freebie hunters get up to. So don’t be shouting at hardworking people simply doing their best to get a new product to the eyes of people who would otherwise never have a clue who they are. Indie authors who started publishing eBooks with Amazon seven to ten years ago had a lot more room to move up there than new Indies today. Some of the strategies that they used to get noticed, and beat their way up the rankings back then might not be so easy to implement successfully now with the thousands of books being published every single day. Those early writers who managed to grab hold of a rung on the ladder and work their way to the top will probably stay there now, so they won’t have to think totally out of the box to come up with brand new ways for their latest books to be noticed in amongst that epic labyrinth of millions of others that is Amazon 2014.
New ways will be found though. The kind of person who has the will and the determination to write a book, then polish it to publishing standard, design and make a cover for it, publish it, and then market it, all the while scribbling away at the next book, is most definitely the kind of person who is capable of thinking outside of any old box. I think that the self-publishing landscape will probably have to shift and morph to accommodate the sheer volume of new books pouring in, and the work to get to the top will be harder. I also think that we should be wary of demonising one or another of the tactics scribblers use to get their books to new eyeballs. After all, if there really was a proven formula to sell books, everyone would be in Stephen King Land, and that is not a reasonable idea to have. There is no formula that will ensure your success as an author. It’s all down to lots of hard work, trial and error, more patience than you would expect, and a large dollop of good luck. Indies are their own bosses, and with that goes the privilege of making their own rules as far as their own careers are concerned. They can do as little as they want, or as much as they want to market their books. They can sell boxed sets, give their books away for free or charge 99 cents or $9.99 for them if they want to. Very little of what other Indie authors do should have any effect on you. What works for one person’s book promotion won’t necessarily work for yours and vice versa. Apart from never, ever – seriously never – ever – spamming anyone with desperate pleas to buy your book, keep all of your options open when the time comes to launch your labour of love into the arms of the reading population.
If you have the resources to pay for the professional finishing of your book after writing it, and are able to afford to pay for it to be advertised, you obviously are going to fare better out of the starting gates than the writer who can’t afford these things. For the Indie who is going it totally alone, the work will be harder, and the pace to the point where you finally find some regular readers will be much slower. Much bumpier too, what with the inevitable learning curves with missed typos, disastrous first attempt covers, and formatting faux pas. You’d have to be some kind of superior being if you get it totally right the first time around without any help at all. It’s not the end of the world to make mistakes, as long as you fix them just as fast as you can when you realise what you’ve done wrong. The wonderful thing is that every time you falter and scrape your knees – or your ego, you’ve learned something new about the industry by the time you’re back up again.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about the free, the low priced, or the Goodreads giveaway. There are many vocal supporters both for and against these things. The only opinion that should count in your Indie world is your own. You are your publisher, editor, creative department, and sales department – and you get to make all executive decisions. I’ve tried the freebies and the 99 cents to very good effect – but that’s just me. Your book – your decisions, so try them all for yourself, and see how things go, and don’t for a minute believe that your little promo is going to have an effect on the sales of anyone else’s books at all. Only their own marketing efforts will. One thing I’ve learned in this wonderful world of Indie is that you’re learning all the time, and that opinions seemingly set in stone often change.