One of my favorite forums to peruse out there in internet land is the one for authors on Goodreads. One particular thread on that board occupies most of my time. It’s called “Best Bang for buck book promos.” It serves as an invaluable information trading tool for all of us self-published authors curious about which advertising sites work well and which don’t. Although I’ve never found any silver bullet pieces of wisdom (aside from “get BookBub to promote your book, duh”) it’s good to keep track of any scams people trip over or any new/cheap promoters that always seem to boost your sales just enough to make a profit and expand your audience.
Occasionally, though, the thread wanders a little off topic. Not very far. Since we’re all there for the same reason, we all share a common desire to keep the information exchange on track. However, recently there was a flurry of posts where people commiserated with each other over the flood of terrible books on Amazon and what that glut of bad writing is doing to hurt the sales of all us good, honest, sincere, forthright, god-fearing and hygienic self-pubbers.
Luckily, I missed the week where these laments were being posted. Had I seen them in real time, I don’t think I could’ve resisted jumping in and picking a fight. My main problem isn’t with people complaining about bad books – for the love of Robert Heinlein, I’ve done plenty of that myself – but some commenters went so far as to recommend Amazon start trying to be more proactive about demanding a higher-quality of product before allowing it to be sold on the site. That’s when I started hopping up and down in my chair and blowing steam out of my ears.
The whole point of self-publishing is to bypass any self-appointed gatekeepers and present your work directly to the consumers and letting them be the final judge of its merit! To start hemming and hawing and saying “yeah, but there are people who are just throwing up unedited half-finished manuscripts and it’s giving us all a bad name” makes you sound like you feel like you’re owed something. Like Konrath says “No one owes you a living.” Going beyond that, I would add “You are not special.”
I made this realization a number of years ago about myself and believe me, it was an uncomfortable shock. I thought because I was good at this thing or that thing, it meant I should be given as many breaks as I wanted. Slack should be cut to fit me! When it was explained to me through subtle suggestion and workplace experience that you’re only as good as the latest good thing you did and if you want to succeed at something you have to care enough about it to keep trying to be better at it – only then did I understand I should stop wasting everyone’s time and start carving out my place in the world. On a good day, the world will make a little room for you, but most days you have to dig it out for yourself.
But you say you want Amazon to start separating wheat from chaff for you and your readers? Really? Who’s to say your work isn’t crap? So, you published something that’s 100K words and paid to have it edited and packaged professionally. Good for you! So what? That means you deserve something and the guy who’s just using the marketplace as a free sounding-board for a peer-review and revision process (I’ve read a couple of authors who do this) should be shut out? No. That author has as much right to the open market as you do. You don’t like it? Fine. You’re allowed. Just don’t be one of those guys who wants to change the system to suit himself and tries to make it sound like it’s somehow for the greater good.
Don’t be that guy. I understand you’re struggling and getting frustrated because you just can’t find an audience. Welcome to the club! Being an author is hard! But here’s the thing – you have to decide whether you actually want to be an author or you want to make money on Amazon. Because if all you want to do is sell books on Amazon, it’s actually not that hard to do. Go copy and paste some romance novels, change some names, photoshop some covers and then post under a pseudonym. Guaranteed after a few promotions and a dozen or so titles, you’ll be raking in a steady profit. NOTE: I’m not knocking romance writers – I’m just saying their genre is rife with this kind of nonsense.
That’s not writing. You know it and I know it. Want to be an author? Write. Write as much as you can as well as you can and after revising your work to the point where you can’t change anything more without changing the whole thing – then publish it. Wash, rinse, repeat. You’ll note that no where in that list of instructions does it mention complaining to Amazon that other writers seem not to try as hard as you do, so they should be shut out so your work is a little less buried under the pile. There’s no need for that and you shouldn’t have time to worry about it anyway.
Want to pass a gatekeeper and be in an elite club? Go the traditional publishing route! Then you won’t have to worry about any of this stuff!
You are not special. Neither is anyone else. However, you shouldn’t let that stop you from promoting your work and yourself. Keep writing and challenging yourself and your skills will eventually attract an audience. But trying to lobby for gates and referees on the playing field won’t help your game any.
Thanks again for your valuable time! I deeply appreciate you sharing it with me. As always, feel free to express your thoughts below in the comment section.
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Until next time, drop a quick review on Amazon for a book you liked or hated or fell asleep on. Also…