Back in 2011-2012, when self-publishing was in its infancy, there was considerable interest in the new medium. Consequently, it was not difficult for new authors to gain attention for themselves and their books. Of course, the fact of it being a new product also meant there were fewer self-published books. Readers therefore had little difficulty in discovering new books at reasonable prices. Without oversimplifying the issue, it is fair to say posting details of new releases in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., did obtain far more immediate, and interested, attention. However, circumstances have changed drastically since then. Not only are there considerably more self-published books but the way social media operate has altered. Many will say detrimentally but this is not the place to get into such a discussion. In addition some author habits have changed. The overall result is:
- The market has become inundated.
- It is far more difficult for readers to find their next read.
- Genres have become oversubscribed.
- The quality of self-published books continues to be questioned. (Understandably with the freedom for anyone to publish without limitation or control.)
- Increasing number of authors simply adding ‘buy my book’ posts.
- Many social media groups, etc., primarily consist of lists of books without little, if any, discussion.
It may be controversial to say but it is very apparent many authors have become rather selfish. Not all of course, but more than is healthy. During the early days many willingly, and freely, helped each other understand and navigate the new forum and were disposed to enter into discussions about individual topics. These days it is hard to get a conversation going even though the topics raised should be of interest to most. There are still one or two groups where this happens but they are definitely now in the minority. This is not intended to be a critique of todays social media behaviour and modern attitudes but the points raised do impinge upon book publicity.
Back to the original question: Has Book Marketing become a Lottery?
What are the odds of winning the lottery?
Caveat: The following statistics relate to the United Kingdom and European lotteries and were gained from internet searches. Consequently, accuracy cannot be guaranteed by the writer of this article.
United Kingdom Lotto: 1 in 45,057,474
European Lottery: 1 in 139,838,160
Are the odds any better for self-published authors? Hard to tell but they are probably worse for some. The genre an author writes in does have an impact with some reporting Romance and, regrettably, Erotica appearing to sell better than more traditional genre. Naturally, as with anything, there have been occasional exceptions with some hitting the best-seller lists but even these have not always resulted in endless sells.
Before authors reading this start feeling sorry for themselves, it has to be acknowledged even established authors are finding it more difficult to sell books (the market is flooded). Some well-known authors, noting the changes and the detrimental controls imposed by new style traditional publisher contracts have opted for hybrid publishing i.e. continuing with some traditional publishing but also self-publishing. Naturally, for them, due to their established name, marketing is a little easier and more productive however, even some of them have commented about it not being as it used to be.
Many, if not the majority, independent (indie) authors have limited resources and for them social media (hopefully combined with a website and/or blog) are the only marketing option. Of course, there are those who have the resources for full blown publicity and advertising campaigns but even with them there is no guarantee of success. In truth, many have recently commented how the constantly changing policies, algorithms and pricing formats for social media advertising are diminishing the impact of their campaigns.
It seems all is negative for the indie author but should they lose heart? Admitted it may sometimes be hard to keep going but there is always hope, an attribute most could not live without. Just like the pot-chance involved with the lottery so, to some extent, it is with book marketing. With the lottery it is simply a matter of selecting the right numbers. With book marketing it is hoping the correct audience has been targeted and the right readers see the post, etc. Authors should not abandon their publicity and marketing efforts because of negativity. If someone does not participate in the lottery they stand no chance of winning. The same principle applies to authors, if they do not tell people about their book how will they know it even exists let alone whether they will be interested in purchasing a copy.
Authors should NOT lose heart. If others can succeed SO CAN THEY! At least, with all the free self-publishing sites and systems available, they are not incurring any financial commitments for publishing their books. There will always be someone interested in a book, it is just a matter of getting it in front of them. Is this being over optimistic or living in cuckoo land? Not really. It may take time and it may not happen in the author’s lifetime but there is a likelihood of some reader discovering it at some time. For example: a grandmother’s book gained no interest or attention during her or her children’s lives but then, for no apparent reason, it suddenly became popular during her grandson’s life. Not perhaps what an author is hoping for but at least they are contributing to posterity’s rich library from which future generations may benefit.
Yes, it can be like the lottery for authors, nevertheless, they should not give up. There are readers somewhere for every book and it is simply a matter if finding where they are and getting the information in front of them.