By one estimate, a new book is published on Amazon every 5 minutes (though this might include apps as well). Almost every one of these books is a self-published indie book. At current count Amazon has over 3.4 million books and counting. This doesn’t seem like a very encouraging statistic for those of us who want to make a life at writing, but here are some words of encouragement that might help you be found amongst the throng.
Remember the web is much bigger – On WordPress alone, where I host this blog, 41.7 million new posts are created each month. About 15-16 of those are mine. And yet I’ve got over 3000 subscribers, and a comfortable number of daily visitors to the site. Chances are if you’re an indie writer, you’re blogging too. It can take a while to form a base, but it is definitely possible, particularly if you have a clear vision for your writing.
Find your niche – I’m not too good at the marketing thing yet (hopefully when Surreality is released I can get a little better), but failings in marketing can be balanced with good SEO (search engine optimization). In other words, write about a specific topic and appeal to a specific segment of the market. You don’t have to be the only one standing in that market, but sometimes it’s better to shoot for the small market that might see you than trying to appeal to the broadest common denominator.
Remember what books are being published – Even with a flooded market, a bad book is a bad book. A lot of how people evaluate books on Amazon are by using reviews, and reading the product description. Chances are if someone can’t write a very good book, they can’t write a good product description either. And even if they can, the first person who buys that book and doesn’t like it will probably go online and say so. I might not be right about this, but I think people have more of a tendency to post a review if they didn’t like something than if they did, so a few positive reviews on your book go a long way.
Some books are written by robots – About 10o,000 of the books on Amazon have been written by an AI, specifically an expert system designed to write extremely technical narrow market reports designed to sell at a premium to 10 people. That’s impressive from a technological perspective, but not something you’re really competing with. Though it might not be the best time to enter the market as a romance author (as that’s the next genre this AI wants to take on).
Define success – Your first book, or even your fifth, probably isn’t going to be the one that lets you quit your day job and live in the writer’s paradise of writing full time. But it might do better than your last book. I wanted to sell between 200-300 fractal books in my first year. Frankly, this seemed like a bit of a stretch goal, but I met it, and sales for next year are looking healthy so far. I make enough money each month for a mid-priced dinner, but hey it’s better than nothing. I have roughly equivalent modest goals for Surreality, and will be excited if I meet or exceed them. The goal is to do a little better with each book, and to just keep writing.
You’re probably doing better than Joe Biden – Remember our Vice President? He had a book out last year and earned about $201 dollars in royalties (according to a May report in Gawker). I earned more than twice that last year for a book about fractals, and I don’t quite have the same name recognition (or number of appearances on Parks and Recreation).
Amazon is not the only game in town – There are magazines, this little thing called Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Indie Bundle sites, the list goes on. You can have a book be exclusive on Amazon for a while, then try other markets. Or you can eschew Amazon altogether and strike out to sell your book directly off your blog. The writing community and the blog community is a pretty friendly one. If they like you’re writing, they’ll probably buy your book, especially if you show the love as well.
Just keep writing, and keep smiling. Remember, I’m pullin’ for ya. We’re all in this together.