Yes, I’m an indie author. Yes, I support indie authors, and I also support traditionally published authors. Yes, I worry about losing followers who don’t agree with me, but I worry more about not getting this information out to others so they can make intelligent and informed decisions about their careers. There, now that that is out of the way, let us proceed.
Self-published authors have created a devaluing of the written word, and, they’re scrambling to see how low they can go to get noticed. That’s a generalization – there are many self-published authors who polish their work and brand with value and many positive sides to self-publishing – but I’ve noticed a trend in the indie arena, and it’s not a good one.
99-cent price point for ebooks
KDP Select program (free ebooks)
Gimmicks for sales and reviews (Kindle giveaways, etc.)
Nasty reviews from other authors with the sole purpose of driving down ratings
Why has this scenario developed? I believe it is caused by mismanaged expectations. Many self-published authors hear about the outliers who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they’ll do anything to try and reach that pinnacle. The Guardian recently reported thatthe average amount earned by DIY authors last year was just $10,000 (£6,375) – and half made less than $500.
Our recent poll of indie authors who have 2 or less 99-cent ebooks on the market found 75% of authors selling less than 100 ebooks per month at that rate, with 46% selling less than 10 ebooks per month.
So what can be done about this devaluing of the written word?How can self-published authors maintain value for our work? How to we help make self-publishing, as a whole, shine and earn as respectable a reputation as traditionally published books?
Goals of self-published authors vary. Some dream of wealth, while others simply want to get their stories read. Some writers are now afraid to self-publish because of the reputation that self-published works are garnering—when you look outside of the few that make it big, there is a lot of low-quality work.
Figure out your goals, and then figure out the best way to get there without risking quality or undervaluing your time, energy, and end product.
Work together, not against each other. Authorship is not a competitive sport. Yes, we’d all like to be number 1 but disparaging others and undercutting prices is not the way to gain that success. Don’t try to split the “tribes”—find the value in one “writers tribe” and work as a united group to help each other succeed.
Publish only professionally edited work. Give readers the quality they deserve, even if it means waiting a year while you save the money for an editor. Publishing unedited work hurts the reputation of indie authors as a whole.
Price your bookappropriately. Place a fair market value on your work. Readers deserve a polished piece of work, regardless of the price (yes, even at ¢0.99. Invest in polishing your work and demand a fair market price. This article by Dean Wesley Smith is dead-on with regard to pricing.
Get rid of the gimmicks. If you are trying to sell your books, don’t offer a chance to win a Kindle for the purchase of a $2.99 ebook. You might gain a few more sales, but not necessarily more readers. Another issue is giving away Kindles and gift cards in exchange for reviews. Using these gimmicks will likely garner dishonest reviews by people who haven’t read your book. We call these “freebie trollers.” Garnering reviews takes time. Instead of offering freebies, when a reader tells you they’ve enjoyed your book, suggest leaving a review and explain to them that reviews help other readers decide if they should take a chance on authors they have not yet read. No quick fix, but a building of relationships.
Work smarter, not cheaper. Growing a readership takes hard work, determination, and above all else, a very good book. Rather than looking for the fastest sales possible, work toward producing the best work that you can, then work with people who will help you promote your work. Find those you believe in and help them do the same. Expand your readership umbrella by working with a community of support.
How can you get noticed with over 1 million ebooks published each year? Work on developing your platform. Write more awesome books. Build relationships with readers. Stop looking for the quick fix and put some effort into the process of being worth reading and letting people know why.
We, as independent authors create the energy around us as a community. If you drive price and quality down, it’s easy for readers to lump us into a group and ignore us all. Each of us, has the power to succeed and if quality and value is what we want to see in the indie world, then we, as a collective group, must work together to achieve it.
Article written by Melissa Foster, New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author, founder of Fostering Success, World Literary Café, and The Women’s Nest. Melissa writes contemporary romance, new adult, contemporary women's fiction, suspense, and historical fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Her books have been recommended by USA Today's book blog, Hagerstown Magazine, The Patriot, and several other print venues. Melissa has been published in Calgary’s Child Magazine, the Huffington Post, and Women Business Owners magazine. Follow Melissa on Twitter @Melissa_Foster.
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Melissa Foster is a New York Time and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes contemporary romance, new adult, contemporary women's fiction, suspense, and historical fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page.
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