It doesn’t matter if you are traditionally published or self published, visibility is everything and that visibility is available to everyone – at a price.
One way to get great visibility is to sell books while your novel is on pre-order. This will books Amazon rankings and garner reviews. Tools such as NetGalley – a paid service employed by traditional publishers and self published authors are designed to provide a portal for book bloggers and reviewers to see ARCS before publication and leave reviews.
Kindle Scout is also designed to allow people who vote for novels in their program to have advanced copies and leave reviews.
Once a book is published and available to buy, the race begins to give it visibility. There are many ways to to this. Readers are looking for a great book at a great price that other people have enjoyed, so the following are important to get it in front of as many readers as possible.
Books are often published with a low beginning price to encourage people to buy them and push them up the Amazon rankings
Amazon promotions such as Kindle Daily Deal, Kindle Fire Deal and many more flash novels at reduced prices on the Amazon site and on Kindles, giving a high level of visibility. Traditional publishers and self published authors can request Amazon promotions.
Bookbub and other independent promotionsIndependent promotions are advertising campaigns that anyone can apply for. They range from a few dollar Twitter campaigns to the expensive but ultra-effective Bookbub.
Many of the promotion tools will only allow advertising the same book every 3 to 6 months. Amazon promotions can be repeated as often as Amazon will allow it, but space in their advertising program for the major deals in competitive.
While promotions will help to push your book up the rankings buy putting in front of readers, often by genre, reviews will help to assure potential readers that your book is great. Amazon have recently tightened up their rules about reviewing and from now on it’s going to be much more difficult to get reviews by any means apart from a verified reader leaving feedback.
So what does this mean for traditional publishing and self publishing?
Watching a novel shoot up the Amazon rankings is a magical thing, and it’s tempting to believe that it’s stardust and literary magic that’s put it there. Sadly, it’s more likely to be a well timed Kindle Daily Deal and Bookbub. Even authors, who, by this point, should realise that publishing and book sales is a business, often get caught up in the hype of believing that it’s their literary masterpiece that has out-performed all others. Obviously, there are some exceptions to the promotional rule, but these are few and far between. Commercial, more often than not, means commercial.
Visibility needs promotion and promotion is expensive. Amazon promotions and Bookbubs can cost thousands and, for that reason alone, are the territory of traditional publishers. More recently Amazon imprints such as Kindle Press and Thomas and Mercer have harnessed Amazon promotions to push their own business model and Nick Stephenson reported that in September 2016, while independent publishing slowed as a whole, Amazon Imprints increased revenue by 40%.
One advantage Independent Author have is their own networks. Growing a network is a fabulous way of getting visibility outside Amazon and, should Amazon Imprints increase their market share even more and Amazon tightens their grip on reviews so that traditional publishers cannot use NetGalley and their promotional availability to traditional publishers, Indie Authors will have a huge advantage in their dedicated mailing lists.
To illustrate the above points, the top 20 fiction sellers in the Amazon rankings on the date of this blog post are between 99p and £1.99. There are several Amazon imprints and, apart from The Girl on the Train, which is currently showing in the cinemas, and Girl on a Train, which seems to also be doing well, the other books are either sequels to a best seller or have recently been on promotion.
Once a brand is built it has more chance of organically climbing the book charts and repeating the climb without promotion. Word of mouth still counts for a lot once the author is visible and known. Pricing is still important in order to convince as many people as possible to buy the book and rankings depend on volume sold and not pricing.
Maybe it is a cynical way to approach art, to state that promotion rather than quality sells books. It also begs the question ‘is the tail wagging the dog?’ with the books that are promoted (including my own) being the books pushed by those with all the money and who want to make more money or recoup an advance.
But art collides with business and financial success as an author depends on getting your brand known and selling books. Artistic success is something for another blog on another day.