I’ve trained myself not to read the comments that appear below articles online. I rarely learn anything new, and more often than not, they’re negative.
Whether it’s The Wall Street Journal, HuffPost, USA Today, or lesser-known sites, the article feedback rarely makes me smile. It’s often depressing, in fact, as strangers argue with each other about something neither side knows much about.
But when an author friend mentioned the comments on one of the Goodreads book marketing case studies that I shared in the Build Book Buzz book marketing group on Facebook, I broke my own rule.
I read the comments.
Good news/bad news
There’s good news and bad news.
The good news? The first few comments are positive. Yay!
The bad news? There’s a lot of whining. A lot of it.
It’s a very good book. (I read it.) If there’s a formula for psychological thrillers that readers love, this book uses it. So there’s that, right from the beginning.
Of course the publisher’s staff knew this book could take off with the right support.
The right support
It’s that “support” that commenters seem to take issue with. In general, the negative feedback includes one (or all) of these messages:
- Oh, sure, if I had a traditional publisher with a lot of money to market my book, I could have this success. But I’m self-published, so I don’t.
- If my Rolodex included famous, successful authors who could blurb my book, it might be a best-seller, too. But I don’t know any incredibly popular authors.
- Indie authors just can’t replicate this, so the system is rigged against us. We’re screwed.
- Why doesn’t Goodreads share case studies about successful self-published authors? Now that’s something we can learn from!
Let’s look at each of these points.
A different perspective
Complaint 1: Big money
Most authors — even those who have written excellent books published by big name publishers — don’t have this kind of financial support. To get this kind of marketing budget, you need to write a book with best-seller potential, get an agent, shop it around, and hope that a publisher sees the potential. Even then, there are no guarantees of anything.
This can mean making a choice between writing what the book-buying audience wants to read and writing what you are moved to write.
If you want a publisher that will start hyping your book a year before it’s published, study the books that are getting this treatment. Figure out the story success formula. Then write a fantastic book that follows the formula.
Complaint 2: Famous blurbers
This is true. Most writers don’t have famous author connections. But what connections do you have? Who can you ask to blurb your book?
For lesser-known authors, the fact that anybody says nice things about your book is better than nobody saying nice things.
Mine your network. Take action. (If you don’t know how, my affordable training program will walk you through the process.)
Complaint 3: It’s rigged against us
No, it isn’t.
Look at what goes into a top-quality traditionally published book and replicate it. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, a book that sells well usually includes:
- Excellent content
- A whiz-bang cover that’s appropriate for the category or genre
- Professional editing
- Professional proofreading
This is how the system works. The content comes from you, but the rest is available to every author. Whether you take advantage of it or not is up to you.
This was in place long before self-publishing was an option. There’s no reason to change it. Readers want good books; this is what’s required to publish good books.
Complaint 4: Goodreads should share indie author case studies
Goodreads doesn’t owe anybody anything.
Goodreads is a business that exists to make money. It does this by providing a service to readers, not authors.
To help do that, the company provides a platform that all authors and publishers can use for free. Publishers have the money required for the add-on services that Goodreads offers, so of course the company is going to cater to them.
Lots of us would enjoy reading about indie author success stories on Goodreads. Maybe we’ll see a few in the future. But that’s a decision the company will make based on what’s best for its business, not on what authors think the company should provide.
(In the meantime, read the success stories on this site, including “How one indie author made $74,000 in 16 months and quit her day job (and what you can learn from her),” “Memoir author’s book marketing success story,” and “How to sell out at a book signing without being a celebrity.”)
Goodreads has to provide what readers want while making it possible for publishers and authors to help provide that, too.
Focus on what you can learn
At the end of the case study, the writer summarizes what others can learn from what Celadon Books did to market The Silent Patient. You’ve seen it here on this blog before — start early, give away a lot of advance review/reader copies (ARCs), be creative.
There’s no reason why an indie author can’t do all of this.
I took another lesson from this, though: Librarians are your friends. The first phase of this campaign involved giving ARCs to librarians and booksellers.
Does your work as an author include connecting with and learning from librarians? You might be surprised at what they can teach you about book packaging and positioning as well as what readers want.
There’s no question that indie authors don’t have the resources of big publishers. But sell enough books on your own to attract a publisher’s attention, and that might change.
What has been your most successful book marketing tactic? Please tell us in a comment.
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