Posts Tagged ‘marketing’
I’ll be the interviewee on the popular #sffwrtcht this Wednesday at 9:00 PM EST.
That’s right, folks, it’s ME! No kidding. I know, me too. I’m really nervous too.
You going to be there to support me?
The whole latest-writer-wearing-an-asshat-having-a-mental-breakdown-on-the-internet has been covered ad nauseum by better people than me, so I’m not going there. (Chuck Wendig’s was the first I found, and his posts are always worth the read.) But it’s had me pondering an important writerly-phiolsophical point:
Does it matter why they buy your book?
To quote Marc Aplin, @FantasyFaction: But personally, if I ever publish a book, I’d like people to buy it because they’ve heard good things about it or like the premise, not because they want to know the answer to the question on everyone’s mind last night: “Can this egotistical dick really write?”
That alone is a very good point, and you can’t argue that an entertaining, psychotic, uber-egotistical trainwreck will get you some publicity and sell some books, if nothing else, for the rubbernecking factor. But that’s not the point of this post.
See, the guy in question already had a number of sales before this meltdown. And as he points out every other sentence, he has 92k Twitter followers. Clearly more than a few people who haven’t been accosted by him personally have been convinced to follow him and buy his books.
Now, I’ve only read the first few paragraphs (that was enough) of a couple of the samples of his books, so I’m no expert on his writing or the quality (or lack) thereof. But others have weighed in on it, and as it gets more attention, still more are adding their opinions, so I think it’s safe to say he’s no Shakespeare.
In other words, I’m going to posit that his “success” (his claim, not mine) is driven by marketing rather than word of mouth based on the quality of his books, that people aren’t recommending this to their friends in droves, and that he’s not being discovered by someone with a wide audience to sell his books to.
Now I don’t think anyone can argue that, ultimately, no book is going to gain lasting traction if it isn’t good quality in more areas than not, and entertaining to a broad audience. There are only so many new customers for a genre novel you can convince to buy your book before you fade into obscurity. Can this be overcome by churning out countless sub-par books? Maybe. I don’t doubt there are mediocre to bad writers out there who are making a living off their books for now. Why not? People buy snuggies. Sometimes consumer behavior defies logic.
Does it matter WHY someone buys his book? Surely, if it were only about the money, an author wouldn’t get his panties in a twist about a one star review when others continue to buy the book. You can’t please every customer, right? So if a negative review doesn’t impact sales, assuming sales is the primary goal, then it’s of no matter.
Except authors of this ilk continue to act like it matters very much. One might be tempted to say that most if not all authors still view their work as more than a product, as something that reflects THEM and their worth. Thus they so passionately (and sometimes hysterically) defend the quality of their work; either publicly, as in this case, or, one would hope, in private to a few trusted friends and then back that up by striving to learn more and make the next one better.
Are there really authors for whom the bottom line is the same as for a car salesman or an accountant? It’s possible. I doubt it. So is the meaning of “I have 92k Twitter followers and (x)bazillion sales” really what it says on its face, or is it just a last straw argument masking the insecurity authors usually struggle with?
Personally, I’d rather sit over here watching books I’d published as “anonymous” get love from people I’ve never met and who have no idea who I am than to sell zillions of books based on everything BUT the quality of my novel.
Does it matter why the books sell?
It does to me.
Mostly ’cause I’ve used them all up.
But, ummmmm, well, that means I’ve got a bazillion and one guest posts and interviews to complete. Who knew a gobshite like me could actually run out of things to say?
I actually have exciting things I should be linking you to and posting up here and… Maybe this weekend.
Will return when word-well has been replenished.
Ummm, how can I say this nicely?
Let’s just put this into context. I buy a lot of self-published books. I buy a lot of small-publisher books. And I buy the big pubs too. I’m OK paying $7.99, even $8.99 or (cringe) $9.99 for the Kindle version of a book from a big publisher whose track record is proven, and for either an author I know, or someone I don’t but who has 1000+ reviews on Amazon and still has an average of 4.5 stars.
You’ve gotta be J.K. Effing Rowling to get $12.99 for a Kindle book out of me.
If you don’t have a publisher behind you, (which I’m THOROUGHLY OK with,) I’m sorry, but you’ve got to prove to me that you’re worth my time and money before I’m going to take a chance. Why? Because there are a million more out there I could be enjoying.
Did you hire an editor? Good for you! Was it someone who just hung a virtual shingle or someone respected in the industry? How am I to know until I read the final product? Am I going to be pissed that I spent my money on your book which, after the sample I read and was happy with, slowed to a crawl and bored me to tears?
If I spent $.99 on it, no I won’t be too upset. If I spent $4.99? Hell yes!
So that brings me back around to the title of this post.
I didn’t spend that $4.99 on your book and I won’t. Quite frankly because I DO buy self published books. All the time. I know exactly what a gamble I’m taking. I know that I might find a jewel for a steal, or I might find a totally frustrating waste of my time.
This isn’t prejudice against anything at all. It’s my experience of reality.
Yes I’m more likely to take a chance on a unknown from a publisher I recognize. They’ve got a team behind them that’s proven their worth and their discretion in choosing books that I won’t regret paying for.
Your fifteen Amazon reviews (eight of which are from people who have no other reviews on there,) aren’t enough to convince me that you’re worth my time and money.
YOU need to prove it to me. By offering me your product at a price I’m willing to pay for a total gamble.
Now your second book, when the first has done so well and gotten a lot more reviews and earned you cred’, we can talk about $4. (Though honestly, why you wouldn’t go with $2.99 like every other sensible person, I can’t imagine.) Otherwise? You’re totally costing yourself sales, and you’ve lost my respect as well. Because I’m questioning your business sense now. Which makes me wonder if you know what your audience wants at all. Which means I didn’t buy your book.
So was that higher price really worth whatever intangible you got out of it? Because it’s losing you sales.
What about you? Does the publisher (or not) affect the price you’re willing to pay? Is your price ceiling the same no matter what? Do you even notice before you buy?
This topic has been brewing in my brain for a while now. A while back Roni Loren wrote a blog post called Book Review Debate in which she explained why she didn’t write bad reviews for books and why maybe other authors should consider not doing so either. There was a great debate that followed in the comments (which unfortunately seem to have been lost in a blog conversion.)
I agreed with her points, namely:
1. The writing world is SMALL.
The writer you one-star today may be the writer…sitting next to you at your next writers’ meeting, may one day share an agent/editor/publisher with you, may be someone you have to do a workshop with, may be someone who’s asked to blurb your book, etc.
A lot of the commenters disagreed with the stance as a whole, saying it lacked integrity not to give a negative review if you thought a book was bad. But it occurred to me that, in light of the above, posting a bad review as an author, is a bit like posting job reviews of your co-workers on the announcement board and signing your name to it. Sure, you’re owning your opinion, but you’re probably shooting yourself in the foot too. And for what? If they’re a bad employee, your one personal opinion isn’t the only thing that will clue others in to this. Let their boss, their clients, etc., be the ones to point this out, not you as a person who may have to work with them on an important project.
And yet, as my blog has evolved, I find myself writing more and more reviews. Why? Quite simply because having guest judges for 5MinuteFiction ties in so well with promoting a fellow author. But I’m not going to promote someone unless I know what I’m promoting. Which means I read their book. And we all know that reviews on the major sites where readers make their purchasing decisions (Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, etc.) is the lifeblood of new-author promotion. So if I’ve read the book, and can give it a good review, then it’d just be selfish and shortsighted of me not to do so, right?
So what’s the problem?
Well, it’s the not-so-good things about the book.
See, I review self-published books more than anything else. And I don’t care who you are, unless you were insanely lucky and snagged a great editor and the perfect crit-partners for yourself the first time around, your book will have problems. In my experience, the right editor and crit-partners are generally things you find after you’ve run through a few of the wrong ones. And that means putting yourself out there.
I found mine through the process of querying agents and small publishers. I had to expose my work to enough people over a long enough period of time, that I finally made those connections. That’s not the only path, but most people aren’t going to find the right team until they’ve survived the wrong one, which for self-published authors, often means after their first book is already out.
So I have your book and I really enjoyed it. I want to write you a good review because that’s what I’d want you to do for me and because you deserve it.
Do I ignore the weaknesses, pretend I didn’t see them, and write only about the good stuff?
I don’t think I can. For a lot of reasons.
- I usually don’t trust reviews like that anyway, especially if they’re an unknown author self-publishing and all they have are glowing reviews. I’m pretty much going to assume that all the reviews are written by friends and family and I can’t trust them to give the whole truth.
- Is anybody else going to tell you? If not, how will you know in order to improve the next time? Granted, this one can be handled by offering private comments, which I almost always do.
- I’m also putting my own professional name and reputation behind your book if I give it a good review.
And, here’s where it may get selfish, but I don’t want other authors and readers thinking I can’t tell good writing from bad. I may have enjoyed your book in spite of the cringe-worthy flood of adverbs and telling, because the plot, or character development, or whatever was just that good. Another person may not have the tolerance to handle that and may throw the book away in disgust and then resent me for leading them to believe that it had no major faults.
Neal Hock wrote a great guest post on The Writing Bomb that talked about the author risking their reputation by self-publishing a book with glaring errors or weaknesses. I 100% agree with this. But I think it goes farther than this. I think it risks my reputation too if I don’t at least acknowledge that, while I recommend the read, it does have drawbacks that one reader might consider a deal-breaker even if another doesn’t care that much about them. At least I’m giving them the information, as I see it, to make an honest assessment and informed decision.
To a lesser extent, a post by Chuck Wendig, Putting the Publishing Cart Before The Storytelling Horse, made me think of this topic. In a large part because the authors who are loudly denouncing the publishing industry from experience, and claiming that anyone not self-publishing is making a terrible error, are ones who have already gotten to the point at which they have a quality editor and the industry know-how and writing chops that their self-published works won’t have this kind of problem.
Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about typos and poor grammar. Quite frankly, I won’t finish a book that’s an egregious offender in those areas to have a review to write of it.
But if on the balance sheet I think your book was a good read, and you’re a good writer who will quit making those mistakes eventually, I want to help you promote it! I want to review it and tell others to read it.
But I have a career to think about too.
Thus my conundrum. Is it important as authors to maintain your professional integrity and list the bad with the good? Is it not important enough to readers or worth it for you and you should pretend the bad isn’t there? Should you just not write reviews at all? What do you think?