Rich Adin, a professional editor, has a thoughtful essay up about Read an E-Book Week. He says he has seen many complaints on author boards that authors’ sales did not appreciably benefit from the RAEW sale, and he offers some reasons for why that might be (e.g., authors choosing too-small discounts; doing little-to-no promotion; not tagging their books so the right readers see them; choosing the wrong books to promote). The point that most interested me, though, was the issue of complacency.
Stores don’t promote author, Adin argues. And he’s right: Smashwords had a special section for Read an E-Book Week, and all participating books had the same egalitarian listing. There wasn’t a particular book or books the site was especially promoting. That is the author’s job. So it isn’t enough to just list your book and wait for the sales. You have to promote it through other channels—Facebook, Twitter, wherever. You have to send people to the store, not simply wait for the store to send people to you.
And he argues, too, that the product you do promote should be fresh and interesting. “It is possible that the subject matter of your ebook just doesn’t have broad appeal or that if it does fall into the broad appeal area, that perhaps other books are better written (and better promoted),” Adin gently reminds aspiring authors.
In an indie market, it is the author’s job to make sure they’ve done the market research. I read the book by John Locke that promotes the ‘secrets’ of how he sold one million Kindle books. And, aside from buying sock puppet reviews, his strategy boiled down to the following:
1. Figure out what is selling well
2. Write books like that
3. Figure out where fans of those books go
4. Go there, and promote to those fans
Few authors would be quite so bloodless in their strategy, but that’s essentially what it boils down to.
Adin also briefly touches upon a point that I noticed myself and to which I personally attribute the ‘blah’ of this year’s promotion: Many authors simply don’t offer anything fresh and new. I think some authors have a book or two they designate as ‘the promo book’ and all other books, they keep out of the fray. What that means is that someone who checked out the sale last year and saw your book already is going to walk away thinking not just that you aren’t up to anything new, but that nobody else really is, either. And we’ll lose them to next year’s sale, and the one after, and the one after…
I’m not saying you have to give everything away for free. But maybe have more than one possibility, and rotate them from time to time? Or maybe retire one from the freebie line-up and substitute another in its place? But you’ve got to give the impression that new stuff is happening!
Personally, I picked up four books this year during Read an E-Book Week, and they were all backlist republications from an author I know already. I did discover a few indie authors in previous years whose work I enjoyed, but then, they didn’t write more stuff, so there was nothing else to buy from them. Or else, they weren’t participating in the promotion, so I didn’t even bother looking.
These are wasted opportunities!