The invisibility problem in self-publishing

ScreenClip(27)There seems to be a commonly-held attitude these days that self-publishing is a road to success, and that all you have to do is price your book at 99 cents and you’ll sell a zillion copies. (I will admit that from time to time I can come fairly close to buying into that perception myself.)

Futurebook has an amusing article by Amazon self-publishing author Walter Ellis who shows the other side of that coin. Says Mr. Ellis, “I publish, therefore I am invisible.”

Having written a couple of successful nonfiction books and a historical fiction thriller, Ellis tried his hand at a modern novel, London Eye, but discovered that UK publishers simply were not interested. So he decided to publish it himself.

It was then that a cloak of invisibility descended. The only people who knew about London Eye were my immediate friends and family, my facebook friends and those whose sadness is defined by their close personal knowledge of recent uploads to the Kindle Store. A number of those I approached – one of them a distinguished publisher – didn’t know there was such an entity as the Kindle Store and were unable to find the book without the equivalent of global satellite navigation.

I bemusedly note that Ellis seems to have come up with at least one solution to this problem—jump-start word-of-mouth by posting an amusing article to a widely-read e-book blog, which in turn might be reblogged by other people who find it interesting. Too bad not every self-publishing writer can do the same!

London Eye is currently available for the Kindle for £1.14 on, or 99 cents on It seems to be getting pretty good reviews so far. (All two of them.) Who knows…I might just have to check it out myself.

4 Comments on The invisibility problem in self-publishing

  1. Roofman The Spy // July 31, 2011 at 5:27 pm //

    I am also a self-published author struggling with visibility. I have been told that I should price my book at 99 cents so people will “take a chance on an unknown author.” I refuse to cheapen my product, a memoir about cold war espionage. ROOFMAN: Nail-Banger, Librarian & Spy sells for $9.95.

  2. Bookselector // August 1, 2011 at 5:57 am //

    Hey Roofman – you should try reading David Gaughran’s book Let’s Get Digital. He explains why you should “cheapen” your product – I give my work away free – to attract attention. Otherwise you will remain obscure forever my friend. There’s a lot of competition out there…

  3. Steven Lyle Jordan // August 1, 2011 at 9:15 am //

    The impression of “cheapening your product” can be a tough one to overcome. But it can also be immaterial, as even after you do drop your price, there’s no surely that high sales will follow. In truth, self-publishing, like traditional publishing, is still a popularity contest: Who gets the most notice and good PR; in effect, sensationalism.

  4. If word-of-mouth is important then price shouldn’t matter. And the person who price-shops for books is the kind of person who buys them by the yard, like they were meat sold by the pound. Indeed, all the squabbling about price just gives people the false impression that price *is* what matters. As we see in this article, it isn’t. It’s buzz, and buzz trumps price.

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