Say What Now?
If you, like me, are on twitter you may have seen this particular tweet or Facebook post circulating. I saw it once again on a twitter feed that I follow and decided I wanted to talk about it a little.
Only 40 Self-Published Authors are a Success, says Amazon 

Go ahead and take a minute to read it if you haven't.
I'll wait...

sits quietly twiddling my thumbs and humming the jeopardy tune
Good you're back.

Now coming from a reader standpoint, this, upon first glance, looks very disheartening. I cannot imagine the amount of chest pain this must be causing aspiring writers and indie authors. I mean the company giant that built it's business in the book arena can't be wrong can it? The same company that takes 35% of self publisher income and who has been accused of making it increasingly harder for authors, sellers and publishers to make any money, for authors to get valuable and honest reviews and unfair genre rules. They put it on the internet so it has to be true. Right? They have all those reports that say so.

All that aside...Listen...My question is this:

What is your definition of success as a writer. Or better yet, what is your perception of success as a writer?

Is it measured in the quality of the content you create?
Is it directly proportionate to your sales?
Is it increased traffic to your site?
Is your success built on a long game or short game?
Is it just the act of finishing a book that has long lived in your head?
Is it based on how many 5 star reviews you get?
Is it based on how viral you become on social media?
Is it how many bloggers and 'influencers' blog about it?

They say that writing is a poor man's art. I think that writing is a passionate, dedicated person's art. Writing is no easy task. Storytelling takes guts and perseverance.

They also say 'people don’t read books, they go to the movies, they binge on TV series, they play video-games.'  I do all of these things but I still find time to read and honestly I rarely go to the movies anymore since the prices have been jacked up to almost $12 at the theater and nothing gets me more than paying that much for a movie that has great potential to suck.

It's reported that many authors are making under $12000 a year with their writing. (Say What Now?!!) That basically means the income an average writer earns is at best part time income for the majority of writers. Many authors still work part-time or full-time jobs. Hell, even the Flash has a day job. So money for promoting may be sparse. However, some level of marketing and promotion is mandatory in all business.

For the self publisher....
If your perception of success is directly proportionate to your income, you may have to make changes. So what part of your life do you have to cut out, change or reduce?

I would say start with coffee. (Say What Now?!!!)
Yes I am aware that writing and coffee go together like a hand and glove, but hear me out.
Make it at home instead of buying it at the local coffee house or bookstore. I personally love chai tea lattes and white mocha lattes and when I was working full-time, in addition to my wedding business and doing contract work,  I would buy a cup daily, sometimes two. Honestly some days it was hit or miss depending on the barista making it. It cost me almost $4-$6 each time depending on the size and of course you have to get a tasty snack to go with it.

Once I could no longer work full-time or take as many weddings as I would like,  I had to make some changes. First I had to accept that my income was going to be significantly lower than I was accustomed to(admittedly this was the hardest adjustment). Second, I had to figure out how to get the most out of my money I was bringing in and find another way to increase my income. Voila this blog. Don't ask me how it's going :(

Making the decision to purchase the concentrate or buy coffee grounds and make the same delicious tasting drink at home (right every time) cost me only $4-$6 a week. I also buy convenience store coffee cups and they usually come with coupons for free drinks so I pay 1.99-2.99 for a plastic coffee mug and get  a weeks worth of free coffee within walking distance of my home. I cut my driving down to only a few times per week and shop only when I make tips from the weddings. Making those small changes, freed up money to use to invest in ad space for my book blog and my wedding business. 

The benefits and downsides of organic promotion if you are budget constrained...
You may have to promote your own self until you can afford to pay for professional or amateur advertising. I learned that I had to do a lot of organic tooting of my own horn because ad space and promotion is costly especially in the wedding industry. Organic promotion can be tiring and a lot of work, but it can be done. Blog about your writing or other interests, tweet about it, work the hastags into your posts and social media presence, follow and re-tweet others so they do the same to you. Network, and get to know people in your field doing it with success.Start with low cost promotions. Something is better than nothing. Be careful of the I will post your ad to 1 million followers deals because if you make them show you screen shots, it is usually posted on a page filled with posts by other people doing the same thing and no one is really looking at those posts as consumers.

Free or not...
This is just my opinion and nothing more.
While I love free and .99 cent books, maybe e-books lowest cost standards should be a minimum of $1.99. Many printed books are usually 5.99 and up and people still buy them. The same amount of effort goes into writing the content no matter how it is distributed. I think it would force more readership of the books because now an investment has been made and people...myself included, would not hoard books that may not ever get read. You write books because you want people to read them, not just sit on the shelf. If they are not read there is no forward motion for your book, no discussion about plot and characters, less book reviews, and essentially, less money in your pocket.

Amazon also reported about 40% of books in e-reader libraries were not being read. 

If I made the effort to buy a book you can believe it is going to get read. If its free, its more like, oh let me get it now while its free. I'll read it later. Honestly sometimes, later never comes or I read a few pages and lose interest.  Overall, there may be no real sense of urgency to read it. Free should be a treat, not the recommended standard for your work. I would not be opposed to .50 cent books. I assume that the mindset for free books is to help cut through the noise of all the millions of books out there and/or to entice readers to get your book in their hands, especially if you are a brand new author, writing series or multiple books per year, but as I said before, it may not always be 100% effective.

The ARC situation...
Offering arcs for free is a great idea to get reviews, but that should be limited and granted judiciously. Sometimes Beta readers are not reliable. A contracted, paid request ensures it will get done within a set time. (shameless plug , yes I know) It also may give you options on when, where and how the review will be posted. A paid review may also give you time to fix the things that others may see as an issue such as plot, flow and grammar. There is a possibility your friends may not be honest or simply not know what to look for.  Make sure your reviewers represent many types of possible readers. You may need to step out of your comfort zone a bit for this.

The biggest issue is that there are way more books that need to be read than there are reliable reviewers. Book reading takes a few hours to a few days, so overall it's a slow process. Its an even longer, grating process if the reviewer is not really into the book. Writing an interesting review can also take a little time.
When a blogger, reviewer or Beta Reader,  mentions that they accept ARCs they get swamped with requests and honestly you just cannot accept them all. We, as readers are not going to like everything presented and we still have a life outside of reading. No matter what that shirt says.

ARC distribution should be divided between influencers and niche sites. Use high volume big influencers for say 85-90% and 10-15% for smaller more personalized niche promoters. Niche promoters help to bring in new fans and customers that you may not have ordinarily found.

For example, this past Monday after the Superbowl I did a post about my experience watching the big game for the first time and captured the attention of  health, sports, fitness, music and entertainment enthusiasts. Normally, these people would not have been interested in a book blog, but my niche posting brought all kinds of people to the yard.

On the Who She Reads blog...
I try really hard to look for books to put on my blog that have under 100 reviews. My preferred finds have 20 or less reviews. Books that have been published recently with the exception of my Dollar Tree finds are my second favorite. So I could be considered a niche site.  If you have hundreds of reviews you are probably doing ok for yourself. If your sales are slowing down you may want to think about doing an individual blast to stir up more interest.

only about 20% of consumers leave reviews. Read please review for more on this issue.

Knowing your target audience...
Who are you writing for and where are your potential customers? Bloggers can help you reach those audiences.
A book with 100's of reviews probably sold thousands of copies or more. You probably don't need much help in the promotion department. You probably have a dedicated fan base. While I may read and love your stuff, and occasionally blog about you, you are not my target demographic. As a book blogger and promoter, I want to help authors who are emerging and help you get found by the avid reader open to experiencing a new author.


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