author C.C.Cole's blog

Sunday, August 7, 2011

On Competition and the New Author by C.C.Cole

Since I’ve entered the cyber-sphere a few months ago, I’ve learned “promotion” is the proper word to use, not “advertise” or “push sales” for your book, as a new author.  I finally got it, and enjoy reviewing other Indie authors as well as reading classics.  Instead of making a generalization that writers are the nicest business competitors, sharing the love all over the Internet, there may be other professions somewhere that does the same.  (Though am clueless as to which profession that would be).

Question:  Are new authors competing against each other for sales?  Answer:  Yes, to an extent.  I do not think new authors are on the same level as Heinz vs. Hunt’s ketchup (like people buy Hunt’s??), or to the point of Mac vs. PC (?PC? You’re kidding, right?), but yes, as we promote, a buyer of new fiction ultimately has to make a choice of one book or series of books over another.  I went to the popular e-book site Smashwords, and on the page where the process of e-book publishing is explained, it is clearly stated that the new author will probably not sell many books.

This sounds depressing.  With the digital book revolution, we new authors are competing against at least a million other new authors (depending on which article you read, but if that’s a high or low estimate, the result is the same), not counting high-profile mainstream bestsellers, traditionally published books by new authors (if any are out there), and old classics, which I make a point of reading for my own education, as in literature, my hard science education left a gaping hole. 

What drives potential buyers to the books by new authors?  Again, from the non-expert in marketing, I know what doesn’t sell books:  if nobody’s heard of it.  That’s why the social network experts/self-publishing marketing experts try to teach us new authors all the time; get your name out there, people need to know about your book, don’t’ be a spammer.  I’m glad I’ve come the distance where I haven’t had a spam accusation in many months.  So in our cautious but steady promotions, are we selling our books?  Answer:  probably.  What makes good promotions?  Reviews?  Yes, that’s one of many promoting tools, and I like reading reviews done by readers instead of some newspaper that charged the author $2K to say something nice.

On Facebook, I have friends that continue to say they don’t understand Twitter.  For book promotion, come on new authors; if you went the distance and wrote a book, you can learn how to tweet.  Learn to tweet.  I still like the interaction of FB, but Twitter is where it’s at.  What about ads?  I’m not convinced straight advertising directly leads to book sales, but it’s an old, tried-and-true method for promoting about every other product.  I run ads, sporadically, but keep the money reeled in, and do my best not to spam. 

So with every book I review and post (and I only post the good ones; I do what I do, others can do what they do), am I selling their books but not my own?  Maybe, I am, but I doubt it.  Better question:  will it make a difference in the big picture, meaning, will my five-star review of Bernard Schaffer’s book “Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes” do a disservice to me because I wrote about how great his book is, and not my own?  Answer:  Probably not.  Reviewing gives something to the author and helps them with their promotion.  Reviews are part of the process.  I haven’t seen a successful Indie book by a new author yet that sold without reviews.  Bashing other new authors:  I don’t know and don’t care if it would sell my books or not, I’m not doing it, period.

New authors, especially Indies, we’re all in this together.  I’ve said on other articles and many tweets:  If you’re writing to get rich, get a plan B.  Your greatest contribution is your work.  By making contributions to other writers with reviews, features, or interviews, yes you’re helping them, but your name is on the positive message so important to our psyche.  And the biggest point is, never give up.  Why should we give up?  That makes less sense, if we’re truly driven to write, as most writers are.  So write, promote, and tweet about something excellent from your books, your favorite dessert, or your latest zombie obsession (rated G, please).  Bring it; another new author will bring something back to you.

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