Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Catch-22 of Book Promotion

So I'm little more than two weeks into this self-publishing venture, and EON is making what I would describe as decent progress.  It's not burning up the charts, but it's performing respectably in my opinion - despite seesawing wildly in the rankings.  It actually broke into the TOP 100 in one of its genres earlier today, but has since slid back.  At present, it ranks as follows:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,657 Paid in Kindle Store
#107 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Metaphysical & Visionary
#178 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Colonization
#179 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Space Exploration

As always, the problem for new authors - unless you already have a platform of some sort and followers - is marketing/promotion.  That is, getting eyeballs on your book.  With that in mind, most new authors will go to one of the zillions of book promotion sites and try to schedule a promotion. Basically, you pay a site that [allegedly] has a ton of interested readers on a list somewhere a certain amount of money, and they will include your book in communications that they regularly send to the aforementioned readers. 

Sounds simple enough, right? The market system at work: you have a product or service that I want, so I will pay you for it.  However, in this instance, money alone may not be enough to get your book included in the marketing of many book promotion sites.  (How dare you even suggest such a thing, you Philistine!) No, in many cases, the cash doesn't matter (or matter as much). Your novel has to be shown to meet the lofty standards of the site in question. And how is that evidenced?  By reviews, of course.  But the problem is that, as a new author with a new book, you don't have any reviews.

The situation reminds me a story I once heard about Hollywood: if you worked in certains trades or crafts (eg, carpenter, makeup artist, etc.), you had to be in the union in order to work on a movie set or TV show.  However, in order to joint the union, you first had to be employed on a film or a television series.  It was a catch-22.

Book promotion is in that same sort of snake-eating-its-tail cyclicality: you need reviews in order for sites to be willing to promote your work.  (Sometimes 5, often 10, and occasionally as many as 20, but reviews you must have.) But to get reviews, you generally need sales, and sales in turn often come from marketing.  In order to market, however, you need reviews...

That said, there are some book marketing sites that don't require reviews, and there are several that will make exceptions for new releases. There are also a number of them that will allow you to submit to have your book marketed for free. However, those site are the exceptions in and of themselves.

Still, it's not all bad news in regards to my specific situation, either.  I do have one review for my book, and I've had a number of people sign up for my newsletter, which seems to indicate that they like my writing.  And the book hasn't even been out a month yet.  With any luck, I will continue to make steady sales while writing the next book, and hopefully when it gets released it will lift sales for the first book in the series.  (As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.) But to make that happen I have to get back to the business of writing...

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