I realize that, for some, this realization might not be particularly earth shattering. But when I was researching whether to self-publish, statistics were everywhere: Downloads. Amazon ranking. Page views. Indie fairy tales with a six-figure ending. E-readers market share. Decline in print sales.
Every one, it seemed, was talking about devices and distribution, consumers and downloaders. But what about the readers? In the mad dash for visibility and platform creation, some writers seem to have forgotten that not only does our long-term success hinge on cultivating relationships with readers—as opposed to consumers—but the stories themselves depend on devoted readers.
There are a number of indie publishing prophets tossing around a lot of sexy statistics. For example, did you hear about Amanda Hocking’s deal? I bet you did, and hey, it’s one hell of a deal—exactly the sort of fairy tale that can make toiling away in a dark, damp basement seem worthwhile.
In fact, I have a confession to make: When I first waded into the indie publishing waters, I thought that my number one priority should be getting as many copies of KINGDOM onto as many e-readers as possible. Free downloads—that was the ticket. And through Amazon KDP free days and the like, 15,000 or so people downloaded KINGDOM. But lately I’ve been wondering: how many actually read it? The most majority of downloaded copies are probably languishing alongside a hundred or so similar freebies. The sheer glut of content generated by these promotional giveaways is staggering; how many books are being snagged then forgotten?
While these numbers might yield some sort term gain, in the long run, our stories will suffer. After all, when a story gets published, its not actually done; it’s just moving to the next stage in an on-going creative process. By devouring their favorite stories, readers often reveal elements of the characters and story that surprise even the author. Literature needs to be discussed and dissected. It needs to be loved; it needs to be loathed—visceral is always better than lukewarm. If your story is sitting on an e-reader along with 100 other indie books, odds are this will never happen.
Find Your Readers
The fascination with numbers, rather than readers, is understandable; the numbers are seductive, and all writers dream of during their hobby into a profession. But it’s critical to not allow the numbers to get in the way of engaging readers.
So what’s the antidote to all this? Rather than focusing on numbers, let’s concentrate on finding as many ways to engage readers as possible. This month, for example, I’m participating in the Book Club Bash, where reading groups get together and dissect several new indie novels, including my baby, KINGDOM. I’m thrilled, because events like Book Club Bash are going to help authors distinguish themselves from the current glut of indie authors chasing the numbers. Indie publishing is about building relationships, reader by reader.
So the next time you come across those headline grabbing indie statistics, take a deep breath. There are quite a number of writers taking the self-publishing plunge at the moment, and the ones who survive the inevitable culling will be the authors who ignore the numbers and focus on what truly matters: the reader.
Somewhere in the neon sprawl outside the nation's collapsing economic core, a group of renegade monks are on the verge of uncovering a secret that has eluded mankind for centuries.
In a glittering tower high above the urban decay, an ascendant U.S. Senator is found dead--an apparent, yet inexplicable, suicide.
And in the streets below, a young man races through an ultra modern metropolis on the verge of a violent revolution....closing in on the terrible truth behind Exodus--and one man's dark vision for the future of mankind.
Welcome to Tiber City.
Kindle Edition: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0085DY50A/
Paperback Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Kingdom-Anderson-ODonnell/dp/0615553184/