Yes, I know a ton of my blogging lately is very reflective on that very quiet and constantly disappointing first year of publishing. Then again, going for this ride together is largely what The Starving Artist is all about. I promise to keep throwing in the odd book review and monthly synopsis, but as for the writing life, publishing, and the artistic disposition, I think you can expect a lot more of the same, for awhile.
When you put a book up for sale on Amazon, you are aiming for a few things. You are all in for the accessibility and the ease of purchase, of course. If you used CreateSpace, you are also in it for the on-demand printing press. And then there’s the marketing opportunities.
Your book will start out day one at the bottom of the ranking pile. As you sell books, generate clicks and reviews, etc., your book will move up the rankings. Sometimes this happens really fast, and it always happens in jumps and starts. As your sales slow (or someone else’s sales increase), you will slide back down into oblivion, also in jumps and starts. None of this is done in a straightforward manner. Catherine Ryan Howard in her book Self-Printed says that Amazon generates its sales rankings not just from number of books sold, but from some secret algorithm. Not hard to believe; it’s basically the industry (as in internet) standard.
At the top of the rankings pile, supposedly, Amazon furthers your good fortune by making your book more visible to users and shoppers. This is also the way the internet, and probably lots of other sites (like Goodreads) operate. The higher you rank, the more natural marketing and more host-sponsored marketing happen. So moving up is the golden challis for making it big.
And I know I keep repeating it, but from the first day your listing goes live to one year later, it would be absurd to expect high sales, even after all your hard work. I have spent significant time on the web searching award-winning books and self-published books and scrutinizing their reviews, their sales ranks, their internet appearances, etc. Unfortunately, awards, exceptional reviews, and a great web presence do not necessarily reflect in the sales rank. Which means that the “best indie book of 2012” may not have made a living. At least not yet.
Whereas industry magazines have been full of the same story for years–I wrote and wrote for a long time and then finally got published at [age between 30 and 70]–I believe the magazines will slowly transition to this story: I published and published for a long time and finally got some sales at [insert age between 30 and 70]. That’s one of the many ways the game is changing. Sure, you can now publish a whole lot easier, but whereas the glut used to be in wanna’ be authors, the glut is now in books. So the breakthrough is no longer your publication date. It is the time when all your networking and marketing and perseverance finally lead to vastly increased recognition that translates to sales for your third, or fourth, or fifteenth book. As it always has been, luck (or magic dust) is also involved.
So, in sad conclusion, it happens to all of us. Just re-calibrate your thinking. You can get published. Simples. But when will you be the next big [enough] thing? That’s still to be determined.