Weekend Indie Warrior Ponders Exposure Issue: Do We Need a Representative Collective?

Day 2 of promo with EReader News Today and “Red Clay and Roses” woke up surprised at Amazon Bestsellers Rank #35, and by bedtime was at #66.  The flag came down and Taps was heard throughout the land.

448366209_25180ef76dI went alligator hunting last night and slayed the toughest one I could find in the swamps of Florida.  I skinned it and wrapped myself tight in its leathery thickness preparing for the possibility of reviews yet to come.  I know with additional exposure, there are bound to be people with varying opinions about the work, possibly the author, and possibly personal political/religious opinions expressed due to the nature of the sensitive issues in the writing.

I will tell you how this went.  A complicated pricing issue prevented me from reducing my price to 99 cents. I notified ENT to pull the ad, but they said they didn’t need too, they would post a disclaimer reminding people that the actual price might vary, and they did.  So, at $2.99, it sold more books in 2 days than it had sold in the entire life of the book which was originally published in March of 2013.

My analytical mind wonders, why?


It is the only answer.  Continued sell may depend on quality, but initial depends on exposure.

On day one, hours after the ad was up on ENT, I had only 2 sells.  ENT sent me an email saying that they were about to post the ad to their Facebook page (which I did not even know they had).  I went to their page and saw that they had 464,000 “Likes”.  That is a huge audience, but nowhere near the size of Amazon’s.  Sometimes big is too big. The price did not seem to make a difference, the audience did.

A friend did a promo yesterday that was less than successful and my analytical mind wanted to know, why?

I checked the site’s Facebook page, they have 258 “Likes”. Perhaps they will build a better audience over time and posting ads with them will become highly effective.

You have all heard me say before that I feel we Indies have set our pricing ceiling too low.  We are our own worst enemy. I have lurked in reading rooms and forums to hear that most readers download cheap books and “deals” but don’t value them enough to read them.  Knowing many readers who buy books priced at $8.00, I know that people will pay for what interests them.  It is a matter of getting in front of the interested people.  Search Engines on monster sites with 20 million books don’t help.

I went all over Amazon’s site yesterday with keywords and “Red Clay and Roses” was still impossible to search, even with improved rank, without at least two precisely matched keywords.  Not all readers are going to know those precise keywords.  It may help, if they do. For example, I have read Historical Fiction for years, but NEVER did I know to search by the century. Yet, that is a required keyword through the BISAC Subject Codes that Amazon uses in its search engine.

I don’t have any solutions. I wish that I did.  There are quite a few associations and organizations attempting to tackle Indie issues; reputation, quality, recognition, and so on. I would like to see good literary work by Indies recognized and exposed. I don’t know if Independent platforms for Indies to promote their work are the answer. Again, that puts a boundary, draws a line between Indie published work and traditionally published work. I am not sure that is the answer either.

If there was a platform for increasing exposure of excellence in literary work, how would the bar be set for each genre?

Some readers prefer expressive poetic prose; other readers prefer the minimalist approach in writing; others like to see a nice balance.  Much of that depends on the reader audience. Much depends on setting and time period. Some people focus on character development; others focus on action or plot.  Reading is a subjective experience.  Who will decide what is worthy for exposure as excellent?

How do you design a criteria? Do you set the bar at number of five star reviews (we all know there are many with nothing but 5 stars from family and friends, just go to GoodReads and you will see hundreds), overall rating, number of reviews in conjunction with ratings,  # of copies sold, do you say: maintains a four star rating over period of one year?  Do you have a panel of experts/editors committed to reading and deciding what is worthy? (That would be a daunting task even for the devoted).  Do you cover all genre or limit the platform to one specific genre?  Do you use purely objective, empirical data, or do you permit subjective opinion? Do you create a high standard checklist that reviews all of the above?

If you were the coordinator of a selling platform of excellence, how would you approach this?
If such a collective were formed, to promote excellence would you apply, or does the distinction dissuade you?

Readers and Writers ring in here:

32 thoughts on “Weekend Indie Warrior Ponders Exposure Issue: Do We Need a Representative Collective?

  1. Price is a big issue. Piracy is another big issue. My hope is that the best quality books will simply rise to the top, and the fluff and awful will sink into neverland where it belongs. Some of these “best sellers” make me wonder at the future of humanity, while others give me hope.

    • It is good to have hope. I don’t like the Indie ceiling being so low. Piracy mostly occurs after books have been “FREE” as the pirates don’t even wish to spend a dollar.

    • The piracy issue is interesting in that I didn’t think I’d have to think about anyone ‘stealing’ my book. Over the first six or so months after release I noticed that there were a lot more people telling me they’d downloaded it than were showing up on my sales statement.The comments or questions they provided indicated that they had to have read it. The gall of some folks! I did a search and it was listed on one site that I found (along with a helluva good review!) but that’s all I could find at the time. A friend of mine has the theory that the person that downloads a pirated book probably wouldn’t buy it anyway so I’m not out a sale. I’m not sure if it’s balancing out but these days if someone tells me they’ve downloaded it, the sale shows up within a couple of weeks. I suppose having pirated copies of my book out there is flattering in a way…or is it?

      • I don’t know, I would like to think it is flattering. I had given my book away for free (which pirates will jump on). My independent publisher said during the freebie over 2000 copies were downloaded. Then, I started seeing my book on dozens of pirate sites around the world, often for the equivalent of $15.00 American dollars. I spent weeks locating contact info and writing each site, which is what I was told to do, and asking them to take it down. All but one requested Torrent site did, and I had to threaten legal action for that one. I don’t do freebies anymore. I am surprised you report a good review on a site. I don’t see readers downloading the off of pirated sites of that character that would post a good review. It speaks volumes to your work being impressive, Mike, I would think.

        • Oops…bad edit. I forgot the old ‘proof thrice before posting’ rule. I had originally mentioned a site that sold my download but I’ve never been compensated for it. It’s an issue with the site that I think may be resolved soon. I decided to delete the mention as it really had no bearing on piracy but missed taking out my ‘review’ comment.

  2. Oh Susan some great great thoughts in here. I liked this line, “Continued sell may depend on quality, but initial depends on exposure.” Yup, it is why people spend so much money on targeted advertising, making sure you hit the right audience first will help you overall. I hope you continue to see success! As to promotion, really there isn’t going to be a perfect solution as you say, no one size fits all. I believe it is up to the author to find the right program for them to promote their book or work. (Just my opinion).

    • Thanks for sharing your opinion GE. You read and recommend a lot of books, (or don’t recommend as the need be). What about excellence and a collective? Do you feel excellence can be qualified or quantified?

      • That is a very subjective topic. On one hand you have the English snobs who qualify fine literature but on the other hand you have actual readers who read things like John Grisham and Patterson and ignore the snobby stuff (for the most part).

        Then you have someone like Oprah who if she likes your book, bam instant sales. (not guaranteed that those people will actually read your book though).

        I think as a writer you should strive for personal excellence in all your writing and no matter what you can always get better. The idea is to push yourself.

        As to someone who is trying to sell books, most times it really just boils down to luck that the right person gives the right recommendation.

        • Word of mouth is paramount once initial sells are made. You are absolutely correct about that.

          I hear you saying that the subjective reader experience determines quality in your mind. What one may like another may dislike. That’s why it is so difficult to set a standard.

  3. Susan:
    Have you ever used PPC advertising on Facebook or Google, I wonder how that would work out? Thanks for sharing your experience as an indie author. Personally I think you should keep the book at $3 at least. Sale pricing at $0.99 just devalues the work in my opinion.

    • I agree. When my Read Tuesday promo is over, I will go back to $3.99 from $2.99. I have never had it at 99 cents because I feel the same way about valuation. I have been told that it is best not to play with price too much because people watching think is is fickle and amateurish, like the author is searching and not professional or confident. I don’t know who these people are that are supposed to be “watching”. I only do promos about twice a year where the price is dropped, but I would like more advertising and many won’t advertise you unless you go down to the bargain basement. What is PPC?

  4. Good thoughts. As a veteran of marketing I can say the four P’s apply to books as it did to other products. Product has to be right. Price reflects product.(not necessarily cheap) Place has to be easy for the end user (reader) to find. Promotion needs to talk to the other P’s to build awareness. (How many get the message how many times) There is not one of the Ps that will mean success it is a combination.

  5. All good thoughts and i like that you are sharing them all with us. Have you visited Dean Wesley Smith? He is adamant about indie pricing higher and his argument makes sense. Don’t have the link now, but just google him. Also, some writers believe that piracy is actually good for and author. Good luck with the alligator skin.:>)

    • That’s why my author put my book on the free site to start with. He said that the downloads would would encourage readers to a worldwide audience, but then I see that most people who download freebies don’t read them.

      My book was at $4.99 for a while and sold at that price slowly, changing it to $3.99 did not change a thing. The $2.99 is temporary.

    • Thanks for turning me onto this guy. It is nice to see fresh opinions on publishing that are congruent with my own. This guy is highly successful and he has been writing and publishing for a while.

  6. This is a brilliant article and some excellent thoughts and I seriously wish that I knew the answer. I have taken the decision to make my book FREE for the Read Tuesday promotion, only because no one is buying it anyway and with the sequel due out in the next couple of months, I thought that someone might download it and then want to buy the sequel. Who knows? I had my book at £0.99 for ages…. nothing, I put it up to £2.99…. nothing, so I settled at £1.99…. still nothing. I changed the keywords… nothing. I know that like you, you have to search pretty much for the exact title or page through well over 100 pages to find my book. No one is going to do that. It frustrates me more than I can possibly say. I have no idea what the solution is. For my part, I am going to try to do some marketing, try to target some free sites, some paid sites and see what happens. Especially when both books are out there, but you are so right when you say that it is being in front of the right people. You need your book to be seen by the right audience. I just wish I had a clue how to achieve that. It is soul destroying. In terms of pricing and de-valuing, then I would agree. But I cannot see how charging a higher price for my book, would make it any more attractive when no one is buying it at the existing price? Even though I personally think I should be charging more. I am not too bothered about the piracy issue particularly. I know it is wrong and I know that it is stealing, but there will always be ways to get things without paying for it and I suppose I kind of think that at the moment, any exposure is worth it. I did a blog post about this a while back, and that seemed to be the consensus. Here is the post in case you fancy having a look. http://jadereyner.com/2013/05/17/ebook-piracy-should-i-be-flattered/

    Thank you for a great post, great information and let’s just keep on doing what we are doing together. And keep on sharing and supporting each other. I think that is the most valuable thing we can do. 🙂

    • I cannot emphasise the importance of trying Ereader News Today. My book went from #250,000 to # 2032 overnight, and got on the top 100 BestSellers list at #35, stayed there for two days creeping back up to #66, During that 2 day promo I sold more books than the whole 9 months since it has been published. Now the sells have slowed, but they are still happening slowly and I am back above #10,000 on the seller’s list, but the flicker of fame was nice.

      • I must look into that. Is that available in the UK as well? I am so pleased for you that your book did so well. It just goes to show how much difference it makes when people are actually SEEING your book! I am glad that you are still selling and then hopefully the new reviews will generate more sales for you. I am keeping everything crossed! 🙂

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