Saturday, 5 November 2011

So what do I get for my 99 cents?

Well, for one thing you’ll be helping towards the discovery of the next Tom Clancy, Stephen King or Jackie Collins, depending on your genre. You see, all of the above, at one point in time, were first time authors no-one had ever heard of, yet now they are household names. They made the transition from unknown to unforgettable because they had big publishing houses behind them, companies willing to take their product to the public.

That in itself wasn’t enough to generate sales, though. What they needed was the public to believe the hype and actually read their work. Once they had, word began to spread. Not at its current rate (the internet wasn’t around in those days) but through traditional advertising methods such as magazine articles and also word of mouth.

But flourish they did, and now they have built up such a following that their next release is guaranteed sales with the minimum of promotion.

It’s not quite the same for the indie author, though, and the main reason we initially struggle is that many people associate the word ‘indie’ with ‘unpublishable’. If our books are so great, why haven’t we been snapped up by one of the big publishing houses?

The answer is simple: we no longer need them. Self-publishing has become so easy that anyone with a little knowledge of Microsoft Word can format a manuscript and upload it to Amazon or Smashwords and make it available to the world. By going it alone the author can realise much better royalties than they would get with a publishing house and have complete control over their work.

This does bring about the main problem, though: anyone can self-publish a book regardless of their ability to tell a story. The only way to separate the wheat from the chaff is to look at reviews.

I have been lucky that Gray Justice has been well received on Amazon, Goodreads and Smashwords, with over 20 reviews, the vast majority 5 star and the rest 4 stars. This was only possible because a few people were willing to risk 99 cents and were rewarded with what they considered a great read.

So the next time you see a book that catches your eye but you feel reluctant to take a chance on a new author, take a look at the reviews. They will go a long way to telling you what a literary ride you’re in for.

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