KingMidget's Ramblings

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The Difficulty of Indie Publishing


One of the best indie writers out there is Kevin Brennan. He writes literary fiction. Stories not quite like any other. I mean, who comes up with a story about a small town in the 1800s occupied entirely by women, who band together and “hire” a man to come out west to help continue the town’s population? Or a road trip tale about an old-style arcade game?

What both Kevin and I have discovered is that indie writers who write literary fiction have a rough row to hoe. Better to write romance or legal thrillers or some other genre where readers have some comfort in the formula of that genre.

That’s the thing about indie writing and publishing though. A lot of what I read from indie authors doesn’t necessarily fit into a particular genre and even when it does, there’s a difference. And that’s what is so good about what indie authors produce — stories you won’t see from the traditional publishers.

So … Kevin just published a book. Eternity Began Tomorrow. As he describes it, it is a political thriller that revolves around climate change. If that isn’t a timely tale, I’m not sure what is.

Kevin published the book on September 18 in e-book format only. For the princely sum of $2.99, you too can buy a copy of his latest and be entertained by one of the best out there. Let’s remind ourselves that the traditional publishers are charging four or five times that amount for e-books these days.

As of yesterday, Kevin had sold a grand total of 9 e-book copies of his tale. 9. And I’m one of them. I haven’t read it yet, because I’m plowing my way through a book about the Olof Palme assassination in 1986 and I want to finish the damn thing before I move on.

But, still … 9?!?!?! Kevin has over 1,350 followers on Twitter. In three days, he only sold 9 copies of his new e-book. 9!! Have I said that enough yet?

Here’s the problem. We writers want followers. We want people reading our blogs and our tweets and then we want them to buy our books when we publish them, but the one does not, obviously, follow the other. Over 1,350 followers and almost every single one didn’t bother to put out $2.99 to buy the e-book of one of the best writers in the indie community.

It’s disgusting and depressing.

One some level, I get it. Many of those 1,350 followers probably follow hundreds if not thousands of other people on Twitter. So the chance that they are actually seeing every tweet that passes through their feed is slim and none. But still. 9! Out of 1,350!

One of the things I’ve noticed is how much writers on Twitter crave more followers there. Hate to break it to you, but followers do not translate into purchasers and readers.

There has to be some way for quality indie authors to break through this morass. For people like Kevin to find the audience he so richly deserves. I’m struggling, as I know Kevin is, to figure out what that way is.

All I know is this … if you’re reading this and haven’t given Kevin a try, do so. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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18 responses to “The Difficulty of Indie Publishing

  1. TamrahJo September 22, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    On list to ‘buy’ when I can – tight budget just this moment – even for $2.99 – on other hand, sharing perspective – on Twitter followers vs. sales – in the past 3 days, he has had .0067% return, on what I assume, is ‘time connecting, not paid marketing’ endeavors – – – Long ago, I pre-sold 2 copies out of 67 followers, when I thought pre-sales options might encourage me to ‘just publish’ work – ( a .0298%) return on time investment – I refunded their money when too much time went by, was encouraged when all two said, “No need for you to do that, hope you still publish it one day – thanks for refund, though, I didn’t expect/want/need it – but undersand why you did” – etc. Given my long ‘reading/researching’ into these things? For realistic expectations, in directmail, online click ads/pay for advertisements? Expect .005 – .01% return – strive for better – connect, but just know, building the numbers/connections/platform to do so, the time spent to approach for long term goals, not quick wins.

    All this, for me, says what I’ve seen boots on the ground, for ages – – Word of Mouth is hands down the best ROI on advertising, in long run – making it possible/easy for folks to find you/promote you/share – is important too –

    Building systems that let you work every day, connect for real and share, over and over again, on foundations, while improving/tweaking/updating without having to re-invent the wheel everytime, well – they pay off, long run –

    I still don’t even have a website – my colleagues in cyberland works who live in urban, blazing speed internet service, and make 6-25 times what I do, can’t believe I get customers –

    But I do – and I do for them and work on ‘mine’ when time affords’ – just saying – Lots of ‘marketing advice’ is geared toward promises of ‘going viral, or big sales/short time, etc.” when, in the end, I’ve always, in real life or online, found it to be more cost/time effective to build, work, build some more, continue to work, etc. IT does ad up over time – AND doesn’t leave one swaying in breeze from folks that follow/follow/follow but are busy, too – πŸ™‚
    Sorry – couldn’t help myself – if I haven’t placed myself in ‘bloggy pal dog house” can you update post with direct link to the purchase work option? Cuz ya know – I bookmarked this, to look up/search out when I have the funds – πŸ™‚ Just saying….. πŸ™‚ Remember, I was only able to ‘purchase’ your book, you had removed from online option, BECAUSE I had connected with you in other ways and said, “HEY! I can afford to purchase – but it’s not there anymore?!?

    • kingmidget September 23, 2019 at 6:13 am

      I think the main point I was trying to make, which wasn’t likely very clear is this … it was a response to all of the writers-to-be on Twitter who celebrate the number of followers they have, as though that number of followers actually means anything. Here on WP, I’ve got almost 1,000 followers. But I can count on two hands the number of people who typically respond to my posts with any likes or comments.

      We’re supposed to have a social media platform and lots of followers, but it’s all a myth that any of this really means anything in the real world. So, yes, you’re right, there are better ways to find an audience. They just take a lot more work.

      • TamrahJo September 23, 2019 at 5:03 pm

        Yeah – throw out the ‘supposed to’ advice – – Pick the forums you feel ‘okay with’ and the platforms you choose to work in – that both serve your goals, fit with your personality and allow you to build connections in a way that doesn’t make you dread ‘going to work’ – CONNECTIONS and Word of Mouth is always more more dependable investment in marketing than anything else – IMHO – which yes, you did make clear – so, given your response – I will say – Yup, when I have time etc., I research and am often an early adopter – sometimes? I jump off the ‘wagon’ about the time everyone else in climbing on – sometimes, I experiment on myself – just to see/report back/learn (maybe…) new skills that are ‘keepers’ – to me? Much of online marketing advice doesn’t really work, really, and comes across as “this is what you should do’ instead of ‘this was my challenge – this is how I met it – I like this tool!” reports – Affiliate sales/accounts drive some of this – ads sold, others – – πŸ™‚ But, IF I had to choose one article that rather spoke to my heart and convinced me I wouldn’t be committing personal Hari-Kari if I just followed my heart? this one – and I still experiment on myself – funny thing is? I always focus on true connections, not numbers, stats or anything else – πŸ™‚ Here’s the link to the updated version of the original – original happened years ago before ye-olde site design thingee – but, the list still holds truth – just figure out one, work it – when it running good – ad another, if you are feeling fiesty and ready to expand – seriously – I get most my work from referrals – don’t even have a website yet – no one believes this in my service provider world – think I’m “missing out’ but works for me, now, and my clients, and crappola! IF I put up a website before I fully thought through anything – will be lots of work that doesn’t help anyone – meanwhile – I truck right along, helping others as they reach out – πŸ™‚ https://ittybiz.com/10-ways-to-market-your-business/

  2. Audrey Driscoll September 22, 2019 at 9:39 pm

    EBT is in my virtual TBR pile. I will read it ASAP, but I’m not sure when that will be. I have at least a dozen indie books in that queue, including 3 by Kevin. And you’re right, Mark — none of them fits comfortably into an existing, familiar genre, but I’m looking forward to reading my way through all of them.
    As to the difficulty of selling books, I think there’s just too much noise out there, from social media and traditional media alike. I don’t think it’s the cost of ebooks that stops people from buying them. To make a purchase, someone first has to take the time to get an idea of what the book is about. Even that is too much effort for some. And shelling out the $2.99 is in effect making a commitment to taking the time actually to read the book. In my experience, few blog readers get to that point, and maybe it’s the same for Twitter followers.

    • kingmidget September 23, 2019 at 6:15 am

      One of the things I’m convinced of is that all of these “followers” we have aren’t actually following. I have almost 1,000 followers here on WP. On days when I post something, there are typically only 20-40 views of my blog. So, yeah, “followers” ain’t exactly following, let alone buying a book I might publish. πŸ˜‰

      • Audrey Driscoll September 23, 2019 at 6:56 pm

        I’ve noticed the same thing. There are real followers (ones who read, “like,” and comment on posts) and maybe a few silent lurkers, but the rest of them… who knows?

    • TamrahJo September 23, 2019 at 7:25 pm

      Here – Here – Yes! Audrey – although – amidst the marketing advice noise, there are solid ways to rather understand/test/hone the ‘message/copy’ to get your message in front of folks who are your perfect customer – and then work it, work, it – but yes – algorithms, getting your message heard following general ‘Top 10 things to do’ advice in searches – just doesn’t, in my mind, cut it, really – I guess, in the end, no matter how online world/social media changes – I still always remember a story from traditionally published AND self-published author – who said[sic], “In traditional publishing model, I got $14,000 for my book/advance/etc. I had to ‘work my marketing’ and spent $10,000-$12,000 traveling and doing so – Self-publishing? No advance, time/expenses up front, but worked as hard or harder on my own marketing, BUT built steam and made, over time, way more than I ever did from traditional deals” – I will attempt to find the original post regarding this – read this in 2011 or so – not even sure if same blog, re-design site keeping original posts, even exists anymore – but it stuck with me – If either way means blood, sweat and tears, by gummy, I’ll sweat, bleed and cry for myself – instead of thinking someone will pay me, while they do it for me’ – πŸ™‚ but I’ a curmudgeon – πŸ™‚ and cling to ‘old, general advice that tends to stand fast as tech/time/folks ways race to the next bright shiny thing – ” that’s just me – πŸ™‚

      • Audrey Driscoll September 23, 2019 at 10:43 pm

        There must be as many approaches to marketing now as there are authors. Clearly, you’ve given it some thought. Thanks for adding your comment to mine!

      • TamrahJo September 24, 2019 at 12:16 am

        Been thinking about this stuff on various fronts since I was 13 and working in restaurants up through all the years of work in mom/pop shops, national corporations, civil service taxpayer funded positions, etc., across industries and size – there are some things that just earn their ROI on what’s invested, (time/money) the tools used or forums done in, may change/come/go – but in the end there are quick ways and slow ways to gain customers – there are easy ways to keep/retain and ways that set you up for never ending gerbil wheel and little else – sigh – can’t help me self – the fact that online sites, forums, and algorithms have all these ‘neat little stats’ they want to get data on, often which ‘none of the above’ really fits, right – means – we all search on how to ‘get word out – when we ‘don’t fit in the box’ and seriously, what great thinker or creative or human, for that matter, really fits in some General Label/Box – really? πŸ™‚ but all the options, advice, marketplaces, etc., seem to build for boxes – just like always – so all left to do is take tools at hand and build your durn box – πŸ™‚ slower, but pays of – just takes continued working it – thanks for ‘listening’ – I really ought to get my website live, with this info, so I quit blogging/bloggin in comments section about it – – LOL

  3. Kevin Brennan September 23, 2019 at 7:12 am

    Too kind, Mark. But thank you for the vote of confidence. Hey, at least I know I have nine great friends out there!

    You’re right though. I learned long ago that the number of followers is a complete illusion in terms of support. Also, it’s just a simple fact that nobody wants to pay for indie books. Not a cent. And sometimes you can’t even give books away!

    Nobody said this was gonna be easy … πŸ˜‰

  4. Kevin Brennan September 23, 2019 at 8:39 am

    Reblogged this on WHAT THE HELL and commented:
    Here’s friend-of-the-blog Mark Paxson’s take on the life of the indie fiction writer. Plus he says nice things about me!

    And here’s the link to Eternity Began Tomorrow for anyone who feels moved by Mark’s piece to buy a copy! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07XM4Y3BJ

    • TamrahJo September 23, 2019 at 7:28 pm

      Thank you!!! Bookmarked and on wish list!! If Mark recommends – It goes on ‘buy list’ – His least fave, acclaimed work, is, in the end, my fave – – πŸ™‚ So there ya go!!!

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  6. Diane Tibert September 25, 2019 at 7:27 am

    I’ve been blogging since January 2011. I have 831 followers. Some have bought my books, but the majority, just like your friend, have not. Since I started blogging, I’ve read in many places that blogs don’t sell fiction. Okay. I accept that. I still blog occasionally because I like the connections I’ve made with several followers. It is a home base for my books, but I don’t focus on selling books there.

    I’ve seen the bragging of numbers you speak of on Twitter. Like you, I know the numbers are meaningless when it comes to actual sales. This is why I don’t think of them. I have less than 2,000 followers, and I’m fine with that. I don’t go out of my way to gather followers. That means if someone follows they probably have an interest in what I do. In that case, my chances of getting a follower who will actually buy my book increases.

    About five years ago, I wrote a post that went viral and brought more than 60,000 visitors to my site in four days. I watched book sales. Everyone read the article but not one bought a book. What did that tell me? Numbers mean nothing. Traffic means nothing. I might have gotten two new followers. The rest were there to read and leave.

    How does one increase book sales? I don’t know. I sell more books at markets where I talk to readers face-to-face. I half tried the newsletter thing, but I feel they are the same as blogs: lots of people subscribe, but the percentage who buy are low.

    • kingmidget September 25, 2019 at 12:29 pm

      Thank you for your detailed response. I completely agree with what you said.

      I think the way to increase book sales is to affirmatively go to the places where readers are looking to find books they want to read. I actually made a couple of thousand dollars on my first novel because it was in a popular genre and I accessed some promotional sites that put the book in front of readers. Genre plus eyeballs equals better sales. But readers en mass rate not going to Twitter or blogs to find books.

  7. Patrick Prescott September 26, 2019 at 9:19 am

    When I first started e-publishing in 2011 I could sell ten to twenty copies a month at a buck a book. By 2013 it dried up. There is now such a glut on the market and Amazon is pushing the formula books so hard the independents are having to get word of mouth out not by fb or twitter, but blogging still works.

    • kingmidget September 26, 2019 at 9:23 am

      Amazon pushed First Read books every month. A handful of e-books you can download for free. In the last monthly email highlighting those books, I looked at each one. All of them were published by one of Amazon’s publishing arms. Every single one. Amazon has become a vertical monopoly when it comes to books.

      And you highlight another problem. So many books published each and every year. It’s hard to make any noise in such a saturated marketplace.

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