First of all, you’re not a failed author, although I guess we are all plagued by those damaging thoughts sometimes. There are plenty of reasons, though, to think that you have failed as a writer, and believe me, those reasons have nothing to do with you.
So, before I begin, you are NOT a failed author. The problem is that you are publishing your books at a time when the book market is saturated, at a time when ANYONE can basically self-publish a book.
The fact is, between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books are published per year, EVERY year. So, even if you’re the next Hemingway or Langston Hughes, no one will notice your awesome work. It gets lost under the pile of self-published books that are being spewed out on a daily basis.
The Thing About Self-Publishing
I’m not against self-publishing. I have also self-published my books and I love the freedom it gives me. I’d recommended it over vanity publishing any time. Nowadays, it is hard to get a traditional publisher to represent you or to even find an agent. It could take years or it could never happen. However, it’s not impossible either.
There are writers who get picked up by traditional publishers and who are lucky enough to find an agent. Regardless, they still have to turn into social media experts and marketers to get their books noticed. The publisher is not necessarily going to market your books.
And let’s face it, not all authors are marketers.
And here comes the other issue.
“Want to make money online? Publish a book on Amazon!” Yay, money problem solved. Publish a book. How often have I seen that slogan online? What a load of misleading nonsense.
Yes, you can make money by publishing a book. You can make lots of money. Absolutely! But you’re up against millions of other books, and to get people to buy your book you MUST do intense marketing.
A lot of marketers are publishing their books now and they know how to move and push their books.
Although this is great for them and I think we should learn from their methods, the real authors, the ones who have this innate talent, the ones who penned their first story when they were six, or ten, or twelve, who were storytellers all their lives and are brimming with talent, are forgotten.
“Get your friends and family to buy your book and leave reviews on Amazon! It will boost your ranking,” is another tip I often see online. Yes, that helps, a lot, at least if you get them to do it … Some authors are lucky enough to have some friends and family read their work and review it, but in reality, most friends and family are not as supportive as would be expected.
I hear many writers complain about their spouses, parents, siblings, and friends being unsupportive. They scoff at their efforts and never even look at their books. That can hurt, especially since a book is a huge part of a writer, it is an outpouring of their soul.
In my case, from my family and friends, only my aunt and two friends have bought my books – since 2012, when I published my first book – that’s it. My other friends haven’t. In 2013, I sent them free copies and asked them to leave reviews. “Yes! Absolutely! Will do!” Nothing happened. Too busy …
Leaving a book review on Amazon or Goodreads is like writing a post on Facebook for which many seem to have plenty of time. I stopped asking for reviews. I let it go. But I can’t say that it didn’t hurt.
One friend keeps on telling me what a great writer I am, but when I ask her to leave just one review, explaining how it would really help ratings, she says she is too busy.
I know people who have been too busy for over 20 years. I wonder when they’ll stop being busy. 😉
I would say that my aunt is my biggest fan and I am very grateful for her support. She is always eager to get my newest books. As soon as another one is out she buys it and reads it in two days. She has always been an avid reader and I am glad that she is so supportive.
My aunt is one wonderful person who loves my books. As an author you need more than one person, don’t you?
How can Readers See Your Books?
If you want to get noticed as an author you need to do the following:
- Build a website
- Learn SEO
- Be active on social media
- Run free and paid promotions
- Amazon offers some but they are limited. As soon as you run a free promotion on one book you can’t do it again any time soon, so that limits your chances to get noticed. I understand why they do this, though. With millions of books on their site they must have some control over their promotions and give everyone a chance to promote their books.
- Do not limit yourself to Amazon.
- I recommend also publishing on Smashwords, since they offer your book not only on their website but also on many other book platforms such as Fnac, Barnes and Noble, and other major retailers. So, Smashwords is worth it.
- The only downside is that once you publish with Smashwords you cannot have your books on Amazon Kindle Unlimited, since Kindle Unlimited is exclusive. If you want to use Kindle Unlimited you will have to unpublish your books from Smashwords.
- Depending on your budget, run Facebook ads and/or PPC (pay per click).
- Share an excerpt of your book on your website.
- Create video trailers on YouTube and with some imagination you can create other related videos to promote your book(s)
You see, it’s a lot of work and not everyone wants to do it. It requires many hours at the computer on a daily basis, and that doesn’t even involve writing your book. And even when you do all this, you still have to get your website on page 1 on Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
If your website is on page 5 or 10 or 45 or any other number besides 1 or maybe 2, no one will see your website. How many times have you clicked on page 2 or even 3 when you performed a search on Google, Bing, or Yahoo? Me? I may have done so once or twice in the last two years.
See, you have to get on Google, Bing, and/or Yahoo page 1 and that also needs time, work, and dedication.
You are by no means a failed author. Get that out of your head. You just happen to be a writer in a time and age where books are no longer considered something precious to hold in your hands. Books are now marketing tools.
Amazon disclaimer: as an Amazon associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases, at no extra cost to you :-)
Remember that this is also the age of instant gratification. You must hook the reader’s attention from page 1, or chapter 1 if they even make through the first chapter and find exactly what they expect.
Readers are more demanding. Agents are too, having to adapt to the demands.
Most people want action in chapter 1, it has to be fast-paced, and many balk at long descriptions. I wonder why Stephen King still gets away with his long descriptions when so many people are complaining about it. But well … he’s Stephen King.
See what I mean? Unless you have support or a big name, it’s a fight in the trenches and you have to shoot your way through No Man’s Land to get to the end line, running among many others with the same purpose. It isn’t easy.
I didn’t write this to put you off publishing. I think it is important to be honest. An author who wants to share their work and not use the self-publishing business as a way to make a quick buck is up against huge competition. We’ve all heard the saying among writers that we are not each other’s competition and that we should support each other, but honestly, how many writers support other writers by buying their books and leaving reviews? Not many.
Many indie-authors are supportive of each other because we know how hard it is to get noticed, but in reality there is competition and in some online groups there’s even favoritism, and it is tough to get to the top. It isn’t easy. A lot of hard work is required. If you have supporters, that is amazing. Be grateful and cherish them. Not every author has them.