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How To Promote Your Self-published Book – Unorthodox Advice! Part Two.

After ten months promoting my book “The Prince and the Singularity – A Circular Tale” I’ve reached the conclusion that most of the promotion suggestions you can find on the internet are pretty irrelevant and little more than formulaic. Even worse, the things that do matter are either never mentioned or not mentioned in detail and, as I have laboriously found out, the devil really is in the detail.   So I’ve decided to write a series of articles on how to promote self-published books. Here is the second instalment:

II – “Amazon Bestselling Author” And Other Titles

– Not Necessarily What It Seems –

If you’ve been browsing self-published authors’ profiles on Smashwords or Amazon you’re probably a bit amazed at how many of them sport the title “Amazon Bestselling Author”. How come all these people are selling millions and you aren’t? And you never heard of any of them, which is very strange indeed because they all seem to be also “award-winning” authors. And there’s so many of them. Are they giving Booker Prizes weekly now? How odd.

Well, before you go green with envy, let me introduce you to the subtle but very important distinction between the bestselling lists for each genre and the general bestsellers list (Amazon has lots of different lists, so I’ll simplify it a bit to keep things easy and clear).

The general list is difficult to crack but the genre lists are quite easy, actually. My book sold 72 copies on a certain day and that was enough to get it to #32 in the Spirituality genre bestselling list. How many copies would have been needed to get to just #99 and earn me the coveted title of “Amazon Bestselling Author”? I don’t know, but 50 copies would probably have done it.

So you can very easily be an Amazon bestselling author on the release date of your very first self-published book without anyone ever having heard about you or having even read the book. All you need to do is:

a) price the book at 0.99 USD

b) get a network of 50 friends to download it on release day

This can be next to impossible to achieve for some people but doable for others. If you’re on college or working a certain type of jobs or are active in a sports club association, getting 50 people to help you may not be that difficult. And even if you’re paying for all the downloads it costs just 49.50 USD.

I’m sorry if I’ve just ruined your respect for Amazon Bestselling Authors but the aim of this blog is precisely to explain the stuff that other blogs don’t tell you about.

Now be aware that not all genres are born equal. If you check the pricing table for advertising on the bookbub site (and assuming these guys know what they’re talking about) you’ll get a good understanding of the relative market weight of each genre:

I suggest you take your time to analyse this table (especially the “average downloads” column). I find it quite fascinating and it (indirectly) gives you info that publishers tend not to make public in a way that is easy to digest.

Obviously if your book belongs to the genres that sell the most, like “Mysteries” or “Contemporary Romance” it will require higher sales to crack the respective genre’s bestselling list. This is bad (and expensive) news if you’re thinking of cheating your way to the “Amazon Bestselling Author” title, but good news if you’re trying to honestly earn money out of writing, as those are the genres that sell the most.

In a future blog post I’ll show you how you can crack your book’s genre bestselling list in a “clean” way that will not bring damnation to your soul or get you reincarnated as a cockroach (depending on your religion), and bring you a profit on top.

In the meantime you can also easily add the “Smashwords Bestselling Author” title to your author’s name simply by following the advice given on the first article in this blog series:

I – How To Do Giveaways On The Goodreads Site

If you follow the advice contained in that article, you’ll get quite a lot of downloads from the Smashwords site. Although those downloads will generate no real sales, because they will be powered by a 100% discount coupon, they will almost assuredly get your book into the Smashwords’ Top #20 in the “Units Sold” list, which amazingly counts downloads with 100% discount coupon as “sales”. Go figure…

Regarding the profusion of “award-winning” authors that I mentioned in the beginning of this article, you should be aware that there is a growing cottage industry of for-profit literary awards. Tipically, you pay something like 40 USD to enroll, there are 150 participants and there are prizes for seven different genres, with first, second and third prizes for each genre. Also a General Winner and a runner-up. That adds up to 23 prizes for 150 participants, which gives you a very comfortable 15% chance of winning something and becoming an “award-winning” author.

I had an argument many months ago with someone who lives in the USA, about this sort of competitions. She argued that it doesn’t matter if these things are for-profit or not. They are providing a service and charging for it. Nothing wrong with that. At the end of the day you had won and someone else hadn’t so it is perfectly fair that you sport the title of “award-winning” author.

I think there is a cultural difference at play here. I’m European (Portuguese) and as all Americans know too well Europeans are all closet socialists (except for the British). I am no closet socialist, but I do believe that literary awards should be organized not directly for profit by literary organizations, publishing industry associations or some country’s Ministry of Culture (ok, I’m in denial here, maybe I’m a closet socialist after all).

I’ll try a different line of arguing then. I suggest you take the number of participants in one of these competitions and multiply that number by the amount each participant pays to enroll.  Now divide that by the number of hours required to read all the books. Somehow I’m left with the very uncomfortable feeling that if they read all the books they can’t possibly make a profit from their endeavour…

Call me an iconoclast if you will, but you’re reading this blog to learn about the dirty details of this business. If you want articles on the glamour of self-publishing I suggest you search somewhere else.

So now that you know how most of these literary titles and honours are obtained I leave it at your discretion whether you’re interested in sporting them or not. If you do choose to use them, may I suggest that you use just the initials for the various titles after your name, which will make you look really important. Personally I intend to use

Pedro Barrento, author, ABA, SBA, TB

What does the TB stand for? Not tuberculosis, no, it stands for Teddy Bear, an accolade bestowed upon me by my wife…

© 2013 Pedro Barrento

I would love to know your opinion about this post so don’t be shy and do leave a comment. Also please feel free to check out my book “The Prince and the Singularity – A Circular Tale”. It is a book with one big advantage, you only need to read the first 50 lines to know whether you’re going to like the story or not. If you’re not hooked after 50 lines then my book is not for you.

If you enjoyed this post don’t forget to press the “follow” button to be automatically notified of future postings.

Disclaimer: Please note that English is not my mother language and that this series of articles has not been revised by a native speaker. The quality of these articles therefore in no way reflects the quality of my book “The Prince and the Singularity – A Circular Tale” which went through an exhaustive process of revisions, editing and proofreading by a professional literary consultant (whose services I strongly recommend, by the way).


6 responses »

  1. People who put bestselling author on their book when they were in the top 100 of their genre for a day… I feel it demeans the meaning of bestselling author and it may become meaningless.

    Buying your way to the top if found out will get you a fair amount of rants on the Internet so it’s better to build a good platform before you reach the publishing stage, use one of the reviewing services (bookrooster, storey cartel, netgalley), and your top blog promoters to review your book the day it comes out. If you didn’t do these things before the book came out you can always do an anniversary of the release. Love digital because it’s always there so you have multiple chances to promote it and hit the top rankings in your genre.

    Just please don’t do a lot of “buy my book” promotions. 😀

  2. On some categories (eg the ones my books are in) on,uk you need even fewer sales to reach the top of your category rankings. One of mine reached #1 in the Reference-Writing chart, ahead of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, and I’d only sold about 30 copies at the time. Amazon best sellers work on rate of sale not sales volume. It does make you feel good though, and being at the top of those charts means more people will see (and possibly buy) your book.

  3. So glad to see a little unvarnished honesty! I had thought/guessed this by reading between the lines, but it’s refreshing to see someone talk about it openly. I’ve not yet published and have much work ahead, but am trying to gather as much information on this aspect of the process before I launch. Thanks for posting, Pedro.

  4. Bradley Darewood

    I’m with Piper. Great stuff, Pedro.
    But if you are also against awards sponsored by Ministry of Culture you might just be a closet anarchist instead of a closet socialist….
    Thanks for the great insights, bud, and the hard data you back it with.

  5. Pingback: 4 tajné tipy, jak propagovat knihu vydanou samonákladem

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