I came across this video from Wide for the Win, and I thought it contained many good points, so I’m passing it along. In this blog post, I’m going to give my reaction to it. 🙂
First of all, I’m very happy that the focus is on being wide. There are so many videos that cater specifically to Amazon. While I think Amazon is an important place to be, I don’t like the idea of it being the only place I’m on. I’m a huge proponent of putting your eggs in multiple baskets because you never know when one of those baskets will come through for you. I’ve been publishing since 2009, and sometimes I’ll see an unexpected spike in sales on a retailer that wasn’t doing much for months, or even years. My guess is that a reader on that retailer liked my book and passed the information on to their friends who happen to buy from the same retailer, and this led to a domino effect. I mean, I run ads from time to time, but these spikes came when I wasn’t promoting anything. But who knows what caused those spikes? I have no idea. All I know is that it’s nice when those surprise spikes occur, and it’s why I like to look at videos that feature a wide mindset.
With that aside, let’s discuss the actual video:
I learned that only up to 14% of authors make $35,000 or more a year from book sales. I was shocked by this. I knew that a majority of authors aren’t making a living with their book sales. Most have to supplement their income another way. But I thought 30% of authors were making a living from their writing. I didn’t expect that number to be as low as 14%. Also, I was surprised to learn that most books will make less than $500.
This just shows how much of a bubble the writing community is. We are surrounded with stories of authors making a living wherever we go. We rarely ever hear about authors who are struggling to get by. When I browse books, videos, and articles catered to the indie author, I mostly see stuff like, “How to Make a Six-Figure Income”, or the people mention making a living with their work. So I guess it’s no wonder we think most authors are making a living with their books.
Book sales aren’t stable
I know I’ve pointed this out over the years on this blog, but I think it’s worth repeating since they brought it up in the video. My book sales have pretty much been a roller coaster ride over the 13 years I’ve been doing this. I’m glad the people in the video pointed out that sometimes it’s the market that is responsible for the shift. The example they pointed to was 2020. Book sales spiked in that time because a lot of people were staying home. Now, in 2022, it’s dropped off, probably because people are going out more. Stuff that happens in the world can impact our sales. It’s a relief to know we can only do so much. I think we tend to blame ourselves too much when we don’t see sales. Sometimes it really isn’t our fault. (And for the record, my sales have dipped this year, too. So I noticed the downward trend.)
Also, they mentioned that book sales can spike due to a genre’s burst of popularity (like with the vampire craze when Twilight came out). Personally, this is why I think it’s important to write what you love. If you developed started writing books that focused on what is currently popular, you might build up a readership for that. And all is well and good until the overall excitement for that genre fizzles. What if you didn’t like that genre? What if you only wrote it to make money? There will still be readers for that genre, but the number of readers will be less than before. So you’re making less money. Will you still want to keep writing in that genre? It’s hard to write something you don’t enjoy for the long term. I know of authors who’ve cried because they felt trapped. So they were stuck with two options: either they had to keep pressing on with that genre (and be miserable), or they had to develop another genre and hope it took off.
Know the expectations of your genre
The “Book 1 in a series at free” is a great strategy for some genres (esp. romance), but it sucks for other genres. That is something I’ve noticed from talking with other authors. I’m glad they mentioned it in this video because it’s important for authors to know that just because a certain marketing strategy worked for someone else, it doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. When pricing, I’d look at what the books in my genre are priced at. Readers of certain genres expect certain prices, and some don’t trust free books.
Also, they point out that different covers appeal to different genre readers. That’s a simple marketing strategy you have full control over. Look at the covers in your genre and see which ones resonate most with the readers. I think the cover is the most important part of the book’s product page because we pick up on images faster than we do words. If we can grab someone with the cover, we can get them to read the description.
A third thing I got from this video is that you do need to meet the “story expectation” of readers in your genre. This is a harder one for those of us who write for passion to agree with, but it’s just the reality of the business. I’ll give an example from my life. Once upon a time, I joined a multi-author boxed set with other Regency authors. Those authors knew exactly what most Regency readers want, and they wrote books specifically for those readers. I, however, have gone my own way from what most Regency readers enjoy. I realize this, but I managed to get some readers who were happy with my books over the years, so I thought nothing of joining the other authors in this boxed set. These authors all sold way more than I ever did. I only got into this boxed set because the person organizing it was a personal friend. Anyway, I did read the reviews on this boxed set, and every time someone mentioned my book, they 1-starred it. The other books in the boxed set might sometimes get a low rating, but most of the time, those other books got high ratings. I was the only author who was told (over and over in the reviews) that my book sucked. Why? Because I failed to make my book compatible with the other books in the set. I didn’t meet the expectations of the fans that these other authors had acquired over the years. I was relieved when the boxed set came to an end because my book was such a bad fit, and to this day, I feel bad for even joining. I knew I wrote “different” from the Regency norm, but I didn’t realize “how” different I was. So if you’re going to go with passion, it’s going to be harder to fit in because you probably won’t meet genre expectations.
Before I leave this topic, I want to point out something I especially liked in this video. It’s important to listen to your readers instead of other authors. Your readers are better equipped to tell you what works best for you. The example in the video had to do with covers, but I think you can listen to your readers about anything. Authors mean well, but they aren’t the ones who are reading your books. If authors are telling you one thing, but your readers are telling you another, it’s best to go with your readers’ advice.
Link to multiple retailers
This one is important if you’re wide, but so many authors don’t do it. I don’t know why. Okay. I understand why if the retailer is a small place that is not easy to find, like Thalia. (I’m in the US, and I don’t even know what country/countries that is based in.) But Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google Play, and Scribd are big enough where you can do an internet search and easily find your book. If you upload through Draft2Digital, you can use their Books2Read link to send people to the retailer they prefer. I like listing the retailers out so that readers know I’m on different place. If they know one of my books is on Scribd, for example, they might search for other books I have other there. So why not make them aware you’re on more than Amazon if you’re wide? It could mean an unexpected spike in sales in the future.
There were a lot of good tips in here. I couldn’t list them all. I think the video is worth watching. If anything, it should set your mind at ease that you’re actually doing things right. 🙂