Friday, November 15, 2013

Selling Advice

The internet is full of selling advice to us poor indie authors. We need it, of course, but that doesn't mean that the advice is any good.

For example, take this advice. "Beginning writers should leverage crowdsourcing." That sounds simple, right? Well, if you mean simple in the same way as splitting uranium atoms, then yes, I guess its simple.

Objectively, I don't even know what that sentence means. I know what crowdsourcing is, but since that contains diverse set of techniques, it would really help me to know which crowdsourcing technique that you are talking about. I don't think that she means I should crowdsource writing my next novel, nor do I think that she means that I should crowdsource the fundraising. Fortunately, we can reasonably conclude, for we are reasonable people, that we should crowdsource our advertising. Simple and easily done?

No.

You see, we authors down here at the bottom of the heap don't have many resources to leverage. We can get some folks to fly our flags for us, and for that I am grateful, but beyond a certain point, we simply don't have a large enough mass of followers, readers, or friends to make that leverage go very far. Getting that crowd, that mass, is entirely our problem.

Most indie authors sell a certain number of books. That number coincides with the size of their social circle. The larger that circle, the more that they sell, and beyond that, not so very much. Those are just the numbers, folks. Most indie selling happens precisely DUE TO crowdsourcing.

Now, let's look down the list. "Most authors go where other authors are. They should go where the readers are." Once again, that look like great advice, but this quickly breaks down into nightmarish absurdity once you begin thinking about it.

If readers predominate a board, and then authors come along trying to sell their wares, then quite quickly, either the readers get swamped out due to the number of writers coming along trying to be seen, or the readers make rules against self-advertising. I've seen this happen again and again. Usually, the group makes rules against the authors. On some boards, indie authors have made themselves so unwelcome that they are one step below pond scum. (Pond scum isn't trying to sell anything.)

Once again, my fine friends, the lessons here are simple: any one technique used to sell books will become swamped if that technique is reliable, thus wrecking the technique. The only caveat to this is that those techniques that require money, such as advertising, won't get swamped, but even that is no panacea.