My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Amazon Bestseller (Claire Youmans)

I am an Amazon Best-Selling Author. Yes, The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series achieved Amazon Best-Selling status. Impressed? I’m not.  
Amazon divides its genres so narrowly and so precisely that there simply aren’t that many titles in any given group. If twenty people to buy your book in a single day, WOO-HOO, your book is likely a best-seller. In its group. For the day or week or even month.

In fact, this has happened to me and I didn’t pay it any mind. It just didn’t seem to be that significant an event.

Many authors are now touting their status as Amazon Best-Selling Authors. I guess I should be doing that, too, on the off-chance there is somebody out there who might click through and buy a book. I might even keep track of sales to see if my slow but steady pace of sales improves thereby. I’ll let you know if I do. This is a status that sounds better than it is, and that’s true of much in the book-selling biz.

I want to sell books. I want to sell MY books particularly, but there’s room for many books in my Kindle’s Cloud and I read a lot, so I need other people to write and sell books I want to read, too. Yet, connecting books with readers is very hard, not least because there is this huge industry out there committed to separating writers from their money. It’s almost impossible to separate the wheat (something that helps sales) from the chaff (expensive stuff that doesn’t actually result in sales.)

There is a whole lot of chaff out there. While these myriad services will do exactly what they say they will — Tweet 5 days to 50,000 fellow birds, Instagram your cover to their 23,000 followers — the real question is the conversion rate. What kind of click-throughs result? How many of those result in sales? Too few for what these services cost, I think. I get so many book-related newsletters I can’t possibly keep up with them, and I’m highly selective in what I sign up for.  I also try to pay attention to what’s in my Inbox, because I know some poor writer is out there scrimping to afford this publicity and I want to give that writer the respect of at least looking, even if it’s not a genre I read.

I’m a working writer and that’s the perspective I take in what I write here. I am writing a series, with Book Three coming out this summer. I research, I have a budget and I try to spend my PR dollars wisely. Whether it’s editors, copyeditors, formatters, artists, reviews, agents, or independent soup-to-nuts pay-to-play publishing houses, look carefully at what they’re offering you and look carefully at their products. Don’t pay for useless services. Don’t pay for bad products. Don’t pay for poorly written reviews. Don’t pay for what you don’t need. Don’t overpay for anything. Be especially careful with editing. Most of the ads I see promise copyediting only; full editing is frightfully expensive. For that kind of money, I want a real, serious professional editor I can actually work with, not any random person no longer working for a Major who fills out a form. Be careful with reviews. Read many reviews before committing your money for a paid review (almost all of them are these days, unless you are a Big Name published by a Huge House). Make sure they don’t read like middle-school book reports, but can at least pass as serious professional reviews. Be careful with “marketing and publicity,” too. Don’t settle for being in some marketer or reviewer’s throwaway spam mail or email newsletter that nobody ever actually reads. A listing in a catalog or on a website means nothing unless people actually read it. How many catalogs do YOU get? How many do you actually read? How many go straight into trash or the recycle bin? What do you think happens to the hundreds of catalogs and emails regularly sent to agents, editors, publishers, teachers, libraries and bookstores? Especially the ones marked “Independent and Small Publishers,” or, worse, “Self-Published”? The connection between the services actually offered and the results implied is largely illusory.

You’re a writer. That means you get no respect and no support whatsoever except from your nearest and dearest and probably not even from them. You have limited time and limited money. Use them wisely. Even if you continually work towards The Breakthrough Book and are willing to Build Your Brand over time, even if you write really good books, even if you are an Amazon Best-Selling Author, be wary, do your research and be very careful with your funds.

That huge predatory second-tier industry out there doesn’t care if you sell a single book. As long as they can get you pay for what they offer and do what they say they will so they don’t get sued, they couldn’t care less. Since they don’t, you must. Do your homework before you spend your money, and don’t get taken.

Also check out Claire's blog and FB page and available books here:

Facebook:  The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy
Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Toki-Girl-Sparrow-Boy-Claire-Youmans/dp/0990323404/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

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  1. I am an Amazon Best-Selling Author, too, because I have a short story in an anthology that did moderately well for one day. And yes, I was unimpressed by it.

    The people who got rich in the Gold Rush weren't the gold miners. Most of the gold was gone by 1851. The people who got rich were the merchants who sold the gold miners everything they needed to go mine gold. I have the feeling that what we're seeing now is a Gold Rush for writers, and that the only people really getting rich are the folks who sell editing services, marketing, book covers, etc. The merchants. Once in a while someone will discover a nugget of gold (Andy Weir, for example) but it's uncommon.

    If I were wise I'd quit writing and go become an editor, but I like writing too much.

  2. Only now catching up with posts, but I had jump in and say that is all absolutely (painfully) on-the-nose. Great post.