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we’re all used to. But I’m not used—even now—to seeing the author’s name as
the publisher. As I was scanning this list—the e-book bestseller’s list for the week of March 10, 2013—I noticed
that same phenomenon six times in the top 25. In other words, self-published authors comprise 24
percent of the New York Times e-book list for the week of March 10.
Wowza. Nifty. Cool.
So much for that added value traditional publishers bring. Guess what, y’all? Even hitting a bestseller list is
no longer reserved for traditionally published writers only. Back when just one or two writers were making
the lists, I wasn’t so sure it would happen, but now—I’m thrilled and amazed, and the traditional writer in
me is surprised.
The business woman isn’t.
Now that the distribution model for books has expanded so that it’s easy for writers to get their books
in front of readers, of course readers drive sales. Readers don’t care if Marie Force was published by Marie
Force or by Little, Brown & Company, so long as the readers can get the books.
Getting on the bestseller list, then, has to do with word of mouth and demand, not on availability on
Remember, bestseller lists are based on velocity as well as number of copies sold. In other words, if you
sell 5,000 books in the first week of publication and only 1,000 more books in the next 51 weeks, you might
hit a bestseller list. But if you sell 1,000 books for 52 weeks out of the year, you won’t hit a bestseller list—
even though you’ve sold 46,000 more copies of your book than the so-called bestseller did. If you don’t believe
me, look at this article in The Wall Street Journal, exposing a marketing firm that buys its clients onto the
WSJ bestseller list.
If you understand business and you understand velocity versus total sales, you can manipulate some lists.
But you can’t manipulate three of them in the same week. That’s because the lists that Marie hit (and several
other of those authors as well) use different algorithms to compute their bestseller lists. The USA Today
list is the most impressive to me because it computes actual sales of total books, comparing the sales of business
books to the sales of romance novels to the sales of e-books to the sales of trade paper. To hit that list
is hard (and, quite frankly, more of an achievement, in my humble opinion, than hitting the Times list).
How did these indie authors hit the lists? I don’t know. I’m sure some of them would tell you they promoted
to death or they blogged a lot. And I know those things had no real impact at all. Writers never believe
that they got on a bestseller list because they wrote a good book.
Here’s what I do know: each of the six indie authors on the New York Times list has published more than
one book. The author with the fewest titles, Shanora Williams, published three titles since the end of November.
The other authors (and the two on the extended New York Times list) published at least four books last
year. Some are indie-only authors, and others, like Marie, are hybrid writers, with books from traditional
publishers as well as indie publishing their own titles. Some are newer writers who have just signed a traditional
book deal (and I hope to hell their contracts are good).
What this shows is what those of us who have been in the business a long time already know: write a lot
of books and readers will find you. In fact, if you’re a good storyteller, then readers will anxiously wait for
your next book.
In the Amazon reviews for one of these Times bestsellers lurk a lot of complaints about copy editing or
the lack thereof. Those reviews are mixed in with demands from readers for the next book in the series. As
I said with the early Amanda Hocking books, copy editing matters, but if you’re a good storyteller, then
many readers will forgive the misuse of commas to get to your story. (Many won’t, however, which is why I
insist that you indie writers pay for a copy editor of some kind. Increase your sales even more with proper
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