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Binge Reading
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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 bookstore shelves.

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 punctuation!)  

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