RoadBlocks to Indie Author Success

Written By: Jackie Weger - Jul• 04•14
Jackie Weger

Jackie Weger


Here I am again on my back porch in my cyber rocking chair–and no company. Last time I was out here, it was storming. Today everyone I invited is up to Fourth of July festivities. It is a little over a year now that I have been an indie author. I’ve learned about the ropes, the hopes and the dopes.

Here is the single reason most indie books don’t make it: The author of the dang thing gets in the way of the book’s success.  Here are a few reasons:  The Cover doesn’t suit the book or is homemade. The book needs another round of hard or soft edits. The author refuses. The author discounts or ignores one and two star reviews that speak to composition and formatting errors. The author has one book or two, and publishes to every venue before building a readership on Amazon which sells to 65% of the reading public. The book is overpriced. $2.99 is the sweet spot for unknown indie authors. Readers will take chance on an indie book at that price. The author does not promote on premium sites with book-buying subscribers.

Back Porch Cyber Chatter

Welcome to the cyberporch

Those are the main reasons. But authors get sucked into joining sites and paying for author spotlights that don’t sell books. My new policy:  NEVER pay for an author spotlight. Promoters lie. Authors lie. Online publishers lie. Here’s a  tip: If you see an author spotlighted and NO comments at the foot of the article/blog/interview… That site does not have active traffic for author spotlights. Nor did the site owner rally his/her troops to comment. That’s key. The site might boast of 6,000-10,000 followers, but the following is not interactive. I have a colleague who paid $125 for a Spotlight on a site that boasts above 50,000 fans and followers. Not a single comment–even three days later.  Didn’t sell a single book either. I know. Because I tracked the book in Kindle Nation Daily–a free book tracker–not a blip.  Nada.

I just today found an author spotlight and the site promotes the author as a Best Selling Author: Here are the book’s stats on Amazon:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,401,027 in Books. Do you see that? Honey–that book is sucking so much mud, it’s probably sunk all the way to China by now.  And the site owner touts herself as ethical. She ain’t.  That is a farce on the reading and buying public. This is one of the reasons indie authors have an uphill battle to gain respect.  The only thing we can do is not support those sites. And educate ourselves.

Here’s one of my title’s rank on Amazon as I write this: Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,241 Paid in Kindle Store . The ranking is up because I just sold 1073 units in a Kindle Countdown Deal. I am not a best selling  author. I just sold books this week. That’s it. I’m good with it. 

Fake Amazon Best Seller Award

Fake Amazon Best Seller Award

Here is a real humdinger. I told you online publishers lie.  Here’s proof.  Look at this lovely Amazon logo for a Best Seller sitting right this minute on the author’s page on the publisher’s site.  It ain’t true. Amazon did NOT  honor the book with that logo.  The publisher made it up.  How do I know? I asked. Here are the book’s stats on Amazon:  Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #269,737 Paid in Kindle Store.  Golly, only 269, 736 books are selling better than that author’s. The book sold a few units in April, a few in May and not a single unit in June, 2014. The title has 39 reviews with a review rank of 4.7/5.0. It is a nice book for a niche market. It is well-formatted, error free and the cover is good. But is is NOT a best selling novel. It could be–IF the author or the publisher promoted it, but that is not happening, so the book languishes on Amazon’s cybershelf. Just saying it is a best seller does not  make it so. Designing a logo to stroke an author’s ego and misleading readers does not make it so.  Worse, suppose you contract with that publisher believing it can turn your book into best seller. Warning: Don’t quit your day job.  Digital publishers do not pay for promotion.  If any single one does, come right here and make a liar out me. I’m happy to retract the statement. Just bring the invoices to show you paid for a promo and on which book. 

Finding Home is my most popular book. 247 reviews with a review rank of  4.4/5.0 stars. Amazon stats today: Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,404 Paid in Kindle Store.   Finding Home  is my best selling title, but it is not an Amazon best seller.  Lest you think it was smooth sailing…when I first produced it,  I hired an editor, a formatter and a cover artist–all of whom were less than stellar.  Reviews told me so. I had to re-title, hire a better cover designer, hire another editor and formatter.  My ego wasn’t hurt–just my pocketbook. However, I’ve since recovered my losses. That is part of being an indie author. Don’t allow your ego to get in the way making your book the best it can be.  All of the reviews are stranger reviews. I never ask friends or family to review my titles. Yes, my books get one and two star reviews. It just wasn’t that reader’s kind of book.  That’s fair. But they are not complaining about grammar, composition or formatting errors. If they did, I’d copy and paste the review and send it to my editor or formatter and say fix it. Now. Today!  

If you are wondering how the above few paragraphs fit with RoadBlocks to Success–note that everything has to do with author ego or allowing others to massage our egos. There are groups of authors who trade reviews and give one another five star reviews on books that are ill-written, badly composed and oft  times ill-formatted. Those books are gonna be in a world of hurt when stranger reviews start arriving.  I found just such a group of reviews on Amazon yesterday. 25 /5* reviews and a single 1 star. The one-star reviewer wrote, “this stupid book was so bad, I couldn’t finish it.”  Thirty-six readers who did not write a review, ticked they agreed with that one star review.

If you want to know where to get stranger/honest reviews, qualified editors, cover artists  and sites to promote your titles, do visit eNovel Authors at Work. The Useful Links pages has a wealth of information for indie authors. The blog articles are timely and tell it like it is in our indie universe. eNovel Authors at Work is by invitation only, but all authors are welcome to visit, comment and use the information. When authors come off of a promotion, they often post the results in comments on their author pages–which can help you to set goals on your own promotions.  As usual, I seldom conclude a blog without encouraging indie authors to tuck this little gem at the foot of their books right after The End:

Thank you for taking time to read “Title of book.” If you enjoyed it,  please consider telling your friends or posting a short review. Word of mouth is an author’s best friend and much appreciated. Thank you, (author name). It works. You don’t think I know all 498 readers who wrote reviews for my books, do you?  I know about ten of those readers and not face-to-face.

Here’s a caveat: Amazon offers indie authors many sub-categories for our books. So If you promote your title as #1 or #10 in Techno Thrillers, I get it.  That’s good. That’s fair. You sold some books! You earned that slot. Tell me about it!  I love thrillers and now I know just where to find your book. I won’t expect your book to be in TOP 100 Paid. Right this minute John Green owns that #1 slot with The Fault in our Stars. 24,440 Reviews ranked 4.7/5.0. That is a stellar best seller.

If you are a new indie author or only have one or two books, I highly recommend reading David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Visible. Don’t overlook Martin Crosbie’s How I Sold 30,000 ebooks on Kindle.  These two men are the experts. They update the books often. Those two books are my indie bibles. Otherwise, I’d be dumb as rock and would not have a clue how to compose a blog such as this or know how to gather the information. Or run a FREE promotion in which 97,278 readers downloaded Finding Home.

Y’all have a nice day.

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  1. Donna Fasano says:

    You’re always offering such excellent information! Happy 4th to you, Jackie!

    Donna Fasano

    Prima Donnas

    • Jackie Weger says:

      I Luv you, Donna! And you are finally using the html I beg eNovel Authors to use! How are your Prima Donnas? In case y’all don’t get it–Donna Fasano, USA Today and Amazon Best Selling author–a REAL ONE–has a street team now. Donna is always ahead of the curve. Ten Brides for Ten Heroes is right this minute a Best Selling Omnibus. AMAZON says so! Go Look! Go buy it.

  2. Pete Barber says:

    You sure do some solid thinkin’ on your back porch, Jackie Weger. I appreciate all the tips, even more so because they are slated with the folksy humor I love so much in your novels. I’m glad you put your snake gun away for July 4th–being born a Brit, I’d have been worried on Independence day :-).

  3. Today I watched two video book trailers that both had great visuals and stirring music. Unfortunately, one video not only had a misused apostrophe, but had substituted “there” for “their” in the text. (C’mon folks, those are 2nd grade words!) The other video ran over 5 minutes long, telling the entire plot of the book and describing every single character.

    Jackie, you cannot run your excellent advice often enough! It is truly needed!!

  4. (Linda: hangs her head in shame…)

    Jackie, I suck at promoting my own work–but because of you, I’m going to change. I’m hitting up all of the sites you suggested and I’ll find reviewers, if it’s the last thing I do! As you know, I’m struggling with categorization, but I can’t let that hold me back. I have to jump into the deep end. If I surface, great; If I don’t, at least I can say I drowned trying!

    Thanks so much for letting us know what it takes to be successful as an indie author.

  5. Jackie, I ALWAYS pick up a new hint or two from every post that you do. Your frankness and no BS fits perfectly with my time allotment and attention span. Thanks for sharing your advice once again.

  6. Mike Markel says:

    As always, Jackie, lots of good advice and gusto. Thank you.

    I’d like to add another reason some books don’t sell a lot of copies: they’re not very good. I don’t mean the cover, the editing, the formatting. I mean the story, the writing, the ideas. Some books should not be published, including some print books from legacy publishers, as well as some indie and self-published books.

    What this means for all of us–that’s the subject of a different discussion.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Thanks Mike. I don’t fault a writer for indie publishing a title. One hopes for quality. However, I have often been asked by aspiring authors when there were such beings, “Can I write?” I have always replied…That is not the question. The question is: Can you tell a story? Some of us can, some of us can’t. Badly told stories may get a bit of limelight, but the flame goes out soon enough. Savvy readers and buyers won’t encourage the effort and perhaps the writer will learn a bit.

  7. Joanne Hill says:

    Thanks Jackie for the porch chat. Much appreciated on this indie journey.

  8. abhi says:

    thanks Jackie. Some good advice. I didn’t know about those two books on how to promote. Will take a look.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Hello! Abhi aka Switch 11! Thank you for honoring us with your presence today. I just posted your new site in Useful Links on eNovel Authors at Work. The two books I mention are my indie bibles. It is impossible to FIND the path to indie success, much less hike the dang road without educating ourselves about our industry. Both Martin and David tell it like is. No BS.

  9. Great article, pointing out the things I’ve been guilty of (NOT hiring a professional editor, discounting or giving away my books to promote reviews, paying for a service that doesn’t sell books). And I love the little gem, inserted right after THE END of each book, thanking readers and asking them to tell friends or write an Amazon review. I wish I’d thought of that, before publishing my eight books,

  10. Sarah Lane says:

    Great advice, Jackie. Glad to know your books are doing well.

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