What About the Readers?

The Indie explosion has revolutionized the writing / publishing world. There can be no doubt about it. It has changed my life in many ways. However, everything comes with its drawbacks.

You will see a lot of people online talking about the negative impact this same explosion has had on writers. Sure, it has made getting published that much easier, but at the same time, it has become that much harder to be noticed.

I just completed an interview with T.W. Brown, and in it I broached this very same subject. In fact, it was his question that inspired this post.

I guess we could equate it to the pleasure-pain theory, or to be a little professional for once, let me reference Newton… Sir Isaac (as I am sure his friends called him all the time.)

“When two bodies interact by exerting force on each other, these action and reaction forces are equal in magnitude, but opposite in direction.”

or in layman’s terms.

“To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction”

The ease with which one can now publish their books has made it that much harder to get noticed.

The reasons for not being accepted before this ‘movement’ – to stick with a theme – would derive from a need to further develop ones skills, to better the weakest areas and to further strengthen all over. Yet nowadays, the reasons for rejection, on the scale of sales and review numbers is not necessarily based on skill as a writer, or editing abilities, but rather who can shout the loudest.  In itself, this is fine, because I like to believe that those who have the true ability, those that do the grunt work, make sacrifices for their love of story telling will succeed. Why? Because good conquers evil, and those who work hard get the results. Those who cut corners will eventually fall behind.

However, the question that came to me today is, during this explosion, did anybody ever consider the reader and the effect this has had on them?

We may find it hard to find our place in the rankings lists, and feel out names are being tarnished by all of the badly constructed books out there, but what about readers. When it comes to picking new names to read, it was always a case of Russian roulette, but at the back of your mind you always knew that the work itself would be of a certain quality. Now however, there is just no way of knowing. It makes it not only harder for readers to find us, but it makes it all the harder for people convince themselves to give us a try.

This in turns I am sure could lead on to a discussion about the pricing of our books, and how the .99 cents mindset works because it is less of a gamble people have to make, but I do not want to get into that today.

As writers, we have a clinical eye, or at least we develop one. We are involved in things, and the names of those who merit a read are passed around. In short, those in the know are generally more advised when it comes to these matters. Those on the outside looking in a blind.

If I was to search Amazon (or any other book site around) I would feel completely lost by what I saw.
As the indie culture continues to develop, then do we risk pushing readers further away? It may sound strange, but the harder it comes to separate the wheat from the chaff, the more potential readers we will lose.

To this, we could all simply stand up even taller and shout even louder, but what would that achieve? Sure, maybe the reader could do some more research, but if we want them to dip their toes in the indie pool, there needs to be a way for them to find out where they should start.

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14 thoughts on “What About the Readers?

  1. Good post. I agree. As a reader I find it all so confusing. So many authors just SPAM SPAM SPAM to other authors. I see so many descriptions where authors talk about themselves and NOT the writing. I’d like to see more reviews and more from READERS about indie books/authors. I’d like to see some indie authors climb over the wall and get reviews in the same media outlets that review the big publishing books. Come on indie authors – send a press release to NPR, The New York Times, The LA Times and everywhere else you can think of. If you can write a book, you can write a press release.

    1. That is a very sensible idea Juliette, and I am not sure why it doesn’t work. However, my book is approaching it re-publication date and I now think I will try just this. Thanks for stopping by.

    2. Last time I checked, most of these reviewers require that books be sent from a familiar publisher and it’s usually stated somewhere that books from small or self publishers are not reviewed. That should change in time, but it’s not that authors don’t submit books, it’s that the reviewers refuse to even consider them.

  2. Some things to think about:

    “The ease with which one can now publish their books has made it that much harder to get noticed.”

    I don’t agree. Before self-publishing and electronic distribution, it was much more difficult for an author to get noticed… because those authors had to depend on the traditional publishing machine to get on the radar at all.

    I also have to counter your contention that it’s difficult for readers to know if a book is going to be of “a certain quality.” In the pre-Amazon era, one had to depend on book reviews in newspapers and magazines, or word of mouth, or the bookseller’s hand-selling recommendation. You’d be lucky, indeed, if there was a readily accessible review of a book you were interested in.

    Now, the readers are the gatekeepers. They are the arbiters of quality… through reviews attached to book listings at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc.

    The readers have the power now, more than ever.

  3. Some things to think about:

    ”The ease with which one can now publish their books has made it that much harder to get noticed.”

    I don’t agree. Before self-publishing and electronic distribution, it was much more difficult for an author to get noticed… because those authors had to depend on the traditional publishing machine to get on the radar at all.

    I also have to counter your contention that it’s difficult for readers to know if a book is going to be of ”a certain quality.” In the pre-Amazon era, one had to depend on book reviews in newspapers and magazines, or word of mouth, or the bookseller’s hand-selling recommendation. You’d be lucky, indeed, if there was a readily accessible review of a book you were interested in.

    Now, the readers are the gatekeepers. They are the arbiters of quality… through reviews attached to book listings at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc.

    The readers have the power now, more than ever.

    1. You make a good point Matthew. With my harder to get noticed comment, I allude to the fact that there are that many more people out there drawing attention to themselves. However I do agree with all of your points. Thank you for leaving such a constructive comment.

      1. The thing about all those authors (trying to draw) attention to themselves is that many of them (as you point out) are shouting at other authors, not at readers. Those authors are… ill advised. 🙂

        Readers talk to each other. Fandom speaks to itself (and there’s fandom outside of genres as well as in… they just call it something different!) and most readers will not hesitate to slam an insincere author. Or, worse, ignore that author all together.

  4. Great post Alex and very insightful comments Wayne. I’m not yet published so I can only speak from the perspective of a reader… and I would like appreciate some way of finding the indie books I like that is a bit easier. Frankly searching on Amazon is just impossible as there are literally hundreds of thousands of books to choose from.

    Just the other day I attempted to narrow the field a little by using Amazon’s sort order function but I soon realised that ranking by popularity is much like the traditional best-seller list – skewed towards the pulp side of the spectrum. So what do you do if you prefer something that is a little meatier, maybe a little more thoughtful and thought provoking, maybe a little better written?

    And that was when I realised that there are actually two reader audiences out there, just as there were during the reign of the gatekeepers. People who used to buy books even when they cost more are still buying in that price range – i.e. they’re buying ebooks from traditionally published backlists and from traditionally published new releases. Sadly the bulk of the people buying at the indie end of the price range [$0 – 2.99] are mostly interested in either self-help, romance or paranormal romance – think vampires. They are reading for entertainment, not necessarily for…quality.

    So perhaps those of us who do put in the effort to produce quality should have the courage to price our books accordingly. Not as high as the traditional publishers but higher than 2.99. Just a thought.

  5. As a reader I find GoodReads to be about the best way to find great books, indie or otherwise. You rate the books you’ve read and GoodReads will suggest books to you based on what other readers with similar tastes have said. Its only one step beyond Amazon’s “people who purchased this also purchased…” formula but it works great for me.
    I also tend to read reviews a lot more closely than I used to. I will down a sample of anything interesting and read that before deciding whether or not to buy.
    As a writer I try to use these same insights. I spend a lot of time on Goodreads. I don’t just spam, spam, spam either. I get into the forums and groups and I participate. I read and review as many indie authors as I can because I know that’s how they get noticed. And hopefully they will return the favor. I don’t give, or want, fake positive reviews. That approach will likely backfire because it will bring your work to the attention of the wrong audiences. Honest reviews bring your work to the attention of those audiences that will enjoy it.

  6. Hmm. interesting article and responses. And, Juliette, thank you for your suggestion about the press release. I had been wondering how best to catch the attention of these publications for a review, and had so far avoided it through my own lack of confidence. Now I will try your technique. After all, I have nothing to lose! Thank you everyone for your insight, it has given me something to think about…

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