Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Value of Publicity

I'm J.A. Konrath.

People consider me to be one of the mouthpieces of the self-publishing movement. As such, I often get interviewed. I've been mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, the LA Times, the Washington Post, Forbes, Newsweek, USA Today, etc.

You'd think all of this publicity has led to increased sales of my ebooks.

You'd think wrong.

I'm obsessive about numbers, as anyone who reads this blog can tell you. So when I appear in some major periodical, I watch my Kindle numbers, looking for the big spike.

I never see a big spike. In fact, I hardly ever see a small spike.

Huh? WTF? Does that make sense? We all know that publicity leads to sales, right?


I'm getting a name for myself in the self-publishing world. I get millions of hits a year on this blog. When people discuss self-pubbing, my name often comes up.

But the people who visit this blog, and discuss my self-publishing efforts, are writers.

Writers aren't buying my fiction. They aren't buying my non-fiction either--I have an ebook called "A Newbie's Guide to Publishing" and it is among my lowest-selling titles.

The people who buy me are readers, and the vast majority have never heard of me. Readers find me on Amazon, because Amazon has made it easy for my books to be discovered.

Don't believe me? Try to argue with these points.

1. I don't see any noticeable sales boosts when I'm mentioned in some major periodical. The best media attention I ever received didn't account for more than a few hundred extra sales. I've sold almost 700,000 ebooks. A few hundred doesn't mean diddly.

2. When my sales spike on Amazon, they don't spike on other platforms. If I were famous, I would be famous across the board, not to a specific format.

3. The List has been in the Kindle Top 100 four different times in three years. Each time was because of my personal efforts, usually playing with cost or doing some active promotion. Nothing has ever "taken off" simply because I'm famous.

4. When Amazon made Stirred a Kindle Daily Deal, it hit #1. They've done that with dozens of authors, many of them fresh-faced newbies. It was better than anything I've been able to do on my own, even though I have some name-recognition.

5. I get a lot of fanmail. Most is from people discovered who me on Kindle. Some is from authors asking my advice. But I almost never get email from an author asking my advice who says, "I bought all your ebooks." Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? If you want me to help you, the least you could do is buy some of my books.

6. Look at my Amazon reviews. I've got thousands. Count how few say, "I began reading Joe's books because of his outspoken views about self-publishing."

7. Dozens of other Kindle authors are having similar success to mine without any of the fame I have. There are also several other writers who prominently support self-publishing and are quoted a lot, but they don't have sales equal to mine. So I'm the one selling because of my name, but no one else is?

8. I have a good friend who is currently hosting a terrific TV show. He's also a terrific fiction writer. But despite being nationally syndicated, his book sales are modest. Fame in one area doesn't always translate to fame in another.

Here's the deal: Readers are my customers, not writers. Readers don't even know who the Big 6 are. They don't care.

I'm mentioned a lot in the publishing community, which is small, closed, and uninteresting to anyone who isn't in it. But because we're in it, and we care about it, we incorrectly assume that because writers know who I am, readers must as well.

The majority of my sales don't come from people hearing about my self-pub exploits. Nor do they come from my midlist legacy titles, which sold modestly.

In other words, my fame and my past have little to do with my current success.

The majority of my sales come from Amazon and my ability to use the tools they provide. So far I've played my cards right. I write fun books with good covers and sell them cheap, I have a lot of virtual shelf space, and readers like my writing.

Sure, I have longtime fans. And sure, some writers buy my ebooks to show support, or as a way to thank me for my advice.

But I didn't make $140k in the last 30 days because of thankful writers, old fans, or a mention in the Guardian. I made it because I positioned my titles properly. There were a whole bunch of new Kindles sold this holiday season, just as there were in 2010 and 2009. I was expecting this to happen, though admittedly not in such a big way.

What does this mean to you, the writer trying to succeed?

1. Don't sweat publicity. It can't hurt, but I don't think it will drive your sales unless the publicity is really huge. And even then, the publicity is only responsible for temporary sales, not long term sales.

2. Focus, as always, on writing good books and presenting them in a professional way. The more, the better.

3. Social media and word of mouth are helpful, but you have to reach a lot of people before these become a factor. Less tweeting, more writing.

4. Reviews don't have the gravitas they used to. Certain ebook review sites can help sales, but even better is giving away free books to fans in exchange for an honest review.

5. Study Amazon and how it sells ebooks. Experiment. Take chances. If one of Amazon's imprints offers to publish you, accept. Right now they are the only publisher who can increase your sales.

6. Avoid all legacy publishers. You can do everything they can, faster, and you don't have to give away the majority of your income.

Now I'm a genre writer. I don't have experience with YA, children's, non-fiction, poetry, or those long-winded books where plot is optional (literary fiction). But if ereaders are going to become the preferred way of reading (hint: they are) then eventually all books will make the transition to ebooks. I wish I could go back in time three years and erase all of those legacy publisher contracts I signed, so I'd have the rights now. You don't want to sign your rights away now, and in three years be kicking yourself like I am.

7. Don't give up. It can take years before you get to where you want to be. Luck plays a part. Stick with it until you get lucky.

And feel free to tweet this. It won't help me sell many ebooks, but it could help your peers.


Unknown said...

Over the last five months my book sales have gone from 3-4 a day to 300-400 a day and it is all on Amazon using Amazon tools. I've come to the conclusion that B&N, Smashwords, etc. are virtually pointless for me. Learning to maximize Amazon tools seems to be the primary asset -- other than writing good books.

Barry Napier said...


This is the exact opposite of the dreary, whiny, woe-is-me blog I posted on my site today. Truly the sort of motivation I needed on a week like this one.

As always, thanks for the much needed swift kick to the posterior, Joe!

Ellen Britt, PA, Ed.D. said...

Joe, this is excellent! I think so many writers get caught up in the idea that it's the lack of publicity that is keeping their books from taking off. With the ability to publish our books on Amazon, this is just not true anymore.

As you have often stated, just keep writing and write for your niche.

And thank you again Joe for all you do!

John Dwyer said...

What a bloody relief is was to read your piece. I was just agonising over how best to use Facebook and Twitter to sell my travel book High Road to Tibet when I read this. Like many new writers, I spend WAY too much time on Facebook, Twitter, Kindleboards, Goodreads, etc. These are all fine and important platforms but as you stated, "Less Tweeting, more writing."
I'm off to re-tweet your tweet - last one for today, honest.
John Dwyer - Travel Author
John Dwyer Books

Terri Reid said...

Excellent post...okay, well, that was redundant. :) I believe Amazon and their marketing savvy has done more to leverage indie authors than most people can believe. To realize that my books are selling in the US, UK, Germany, France...and someday in Italy and Spain ;) amazing. And all I had to do is write a good book, have a good cover, price it at a good rate and upload it. I LOVE the new tools the Kindle Lending Library offers us.
This is an extraordinary adventure we are going on and, as Joe has said, unlike any that authors have had available in the past.

Rob Blackwell said...

This is fascinating, Joe. I would have assumed a mention in the WSJ, NYT or elsewhere would have helped boost sales.

One thing I'm still curious about: have you released numbers on how many people downloaded "The List" or another prominent title when it was free? I did my first free promotion yesterday and it seemed to do really well -- slightly less than 6,500 books in a single day -- but I have nothing to compare it to. And I have no idea if it will translate into paid sales.

If you have any insights on that, I'd appreciate hearing them. I read your post on your phenomenal success in using your free promotion, and it was one of the things that inspired me to try my own.


P.S. I bought Stirred when it first came out and am looking forward to reading it.

Barry Eisler said...

Great post as usual, amigo. And, as usual when I disagree with you, it's only at the margins.

I agree that most of whatever media attention I've received hasn't had a direct impact (at least not one I could see). Two exceptions come to mind: appearances on NPR, and a stellar review in The Economist a few years back, where I definitely saw the needle jump right after. I have a feeling that NPR listeners and Economist readers are big readers, trust NPR and The Economist, and take action about books they discover through these media outlets. I also saw a friend's numbers go berserk after an appearance on The Daily Show (admittedly, that's a big one and an outlier, like Oprah or something).

Also, I always try to be aware of indirect, harder-to-measure benefits... cumulative name recognition, things that lead not to immediately bigger sales, but to other exposure or other opportunities that in turn leads to sales, etc. A lot of this stuff is more art that science, but I think the benefits are there.

Admittedly, I rely almost entirely on gut and suck with the numbers, so I could be wrong, but thought the exceptions worth mentioning.

Marilyn Levinson said...

This is probably the most valuable piece of advice I've gotten in a long, long time. Thanks.

LA Burton said...

I've been in the top ten in the U.K. for three months. Just because I listened to you thanks Joe.

Kelly McClymer said...


Through reading your blog (and other industry blogs that are honest and blunt), I've learned a lot. Publicity is one thing, but what you've done since the beginning of your career is make genuine person-to-person connections with the people who influence readers (booksellers, other writers, readers, etc.). So when one of these people say "I think you'd like a Konrath novel," they'll try you. That is something that no glib publicity is ever going to accomplish (okay, I instantly thought of a rebuttal -- if Snookie mentioned she liked a book on Jersey Shore, *maybe* it would have a *temporary* boost).
I tell myself it took you 10 years to build what you have, and that you never let the promotion work make you forget that the writing comes first. I still have 8+ years ahead of me to get where you are. Eight years of paying attention to my readers, the industry, the marketplace -- and, most importantly, my writing.
Thanks! You're right that I haven't bought one of your books, but I'm not one of your readers (I adore King, too, but if I read his books, I'd never sleep). On the other hand, because I follow you and quote you so often to my husband, he *does* buy your books (and read and enjoy them enough to go back for more). So you never know where you'll pick up a new reader...which, I guess is the whole point of your post.

JA Konrath said...

I acknowledge that some types of publicity can temporarily bump sales, Barry. Should those avenues be actively sought out, though? Is it worth the time?

You went crazy with publicity for Inside Out, and I know it helped some, but all of that pales next to what Amazon can do with a Kindle Daily Deal, or an email blast.

I said, years ago, that writers should get their names on as many pieces of paper as they can. On their books, of course, but also through book blurbs, reviews, internet presence (virtual paper), mentions, interviews, etc. The more your name is seen, the better it is for you.

But I believe that was more valuable in the analogue world. In the digital world, it seems that name recognition is far less important than what people see in front of them this very moment, and the ability to buy it with a single click.

I'd wager that the majority of sales from both our backlists are from people who first discover us right then, rather than those who seek us out. Some of those people will become fans and then seek us out later, but they're the minority.

Swands said...

Another excellent post. I came across your blog a few years ago when I was considering the self-pubbing path which I ultimately took. I became a fan and do buy your books. I consider myself a reader first and a writer second so I can only image there are plenty of others like myself that are looking for info and are fans of your work. I'd love to be an oddity in that respect but I doubt it.

Frank Coles said...

Hi Joe,

Good post on the other elements of what sells books. And I both agree and disagree with your conclusions. Writers are readers too, you see.

EG: I came across your blog about a year ago, when I was ditching the agent. I bought newbie's guide to publishing. Read the bits on writing technique, ignored the other bits that said trad publish/don't self publish (it jarred with your blog's take, and then didn't read any more because it seemed inconsistent).

A year later I came to you again when looking at indie pubbing more seriously, bought your discussion with Barry Eisler and then thought "Right, let's check this guy out" downloaded a freebie: SERIAL, then bought trapped off the back of it.

I've bought two Jack Daniel's books since and enjoyed both. Although, I'll take a break for a while as there's only so much gore a man can handle. I've given you five and four star reviews on some of these because I have enjoyed the writing and the technique. I've never mentioned in those reviews that I'm a writer myself however.

I have now come to the conclusion that you are the Woody Allen of Gore. :)

Ultimately I think what's made me buy more of your books is the writing and the samples in the back.

But anyhoo, as I'm currently working through all the manual formatting options for ebooks it's refreshing to get this post that says "Crack on!"

Think I'll just hire Guido!

Unknown said...

Thanks for another great post. Quick question: are you recommending that newer authors enroll in the Kindle Select program? Reviews for its success are all over the board, so I was curious.

Thanks again. Keep kickin' ass!

Joel Arnold said...

Hi Joe - one thing I have a question about is do you have any suggestions on getting indie print books into libraries? It seems that's one thing where legacy publishers still have an advantage - they get their titles in the catalogs and journals that many libraries use, and these same catalogs often won't list indie author's books. I've personally contacted a few hundred libraries, but that is a long process, and I'm not sure if the ROI is worth it.

Any thoughts on that? Thanks in advance.

Rebecca M. Senese said...

Joe says: "Less tweeting, more writing."

I couldn't agree more! The story is what sells. Readers want great stories. Give it to them!

Jude Hardin said...

Great post, Joe.

I have a good friend who is currently hosting a terrific TV show. He's also a terrific fiction writer. But despite being nationally syndicated, his book sales are modest. Fame in one area doesn't always translate to fame in another.

I've been watching the show every week, loving it. And you're right. He is a terrific fiction writer. His books should be NYT bestsellers, IMO.

But again, there's no explaining why one book takes off and another doesn't. The above author's debut got a starred review in PW, and mostly five and four stars from customers on Amazon. Why isn't that ebook in the top 100? Or at least the top 1000?

It's currently ranked 27,506. That means it's selling maybe two copies a day. Why?

Joshua Simcox said...

"I have a good friend who is currently hosting a terrific TV show. He's also a terrific fiction writer. But despite being nationally syndicated, his book sales are modest. Fame in one area doesn't always translate to fame in another."

I assume you're referring to Marcus Sakey?

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

This writer buys your books! I love your writing :)

This comment has been removed by the author.
Barry Eisler said...

Joe, more good points, and as I said, I don't disagree with your main argument. You've also pointed out that in digital, an author's most cost-efficient marketing activity is writing new stories, and I think that's spot-on, too. The main thing, as you said in an earlier post, is to "be deliberate," meaning being aware of the value of one's time, and of the likelihood of accomplishing X objective with Y tactic.

We've talked a lot about how, in digital publishing, distribution is no longer a value any publisher can offer because a publisher can't distribute a digital book any better than an author can on her own. Which means that the new publishing paradigm will be about direct-to-consumer marketing. And if you have a publishing partner like Amazon, with Amazon-level direct-to-consumer ability and the willingness to deploy that ability on your behalf, almost certainly that partner's efforts will eclipse anything you can do on your own. Which is why publishing isn't dead; it's just being rebuilt around marketing rather than around distribution.

Sorry for that slight digression, though I think it relates to your main point.

Norma said...

One of my former publishers recently sent me riders to my original contracts for the ebook rights. My agent advised me not to sign until she's had a chance to evaluate them. Now I'm not sure I want to sign at all.

Thanks, Joe. I've shared this on Facebook....


I've had exactly the same experience. My first two books took off in Kindle sales a year ago. I was totally oblivious to it, having done zero promotion as I crashed on my third. These books hit various Kindle bestseller lists as if by magic and stayed there for months.

Then a fluke happened. I was fingered by the national media as the true author of the anonymously written NYT bestseller "Story of O: A Presidential Novel." Matt Lauer profiled me on NBC's Today Show; the Washington Post, CSM, Huffington Post and other media bandied my name around. The other authorial suspect was Stephen Colbert. GREAT publicity. But did it affect my sales, as many friends were assuming? No. I could see no correlation between the publicity and my book sales and, believe me, I checked closely.

Joe is absolutely right. I write for my small, but growing, fan base who ask me when my next thriller will be out. As far as how success comes about, it's all voodoo.

Cyn Bagley said...

Yes - I re-tweeted this post. Good job as always Konrath.

And I do buy your books every so often to show support and my husband reads them. ;-)


Unknown said...

Joe is absolutely right. I write for my small, but growing, fan base who ask me when my next thriller will be out.

Great point, James. Sounds like a page right out John Locke's book. Congrats on the voodoo success.

Unknown said...

This post reminds me of many of the conversations I've had with family and relatives.

They insist that I do some sort of local publicizing. I argue my time would better be spent writing, rather than using marketing ploys that will have marginal returns--if any.

They often don't get it.

C Gutman said...

I guess my question then, is this:

If Amazon has become the new power base in the industry, aren't we as indie writers just as vulnerable as we were as legacy writers?

I mean, sure, we have a lot more control. We have the potential to make lots of money.

But by putting all our eggs in the Amazon basket, ignoring publicity and other venues, aren't we then at the mercy of another corporation? Are we trading the legacy prison for the Amazon prison?

It keeps nagging at the back of my mind that Amazon can change the rules anytime they want.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on that, Joe.

Darlene Underdahl said...

Is there any way to virtually “raise your hand” and get noticed for a Kindle Daily Deal, or is that their domain entirely?

I go there a lot and snoop, but I don’t have all the answers.

JPK said...

Thank you, Joe, for being the little author perched atop my right shoulder telling me to "keep writing", rather than the other little author on the left shoulder that constantly whispers "keep tweeting."

dawn said...

"Less Tweeting. More Writing."

I've felt that for a while (okay, I'm an idiot and can't figure out Twitter. There. The truth hurts).

...always good to see that thought/ feeling validated.

I'm in love with you Joe---I mean, not THAT way. (I've never met your wife, but I'm pretty sure she could beat me up.)
I mean I love what you've done, putting yourself out there, and assuring us that yes IT ALL COMES BACK TO WRITING GOOD BOOKS.
Nuff said.

Ursula said...

Terry Ried said:
Excellent post...okay, well, that was redundant. :) I believe Amazon and their marketing savvy has done more to leverage indie authors than most people can believe. To realize that my books are selling in the US, UK, Germany, France...and someday in Italy and Spain ;) amazing. And all I had to do is write a good book, have a good cover, price it at a good rate and upload it. I LOVE the new tools the Kindle Lending Library offers us.
This is an extraordinary adventure we are going on and, as Joe has said, unlike any that authors have had available in the past.

YES YES YES. That. Exactly!!!!

Ursula said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Splitter's Blog said...

I hit number 23 on Amazon's free fiction eBooks today and I have no idea why other than making the first book free. I am 2 in a couple specific genres. People keep asking me how I did it...

Thank you for pointing out that there are more questions than specifics when it comes to getting exposure. Now I do not feel quite so idiotic in saying, "I don't know."


Megg Jensen said...

Hey Amazon,

I'd love to be a daily deal and get a contract with you. Isn't going to happen anytime soon, I suspect.

You got those deals because you speak out about indie publishing so much - don't you think? They took your infamy and spun it into golden fame.

That's not a bad thing, at all. Who wouldn't love a deal like that? But I think your publicity directly impacted you getting the deal with Amazon, which is what directly impacted the increase in sales.

Great post - do more like this. :D

Megg Jensen

Mary Ann said...

I'm a writer. I've bought all your eBooks, including "Newbie's Guide to Publishing." I don't really need to ask any advice, though. I read your blog. All the time. And I tell every writer I know to read it. Even when I don't agree with you, you are always worth reading. Keep at it.

William Doonan said...


I started reading your books after I started reading your blog. I'm a fan of both. I hear what you're saying about legacy publishers, but it seems like publicity is such a huge hurdle that it sometimes seems impossible to get any traction. My last book, "Mediterranean Grave" got some great reviews. People like it, but it's selling like misery itself. Now, I'm not saying that the legacy guys are knocking down my door, but if they did, would you still advise me not to accept?

William Doonan

Adam Pepper said...

I think it's probably inarguable that get struck by Amazon's lightning is the best chance any indie has at success. The question is how to increase your chances? Simply writing, publishing and hoping may work, or you may not sell a single book.

H.S. said...

Very good points, as always, Joe! I started following you about a year ago, and since then, I've bought three of your books. So you know you've gotten at least three sales as a result of your publicity. :-)

Henry Baum said...

I feel like you're responding to something I wrote on Self-Publishing Review - about your name being instrumental in your success. I don't think you can say all those articles have such little value based on immediate sales. It's not the clicks that matter, it's the publicity - and A LOT more people have heard about you than other writers.

At some point - as it is with you, Locke, and Hocking, the Amazon engine becomes an amazing monster and takes on a life of its own. But those Guardian articles have no doubt helped you. Even if 100 people buy books based on this blog and whatever press you've gotten, that helps. And it's probably more in the thousands.

So I'm not sure if writers should avoid publicity and hope some Kindle magic happens. For the up-and-comer, any mention is useful - especially if books aren't taking off on their own. If nothing else, getting a review or being talked about in some way can be fuel to write more.

Kevin Michaels said...

Not to be another voice in the choir, but excellent post! In spite of all the so-called marketing experts who tout FB and social media sites to drive sales of books,like you, I found that all my connections and FB friends are writers. Not readers. Readers buy books. Writers write them but few are opening their wallets to plunk down a couple of dollars on my books.

I started the new year determined to build my audience with the segment of the market that can buy my book. I've targeted a YA audience through reviewers, blogs, and an audience that is interested in picking up my book - slowly over the next couple of months my book (Lost Exit - shameless plug) will be featured on review sites and blogs as I utilize give-aways and interviews to build interest and demand. As you wrote a long time ago, it's about positioning, focusing on the correct demographics, and using the tools at hand. I'm seeing the results in my sales.

Kay Bratt said...

So right again. Since I've begun expanding my bookshelf and using Amazon promo tools, my sales have climbed out the roof. I have had many people contact me and say, "I read Chasing China and loved it, now off to download your other titles." awesome.

Mike McIntyre said...

My first book, The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America, was traditionally published, and I did about 75 interviews, including Oprah, Bill O'Reilly, CNN, CBS, USA Today, the LA Times and even the National Enquirer. If all this publicity boosted sales, it wasn't by much, as the book sold only 20K copies in the four years it was in print.

Flash forward a dozen years: I enrolled the ebook version in KDP Select, and in the last three weeks it has sold more copies than in any month during its original print run--and with zero publicity. (I don't even use Facebook or Twitter.) What's more, my current royalties per sale are 3Xs those of my old traditional contract. Heck, even the KOLL borrow fee is twice the royalty of my old trade paperback. Publicity is WAY overrated; Amazon KDP Select is not.

Anonymous said...

I would tweet this, but I deleted my twitter account. I was spending WAY to much time tweeting and not fiction writing.

I.J.Parker said...

Writers pay back by mentioning you on other sites. They keep the ball rolling and your blog posts multiplying. You may be right about most publicity (social sites and modest author efforts), but name recognition counts. When a reader comes across your books, you want him to stop and think, "Wait! This guy's famous. Maybe I'd better see what his books are like." I'm convinced that this is what has catapulted your sales upward.

Unknown said...

You hit it on the head Joe. My best sales jumps have been when I put a new book out, or run a prize promotion. That's about the only factor I've seen work.

Martin Blasick said...

I'm that guy. Enjoying your blog but haven't bought a title.

I've ponied up for a publicist (in another field) to the tune of a few grand a month. It's sort of a blunt blow as opposed to a sharp silver bullet. There's some results - but not financial. Thanks for the straight dope. Confirms my experience. The amazon thing is a gusher. Get it while you can.

Sean McCartney said...

@ Kathleen

I hope you don't mind me asking but what Amazon tools?


Todd Trumpet said...

"Most is from people discovered who me on Kindle."

This is gonna kill your sales, Joe.


Lynn O'Dell said...

Hi, Joe.

I just want to tell you that I ready your blog regularly.


I have bought all of your books.


John Caliburn said...

Thank you for this post!

I learned that publicity doesn't help much with sales.

And even if it does help your sales, it is only for the short term.

It is only when your books are amazing that the readers will come back for more in the long term.

Ozma said...

Joe has spoken! This is excellent and the most valuable post yet, thank you! I am a writer and I think I've bought all your books to date by now, including paranormal tales and found you thru this blog in 2010. When I find someone smart in writing I do try their books and I love finding new authors.

I have some publishing options and today you have spoke so clear! I think you must be channeling ;) I'm glad you're doing so well, everything you write is compelling. I will keep reading and writing.

You have inspired my world!

(PsychicOzma from Twitter)

J. R. Tomlin said...

"In other words, my fame and my past have little to do with my current success."

Good news for most of us, Joe. I'm along with Kathleen Valentine (who writes good stories and I have bought some of them). Amazon is my primary asset. It hasn't brought me as far as it has her or you. I'm selling around 50 novels a day now up from 6 to 10 three months ago. And that was because of tools given me by Amazon. If that changes, I'll change my strategy, just as you have so often advised.

We may not buy many of your books (I don't much like Thrillers) but you have sure meant a lot to our success. Thanks aren't much but you have them.

Gary Ponzo said...

My take on ads and other promotional publicity is this: When you see a McDonalds ad on TV, you don't run to McCdonalds and buy a burger. (Unless you just got off a 30 day beer diet, of course.) But its name recognition which will allow customers traveling to other cities to be comfortable with the choice of restaurants because they already know what to expect.

The same works for writers. The more times a reader sees your name, the more comfortable that reader will be in ordering your book, because they're familiar with you. They've seen your name before, so you're not a complete stranger to them. It's an accumulative thing and not something you can easily quantify.

Peggy said...

Hi Joe,
I've bought a bunch of your books...

But I know what you mean. Good advice, too many writers operate in this echo chamber of ours, forgetting that they need to engage the wider world.

Continue on...

MGalloway said...

To add to what Gary Ponzo said, I'm beginning to believe more and more that when a writer has more books available for purchase, it not only spreads the risk out for the writer but for the reader also.

Each book is a time investment for the reader. It's easier to invest that time if there are many choices available from a particular author because after a certain number of books, it looks like the author knows what they are doing.

Of course that could all go for naught if the first book the reader picks up isn't very good or doesn't deliver on the promise of the blurb/book description.

David Gaughran said...

I agree completely on the publicity thing - and that belief is fairly widespread.

I was interviewed by two national newspapers here in Ireland over the last few months. As luck would have it, the interviews ran on Saturday and Sunday - two huge double features on self-publishing, with big chunks of quotes from me, and mentions of books etc.

I suspected it would do little for my sales, and it did exactly nothing. Now, it's nice for my friends, and especially my family - this stuff is important to them, and maybe it will open some doors for me - who knows. And maybe it gets my name out there a little too, so the next time somebody comes across my books, they might be (slightly) more inclined to check them out. Maybe.

But there is no sales spike from this stuff. I couldn't attribute one extra sale to being featured in the two biggest weekend papers in Ireland (that are read by pretty much everybody who reads books). Zero.

Amazon, however, can move mountains - just by shining one of their 10,000 spotlights on you for a few hours.

P.S. Loved Origin. I'll probably try The List next.

Jeff Bennington said...

I'm getting ready to publish a book called, The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. Would you be willing to give me permission to post some of these points at the top of a few of my chapters.

I'd be glad to send you an arc, and will most definitely give you credit and add a link to one of your books in the kindle edition. Please advise.

Participating authors include Scott Nicholson, Joanna Penn, Blake Crouch and other bestselling indie authors. I would be honored to add you to that list.
Any other bestselling authors posting here are welcome to send a blurb of advice for indie authors to ~~>

Jeff Bennington

Toni Dwiggins said...

Timely post, thank you.

Publicity for me is strictly related to the books, since I'm not newsworthy. So until/unless my books become visible enough to glide along on their own, I'll be looking for ways to promote.

That said, YES YES YES I need to write more and spend less timing flailing on Twitter.

I fear that waiting for Uncle Jeff to pass the wand over my books is akin to Waiting for Godot.

JapaneseLonewolf said...

As a reader and an up and coming writer, I have purchased several of your books including Jack Daniels. Shot of Tequila is my favorite, along with Exposed and Flee. Your blog has been an inspiration, in terms of writing and the pitfalls and land mines to avoid. Hopefully, when I have self pubbed my books later this year, I will have learned enough from you to garner success.

Thanks for a very informative blog and outlet.

William Ockham said...

Duh. Think about it folks. When people are looking at the Amazon best seller list, what do you think they are doing? They are shopping for books. And for most of us, it is just one-click and done. Compare that to watching Jon Stewart. I'm watching to be entertained. It takes a lot more effort and motivation to buy a book that you saw on the Daily Show or Oprah (which honestly is a testament to their sway over their literate fans).

If you want to sell me a book, make sure there is a link to Amazon. I'm lazy, but I buy books. I bought my first Barry Eisler book from a link on a blog. I've bought them all since. Amazon makes it really easy.

Also, it helps to have a sale(that's why I bought "The List"). Folks who have a series of more than 3 genre books really ought to focus on keeping #1's price low and giving it away free occasionally.

Michelle Muto said...

I'm trying to catch the Amazon wave. Great post, Joe.

JA Konrath said...

Thanks to those who read my blog and have bought my books. That's appreciated. :)

That said, my blog posts can get anywhere from a dozen replies to over 600.

But I get between 10,000 and 30,000 blog visitors per day.

Perhaps those who leave comments feel a larger obligation to buy my books. But let's say 30,000 people have bought my books because of my blog, one for each unique hit I get daily.

That's still nowhere near 700,000.

JA Konrath said...

Shot of Tequila is my favorite, along with Exposed and Flee.

Funny you should say that. In Spree, the next Chandler book, she hooks up with Tequila. It's a lot of fun.

Livia Blackburne said...

Good data points, Joe, and very eye opening. I think you're absolutely right that Amazon's marketing power, once it starts working for you, swamps everything else.

One thing I do wonder about, however, is if smart publicity is helpful for getting you started on Amazon's system. To get established, you need enough sales for "people also bought" data, etc, and you need a first batch of reader reviews. So there are two addition data points I'd be interested in: First -- how many of your initial reviews are given by people who received review copies through your blog, and Second -- how much of a sales jump there is for people who guest post on your blog (presumably, most of your guest posters are less firmly established in Amazon's recommendation algorithms)

Kendra said...

How much credit do you give to your Thomas and Mercer Amazon marketing to drive your other sales? I've sold two books to Amazon that come out in a few months. Even if Amazon never buys another book from me, I hope what I selfpub will ride the coattails of the supreme power of Amazon's direct marketing. I weighed the marketing power of Amazon as priceless vs. the deal I was offered by a big 6. Amazon won.

Walter Golden said...

You are absolutely right Joe. It is all too true that writers are not readers. Last year I gave two talks on E-books to members of two different senior centers
After it was over I asked how many had e-readers. The answer was zero. One of the older members did not have a computer.
I am a member of The California Writers’ club. I took part in a panel discussion. The next day I checked to see how many books had been sold. The answer was zero.

Nick said...

Excellent advice as usual!

I'm a huge fan of your website and I've learned a great deal about ebooks and self-publishing. With your help, I recently published my first ebook, entitled Nike's Chinese New Year, a coming of age comedy set in China. I was wondering if you would do me the honor of being the first to review my little story?

Mari Stroud said...

I'll be printing this post off and pinning it on my billboard for whenever I get scritchy. (What can I say? Patience was never one of my vices.)

WayneThomasBatson said...

Joe, the crux of your point here is shocking, but absolutely true in my experience. I was on an east coast book tour when I got the opportunity of a, so I thought. I appeared live on national tv: Fox Morning Show with Steve and Gretchen. It was a great segment. The Washington Post did a front page story on me, suggesting that I might be the "Next Harry Potter." Holy SNOT, you'd think my sales would quadruple overnight. Nope. A two day bump in sales is all that happened. I was so frustrated I could barely sleep. I used to think that the press was an excellent way to meet readers. But no, you meet readers where readers go: online, forums, blogs, schools, libraries, etc.

Jack Hovenier said...

I bought The List to give you some money because I've benefited so much from your "open source" philosophy. I also bought your Newbie Guide to Publishing a few months ago. I'd happily mail you $100 and a few NFL or MLB hats (my non-writing job) is I knew where to send the hats and the money. Your inspiration to me and countless others is truly incalculable. Let me know if you want the cash and the hats!

A.Rosaria said...

Maybe the exposure doesn't spike the sales, but keep the momentum of sales going.

Kristi said...

Thank you for writing about something a little different, Joe. Praise Jesus! Keep it up.

David W. Cowles said...

Wow! What a potent post! By coincidence, shortly before I read your blog I'd come to the same conclusion and had just announced on my blog at that henceforth I'll be publishing my books exclusively on

I have a pretty Spartan blog format. Mebbe some day I'll figger out how to make it more attractive.

I don't understand Facebook at all. Somehow I have a Facebook page with minimal information. I think I joined when I wanted to see someone else's Facebook page, though I sure didn't want to.

As far as Twitter goes ... I don't know a tweet from a twat, and don't want to take the time to learn the difference.

I'd much rather write more books than horse around with social media. Fact is, I'm not a very sociable person.

Already I'm starting to see results from the KDP Select program. I've given away tens of thousands of books this month, thanks to the five-days-of-free program. Hopefully, these will result in good customer reviews and sales.

How does one get books entered on the Kindle Daily Deal?

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Hi I wanted to look at buying your books but couldn't find a link on your bolg (at least not one that worked) = Error occurred: 404 - not found. Keep up the good work. :)

antares said...

"David Gaughran said...

Loved Origin. I'll probably try The List next."

David, you need to train up to read The List. It is an exhausting book. It starts at a run, sprints in the middle, then slows to a jog for a chapter or two, and finishes with a pace that will leave you panting for breath. I gave it 5 stars on Amazon.

When I recover, I'll buy another of Joe's books. I need the exercise.

Scott Gordon said...

Hey Joe, I just wanted to thank you for inspiring me to join the e-book revolution. I put my children's book My Little Pet Dragon on promotion yesterday, and hit #32 in the Free Kindle E-books overnight (currently I'm #2 in free children's e-books).

I've moved lover 6,500 copies in a little more than 24 hours--completely insane numbers that I cannot wrap my head around. I'm expecting big things once it comes off the free giveaway.

Thanks again, Joe. You had a hand in my success.

Adam Pepper said...

It's hard to just dismiss the value of publicity. I'm sure it's true that you are getting a boat-load of sales through random browsers but there certainly has to be something said for being mentioned in every self publishing piece in the mainstream media. Perhaps not the primary drvier of your sales. But it must have an impact.

Sean McCartney said...

Joe is it a just a coincidence that Flee is very much like Haywire? The ideas seem awfully close. :)


Remus Shepherd said...

Huh. Fascinating anecdotes, Joe. Thanks for posting them.

Maybe it does all come down to voodoo and luck. That's...depressing, actually.

Melissa Douthit said...


Thanks Joe! Your advice always puts some wind in my sales ... oh, I mean sails. =o)

Dana Michelle Burnett said...

I've never understood the advice on writing blogs that if you want to sell more books be sure to blog about your writing process. Readers couldn't care less about what you think about writing. Thanks for setting the record straight! You rock as always!

Firequeen said...

I am a writer and I do read your books also. So i may not be the norm. Your talk of self publishing has helped me. I have now put my first book out and yes I continue to read your books also.

Nikki Jefford said...

I bought "A Newbie's Guide to Publishing", Joe and everyone hoping to get into print (self pub, digital or traditional) should. There are damn good writing tips in there!

I appreciate you taking the time to pack all that insight into one eBook even knowing it'd be a sleeper.

Unknown said...

I guess I am one of those weirdos who actually bought your books based upon your blog and ... oh yeah, I'm a writer. I dipped my pinky toe in with a $2.99 copy of Shaken and next thing I knew, I was buying everything you'd written including your horror novels which are just as good as anything Stephen King has written (just shorter). You introduced me to Blake Crouch who introduced me to other indie authors and I haven't looked back.

I believe what you are saying is true. I would rather give away a hundred books and get some very honest reviews then troll blogger review websites. I have also taken your advice and write a *lot* more. I have a book coming out next month after my editor finishes her work over and I also am about 10k from finishing the sequel to Death Wish. I am hoping to get it out around May or June (after proofreads and several look-overs from my editor).

My goal is at least five books out this year but I hope six or seven and see no reason why I can't do this. There is no fail safe way of building an audience but if you have decently priced books and plenty of them, it can't hurt. Thanks again for your sound advice. ;-)

Jan Hurst-Nicholson said...

Joe, you're so right about wishing you hadn't signed publishers' contracts. Although my children's books were trad published I spent 20 years of near misses with my novels. Now I'm glad I didn't find a publisher and I was able to e-publish my books.
Sometimes it takes a while to see the big picture.

Jack D. Albrecht Jr. said...

The only question I have is: how do you get one of amazon's imprints to look at your book? I know it isn't necessarily sales since some new authors are picked up before they self publish. I have done some research into it, but I can't find anything that explains how to contact them. I even hear stories about people being contacted by amazon out of the blue, telling them of mistakes in their book. None of this has happened to our novel.

Do you know about any of this Joe?

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

This may be the most valuable post you've written. Pragmatic and to the point. I love it. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Publicity from Amazon translates to mega-$ for a special chosen few, but for 99.9% of authors the only publicity available at Kindle has to be achieved through either (1) actual sales that lead to lists and visibility, and/or (2) free promotions on KDP Select.

Outside of these two categories, the publicity JA speaks of is largely an illusion for almost all authors.

Author David Brown said...

Great post, Joe. Keep doing your thing...and telling us about it!

Jeff Maziarek said...

Great article! I saw the link on Facebook, clicked through and am delighted I did so. I love your candor and obvious authenticity. I have one Kindle title and another one coming. My experience is alignment with yours vis-a-vis PR; I've been on radio shows and there has been no marked increase in sales as a result of any appearance. Bless you for sharing your experiences so openly, and congratulations on all your success.

Stuart said...

Publicity from Amazon translates to mega-$ for a special chosen few, but for 99.9% of authors the only publicity available at Kindle has to be achieved through either (1) actual sales that lead to lists and visibility, and/or (2) free promotions on KDP Select.

Outside of these two categories, the publicity JA speaks of is largely an illusion for almost all authors.

This is a bullshit reply from this anonymous guy! If you want to spend the money, you can take advantage of two programs with Amazon (I know...I asked), just like the big dogs. You can spend 10K or 25K on direct to consumer marketing through Amazon and market your book like the Legacy Publishers do. It's your option to spend the money. Just like the dog track, the challenge of betting on yourself is determining whether you're the longshot or the easy money.

Livia Blackburne said...

Stuart --
"If you want to spend the money, you can take advantage of two programs with Amazon (I know...I asked)."

Could you please elaborate?

JA Konrath said...

I don't think you can say all those articles have such little value based on immediate sales.

It's a poor argument, Henry. For it to be true, then no one would have my success without publicity, and everyone with publicity would have my success. Neither is the case. I can name dozens of instances proving this.

You also haven't addressed any of the reasons I put up why publicity isn't a big factor.

Amazon is the key to my sales, not USA Today writing about me. Readers don't care about publishing news.

I'm not saying name recognition doesn't hurt. But the sales publicity generates are paltry compared to the sales from people first discovering me on the store they've brought into their house (it's called a Kindle) which enables them to buy me immediately with one click.

Stuart said...


I emailed Amazon about their adnertising programs and this is their reply:

We do have options to advertise on the site – attached is a CPC vs. CPM slide that shows the difference. Our minimum for CPC is $10k and the minimum for CPM is $25k.

So it can be done.

Livia Blackburne said...

Stuart -- what kind of advertising were you asking about? Banner ads and such? Or newsletter mentions?

Stuart said...


What I gathered from the PDF they sent me, is they target patrons who purchase books in the genre you sale. At least I think that was correct. Maybe Joe would know the answer to that.

Barbara Morgenroth said...

What Amazon tools are you referring to, Joe?

Anonymous said...

"This is a bullshit reply from this anonymous guy! If you want to spend the money, you can take advantage of two programs with Amazon (I know...I asked), just like the big dogs. You can spend 10K or 25K on direct to consumer marketing through Amazon and market your book like the Legacy Publishers do. It's your option to spend the money. Just like the dog track, the challenge of betting on yourself is determining whether you're the longshot or the easy money."

My comment is "bullshit" because I didn't mention a way to spend $10-25,000 in an attempt to BUY publicity?

Go ahead and do it. Let us know how it works out for you.

Sam Grant said...

Thanks Joe. Your words ring true besides I HATE the "whor---" eh I meant "marketing" thing.
But after a week of having my 1st book out (4 sales inc 3 by family) I feel defeated and just sent 3 queries for "agents" no pun intended (my book is about a CIA officer!).
You really must have very thick skin to put up w/all you have. May the force be with you ;)

Stuart said...


Outside of these two categories, the publicity JA speaks of is largely an illusion for almost all authors.

The problem is you didn't mention it, but focused on only what you wanted to, like many naysayers and Joe haters. The problem with your answer, is that you can compete on the same level. The playing field is wide open, jackass! But first you need to pull your "anonymous" foot out of your mouth! You can navigate that field better with your feet under you.

And when I do have it, I can promise you I'll spend it. It's the reason I asked to begin with. What are you doing?

Anonymous said...

"The problem is you didn't mention it, but focused on only what you wanted to, like many naysayers and Joe haters."

You can call me a lot of things with that dirty little mouth of yours, but don't ever call me a Joe hater.

HM Ward said...

dear joe - it's cuz you don't write stuf w sparklie vampires in it. :D

Anonymous said...

I totally agree.

I wrote a book called "The Word Gang," the story of three kids in school who start using big words to be disruptive. To advertise, I started creating a platform: FB page, "friends" etc. I didn't start tweeting, thank god.

When I had several hundred 'friends' I needed $70 for some software so I offered my book discounted with free shipping and handling. I got one taker -- kid I went to high school with.

The platform is nothing but writers trying to sell their books to each other. Buyers don't go there.

Mark McKenna

Kathleen Dienne said...

@ Sam:

You gave up after a week? A week?!

Way too soon, man. Give up after a year with two other followup books written and uploaded. Maybe try some of the tricks you read about here, like having three books available and making the first one free for a week.

Good luck!

Shannan Sinclair said...

Some of the best, most informative posts about self-publishing at this blog. I love this blog.
But you're right... I have not read you... yet. But trust me. You are the first on my list when I stop writing and self publishing and have time for a good read. I swear!

Avi said...

Michael Ellsberg has similar observations about the effect of mainstream publicity on sales:

Jack D. Albrecht Jr. said...

Shannon, thrillers are not my genre of choice, but I have purchased and read many of Joe's books. He is great at setting a scene, and I will forever avoid cornfields thanks to one particularly gruesome murder in his books! Highly recommended

Lewis Perdue said...

About the only publicity that's ever showed any results for me have been talk radio, especially drive time.

I had some solid legacy bestsellers back in the 1980s, but I think those had to do more with great sales and distribution rather than publicity.

I also agree with your warnings about legacy contracts. After 20 legacy books, I finally awakened to this new world ... prodded there in large part by Lee Goldberg an your experiences.

So, I've got Die By Wire on Kindle and every other device known to God and Smashwords ... Createspace as well.

And I'm fuumbling about in Kindleville trying to make the miracle happen. You've referred several times to the "tools" that Kindle provides. But it seems like I need a tool (app?) to find the tools.

I don't suppose you might consider a "Top 10 Tools" list for a future post? Or maybe

I'm reading your earlier Newbie posts from the earliest to the latest in search of wisdom and and the 10 best Kindle tools. Wisdom, I'm finding. Kindle tools? Not. Yet.

Oh, eZen Kindle Master, your grasshoppers await the tools to the universe.

Sam Grant said...

Thanks Kathy for your kind words. I don't think those of us who like to consider ourselves as "serious" writers care much (if at all) for the business side of this enterprise. Loathe it actually. But thanks again. Maybe I'll try the free price thing for a week. Just like some feedback. Sorry Joe for using this forum to reply to K.
Steep learning curve with lots of faux pas!

JA Konrath said...

The tools I talked about are built into Amazon KDP. The ability to change your prices, use Select to make ebooks free, ask your fans for customer reviews, publish as many ebooks as you like, collaborate with other authors to widen virtual shelf-space and exchange fanbases, all help you position your ebooks and improve your rankings and sales.

Lewis Perdue said...

Joe, Thanks for the quick response. The only KDP toolI have been able to find is the pricing one. Weirdly, during the time that I made Die By Wire free, the sales of my other books went up faster than the new one.

Unless I am a total numbnuts (again) the other items you mention seem to be outside the realm of Kindle tools ..." Ask fans for customer reviews, ... collaborate with other authors to widen virtual shelf-space and exchange fanbases"

I think you cover those pretty damn well in this post: but if you're like me, you don't have a mailing list yet, thus not much by way of anything to trade with other authors.

Okay, yes, I have proved that I'm a numbnuts with that last paragraph.

So, here, I slide from numbnuts to bonehead ... (Yes, I am not too proud to look dumb in order to crack this thing.) ... without a mailing list, isn't the "free book for honest review" a tweet, a blog cry in the wilderness in the hope that someone is listening?

Or is it just that obvious and I need to get on with that?

Sam Grant said...

Thanks Joe...KDP Select it is! Rest not sure about. You really are like Pied Piper guiding all of us think Kindle should hire you as an official "consultant" with a generous salary. Just my 2 cents.
Thanks mucho mucho.

JA Konrath said...

You don't need a mailing list, Lewis. Join Goodreads and contact people who have given good reviews to your previous books, asking if they'd like a free copy of the new one to review.

By "Amazon tools" I'm talking about what Amazon makes it possible to do. There isn't an ap that gets you reviews. But the fact that Amazon allows customer reviews can be used to your advantage.

Lewis Perdue said...

Thanks mucho Joe. It's apparent that we need to get rid of legacy thinking as well as legacy publishing. It's a new mindset and your patience with the rest of us as we catch up is very cool. And totally appreciated.

Lavinia Thompson said...

I have yet to try KDP Select. I want to try it for my next book or two and see how it does as a promotional tool for book launches.

I have found that my sales get boosted when I do give aways- so I do a monthly one. My first two books, Spellbound by Fire and She Wasn't Allowed to Giggle, focussed on domestic violence and child abuse, so the giveaway is a Domestic Violence Awareness Give Away in which I alternate monthly the book I giveaway and will continue to do so as I release more books. The Spellbound sequel will be included in this once it is released.

For She Wasn't Allowed to Giggle, I got many reviews and interviews and am doing the same with Spellbound, but I know that constantly being on Facebook and Twitter makes little to no difference, so I use social media more as a networking tool so I can talk to other writers and get some support. When it comes to marketing, I find that other writers are always willing to help. Find a good group with friendly writers, and as long as you reciprocate, they'll tweet about your books, share your Facebook posts, and I even found a few guys who did my book trailer for no cost, as long as in return I did a few plugs for their books. Easy enough.

Writers really are a community, not a competition. Once you treat it as a community, you see a difference. My sales aren't incredibly high and and I am not making thousands of dollars off my books, but I ma sure having fun doing it...while we'd all love to be rich off our books, I think most of the fun is just in the ride itself. I love the self-publishing process. OK, I dislike editing but we all have to face editors.

Basically: congregate within the writer community. There are great resources there that do make a difference. That's a tool outside of Amazon you can use as well.

Suzanne Lilly said...

I'm one of the few hundred who bought a couple of your books after finding out about your self-publishing. And you are absolutely right about most writers not buying the books of the authors they follow. Thanks for all your good advice. You've helped me stay focused on my goals.

Nancy Beck said...

But after a week of having my 1st book out (4 sales inc 3 by family) I feel defeated and just sent 3 queries for "agents" no pun intended (my book is about a CIA officer!).

@Sam - Have to agree with Katherine Dienne here. You gave up after only one freaking week? Jeez, I haven't been burning up the lists or anything - have only sold a few of my stories - and I've been at it since last July!

Am I about to give up? Hell no! This is what I want to do, and what I need to do is GET MORE PRODUCT UP. Go to Dean Wesley Smith's site, and read it through. He's firmly in the camp that the more stuff you have uploaded the more chance you have of finding your readership. And since you only have one book up, you're throwing in the towel waaaaay too early.

Seriously, read through Dean Wesley Smith's site (just Google it), and he'll set you straight. :-)

Anonymous said...

As far as Twitter goes ... I don't know a tweet from a twat

I believe Selena Kit could help you with that...

Faith Bicknell said...

Hi Joe! Since you read and blurbed Moone Spell for me, I've learned a heluva lot about NY publishing and the ebook world. What you state in your post is so true. One thing I've always said is that it's pointless to post promos on writers' loops and forums because they're all writers. They don't want to buy your book; they want you to buy theirs.

I don't think ads work either unless the writer already has money to burn and can pay for the expensive, glossy print ads and high-traffic sites. Online review sites? Meh, they might work for a small percentage but it's very small.

I have four of your books, btw. :D

Hope life has been treating you well!

JA Konrath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Faith Bicknell said...

Got it!

Valerie Zambito said...

"Readers are my customers, not writers." Not true! This writer is one of your biggest fans. Continued success to you.

Jane Rutherford said...

My whole life I dreamt about selling my book to a publisher and getting it all, you know, glory and fame and fortune. Then I thought better of it, I hit the Internet and found all those self-pubbed authors who found success and found the glory and all the things I wanted. But it still took me years to reevaluate my views on the subject. That dream of publisher calling me was too deeply set in my mind. And I think that's the problem of many aspiring authors. Once we all get over that dream and look at the calculator much closely, I think we will all arrive to the same conclusions as you, Joe.

Donna Carrick said...

Joe, as always, you are right on the money.

People, keep your copyrights close and your promotional efforts closer. The only way to e-sales is through Amazon tools designed to reach e-readers.

This perfectly matches the experiences my husband, author Alex Carrick and I have both had.

Donna Carrick
author of The First Excellence
Carrick Publishing

Carmen McCormack said...

Well to be honest I had never heard of you before I purchased a Kindle and I think the first book I got of yours was a free one, and then I was hooked. I am in Australia so things like the NYT have little meaning here (to me anyway), and after reading your books I follow this blog because it a very, very interesting read...I think you are spot on though, readers don't care about all of that other crap - if the book is good, they will buy more!! ( weel, me anyway!!)

David L. Shutter said...

...sales from people first discovering me on the store they've brought into their house (it's called a Kindle) which enables them to buy me immediately with one click

The store bought into the house.

That's perhaps the biggest factor in all of this. Yes, the internet's been here awhile now but it's the instant reading that changes everything.

With a smartphone and a Ipad I spend maybe an hour a day looking up Kindle books now (5 min here and there) Compared to maybe an hour a month previously in the bookstore.

Now multiply that by the millions of new Kindles and e-reading friendly devices out there.

Tangela Ekhoff said...

Great post. Recently started a small PR firm to help starting indie writers with affordable PR. I think writers, even indie writers, have the old, trad model in mind for PR. It's a whole new world.

I don't think it's irrelevant to have PR, especially if you are new.

Authors should get their names mentioned as much as possible, especially non-fiction indie writers, because that brings credibility and speaking opportunities.

I do think authors spend way too much time worrying about how to get on huge TV shows and in the NYT, instead of writing.

I will say this, if an author has a choice between paying for PR or paying for a GREAT cover...go for the COVER. A bad cover can kill a great book.

Sarah Stegall said...

Great article, JA, but I had to laugh at one point. Yes, I have bought your Newbie's Guide to Publishing, and remembered this line from it: "A very small percentage of books are sold on the Internet". This was in the chapter on promotion. Obviously, that's not your stance today. More proof that this is a fluid, ever-changing field; keeping up to date must be like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall.

Kwei Quartey said...

JA, I agree. I've never seen radio or TV interviews, blogs, reviews and the like have any positive effect on sales. My columns even make appearances on HuffPo. But prominence in one area does not "spill into" another.

lili dauphin said...

Great advice.

anarchist said...

Joe, are you counting 'peer publicity' such as reviews by other bloggers, or are you only counting 'mainstream publicity' such as mentions in newspapers?

EsTilton said...

I really appreciate your emphasis on quality time spent actually writing. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever have time to write again if all I did was marketing.

Daniel Berenson said...

Looks like I need to concentrate on getting more of my titles out there. I was planning one every six months, but now I'm thinking of speeding up the process. Thanks for all the info/comments.
Daniel Berenson
author of
Stories Guaranteed to Make You Sick

Graham J Sharpe said...

Joe, as a new writer (recently self published eBook on Amazon), i'm massively grateful for your insight and advice.
I feel passionate about writing and I want it to stay that way. Recently I've been spinning upside down in the tweeting-blogging-facebook-publicity vortex, but, after reading this (and many of your other blogs), I'm back on course.
Big Thanks, from Graham J Sharpe

Amanda Ball said...

I have books of my own on Amazon and I have also published two for my partner. We did loads of press release and social media work for his and got it reviewed in an international magazine. The effect was negligible.

Apart from a Facebook page, I've done very little outside of Amazon with mine and they are starting to sell quite well now. I'm learning to use the Amazon system to my advantage and can see that it really works. So, it's a great lift to read your post this morning and see that I'm on the right tracks and that my reluctance to do the 'please review my book' in the local press etc isn't costing me enough to warrant the pain I envisage it will cause!!

I write about what I'm passionate about and do my best to make sure it's well written and presented. I'm learning to get the system to work for me and with a bit of that all important luck, I'll be ok!

Thanks for a really great blog post! I'm off to download one of your books now ;-)

Cosmic Blip Media, Inc. said...

I'm trying to break into this business with some short stories and then I have several ideas for novels that I plan on publishing through Amazon/Kindle (only). The fact that I can do this for next to nothing is amazing.

I noticed you said that you made $140K in the last 30 days. Is that all from your books? Is that number real? That seems so outrageous that it is hard for me to fathom. But if so....WOW.

Patience Prence Author said...

Joe that's really good news in a way because I don't want to become famous! But, what tools on Amazon are you talking about?

PS I did buy one of your books about how you sold alot of books ; D

Joel D Canfield said...

Has anyone mentioned what an inspiring article this is, Joe?

Oh, they have? Okay. Me too.

Victoryperfect said...

Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work!


Rick Katz said...

Joe I'd read your books, but, I've only read about 2 fiction books in the last 25 years.

But this was a great post; you have an incredible blog and I respect the hell out of you.

BTW, I do want to write fiction someday so maybe I should read some.

Necati said...

I have been studying Kindle forums, facebook pages, author blogs for about a week now to understand authors' outlook on the use of social media (writing my MBA project on this).

I agree with many of your insights, for instance about how book reviews may not be as important as before, or about how one type of a followership doesn't necessarily translate to sales -which requires attention of another type of audience; and I don't think anyone could argue against the fact that Amazon's own marketing machine would always be a top factor in sales.

I don't agree with some of the reaching arguments you have though. Your case or your anchor friend's show that segment fit is important when it comes to name recognition. And it is obvious how Amazon tools helped your success. You have even more examples of how YOUR blog readership isn't YOUR target customer -so to speak. Why are you suggesting this should be the case for all other writers? I am sure (don't have data, but still sure) that it would make a HUGE difference for a gardening book writer to already have a gardening blog audience than not having any.

Tweet less, write more sounds like a good principle but what concerns me is the readiness of other authors who commented here to completely ditch efforts in building an audience through social media. Many commenters are apparently frustrated to have not accumulated the numbers they hoped for, or they feel bad self-promoting. They may very well be following a wrong social media plan or they may be doing it wrong altogether.

It could be true that you need a lot of word-of-mouth if you define "success" as merely sales of a particular book currently in promotion and define social media as a sales channel, but I'd suggest that even a small fan base could mean A LOT -for your future work, for instance. When most people won't write paragraphs of reviews on Amazon, if approached in the right way those who deliberately "follow" or "like" you will probably tell you why your main character is sometimes a jerk, or that they are dying to know more about his lost sister and many other gems. These should prove to be invaluable feedback and would translate to sales, but I am sure KDP screens don't have graphs for those. Social media metrics/analytics is in its infancy, so it is understandable how value in connections just slips by sometimes.

Mark L said...

Anonymous, are you Lee Child? If so, I'm disappointed in you.

Robert Zoltan said...

Does anyone know how Amazon chooses the books for Kindle Daily Deal? I can find no information on this, even after repeated online searches.


Anonymous said...

Many say that it is best to just write as much as possible and publish it all on Amazon. I tried a free Kindle promo for my first work and it had no lasting effect. For my next book, I am going to spring for a review service. I cannot afford Kirkus or BlueInk, so I am going to try a new one that I have heard about and is much cheaper:

jaket kulit said...

Hey there! I know this is kinda off topic but I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing a blog post or vice-versa? My blog addresses a lot of the same topics as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other. If you might be interested feel free to shoot me an email. I look forward to hearing from you! Excellent blog by the way!

jaket kulit said...

I do enjoy the manner in which you have presented this particular challenge plus it does indeed give me personally some fodder for thought. On the other hand, because of what I have personally seen, I just simply hope when other feedback pile on that individuals stay on issue and in no way start on a soap box involving the news du jour. Still, thank you for this superb piece and whilst I can not necessarily go along with this in totality, I regard the viewpoint.

Anonymous said...

I've spent the morning / day reading your blog posts, (from beginning to this one), and observing the evolution of your take on publishing, etc. & though many of these posts are eye opening & educational (v.) this is probably the most sobering post. I've been published / published one book w/a legacy, and was encouraged to blog, do tours, write (for free) on blogs, tweet, work the FB base, etc. My book has different entry points that has allowed me to write about it, and on one blog last year, I did see sales spike during that period. (It's curious to me that Barry Eisler who has similar sort of platform elements w/in his latest book hasn't been blogging about the civil rights & freedom of speech issues that his books tap into because reading him on your blog made me want to go out and buy his books.)

As far your blogging & sales go, I see you being of service and that there is value in that that may not be tangible but in the long run, the good will you're generating (I am not alone in this - clearly, people dig you) is worth something way than money. WTF am I say, I don't know, but good comes from what you're doing.

My opinion of you was very different last year. I thought you were a blow hard, anti-publishing, etc. but then reading the aggregate of your posts, I see what you're doing is beyond pretty much anything what anyone else has done for writers. But it's provocative to someone like me because I've been so invested in the legacy agency, credentials, working my way in and ... tho it's not a total waste of time, to continue exclusively on that path would really be wasting five year.

You're coming from a place I can relate to - although I haven't written 7000 letters to libraries, toured as extensively as you ... all of that - in that I have regretted not doing it, and now feel a lot less bad about "missing out."

I'm rewriting my first novel, dividing a 650 pg. mss into 4 parts, expanding, using what I picked up from my one publishing experience, and drilling down into my revisions. It's been exciting and nerve wracking: can I do this? Should I? Or, sit tight and ... wait for my agent to decide my "real" work is ready for submission (after his edits)? Or, take what I know he'll never submit, and put it out there myself?

Last year, I contacted 52, but wasn't ready; last week, I met with an illustrator about a cover, and am about 5 weeks away from doing it.

So thank you, Mr. Konrath, for giving me a nudge. For giving all of us a nudge.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this totally helpful and timely post. My book's on its way out, so what you've said here is exactly what I needed to know.

J.Q. Rose said...

Eye-opening information! When I am out in the "real" world, most of the folks have no idea what an e-book is..Okay most are retired but voracious readers. At a book "signing" I spend my time explaining what an e-book is, not telling them about my fantastic mystery! I don't mind doing it. But we writers live in a different world of reality. Some day I know e-books will sell like gangbusters and I will not have to explain what they are anymore.!!

Christopher F. Mills said...

Who is Joe Konrath? never heard of him...

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Frances Verter said...

I just stumbled across this blog by Googling "financial value of publicity". I want to say that your message is not just for book writers, it crosses fields and platforms.

I run a website that promotes awareness and education on a health topic.

I am constantly struggling with the fact that I am famous among doctors and scientists in this field, but that does NOT transfer into increased readership by the public. Nor does general publicity. My public audience comes primarily from Google searches, and I have a high rank, but it is a never ending race on a treadmill that keeps going faster to maintain that rank.

Thank you for capturing this dichotomy so clearly.

abdul j. said...

Wow. This wasnt at all what I was expecting. Good food for thought. Will definitely keep this in mind going forward with research etc. Puts another spin on 'best publicity is to write more' too.


jaring futsal said...

his is the exact opposite of the dreary, whiny, woe-is-me blog I posted on my site today. Truly the sort of motivation I needed on a week like this one.