Life in The Jungle: Why some indie books simply won’t sell

Edwin StarkOkay, so you wrote the fifty thousand words (or 80 K or 100 K, whatever) of your Magnus Opus. It has romance, action, thrills and bigger than life characters; it’s innovative, fresh and a plot never heard of; there’s quite a plot twist two-thirds of the way through the book, the sort that will make anyone remember it for years to come.

You formatted the text carefully, created a comprehensive table of contents and rewrote the blurb until your word processor bled ones and zeroes; you made a compelling cover and, in some cases, even consulted a psychologist who knows about marketing for his opinion over the front matter of your book.

And then you uploaded it to Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, B&N  et al. You made a press release, told all your friends and online acquaintances and shared it with everyone at Facebook and Twitter. You marketed like mad for the best part of three months. During the first week, some shy sales trickled in… and then it won’t sell… not even an extra copy for the rest of eternity.

Surely you’re wondering: ‘what the F&%%! Happened?’

Particularly if you followed all the instructions of all those indie publishing market guides down to the letter. But all the sales you got came out from your groups of friends and your acquaintances… that’s about it.

Well, my friends, you have hit upon the wall of the reader’s comfort zone. In fact, you just smacked your face right into it, getting a shiner and a loose tooth in the process.

The Comfort Zone is your enemy all along, indie writer. Everyone has one up to a point, no matter how unconventional you believe you are. You won’t go see a certain kind of movie, you won’t read some books or do something simply because it’s out of your Comfort Zone.

Now imagine your target reader’s Comfort Zone: here we have this elderly lady who only reads romance, or there’s that guy that won’t read anything sci-fi that doesn’t allow him to count the nuts and bolts of a 50s Buck-Roger-style needle spaceship. And so on.

These readers will be the first ones to complain about the ‘same old, same old’ quality of their reading material, but they will always make a beeline toward their preferred genre; the old lady will go straight to the ‘R’ section of your local bookstore (for romance, of course) and the sci-fi guy seems to have squatter rights over the ‘S’ section.

They won’t read your sci-fi book (with a great romance plot running in the background) because: A) you’re an obscure indie writer and B) the old lady because she feels discomfited with the sci-fi of your novel and C) the sci-fi guy because… am I getting clear in my intent here?

Give it a miss… as indie writers, we can’t even have the benefit of offering something different (as a hook) to the reading audience out there… Mostly due to this Comfort Zone, which prevents all the reading people from even have a look into your book. It doesn’t matter that they might possibly like it. They won’t even give it a try.

Now excuse me while I go browsing into the ‘P’ section (it’s anybody’s guess what sort of material I’m looking at there, doesn’t it?

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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One thought on “Life in The Jungle: Why some indie books simply won’t sell

  1. I don’t know anyone who’s sold anything this summer. I am pathetically grateful to the person in the US who bought my first book last month and decided to read the sequel this month. Other than that, nada, zilch, since June.

    Then I look at things like Wool. The guy wrote a short. It was quite popular and some of the readers who liked it wrote to him and identified a character they particularly liked. He wrote a book about that character, did little or no marketing and the readers did it for him. That’s the fairy dust aspect. Once you’re into the bestseller list on Amazon, you tend to stay there, or thereabouts.

    Personally, I think that what you need is someone who loves your books so much they evangalise about them with zealous enthusiasm. I’m pretty sure that’s the fairy dust. Oh and time. You need lots and lots of time because you need to be able to write lots and lots of books.



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