It's been a while since my last blog entry discussing the world of self publishing. I'll be honest, other things got in the way like new seasons of my favorite shows on Netflix and an overall vein of lazy.
There is something I wanted to bring to new authors attention. It's something that gets repeated every month or two on other blogs and forums. That question is what to write. Often the answers to this question end up in the, "Write what you love," pile. It makes sense; why would you write something you don't love? The easy counter answer is, "Write what will make you money." Yes the bah-humbug from those dinosaurs from traditional publishing. They truly are sorry that your billionaire leprechaun meets unicorn shape-shiftier time travel children's book doesn't have a market. And the entire love crowd will call you a sellout, a get rich quick scumbag, a hack and all kinds of nasty names.
I have said it before and it needs repeating. Writing is an art. Publishing is a business. One sells the other, not the other way around. Traditional publishers know this. If you are going to self publish, you need to know it too. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against someone trying to make a living off of publishing leprechaun unicorn books, but I do take issue with people who have their heads stuck in the sand, believing a lot of the self published crap that gets talked about and refuse to acknowledge that it really is all their own fault that their book isn't selling.
So when you sit your writer self down with your publisher self, you need to decide what it is you're going to do. This is very important because it takes a lot of time to write something that is worth selling. Even when that is done, it takes a lot of money and more time to get it edited, proofread, covers, formatting etc etc done before you even see a dime. If you skip this meeting, you may end up with nothing.
Climbing the ranking ladder. It sounds exactly like that. Amazon is the big store right now. They have some 50 million unique hits a day and the better your book's rank is, the more eyes will see it. There are a lot of categories on Amazon these days. Some of these categories are broken ladders, dud genera, and filter traps. I write steampunk, I love it, I still am writing it with my new series (The War of Antiquities), but it's a dud genera.
As of this writing the number one steampunk book has an overall rank of 3572. For many of us, that would be awesome. But the reality is, it's dead. Steampunk's parent genera is Science Fiction. The number 100 book is ranked 1624. The list won't show you any lower unless you browse Amazon a specific way and get off the best sellers list and into the searches or apply filters.
So even if you have the best steampunk book out there, you're not even listed in Sci-Fi. This is a dead ladder. Unless someone is specifically looking for steampunk books, they will never see it. If they never see it, they will never buy it.
Going back to the book that is ranked 100 in Sci-Fi, we can also see that it's ranked number 20 in Dystopian and 31 in Post-Apocalyptic. This book isn't even at the top of it's sub-genera. It's not even on the first page of its sub-genre. But it gets the visibility of general Sci-Fi, Dystopian, and Post-Apocalyptic.
These sub-genera's are not broken. As these author's books climb the ranks, they graduate into higher tiered categories. This gets more random eyes on their books. More eyes mean more opportunities to make a sale.
You can buy your way out of the basement with advertising and clever marketing, but at the end of the day when your book slips back, it really has no fair chance of climbing out on its own. When you have that sit down meeting with yourself and you are honest about your goals. Put on your business had and realize that your great story just might not have a market but you might be able to turn the leprichaun into a sparkly vampire and the unicorn into Jack Bauer and find success with a paranormal thriller romance. If you pick a broken ladder, be ready for a long hard climb.