Self-publishing is a very tough business, even for bestselling authors.
Unless you are an internationally famous, or perhaps an equally infamous celebrity, or have connections in the halls of government, have appeared on NCIS or have gotten away with murder in a long and much-publicised media covered trial, you are a long way behind in the game of becoming one of those best-selling authors.
If you have a spare $200,000 to spend on marketing and advertising to promote your book, you might stand a distant chance, though.
But if you write in the popular genres of romance, paranormal or horror, forget about becoming a best-selling author by self-publishing your book and telling a few thousand people on Twitter about it, ten times a day.
You are in amongst hundreds of thousands of other authors, all trying to climb the best-selling pyramid that is as wide as the Grand Canyon at its base with millions of books, but very acute at the top with room for only a handful of books.
For those who may recall, Amanda Hocking made a splash a couple of years ago as the next big thing in self-publishing. Writing young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance, she became an overnight success and was quickly snapped up by St. Martin’s Press, a division of Macmillan Publishers, and then just as rapidly, started falling off the best-seller authors lists. I checked her last book, Elegy, and it is ranking at around 400,000 on Amazon.
Her best ranking book, as I write this, is Hollowland (The Hollows, #1), which is ranking at around 3,000, but it is free. Yes, Free!
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,610 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#15 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Action & Adventure > Romance
#25 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Action & Adventure > Fantasy
Hardly a success story to boast about now, is it?
This proves that even with a truckload of money and the marketing machine of a traditional publisher behind her now, making it in the most popular genres is extremely difficult. Maybe she would have been better to stay Indie. Who knows?
However, there are very successful Indie authors, who understand the secret of selling books and making money, and a living out of self-publishing.
It is by finding their small niche markets and narrowing in on these genres that are less competitive. Here is a snippet of one Indie author I know, Claude Bouchard and his book Vigilante.
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,650 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#23 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Crime Fiction > Vigilante Justice
#52 in Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers & Suspense > Crime > Vigilante Justice
You have probably heard a lot about Amanda Hocking and very little about Claude.
Find your niche market
However, it is easy to see who is doing better and selling more books. Look again at the Amazon Bestseller rankings above for Claude and Amanda and you will see why Claude is doing so well.
He has focused in on one clearly defined niche genre of thriller/vigilante justice, and not on the very broad genres of romance and fantasy, which places Amanda Hocking in competition with a million other books.
All successful small businesses understand what is happening here. To make money, there is no commercial logic in trying to compete with the Big End of town and their huge marketing and advertising budgets.
What makes more sense, and money, is focusing in on a very small part of a market and exploiting it to your advantage. It is also much cheaper to promote to a small and well-defined market niche.
Defining your book’s genre more precisely at the time of publishing, or perhaps now, re-publishing, and paying attention to the seven important keywords that can also be added to your book to define its genre even more finely, can make all the difference between being lost, unknown and broke, or becoming a best-selling author.
Reconsider listing your book in its most precise small niche genre. In fact, the smaller the niche, the better, as there is far less competition, and then promote to this market segment.
In this way, becoming number one in this market segment is within realistic reach.
Narrow down your genre
Using the example below of Medieval Romance, a clear marketing plan involving making contact with medieval bloggers and online forums as well as local interest groups or historical societies in your region would be much more productive than trying to blast your book to the world in the broad genre of romance, and then on social media.
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Historical Romance > Medieval
Being number one in this genre will get your book far more sales, and give you the credibility of being a best-selling author, as opposed to being number 1,000,000 in the broad general genre of romance.
If you have a few titles, getting them high in these smaller niche genre lists will then boost your overall sales and author rank.
To sell more of your books, focus on your small niche market, and forget about fighting with all those big sharks at the top of the best-selling pyramid.
So, would you prefer to be as successful as Claude or Amanda?