2012 has been a whirlwind year for indie authors…changes galore, new bestsellers and more. As we near the end of the year, I thought it would be fun to take a look back. So here it is: indie authors – 2012 In Review…
January – Indie Authors Take KDP Select By Storm
January brought us a bunch of indie authors who shot to the top of the Amazon bestseller lists. Giving away free books helped in a big way, and we heard tales of authors making $10,000 a month (and JA Konrath made even more). Ah, what a great thing is Amazon…
February – Indie Authors Flock To Amazon and KDP Select
As success stories continue about KDP Select, indie authors flock to Amazon, agreeing to exclusivity in order to give away their books for free. Mark Coker says it’s not a good thing, but few are listening…and maybe we should’ve been.
March – A Bad Book Series Stuns The Publishing World
Fifty Shades of Grey proves that you really don’t have to write well to sell, you just have to be in the right market. Yes, I know E.L. James had to do some marketing to get the ball rolling, but she then turned to an Australian publisher to help (and then Random House’s Vintage). And based on almost as many one-star reviews as five-star, it’s easy to see one thing: sex sells…and in this case, extremely well. The romance genre also beats any on Amazon…
April – The Party’s Over (Or Almost) As Amazon Changes Its Algorithms
April brought us the bad news that Amazon changed its algorithms, giving much less weight to free books. It became much harder to climb the influential bestseller and popularity lists. Freebie is not what is was just a few months before. Sure, some still have success, but not nearly as many…
And a traditionally published author, Jodi Picoult, says do not self-publish…oops.
May – Amazon Changes Its Algorithms Again
As if weighing free books less was not enough, it appeared that Amazon changed its algorithms yet again, this time so that lower-priced books did not have as much weight as higher-priced books. As many indie authors price books below $2.99, many were hurt by the changes…
June – Amazon’s Delivery Costs – What Is That (And Why Didn’t You Know)?
This month we hear that indie authors are in an uproar because of Amazon’s delivery costs. April Hamilton does a great breakdown of the issue, and rightly points out that everything is in the Amazon contract. It just proves, once again, that publishing is a business and indie authors need to treat it as such. It also shows that Amazon is out to make money, not coddle their indie authors.
July – What’s Up With My Amazon Reviews?
Indie authors begin noticing that their book reviews are being removed by Amazon. No one at this point seems to know why, and Amazon isn’t saying. Did Amazon know about John Locke buying reviews (see below), or was it in response to the Society of Authors statement that came out in March (or both)? The statement calls out Locke, along with R.J. Ellory and Stephen Leather. Regardless, many indie authors are hurt by this…
Mark Coker (Smashwords) announces that multiple Smashwords authors hit the NYT bestseller lists…turns out Amazon isn’t king yet…
August – John Locke Is A Great Marketer…And Totally Disingenuous
Before we get to John Locke, Sue Grafton disparages self-publishing…oops again.
Now to John Locke, the disingenuous. Yes, strong words, but true. And I’m being kind (read this post if you don’t believe me). It bugged me when John Locke sold his novels for 99 cents, but How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks In 5 Months for $4.99. He obviously knew that a ton of indie authors were going to buy his book on how to sell books…it’s too bad he lied in the book and said that it was his well-thought-out blog posts that helped him shoot to the top of the bestseller lists, when the truth was he bought tons of five-star reviews (and had reviewers buy the books from Amazon, thus upping his sales rank at the same time) and that’s what rocketed him to stardom. He’s a great marketer, I’ll give him that…and that’s it. But the John Locke fiasco led to…
September – Amazon’s Review Removal Debacle
In response to John Locke admitting he bought hundreds of five-star reviews and some complaints about sock-puppet reviews, Amazon continues removing reviews, but with more urgency, disregarding whether the review was legitimate (followed Amazon’s guidelines) or not. Getting book reviews is hard for indie authors – now Amazon has made it harder. But where will all this go?
October – Is Exclusivity A Good Thing?
As Amazon keeps changing things in a negative way (at least for indie authors), we hear more and more about how KDP Select may not be such a good thing. Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, writes Amazon Is Playing Indie Authors Like Pawns. Many disagree, but some authors who have been around for a while, like JA Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith, now say exclusivity isn’t such a good thing (although Konrath didn’t have a problem bragging about it in January). Dean Wesley Smith notes:
By being exclusive, you push away readers and once a reader is pushed away from your work, it’s damn near impossible to get them back.
Kindle Select is very, very short-sighted and can hurt in even more ways than I described. The key is make your book always available to everyone who wants it. Period.
Many who have been around publishing for years note that indie authors need to learn the business side of publishing. According to Smith (who’s been in publishing for 35 years):
I’ve been shouting at writers to learn business here for three years now at least. The writers that learn it will be around in twenty years. The others won’t be. Nature of mother business thinning the herd. (grin)
Will he be right? Only time will tell. I do give Amazon credit…it’s easy to search for books by genre, tagging is great, and their recommendation and popularity lists, etc. are good. But is world domination necessary?
November – Mainstream Publishing Jumps On Our Bandwagon
In November we hear that Simon & Schuster is now getting into the indie foray with Author Solutions, a (bad) way for indie authors to publish their books. This new vanity press, Archway Publishing, shows that traditional publishing houses are definitely aware of the market, they just haven’t figured out how to ethically make a buck…
And speaking of ethics, as the publishing world continues to evolve, watch yourself. The scams continue, too…
And lest we forget Amazon, they continue to stay in the headlines with their review policies.
December – Ebooks Haven’t Crushed Traditional Publishing
As we move into 2013, we see that traditional publishing hasn’t gone away, and it doesn’t seem likely in the near future. Authors who have been in the industry for years (Dean Wesley Smith) note that profits are stable, and that even though publishing houses are merging, this is nothing new in the industry. What we do have is the ability to write our own path, more so than ever before. So go get ‘em, tiger!
What will 2013 bring for indie authors? Who knows? I do know this – as a general rule, you have to write great books, get them edited, create great eye-catching covers, and learn the business side of publishing if you want to be around long-term. That’s never going to change…
I hope you all find success, however you define it, in 2013 and beyond.
What’s on your 2012 In Review list? What did I miss? Let me know :).