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Why People Buy Self-Published Books

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Philip Overby, Aug 6, 2014.

  1. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I hope eventually writers will all blend in with each other and we won't have this traditional/self-published distinction made so obvious. However, I did think this blog post was interesting. The data presented shows what attracts some readers to self-published work.

    What Makes People Buy Self-Published Books? | Tara Sparling writes

    Does this jive with the way you buy or the way you hope your readers find your books?
     
  2. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    While interesting, the population for the survey linked to above (from writer sites and forums) is certain to skew the results.

    Whether traditional or self-published, I tend to buy from authors I've enjoyed before and from recommendations of folks I know and a few reviewers I tend to agree with (what they think is good, I usually end up thinking so too).

    I do pick up books (self or traditional) from members of forums like this one (especially this one I should say), if after taking a look, it appears to be something I'll enjoy. If I really liked it a lot, I will purchase more that the author publishes (or has published).
     
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    It's interesting to see the different ways the outlets are used. They say they'll glance at Twitter to see if they like the author, and then "Like" them on Facebook where they'll catch information about the sequels. That kind of information is more valuable than the quantitative stuff. It gives you a better idea of how much and what you should be posting on these outlets.
     
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Sometimes I wonder if Twitter in particular has more potential to do you harm than good. I know there are a couple of authors whose works I no longer buy simply because they don't seem like very good people on Twitter and I was put off by them, whereas if I'd never followed them on Twitter I would still be buying their work. I don't think I've ever bought a book because of Twitter.
     
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Yeah. I don't see myself finding a book on twitter, and it does invite people to rant. But then, twitter doesn't appeal to me at all. I know people who prefer it to everything else and spend a lot of time with it. I don't know how they would feel about their chances of finding a book on twitter.
     
  6. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I do think I've bought books based off seeing it on a social network (Twitter, Facebook, Google+), but that's usually when there is some kind of sale or something. There is also a certain amount of "Tell me something about it" that I need. If it's just "Check out the first book in my fantasy epic" then I skim over it. If it says something like, "A man with chainsaw hands finds elfin love, but can he hold onto it?" I might think, "OK, that sounds weird and/or interesting. Let me see what this is about." I'll try a sample and if it's cool, I may buy it, especially if it's around the 0.99-4.99 range, although I'm willing to go higher if the book looks exceptionally good.

    As far as finding books on social media, I think the weirder a book sounds, the more likely I'm to pick it up these days. Back in the early 2000s, I was part of a community called The New Absurdist which focused a lot on absurd, surreal, irreal, dada and generally bizarre fiction. I'm finding that I need elements of that inserted into the fantasy/SF I read now. For example, Dune has this weird, surreal vibe to it at parts. Jack Vance's fiction as well just has this weirdness to it. It doesn't have to be completely off the wall, but it just needs a certain something that I can't find in other books.

    Therefore, this is where self-published authors can really shine for me.

    I use Twitter and I'm told it's great for interacting with people. However, I still don't know how to use it right. I'm really hot and cold on it. After only posting links and stuff for the longest time, I started posting more observations or thoughts. I used hashtags as recommend. I comment on other people's tweets. However, I think for something like that to really blow up, you have to spend loads and loads of time there. I pop in now and again (once every couple of days) so it's not something I'm using optimally, I suppose. The same with Google+. I mostly use it for the communities, which I check out more often.

    OK, sorry that was a rant on social media, but I do find it useful for finding books, especially from self-published authors. I don't think I've ever bought a self-published book unless I saw it posted around here or on other social media. That's just the way I've functioned so far.
     
  7. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Sadly, this has happened to me as well. There were authors I really enjoyed, but once I saw the way they handled themselves on Twitter, I decided I'm not really keen on them anymore. However, the inverse is true as well. There are people I probably wouldn't buy anything from, but once I saw they way they act on Twitter, it encouraged me to check out their work. Maybe I'm in the minority here, but for me, a nice/funny personality may sometimes "get me in the door" so to speak.

    It's like choosing between two pizza places. If the pizza tastes almost the same, but one has a jerk owner and the other has a warm, friendly owner, then I'll always choose the friendly place.
     
  8. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    My view is that people don't buy self published books at all. They just buy books. It doesn't matter to them - and a lot of the time they have no idea - if a book is trade or indie. And if an indie has done his job well, they'll never know. So as said in the OP it comes down to cover, blurb and then text.

    As for the social media side - it means nothing to me as a reader. Sometimes when I really like an author's work (Piers Anthony is one of the few), I'll look at web sites etc. But most of the time I just don't care. It's about the book.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  9. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I think saying "people don't buy self-published books at all" is still not completely true though. Sometimes I join lists that offer a "book of the week" or something like that and I can almost always tell when a book is self-published. This could be because of an amateurish cover, a blurb that talks too much about the world and not about the characters, etc. My point is, not all self-published books blend seamlessly into the marketplace although I do agree with you that it is becoming more difficult to tell. That is a good thing.

    Another thing to consider is that some people don't shop the same way that you do. For instance, most of the people I know about in the fantasy genre are traditionally published. This is because I tend to visit lots of sites that cover mainstream fantasy authors (i09, Tor.com, Fantasy-Faction, etc.) The only way I find out about indie authors is by visiting forums and websites. I'm not the type to just go on Amazon and say "Oh, this sounds good, let's buy it." I have to weed out my selections somehow or else I would just buy almost everything I come across. I would love to buy everything and help support artists, but of course that's just not feasible.

    I have heard enough people say they'll only buy self-published books as well. So in that case, they are making a distinction by purposefully seeking out books from indie authors.

    The point being, yes, cover art, blurb, and the actual book are always going to be the top three, but there are always some other factors that other readers may take into consideration. To say these are the only three things that all readers notice is not completely true.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2014
  10. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    If people only hear about traditionally published authors, then they're only buying traditionally published authors, whether they're aware of it or not. How can a self-published author generate the level of awareness that traditionally published ones do?
     
  11. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I assume you're asking in general, but I don't know the answer to that question for the general public.

    For me, however, the way an indie writer gets my attention is by being an engaging member of a particular community (whether it be a forum, a group, or social media). That's the biggest bit of leverage an indie writer has to put them on par with writers with traditional publishers hyping them. Once a writer gets my attention, then I'll go check out their Amazon page or whatever. Sometimes this is done indirectly by other people telling me about a specific writer through a review on a blog or by word of mouth.

    I honestly want to support more indie writers, but I don't even know where to start. I'm positive there are writers out there that are totally doing what I'm looking for, but I'm not going to sift through thousands and thousands of pages of Amazon reviews to find them. Social media helps me significantly in that aspect (out of the dozen or so indie writers I've checked out as of late, I found them all through various social media outlets).
     
  12. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I would look at something by members of Mythic Scribes. But the community here isn't that large. Are there big "jackpot" communities flooded with fantasy readers, or do we need to engage with hundreds of little ones to find an audience?


    One thing I've found useful: On Amazon, if you see a review that was really useful to you, you can click on the reviewer and see what else they've reviewed. So you can find someone who does a good job reviewing a lot of self-published books, and then look for the ones they've rated highly.
     
  13. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I don't know if there are "jackpot" communities so to speak, but there are some pretty big SFF forums out there. SFF World is one I see mentioned a lot, although I'm not a member. Fantasy-Faction is getting more exposure and seems to be aimed mostly at readers with side-sections for writers. I wouldn't say joining hundreds of tiny communities would be the best way to spend your time, but I would maybe pick out 3 or 4 big ones and try to become an active member. Mythic Scribes for me is my "home base." I think it's good to have one main community where you're known. I remember when I showed up at Fantasy-Faction the first time some people said, "Oh, I know you from Mythic Scribes." The SFF community is a small world.

    That's a good idea. I may start doing that more. I don't think I've ever really utilized that function, but it makes sense.
     
  14. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I haven't seen SFF World. I'll have to take a look. I've looked at a lot of sites, and bookmarked a handful, but I don't have the energy to get into them.

    I've seen you post on the "Fantasy & Sci-Fi Fans, Artists, Readers, Writers, Filmmakers & Cosplayers" facebook group, but I haven't contributed there.
     
  15. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I usually do a "test run" on communities. If it seems like people are cool and engaging and not just spamming links, then I'll usually stick around. I haven't been as active on Facebook or Twitter recently because I've been trying to get my current novel edited, but I try to keep an eye out for good hashtags and communities (#amwriting is a good hashtag I've noticed).
     
  16. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    First Phil, I agree with you - there will always be a few who will deliberately seek out either indie or trade books. My view is that they are far and away in the minority. And your example of books with poorly made covers etc (I hope mine aren't among them!) is an example of indies not doing their job properly. If they do their job properly the reader should not know. And just to give you some idea of how tricky we indies are becoming, a number are now making up publishing marks and putting them on their books to further add to mimicry.

    Devor, my thoughts are that writer communities etc are great and I'm a member of four. But they aren't much good for promoting your books. Too many newly hatched authors want to think they are, but ultimately you want communities where there are readers in abundance. However, the communities I use are:

    Science Fiction and Fantasy Chronicles: Science Fiction Fantasy Chronicles: forums - Powered by vBulletin which is good because it also runs challenges and generally uses UK English - the closest thing to kiwi.

    Creative Writing Forums: Creative Writing Forums - Writing Help, Writing Workshops, & Writing Community Which was great but sadly I can no longer use as there's some sort of disconnect between it and my browser following their upgrade.

    And the writers cafe on Kindle Boards: KBoards - Index This is interesting because it's a little bit activist on the indie side - which is fine for me as an indie - but more importantly if you want to learn some of the tips and tricks of marketing, covers, blurbs etc, there are a lot of people here who will post about what they've done.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  17. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Right, so where are all the online readers? Is there a "Fans of Fantasy" website out there that invites self-pubbers to pop in and say hello?

    I'll bookmark the sites you listed and look at them when I have the chance. I think I've seen most of them before.
     
  18. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Even if an indie cover is really good, I can sometimes tell if it's indie or not. Not that this is completely a bad thing. If the cover doesn't win me over, it can be forgiven if the blurb is really good. Those two things will get me to read the sample more often than not. I take it back to when I was younger looking for books in a bookstore.

    I would normally shop like this (I'd buy maybe 3 or 4 books at a time):

    1. Look for writers I already know. Get their books.
    2. See an interesting title. Hmm...what's this?
    3. Look at the cover. Does it look goofy? Hmm...maybe not. Oh, this looks cool. Pick it up.
    4. Look at the back cover. That sounds like a cool idea.
    5. Flip through the first couple of pages. Not really doing anything for me. Let's look at this one. *reads for at least one minute* This one's interesting. I'll get this one.

    My shopping philosophy is relatively the same even though I buy mostly digital now. Quality is quality to me, regardless if it's indie, traditional, whatever. If one thing gets a "check," then I move on to the next thing. The only thing that typically trumps the holy trifecta of cover, blurb, text is a good review from a source or word of mouth rumblings. But usually if a book gets a lot of people talking about it, it most often has a stellar cover, blurb, and text to back it up.

    One good example is Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. This book was originally self-published, but had a professional looking cover, an interesting blurb, and the first several pages are engaging. So it doesn't matter how it was published to me as long as that quality shines through somehow.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2014
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