Right now there is a gold rush going on in terms of digital content. A lot of writers who have no business letting their work see the light of day are publishing willy-nilly, hoping to cash in. This does not dismay me: far from it. Those readers who have read terrible self-published hack-work have a greater appreciation for self-published work of a professional standard. I try very hard to only present the best work I'm capable of, and take pains to make sure it's as error-free as I can make it. And when I do catch an error and dread the thought of having to re-upload a corrected copy, I remind myself how infuriating it is that my ebook published by Random House - one of the largest publishers in the world - doesn't even get my name right. They mis-capitalized it. The lesson: Only you can make sure it's done the way you want it.
As has been preached night unto nausea by Joe Konrath, an indie writer has to get the fundamentals right to even hope to succeed. Decent writing. Decent editing. Decent cover art. Decent price point. These things are necessary - but not sufficient - for success. From there, he says, you keep at it and wait for your break.
Thagoth has been out there for eight years.It garnered zero reviews. A few months ago, in a fit of pique, I went on Amazon and committed a grave sin: I reviewed my own book, very forthrightly. A buddy of mine who had read and liked it kindly contributed his own review as well. In the following months, there have been no other reviews. Joe would likey say "You just haven't gotten lucky yet."
For me, the critical difference between Amazon and Apple's iTunes store is that iTunes allows uploads of free books. Amazon supposedly price matches, but only when they feel like it. You can't plan a marketing strategy on the back of somebody else's whim. So Joe is right, when it comes to Amazon: I haven't gotten lucky. Sadly, infuriatingly, 'get lucky' is the only plan available when it comes to Amazon.
Apple is another matter entirely.
I've said many times before, and I will say it until it isn't true anymore: As a writer, I am at war with obscurity.
In the past, a writer was at war with indifference: the indifference of agents and of editors who were inundated with submissions and queries. Those days are gone for those who choose to indie publish. It's no longer about them. It's about getting noticed by readers. And readers, my friends, are not indifferent. On the contrary, they are excited and hopeful. 'Tell me a story,' they say. 'Tell me a good story. A story that will make me forget for a while my jerk boss or the bill for my kid's braces or the fact that I've got an exam coming up that I am woefully unprepared for.' God bless the readers; they're you and me, and they want you to be good. They are looking for you, for what you create, and if they find you and like what you have to say, they'll come back for more. You disappoint them at your own peril.
These are the people you are trying to attract. That's the good news. The bad news is, they've got to find you, and that's a bitch, both for them and for you. Once they do find you, they have to be given a reason to take a chance on you, you obscure unknown quantity.
Apple, via Smashwords, has allowed me to give the reader that reason. It's called 'free'. Amazon hasn't. I got lucky with Apple because Apple allowed me to make my own luck. Enough readers felt they got lucky with my free writing that some of them have taken a chance on my writing that isn't free. On Amazon, Thagoth has two reviews; one by me and one by a friend of mine. On Apple, Thagoth has fifteen ratings, all by people I have never met. And they came to Thagoth by reading the free novelette 'The Thief Who Spat in Luck's Good Eye' and liking it.
I'm at war with obscurity. Free, properly applied, is the greatest weapon in my arsenal.