Anyone with an iTunes account will have received a free album courtesy of Bono and U2 in the recent past. This act of generosity has been dogged by outrage ever since and has resulted in Bono issuing a public apology.
He said it was, “a drop of megalomania, a touch of generosity, a dash of self-promotion and deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into over the last few years mightn’t be heard. There’s a lot of noise out there. I guess we got a little noisy ourselves to get through it.”
Bono’s comment touches upon a very pertinent point for us self published authors – how to get our voice heard above the din.
The sheer weight of stuff out there from which the customer can choose is so immense that the chances of your book being chosen are extremely thin unless you are already famous. As Bono’s comment illustrates, even that doesn’t guarantee what you have to sell will be chosen above anything else that is out there, nor even that it will be noticed at all.
If someone as world class as Bono and U2 are worried about it, then the rest of us should start wringing our hands immediately. This ultra famous supergroup couldn’t even give their album away, so what chance do the rest of us nobodies have?
What is the answer? I haven’t the faintest idea, and neither has anyone else. Oh people will of course spew forth with their own opinion based upon nothing more than the delusion of their own superior knowledge, but no one has a definitive answer because there isn’t one to be had. The only thing we do know is why it’s happening, and that is the advent of self publishing. It is so easy to publish your own book now that everyone and their neighbour is doing it, most of whom really shouldn’t be bothering. The problem is that they are bothering, and all are convinced that their work is the best the literary world has ever seen. Before self publishing, 99% would be turned down by the few traditional publishing houses and would spend their lives dreaming of being an author. Back then, the number of books out there was much lower and the reader with money to spend was not so spoiled for choice.
So what can we do? I don’t know. You can of course throw money at the problem, but most of us don’t have access to enough funds to finance a big international marketing campaign. Advertising space is a premium product now and the cost of those precious column inches, website pixels, or mailing list placings, is prohibitively high. If you want a day on someone’s mailing list, not only do you have to pay a very high fee, but most demand your book has a certain number of reviews at a certain star rating. Failing that, you could pay for a billboard or a TV ad but that is mega dollars. No, that kind of ad campaign is way beyond the means of most hard working self published authors who don’t make enough sales to be able to live off their writing.
Me? Well I’m taking the zen approach. I’m sitting back and waiting for the bubble to burst. It will do of course sometime and when it does, the books I’m writing in the meantime will give me an impressive back list. I’ve backed off from trying to market my books and am concentrating on writing. One day this monster we’ve created will die, and when it does, I’ll be there.
You will have to find your own way through that suits you, but as Bono found out, sometimes you can’t even give it away.