Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Publishers: The Promise You Don't Want to Hear

"I guarantee an Amazon best-seller," is the promise that should a publisher make run for the hills. In a recent meeting with a prospective author, he asked me what I thought about that promise. Could I do the same? I stared at him and thought about what I wanted to say, but the look on my face must have given away the sarcasm waiting patiently on my tongue to escape. I finally relented and said, "I too can make that promise. I'll have my staff buy up 10 copies of your book in one afternoon. Boom! How's that -- you're an Amazon best-seller. Does that work for you?"

Any publisher that suggests their group can make your book and Amazon best-seller, or more like "promises" they can do so can only deliver with a guarantee what I just suggested. The value of the contract this author was looking at was $10,000 and a promise. I smiled and told him, it would cost probably $150 for that publisher to deliver his/her guarantee. He nodded and agreed he thought the promised best-seller routine was a scam, too.

My words of wisdom out there for authors: no publisher can promise an authentic Amazon best-seller. It's not possible to make such a promise. Why? Because it won't really be an Amazon best-seller. Yes, you might be able to now use the so-called cache, "My book is an Amazon best-seller," but the point of the best-seller status is for those people to have actually bought the book, enjoyed it, and spread the word. Word of mouth equals more sales equals more time spent in the top 100 on Amazon.

A best-selling book happens organically through marketing and promotion. Sometimes even the most well-written books don't achieve best-seller status. It's about interests and timing and sometimes even a cover change to entice more readers -- and that has nothing to do with content as frustrating as that reality might seem. I've had books in our catalog receive 20 reviews to no sales. I've had books receive one specific review in one key media and it launched the much-sought-after snowball effect and resulted in a best-seller. The bottom line: there is no magic bullet for whether or not a book becomes a best-seller. As I always joke, "We live in a society where the pet rock made someone a fortune. If I could predict which book would skyrocket to genuine best-seller status I would be rich."

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