A couple of months back, I did some due diligence regarding my status as a Self-Published Author And All That: I set up my Goodreads author profile and added in some of the books I knew weren't present. I've since acquired a whopping three fans. Even dwarves started small, as Werner Herzog once said.
Logically, the next step would be for me to go out and hype people into adding me on Goodreads, assuming they have a Goodreads account in the first place. It's actually not hard for people to get one, since Goodreads can automatically pick up folks with a Facebook account. So, if you're reading this, AND you're actually a fan/supporter of my work, AND you haven't yet set yourself up as a fan, AND it isn't too much of a hassle to do so ... please do.
That said, this got me thinking once again about what I've come to call the Hype Thing.
The name itself should be a tipoff as to what I'm talking about: the whole rigmarole (god, I love that word) of shopping one's work to a readership. It wasn't until I read this blog post that it clicked for me, quite completely, why this will always be such a difficult job: it's because we're trying to recapitulate the efforts of an entire institution's worth of work with our own.
Here's what I mean by this. A lot of the success of any indie publishing endeavor is about being in the right place at the right time. The whole reason we sign on board with a Big Name Publisher, though, is because they are already in the right place at the right time. They have the size, the volume, the connections, the machinery, the wherewithal, the human capital, the you-name-it-they-got-it. They can synthesize awareness far more readily for our work than we can.
Back when the Internet was still shrugging off its this-silly-fad phase, the words written on the subway walls and tenement halls was that it would democratize promotion, in big part because it would democratize communication generally. What people forgot was that having a soapbox on the corner doesn't guarantee you the right to be heard, even if ten thousand people walk past a day. Said folks still have to stop and listen; they still have to take you seriously; they still have to be inclined to bother.
In short, it's not about getting peoples' attention, it's about getting them to care.
Get enough peoples' attentions, though, and you can do an end run around this problem. Publishers still know better how to get 500,000 peoples' attentions efficiently, directly, and consistently than a fellow with a web page. Sure, the odd guy out can get a firestorm of attention because his book trailer goes viral on Reddit, but that's not something you can rely on as a methodology. That's a fluke, and building one's strategy on the back of sheer luck is like having a hundred people spend their life savings buying Powerball tickets as a strategy for getting them out of debt.
So does that mean being an indie publisher is akin to the tax on being bad at math that the lottery is? Well, that all depends on what you want to get out of it. I wanted to have my work seen and recognized, not necessarily best-selling. By many accounts, it's now possible to carve out a niche that is comfortably sized without having to do the backbreaking work of angling for bestseller lists. The few that care — and that care in a meaningful way — is, for me, far more important to me than a whole horde of anonymous enthusiasm.
And that's why I'm asking for your vote today.
(This message paid for by Genji Press on Goodreads.)