This post, by JA Konrath, originally appeared on his A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing blog on 6/24/11.
I just had a long conversation with Barry Eisler (no, we’re not writing this one down) and one of the things we touched upon was what makes a bestseller a bestseller.
I’ve argued that brands, name recognition, and fanbases aren’t as important as we’d like to think they are. In short, the authors who are famous bestsellers right now might not be famous bestsellers in the near future. Rather than repeat the reasons why, you can read the argument here.
In the legacy world, the more books you had in print, the more you’d sell, because you took up a lot of shelf space (both in a single store, and in thousands of stores.)
But in a digital world, every ebook has one slot on the shelf. You can increase shelf space by having many ebooks, but there are only a handful of stores (Amazon, BN, Smashwords, iBookstores, Sony, Kobo, etc) rather than the thousands of bookstores and thousands of other stores that sell books.
This is a much more even playing field. And while I disagree that name authors lowering their ebook prices will hurt my sales much (at low prices, people buy more), I do recognize the importance of standing out among the millions of other titles.
It is easier to make a sale in a digital world, but there it is still a multi-tiered process.
1. A reader must discover that your book exists.
2. A reader must be compelled to look at it.
3. A reader makes a decision to buy it.
4. A reader makes a decision to read it, and then possibly buy your other titles.