This post, by M. Keep, originally appeared on her Femmedia blog on 2/24/12.
I wrote before about barriers and piracy, but this time I want to narrow in on a single barrier.
The biggest barrier for indie publishers (of all media) is not being known. No one is going to buy your book, or game, or movie, or anything else if they don’t know you or it even exists.
Anyone who has become well-known in their market has had an enormous amount of luck on their side, be it a good review on a popular site (or many popular sites), or if they just got a small group of fans that kept growing as they kept putting out more and more media.
The barrier here is obvious – people can’t buy your stuff if they don’t know it exists. Piracy, then, has been stated to have had a very positive effect on people who aren’t well known. There was a group of indie musicians that came out in support of Napster back in the 90s. These relative-unknown’s were building a fan-base. People were looking for sounds similar to what they already enjoyed, and Napster provided an easy way to browse similar users collections and be exposed to a band they never would have heard of otherwise.
The same applies to books.
Even once you do stick your head above the crowd, you have to make it count. I don’t read as many books as I’d like because I’m not familiar with many authors that have impressed me, and $10 (the typical paperbook price) is daunting to figure out if I like an author. My location isn’t very library friendly either, so it’s a 40 minute walk to and from a library and there are just some points of the year I’m not up for that hike (say, in the winter or rain).