Songlines has just reached a major milestone – one hundred ratings on Goodreads.
Yes, it was one of my goals for this year. Yes, it has been difficult to hold to the etiquette and not stalk my reviewers with sky-writing and flower deliveries. And yes, these honest reviews have made me cry happy tears in response to people’s praise. Even the ‘negative’ reviews have been gently worded and carefully crafted to be helpful to prospective readers, rather than the kick-in-the-guts that some authors get. I cannot thank you all enough for this.
Let me tell you a bit about why this milestone is so important. Songlines has been published through one of the smaller, independent publishers (Odyssey Books) and not one of the ‘Big Five’. Because of this, there simply isn’t the budget to market the book in the same way as most books you see at, say, Kmart. Firstly, we can’t afford to send advance print copies of the book to hundreds of bookstores, magazines and newspapers for them to try out. We struggle to even get noticed by bookstores among the thousands of books that are released each and every month. Secondly, it is often dismissed as ‘one of those crappy self-published books’, which not only is untrue, but also really ticks me off given the amazing wealth of quality self-published stories out there. With the ever-tightening pressure on those big publishers to increase profit, it is the sales executives – not the editors – who get to select which manuscripts to take on. This, of course, means that they are more likely to select books that have similar themes to best-sellers, rather than take a risk on something a bit different. Clearly not a great thing for creativity or diversity. Do we really want Kmart book shelves to be filled with fifty different flavours of Fifty Shades of Grey?
Small Press does for the book industry what Triple J Unearthed has done for the Australian music industry. It opens the field for any author to put their work out there. If it is any good, it may be selected by an independent publisher, or the author may choose to self-publish for a variety of excellent reasons. Then if the book gets enough reviews, it may just get noticed by enough people who can choose for themselves what they do and don’t like, rather than have to rely on sales executives to select their books for them. If you have ever reviewed a book, or even taken the time to give it a star-rating, then you have supported a system that ensures we get a wide range of stories by a wide range of voices. That is gold.
On a more personal level, reaching this milestone has opened up a range of paid advertising opportunities for me. You may think that anyone who is happy to pay can get their book promoted anywhere, but this isn’t quite true. Promotional sites such as BookBub, for example, will only accept a ‘Featured Deal’ for books that have the backing of enough reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Guess who recently managed to snag one of those sweet promos? Sure, the promotion was a 99c deal on the ebook, which means that I will see almost zilch in royalties after everyone else takes their slice. Not the point.
The point was the pretty orange ‘Best Seller’ flag I had on Amazon US, UK, CA and AUS. The point was the flow-on sales from all the lovely readers who decided to continue Lainie’s journey and purchase the next book. The point was the momentum build up from all that metadata, which will help me to promote the release of the fourth and final book in the series. It really does have a snowball effect.
All this happened because people like you were generous enough to write me a review. It took you time. It took you effort. It took you bravely scaling the heights of Mt TBR (aka, the ‘to-be-read’ pile on your bedside table). It may even have taken you some serious Amazon-wrestling frustration (remember the days when Amazon-wrestling sounded fun?) or even signing up to yet another new platform, with new password shenanigans. I acknowledge that you reviewers take what you do very seriously, and it costs you. So, credit where credit is due. Thank you. If I could sky-write it above your house I would. Your honest words are precious to me. You should feel as proud of that pretty orange flag as I do, because you helped put it there.
Yours in gratitude,