Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Towards a Self-Publishing Cearinghouse

The weak link in the self-publishing universe right now is marketing.  The best available tool for that job today is Amazon itself. 

Readers who spend too much time wading into online reading and writing discussions have it easy - there are too many great writers doing just that to read them all.  The riches are embarrassing these days, and you can't go a week without discovering a fun new writer to at least try.  If you don't spend the time soaking in the frothing broth of online literary discussions, then what do you do?

For a significant chunk of readers, finding what to read next starts and ends with Amazon's categories and recommendations.  As we all know, those are based on impersonal algorithms that track an unknown number of statistics to determine what books get shown to whom and when.  A big part of that algorithm is reviews - the more reviews a book has, the more likely Amazon is to recommend it.  That's why so many authors are constantly asking for reviews.  It's not just an ego thing, it's a marketing thing.  It's a system, and it mostly works.

The missing ingredient in the system is people.  It's pure math that can be gamed and sometimes spits out some wonky results.

Funny thing about people, they much prefer dealing with people than faceless algorithms.  They'd much rather have a flesh and blood reader they trust pointing them to works they can enjoy.   The dinosaur media filled miles of column inches by paying people to read and discuss the books they read, but now that they are the walking dead, all we've got is Amazon and our friends.

Someday, there will be a big, central website featuring a host of readers and reviewers and critics, and you'll be able to find somebody you trust to recommend works that are right up your alley.  If you want to be a mover and shaker in self-publishing, there's a huge vacuum in that space that needs to be filled.  Read and write consistently, and within a couple of years, a decent review website could build a big enough audience to earn some serious dough for the guy running it.  Especially if the site is dedicated to a niche genre.  If the fans of Genre X had a place to go when they run out of reads, a place where they didn't have read through backpages and backpages of material, but could easily find recommendations for their next read, they'd flock to it.

I'd do it myself, but as a writer and active participant in 'the scene' my reviews are happily and admittedly biased.  That and the sixty hour work weeks, audiobook recording, reading, blogging, and writing my own books.  Those don't help either.

I can offer a little something, though.  My tag cloud - located in the upper left sidebar - includes a tag called:

That tag takes you to all of my blogposts where I review or discuss books that I think are worth a read.  If you want to break out of the Amazon cycle, you'll find something on that list without any trouble.  It's a little clunky yet, but until we get that clearinghouse, it's better than letting Bezos choose what you get to consider.  And it's all been prepared by a living, bre - wait, let me check - yep, still breathing human.


  1. I site like that already exists called Goodreads, though it's full of SJWs. Beyond that, the userbase is skewed heavily toward the sort of people who still believe that the Hugo awards are an indication of quality literature. Most Baen authors there don't get a ton of star ratings on even their most popular books, and popular indie books get far less.

  2. I'm not talking about a crowd sourced site here. I'm talking about a genuine team of one to five people churning out reviews and recommendations that are easily searchable/scrollable. Write solid pointers to the good stuff, build up a modest audience, and then pair that up with Amazon's paid referrals and you could be a player within a couple of years. People would be begging you to review their work.