It’s literally been years since self-publishing took off in a major way and brought some measure of credibility with it. The days of keeping the publishing method a secret and having to purchase hundreds of copies of your book to sell from the trunk of your car are long behind us, but with every new milestone, achievement, or tool that comes along for indie authors, other obstacles continue to stand in the way of widespread success.
One of the first issues occurred in January of this year, and sadly, its intent was to level the playing field for small booksellers. After all, self-published authors are small booksellers, even though they only sell their own titles. But the changes to the EU’s VAT tax structure, which was intended to help mom-and-pop book shops in their woes with giants like Amazon, impacted authors as well. Whether your book are sold by Amazon overseas or if you choose to sell them on sites like Smashwords or even from your own website, authors now lose out based on where the customer buys the book, not where the seller lives. A great post explaining the process, how it affects authors, and what they can do about it can be found on the Smashwords blog.
Another crucial issue is the book review dilemma, if the word “scandal” isn’t being too dramatic. What started with the authors behaving badly, reviewers behaving badly, and Goodreads community has filtered into other aspects of online trolling. Of course, the pay-for-review problem has yet to come to a good resolution, with legitimate companies that charge a reading fee for an honest review finding themselves lumped in with the companies that take authors’ money and promise hundreds of five-star reviews. Even in instances where the reviews may have been legitimate, if there’s any smack of impropriety about them (such as a sudden influx of reviews following an author’s giveaway), Amazon may remove them as being suspicious. A link to one business owner’s post on the matter is here, as well as the email address he uncovered to appeal the removal of reviews.
But the biggest obstacle to self-published authors’ success is one that has been in place since day one; mind you, it’s also an obstacle to traditionally published authors, so don’t feel like your publishing route is at the heart of the problem. It’s book discovery, and it’s something that has lowly authors and Big Five publishers alike losing sleep at night. Short of hiring a publicity firm to stage a book campaign that can run well into the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars, authors who don’t find self-promotion at the top of their lists of hobbies can come up very short of their book sales goals. Social media is a great help, as is building a blog following, but the options for paid book promotion run the gamut from highly effective but costly to pointless wastes of money. While a handful of companies can demonstrate solid track records of book discovery, it’s also important to remember that getting your book in front of consumers and getting them to buy it are two completely different animals.
Of course, if taxes and publicity are the only worries that authors must face in 2015, then it’s safe to say the self-publishing and digital revolutions have been resounding successes. While more work could be done to make the process even more lucrative–both in terms of money and career satisfaction–in a market that’s been reportedly glutted with content, these “struggles” aren’t all that bad.