A few years ago an unknown girl from Belfast (the name eludes me at the moment) started writing a short parody of 50 Shades of Grey called 50 Shades of Red White and Blue as a joke for her friends on Facebook. After one week the word had spread and she had grown to a huge number of followers. During the second week she increased the number of followers. At the end of the second week she self-published an eBook on Amazon UK and sold a huge amount copies on the first day jumping to the top 10 in the paid Kindle store. I don’t know what number she sits at in the paid Kindle store now (many authors don't reach this even with a professional marketing campaign). All this came from a free Facebook account and a bit of “good writing”, this is the power of social media in the publishing world today.
I'm inherently skeptical of these "No. X in the Kindle Store" claims; simply making an initial impact in a crowded category is entirely possible through impulse purchases. True success, if one is reducing everything to financial terms, is in sustaining this success. To use generic terms - being a high-tier brand in the short term (No.5 in category within the first week, say) is no measure of long-term success or indeed any measure of success at all; category ranking only becomes interesting on timescales of quarters at the least or years. I know it's slightly different in terms of books and albums, but the theory is there; who cares if someone gets a bit of initial buzz? The proof of the pudding is whether that buzz and interest can be sustained. In consumer brand terms, strong single-year growth following a product launch is one thing. Sustained high growth, or just sustained high sales ahead of the competition, is a mark of success. I really find it hard to understand why "being more egalitarian and open to submissions" inherently has come to mean "being easier" - it's a complete misunderstanding of the results of openness. You're increasing competition which means you have to be even better to stand out. But as I believe and have said above, attitudes will change. Probably, many of the people going it alone will write it off as a failure and the bubble will fade - not the entire industry, just this inflated estimation of it. When realism sets in, what will probably occur is the expected outcome (reasonable choice, the best gaining widespread attention) since there is no longer the pressure for results that the media bubble is looking for. At the moment, selling the story of someone who did well is useful because it supports the belief that the system works. That said, here is a ridiculous idea that I'm sure will end in tears and Armageddon, but might make a few people happy in the meantime; a "what are you writing" thread to go alongside the "what are you reading" one. It would have to be strictly moderated just to keep it readable and reasonable; perhaps even to the extent of a recommended pro-forma post (something like "Title and Synopsis (25-150 words or so) - and most importantly, no direct referral links. Anyone who reads it would probably be savvy enough to subsequently search for the author online and find the place to buy the book. However, were this introduced, it should coincide with a moratorium on the part of aspiring authors on posting their referral links and synopses anywhere else! I've always imagined published authors standing shoulder-to-shoulder on a very small stage, trying not to fall off and occasionally holding out a hand to pull someone up and join them. Though I don't have statistics I think the stage for self-published authors is much smaller per capita, and a lot of them seem to just want to get onto the Amazon platform for the sake of it rather than give better stories to the world. That's called ego, and the fact that so much of it is based on plugging your work to "friends" and asking them to spread the word or even giving your books away as a promotional ploy, says enough about the process. As a writer friend of mine once said, "I don't read books that people give me." Nobody with any kind of personal or professional integrity would ever consider plugging their books constantly, whether in person, or through other media. It's vulgar and egotistical. Again on the platform thing, part of the problem is that 'being published' was elevated to mean a lot more than it should. The explosion of self-publishing, where everybody can be published, has blown that cachet out of the water (which I suspect is why it attracts a lot of scorn from already 'been published' writers). This is a good thing. The goal shouldn't merely be to be published, it should be to be read, to be remembered. Being published is just a delivery mechanism. The harsh truth is no one is automatically entitled to make a living as a writer, or a painter, or a musician. These are activities human beings have happily done for entertainment, without recompense, throughout history. It's hardly surprising only a very select few (and often not even the best) have been able to earn enough to make it their sole source of income. As for eBooks being a tech bubble, it’s a fallacy of sorts. A bubble is over-investment based on speculation. Self-publishing requires minimal investment, and the stock market and investors aren't required. There is nothing that can burst, so there is nothing that can be lost. There is only the gradual global acceptance of eBooks as Amazon and others move into more and more territories. This isn't a gold rush, with finite wealth to be attained. This is quite simply an easy way for writers to directly reach a worldwide audience. Not everyone will get rich. But good writers, who keep at it, have a long time to find that niche audience that will support them. EBooks are forever.
Bottom-line: Nobody cares. And twitter and Facebook is so flooded with self-marketers, you need a Xanax and a shot of whiskey just to check your twitter anymore. It's mind boggling .... I think I would rather write my books, buy them myself to make me feel better, and just read them over and over. Ah... the ultimate self-promotion. Plus, that whole "tell your family to go post good reviews to trigger Amazon sales" doesn't work when you write humorous erotica in the south. Old Aunt Bertha would have a heart attack if she knew I’d written a dirty book… Good luck to all other self-published authors, and as this posts suggests and implies... Don't quit your day job.