Down in the Gutter with Marketing

Osar Wilde quote on San Fransciso street

For the last six months, I’ve been part of a small group of authors who gather together via email to discuss book marketing strategies, toss ideas around and in general, support one another’s efforts where and when we can. The organization is loose, the group diverse in terms of location, background, gender, writing genre and point of view. We don’t seek consensus. Instead, we bring the fruits of our experiences to the table and individual members make up their own minds on what to take or leave.

I recently floated a question to the group: What are the ethics and/or etiquette around claiming best seller status. Does getting to #2 in the Amazon Top 100 Free books make me an Amazon Bestseller? How about getting to #1 in a genre category in Free and then hanging in the Top 10 for about 48 hours of that same category after my book went back on the paid list. Is it bad etiquette to drop the word Amazon and just say Bestselling author? Does one have to make it on to a paid list to legitimately claim a bestseller status? And if so, at what point and for how long – Top 10, Top 100, for one hour or one day? What about author ranking? I was in the Top 100 for a day after a promotion. Does that qualify?

A complicated question and the group responses, as expected, ranged far and wide. A few members came down on the side of only paid lists being equated with best selling status. A best seller should, at a minimum, be based on selling. Good point. I went back and took a look at my screen captures for how Disappearing in Plain Sight had done during it’s BookBub extravaganza of free downloads. On one, a large headline read – Best Sellers in Literary Fiction – Sagas. Under that is my book at #1. It doesn’t say Best Non-Sellers due to being Free. Amazon isn’t distinguishing in the big print between paid or free – that comes beneath in a secondary header. Hmmm …. interesting.

Literary Fiction - Sagas - DPS

A member who had previous experience working in the traditional publishing field felt the entire concept of best selling, best seller, best selling author was bankrupt – overused and abused to the point of meaninglessness. Unless, of course, one attempted to claim a place on the New York Times Best Seller List. That you better be able to back up!

One blunt member of our group, wrote – The idea of a great author sitting in the gutter saying, “I didn’t sell many books but I kept my ethics as an author,” has about as much appeal to me as stepping in a dog turd. The premise of the subject is wrong! We’re flogging books and we’re flogging them cheap. We’re not sharing a cup of the tea with the local vicar. Get rid of the word ‘etiquette’ and replace it with ‘marketing’ and you would’ve never needed to ask the question.

When I got up from rolling around on the floor laughing, I read a few more responses. “In an age of distortion and mirage, the big lie seems to carry the day. Even in the dog-eat-dog world of fiction writers.” Another member agreed that best selling is a devalued currency that I could feel free to spend as I liked.

It would seem that I may go ahead and claim a spot on a meaningless list, or I may roll around in the gutter clinging tightly to my moral superiority or I may participate in the big lie and be a dog gobbling up my fellow authors.

On the other hand, I could simply play by the rules Amazon sets forth. My book sat at #1 of a Best Selling List and I don’t see why I wouldn’t mention that when it seems that to do so would be a wise marketing move.

What do you think. I’d love to widen this discussion. At best, we are in for some chuckles as we climb from the gutter to the meaningless and, dare I say, best selling heights.

Clematis 2016 - Guenette photo