Books On A Shelf

On Saturday I went wandering through the city for a while, and I wound up at a Barnes & Noble. It was fairly busy since it was a Saturday, but there weren’t that many people in any individual aisle of the store.

As I walked through the SF/F section, something occurred to me.

For a long time, one of the metrics of writerly success was to be able to go into a bookstore and see one’s books upon the shelf. It was repeated so often that it became something of a cliche (kind of like people saying how ebooks would never replace the “feel” and “smell” of paper books). If you had your books on a bookstore shelf, you had made it.

Except…how many people would go through the SF/F aisle on any given day? Books on a store shelf don’t do you much good if there’s no one there to actually see the books on the shelf.

This last weekend, I gave away 154 ebook copies of FROSTBORN: THE GRAY KNIGHT via Amazon. I am entirely certain that is more people than will walk through that aisle on a single day. Also, that is 154 people who gave their entire attention (however briefly) to FROSTBORN: THE GRAY KNIGHT in order to download it. I guarantee that isn’t happening a bookstore aisle.

In the past five years, I have given away more copies of DEMONSOULED and CHILD OF THE GHOSTS than people who will visit that bookstore during its life.

So, I think “my books on a shelf” has passed its useful life as a measure of writerly success. Better instead to write three books and make the first one free. You’ll get your books in front of far more eyes than if they’re sitting on a shelf in a bookstore.


10 thoughts on “Books On A Shelf

  • October 11, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    That’s the very reason I started the Demonsouled series, and from there the Ghost series. I have since purchased every single book in both series, and found an author that I really enjoy reading. Since starting down the Kindle road, I have read probably 10 times what I normally would have. I had almost quit reading because I got tired of buying fantasy books that, sorry guys, sucked. Since finding indie authors such as yourself, my love of epic fantasy as been renewed! I would say about 95% of what I read now is indie authors. Keep up the good work, and bring on another Ghost story! lol

    • October 11, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      Thanks! I just got to Chapter 8 of GHOST IN THE GLASS, so it’s on-track for December if all goes well.

      I do read way more ebooks than paper books now as well.

  • October 11, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    I can’t even remember how I found out about Child of the Ghosts, it was probably via ereaderIQ or a similar site, but since that day I have bought every single book you have released. Well I haven’t bought your technical books but you get the idea. In fact I literally received the email for the release of Axiom Hand an hour ago and clicked the link to to buy it. So your strategy definitely worked for at least one customer.

    I’m like the previous poster because most of the authors I read now are indie authors releasing their work online and keeping in touch via mailing lists like you do. The problem I have is finding new indie authors amongst all the releases you see on amazon.

    I was curious so I searched my orders for “jonathan moeller”

    Search results

    Search Your Orders:
    jonathan moeller
    Search Orders
    68 orders matching “jonathan moeller”

    I wonder how many books on a store shelf could have equalled that return on investment when you provided this reader with a free book.

    • October 11, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed all those books.

      “I wonder how many books on a store shelf could have equalled that return on investment when you provided this reader with a free book.”

      I think it would have to be front-of-store placement at the bookstore, like those displays you see when you come through the front doors. But a writer has to be a household name for that to happen, and the publisher has to cough of major marketing money for that to happen. Most writers have a better chance of winning the lottery than that happening.

  • October 11, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    I used to spend a lot of time in the sci-fi and fantasy section of the local Waterstones.

    I’ve hardly set foot in there since I got my first Kindle.

    Honestly, the thing was every bit the revolution in reading it was supposed to be, in terms of portability and availability of books both.

    It didn’t help that the SF&F section had been getting smaller and smaller in the shop for years before that.

    Bookshops kind of shot themselves in the foot there as far as I’m concerned.

    Everything I read these days is on the Kindle. Or on the tablet for manga, as the Kindle screen is not so good for that.

    • October 11, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      Yeah – I think the problem was that the big publishers sort of wiped out all competition in the late 90s and early 2000s (the “big six” that the US government sued for price-fixing with Apple a couple years ago), and then got lazy and complacent. So when the Kindle and self-publishing came along they were totally unprepared for it.

      • October 11, 2017 at 4:01 pm

        Which I find amazing after we had seen how the music industry changed with the advent of digital music, it seems no one learnt any lessons from it.

        • October 11, 2017 at 7:17 pm

          Now that I’m writing SF, I should include an alien race whose name for humanity translates to “those who consistently fail to learn from history.” 🙂

  • October 12, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    i picked up demonsouled for free back in 2012 and was hooked. can’t wait for the next ghost book 🙂

    • October 12, 2017 at 9:49 pm

      Thanks! I’m on chapter 8 of 20 in GHOST IN THE GLASS, so if all goes well it should come out in December.

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