Not All Arenas are Comfortable

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

February 27, 2015

RodeoThis post is a continuation of my ride to get published. I call it the Rodeo, and not all rodeo arenas are comfortable.

We tend to stick close to familiar territory. When I was a little buckaroo riding at the Bolado Rodeo and Saddle Show, I knew every inch of the arena at Bolado Park. I knew the back ways, where the stables were located and how to find my cousins to share a can of Coke. When I rode there, I felt at ease.

As a teenager, I entered a horse event with my friend who lived in Carson City, NV. I couldn’t trailer my horse so I rode one unfamiliar to me. The event was new and so was the arena. Trying to find where we were to queue up for a parade entry, we trotted our horses past a camel that spit at us. I felt unsettled.

My ride to get published has pushed beyond my familiar arenas. Anytime I read posts about marketing I feel connected. Marketing is familiar. But when I read posts abut the book publishing industry, my eyes boggle in my head. The temptation is to pass and bookmark such posts or articles for later.

But later is now. I need to get familiar with the different arenas of traditional, hybrid and independent publishing. Traditional is my first choice. So is riding my own horse. But sometimes our first choice is not what we get. The more familiar we can become with different arenas, the better.

In my own newness, I don’t have much to say about Amazon. I know it is the number one retailer of books. I’ve read posts on rankings and reviews. I buy lots of books from Amazon and I’m researching how to become an affiliate to boost the sales of books from the writers I know in my Bunkhouse Bookstore. Yet, not everyone likes or sells on Amazon. But that’s about the extent of my knowledge.

So I want to share an important post that I read today; one that gave me greater insight. You see, when we know more about the arena where we might ride, we feel more at ease. I hope you will find this post informative. It’s called, The Top 10 Things All Authors Should Know About Amazon by Brooke Warner.

Also, I’m researching Bibliocrunch, which is a platform that helps authors publish books by connecting them with pre-screened publishing professionals. One of my writing mentors sent out a letter from the CEO of Bibliocrunch announcing free downloads and books for authors through the first week of March. You do need to create a Bibliocrunch account to get these free books:

What insights do you have to share on the arena we call Amazon?

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  1. lorilschafer

    Yikes – the insights I’ve gained into Amazon in the last few months could (and will) take up numerous blog posts. I actually read Brooke’s post via another venue earlier this week and pretty much agreed with the points she makes. The one thing I’ll add here is that I think the first 30 days after release are INCREDIBLY important on Amazon, because unless your book is doing very well, it tends to fall out of sight after that. I can actually prove this from my experience with my free books, where if you look at the graphs, you can actually see the rankings plummet on Day 31. In other words, you have a very short window in which to get your book noticed, and if you write in a genre in which there are a lot of new releases, the window can become even shorter. Scary!

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a valuable insight to add, Lori! With that in mind, it seems vital to be strategic in advance. Would you agree? I look forward to your future posts on this topic. Thanks!

      • lorilschafer

        Absolutely! From what I’ve seen on newsgroups and the like, it seems to be very difficult to resurrect an older book once it drops off the charts. Speaking of which, are you involved in any Goodreads groups? The Goodreads Author Feedback group in particular I’ve found to be very helpful for data sharing and such.

      • Charli Mills

        I’m dipping my toes in Goodreads, starting with groups that read the sort of fiction that I write. Some of the groups I belong to have an outlet for authors to make announcements to the group regarding their books. Overall it’s a good way for me to understand what readers get excited over or don’t like. The Goodreads Author Feedback sounds like a great group! Thanks for letting me know!

  2. Annecdotist

    Another really useful analogy, Charli. I’m loving this series of posts. Like you, I try to inform myself about the world of publishing – and I’m learning more as I approach the publication of my own novel – but I do find the power of Amazon quite scary. As a reader, it’s possible to sideline it, but as a published writer there is no choice but to get your hands dirty. I wonder whether/how I’ll be able to persuade people to give me those 50 reviews, when I don’t bother to post my own reviews there. Tricky!

    • Charli Mills

      I think you are doing what you need to, Anne and that’s another advantage of traditional publishing (less dependent upon Amazon). This statement from Brooke Warner seems to support authors who are uncertain about getting dirty hands:

      “They have an Amazon-centric view of the book world, and expect authors to conform to how Amazon does things. The note here for you, authors, is to take advantage of this by using and exploiting Amazon’s resources, but work with your publisher; don’t work around them. And don’t for one second buy into the idea that Amazon is “it.” Yes, it’s the number one online space for retail sales; but for most publishers, Amazon accounts for only about 30%-40% of total sales.”

      As for me, I love Amazon. I still support local bookstores, but since going to a Kindle, I get all my ebooks on Amazon. I’ve long used the site for other purchases and have reviewed numerous products, including some books. I think Amazon’s Author Central is supportive of all authors, but particularly fabulous for indies. All the metric crunching seems daunting and at times not fair, however, analytics are a part of marketing and Amazon does seem responsive. I’ll check in with my opinion one day when I’m published, though! 🙂

      I’d enjoy reading about your process in preparing for publication, too! It’s useful to see the different pathways available to authors.

  3. Annecdotist

    BTW, isn’t that a rogue apostrophe in your pleural of arena?
    Feel free to delete this comment if you wish.

    • Charli Mills

      Definitely a rogue! Sometimes I sprinkle apostrophes the same way I sprinkle commas. 🙂 Thanks for letting me know!

      • Annecdotist

        And my rogue e in plural — pot, kettle, etc ????

  4. Jeanne Lombardo

    Very timely post indeed for me. Have spent the last year researching options, most immediately for my client but with an eye towards my own projects. I had a real eye-opener at the end of the year, when, having already signed with an independent publisher, my client and I met with both a publicist and an editor/agent, both seasoned and with notable projects under their belts. Both advised us to back out of the publishing contract, saying that it was preferable to self-publish rather than go with an independent or small press that is not up to certain professional standards. Will peruse the link about Amazon closely now. We are working with the agent I mentioned on restructuring the book, and hoping she can snag us a reputable publisher, but may end up doing Create Space or something like it instead. And yes, those reviews are an issue! Darn! Wish we could all sit around a table for discussions like this!

    • Charli Mills

      A tabletop discussion would be wonderful for this topic. There is so much to it and I’m hoping that we can continue to share experiences and learn from one another. With so many new presses on the market, a writer needs the insights of others in addition to research. It’s good that you had sound advice on your side. As to those reviews, I’ve watched other authors (particularly mid-career, traditionally published and working hard to achieve success). I’ve seen authors call for “street teams” and will send X number of books to fans in exchange for reviews to engage their readers. I’ve seen others promote the importance of readers supporting the books they love by giving reviews, thus educating their fan base. I’m sure there are other ideas. And I downloaded the Bibliocrunch books and they are full of ideas, too. It starts with an engaged platform which takes time to build in order to be effective. I think my next step will be to initiate my own page on Author Central, so I will talk more about that in these Rodeo posts!

  5. TanGental

    I’m such a clumsy amateur when I read all the work people put in I have 9 reviews spread between and .com. I doubt I’ll reach 20. I’ve asked, cajoled and once or twice begged but it makes little difference. Fifty is dreamland. I think non authors think they have done me the favour by buying which is probably true but the importance of the review is clear. I will try and be a little more thoughtful about my launch etc with my second book.

    • Charli Mills

      The more books, the more building blocks you have with which to build. Looking into “street teams” you have to first have a fan base. I’ll designate myself as a fan of your writing. I also looked at a book on Amazon about how to build a street team, but she only had 9 reviews so I don’t think that author has achieved the dreamland level yet, either! Keep writing, keep promoting, engage, refill the well, and around the arena we go!

      • TanGental

        Of course you are write about righting (or vice versa) I will continue on the carousel. If I promoted properly as Lori does I’d achieve bigger rewards. It’s all how you slice the pie of life.

      • Charli Mills

        That one promotes, is good. As to properly, it’s a mix of trial and error based on research and planning. Lori is definitely one to watch. She understands marketing, is gaining knowledge on arenas such as Amazon, and is willing to apply tactics and learn from the results. Rewards are based on goals. Good to keep in mind if you are wanting to build a career or wanting to build creative communication.

    • Norah

      I reviewed on Amazon! 🙂

      • TanGental

        You are SWEET!

  6. Norah

    Thanks Charli, for another interesting and informative post.
    While I am not yet at this stage as an author, it was still interesting for me to read. Thanks for linking to Warner’s article, and also to Bibliocrunch (what a great word!) I will have to keep them in mind for the future. Like you I bookmark pages and posts to come back to when the time is right. I don’t always remember to, or remember where I have bookmarked them though!
    I agree with Anne about your analogies (does she especially like annalogies, do you think?)

    • Charli Mills

      I feel like I’m at the beginning of a huge learning curve and it helps to digest and discuss in posts and comments! Yes, Bibliocrunch is a great word. Periodically I sort my bookmarks into folders and delete what I’ve read (unless I want to refer to it again). It’s a process! Ha, ha — think Anne appreciates analogies! Being a creative person among a team of analytical business people, I found that analogies helped communicate ideas beyond bottom-line numbers or give life to facts.

      • Norah

        Interesting that we talk about a learning curve. I only ever see the uphill slope which rises further than I can see. It’s only time that ever seems to be on the downhill slope! I have my favourites and bookmarks arranged into folders too. I should delete the ones I no longer use.
        I agree with you about analogies. They can often help make understanding of a difficult concept much easier. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        It does feel like an uphill curve with time being a slippery slope. 🙂 It must be the view we are after.

      • Annecdotist

        I certainly like Charli’s analogies!

  7. Sherri

    Oh Charli, I’m learning from you and everyone else here so kindly sharing their wealth of knowledge, for which I greatly thank you. I feel like such a newbie and know virtually nothing about how all this works with Amazon. As you know I hope to go down the traditional publishing route same as you, but I understand that there is still all the marketing ‘stuff’ to learn. Thanks again for the great links, I’ve bookmarked them – ha! – for later, when I have a moment to read them and learn, trying to soak it all up as I write 😮

    • Charli Mills

      It’s a big arena! It’s good to learn from others about the rife and I’m grateful for the insights, too! 🙂

  8. Jeri Walker-Bickett (@JeriWB)

    When I attended the PNWA writing conference a couple of years ago, an Amazon rep pointed out how all of the data in the book becomes metadata, so even within a book the repetition of keywords matters. My attempts at self-pubbing have been hit and miss because I really don’t have much love for promoting my work, but maybe that would be different if I could write longer books and not just short stuff. The first month matter, and pre-release marketing matters, but I’ve also seen some authors stick with marketing just one book for a year or more rather than rushing to put out another and another. I think having a plan and sticking to that plan matters most.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s interesting about the metadata. Reminds me of articles that I freelanced online and I was given not only a topic, but specific words to repeat throughout in a “natural” way. Never thought about that concept applying to books. I agree — have a plan before stepping into the arena! It helps to learn from others. Thank you for sharing your knowledge on this subject!

  9. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Interesting post Charli and good links. I really appreciate learning that Nielson book scan is available to Amazon authors so I think I will try and set myself up as well as I would love to be able to access this as a tool.
    Very early in my blogging days I read a post that suggested that to be higher up on the list for Amazon you had to rate highly in the search engines. When I first started on the search engine I was more than 20 pages in, now in many I am first or at least on the first page. Originally it was Irene Waters from I think a Fish called Wanda and Cyclone Irene Waters have peaked. They suggested that to move up in the search engine stakes you have to put your name as a tag on every post you do. I have done this ever since and it seems to have worked. According to this post Amazon goes on these search engine hits. Don’t know but just in case worth doing.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m intrigued that there was a Cyclone Irene Waters! But you bring up a really good point. The biggest search engine is Google and Google+ is essential for writers and search engine rankings. It’s a bit time consuming to set up, but I authenticated my byline on Google Author for all the freelance writing I do and I post all my blogs to Google. Tagging one’s name in posts is something I’ve overlooked. Thanks for mentioning all this!

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        It was Hurricane (sorry we call them cyclones) Irene which devastated New Orleans but the headings were Irenes waters rise and things like that.
        glad it was worth mentioning.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh! I think of tornados as cyclones. I have weather confusion. 🙂 Okay, I know that one. How odd that your name would be picked up by the combining of Hurricane Irene and waters rising! You are a force to be reckoned with!

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