It occurred to me the other day that being an indie author these days is a bit like a never-ending popularity contest.

I only say this because so many online sites where indie authors are featured have contests where the author has to try and get friends, family, readers to vote for their books. So instead of a book being judged on its own merits, or an author being judged on ability, it’s really the author being judged on how many people he or she can muster.

And when agents these days insist on an established platform, what they’re really asking is, “How popular are you?”

Sites that demand you have a certain number of reviews or a minimum star rating before they feature your book—they’re asking you to prove your popularity.

Unfortunately for me, I’ve never been popular. I don’t think I was unpopular in school, either, just sort of quiet and people left me alone. Which works well enough for me being a writer, but not so well when I’m trying to market myself. Or when “popularity” is the deciding factor in whether my book wins an award or an agent signs me.

Life is not a meritocracy. It’s a shame, but true. It turns out gold stars are not for stellar work; they’re given to the students the teachers like the most for whatever reason. Same goes for job promotions. You don’t have to be the one who is really good at the job, just the one other people like.

Alas, in school they don’t teach you how to get other people to like you. Feels like a missed opportunity, doesn’t it? “How to be Popular” would be a full course every term, I bet.

Maybe I should grab a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People . . .

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4 thoughts on “Popularity”

  1. Popularity is overrated.

    But… When you’re done with your copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People, an you send it to me? 🙂

    This is one of the things that has scared me away from self publishing because I’m not good at that marketing stuff. Will have to get better at it though if I ever do self publish. *sigh*


    1. These days, you have to be good at it even if you land a publisher. Even the big houses are leaning on the authors to self-promote. Unless you’re already a celebrity or known author whose books sell no matter what, you’ll have to market. Or decide if you’re okay with books not selling. For me, it’s not about money (though that would be nice, too), it’s just disheartening to put so much work into something only to have it largely ignored or overlooked. To feel lost in the shuffle is, at least for me, awful. And there’s so much shuffle!

  2. I’ve never been popular either, and it is frustrating to see the most liked folks get all the opportunities when they aren’t necessarily the most deserving. I like being a hermit and having a very small group of friends, but it doesn’t work so well when you’re trying to market yourself.

    1. I was talking about that with my writing group last night, actually—how those who need it least are the ones the publishers give all the marketing to, and the little nobodies get almost nothing. I suppose it’s like putting your money on a horse you know can win, but it still sucks. If I’m going to have to do the work for myself, I might as well keep the royalties rather than split them with an agent and publisher. I’ve had more success that way anyway.

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