Monday, July 18, 2011

Independent Authors. We Try Harder

As an independent author, I feel a lot like the Avis Rental Car Company must have felt back in the 1960s.  Hertz was the first company to aggressively pursue the rental car market, and competitors found it almost impossible to gain any ground.  Their main rival, Avis, lagged far, far behind.  For 10 long years, Avis tried to compete with Hertz, but could not even make a dent in the market.  Finally, at their wits end, Avis management hired the small but prestigious Madison Avenue firm Doyle Dane Bernbach to come up with a “killer” advertising campaign against Hertz—if they failed, Avis would throw in the towel and shut the company down.

The result was one of the most successful campaigns in advertising history.  The slogan created for Avis was “We’re Number Two.  We Try Harder.”

In the next few years, Avis grew at a remarkable 35% rate, grabbing big chunks of market share from Hertz.   The strategy exceeded even their most optimistic expectations. 

Why did the “We Try Harder” campaign work so well?

Because it was true.

When you’re the little guy, going up against the heavy, entrenched competition, you really do have to try harder.  If you don’t, you simply won’t survive.

As I said, I feel a lot like the folks at Avis must have felt back then, and I know a lot of my fellow independent authors feel the same.  We are struggling to have our voices heard.  We are a bunch of Davids going up against a Goliath, the Goliath being the big publishers in New York.  We can’t simply be as good as the Stephen Kings and James Pattersons and J.K. Rowlings—we have to be better.  And on top of that, we have to do it on a shoestring budget.

Now, I know what you may be thinking.  There are a lot of independent writers who produce junk, badly-written, badly-edited, and badly-formatted books that are not worth reading.  And you’re absolutely right—I’ve seen plenty, and bought some of them, too.

But doesn’t the same hold true for the big, established authors?  Aren’t many of them producing “junk” as well?  I know at least some of them are because I often spend my hard-earned money on their latest books, only to find myself disappointed.  Due to their success and fame, they’ve lost touch with how to engage and satisfy the very readers who made them successful in the first place. In short, they don't need to try so hard anymore.

Another criticism of independent authors that is that they "are just bad writers who couldn’t get published by the big guys.” 

Not so.  At least, not in my case.

The reason I was never published by the big guys is because when push came to shove, I didn’t want to be.  I wouldn’t play their game. I wouldn’t rewrite my books to conform to their cookie-cutter standards, to make my books more like all the other books they sold in order to minimize their risk.   

The big publishers are bureaucracies, and like all bureaucracies, they are not known for their creative, out-of-the-box thinking. They make decisions by committee. I don’t have to tell you how many fantastic books like Harry Potter were almost overlooked by the big publishers—you know all those stories yourself.  I sincerely believe that many of the books we independent authors are producing are far more creative and original than many of the books produced by the big publishers in New York.

Independent authors try harder.  We have to.

Discover us!

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with you. So many people ignore books by authors they have never heard of before, let alone self-published writers.
    We have to prove to them that they shouldn't judge a book by its cover, no by the name of the author or the publisher.