And we are now ready for the third part of Marina’s excellent – and painful – overview of the Italian indie ebook market.
As usual, the comments are open.
Launch day and the three-days cliff
If the issue of piracy is, unfortunately, the same all over the world, what Italy definitely has backwards is the launch of a new book.
Among me and some of my friends, “devo ricaricare la PostePay” (literally “I need to load money on the Postal Service prepaid card”) has become a running gag, because it’s one of the most used answers to the launch of a book.
“My new thriller is out now, it’s 1,99 € for the next two days only!” “Oh, I’ll buy it as soon as I put some money on my prepaid card!”
“The new book by so-and-so is out, and it’s great, buy it, my Facebook friends!” “I must put some money on my prepaid card, then I’ll surely buy it!”
“Special sale-” “My prepaid card is empty, but I’ll buy it, promise!”
Can you feel the insincerity? Yep, we feel it too.
Worse than this are those times when X people swear they just bought your new book, and the sales dashboards tell you the actual number is way, way lower than X.
Still bad is the way we, Italian authors, end up laughing sadly at the idea of the thirty-day cliff. All we have is, at best, a three-day cliff.
Yep, if you write the wrong genre fiction, be it the wrong branch of fantasy or sci-fi, three days after launch your sales will automatically plummet to a crawl. We’re that lucky.
The top of the chart is one sale away
Luckily, there’s sort of a (useless) silver lining to the three-day cliff.
As we said before, few reader mean small pools of readers for every niche. Which, in turn, mean that if you’re writing in the right niche, you may reach the top of its charts with very little copies sold.
How little?, you may ask.
In the right (or wrong, your choice) niche, it may be as low as three copies sold in a day to enter the top five, if not reach the top of the chart.
Which means that we can claim to be bestsellers in our category with what would, otherwise, be very depressing numbers.
Also relating to niches, if you happen to browse the Amazon categories on the .it site, you’ll discover that our niches are way broader than in the English speaking market. For example, the Science Fiction category in the Italian kindle store only has 9 subcategories.
The niche is small.
Long live the niche.
Fake it till you die
There’s something of a performance going on, in the way Italian writers and Italian readers relate to one another. This streak is so strong that it turns it all into a convoluted dance of lies and counter-lies, preening and counter-preening.
Writers (and publishers) lie telling their readers the amazing numbers of book they sold, with publishers claiming tens of thousands of copies sold when they would give an arm and a leg to sell just one thousand.
Readers lie telling they bought the book, vying for the attention of authors or PR people.
Writers and publishers preen, showing off their competence and savvy, when in truth they are flailing around in a schizoid market nobody really understands.
The readers preen back, trying to show the publishing world where it got it wrong. Like with those pesky prices higher than zero, or when the author forgets to show, don’t tell.
“Fake it till you make it” is hard to translate in Italian keeping its rhythm and rhyme intact, but we know the idea very well. We know it so well it’s a way of living. There are many careers built on nothing more than people still faking competences and knowledge decades after starting said careers. We range from the former bully of geeks who now poses as geekery guru-and-prophet, to the self proclaimed expert of X culture who actually knows nothing about X country and culture, to the author of police procedurals who knows nothing about police procedure and didn’t bother to research it before writing their novels.
I think the Italian audience, collectively, swallows it whole, hook, line and sinker, when it comes to these fakers… And in my opinion it’s because a person who is actually competent may make us feel inferior, so we prefer someone who lowers the level nearer to ours. A real expert may have no qualms saying “You’ve got it all wrong, things are more complicated than you ever thought,” while a faker, on the other hand, will try to ingratiate their audience by showing that everything is on the easy to reach shelves of knowledge.
We are a land of fakers, of con artists, of people who make do, of success stories. Oh, we love our rags to riches stories so much we will accept them and let each new expert lead us everywhere they like.