So you release your book into the wide, wide world, and people read it. Then what?
There are going to be some things that you, as the author and as the publisher, cannot control. You can’t govern people’s responses to your book. You can’t fully control the information about your book that’s on store websites. You can’t totally control where the booksellers in a physical store place your book.
But you can influence these things. If you receive a bad critical or customer review, it’s best to take the high road and not engage about matters of taste. Someone’s dislike for a style of writing is not the sort of thing you want to bicker about publicly. (And even emailing the critic is a form of public discourse – particularly because the critic can choose to publish the email online.) It’s one thing to make factual corrections to a review; it’s quite another to react – because reactions will backfire, and turn off potential readers.
Information on e-commerce websites is only controllable up to a point. Most websites get their book data from a variety of sources – the publisher, the distributor, a data aggregator such as Bowker, book-in-hand programs (where warehouse workers compare data to the actual books themselves), as well as manual data entry at the website. Usually, because there is so much information flowing to the website, the data sources get ranked. One data source – such as the distributor data feed – can over-write another – such as the publisher’s data. The rankings are determined by how much confidence the website has in the data they’re receiving, and manual entry by a website employee trumps all the other sources of data. Accurate data can be over-written by inaccurate data if the website trusts, for example, the data aggregator’s feed over the publisher’s – and the data aggregator has wrong information. A good place to start is by making sure your data is correct in Bowker’s Books in Print. Going to My Identifiers and checking your listing will help ensure that the correct data is going out to sites such as Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and Apple, as well as the major search engines. Keep in mind that each website ranks data feeds differently, so it’s important to check your listings.
As for where booksellers place your print book in the physical bookstore – even traditional publishing houses struggle with this. Many pay “co-op” fees, essentially product-placement fees. But most self-published authors don’t have $30,000 to pay for real estate at the front of the bookstore. If you see an egregious misplacement (your cookbook is in the “Occult” section, for example), it’s a good idea to approach the store manager. But if your novel is with the rest of the literary fiction, filed alphabetically by author, there’s not much you can do to draw attention to the book except offer to have an in-store reading event.
Attempting to control issues that are fundamentally out of your hands will only frustrate you, alienate potential readers, and damage your relationships with booksellers. Influencing these issues – with diplomacy, follow-up, and understanding – will get you a lot further.