Congratulations to Josiah Bancroft as Senlin Ascends reaches 500 Goodreads ratings and still doesn't fall below an average rating of 4.5.
Goodreads watchers like myself will know that average ratings almost always go down as the number of readers goes up. It is very hard to find a book with 500+ ratings and an average of 4.5+, especially a non-YA book, especially if you stick to first novels where the author doesn't have the advantage of a following and doesn't have a book 1 to keep those who don't like the work from rating later ones.
Ratings numbers are proportional to sales. In the three years to Summer 2016 Senlin Ascends gathered 50 ratings. In the four months to this point the book reached 500. That means it has gone from a rate of ~130 sales per year to a rate of ~10,000 sales per year!
All of which lends credence to my stated views on what it takes to get a book to succeed sales-wise,
The TL:DR is:
i) A book that is so good it forces readers to get others to read it.
iii) A critical mass so readers have other readers to talk to about it.
Here's what the author said recently about his journey:
I actually did a lot of marketing in the past three years. I sent my book to more than a hundred indy reviewers, about twenty of whom reviewed the book in some form. I've been rejected by BookBub twice. I did four or five giveaways on Goodreads. I purchased ads on reddit, Goodreads, and Google. I was Writer of the Day here on r/fantasy last year. I (to my chagrin) paid several hundred dollars for a couple of reviews from disreputable sources. I later submitted the book to more than a hundred and fifty agents, and about a hundred publishers. I started a website, a Facebook page, and began attending conventions where I sometimes wore funny clothes as I mewed at the teeming throngs, "Please buy my book."
The SPFBO was the absolute last gasp of effort I had in me. After entering the contest, I fell into a general drunken despondency which led to the deletion of my Facebook page, the renunciation of the series, and an abrupt departure from my full time job. Then, believing I was having a heart attack, I woke my wife in the middle of the night to drive me to the hospital only to learn that I was having a panic attack. Those were not my finest days.
And then a couple of weeks later, all of this started to happen. I don't think I necessarily deserve this attention, but I am very grateful for it,
I've chosen to be frank about all this not to garner pity, which I find loathsome, but because I want everyone to know just how much this means to me. Thank you. Thank you all.
After years in the wilderness it seems the planets have aligned for Josiah, and I'm happy to have done my bit to get this gem into the light! Do yourself a favour and give it a read.
The next book is just as good!