I am seldom serious on this blog, but today I’m making an exception as I have been dismayed reading several posts on Facebook recently. There are thousands of us indies out there on various sites and we all have something in common.
We are trying to sell books.
I am one of them. In this field I am a newbie, I’m starting at the bottom of the ladder, I do have years of experience in writing, but not books and not in marketing.
Before I even put pen to paper or fingertip to keyboard, several TV producers used to insist I included the aims and objectives of the programme.
Indies aim to sell books, most likely to earn money, to share our story and entertain readers, possibly for recognition. It’s a tough world and the competition is fierce. We aim to raise awareness, collect reviews and get our names into newspapers and on radio and television. The prize at the end of the race is the film contract. We’ve made it, we have arrived.
We are also dealing with a lot of unknowns – how Amazon’s algorhythms work, how they calculate borrows, why they remove reviews etc.
Picture this. You have produced what you feel is your best work, sweated hours over it and now you are sitting in a company boardroom watching six men in business suits pour over your work. One by one they rip it to shreds, telling you exactly what is wrong with it. They don’t like this, that is incorrect, the other doesn’t flow and so on and so on. You cringe, wring your hands under the table and realize that their literary skills amount to little more than signing their names at the bottom of important documents.
But, they are the client, they are paying the money and that money will put bread on the table. You slink out of the front gate with their derisive words ringing in your ears and instructions to return in three days time with a better/correct version.
This was one of many baptisms of fire I endured in the early days of my writing career. It happened to me several times and it was only as the years went by that I could expect to write one, two or at the most, three drafts and have them accepted.
Over the thirty odd years I wrote for a vast variety of clients. Some were savvy, some hadn’t a clue, some were kind, some were outright vicious while others, the worst sort, were frustrated reincarnations of Dickens/Shakespeare and Steven Speilberg all rolled into one.
People vary, they have different tastes, likes, interests, standards, attitudes, dreams and beliefs.
So, where am I going with all this?
Criticism. Your book IS going to be criticized. You WILL be maligned for the work you produce. But here is the difference between an amateur and a professional. If you poke your head above the parapet you ARE going to receive applause and you ARE also going to get shot at.
Learn to take it in your stride. Learn to tell the difference between construction and destruction and carry on. Take note of comments that will help you and ignore the rest.
I do not expect a five star review from everyone who reads my book. You do not have to be nice about my work because we are linked through social media. You may like it, you may not, but do not agonize as you click one or two stars before you explain what didn’t work for you.
As indies we are in a precarious position. We are regarded as the people who are not good enough to be accepted by the established publishing houses. We might think our work is wonderful, but in reality it is riddled with errors, badly edited and with plot lines which fall apart on page two. We are so desperate that we will opt to self-publish and do all the hard marketing ourselves in the hope of selling a few books.
Is this true? No! We know it, but does the general public know it? That’s their perception of us and it is going to take time for us as a group to change mindsets.
How do we do that? By policing ourselves, by being honest about books we are given to review.
I read a book the other week which made me sit up in amazement. I knew it was an indie, but it was head and shoulders better than any indie book I have read for a long time. I realized that I had only been reading indie books for months and had lost the yardstick I use for established authors. This made me re-think.
I’m not suggesting you call up Amazon and start write damning reviews of yet another book you think is only so-so. I am suggesting that we have the courage to tell the author, gently, kindly and firmly that it is, in your humble opinion, not quite up to standard.
Yes, we are all terrified that no one will like us, that they will in turn, refuse to give us a good review. We are scared to make enemies or become unpopular. In the very early days I gave two books a 3 star review – that was before I understood the unwritten rules. I also gave a very popular book 4 stars as I just didn’t think it was that good. Curious, I asked a publisher I knew why she had given it 5 stars, what had I missed. She also thought it was not a good book, but because all the other people … I learned to play by those very rules which in the long run will not do us indies any favours.
Those who will succeed are the ones with the unique approach. Harry Potter, 50 Shades of Rubbish and Dan Brown all prove this.
Yet today I saw a post where E L what’s her name has published another book explaining why 50 shades is an OK book. We might hate it for all kinds of reasons, but she found a hole in the market and was the first to plug it.
We have to find that magic ingredient if we want to hit the big time and everything else has to be up to standard as well.
I wish I could find it.
Oh, and finally, did you get a spare moment to vote? Amie is in the finals of the read freely best indie books of 2015. Here is the link, just in case, today is the last day.
Next week it will be nonsense as usual. I feel a whole lot better now I’ve got all that off my chest.