A good friend and fellow #pubwrite patron, Al Boudreau (@threecifer) inspired me to write this blog post by making a simple suggestion yesterday: “Support an indie today, buy one of their books.” (I paraphrase)
After doing just that, a few of us began to chat about ways that indie authors can help other indie authors succeed in an ever growing market of writers. I’m sure the first thing you’re thinking is “Buy their books,” right? Well, yes buying their books is certainly the most obvious and fiscal way to help an indie author, but there’s so much more we can do for the hard working folks who create these future masterpieces.
1) Buy their book – Duh – we’ve been over this one, but it is important though. Without sales an aspiring author isn’t going to get very far in the business. Even if it’s not much financial gain due to Amazon or Barnes and Noble taking their slice of the pie, high sales can really be motivating for an author. In addition to this, high sales (regardless of revenue generated) is mighty appealing to agents, publishers and even readers.
2) Leave a review! This is one I can’t stress enough. I released my first novella just 2 weeks ago, and I’ve gotten five reviews. Three of them came from friends, two of them I may have following on Twitter, but do not know for sure. Either way it was exciting to see these reviews come in. Reviews will almost certainly help push a potential buyer over the edge to go ahead and purchase the book.
Reviews are obviously a tricky business; no one wants to be the “jerk” who leaves the negative review. Here’s my take on it. I don’t have a problem with leaving an accurate review based on my experience with the story. If the book is a horrible read for me, then I will do one of three things. Contact the author in private with my feedback. Leave a review that is accurate to my thoughts. Or just not leave one, period. I like to try to do the first one, though. Telling the author why I didn’t enjoy their book without screaming it out to the world is a common courtesy I would hope others would show me.
If you feel compelled to leave a lower rating feedback; to make sure other readers are aware of the same problems you had with it, then try to be constructive about it. It’s okay to discuss the negative issues with the book, but try to explain maybe how you would have done it (or how you would have preferred it, as a reader). If something is a grammatical nightmare, don’t be afraid to alert potential readers to that fact, but don’t dwell on it. Saying that the book has many sentence errors or bad punctuation will sum it up just fine; no need to give examples. And I believe if you are going to give a negative review, do try to find something positive to say. Obviously something about the book intrigued you enough to buy it, so call attention to that.
3) Spread the word! The single biggest advantage (in my opinion) that a mainstream book has over an indie book is a big fat checkbook to use on marketing. Most indie authors aren’t writing to become rich. In fact most of us know that if we end up making a few hundred dollars a month in sales we’re doing great! What that means, however, is we don’t have an agent who wears a $5,000 suit setting up book signings and interviews on talk shows. Instead we rely on the internet; social networking.
Twitter, Facebook, message boards. These are the marketing tools indie authors have at their disposal, and might I add they are quite fine tools to have. It’s astounding how fast these social platforms can get the word out about anything, especially books. Networking and becoming friends with people on these platforms can help you market your book to more people than you thought imaginable, and it’s all free! So long as we all do our part. When someone on your list posts about their book (or even blog), retweet, share, or email the link out to your friends. You want to be reasonable about it; don’t be a spambot, nobody likes that person. I personally like to pick a few posts a day to retweet/share, even make a few cold posts on my own that links to a friend’s book or blog. Again, wouldn’t you want them doing that same thing for you?
4) Lastly, provide any other type of support you can think of. Whether it’s beta reading, offering to do some editing or anything else that can help that author not only get stronger sales and better reviews, but become a better writer! I very much enjoy helping my fellow authors out in any way I can. I recently was able to use a skill set I have learned at my day job to help a good friend of mine out on his upcoming release. I jumped at the opportunity to help out a friend and make a contribution to his book. I hope that what I was able to do for him will only help get HIM more recognition and sales (reviews are still all on him ^_^ ). Point is, it’s amazing how many other little ways there are to help out an indie author. Might even be as small as just giving a word of encouragement to someone who is struggling on that particular day.
We’re all in this together, people. There are some true gems out there in the form of indie books that are just waiting to be discovered. Help the world discover these books by following these suggestions. The above, certainly, is my opinion and view on the matter, so take it for what it’s worth to you. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas to how we can better support authors, so please leave comments with your methods.