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.
Great post! Coming from real world critique groups where we pay it forward as a mantra and mandate, this comes easily to me, but some writers just aren’t savvy enough yet to know where they can make a difference. You’ve offered some great suggestions to help indies get started.
What a great blog! If more authors banded together to help each other out, the writing community would become a stronger force to be reckoned with. The advice about reviews is terrific. Reviews are the cornerstone to sales — even if there are some bad reviews, more people would rather buy a book that’s had some negative or indifferent reviews than no reviews at all.
This is all great advice.
#4 is incredibly important. We’re all busy but it’s psychologically and socially freeing to read another human being’s words. Even more so to leave a review or a few encouraging words to keep them going. When you support writing in that way, you take part in it. Your influence could be the single aspect of the writer’s day that makes them continue.
I really try to surf blogs in an attempt to find works to discuss and review but few people post their work as freely and openly as I do. It’s hard to get a grasp on their projects and even harder to provide praise or constructive criticism.
Great post, AJ. You hit on the key items that are crucial to the success of indies who are working toward making a living with their words. It’s fantastic information for readers, and writers, alike. Thanks for such a well written, and informative post.
AJ, top post.
Until recently I was very naive to the ways of promoting through social networking and pretty much saw this as the reserve of big companies. I wrote a review on a trade published book recently which was released in 2008… I was only number 3 to do so on Amazon. We should never underestimate the power we all have to assist ourselves and our peers.
I think it’s a good idea to also give maximum exposure to reviews. Blog one then copy to Amazon, GoodReads, Shelfari etc etc etc. Not to mention spreading the word amongst friends/collegaues.
AJ, this is an excellent post. You’ve really hit the nail on the head in terms of what independent, self-published authors face every day, and need to work on to advance. If just a handful of Twitter/Facebook friends pass on a link to a book, or book review, then those handful pass them on, and so on, an author can find his work in the hands of people many iterations down the road, and that’s how success can be achieved.
Good on you – well written!
Great post, AJ! Let’s all support each other get the name out there.
Really a fantastic post, and something that I can easily link to and share with my friends who wonder what they can do to help me on my indie-joyride. I’ve tried to explain how simply reviewing a book they’ve read is often the most tremendous show of support they can give. Maybe now that point can be hammered home!
Hey AJ this is a seriously spot-on post. It is imperative that us indies band together and rock this literary world! Glad to be a part of your team 🙂
Great post and sound advice for all writers, new and old, indie or otherwise. If we are all giving a helping hand to one another, life will easier and more rewarding for each and all of us.
Personally since I published my own first book a couple of months ago, I’ve bought at least two dozens of books from the indie authors I’ve met on Twitter and FB. While some I’ve enjoyed a great deal and left one or two good reviews on completion, I have faced the dilemma of whether or not giving a review at all when I was not sure about the books I started reading. of course, I’ve got quite a lot more to go through on my list, and I know I’ll enjoy some of them more than others. AJ, your advice is helping me as to what I should do and I’m very grateful for that.
Thanks for all the kind words and feedback. I’m looking forward to growing as an author along with such an amazing group of people on this incredible journey!
You speak for the entire Indie movement, AJ. Nicely done. And by the way, I loved your novella and will get my review up right away!
Great job AJ – You are such a good friend to Indie authors. We Indie authors need to root and support each other. I will help everyone any way I can. We are all in this together. Who else knows the hard work, time, effort, and sometimes tears that go into writing good works. God bless you always. Jeannie Walker
Here’s one of my blogs for you and others to look at. Please relax for a minute and feed the fish while you are there.
Thanks for the post! Indie authos need as much help as we can get. There’s such a stigma against us, and coming from me (an Indie without a huge social media base), support, particularly in word-of-mouth is key.