How Do We Build and Maintain a Thriving Indie Author Community?

It is easy for an Indie author to become discouraged by the challenges that come from various sources. It’s a tough gig sometimes, especially for someone who is new to the world of self-publishing. 

So how do we develop and maintain a thriving and motivated Indie author community that we all want to be part of? 

These are the key behaviours we need to adopt and make regular habits: 

  • Encourage each otherRead each other’s work
  • Give honest, constructive feedbackHelp each other achieve excellence 
  • Share each other’s work and social media posts 
  • Be professional about every phase of the writing, editing, publishing and marketing process.
  • Be free and liberal with sharing insights, experience and knowledge that will help those who are new to our community.

How do I know these things work? 

The more time you spend in the community, the clearer the divide between those who do them and those who don’t.

Those Indies who already do these things consistently demonstrate that they are are the most engaged, motivated and productive authors. They are positive and proactive. 

Most significantly, they express joy in doing these things. You can’t fake or manufacture that. 

Those who don’t support others are more likely to express jealousy and resentment in response to the success of others. They are more likely to be critical and competitive. 

And those who adopt the “success at any cost” will be far more likely to turn to less ethical avenues of advancement. It is from this small, murky pool that those willing to cheat the system will emerge. 

All in all, that doesn’t seem like much of a choice to me. I want my books to sell because they are good, not because I am pretending to be something I am not. 

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The Facebook and Instagram Outage Crisis of March 13th, 2019

Despite the crisis that had unfolded overnight as I slept, I woke this morning to find that the sun had risen, gravity still worked, and the earth continued to turn on its axis. 

I had breakfast, got ready for work, and headed into a very busy day. Surprisingly, I found that the work deadlines and professional requirements that were in place yesterday still existed today. 

My students, however, were despondent. 

Them: Facebook is gone! Instagram doesn’t work! 
Me: Imagine how much work you might get done in the meantime!
Them: You’re not very sympathetic. 
Me: And that surprises you because…?
Them: Rolled eyes and sighs. Some lovely moments of dramatic pathos that I shall try to draw on in drama class. 

This left me wondering: what on earth does the world do without Facebook and Instagram? 
It seems the general response is to complain. 

Many of the real social media junkies responded by rushing over to Twitter to complain and commiserate with their followers and the social media world in general. 

In all honesty, some of the responses are pretty funny. 

Others demonstrate that many people are much worse at dealing with this kind of thing than they should be.  
I mean, really, Australia?
Emergency services?
That’s… pathetic.

This one has to be my favourite. It cuts through the whining and combines the sublime and the ridiculous with glorious snark.
Jenny Bean Edwards gets an A+ for World Studies.

Cheer up, folks.
I’m sure Facebook and Instagram and their enormously profitable algorithms will be back soon.

Until then? You may actually be forced to either read a book or have face-to-face conversations with real people.

Alternatively, you can head to twitter and follow me!

You Might Be On An Illegal Book Downloading Site if…

I have written several posts recently about scammers, cheats and piracy in the Indie publishing world.

This post by Suzan Tisdale lays out very plainly the ways in which readers can know that a book website is most likely illegal.

It’s hard to believe this is what it has come to: that people need to be informed so directly about the ways in which authors all over the world are being ripped off.

Yet this is one of those issues that goes much farther than most of us ever realise.

The Cheeky Wench

“How do I know if I’m on a legitimate book site?”

You’d be surprised the number of times I get asked that question. As in at least five times a day. I get asked lots of questions every day as it pertains to books and audiobooks. So, I decided to put together this handy guide for those individuals who are ‘uncertain’ if they’re on a legitimate book site or not.

Q: How can I tell if I’m on a book pirating site?

A: You might be on an illegal ebook downloading site (AKA book pirating site) if all the books are free. That is your first give away. No legitimate book vendor has 100% free books. The only exception is your local library’s website. Other than that, if every book is FREE then you’re not in the right place. You’re in the wrong place. As in ‘you’re on an…

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Indie Authors: Don’t Let The Scammers Win

There has been quite some consternation among Indie authors over past months in various ways that dishonourable people have found to scam the system and get quite rich selling books that are not what they should be, particularly on Amazon, or who steal others’ books and make them available on pirate websites, or plagiarise and “rebrand” them as their own work.. 

Understandably, those who put a lot of effort into writing and publishing excellent books find such situations discouraging. It’s hard to be upbeat about what we do when others seem to “win” with shortcuts that are plain wrong. 

As I commented in yesterday’s post on integrity and ethics, it seems as though the floodgates have opened to allow all sorts of deceitful behaviour.
It’s hard to know how to respond.

What honest writers must not do, however, is quit. 

It’s up to us to keep on creating fantastic stories and poetry for the readers out there who crave excellent books. 

It’s up to us to hold our heads high, proclaim “I write every word of my books!” and then show the world what we’ve got. 

In short, it’s up to us to show the cheaters and scammers how it should be done. 

Nobody but honest and hard-working authors can restore the faith of readers in Indoe and self publishing. The only way to do that is to maintain a premium of quality in the books on the shelves in stores, libraries and homes all over the world. 

We may have to work harder, smarter and cleaner than ever before. Still, we’ve had to do that in order to give traditional publishing a good shake, and we’ve certainly achieved that. 

We Indies have so much to offer. We have each other for support and an entire future that is yet to be shaped ahead of each of us.

I refuse to quit. I refuse to let the scammers win. Who’s with me? 

Is Integrity Too Much To Hope For?

I have posted a couple of times in the past week on issues of integrity and ethics in the Indie Author community.

There, and in life in general, it seems as though having integrity is a little less fashionable than it used to be.

These days, it seems that people are more often driven by their hunger for money or power or fame and, as a consequence, having integrity is a less fashionable than it used to be.

What a sad state of affairs.

It’s no surprise, though, that fewer and fewer individuals value integrity as it used to be valued, when they see politicians, global corporations and even national leaders getting away with telling lies, taking or paying bribes, cheating the system and taking little or no accountability for these actions until forced to. If it works for the rich and powerful, why not the little guys?

This is no justification whatsoever. Just because someone else does it, doesn’t make it right. And just because they appear to get away with it doesn’t make it a viable option to shortcut the road to success.

In some ways, integrity matters even more now than ever, because people are finding new and clever ways to cheat and deceive others which often have significant consequences for many. Globalisation and technology have opened a floodgate of opportunities for legitimate businesses and scammers and pirates alike.

In a world where there is precious little to rely on, we need to be able to know who to trust. We need to be able to take someone at their word, to assume a contract will be met, to get what we pay for, and to know that the liars and cheats will be punished.

If nobody stands up to them and insists on standards of behaviour and ethics, it’s only going to get worse.

Integrity is not too much to hope for. In fact, it is an imperative that we should all take very seriously indeed.

Integrity should be something we value for its own sake. It’s a quality we should not only strive for, but teach and expect our children, our friends, and our companies to do likewise.

It does seem that it’s always going to be the regular folk who set the standards for those “above” them.

Nothing will change, though, unless those who still value integrity and honesty demand them of those who hold the power and make the decisions.

Only when the majority – and I do believe it is still the majority of people – who value integrity assert its importance and hold it up as the yardstick of acceptable behaviour can we hope for anything different.

Focus On Creation, Not Competition.

A reflection on integrity, creativity, and success.

Image by TeroVesalainen on Pixabay

Competition can be a good thing. It urges us to strive to make sure we do our best, and that our product is as good as anyone else’s. It makes us less willing to settle for something less.

However, it can also be unhealthy if we let ourselves be consumed by it. When a job or a hobby becomes all about being number one, and being better than everyone else, it takes us into territory far beyond what is good for us, and often beyond what is good for those we consider our competition. 

I see both things happening in the Indie Author community. 

Most strive to ensure their covers are eye-catching, their stories are good, and their books are error free. We compare our books to those in the same genre, so that we can gauge the likely level of attraction among readers.

Most of us see our fellow authors as people we can learn from. As a rule, The Indie author community excels at being helpful, free with advice, and positive and encouraging of one another. 

Some, though, seem intent on dragging others down— as though putting someone else down will push themselves further up the rungs of the ladder. Some resort to insult, backstabbing and rum our-mongering. Some sink low enough to leave nasty reviews and one-star ratings on their fellow authors’ books. Some find ways to cheat the system or rig contests to gain visibility and prestige. And some go even lower than that: plagiarism, book-stuffing, and various other ways of scamming the reader and making a lot of money that would otherwise be going to honest writers. Sadly, this discredits the entire Indie community in the eyes of many.

I abhor those behaviours, especially the more extreme they get. There is no place for them, no way to justify them, and certainly very little tolerance for them at all amongst those in the community who have any integrity. 

I also think that it’s a very sad indictment on how some people view their profession. Whether they are authors, realtors, bankers or whatever they do, how tragic is it that they are so fixed on their perceived image and definition of success that they will do anything – even risking destroying the very career they prize – to achieve that. 

The warning is clear: pursuit of “success at any cost” will probably bring about the very opposite.

If you see everyone else in your field as competition, you won’t find any joy in what you do. 

I would much rather be the writer who produces quality work that readers will love, even if it means I can’t quit my day job yet. I would rather be a poet who touches someone’s soul than a lowlife who helps themselves to someone else’s work or reputation.

The key to both success and integrity is simply to do your job well. That will speak for itself. 

There IS a Wrong Way to Write a Book Review!

What not to do when writing a book review – and what to do instead.

This week I read a blog post that asserted there is no right or wrong way to write a book review. The writer made some good points, particularly about reviews needing to be individual and personal responses to a book, but I disagree with the basic premise of the article.

I am writing this post from the perspective of a reader, not an author, and I realise that some people won’t agree with me, so let me explain my reasons.

A book review should never recount the story of the book. It shouldn’t give spoilers. Yet time after time, I see reviews that do exactly that. My issue is that if I already know what is going to happen, I feel as though I no longer need to read the book. The joy of the journey has been neutralised. That review has effectively cost the author a sale. 

In all honesty, I hate blurbs that do this, too. As a reader, that’s one of the quickest turnoffs when I’m looking at a book. 

Don’t give me a summary. Give me teasers, give me feelings, give me thoughts and observations. Pique my interest. Make me want to read it for myself, instead of making me feel as though I already have. 

A good review doesn’t have to be long or complicated.  It does needs to be at least 20 words in length, which gives you room to say whether you enjoyed the book and why. One or two sentences will do the trick.  There is no obligation to write any more than that if you don’t want to. 

  • If you do want to write more, you can consider including the following ideas: 
  • Why you liked or disliked it. Remember that others may like what you disliked, and vice versa, so try to be kind. 
  • What important ideas the story made you think about – love, anger, justice, revenge, pain, fear, overcoming… anything that is relevant to you is a valid point for comment.
  • What the characters are like as people, and what we learn from them Did the writer’s style impress you in any particular way?
  • Was it easy to read and understand, or did you have to really work at it?
  • Who else might like to read it? Think about interests, age group, and genres here. 

This will help you to write a review that is interesting in itself, and which will encourage the right readers to choose that particular book. In that way, you’ll help both the author and prospective readers at the same time. 

The Danger Of Dirty Links

With all the attention given among the Indie community to the removal of book reviews by Amazon, I’m amazed at the number of authors who still post dirty links to their books on social media. This is a rookie-level mistake that can actually do more harm than good. 

A dirty link helps the algorithm at Amazon to determine if there are connections between author and reader that might suggest collusion or partiality.. Even if a review is from a verified purchase, a simple connection via a shared link can be enough to make them suspect that it’s not unbiased or from an unrelated party.

If the link used by multiple customers can be traced directly back to the author, that’s one of the reasons they will start flagging and eventually removing reviews. 

The simple solution is to ensure your links are clean before you post them.

A dirty link occurs when one copies and pastes a URL without removing all the extra information that gets tacked onto it by searching for a product, copying links from a website, linking from another product, or using a bookmark created from a searched item.For example, if I search for one of my books on Google and click on the Amazon link, I get this as the URL: 

This is more information than is needed to actually find my book. In the image below, I’ve denoted the “dirty” part of the link by making it red. 

The highlighted part of this link is the “dirty” part. If I were to give this link to someone else to use, it tells Amazon how they got the link. 
All you need to post is the part of the link that directly goes to your book page. In the link above, that’s the part that is still black. Once the link identifies which display page your book has, no further information is necessary. 

You can check the clean link you want to post by pasting it into a new browser window and seeing that it goes directly to your book product page. 
Even if you use a link shortening service like bit.ly or buff.ly, or a customised branded link, you must ensure that the links you provide are clean. Just because you and your audience don’t see the extra information on a shortened or customised link doesn’t mean it isn’t there. 

That way, stores will have no reason to suspect you or your readers’ integrity, and your verified purchase reviews will remain proudly on your book page. 

How Not To Do Book Promotion.

I can’t tell you what kind of book promotion is guaranteed to work, but I can tell you what doesn’t.

Every author I know dreams of finding the perfect ‘set and forget’ book promotion. 

I’m here with some bad news: it doesn’t exist. 

Effective book promotion is about engagement and communication.  It’s letting people know your book exists, what it’s about, and why they should read it… without stuffing it in their face and demanding that they buy it. 

What many people don’t realise is that effectively promoting your book is a process, not an event.  You cannot simply advertise it once, post it on Facebook and/or Twitter, then sit back to wait for the sales to roll in. 

Personally, I’d love to think that everyone I know who sees my book will buy it, and that would flow on to lots of people I don’t know buying it. That isn’t how it works. The people you know are often less likely to be interested and willing to buy and read your book than complete strangers. 

You’ve got to make them interested. Bait the hook the right way, and they’ll bite. But the bait that works for one won’t necessarily work for another. Effectively promoting your book is complex: you’ve really got to be exploring different angles and be patient enough to follow them through to see if they work. If they don’t, you try something different. If they do, that’s great – but that doesn’t mean those same things will work again next time. 

As for what works, I don’t have all the answers. I wish I did. 
I do know what doesn’t work, though. 

Being pushy doesn’t work. Can you imagine how you’d feel if someone wandered around a bookstore holding a card in front of your face that told you where to find the book they wrote? Or if they followed you around, begging you to buy it?

Even worse, actually demanding that people buy your book is a complete turn off. Temper tantrums fall into the same category.

Making every social media post you ever write a “buy my book” post doesn’t work. Put that stuff on your page or author profile, share some of it by all means, but use your personal profile as exactly that. 

Taking advantage of the kindness of others doesn’t work – well, it might for about 30 seconds, but once they’re onto you, even the most supportive friend will back away and wear a necklace made of garlic cloves every time they see you coming. 

Abusing people and talking down to them doesn’t work. Those walls will go up faster than anything you’ve seen before. Not only will they not buy your book, they will tell everyone else what you said, and they won’t buy your book either.

Ignoring or dismissing those who help you along the way is entirely counterproductive. You’ll find yourself quite lonely and without the support you once enjoyed.

Assuming loyalty will not work. Sad to say, some people who know you in person might actually think that anything you write might not be that great. That doesn’t mean it isn’t excellent – but changing their perceptions is tricky. Humans are odd like that, and finding one who believes in you is like the proverbial needle in the haystack. 

The only way to go about it is to build engagement and develop a reputation for excellence

If you’re going to make the grade, your book needs to be top shelf: professionally edited, a well-designed cover, clean formatting, and engaging content. Without those things, your book might be good, but it’s competing with a market full of other good books that have had more time and effort invested in them to make them attractive to readers. 

It takes time, energy and commitment. Sometimes it takes sheer grit and determination, but you’ve got to manage all that without anyone really seeing that part of the job. 

But if you’ve got a story to tell, or a message to communicate to the world, there’s nothing stopping you. Just make sure you do it well

That will give you the best possible chance of promoting your book effectively and successfully. 

What They’re Really Saying.

It should come as no surprise that when you’ve been listening to people say the same thing for a while, you get better at understanding what they really mean. 

Person Z. 
Take, for example, a young woman who approaches her friends and family members and says something like, “Hey, so, I’m having a fancy brand-name plasticware/linenware/healthy and beauty product/accessory/clothing party at my house in a couple of weeks, and I really hope you’ll come.” 

What she’s really saying: Option A: I got sucked into one of these parties by relative/friend X, and she looked so hopeful that someone would book a party so she’d get some reward, and my mouth was open before my brain could stop it. 

What she’s really saying: Option B: There’s a thing this company makes, and I’d really like to have it, but it’s expensive so I’m having a party and anything you buy will help me get it cheaper. 

I’ve been on both ends of the equation, and can totally sympathise. It’s fair to say I’ve smiled and nodded through a whole bunch of those evenings, and even bought a thing or three, to help friends and family members out. From time to time, I’ve also been the Option A person. 

Person Y.
In another example, a child approaches family members and friends and explains that the school is selling chocolates/holding a “fun run”/doing some kind of suffer-a-thon as fundraising for a new toilet block so the kids can “go” comfortably during breaks. 

What the child is really saying: Option A: The school insists that I must do this thing and there’s no way out of it, so please give me some money toward it so it’s not for nothing. 

What the child is really saying: Option B: There are prizes for doing this, and I really want the floppitywoppity that you can only get if you raise $5000, so please give me some money to give me a fair chance at winning one. 
Again, I’ve helped more than one kid out of the hole. I don’t know if any of them ever got the floppitywoppity, but I know I have helped to build more than one toilet block in my time. 

Person X.
Then, there’s the Indie author. Actually, it could be any Indie creative – an artist, musician, or crafter. I just decided to use an author as the example here, because that enables me to draw on my own experience again.
Person X has a passion for writing, a message they want to get out to the world, and they finally get their book published. They tell their friends and family members that they have a book out, and they’re about to tell them what it’s about…

What the author is really saying: Option A: I finally fulfilled my dream. Aren’t you happy for me? 

What the author is really saying: Option B: I did a thing! I may never become a millionaire, but I did a thing! Please proud of me!

What the author is really saying: Option C: Remember all those times I supported your party plan things? And your fun runs? And your kids’ school toilet blocks? And… 

…But as Person X talks, there are virtual crickets chirping, and eyes looking nervously at the door, and people checking their phones, and remembering appointments they need to be at, and…
What the others are really saying: Option A: Well, this is awkward… who ever thought he/she was brave enough to get out there and do the thing! 
What the others are really saying: Option B: Yeah, we know you’ve supported us and our kids, but we’d prefer not to mention that now, because I would rather put my cash toward fancy plastic ware/linen/clothes/beauty products/accessories or a gym membership than some book by someone nobody’s ever heard of.

What the others are really saying: Option C: What the heck are we supposed to do now? We hope he’s not going to ask us to actually read it… maybe if I don’t ask what it’s about, he’ll stop talking about it.

What the others are really saying: Option D: But… you’re my brother/sister/cousin/relative/friend… how could a book you wrote even be any good? A bit full of yourself, aren’t you?

Person W. 
The final example is the one person in the room who hugs you and says, “Awesome! That’s fantastic! I’ll buy your book! How much do you want for it? You’ll sign it for me, won’t you? I can’t wait to tell my friends what you’ve done!”

What they’re really saying: Option A: I’m proud of you, and I’m on your team. 

What they’re really saying: Option B: I’ll probably never read it, but I’m proud of you, and I’m on your team.

What they’re really saying: Option C: “Awesome! That’s fantastic! I’ll buy your book! How much do you want for it? You’ll sign it for me, won’t you? I can’t wait to tell my friends what you’ve done!” then looking over their shoulder with a glare at the rest of the people in the room who were too selfish to do or say anything. 

The moral of the story: Option A: 
I’m really thankful for every ‘Person W’ in my life. I had no idea when I embarked on my journey as an Indie author that it would hurt so much to know there were so many Zs and Ys in my circles, but I also had no idea how wonderful it would be to know who the Ws were, and that they were on my team.  

The moral of the story: Option B: 
Always be a W. Even if you never read the book, be a W.