Authenticity and Honesty as an Indie Author by @JoRobinson176

A couple of things we shouldn’t be doing. Sometimes you’ll see an author comparing their writing to a famous writer in the actual blurb of their book, or worse still on the cover. Doing this in a blurb is actually against Amazon policy, so it’s not a good idea to begin with. Some Indies seem to think that by the mere presence of a bestselling author’s name, readers will be more inclined to buy their own book. Speaking as a reader all I can say about that is that if I want to read a book by J K Rowling I’ll buy one of her books. If a reader or reviewer on the other hand compares a book to the work of a famous author I’m a fan of, I might be tempted to buy it – that to me is a genuine compliment, but if it’s the author making the comparison it always comes across as a little desperate to me.

Desperation doesn’t sell well, and readers aren’t stupid. We prefer authenticity in the books we read. Why on Earth would any writer want to hang on to another writer’s coattails? I’ve heard that copying famous writer’s styles can be a good writing exercise, although I’ve never tried it myself. I’d much rather stick to my own style, whatever that may be, than to try and sell anything on the back of someone else’s success. Every time a book makes it big there are suddenly thousands of copycat versions dumped onto the market, and none of them will ever have the impact of the original. Every writer has their own unique writing voice, and we should always be true to that – even when we’re selling our wares.

Another thing I’ve seen is #1 BESTSELLER plastered on the cover of a book. Then I’ve looked at the book’s ranking, and it’s at two million and odd. That’s not a bestseller and I don’t appreciate the attempt to con me. I’ve read several comments from Indie authors saying that it’s the truth because at some point their books have been number one on a free list. That’s just way beyond wrong so don’t do this. We’ve all been in the paid bestseller lists at some point or another, but if you honestly want to put that on your book it must have been number one on the main list, and if it reaches that beautiful spot everyone will already know what it is.

I always use the Look Inside feature on Amazon before I buy any book. A huge mistake some Indies make is to put pages and pages of reviews in their front matter. Often you haven’t got to the end of them before the preview ends. No book purchase from me in that case. I don’t have a problem with a few lines from good reviews on a single page, but more than that – yes – again seems desperate to me. Readers will read the book reviews anyway, both the good and the bad, so the reviews in the front matter aren’t going to mean anything except that they’re taking up too much space. The last thing about using reviews in your book is actually using them on your book. Fine for if the book has reviews from Kirkus or something like that, but putting one of the three reviews that the book has on your actual cover is not a good idea at all. The last time I saw this I cringed in shame on behalf of that author.

As self-published authors we have to act professionally, respect our readers, and credit them with the savvy to spot things like this. We should trust in our own authenticity and have the patience for it to be seen for what it is, and hopefully enjoyed for its own sake. Image1000

Friendly Follows

Unless you’re writing purely for yourself, your aim is to sell your work to readers. Selling is a word that often has Indie authors running for the hills. It shouldn’t though. If you want people to read your books, you’re going to have to have them buy them to begin with. There’s nothing torrid about selling your books. Nothing to be ashamed of. So do it. Sell that stuff. But sell it politely. One of the most powerful tools for Indie authors to find readers is Twitter. Unfortunately some of the really hardcore OY BUY MY BOOK brigade have muddied the waters there a little, with their ad nauseam spamming of their books without ever posting anything else. That doesn’t mean that Twitter won’t help you sell books anymore though. You just have to be patient, post interesting content other than only your own, and behave socially.

I often come across Indie authors around and about, who are incredibly selective as to who they’ll follow on Twitter. Unless you’re J K Rowling you’re not going to be successful if you’re expecting thousands of people to follow you for no other reason than that you wrote a book, without any sort of reciprocation. Theoretically it’s better to give than receive, but not so much in cyberworld these days, and if you want to be noticed at all, you have to give. Whether you’re giving information, having lively chats, or just sharing something beautiful, these things will catch the attention of potential readers much more effectively than only ever sharing things about yourself or your books. The same goes with who you choose to follow or follow back.

If you weren’t selling or planning to sell a book, would you have signed up for Twitter? No? Then insisting on only following back other writers, or even more precisely, other writers who you think are “worthy”, is seriously counterproductive.

Just because you’re a writer doesn’t mean that nothing else interests you. Writing is your job, and what defines you, but everyone has things that they love to do when they’re not doing their work. Gardening, cross stitch, cooking, art, making really cool medieval chainmail out of bottle tops and pink paperclips. The same goes for chefs, university students, secretaries, CEO’s and plumbers. Possibly what they love to do when they’re not working is to read books, even though it would never occur to them to write one. That guy who followed you who has 178 followers, and tweets about how cool his beer belly is, is a potential reader. And when you – author of note – follow him back, he is most chuffed. He notices you. Retweet the photo of his epic beer spill that formed the shape of a perfect frog bottom on his t-shirt, and you could very well have your first fan. A reader who has not ever considered writing a book. How would you feel if J K Rowling followed you back? And then retweeted you. Not quite the same league, but I’m sure you get my drift.

I only follow two people who don’t follow me back, and unless I find any particular account particularly offensive, or obviously a bot, I follow everyone who follows me. I personally enjoy Twitter, but I know that a lot of authors don’t. They see it as a chore, and something that they have to do to sell their work. I recognise them. They’re the ones tweeting only about their own books, and never retweeting anything at all. So when I see their gravatar in my feed, I very seldom even look at what they tweeted because they’ve already shown me what to expect. Then there are the writers who are trying to build their marketing platform before they publish, which is a brilliant idea by the way, but some of them also only ever post about the book they’re writing. These things are boring if they’re all you ever share, and are never going to grab attention in Twitterverse.

As well as following authors and writers, also follow people who tweet about the things you love apart from writing, and interact with them. Look at the profiles of people who follow you, and follow them back. Look at their tweets and retweet them or reply to them. Make friends out there, and as well as finding future readers for your scribbles, you just might start having a little fun while you’re at it. Don’t just send out your book links, because that’s guaranteed to get your posts muted by many. Selling your books this way really can be fun if you choose to make it so.


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