Despite the title, this is not going to be one of those “buy my books” posts that we all scroll past in our feeds as quickly as possible. It's more of a “buy indie books in general” post, in honor of…World Book Day! Huzzah! *throws confetti made from a shredded copy of the last book I gave a 1-star review*
(It was The Call by Peadar O Guilin, and it’s not an indie novel, so I have no regrets.)
This post may get slightly soapboxy. Which is totally a word, because I just made it up and as a card-carrying Author, I can add words to the English language whenever I like. Also, shout-out to Daley Downing, whose excellent post on the importance of book reviews inspired this one.
I've spoken before on podcasts and elsewhere about how writing should be—and generally is—fun. In my opinion, writers who are depressed about their writing are doing something wrong. Now, before you come after me with torches and pitchforks, please note that I did not say “depressed authors are doing something wrong.” Depression is a real struggle that many people face, and I'm not diminishing it in the slightest. But if the act of writing itself fills you with dread, sadness, exhaustion, apathy, or any other negative emotion, you might want to pause and figure out why so that you can move past that.
Because writing is fun. The act of creating worlds, stories, and characters for other people to enjoy is fun by definition. Personally, I can't imagine a more rewarding line of work, and I don't regret a moment of my writing journey this far. Even the times where I made mistakes or learned things the hard way had a role to play in making me the author I am today, so I wouldn't go back and change them. I'm happy with where I am now, and I'm not going to quibble with the road that brought me to this point.
But here's the thing. Just because your friendly neighborhood indie author enjoys his or her job doesn't mean you should take that person for granted. The job isn't always glamorous. Yes, writing is a lot of fun, but we have to do a lot of other stuff besides writing. It's all part of the price we pay for holding on to our precious copyright and providing you, the reader, with exactly what you're asking for without being controlled or censored by the whims of corporate money-grubbers. So long as the author keeps writing, your favorite indie series isn't likely to get cancelled due to sales falling below a certain threshold or the publisher going out of business. Nor will the content and characters be forced to comply with political or moral stances that the author disagrees with. But as a consequence, indie authors have to manage everything, and in some cases, do the work themselves. That means either supervising or personally undertaking cover design, advertising, ebook formatting, audiobook production, web design, and so on. In short, we indies have a lot on our plates.
So to celebrate World Book Day, let's talk about some ways you can help indie authors.
Buy their books. This is self-explanatory, but there's an additional aspect to it worth mentioning. If an indie author you follow has a direct sales platform in addition to Amazon and other ebook sellers, consider buying their book through that channel. This will provide them with slightly higher royalties and allow them to completely bypass the corporate gatekeepers.
Review their books. And do it in as many places as possible. Definitely post your review on Amazon or Goodreads, but perhaps you should look the book up on other sales platforms (like Barnes and Noble or Kobo) and submit the review there as well. Also, if you have a blog, maybe turn your review into a post and share it on social media. And if you didn't like the book, then by all means be honest. We value honesty. Just try not to be outright cruel, even if you do feel that a negative review is justified. There's always a kind way to phrase these things.
Promote their books. Without being obnoxious, of course. Both online and in real life, take advantage of opportunities to spread the word about indie authors. When chatting about movies or TV with your friends, throw in a remark like, “Hey, if you enjoyed that, there's this book you really ought to read…” Remember that while ads for the latest novel from James Patterson or Rick Riordan are probably showing up in your friends' feeds all the time, promotion for indie books very likely isn't. We need a little more of a boost than other writers.
Connect with them. We thrive on reviews, but we also love to hear from our readers directly. If a book by an indie author has had an impact on you in some way, even if it just brightened up a humdrum day, then take a moment to let the author know. Trust me, this will be greatly appreciated. We want to be accessible to our readers, so we love it when they take the time to get in touch.
One other thing–just as indie authors (if they're doing things properly) are careful not to barrage readers with posts saying “buy more books,” indie readers should show courtesy by not saying “write more books” too often. Don't get me wrong–we're elated that you want more of our stories, and we're not going to have diva tantrums because we think you're too impatient. But usually, we're pressured enough by our to-do lists without getting additional reminders that we haven't completed our works-in-progress yet. Plus, by and large, even if we only get one book published per year, we still release stuff much faster than the average traditional author, so that's something to keep in mind. This isn't a personal complaint about anything in particular, just something that's occurred to me after years of watching the indie-pub community. Plus, let's face it, I'm often guilty of doing it myself. Like I said, we're grateful for your enthusiasm; just make sure that not too many of your comments to indies boil down to “When are you going to get [insert awesome book title here] finished?”
Now, to all those indie authors reading this, let's look at the topic from a different angle. What about the indie readers? Let's face it, they're awesome. They don't let big-name publishers and authors tell them what to read; they seek out the lesser-known works of indies to find their new favorite fandom. They rock. They deserve cookies. But since cookie shipment is notoriously difficult and expensive, how can we properly reward them for their awesomeness?
Well, HOW??? That was not a rhetorical question, people!! *crickets* Okay, fine, I'll answer it.
Give them freebies. I'm not saying we should give away all the books we've slaved over for free; if we did that we wouldn't make any money. But the occasional giveaway, sale, bonus short story, etc. can mean a lot to your fans, with the added benefit of building your platform. Cultivate a good relationship with your clientele by not nickel-and-diming them for every little thing. Yes, we have to be professional, but we also have to reward reader commitment.
Be as consistent with your release schedules as you can. (Yes, it is I, Mr. Oh-Sorry-Beaumont-and-Beasley-Book-4-Is-Delayed-Again, speaking thus.) For one thing, when you set a deadline, you should try to meet it. For another, you shouldn't announce deadlines you're not sure you'll be able to meet. This isn't fair to the people who love your books. It's also a lesson I've learned the hard way, so take a tip from me and do it right the first time.
Be transparent about your process and your progress. I know it's uncomfortable for a lot of authors to open up about how our writing is going, especially when it's not going well. We don't want to increase the pressure on ourselves. But give your readers a little more credit. It's easy to think that they're going to be cheesed off if you reveal that you're having difficulty with something, or that you have to change your plans because of an unexpected plot twist (either fictional or real-life). But they are almost certainly not going to react that way. They're just happy that you're sharing your stories with them; they're not going to judge you.
Thank them for everything they do to help you. It can be hard to keep up with every review and mention of your books on social media. But to whatever extent it's possible, make an effort to express your gratitude to your readers for their promotion of your books, even if it's just in the form of a general thank-you to all of them at once. Remember, whether they are fellow indie authors or not, they have busy lives too. It's not always easy for them to take the time to write a review or a blog post. And given how many people neglect to do that kind of thing, the people who make the effort should be praised for it. If a reader offers less-than-positive feedback or suggestions for improvement, you don't have to follow their advice or like what they said, but at the very least be nice about it. It's a good thing that somebody cared enough about your book to comment on it, even if the comment isn't a glowing endorsement, so you still have reason to be thankful.
In short, whether your participation in the indie-publishing market consists of writing, reading, or both, just keep doing whatever you're doing. You're amazing, and you deserve to be celebrated, both on World Book Day and the rest of the year as well.
What are your thoughts on ways to support indie authors and/or readers? Share in the comments!