For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a storyteller. I made up stories when I was young to entertain myself and, later, my friends. Once I learned how to write, I started putting my stories on paper. Somewhere, I have an old spiral notebook with what would now be called fanfic (I didn’t know the term back then) that I showed my 7th grade English teacher. I’ve kept it all these years because she was the first to actually see my creative writing. That was important all on it own. Making it more so is the fact she encouraged me to keep writing.
Now that I write as my profession, I face the same challenge every other writer and want-to-be writer faces — how to get my work out in front of the public. There is no one right way to do so. What works for one person might not work for the next. It is also hard work and something we have to dedicate time to doing. Because self-promotion isn’t something that comes easy to a lot of us, the temptation to take shortcuts is very real. Some authors, and even some publishers, succumb to it. They might get away with it for awhile but they are eventually caught.
Authors have had their accounts closed at Amazon and other e-stores for buying reviews or for creating sock puppet accounts and posting reviews of their own work. It is clearly written out in the rules, and easily found if you search the FAQs at Author Central that an author can’t review his own work. I’ve seen reports of Amazon not allowing friends and family post reviews — those reports have not been substantiated, at least not that I’ve seen but it is something to think about. Amazon has even initiated a rule, iirc, where paid reviews have to be noted as such.
Why has Amazon taken this stance? I can’t speak for them but my guess is it is two-fold. The first is that there is a very definite ethical issue with an author posting reviews for his own work. The second is probably more important to Amazon. It comes down to the bottom line. False reviews, be their bought or straw man reviews, impact the number of books sold and the last thing Amazon wants to do is deal with returns when the customer realizes they’ve been had.
So, when I see authors wanting to review their own work (and, at last count, I’d seen approximately half a dozen contemplating it in the last six weeks or so), my radar goes off. If you are so worried about your ranking that you are contemplating reviewing your own work to get said ranking up, you need to step back and consider why readers aren’t liking your book — or why they aren’t leaving reviews. It’s hard, I know, to look at your baby and admit it might be ugly. But it is necessary sometimes.
Facebook groups and mailing lists are another sore point for a lot of people. Authors, usually indies and that pains me to say it, all too often add people to their groups or pages or mailing lists without asking permission. Don’t. Just don’t. When folks find out they’ve been added without permission you risk not only having them leaving the group but blocking you. That means they won’t see your announcements about upcoming projects or sales. It might also mean they tell their friends what happened, leading to more bad PR for you. The same goes with mailing lists.
This morning, I woke to a couple of emails from the same author but from two different mailing lists. Both had the same message. I posted a generic message on Facebook about how I didn’t want to be added to groups or pages or lists without being asked and that if you have a mailing list, make sure you aren’t sending out multiple copies of the same message to people. Considering the number of folks I’ve seen similar posts from recently, I’m not the only one having this sort of trouble, whether with the same authors or others.
Anyway, the author saw my post and admitted he was the guilty party. That’s his right. Just as it is his right to be a bit defensive about what I said and his own motivations. However, in the end, he asked what he could do to promote his work if it wasn’t by doing this sort of thing.
My first reaction, one I didn’t follow because I was on my way out the door, was to say not to own up to being the guilty party in public. For one, we are in a private writers group on FB where he could ask. If he didn’t want to do that, he could have PM’d me. No, he wanted to do it in public and he is going to have to deal with the consequences of it.
Now, I’ll admit, none of the instances I’ve mentioned rise to the “OMFG, have you lost your mind” level of bad author behavior we’ve seen some folks do. There have been cases of traditionally published authors going off on their editors in public, commenting on not only the editor’s work but getting profane about other aspects as well. Talk about killing one’s career. Then there are the authors who have made it their life’s work to rebut, usually with a full head of steam and no thought to the consequences, every negative review given on their work.
So, no, these two scenarios are nowhere near that level. However, as indie authors we fight an uphill battle. Part of that is a battle of appearances. As I discovered last week, using one word you didn’t mean to can bring down an avalanche of condemnation. Doing anything that doesn’t appear to be on the up-and-up does the same thing. So when I see an author saying she’s putting a book up for a certain award of hers up for an award and wants you to vote for it and spread the word, I take a step back from that author. Sure, ask your fans to nominate the book if they think it worthy, but don’t nominate yourself. That’s like reviewing your own work.
But that’s just me. To each his own.
Shrug. Just remember that people might not remember an author’s name if they dislike what that person does but they will remember the author was an indie. That is changing but that stigma that we aren’t quite good enough, haven’t paid our dues and are taking shortcuts still exists in the minds of all too many. So let’s not play into their hands.