What do you perceive is the general image of indie authors? Good? Bad? Ugly?
There is certainly some loud criticism:
- Some nefarious websites have developed large followings by criticizing indie cover art.
- Publishers and authors (including indies!) disparage a growing “slush pile” of self-published books that lack editing, formatting, or well thought-out storylines.
- The reputation of free-promo books is on the decline.
- People are speaking out against shorter and shorter eBooks, including those that are just the first chapter of a book.
- Then there are the infamous authors who have abused the system with fake reviews. Who hasn’t heard about this?
Loud voices do carry much weight. The complainers are marketing a bad image for indie authors.
There are easily a million indie authors out there. They have many friends and family. Almost everybody knows an indie author, or at the very least knows someone who does.
Complaints and disparaging remarks affect all indies. The reputation of self-publishing affects the sales of all self-published books. The reputation of eBooks, in general, affects the sales of all eBooks.
The more people blast eBooks, the more customers won’t want to purchase eReaders, which affects all eBook authors – including traditional publishers that make eBooks.
Yet there are many authors, editors, and publishers out there contributing to the negative image of eBooks. Every time they refer to the “slush pile,” disparage free-promo books, or remind us of past review abuse, it affects the image of eBooks in general, which affects everybody’s sales.
Even some indie authors participate in the complaining. All of the work these authors do to market their own books is negated by the advertising that they do to bring down the image of indie authors.
Indie authors are not powerless. There are things that every indie author can do to help restore our image. I’m not saying that we should just call an “orange” and “apple” to change the image. Part of the solution has to do with marketing, but part also has to do with product. Yet every indie author can impact both – creating a positive perception through both marketing and product improvement.
Here are some ways that all indie authors can help to improve our image:
- Don’t disparage other indie authors or indie works. Every time you do this, you contribute to the problem. It doesn’t just affect those at the bottom; it affects everyone.
- Don’t complain about the slush pile, free-promo books, or review abuse. When you mention things that create a negative connotation in people’s minds, it reinforces a negative image.
- Strive to paint a positive picture for indies, rather than a negative image, when you discuss self-publishing with others in person, in your blogs, in community discussion forums, etc.
- Bring attention to great indie covers, great indie books, and indie success stories. Anything positive you can say about indies goes a long way to establishing our overall credibility.
- Don’t give good reviews to lousy indie books. Do give good reviews to good indie books. Be careful what you say in any bad reviews of lousy indie books – or at least the way you say it.
- When you hear someone disparage indies, refer to the slush pile, etc., make a quick, positive, tactful, “Actually…” comment. Don’t get in a debate, don’t sound defensive, keep it short.
- When your friends and acquaintances self-publish, give them honest feedback and help them improve their covers, blurbs, Look Inside, storyline, and writing (e.g. suggest finding an editor).
- Do your best to perfect the covers, editing, formatting, and storylines of your own books.
- Highlight quality indie books in your blogs and on your websites.
- Once you have achieved mild success, occasionally lend a hand to help a newbie start out on the right foot and avoid some common mistakes.
- When someone asks you, “Don’t you hate the effect that all of those lousy self-published books have on your image,” politely and quickly refute this without sounding defensive.
- Take a moment to think of things that you like about being an indie author, and about other indie authors. This will help you focus on painting a positive perception.
- Think about some good indie books that you’ve read and what you enjoyed about them. These ideas may come in handy in your interactions with others.
- Recommend quality indie books to others.
- When you’ve gained ample experience and have become a formatting expert, offer some advice or instruction to newbies.
With a million or more indie authors, there is potential power in numbers. If we want to improve the indie image, we need only make a few changes in what we do and encourage a few friends to do the same.
To those of you who are already doing these things, you have earned my sincere appreciation. J
Who holds the mightier pen – the critics or the authors?
Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers