Karma for Authors Who Self-Publish

In order to be successful, a self-published author must come up with a good book idea, develop a fine story, write well, edit the manuscript, learn how to format both a paperback and an eBook, and become adept at marketing.

That’s a tall order. Why risk all of that hard work with any possible bad karma?

If you don’t believe in karma, then don’t think karma – think branding. The image that you brand as an author can have a significant impact on sales. Don’t risk bad book karma or negative branding – whatever you prefer to call it.

What do you hope for as an author?

  • Many sales.
  • Frequent reviews.
  • Word-of-mouth referrals.
  • A nice review average.
  • Good and fair comments about your work publicly.
  • Necessary criticism privately.

Authors may not all share the exact same wish list, but these items are probably pretty high up on most writers’ lists.

Now assess your book karma:

Part 1 – You as a reader:

  • How often do you read self-published books (that you discovered yourself)?
  • Do you leave good reviews for books (written by complete strangers) that you like?
  • Which books (written by complete strangers) have you referred to friends, family, acquaintances, or colleagues?
  • What have you done that might help an author you don’t know whose book you enjoyed?
  • Have you ever (publicly) said anything bad about any other self-published books?
  • Have you ever (publicly) said anything bad about self-publishing? eBooks? Amazon? Kindle?
  • What do you say when people you know ask you about buying eBooks, whether you like your Kindle, if self-publishing is a good idea, etc.?

Part 2 – You as a writer:

  • Did you take the time to perfect the editing and formatting of your books?
  • How do you react when you receive criticism about your work (privately or publicly)?
  • Do you ever respond negatively to customer reviews?
  • In what ways have you helped other aspiring authors improve their own work?
  • Have you ever abused the customer review system, tags, likes, etc.?
  • How do you behave at online discussion forums and your other online activities?

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers (Volume 2 coming in mid-April)

11 comments on “Karma for Authors Who Self-Publish

  1. Branding is such an important thing to keep in mind. It can also be easy to forget that we should be writing reviews as often as we read good books. Great post!

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  4. Reblogged this on Simpklu and commented:
    This line caught my attention: “Have you ever (publicly) said anything bad about any other self-published books?” Why? Because I sit on the sidelines and observe too many Indie’s tearing down their colleagues [yes colleagues] in hopes of what? Crawling over them to get to the top? That is not professional. It is not good practice. It is certainly not good karma!

    • Thank you. 🙂

      In addition to bad karma and possibly being banned by Amazon, there is a financial reason that authors shouldn’t do this. It will often backfire. When similar books do well, it helps other similar books through Customers Also Bought associations and other marketing. Readers usually buy a few similar books at a time. Doing anything to hurt similar books may turn out to be bad for future sales. (For a fourth reason, it also brands the author’s image negatively, and branding is a very important part of marketing for indie authors. Looking professional is a necessity.)

  5. Building a strong author brand and projecting a professional image is essential for success over the long run. But sadly, however, I rarely see many self-publishers who focus on building a solid foundation and author brand. All too often, it’s only about the book–that ONE book–, or giving it away for free and then complaining about low sales figures, or about gaming the system (lying to potential customers, creating a false sense of popularity, etc.) only in an attempt boost sales, as though character, integrity, and reputation no longer matter.

    That’s not true of all self-publishers, but the many who resort to such tactics make the rest of us look bad. Many will say that the cream rises to the top, but that’s only when the cup isn’t already full; otherwise, the cream rises, rolls over the side, and plummets to the ground. But I digress.

    The reason why so many legacy-published books show the author’s name in a bigger typeface than the book’s title, is because those authors–a few of them–have built their “author brands.” When a brand is successfully built, people buy the author rather than the book. The fact that they know about, love, and can relate to the author, takes precedence over what he/she has written lately. Jane Q. Author, who has built a strong brand, releases a book. People automatically buy it because…. Jane Q. Author wrote it. Along the way, over many years, Jane Q. Author has worked hard to build her author brand, develop credibility, and project a professional image.

    One of the best things a self-publisher can do in terms of building a brand, is to support, and even align with, other self-published authors of like mind, character, experience, and persuasion. I’ve made a few such alliances, and the results have been great and opened many doors. Legitimate self-publishers supporting other legitimate self-publishers not only builds personal author brand, but also builds the larger, “Self-Publishing” brand. There’s a lot more to it, but I’m out of time, so I’ll shut up for now. 🙂

    • Pat, thank you for sharing these good ideas. 🙂 Your suggestions of striving to build a strong brand, professionally, of the author and not just one book, and building relations with like-minded authors are very good.

      I’m discovering more mildly and moderately successful indie authors who achieve this professionally, and this helps me see some positive branding for indies at large. People are too aware of some of the negative tactics practiced by some, but the more they hear about positive successes, the more this may help a little to offset the negative.

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