June 26, 2011

The Indie-Author Lament

So I desperately needed to take a break from my book marketing efforts and do something fun, right? I love dinking around with animation software and I've had Crazytalk Animator for some time now with no specific project in mind. I decided to pour all my self-publishing frustrations into a song. It's a spoof, a little ditty poking fun at everything we indie-authors go through to get noticed.

June 18, 2011

Death by Book Blogger

Now that I'm trying to get word out about my books, I was happy to find sites like YA Book Blog Directory and The Indie Book Blog Database. They make it easier to find book bloggers—potential readers/reviewers for my self-published books. I've been trolling through them for the last long, torturous week…

Kill me…kill me now.

No, I haven't quite lost the will to live, but if the paper-thin walls of my ego weren't bolstered by stubbornness and a rather urgent need to prove myself, I'd have quit days ago.

There are two kinds of book blogger: the ones just starting out and the ones who've made a business of it. Right off I'll tell you not to bother with the pros unless a traditional publisher's name graces the spine of your book. They are easily recognized as the flashiest blogs with the most followers. They've been around long enough to have gotten the attention of best-selling authors (with ARCs and swag, no less!), so they will almost always have a version of the following sentence under their official review policy page: I do NOT accept self-published novels.

I read that sentence over and over again this week, usually after I spent precious minutes waiting for a site to load, searching for the policy tab and reading through a now-familiar set of rules. If I could beg one thing of book bloggers, it would be to put that "I've risen above slogging through indies" sentence first and foremost to let us down before we get excited that their favorite books to read are exactly what we wrote. Those who've reached pro status are the ones most likely to announce that their review turnaround is two or three months down the road and if they aren’t interested in your pitch, they won't even bother to respond to your email(!).

Which brings me to the book bloggers who DO accept self-published books. With some exceptions, they are the bright-eyed bushy-tailed ones; the dewy-fresh newbies with palpable enthusiasm (who are often very young). All book bloggers love to read, but these newbies haven't gotten overwhelmed with requests by desperate self-published authors…yet. But they are the ones with very few followers, so the word about your book might get out there, but it won't go far.

Here's my stats so far: One week of trolling the Internet for book bloggers, an average of three or four hours each day. Hundreds of sites visited. Sixteen review requests emailed. Five responses. Two were very nice, but said they were too busy. (This could be true or could be a gentle way to avoid saying they're not interested, I dunno.) One said maybe. Two said YES, but both told me it would be several weeks if not months before they would be able to find the time.

Yeesh.

Actually, I don't think there's anything more to be said...

June 7, 2011

Forum Spam-a-lam-a-ding-dong

You've got a self-published book or two to sell, so you begin your marketing efforts by seeking out online locations to hawk your wares. The most obvious places are where the elusive and legendary Readers are rumored to be found—book forums—places where Readers discuss their literary likes and dislikes. Nirvana to a new author! Or so we think, until we join the site and discover, well, we're not welcome. Despite the advice we've gotten to get busy promoting ourselves, there're new rules out there, folks, and forum administrators aren't very forgiving if we barge into their territory with an ulterior motive.

Although we writers are generally solitary creatures who have a hard time singing our own praises, there exists a sub-species of scribe hell-bent on spamming the living crap out of everyone and anyone who will allow it. Just like writers who self-publish before their manuscript is ready for prime-time, these spammers are making a bad name for all self-published authors. Forums everywhere are catching on, and they've been making it crystal clear what they'll do to us if we spam, blatantly or inadvertently.

Amazon customer discussions forbids "Any form of "spam," including advertisements, contests, or other solicitations for other websites or companies." At kindleboards, it says right in the user registration agreement, "Spam…(is) forbidden on this forum." And over at Goodreads, most of the groups I've checked out have their own rules against spam. There's a thread in the SciFi Fantasy Book Club group that spells out in no uncertain terms how some Readers, at least, feel about, among other sins of the author, spam.

I joined Goodreads earlier this year, before I decided to self-publish. I love it there, it's such a friendly place, as long as I participate as a Reader who follows the rules (and I have, meticulously). But unless I choose to join the groups set up specifically for others like me, it's been made painfully clear that even the faintest whiff of spam will get me a face full of slammed door. I did join some of those groups—I'm all for making contacts among my peers—but there's an atmosphere of segregation there, and the spam is rampant and even encouraged. Even if I posted my own tentative spam attempt to that mix, I doubt I'd garner many reads, because no matter how helpful and nice the members might be, they aren't there looking for reads. And since I also run a book review blog that doesn't turn its nose up at indies, I'd probably end up with a big red target painted on my virtual forehead. Because, yes! Just like the skittish Reader, I, too am leery of self-published books in general. I've read some truly good stuff, outstanding stuff, in fact, but the last thing I want is for someone with an ulterior motive to woo me and become my online pal only to wham-bam-spam me in the hope that I'll feel obligated to read and review them.

So I understand completely the defensive attitude of forums and applaud their anti-spam efforts—even though it leaves me with very little in the way of promotional options for my own books. Word of mouth is essential for indies; we don't have the luxury of marketing dollars provided by traditional publishers. I need reads, and can't rely on the one thing even more elusive than Readers: Luck.