We writers are an odd breed. We drink coffee into the wee hours, hunched over computers in small rooms and carved out spaces, getting up early to work day jobs and burning our candle at both ends. We leave our blood and heart on the page, dreaming characters, plot, and conjuring worlds in our minds. That’s the fun part, the creating, the honing, the story-telling. At some point, we set our work free to roam cyberspace, hoping that someone reads it and feels something true.
After it’s live on Amazon, then comes the anguished part of the process. We log onto our author page and check our sales rank, and we look for reviews. Good reviews make our day, and a bad review can cast a pall over a week. I’ve been told many times not to read bad reviews, but it hasn’t stuck yet. I read them, and I try to learn something from them. The general thinking amongst the author community is that 4 and 5 star reviews are good, and anything less is bad. Potential readers will often read the negative reviews, too, looking for a common thread. Also those 3 stars tend to give a little more credibility to the other reviews on the page. It’s a numbers game; the more reviews an author gets, the more books he or she is going to sell.
Indie authors must promote themselves, which is a nuisance for both the writer and for their friends, who grow weary of chest-thumping and begging and pleading. Writers don’t like doing it and people generally don’t like to hear about it. I understand. I apologize. There is no other way, unfortunately, for a writer to break out among the millions of other voices, attempting to be heard. So we blog, and we tweet, we Facebook, we Google Plus, we join groups on Linkdin and we post on Tumblir and Instagram, doing what the industry people who are far more savvy at marketing call “building your brand,” and equally important, “building your platform.”
An author’s brand is essential. If someone says, “I’m about to read a Tom Clancy book,” I know what they’re talking about. Clancy built a brilliant brand of military techno-thrillers. The brand is the author’s name in association with the books he or she writes.The reader has a certain expectation of the kind of book the novelist has produced, and will decide to buy based upon that prior knowledge.
The platform is just as important, if not more so. An author’s platform is how we are able to reach people. Social Media is the foundation of this platform, but it also includes book signings, radio show appearances, press releases, networking with other writers, and anything else we can dream up to find readers. For new authors, it’s maddeningly difficult to build a platform.
As a relatively new novelist, I’m familiar with these woes. There is the feeling of a tree falling in snowy woods when a book is released. A muffled, quiet sound at best. My publisher is a big believer in “soft releases” which lead to a “long tail.” I’ve not yet quite figured out exactly what that means. I guess that the hope is word of mouth makes a novel or a series take off, and this takes a long time. In the meantime, authors have to keep writing, keep producing, not relying on one book or three.
Here’s where our friends are so important.
If you’ve got a friend or family member is an author, please buy their books. (Hence the begging!) For less than the price of a Starbucks Latte, you get eight hours of serious entertainment. Less than the price of a movie ticket. And folks, the book is always better than the movie.
After you read the books, please leave honest reviews. (more with the begging.) Reviews matter because they drive sales. The more reviews we receive, the more Amazon does it’s thing promoting our books to a wider audience. We’re more likely to qualify for promotional tools like Bookbub, which can potentially make or break a novel. I know it’s a pain to log back onto Amazon and crank out a review. But it really makes a difference to all of us who are striving to entertain a wider audience, those of us who dream of quitting that day job and sitting down at the computer both during the day and in the middle of the night.
If you enjoyed the book, tell people about it! Share a post every now and then, pass out a business card, or simply mention the book if you’re having a conversation about books. If you’re in a book club, throw it in the ring. People listen to what you have to say, and that word of mouth recommendation is crucial. It means more to us than you know.
No one told me I had to be a writer, no one insisted that being an author was the only right path for me, and that’s how it is for all of us, we crazy writer folk. We chose this path because we felt drawn to words, this need to create, and deep down we believe that we have something worthy to say, and emotion to impart. Whether it’s pure entertainment or something profound, we want to move people.
If we have moved you, please leave us reviews! And you will have succeeded in moving us.