I usually spend January looking for new trends in the book world (or making them up, which is more fun), and I’m seeing an increase in pronouncements about self-publishing online. It’s probably a seasonal thing, as people sketch out their writing goals. But a lot of what I’m seeing lately has been negative, particularly below the line.
Last year, I took up a different baton of writerly whinging, when I complained about complaining. That went well, so I’m off again.
And oh, how much complaining there is about this topic. Both from the people bemoaning the quality of self/author-published work, to the people decrying the temerity of anyone who dares to say anything negative about the industry at all – even if it comes from author-publishers themselves.
I Blame The Internet
We’re all talking to each other these days. Which is, technically, a marvellous thing: but nothing feeds paranoia better than social media. And when it comes to some SP authors, it can reach very special levels indeed.
Paul stared at his Amazon stats. What a punch to the gut! He’d only sold 6 books in 6 months. Where was he going wrong? Was it because he was down to to a mere 145 tweets and one 2,000-word blog post a day? Was it because he hadn’t taken out that $1700 ad in Paranoid Author Monthly? Or was it because some guy in Japan had released his book at the same time?
Paul’s upper lip curled with vitriol, making it difficult to drink his coffee. It was definitely the fault of some guy in Japan. Stealing all his readers. Bastard.
It’s not only authors blaming authors. Does any sane person really believe that if someone they don’t know slags off self-publishing, it has any material impact on prospective readers?
Jeremy’s hands clenched with rage. Nasty in Newfoundland had written an article saying that self-published books were of below average quality.
Jeremy knew what they were REALLY saying: that his life’s work (a semi-autobiographical fictionalised account of one man’s struggle with a crippling fear of strawberries) was rubbish. This was worse than a 1-star review. This person in Newfoundland, this wholly unknown person, was out to destroy him. Bastard.
So, what can we do about it?
Well, we could use Sparling’s 5-Point Plan For Ultimate Social Media Paranoia:
- Scour the Interweb, convinced someone has that one true marketing path to success for self-published books.
- Tweet 100 times a day to 50,000 followers who never read any of your spammy tweets.
- Expend lots of energy being envious of successful authors you see online and compare all small victories unfavourably with those of more famous writers.
- Eviscerate anyone who says bad things about you or your books, all the while thinking why didn’t you buy my book and what’s wrong with me and it’s all your fault anyway.
- Use social media to tear into anyone who says something negative about self-publishing, because obviously if nobody ever points the out common pitfalls and mistakes, myths or downsides of the industry, every single self-published author will be able to make a fantastic living out of writing.
Or you could buck the trend, and do something else.
7 Self-Publishing Alternatives To Going Berserk On Social Media
- Use the Internet to gather information which is relevant and helpful to your SP process, and ignore what isn’t.
- Reduce anxiety about the quality of your beloved book, by paying to have it professionally edited and packaged.
- Try to get the timing right, either by launching around a date relevant to your book, or when competition from blockbusters isn’t so tough.
- Try to identify something about your book which sets it apart from the others (e.g. is it set in Finland? During WWI? In a circus?) and in your online marketing, use that as a reason readers might like it.
- Don’t abuse social media with a prolific, scatter-gun approach. People don’t like being bombarded and they will mute you.
- Avoid the tricksters and the fraudsters taking advantage of the desperation which seems to grip so many SP authors, by separating them from their money for bogus services promising things that nobody on earth would rightly claim they could deliver.
- Accept that sometimes success doesn’t happen for years, or at all. Accept that sometimes it’s all just down to dumb luck, and that sometimes traditionally-published authors can’t sell their books either.
And the meantime we can all keep on writing, learning, improving, and strategizing. One day, it might work for us. There is also the chance that it won’t. But it’s still only January, folks. It’s time to dream big, but prepare for normal.
The Old End-With-A-Question Tactic
What do you think about the globalisation of the writing community through social media? Obviously writers support each other online to a huge degree. But is it good or bad for your confidence, to be connected to so many people who are engaged in the same artistic sphere with much the same goals?