Tag Archives: indie-publishing

The Market For Paid Reviews Extends Beyond Indie

Thank you, NY Times, for stirring the hornet’s nest. And once again, Indie authors are the ones getting stung.

I’ve heard more discussion about your article (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/business/book-reviewers-for-hire-meet-a-demand-for-online-raves.html?pagewanted=all) regarding Todd Rutherford’s  book reviews for hire business in the past few days than I’ve cared to. The mud is being slathered on Indie authors because Rutherford’s review business targeted our market. Erin Keane at Salon added to the sensationalism by contributing a rather awkward piece. After a feeble pat on the back, she continued to paint Indie authors as a desperate, floundering group of wannabes.  Had she bothered to conduct any research into the matter, she might have discovered “paid” reviews are common within the industry, a practice that is accepted among print publishers and authors, alike. Publishers barter advertising for reviews in major publications all the time, and that’s only one example of manipulating public opinion.

There are accepted sites like Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly where reviews can still be bought starting at about $150 and up. They’ve been doing this for some time. They also target Indie authors – as well as publishers and print authors who want to help “push” their books. No one has written a defamatory article about their services.  So why is it the NY Times article created such a maelstrom of discontent? Perhaps it was the way Todd Rutherford structured his business, using readers and students to write reviews for a pittance about books they may or may not have read. Or possibly the realization that John Locke, the first self-published author to sell over a million digital books,  paid for reviews to build public awareness. Is that any different from PAC advertising clogging our airwaves during this election year?

It’s called marketing. Watch an infomercial. Read a story online which appears to be one person’s experience with a superior product or service until you see the fine print “paid advertisement”. And therein lies the conflict. Paid reviews should be labeled as such but are not….and never have been in the publishing industry. By anyone. Print or Indie. Whether a deal was made on the golf course, someone’s pockets got padded or a huge display ad was used as a perk, the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality has always been part of modern-day marketing.

So why are Indies being painted as less than ethical schemers?

I can attest to the hard work, professional attitude and personal investment many Indie authors bring to the table. The Indie authors I know put more effort into producing a quality product than some print authors. We can’t afford to be lazy – and we like it that way. We also like the higher royalties for our efforts, which is why more and more print authors are self-publishing their backlists and in some cases, new manuscripts. A fact that is changing the landscape of the industry every day.

To assume Indie authors must resort to paid reviews to find a buying audience is an insult. I’ve never paid for a review. I’ve not asked friends to post comments. In fact, one person I know enjoyed a book I had written and wanted to give it 5 stars. I asked her not to because readers are a suspicious lot and think 5 star reviews are bogus.

I’ve taken some hits, too. I have a sprinkling of discontented readers who didn’t care for my stories. Of course, if you look up reviews for any of the masterpieces like The Great Gatsby, Little Women, or Pride and Prejudice you’ll find a handful of people who hated those books, too. It’s the nature of the beast. No author, regardless of talent, fame or riches, will please everyone.

Keane wrote: “Being independent should mean that you’re willing to do all the work yourself in exchange for autonomy and all the rewards. Indie authors can fight the reductive “lazy” tag by upholding strict community standards that honor both authors and readers. ”

Every successful Indie author I know already does this. We shouldn’t be grouped with a few who chose to travel another path.

I daresay Indies will always fight for respect because of the propaganda that keeps readers questioning our abilities. I’ve read wonderful eBooks and horribly written print books. And vice versa. It happens.

In the end, the true test of a good writer is gauged by one factor and it has nothing to do with paid reviews or those posted by sincere fans. Sales. If a book is not well written and edited, people won’t buy it. At least, not for long. And at Amazon, even if they do like it, customers can request a refund. It will be given without contest, often applied to the purchase of a new title, all at the expense of the author. I don’t know of any stone and mortar bookseller who will accept the return of a book with dog-eared pages.

There are a lot of successful Indie authors who quit a day job based on their royalty statements. That’s not a fluke. Give us a break.

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More from Sue Grafton on Publishing & Indie Writers | LouisvilleKY

More from Sue Grafton on Publishing & Indie Writers | LouisvilleKY.

Let Ms. Grafton’s explanation for her comments speak for themselves. She’s a talented author and I respect her right to voice an opinion, even though I’m not sure I agree with what she said during the original Forbes interview. ‘Nuff said. Get back to writing!

Butting Heads With Detractors

As writers, we must stand behind our manuscript even when others think it’s crap. If we don’t believe in our story, then why should our readers? And sometimes that means standing up for our product when no one else will.

Writers may submit their story to hundreds of agents and editors before they find one who shares their belief in its marketablity. More often than not, they never do. But most writers are thick skinned. If not, we become that way along the journey to publication. We can’t give up at the first sign of rejection or because of a scathing review from a contest judge. It would signal a lack of confidence in our abilities. Perhaps that’s why many indie  authors have created  their own “breaks” when the industry provided none.

 I understand it’s a tough time for publishers. It’s also a tough time for writers. There’s a battle being waged. Both sides are struggling to find compromise in an ever changing industry. It’s the best of times and the worst of times.

 When debut or mid-list authors could no longer find a place to market their work, it only stands to reason they would search for other outlets. A venue which embraces creativity –  like Kindle Direct Publishing, PubIt or small digital presses who still offer the values associated with publishers from decades ago. Talk to any author who’s worked with a small publisher and 99% will tell you their experience was positive. They may not earn as much in royalties as with a large publisher but at least they’re gaining readership and  the communication, advice and ethics are stellar. Which is why many authors  stay with a small press in some capacity even when new opportunities arise.

 KDP is wooing authors with both their KDP Select program and exclusive imprints. And they’re getting them. Granted, your work must stand on its own. A decision to indie publish does not guarantee readership. You must still produce a well written, well edited product with decent cover art. In fact, a good indie author will be the first to encourage a newbie to find a copy editor/beta reader to look over their work before it’s published.

Digital format, however, still provides a great platform to present stories that might not fit into the strict genre specifications of a publisher.  Take Darcie Chan for instance. Her novel, The Mill River Recluse, has sold over 400,000 copies and landed on several best seller lists. This is the same book that was rejected by 12 publishers and over 100 literary agents because they said it wasn’t a good fit.

 Several years ago, indie published authors got a bad rap. We were the ones who allegedly couldn’t make it in the “real” world so we had to self-publish. Then the market started changing. Print published authors began self publishing their back list, enjoying the control and higher royalty percentages that accompany indie authors. Many mid-list authors, squeezed out as publishers began to downsize and cut back on their production, turned to digital publishing as a means to maintain market presence and connect with new readers. With this influx of “authentic” authors and the explosion of eReaders into Main Street America homes, indie publishing gained a great deal of ground in a short amount of time. Much of it because the quality of ebooks has dramatically increased.

I’m an indie writer. I choose to be. I work hard to ensure my novels tell a solid story while weaving in a few plot twists to catch the reader by surprise. My experience with other indie authors is that they’re career focused individuals who spend time, money and effort to ensure their books are the best they can be. I’ve read print published books that failed miserably to achieve what many indie authors produce . . . well-written, well-edited stories.

 Are there still books out there not ready for public consumption? Of course. Both in digital format and print. But the old argument from publishers and their lobbyists who claim ebooks are not the same caliber as print is just that . . . old.

I’m proud to be part of a growing trend that is proving them wrong.

Initial Thoughts on Google + (via Kristen Lamb’s Blog)

Initial Thoughts on Google + Actual photo of Kristen Lamb on the inside. When I first saw Google + pop up on the social media radar, I tried to ignore it. But, as an expert people tend to believe we know what we’re doing. I have tried to convince you guys that I make this up as I go, but alas I some of you sent me messages like this: So, what do you think of Google +? Um is… Crap. Is it too early to drink? a viable answer? I was just kind of hoping they would stop inventing … Read More

via Kristen Lamb's Blog