As a self-published author — one who fundraises on my own for printing costs, does my own editing, and most of my own promotion, and all of this after writing the book — I think it’s quite important that my novel be given a fair chance among readers. Readers who normally would choose a title released and marketed by a mainstream (meaning, has big bucks) publishing company. There’s really nothing to say that my novel won’t be well-written, full of cool characters, an interesting plot, and plenty of reading fun — just like we assume the “NY Times Bestseller” author’s will be.
Here’s the kicker — how many of us are getting fed up with reading what we feel are less-than-great books being sold everywhere? We don’t care for the tropes, or the gimmicks put in just for dramatic effect; we don’t like what we see as condescending tones about serious topics and very real issues. All of us in the book blogging community can think of at least one title we read last year that misrepresented disabilities, mental illness, physical illness, bi-racial relationships, mixed-race families, and more; we wrote plenty of reviews extolling our disappointment, and imploring the authors and publishers to do better.
So, why shouldn’t more bloggers support indie authors? Are you looking for a unique perspective or writing style, someone who’s more concerned with telling the story than whether they make millions? Self-published novels certainly require dedication and sweat and tears. And we don’t get advances, or billboards on the interstate announcing our release date, or a 10-person team of cover illustrators. So believe me when I say we work hard, all around.
Before I go on: this is not to say that “traditional” authors don’t work hard. Many of them definitely do. Many of them deserve our hard-earned cash, and their novels deserve a place on our beloved bookshelves. There are several novels I’ve read in the last few years that I’ll continue to recommend to other readers. This post is not intended as a slam on these folks, at all.
My thoughts are simply this — if writers are actively hoping to expand the publishing industry, we really could use more readers behind us, supporting us just as much as they support the Cassandra Clares and Patrick Nesses of the world.
So, how are we going to do this? Take myself as exhibit A of creative approaches. Personally, I don’t have the money to market my books on amazon.com or through Barnes & Noble. Most of my promotion is done on my blog, and via the oh-so-gracious volunteers who are providing me with emotional and ARC and release-announcement support. Does this mean I don’t reach as many people? Yeah. But I won’t stop trying. And every person in the blogisphere who says they’d like to read my work means success in my eyes.
Also, I am a (probably slightly annoying) frequent patron of my local library. (I guess my persistent needing-something of the librarians came back to bite me in the butt the other day when all my holds came in at once.) Anyway, the library is a great place to host an author meet-and-greet, and most public libraries won’t charge you for this. Such an event gets you exposure in your “real life” community, too, and we all know word of mouth helps sell books.
I’m also keeping my expenses down by selecting a printer in my area, a place that (unlike something like amazon.com) won’t charge me stocking fees and royalties. And I’m getting a lot of personal attention from this place, since it’s a small company. They have been very patient with the fact I can’t always fix my formatting or double-check my proof copies or cover samples within 2 hours. They have been very cooperative with what I would like for my document layout, my cover, all of it. (I’m paying them, after all, so what would they get out of pushing something I don’t like, and causing discord?)
Since I’m not set up to accept credit cards right now, I’m trying to find websites that will let people pay with foreign currency. This isn’t quite working out. I’m seriously considering devising a “barter” system for international orders — especially for, say, students who may not have credit cards or issues obtaining imported titles in “typical” ways. (Example: Send me your packaging materials, I will consider that your payment for my book. The numerical amount will probably be about the same.)
What else can bloggers do to help our cause? How about, instead of all clamoring for those few coveted copies of that specific ARC by a big-name publisher, you offer to ARC only indie authors this year? Or join the launch team for an online friend who’s soon releasing their work? Someone in my blogging community wrote a great promotional post for my first publication, and I was beyond excited.
For those of us who write first and foremost for the love of the story, it’s about more than money. It makes our day to know someone not only read our book but really enjoyed it. The fact that the story we poured our heart and soul into is now out there in the world is just amazing and fantastic.
So, please, folks, give us a shot. You may come across your favorite read of the season.