Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Advice for Indie Authors: Indie authors beware! Do not feed the reviewers!

Advice for Indie Authors: Indie authors beware! Do not feed the reviewers!
This indie author and publishing malarkey isn't always plain sailing, as I've learnt the hard way in the last 24 hours! There are more highs and lows than a 90s TV game show hosted by Bruce Forsyth! Good game? Not quite.

It was just yesterday I pranced on to Blogger with a skip and jump in my step, waxing lyrical about all the fantastic new reviews The Drought had received. Fast forward one day and my mood has dropped quicker than Luis Suarez in the penalty box!

You see, like many indie authors, it's up to me to be my publicist and marketer, with just one small problem - I don't have a Scooby Doo what I'm doing! And unfortunately this week I had a 'brainwave' and boy did I run with it!

My great plan was pretty simple: people on book reading social platform Goodreads like reading. Top reviewers on Goodreads love reading. So why not contact all 100 (yes, 100!) of those reviewers to offer them a free copy of The Drought to review? They'll be falling over themselves to read it, right? Nice to see you, to see you, nice!

Well, not quite. I hadn't quite thought through the whole 'spamming' issue. You see, and I'm sure other indie authors can relate, when you have a 'great' idea you don't really sit back and think if the consequences, you just go for it! Previously I had searched for readers who had read books by authors I would consider my book to be similar to (Mike Gayle, etc.) but on this occasion I just thought: "This reviewer loves supernatural thrillers - that must mean she'd love to read a comedy about a guy on a sex drought!"

I know, I know! But I just saw the positives, and never gave a thought to the potential gut-wrenching negatives!

The first reply came through last night from a female reviewer in the US who kindly pointed me towards her reviewing policy. I won't go into all the details, but the gist of it was do your homework before asking for a review and don't just spam! Reviewers are busy people too, but I will freely admit my nativity at thinking I must be the first indie author to have hatched this great plan to contact reviewers on Goodreads! My feeble attempt at a reply probably - and rightfully so - fell on deaf ears.

Next up I did a wee Google search to see if anyone out there in blog land had reviewed my book, and what do you know - I found one!

Now if my stint doing stand-up comedy has taught me anything, it's that you take the rough with the smooth. I've stood in packed rooms with people laughing at me (not literally, but at my jokes of course!). I've had audiences tell me I was the funniest comedian of the night (granted that was a private family gig in front of my parents and I was the only comedian, but that's not the point...!).

But the gigs that stick in the mind are the ones when you stink out the place and die on stage. I guess it's just human nature; praise is easy to take but criticisms stick in the back of your throat like a cracker on a hot summers day, because you take it as a personal attack.

So back to the review I found...

Two out of 10 lousy stars! Two! And the worst part about it was that it was only based on one chapter! One! (Don't worry, I'm not counting backwards towards anything...). But there is nothing I can do now. It's out there, floating around in cyber space for all to see. I then did the one thing I always tell others not to and I left a comment on the review. Nothing malicious, just that I didn't feel a whole review based on one chapter wasn't very fair, but hey-ho...

They say things come in threes, and right on queue this morning, I got a reply on Goodreads from another reviewer I had contacted. This message was perfectly nice, saying that she would be happy to review The Drought, but...

She did warn me that it was considered gauche to be promoting my own book to readers, and that spamming (that bloody word again!) will rub some people up the wrong way. In fact, she went as far as saying that there was an "evil underbelly" of people on Goodreads who like nothing more than bad-mouthing new authors. She even called them 'dangerous'! Gulp - what have I let myself in for?!

Now every time I get a message on Goodreads or an email notifying me of a purchase on Smashwords, I take a deep breath and pray! If anything, this has taught me a valuable lesson - Do not feed the reviewers!

Only kidding! What I have learned is that I've never confessed to being the best writer in the world. I'm not stupid enough to think that my book will set the literary world on fire or be heralded as the new Dickens!


I would like to think that I'm not bad at comedic writing. I have to take heart from the majority of reviews who genuinely seemed to have enjoyed The Drought. But most importantly, I do need to know my audience! It sounds utterly ridiculous to say that, but sometimes you get caught up like a rabbit in the headlights.

So my final plea to reviewers everywhere - I'm sorry I spammed you! Please take pity on me and if you see my little bunny ears in front of you as you are driving around in your busy book-reading lives, try to politely swerve rather mowing me down and leaving me for road kill! I promise never to spam again.

To steal a line from Rocky Balboa - if I can change, you can change, we all can change!

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