Sunday, August 26, 2012

The army of beggars

It seems that the most recent development among self-published authors is to share that ridiculous advice, suggestion, or you could even call it passive plea 'how to support your favourite author'. It suggests that you should buy books (really?), tell your friends (ah?) and leave a review (nope, I'm out!).
To me it feels like the main reason behind that advice is gathering reviews praise. There's almost nothing self-published authors value more than positive reviews and here's where the trouble begins: first, it was the review-exchange, which they quickly learned wasn't the best idea, then there was the bribing of top reviewers; didn't work either, and now it goes a step further: advising educating readers.

Here's the most recent merry-go-round: Click the picture to enlarge.

I'm a reader, too, and I don't want to see a plea or worse: a reminder to leave a review if I liked the book I just finished. What if I didn't like the book and have only one desire: to walk away? What if I feel insecure about giving my opinion? What if I can't be bothered? I bought the book, I read it and that's all you can expect from me. Sorry. What I do after that is my choice, my decision and not yours. I think everyone would agree with me that sharing a book that has touched me, is almost common sense or even human nature. If I have friends who read, I'll recommend it. And, of course, I'll look for another book by that particular author.
The key element here is that a book must really stir something in me, good or bad, before I talk about it. And I would think that applies to most readers. Why recommend a mediocre or terrible book? The latter perhaps for a laugh, but if something doesn't convince me, I move on and forget.

I see people complaining about having plenty of downloads when their books are free, but that nobody leaves a review. It's all over several fora, Facebook, blogs, and Twitter. Some moans I've seen even sounded like demands: I give you a free book, something I've worked on for years, now you have to review praise!
A reader doesn't owe you anything. If you give your book away, it's your choice. A choice you made for marketing purposes. Being snappy because readers grab the opportunity with both hands is wrong.
Free means free and that means it doesn't come with conditions, unless you have an agreement with a reviewer, which is an entirely different case. Expecting something in return is pretty cheeky if you ask me.
People stack up their e-readers, collect freebies; they don't necessarily read the books straight away, or maybe they do and quickly delete it and move on. If they dare to give an honest opinion and bravely leave a negative review, they get shot down and attacked by the author's friends, in some cases even by the author. Because the call for reviews is secretly a call for praise.

Reality check: self-publishing is not a walk in the park.

Speaking of self-publishing: as you know, my experience with self-published books has been catastrophic, so I don't blame any reader who tries and deletes, walking away in silence. I honestly think that many authors would be devastated if they knew what their readers really think. Many authors seem to believe that their offerings are exactly what readers have been waiting for, brainwashed by the success of Hocking, Locke and E.L. James, but those success stories are rare.
Don't get me wrong, I'm in this, too, you know? I had over 4k downloads during my trial with the KPD Select programme, and I didn't get any reviews. Probably for the same reasons: I didn't touch the readers, those of them who read the books. Taste is subjective and if it didn't impress them enough to recommend it to their friends, then there's nothing I can do other than continue to write. I've had people tell me in person, via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, and even the Amazon forum that they loved my books, but they didn't leave a review. Did I ask them straight away to do it? No. It's their choice. I said thank you so much and grinned like an idiot for most of the day.
Imagine you walk into a book shop, and at the till you are told to leave feedback, buy another book by the author if you liked it and please share your opinions. You'd probably be pretty gobsmacked, wouldn't you?

Guilt-tripping a reader into a review, recommending your book or else insults a person's intelligence. Leave the reader be; stop blaming everyone around you when your book isn't a success. Start looking at your writing.

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