hypocritesWe all know that the book publishing industry is in turmoil at present. Major publishers are confronted with serious challenges to their market dominance and it is clear they are still undecided as how to handle the growing e-book market.

At the same time, the rapid growth in self-publishing or ‘indie’ authoring has meant that a book buyer is now not guaranteed a quality product just because a book is ‘published’ per se. Thank goodness for the advent of preview reading in this respect. In the end though, is it that a good book in either form will always sell? Far from it. As with any product, it is marketing that sells, not talent.

As far as marketing goes, there is still a dominant advantage for major publishers as they dominate physical street front book stores. Very, very few book stores stock POD (print on demand) books. They can order books for customers, but who wants to wait? So ‘indies’ have had to go it alone promoting their books via online book stores. If you are an author, or involved in publishing you know all this.

The question I would like to pose is this. What books do ‘indie’ authors buy?

While my anecdotal evidence is just that, anecdotal, I have been looking at what ‘indie’ authors say about the books they buy and read, and how they go about marketing their own books. Social media is a great resource for this. In the last few months, I have come to some unpleasant conclusions.

(1) ‘Indie’ authors always think their own book is just fantastic. Naturally. And want people to buy it. Of course. But at the same time have no instinct to support fellow authors by buying another author’s ‘indie’ book. Dan Brown, Stephen King and MacMillan publishing are still their preferred book purchases.

(2) As far as marketing goes, ‘Check out my book on Bookbuzzr’, or ‘My book preview was read 2 times yesterday‘ sent by spam like automated tweets is about as far as many go in promoting their hard work.

This is in no way a negative reflection on Bookbuzzr, Smashwords and like sites as they provide excellent free tools for authors to promote themselves. It is simply that authors seem to be generally quite hopeless at using these tools or reading the instructions. (I would however like these book promotion sites to change their default tweeting services to eliminate this spam like material as it has a very negative impact.)

If you need proof, go to http://search.twitter.com/ and type in the phrase ‘Check out my book’. You will see what I mean about hopeless and repetitive spam like marketing.

(3) Any stigma associated with POD books is for others and hypocritically not associated with an ‘indie’ author’s own book. This is an odd point, because I don’t see that readers see a stigma attached to a book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble that has the publisher listed as CresteSpace or Lulu. The stigma is perhaps perpetuated by authors with a lack of self belief in self-publishing.

(4) Self publishing could become a self fulfilling prophecy of doom if self interest, hypocrisy, and spam like marketing stay as the norm. The real question is this.

Do ‘indie’ authors yet believe in their own market, and will they take a positive and responsible attitude to marketing and promoting the self-publishing industry as a whole?

As an addendum to this post, I asked Bookbuzzr for their reaction to my comments above. They were kind enough to make the following comments:

Thank you so much for giving us a heads-up about your upcoming article.

While it mildly criticizes the book-tweeting service built into BookBuzzr, overall, it does provide positive coverage for BookBuzzr. Thank you for this.

I do want to clarify just two points:

1. The Book Tweeting service is intended to provide an additional layer of promotion for authors on twitter that are already providing significant value to their followers. In other words, if you are an author on Twitter and are already engaging in a conversation with others on Twitter, and if the Book Tweeting service sends a tweet once every few days, then it’s likely to not be considered spam. However, if an author does nothing else but set up their book-tweeting service to send out tweets, then that author will be having a serious problem and will lose followers.

2. Also, the book tweeting service is something that can be turned on or off by authors. In fact there are three separate settings inside the Book Tweeting service of BookBuzzr from which the author can choose. Most technology (such as email auto-responders, mass SMS sending services, fax, cellphones, Facebook etc.) can be used for good or can be misused. Many of our authors appear to be using the service correctly (in effect, the vast majority of them send out a number of informative or entertaining tweets interspersed with automated tweets from BookBuzzr.) A few others need to be educated about how to use twitter in general and the BookBuzzr Book Tweeting service in particular. We will spend some time in creating guidelines to educate authors and also think about how we can spam-proof the technology.

Again, we appreciate you involving us in this article.

Author Success Manager
World’s # 1 Free, Online Book-Marketing Technology for Authors

Derek’s Vandal Blog
Derek on Twitter
Derek’s Author Page

The Indie Hypocrites
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14 thoughts on “The Indie Hypocrites

  • 31/05/2010 at 6:09 pm

    I use the bookbuzzr and made up other things for the tweets to say. Sometimes I go and shut it down, because I am sick of seeing my own tweets.

    As for promotions, a lot forget to sell in real life. I have sold more books this week, face to face than online. I am not going to repeat the numbers, because they are tiny. (It's my first week of REAL promotion).

    Now I just have to get other indie bookstores interesting in my books, that takes a lot of work.

  • 31/05/2010 at 6:24 pm

    thanks Derek .. I just published a POD book with a german editor and I'm learning thanks to you.

    Mari is right .. i will try to sell my book face to face too

  • 31/05/2010 at 10:36 pm

    Hey Derek,

    I buy and read both indie authors' books and trad books, though since I have a Kindle, most of my book buying is NOT big NY pubbed books, but smaller e-pub.

    Re: Marketing. I don't agree that a well-marketed book will sell just because it's well-marketed. While you and I are in agreement that books like Twilight are hardly "great literary works" but sell like hotcakes… what is considered "lack of talent" in traditional publishing is still far and away better than what is considered "lack of talent" in self-publishing. Self-pubbed crap is almost always worse than Trad pubbed crap (With the exception of the John Norman Gor books. That's some of the worst writing I've EVER read and I have NO idea how he developed a cult following.)

    But if a book would sell JUST because it was marketed, then publishers would market everything. Plenty of what they market doesn't "take off" like they'd hoped.

    Who knows exactly "what" it is in a book that make readers rabid for it. The Harry Potter books were originally published by a small press and it only became crazy popular because of how readers responded to it. So sometimes success comes before MAJOR marketing push.

    Writing is very subjective though. I would agree that Stephenie Meyer isn't a talented writer, but she is a talented storyteller. A better writer with her storytelling abilities is… well… JK Rowling.

    I always look with a critical eye at my work. And know it can always be improved. But at the same time I DO know that what I'm putting out is better than a lot of self-published work.

    I don't know this because I'm a narcissist. I know this because of the numbers of complete strangers who have bought my work, reviewed it, subscribed to my newsletter, and written me fan mail.

    You know I'm very "rah rah indie." I want indies (including myself) to up their game and create work that can better compete in the general marketplace. And those who rise to that challenge, I absolutely will support them by buying and reading their books (provided it's in a genre I read of course.)

    Some of my favorite books are by fellow indie authors.

  • 31/05/2010 at 11:14 pm

    As a book reviewer who has read Zoe Winters' work, I agree that she is a great writer. I've enjoyed her books.

    She is, unfortunately, the only indie writer whose books I've ever loved. I will be a fan of Zoe Winters until she stops publishing books, and perhaps even after that. Truly talented.

    But I've reviewed several books written by indie authors that were so horrifying, I honestly had a hard time getting through them. Here's what frustrates me about indie marketing.

    A good marketer with lots of connections can get more good publicity from word of mouth and amazon ratings and social media because they are good at publicity. It has nothing to do with the quality of their work.

    I recently was given an indie book to review that was so bad, I had a hard time finding good things to say in the book review (and I feel like a generous reviewer). I had a friend read it, just to make sure I wasn't going crazy, and she told several friends about it. They ended up (unfortunately) buying the book for themselves. All said it was horrific. Most didn't make it through their copies before calling or emailing me and asking how the *bleep* crap like this gets published. I had to explain about self-publishing, and that there was no quality control.

    After I posted my review, my friend sent me an email. She'd gone on Amazon to post a negative review, assuming she would be one of many. Instead, the book had 25 FIVE STAR reviews! Now, I'm not claiming to have the only valid opinion, but there is no way that there are 25 people out there who honestly loved this book. Loved. Tolerated? Maybe. Somewhat enjoyed? Sure. Didn't hate? Yeah, that's possible. Judging from the author's aggressive marketing and her contact with me, I felt duped. I wanted to take down my not unnice review and try to warn everyone off the book, aggressively. I did not.

    Then, when my friend posted a negative review about the book, the author must have mobilized her PR network because so many people said it was unhelpful, it files down at the very end of all (now) forty other raving reviews. It just kills me.

    So I guess I share Zoe Winters' hope for writing and storytelling competence in the self-publishing industry. If all indie authors were like her, I wouldn't cringe everytime I see an indie publisher listed on a book. Granted, yes, there are examples of really bad writing among traditional publishing, but I still tend to trust the opinion of someone besides the author and his friends telling me this book is going to blow my mind.

    Call me a cynic. But I guess it's just my experience.

  • 01/06/2010 at 12:38 am

    I feel like I'm caught in the middle of a flame war, out in no-man's land. I'm listed as a POD, indie author. I am not self-published, I'm not with a large NY publishing house. I'm with a small press. My book was professionally vetted and edited, and yet I keep getting lumped in with self-pubbed unedited crap.

    Because my publisher is small with a very limited budget, I get to do 90% of my own marketing, which also tends to lump me with the self-pubbed authors. Readers don't realize that nobody's publisher is dropping large amounts of money on promotion, unless you are already on the best-seller list. All authors are left to promote themselves and their work.

    So what are authors with small publishing houses supposed to do? I'm building my readership slowly by being smart about facebook, twitter, blogging, etc. I also do a lot of face-to-face selling at conventions. But my budget isn't very big, either.

    If you've got suggestions for those of us who do write quality work and are not self-pubbed, please share them. I'd love to hear more positive ideas.

  • 01/06/2010 at 3:41 am

    Wow, Rebecca! Thank you. That made me a little bit weepy.

    A few other good indie authors that I know of are Moriah Jovan, M.T. Murphy, Kait Nolan, and R.J. Keller. Oh, and Levi Montgomery wrote a novella called "The Death of Patsy McCoy" that gave me chills. Full disclosure, all of these authors are friends of mine, but they're also really good writers.

    But I agree, there is a LOT of crap out there.

    As for the 25 5-star reviews of a bad book, I didn't know it was possible to even "get" that many people to give you a good review if your writing sucked. That screws with my world view. But it's good for me to hear, maybe it will keep me from buying my own press. Cause if I do, then it's all downhill from there, and I want to always keep getting better.

  • 01/06/2010 at 4:37 am

    Wow, Rebecca, that's quite an endorsement. I'm an indie author (formerly with a small press that folded) who writes mysteries. (My latest is called Identity Crisis.) Even Red Adept had several kind words to say about my book. (And she's not easy to impress.)

    While I agree there's an awful lot of crap floating around out there (indie and traditional), I would hope you'd give a few more indie authors a chance to prove their mettle.

    FWIW, all my Amazon reviews have been obtained honestly and without any bribery or arm twisting on my part. :) (From people who aren't close friends or relations, even!)

  • 01/06/2010 at 5:19 am

    1) I understand this completely. I'm currently doing a semi-boycott of TP books; I'm only purchasing indie titles for one full year as of today. Writing HONEST reviews, and giving advice where needed (I'm new at this indie thing too, and by no means an expert…but I've learned so much already).

    2)As far as paperbacks, I do a lot more direct sales than online sales. I market via postcards, business cards, and order forms…
    I do still use internet marketing; and that must be where my kindle sales are coming from.

    I like my facebook page for my book. I've tried bookbuzzr but I don't care for the widget personally. (no offense to anyone).

    3) I can pretty much agree! Some of the biggest nay-sayers are people who have tried self-pub, weren't successful, and went to the other side (trad pub). Then there's the elitism that exists on our side of the fence too. Sometimes I feel like I'm in high school, being mocked by the cheerleaders (Trad pub)…so being the rebel that I am, try to fit in with the "cool kids" but they shun me too, because I don't have as many piercings and tattoos. Doomed to be a NERD! All kidding aside,…that's how it seems sometimes.

    I do my best to make my work the best it can be…
    I have not one review yet, but I don't care.
    I'd rather have none than friends & family giving me 5 star reviews just because…

    A 3-4 star review pointing out which is good & which is bad would be helpful…
    but I hate seeing bad books get 5 star reviews like "omg best book ever!" (and this applies to TP as well as sp/indie).

    Honestly though:
    Of the last 11 sp/indie books I've read only 2 were bad. The rest were awesome.
    Of the last 6 TP books I've read, only 2 were really great. 2 were just okay, and the remaining two were donkey dung.

    There are awesome indie books out there if you know where to look. There is also crap out there….but it's the same with TP too. I've become a very choosy reader, and I don't just assume a book is good because some editor says it is. (in fact one of the TP books that I hated was actually a best seller).

    As far as editing, I am not naming names (because I want to avoid a lawsuit LOL) but I can name 1 rather big publishing house that has books full of errors & typos. I mean, obvious bad ones…It's sad really. I kind of avoid all of their products because of it.

  • 01/06/2010 at 6:55 am

    @Dragondreamz I've got some super awesome business cards coming in. How do you use business cards in your marketing?

  • 01/06/2010 at 8:44 am

    Thank you all for your excellent comments regarding the publishing issues in my blog post. I suppose the one point I raised that needs to be highlighted, is that with online preview reads available for almost all books now, at least there is an opportunity to be selective about the books one buys.

    When I see typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in the first chapter, I know it's a book worth avoiding. Similarly goes for the writing style. If I don't like it, I don't buy it.

    With regard to online marketing, I rely on it heavily as living in a non-English speaking country limits my local sales potential. Shipping costs also handicap my ability to sell locally at a reasonable price. So in this respect, I do get annoyed when I see repetitive spamming from authors who clearly are not serious about their book or marketing.

    This is why I contacted Bookbuzzr prior to posting the article. To highlight this problem of repetitive twitter spamming that casts a shadow on authors who are trying to use Twitter responsibly as a creative marketing tool.

    With regard to reviews that you mentioned, we all know there are teams of people being used by TP houses to post to twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites. I counted 37 different twitter accounts posting a link to the same review in one day recently. But reviews DO sell books, so I see no problem in fighting fire with fire. If you have a big enough circle of family and friends willing to help. Go for it. Only a very small proportion of reviews are honest and unbiased.

    TP books almost always have 'selective' one line newspaper reviews on the back of their books. You can always find at least one positive line even in the most damning review.

    I also take Jaleta's point about small press publishing. Unless you are with a major publisher, all authors have to 'flog their wares'.

    Thanks again for taking the time to post your comments and it's good to know there are kindred spirits out there.

  • 01/06/2010 at 11:05 pm

    I use the Book Buzzr auto Tweets (it's set for once a week) because I get new followers each week, and I want to point them to a place they can get a free sample of my book, or a place where they can read it in its entirety for free. Used in conjunction with other marketing techniques it's effective. Used alone, it's a pain in the ass for long-time followers.

    In addition to the writers Zoe listed (thanks for the shout out, by the way!!) I want to add Kristen Tsetsi, Craig Lancaster, Holly Christine, Lin Welch, and Phil Persinger. There are many, many more (check out Backword Books) I could list, as I've read mostly indie books for the past two years.

  • 02/06/2010 at 7:05 pm


    I keep a small stash of my cards with me at all times. I carry a larger stack with me if I go to a social event, (especially something artsy, like an art exhibit or theatrical event).

    I either mention my book(s) to a lot of people; or some just ask me what I've written lately and where they can get their hands on a copy. So I hand them a card.

    I wish I could say every card I handed out translated to a sell; but I can say that it has produced results.
    For instance: at one social event I handed out at least 10 business cards for my anthology. The next day, I checked my lulu account and I had made 5 more sales.

    Yeah, sadly I had my lulu product URL on those cards rather than the URL for my own website and/or my amazon url.

    I hand a lot of cards out to people at my evening job too, because people are always asking me about my books.

  • 02/06/2010 at 7:11 pm

    Oh, Zoe forgot to mention…

    One more thing I just started doing is to insert a business card (or 2) into any signed copies I give to friends & relatives. Then, when somebody asks them what they're reading they'll have the business card right there to hand that person if they're interested.

  • 07/06/2010 at 10:19 pm

    According to JA Konrath at A Newbie's Guide to Publishing (http://jakonrath.blogspot.com), a low price, a good description, and a cover design that catches the reader's attention as a thumbnail-size icon help sell books, too.

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