Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Just a Little Soapbox
I don't like taking a stand in public. I want people to like me, to look back at the things I've blogged about and the things I've written, and say, "Yeah, I can get behind that." So when I blog about how awful it is that some blonde demon is on video throwing a box full of puppies into a river, I'm not really stepping out on a limb. When I say that any writers, especially self publishers, need to edit edit edit so that they can turn out the best book possible, I'm not saying anything that most people shouldn't already know.
Today, I have something to say that isn't universally approved. Some people may not like it, and you might be one of those people. I'm not sorry, and I won't apologize.
A New York Times article came out on the 25th, about a man who made a business out of writing favorable reviews for books. I'm not going to get into all of the details, here's the link: NYT Article
Doesn't self publishing have enough of a bad reputation already? Come on! Paying people to give your book five star reviews is abhorrent. If you don't believe that your work will stand up on its own, DON'T PUBLISH IT. If you don't have the faith in your novel/short story/book of snot paintings, why are you willing to ask readers to pay for it? Shame on you.
It's hard to get people to read your book when you're unknown. I get that. I am that. But I don't write for a paycheck. I write because I love it. I always have. It's been said a million times, but I'll say it again: If you are writing because you want to get rich, you might as well quit now. Writing should be work, hard, scary, sometimes a little heartbreaking. But totally worth it in those moments when the white of the page is just melting away, when it feels like the story is writing itself.
There are honest people out there willing to read your book. Just keep looking. Goodreads is great, the Amazon forums even, your damn Facebook. Or, if you just have to get a hundred reviews, go to somewhere reputable, where the reviews are honest. Believe in your work enough to let people be honest.
Full disclosure: I had a blog tour for The River Runes not long ago. I paid a third party $45 to get five or so bloggers to read and review my book, and others to do interviews with me and let me guest post on their blogs. I don't think the bloggers got paid, I'm not sure how they work that out. It was made clear to me, from the beginning, that the reviews would be honest, even though I was paying for the service. I wouldn't have it any other way.
I'll be honest, I was a little scared that I had just paid for people to read my book, and they might all hate it. But I believe in my book. I wouldn't have published it if I didn't. The reviews came back better than I expected. They ranged through three, four, and five stars, but they all had very kind things to say. I even picked up a few new readers that have contacted me since then, because they found me on blogs that they already followed.
After reading this article, though, I don't think I'll even be able to use this kind of service again. It feels too close. Although, I think the service was great, and probably a very good idea for people just starting out. I don't know, maybe I can just stop being antisocial and contact the bloggers myself next time. I think I'll feel better about the whole thing if money never exchanges hands. But big publishers also pay for reviews. The New York Times, Kirkus, and lots of other reputable sources accept money or trade advertisements to give reviews. Honest reviews.
Back to the point.
Write the best work you can, and then trust the readers. Some of them are not going to like it, some of them will hate it, but if you poured your heart into it, and edited it until it was raw, someone will like it. I believe that there is an audience for everything out there, even if it takes a while to find. Best of all, you can feel good knowing that any good reviews you get are honest.
Self pubbing is hard work. Anything that gets done to your book, gets done by you. After writing you still have to edit/choose an editor, edit again, find/make a good cover, format for publication (on ebook and/or paperback), and then you have to help that book find an audience. And if you are self publishing your first book, you are starting at the very bottom. I think it's worth it, though.
I know how disheartening it can be to be an unknown. I'm still unknown. Since I first published The River Runes, over a year ago, I've given away/sold less than a thousand copies. I'm okay with that. That means that almost a thousand people have bought/asked for/maybe even read something that I wrote. Now, that's cool.