I have been an author since the 80’s and a professional one since the 90’s. I was never that bothered by how other authors conducted themselves. But now in the age of social media and blogs, authors have the ability to interact on a much more instantaneous and personal level with their audience and potential new readers.
I have to tell you, there are a lot of current practices that I just don’t agree with. I am going to list my top five NO-NOs, and please don’t take it as anything other than my own personal observations and opinions. If you want to come across with any kind of professional air and you want to be taken seriously, it is my recommendation that you avoid the following:
The Review Exchange- This is number one on my list of NO-NOs. I am approached daily by authors who think we should review each other’s work. And if you are going to engage in this practice, at least try to find an author in the same genre as you. I don’t know how many times an author with a work totally out of my sphere of interest hits me up. This is a slippery slope. If someone praises your work but you can’t stand what they sent you in exchange and you are honest, you will have just made an enemy. And if you soften the review or praise it when you know it was bad, there goes a little of your soul and a lot of your credibility. I don’t publicly review or rate a lot of books (I don’t consider myself a book reviewer) but when I do, I am honest and when some of the writers in my circle review my work, so are they. There are beta-readers out there; people who will read and critique your work before it is published or sent out for consideration. There are groups of them on Facebook. If you are fortunate enough to find an author interested in reading your work, ask for feedback, not a review.
Let’s Buy Each Other’s Book to Manipulate the Amazon Rankings- Now, this one is a HELL NO. Rankings on Amazon fluctuate all of the time. If your book has nose-dived into the basement, you are in good company. Often a book will come out, do what major business it is going to do, and then it will plummet. It happens. A better way to stimulate the numbers on your title is to offer price cuts or a limited freebie download (the two best features of the Amazon KDP program). Trying to bump your title with a back scratch is just a silly practice, folks. You want to be high in the numbers? Entice people to buy your book. Promote it. Using this artificial way to make your sales appear higher is like spitting in the ocean. There is no shelf life on most books, these days. What is currently swimming in the abyss might re-surge to a top 100 list with a handful of sales. Don’t be so anxious or worry if you aren’t always in the top.
(not so) Professional Animosity- Let me explain something to you: another author’s success is not your failure. If you remember nothing else I have said here today, commit that to memory. We are all on different journeys and we arrive when we arrive. You are not in a competition with anyone. Stephen King is not stealing your readers. There are many writers out there and we all try to grab an audience and build it. It is pointless to get angry when someone makes a little headway. If an author on your level or in your circle starts to build a little momentum and catch some interest, you should take this as a positive example that the little guy can still succeed if the talent and drive is there. We all get jealous, sure. But if your emotions drive you to try and tear the other guy down because, in your mind, pulling on that person means elevating yourself; you need help. Serious help. I have seen many authors bad-mouthing each other all over the Internet and it only makes them look awful. Look at the true professionals out there; the ones who have made it. They didn’t get where they are by holding pubic grudge matches with other authors and defecating on another’s work. They focused on their writing. Let your work speak for you. If you need to release some bile, do it with a close friend who knows, despite the occasional moment of weakness, that you are a good person who is only human. Authors who rant and rave publicly alienate potential readers. Be yourself, sure, but speak reasonably and maturely if you need to air a grievance. The world has enough assholes.
Let’s Talk About Bad Reviews- And here is one that I see ALL of the time: authors complaining about less than stellar reviews. I have seen rants which led me to a review that, honestly, seemed fair to me. Listen, not every bad review is an attempt to make you look bad by a shadowy organization that has everything to gain by your failure. And, sure, some bad reviews do come from people who want nothing more than to tear you down (see section above). You know what I do about a bad review? Nothing. I don’t cry. I don’t comment on it or engage the reviewer. I move on. And, take my word for it, if you try to defend yourself against unfair reviews, you are filling the Troll feeding trough. And they will come. Something else that needs addressing: 3 stars is not a bad rating/review. You are not going to bowl everyone over. If someone liked your story enough to give it three stars, don’t complain.
Just Give me the Good News- (Another HELL NO) If you are fortunate enough to earn a circle of beta-readers, take their opinions seriously. Don’t just look for a pat on the back. This is your advance screening, and the opportunity to fix things that may not work. Don’t engage readers simply to stroke your ego. Use this precious gift to improve your story. I saw an author once ask his readers not to point out any mistakes or typos, because he just wanted to know how the story worked. Never discourage your readers from pointing out mistakes. For those of you who can’t afford an editor (and even for those who can), this is crucial. I have seen mistakes float by several people and you can’t have too many eyes looking out for the errors. And don’t argue with your readers. Appreciate their feedback, whether you agree with it or not.
Well, the soap box is straining, so I am going to climb off of it before it breaks. Again, this is just how I see things and it is not a swipe at anyone. I think we forget that our main reason behind the keyboard is our love of writing. Don’t let anyone taint what you love to do and be happy with the successes, no matter how small they may seem, and take the failures as part of the process. And celebrate and brag about the good if you want; you’re entitled. There is very rarely an easy accomplishment in the world of publishing.
But most importantly: Be happy and enjoy this life that is really too short for all of the bullshit out there. And remember: real writers never stop writing. They just die.