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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, May 19, 2013

How NOT to Self-Publish: 12 Things for New Indies to Avoid

Self-publishing has lost its stigma, and it’s the publishing path of choice for a lot of writers these days.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Or that everybody who self-publishes will succeed.

Unfortunately, I’m seeing a lot of writers dive in head first without having a clue what they’re doing. Even long-time trad-pubbed authors who think they know the ropes can make fatal errors because self-publishing has a different set of rules. One of them lamented his fate in an article in Salon recently.  

But the poor guy had an amateurish cover (not-to-do #3)  and a dismal Amazon buy page (#4). He also tried to market an ebook like a trad-pubbed book (#7). Most of all he seems to think self-publishing means “second-class,” so he presented his book as a second-class product.

Full disclosure here: I'm not self-published. I'm "indie" in the old fashioned sense—I publish with a small, independent press. But I belong to lots of indie groups where the vast majority of authors are self-published. Quite a few are doing very well for themselves—better than the average mid-lister with a big publisher—but many more aren't.

Unlike Tolstoy's happy families, most happy indies are not alike. Successful indies seem to follow quirky, personal paths. But the less successful ones seem to make similar mistakes.

If you want to launch a career as a professional, self-published author, here are some things it's better not to do.

1) Publish your first novel before you’ve written a second. 

The most popular way of marketing a self-published book right now is giving away a lot of free copies. But this only works if you have other books for the customer to actually pay for.

You should write at least two novels before you try to publish—whether you’re hopping on the query-go-round or self-publishing. Marketing takes a whole lot of time, and once you’re doing it, writing novel #2 is going to be really tough. Give yourself at least two novels worth of time before you jump into becoming an author-publisher.

2) Think you don’t have to follow “writing rules” because you’re not dealing with agents and publishers. 

A lot of those "agent rules" are based on stuff that’s hardwired to the human brain. If you’re boring or self-indulgent, you’ll get bad reviews, disgruntled customers and dismal sales.

Some agent rules can be ignored, like "no prologues", "never use the word 'was',"  and “if you’re not writing YA Steampunk Zombiepocalyptic dystopian romance, go die."

But things like, “start with an inciting incident, not 49 pages of musing”…that’s going to be a good rule no matter how you publish.

And yeah, you need a plot. Successful self-publishers are almost all genre writers. Literary musings probably aren't going to sell to an online audience—and successful indies make most of their sales online.

Also, you still have to learn basic spelling and grammar rules. They are the tools of your trade.

3) DYI editing, cover design and formatting 

Some of the early Kindle pioneers got away with amateurish presentation. There weren’t so many ebooks to choose from in 2009 and 2010. Now, there are 1000s of new indie titles coming out every day. You gotta have a professional-looking product or you’re not going to sell.

4) Amateurish buy page 

Lots of indies neglect their buy pages on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, etc. Make sure you take advantage of the "editorial reviews" section if it's offered, and include quotes from good blog reviews. Check to see if the “peek inside” feature is working, and write a snappy product description.

Here's some great advice on how to write a compelling product description in a guest blogpost from indie superstar Mark Edwards.

5) Market exclusively to other authors

Unless you have a nonfic book for authors like HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE (had to get a plug in there), other authors aren't your market.

Bloghops are a fun way to get to know other authors, but they don't sell a lot of books

And guilt-tripping and spamming author sites that are meant for mutual support and exchange of information is going to backfire. There are some authors I'm much LESS likely to read because they’ve hijacked author info sites with “tweet and share and make my book the most successful in history and screw you if you have a book to sell too because I’m going to bump my posts up the thread every 15 minutes…it's all about me, me, ME!!”

You want to make FRIENDS with other authors, not get to the top of their list of "A**hats to Avoid."

Successful indie authors know their audience and market to that niche. As indie publishing guru Orna Ross said, "to succeed as an indie you need to go where your readers are, which means understanding your place within the reading ecosystem."

6) Solicit a bunch of phony rave reviews 

Getting Aunt Susie and the gals in her garden club to all write glowing reviews of your opus can backfire, big time. Buying fake reviews is even worse. Ditto manipulating other authors into positive review exchanges. Some writers have even written themselves dozens of  rave reviews under various aliases. All this stuff erupted in a big review scandal last September.

Amazon responded by removing 1000s of reviews and banning some writers from Amazon for life. You may not love the Mighty Zon, but it still sells more ebooks than any other site. You’d miss them.

And don't bully your readers into reviewing. It's fine to ask for reviews from time to time, but readers are starting to get fed up with all the begging, spammy newsletters. An angry reader vented on the subject in the HuffPo recently.

7) Expect a lot of sales right away

Self-publishing works on the principle of slow building. It doesn’t work like traditional publishing with a big splash, push for about a month, then a slow petering of sales, followed by returns, pulping the leftovers and rinse, wash, repeat. Self-publishers sell mostly ebooks, and ebooks are forever.

A title can sell nothing for months—or even years—then suddenly take off once you’ve built an audience with other books.

8) Put on an expensive book launch party 

If you want an excuse for a fun get-together with your friends who haven’t seen you all those years you’ve been in your writing cave—fabulous. You deserve a celebration.

But as a marketing tool, it doesn’t make much sense. A real-world book launch is expensive. Even if you can get it in the local paper, you’re not likely to make enough money back to pay for it unless you have a very large, wealthy, extended family who have all pledged to buy copies in bulk.

9) Treat other authors in your genre as rivals instead of colleagues

It’s not a zero-sum game. The rising tide raises all boats. If your genre is hot, more people will read it.

One of the most disappointing things in the review scandal last fall was discovering that some authors were actually writing fake 1-star reviews for other authors in their genre, in some misguided hope they’d push their “rivals” off the bestseller lists.

That’s not the way it works. If you can get interest in your genre, all the authors in it will sell more. Teaming with more successful authors can do nothing but help your own sales. Patrice Fitzgerald did this with Hugh Howey—getting his permission to write a novella in his Wool series—and her career took off.  So who knows, you might actually be able to collaborate with the star in your genre some day, the way so many authors do with James Patterson.

Appearing in anthologies with big sellers can also really boost your sales. So don’t fight them, join them!

10) Publish through a vanity press 

“Oh, sure. I know that,” sez you. "I’d never get duped by a scammy outfit like PublishAmerica. I’m going with a big name publisher: Simon and Schuster. I'm using their self-publishing wing, Archway."

Sorry. Archway is run by AuthorSolutions, a notorious vanity publisher (even though AS is now owned by Penguin.) A lot of people thought the Penguin buy was a bad move, and the lawsuits suggest that’s the case. Unfortunately a lot of other traditional publishers are teaming up with AuthorSolutions too, like Hay House's Balboa Press, Thomas Nelson's West Bow Press, and Harlequin's Horizons. Don't go there.

For more on vanity presses and how to avoid them, see David Gaughran's Blog or  Writer Beware.

You don’t want to publish with a vanity press because they make money off the author, not book sales. They often charge 10 times what the normal self- publishing route would cost and the books are so overpriced you can’t make a profit selling them.

There is a tried and true method of self publishing that almost all self publishers use. Don’t self-publish without reading this from Sarah Woodbury. There are a whole lot of books out there on self-publishing. Probably too many, as Porter Anderson lamented in Writing on the Ether this week. The one I see most highly recommended by successful indies is David Gaughran's, Let's Get Digital. (on sale for 99c this week. No. Mr. Gaughran doesn't give me kickbacks, alas.)

The indie’s best friend, Mark Coker of Smashwords, has lots of great information on his site for free. Or  if you need affordable help with the tech side of self-publishing, try BookBaby or Draft2Digital. Smashwords, BookBaby and Draft2Digital help you with formatting and post to retail sites for you, but they are not publishers or vanity presses. BookBaby provides ebooks and pbooks (paper).

The two biggest pbook printing companies are CreateSpace (owned by Amazon) and LightingSource (owned by Ingram, the biggest distributor to bookstores in the US) Lulu is good too, but beware their more expensive packages—those have gone over to the Author Solutions dark side, too

11) Believe there is one formula for publishing success 

What worked in the past may have been overworked since then. And what sells books in one genre may not work in another. Every book and every marketing plan has to be different.
  • Prolific chick lit author D.D. Scott keeps on the bestseller lists with her “Snickers bar” pricing, but her method may not work for every genre. 
  • Some authors find professional blog tours are a great way to launch a title. Others say they’re an exhausting waste of money.
  • Sci-Fi superstar Hugh Howey used the cliff-hanger serial format to build his audience. But a whole lot of authors have tried the serial thing since then and only managed to infuriate readers who expected a whole story.
  • Giving away free books has been the big thing recently. But everybody’s Kindle is full of freebies now, so this may not work for long.
  • At the moment, everybody’s having pretty good luck with those expensive ads on places like BookBub and Kindle Nation Daily, but Amazon no longer allows “affiliates” to advertise unlimited free books, so we’re not sure if they’ll have the same cachet a few months from now. (Some cheap ebook newsletters are not affiliates, like the UK bargain book site below.) 
Pay attention to your own sales and what seems to boost them. Do more of that. And be patient. Very patient. And go write another book. That’s the only proven way to increase sales.

12) And the biggest no-no of all? Dissing a reviewer who doesn’t like your book

Somebody is going to hate your book. I guarantee it. And they may be snarky about it. Especially if the book is self-published. But trad-pubbed books get nasty reviews, too. Look at the nearly 150 one star reviews of The Great Gatsby. Or some of the bad reviews J.K Rowling got for the Casual Vacancy. Every reviewer dislikes some books, and some reviewers revel in their dislikes. Put-downs can be fun, unfortunately.

Accepting the snark with grace is part of being a professional. You will feel the sting, of course, but deal with your anguish offline. Anything you do in response to a negative review is likely to backfire in a major way.

Note: this does not extend to bullying. Most bad reviews are not “bullying,” but some misguided morons do abuse the review system in order to attack or "punish" authors for imagined transgressions or out of sheer malevolence. People who use reviews for bullying generally follow a certain pattern.

1) They make it pretty clear they haven't read the book
2) They attack an author personally
3) They often attack in packs, using identical talking points
4) They may be organized by a "rival" author (yeah, mean people are usually kinda stupid, too.)

If you are being bullied, do NOT respond to the bullies in the comments or engage with them in any way. But DO report them for abusing the review system. I'm glad to hear that Amazon is rolling out a new program for reporting abuse. If you see this kind of bullying happening on any author's buy page, report it.

All writers benefit from fighting this kind of abuse, because it renders the whole review system useless.

If you're a victim, stay away from groups where bullies hang out and try to get some good professional reviews to quote in your product description to counteract the lies.

And trust that your readers can tell the difference.

If you want to read more about online bullying, I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago on Gangs of New Media.

If you're still sitting on the fence about self-publishing, Orna Ross has a great post this week at Jane Friedman's blog with 15 questions to ask before you self publish.

If you'd rather go the traditional route, but don't write in a genre on the agent hot list right now, take a look at indie presses. Escargot Books, listed below, has just opened to submissions in most fiction genres and accepts both agented and non-agented work. And there's a list of small digital presses with ratings at ePublishaBook.com.

What about you, scriveners? Have you made any of these mistakes? Have they turned out not to be mistakes at all? And what’s up with that steampunk stuff? If agents love it so much, why isn’t it all over the bestseller list? Have I missed something? What other advice would you give a new indie author? Have you ever been bullied by a review bully? 


Roxanna Britton, a biographical novel by Shirley S. Allen will be FREE on Amazon from May 22-25. It's Little House on the Prairie meets Jane Austen. In this wonderful novel, my mom tells the story of her own great-grandmother, an amazing pioneer of the Old West.

 "This true biographical novel of an American pioneer is gripping and exciting in every sense. From Ohio to California one cannot help but admire the courage of the Britton women... If true history is your cup of tea, I strongly advise you to buy this book."--Karen Mabry Rice

"A family saga I could not put down. Ms. Allen has written a fascinating tale of real people, full of danger and tension, in prose that flows easily and pulls the reader along."--Susan Tuttle

The Gatsby Game, based on a real unsolved Hollywood mystery, is only 99c at Amazon and Barnes and Noblethrough May 31st, in honor of the debut of the Baz Luhrmann film. It's based on the mysterious death of David Whiting, a man I knew in college. Nobody knows what happened the night he died in Sarah Miles' motel room during the filming of a Burt Reynolds movie, but I have a theory, and this is a fictionalized account of it. Like David, my anti-hero Alistair Milbourne is obsessed with F. Scott Fitzgerald, and imagines himself to be "the ghost of Jay Gatsby, in a straw boater and spats, whistling a tune by Cole Porter." 

"I was thoroughly entertained by The Gatsby Game. It has all the elements for a good mystery, and would also appeal to readers who enjoy romance in a women’s fiction style. I give the characters, cultural references, story building, and especially the slightly sarcastic narrator voice a 5 star rating" --Donna Hole


1) Iron Writer Insane-a-Thon!

The Dreadful Cafe will hold their annual writing marathon on July 13, 2013. There are prizes for the most words written in a 24 hour period and for raising the most money for their charity, St. Jude's Hospital. It's a wild and crazy insane-a-thon for a great cause. More at The Dreadful Cafe. Send in your entry to submissions@dreadfulcafe.com before July 14th.

2) Spoonfuls of Stories Contest 

For new, unpublished writers of children's fiction. HUGE prizes for the winning stories for children age 2-6. This contest, sponsored by Cheerios, offers a $5000 grand prize and some hefty runners-up prizes too. More info at spoonfulsofstories.com  Deadline is July 31. 

3) FREE book advertising to British readers from EbookBargainsUK 

DEADLINE EXTENDED! Lots of authors and publishers have had huge successes with their free or sale books by advertising on BookBub, ENT, KND, POI, etc. But none of those target the UK, and their links go to US sites Brits can't use. But now there’s a newsletter for UK readers only. It links to all the big UK retailers like Apple UK, Waterstones and Foyles as well as Amazon UK. They don’t sell books direct or get paid for clickthroughs, so they don't have any restrictions on how many free books they can spotlight like BookBub and the others. So it's THE place to tell Brits about your book when it goes free or on sale in the UK. Since Brits have the highest number of readers per capita of any country in the world, this looks like a great idea to me: Plus: the site will be offering FREE book ads until June 30th, on a first come, first served basis.

And if you're in the UK, do sign up for their newsletter. It brings links to free and bargain ebooks—at the UK bookstore of your choice—in your inbox every morning. You can subscribe here.

4) Orion Magazine

Submission Window Opens June 1  “America's finest Environmental Magazine" is open to submissions only three times a year. Orion accepts essays, narrative nonfiction, interviews, and short fiction that focus on nature, culture, and place. 1,200 to 5000 words.

5) Escargot Books is expanding its catalogue and are now accepting submissions.

Crime fiction (dark thrillers to cozies), women’s fiction, health and fitness, children’s, sci-fi and dystopian. All books will be published in digital format. Some books will be chosen for print and/or audio as well. Escargot Books does not offer an advance, but they offer higher royalties than traditional publishers, especially for direct sales from our website, as well as editing, formatting, promotion, and the company of bestselling authors. This is an indie press with some big name authors and a good track record. Here’s their online submission form.

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Blogger Jessica Bell said...

Fabulous post. Full of invaluable advice!

May 19, 2013 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne, I'd also add that new indies should beware of one-size-fits-all pricing. Some do really well at 99c. Other don't because lots of readers think 99c = crapola. $2.99 used to be considered the gold standard for ebook pricing—but not always. Not anymore. Some indies do well at $3.99/$4.99.

Be flexible about pricing and don't be afraid to experiment with prices until you find out what works for you.

Ditto categories. If you don't get traction with one category, try another.

Flexibility is key.

May 19, 2013 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Some really great tips!
My publisher told me up front - don't follow only authors because they aren't my target audience.
The rival thing and one-star reviews stuns me. Sounds like a good way to make a lot of enemies.

May 19, 2013 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

Major, major mistake was doing ASI for my first book (since delisted by moi and thus unavailable except thru me) and 2nd.

Wised up shortly after that, by picking up tips from successful writers who do both traditional and self-publishing.

Speaking of tips, one that I've found over the years that would work if you're going the self-publishing route is have a solid body of work for people to sample before you self-publish.

To this day, I will not touch a self-pubbed book w/o checking to see if the writer has anything else published (i.e. short stories or novels) the traditional way, or the non-traditional way (a blog is the only method that I will accept).

I know it sounds punitive and selfish, but I will not waste my money on someone that I don't know who has self-pubbed a novel.

The only exception to that rule is if I've gotten a recommendation from a fellow writer that I respect.

May 19, 2013 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger C.J. Sullivan said...

These were good. I shared on Twitter.

May 19, 2013 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jessica--Thanks much!

Ruth--I agree 100% about flexibility. Probably the #1 trait of the successful indie. And yes, it's not one-price-suits all. Pricing within the Amazon preferred range of $2.99-$9.99 is nice, since you get the 70% royalty that way, but a 99c sale definitely boosts sales. But results vary widely according to genre and other market factors.

Switching categories can help a lot, too. It takes a while to figure out what works for your particular book.

Alex--The sock-puppet attacks on other authors were shocking. And some of the paid review mills would write bad reviews for your "rivals" for a slightly higher fee. Luckily Amazon has cracked down on both sock puppets and paid review mills.

G.B.--Very important insight. I think I do that too. If I see somebody has only one self-pubbed book and no other credits, I'll usually pass, even if the book is free. I figure it's amateur work. Almost all successful authors start with publishing shorter fiction. Getting into an anthology or literary magazine is a great way to establish yourself before publishing novels.

C.J.--Thanks for the Tweet!

May 19, 2013 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger Charley Robson said...

Fantastic post Anne! I'm passing this on to my Facebook page - too good not to!

May 19, 2013 at 12:49 PM  
OpenID governingana said...

I agree that it's unethical for authors to write sockpuppet positive and negative reviews, but it's rough that authors are not allowed (technically) to write reviews of books, period. There must be a verification system or a way to allow people to write reviews without leaving the system open to abuse.

What are some examples of things that make an Amazon buy page amateurish? It doesn't seem that, as the author, I have much control over the buy page. Do you have suggestions of what I could do?

Another great post, as always. Thank you!

Anastasia Vitsky

May 19, 2013 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger mshatch said...

Really great post and links! Thanks for this :)

May 19, 2013 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Charley--Thanks for the FB share. FB thinks I'm a spammer so they won't let me post links to the blog anywhere but on my own page, so I really appreciate it when readers do that. Maybe eventually FB will get the message!

Anastasia--I agree that the Zon went way overboard in pulling reviews. I don't think they're doing that with such zeal any more.

As far as your buy page, you have a lot of control if you're self-published. You can access it through Author Central. You can put up quotes from professional reviews, your bio, your product description and a "word from the author". It will all come up in your "Book description" on the buy page. Amateurish product descriptions are the biggest red flag for me. They say stuff about what it meant for the author to write the book instead of what the book will do for the reader.

ms--Thanks! Glad to hear it's helpful

May 19, 2013 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger Julie Luek said...

This is probably one of the best lists I've read in awhile on this topic. I especially appreciate your thoughts on blog tours with other authors. I have sensed that these are not the most productive use of time. Thanks for sharing.

May 19, 2013 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger L. Diane Wolfe said...

Couldn't agree more on #3. Folks, you're a writer, not a professional editor, formatter, or artist. Don't be part of the problem.

May 19, 2013 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger Claude Nougat said...

Anne, as always and invariably a post full of good tips! I've been in the self-publishing game now for almost 3 years (7 titles so far) and all I can say is that I confirm the validity of your advice, and ultimately the only thing that will sell your books is to write another (good) one!

This said, there's one thing I notice (and have noticed time and again) self-published authors (not indies like you with a small press behind them) really do face a serious problem when it comes to proof-reading and basic editing (I mean things like editing out cliché plot lines, stilted dialogue, repetitions,slowed pace etc).

I know, I know, the accepted wisdom is that you buy the services of an editor that is recommended by your writer friends and you're done.

Unfortunately, that's not true. And here I put on my economist's hat (because I'm that too - Columbia U. grad if I may so modestly claim...)What happens is this, bear with me, it's a little complex to explain. When you hire an editor as an indie, that person is an independent consultant. It's not someone reporting to a publisher, dependent on a publisher for the salary or the career promotion. So he/she has no one to answer to except you, the person who hired him/her. Fine and good. The problems are twofold:

(1) You can't oversee/evaluate the quality of the editing work done precisely because you hired him/her to do the editing. You knew something needed to be done in that department. But you don't have the wherewithals to pass judgement.

(2) that person, once the editing job is done, does not need you anymore. As a consultant, he/she is free to move to the next writer.So the temptation is great to get the job done quickly, as quickly as possible, and move on the next (and get paid for it). This is a very different situation from an editor stuck in the hierarchy of a publishing house: no escape from there! Either the job is well done or there's no promotion...

See what I mean? That's why it's so tough for a self-published author to get good editing/proof-reading support...

May 19, 2013 at 2:18 PM  
OpenID governingana said...

Anne, I hope you don't mind if I post a reply to Claude.

It's true that it can be hard to find good editing as a self-publishing author, but there can be an advantage of being the paying customer. If I go with a publisher, I may be unlucky enough to get an editor/formatter who does not do a good job. In that scenario, there's nothing I can do. If I'm a paying customer as a self-publishing author hiring a freelancing editor, however, I can ask for a sample edit and fire an editor who doesn't fit with my style of working.

As to the second point, I think it's about building a network as well as relationships.

That brings up a question I had, actually. As self-publishing authors, it's hard to know what's reasonable to invest for cover art, editing, formatting, and so on. It's easy to put far more money into these services than can reasonably be earned back through book sales. Yet skimping in these areas does hurt the book/author image. How do you gauge how much to spend on book services prior to publishing?

Anastasia Vitsky

May 19, 2013 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger Linda Adams said...

I've also had indie authors try to solicit reviews from me without even checking to see what I actually read. One author asked me to do a review of his "fantasy/action-adventure thriller" (I do contemp fantasy/action-adventure thriller). I checked his sample pages and discovered it was a fantasy/detective novel and no sign of any promise of action. I turned it down with a "Not for me," and he kept badgering at me for why, as if somehow because I wrote action-adventure I owed him a review. I finally told him it didn't have enough action, and then he had a meltdown. It's not my fault if your sales are tanking!

May 19, 2013 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Rosi said...

Thanks for this post, Anne. It is just chock full of good stuff.

May 19, 2013 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger Roland D. Yeomans said...

I'm still a newbie in this. I think being courteous and professional in our efforts will go a long way to at least not make any enemies along our way! As always, an insightful post, Roland

May 19, 2013 at 4:43 PM  
Blogger Lexa Cain said...

This as a great post! I've bookmarked it for future reference. It should be a "Must read' for all people indie publishing. Thanks! :-)

May 19, 2013 at 5:57 PM  
OpenID marthareynoldswrites.com said...

GUILTY! Of #1, #7, and, OMG, #10. But....I confess and I have learned. Some of what I learned cost me $$ (#10).
As always, Anne, great post - excellent advice. I am sharing all over the place. xx

May 19, 2013 at 7:09 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie—Blog hops and tours are incredibly time consuming. I’m not saying they don’t work at all. If you team with other authors in your genre who have a lot of readers visiting their blogs, it can pay off. But only in the short term. Sometimes those blog hops take over people’s lives.

Diane—The DYI covers can be so sad. It’s unusual for somebody to have both visual and verbal skills at the same level of expertise. Not saying it doesn’t happen, but make sure your visual art skills have been vetted by somebody other than your mom putting up your pictures on the fridge when you were in 3rd Grade.

Claude and Anastasia—You both make important points. It’s also true that a hired editor ultimately has to please the client, so he/she may say what you want to hear instead of what will make the book better. That’s why I think it’s important to first run a book through a critique group. You’ll get a variety of opinions. Plus you’ll learn to take criticism and learn what’s useful and what isn’t.

Linda—You’re describing what makes reviewers stay away from indie authors. That's a writer who hasn’t reached the level of professionalism to publish. If somebody doesn’t want to review your book, take the “no” as a gift.


Roland—As in all things, the Golden Rule is a pretty good guide. Amazing how many people don’t get that. I think it’s because marketing “gurus” teach sales people to treat the customer as prey.

Lexa--Thanks! New writers can get so discouraged when they think their book is at fault, when it's just that they don't know enough about publishing.

Martha—Thanks much for passing on the info. We learn by our mistakes. How do you think I got this list together? :-)

May 19, 2013 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger D.G. Hudson said...

Thanks, Anne, It's good to know some of the background, when we hear so many success stories, but not much about the bottom of the pyramid.

I mentioned this post in another bloggers' thread, as he was discussing reviewers and how difficult it is to get books reviewed by the Amazon top reviewers.

Thanks for the info!

May 19, 2013 at 9:14 PM  
Blogger Fiona Ingram said...

I review for a variety of book review sites, so I see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Many books are self-published and they are absolute gems. Many have terrible covers, poor editing, but such a compelling story that I wish the author had just slowed down to fix those glitches. I always offer a personal comment to the authors with some suggestions. Some take advice. Many don't. One author first argued with me and then wrote back to me saying he had taken the advice and his book had won an award for sci-fi. Yay! If only more writers could take advice.

May 19, 2013 at 11:08 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

I made my share of the mistakes you listed! Learning curve. Thanks for the good advice, which I will take into account...next time!

May 20, 2013 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

D. G.--Thanks for the mention! I'm not sure that pursuing the top reviewers is worth the hassle. Top reviewers get targeted with so many queries they can get jaded and snarky. Most readers don't care if a review comes from a member of an exclusive Amazon club or not. I think book blogger reviewers are more worth pursuing. You can take quotes from them and put them in your editorial review section.

Fiona--You sound like a dedicated and careful reviewer. How fantastic that you were able to get through to the writer and help him win an award! But you're right that many amateurs do NOT want advice. They'd rather fail than accept the fact they don't know everything.

Christine--We're all still learning. This is a whole new approach to a business that's in a state of upheaval. What's "right" one month can be "wrong" the next.

May 20, 2013 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger Lexi said...

I successfully flouted #1 - though admittedly it was easier to sell ebooks in 2010.

As for #3, I do my own editing, proofreading, formatting and covers, and reckon my books are professionally-presented. It takes work to achieve this, but meant I was in profit from my very first book sale.

May 20, 2013 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lexi--I had another paragraph in the #3 section that I seem to have lost at some point. What it said is that some people do have talent in several areas, but it's best to have some experience. Obviously you have great design sense as well as writing skill. Your covers are great and are part of what made you an indie superstar. (I recently read a novel called Pompomberry House where "Lexi Revellian" was featured as a character.) The cover for The Ice Diaries is gorgeous. But a lot of people who think they can design their own covers can't. And I've seen unreadable formatting in indie books.

May 20, 2013 at 4:29 PM  
OpenID Janet Boyer said...

Great post as always, Anne.

On the review bullies at AMZN: I had to be the bearer of bad news, but AMZN won't do SQUAT about individuals targeting authors for hate campaigns. I just reported my stalker yet again to them, and they say she hasn't violated any of Amazon's TOC.

Doesn't matter to them that she's only written three reviews, and they've only been of MY books http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A3CE73XZASPIYJ/ref=cm_cr_pr_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview Telling them about having to report her to the FBI for stalking me on the comment section of my reviews (including trying to post my physical address) doesn't seem to matter to the 'Zon, either.

May 20, 2013 at 5:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Janet--Well, that's rotten news. I heard they were starting a new program to weed out bullies who misuse one-star reviews. I guess my sources were wrong. And so is Amazon if they think this is a good way to do business. Teaming up with stalkers is a nasty, dumb thing to do. It will bite them back one of these days.

May 20, 2013 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger jaxson corey said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

May 20, 2013 at 9:40 PM  
Blogger Lara Schiffbauer said...

Hi! Excellent post with some good points I haven't read before.

I have a question regarding putting book blogger's reviews in the editorial reviews section of an Amazon page. I recently released my novel, and stumbled over a review I hadn't requested on a new book blogger's site. It was an odd review, in that the reviewer would say one thing and then contradict him/herself, such as saying the book was well edited, but could use more editing. I totally don't know what to make of that.) But there were some really nice things said, too, that would really be a great addition to the book's page.

Is it bad for me to copy the good things onto my page, but leave the other rather confusing parts off? I feel guilty, like I'm not being honest, but why would I put negative things on my page, right? Also, do I need to ask permission from them to use the review, since I didn't ask for them to review the book?

Thanks in advance for your suggestions. I don't really have anyone to ask, and was so excited to find you post today!

May 21, 2013 at 3:12 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lara--Great question! I should add that to the body of the post: you ALWAYS need permission to quote from a review, unless it's in a newspaper or magazine. Then you need to cite the issue and date.

When the review is mixed, you might say something like "I appreciated the fact you thought my book was well edited. Can I quote you?" They will usually say yes as long as you link to their blog. Outside linkage boosts their SEO. But the big trad published books quote from mixed reviews all the time.

With a requested review, often the reviewer will send you copy before it goes up. That implies that you have permission to quote it, but it's always nice to ask anyway.

Feel free to email me any other questions you have, and Ruth and I will answer them in future posts.

May 21, 2013 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger Sharon Ricklin Jones said...

Great post, as always, Anne!

I'm sharing on FB!

Sharon :)

May 21, 2013 at 6:08 PM  
Blogger Lara Schiffbauer said...

Thanks, Anne, for your very helpful response! I'll be contacting that reviewer. :)

May 22, 2013 at 9:06 PM  
Blogger Leslie S. Rose said...

Wonderful cautionary tale.

May 22, 2013 at 10:23 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sharon--Thanks for the share! We've been getting lots of hits on this one.

Lara--I hope the reviewer appreciates that it will raise the blog's profile.


May 23, 2013 at 3:22 PM  
Blogger Hitch said...

Hi: This is an excellent list. I posted a tangentially-related blog post at my bi-monthly posting at CrimeFictionCollective: http://crimefictioncollective.blogspot.com/2012/05/writing-book-was-step-zero.html about the slings and arrows of being a publisher, in addition to being an author. I hope that some of your readers will read it and find it useful, or at least, a dash or reality. ;-)

By the way, Escargot Books is a client of ours (we produce all their ebooks and most if not all of their print interiors) and I can vouch wholeheartedly for Richard and the gang over there. The wondrous Betina LaPlante is also a fabulous photographer, for those in dire need of an authorial photo (she recently did a series of headshots, etc., for another client of mine that wasn't an Escargot author, and it's the first set of photos he's had in his LIFE that he loves!). I'd strongly urge anyone with strong creative content to submit to Escargot. Good people there. (Hope that is helpful, too; it's always nice when you can hear good things about someone in advance, I think.)

I shan't post about the "amateur" formatter, because there is no way for me to do that and sound uninterested, so I won't, but I have posted hints and helpful tips about that at CFC, as well. Again, excellent post, and I'm going to bookmark this for tweeting/facebooking, etc. Thanks for writing it!

Hitch from Booknook.biz.

May 27, 2013 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger lbohart said...

Anne, I teach a class on getting published on Amazon. I'd love to include a copy of this blog post if you're okay with that. Just let me know. Thanks.

May 28, 2013 at 8:08 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Hitch--I could swear I left a response to this last night. I must have been really tired...Or maybe I made it on your blog...Anyway, thanks for the recommendation for Escargot. I'm impressed with them. I checked out Booknook. Looks great.

Lynn--Sure, you may use my post. I'm flattered. Just make sure you say my name in BIG LETTERS. :-) If you wanted to mention I do have a (very affordable) ebook to help newbies to the business HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE, that would be fabulous.

May 28, 2013 at 9:24 PM  
Blogger Helena Halme said...

Excellent post! I sort of made mistake no 1 in that I initially published just my first novel, The Englishman, in a 'putting the toe in water' kind of way. I had already written two other books but the professional editing and cover design process took much longer than I anticipated and I lost some of the momentum of the first book's success by the time the other two came out this March.

I'm now having difficulty with no 7. Patience is not a virtue I possess. Otherwise it's tick, tick all the way. I will reward myself with a coffee. :-)

May 29, 2013 at 2:56 AM  
Blogger AD Starrling said...

Thank you for this wonderful article full of great advice. Just found your blog via a link on Crime Fiction Collective.

May 29, 2013 at 8:36 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Helena--An awful lot of newbies do that. It's not a fatal mistake. It just means some of your promotional stuff isn't as valuable as it will be later on. And yeah, patience is awfully hard sometimes.

AD--Many thanks to Hitch for the shout out on her blog. Glad you found this helpful. Welcome!

May 29, 2013 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Michael Carnell said...

Good stuff. Linked to your post from over on my site where we have been having the discussion of self-publishing vs traditional publishing. Some of the issues you are talking about are exactly what we were discussing.

June 18, 2013 at 5:26 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Michael--Thanks for giving me a shout-out on your blog. Very interesting discussion. As you say, it's not how you publish, it's how professional you are about it.

Glad to find you via Google+. Google+ is getting a lot more active. Nice to have an alternative to Facebook!

June 18, 2013 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger J. Valentine said...

Great article! Would you like to share it on my blog? www.bugleboypublishing.wordpress.com. I teach people how to self- publish! And, would like you to guest post!

September 26, 2013 at 4:03 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

J. Valentine--Thanks! This blog operates under "creative commons." That means it's fine to excerpt from this post as long as you credit and link back to the blog.

For some reason, Blogger is blocking your profile, but I do occasionally guest blog. I'm getting ready to launch a new book, so I'm not taking on any extra blog work right now, but if you want a guest post for some time after November 15th, contact me through our "contact us" page.

September 26, 2013 at 10:29 AM  

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