Well, the team have spoken, we’re updating the site, and there’s a lot of fun changes coming up. I thought today though, I’d share some of our best bits on the site.
Resources for miles
At the core of things at the Indie Author Group is our mission statement. Both Valerie Douglas and I felt, early on, supported by the rest of the team, that a safe space to get advice as an indie author. We don’t believe in judging others for their choices and are firmly all about making the most of everything. So, in 2011, when she set up the group, I was one of her first moderators, and we’ve gone on to build a really great resource. And we have an amazing team of moderators too! We founded the site late 2011, but the group will be 10 May 2021!
What you can find in the group
Honestly? A little of everything. We have resources that range from advice and support, to sharing information and tips and tricks. And a listing for the group’s Twitter list, Facebook pages, service providers (cover designers, editors, formatters, audiobooks, and more). If you’re not there already – why not? (tip, if you’re not, answer ALL the questions, and be aware we don’t allow advertising, at all, bar in communal documents for those reasons).
Happy birthday to the Indie Author Group. Founded just as the trend of self-publishing took off by Valerie Douglas, and her co-founder Kai Viola, we are a vibrant team of writers and artists that look after one of the oldest communities for self-publishing and hybrid publishing on the Facebook. It’s our birthday today! We’ll be celebrating next week though, so watch the blog, group and page! (or the blog page!) To celebrate our 9th birthday, we’ll be overhauling, adding resources and doing a lot more, so watch this space!
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Later, Asimov added a fourth, or zeroth law, that preceded the others in terms of priority:
0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
I have many theories on AI, given I’m eventually doing a Ph.D. on it (hence the combined STEM degree now), but I’m not going to address the fallacies and intricacies of why the three laws (and the additional zero law, which is almost the same, but not quite, as law 1) fail and cause problems. If you want to know why there’s a plethora of books out there exploring that and similar issues.
No, instead, I wanted to talk about how the three laws apply to writing.
But I’m not a robot…
As you’re quite right to observe, it’s highly unlikely that you are a robot. You might be, but then, that opens up questions, again, not for a writers’ blog. But when you look at the three laws of robotics and change the context to writing, something interesting happens.
An author may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. I would argue this is common decency, but when there’s little of each online, it’s a good thing to bear in mind. It goes into a slightly broader concept though. While there’s no admonition to not harm our characters (cause we might), there is a duty in every community for the weakest to be cared for by the stronger. Writing is not a zero-sum game, so, if anything, I’d argue the first of the Writer’s three laws is that we need to work to prevent bullying. As we watch the mess with the RWA unfold and look back on Cockygate, I wonder why it isn’t a credo adopted by more. Beyond that, it also tells you not to hurt yourself. Planning and self-care are critical.
An author must obey the rules of its community, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. I think the easiest way to explain this one is 1) Don’t pick on someone for upholding rules on a group, even if you personally think they’re not fair. It’s their group, you agreed and continue to agree when you joined, and to be frank, bullying a moderator is something that we’re going zero tolerance on – and that includes if we *hear* of it from a friend that’s a mod. Beyond that, mob mentality is dangerous online – there’s a difference between defending the downtrodden and forming a lynching mob, and I think this law aptly states that. If an author is unhappy with a review and asks their tribe to retaliate, maybe question the worth of that tribe, and the person leading it?
An author must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. Ah, you may say, doesn’t that mean if I don’t agree with people, I get to retaliate? Nope. You need to protect *your own existence*. What Jilly, Bob or Timmy does, as long as it’s not hurting you, isn’t important to you. I’m actually interpreting this one to be ‘don’t compare yourself to others, someone will get hurt’.
Law 1, Kindness. Law 2, fair play and Law 3, personal obligation. All three make for the best writers and the best communities. Personal obligation does mean sticking up for the rights of others if you’re sure you should, but it also means accepting that you ‘do you’. One of the hardest lessons I learned last year was that if I’m not careful, I will stay away for too long because I have nothing to give. My personal obligation became to me and only me for a while, and that was ok. But I have an obligation to you guys too. So, Law 3…it could also be read as ‘help yourself, help others’.
I don’t really agree that the zero law exists in the case of writers, but there is one final one I think all writers need to follow.
Law 4 – An author must ensure that everything they put out reflects the best of their work and the best of them. Each and every one of the team knows it’s hard to get things done in a budget, and we all sacrifice, but we are calling each and every one of our members to consider their reputations this year. Build good things, save and make things to the best of your ability, and only release books when they are professionally edited, covered and formatted. That way, you’re already ahead of a lot of people out there, who might see your example and follow suit (thereby helping you with the second and third laws ;)).
Yes, I belabored that one a bit, but I’m sure Asimov would forgive me.
Do you agree with my three laws of writing? What would you add?
Why making a five-year plan *after* New Year might work better for you
Hi guys! I know it’s been a while that we’ve been writing regularly here, but we’ve got an actual editorial calendar and a plan now, and we’re back. Valerie and I will be blogging and we’ll be introducing the mods that are around, old and new, throughout the year. We’ll also be looking for guest posters, but I’ll explain more on that in a few days 🙂
In 2011, Valerie Douglas put out a call for moderators. I think I was either first, or one of the first to say ‘I’ll help’. We’ve run this site, and others for almost as long, but we took a sabbatical last year, to think about what we wanted to do. And now….we’re back!
But first…. This year is a fun year for us. Not only are we NINE in May, but Valerie is a stone’s throw from 30 books, unless I miscounted, and that’d be funny cause I’m doing a Combined STEM degree, mostly maths. No, we’re not back in 2011, when this all started, but things are very similar again.
So…to start with, we thought we’d invite you guys to share your goals. Same rules as always, you can use the link in the form that you fill in to make a comment, but any URLS in the comment bodies will be rejected. And if you’re not sure how to make goals, hang around this week – we’re doing a crash course on this, and some other stuff that might help.
Quick tips to setting goals
While I’ll be sharing many more articles on building yearly and five-yearly plans and your vision board for the decade, using free tools, the biggest and most important tip is that any goal you set (whether you call it a goal, a target, a resolution or where I’m going), is to be as specific as possible. Whether it’s “make six figures, five figures, four figures or three”, whether it’s to write a million, half a million or any range of words, whether it’s to publish 1-100 books, put a number on it, then tell *everyone*. Stick it in the sidebar of your blog if you have one. Put it on your Facebook, your Twitter, and check out our post on making an intentions post on Canva, on the 3rd.
And, share it in the comments on the blog. We’ll be here, cheering you on. You’ve got this – and we’ve got you. Happy New Year, guys!
Where the Benevolent Dictator consolidates all the 2018 ‘retrospectives’.
Okay, first, I know it’s fashionable to bash the ‘Zon, I love you guys, but really, get over it. Bashing doesn’t help. Amazon’s primary concern is its customers, NOT its suppliers. Readers not authors. At least they still pay better than traditional publishers.
On the other hand, some books do better on some sites than others. Amazon got burnt one too many times by authors who didn’t label their erotica books correctly – and a few parents got an eyeful when they searched books about Daddy and got daddy porn instead of children’s books. So they’ve been a lot more restrictive. Write erotica or erotic romance – especially the type some sites won’t? Smashwords is the place to go. (However, as much as I love Mark Coker, as Smashwords is where I published my first indie book – and I made good money there for a while – but that site could still use some more work. Compare with D2D.)
Another caution – if you use Amazon be careful with the ‘like’ parties. In fact, to be honest, stop liking anyone you haven’t read. There’s a glut of books out there (Mr. Coker is right on that) – and some of them are absolute dreck. Great covers are no guarantee. I saw a book with a brilliant cover, a terrible and confusing blurb, and an absolute lack of editing.
Some good writers have given up because they can’t get their well-received and well-reviewed book seen.
So, why are you killing your own book sales by promoting authors who may not deserve it? Better yet, how do you know they’ll promote you in return? Quality counts more than quantity. Quantity looks good but doesn’t always help. I used to promote other authors – but only a few returned the favor. Now I have a rule – ask me to like your page after you’ve liked mine. Promote my book and I’ll promote yours.
Audio is your new best friend. Everyone is doing it – Amazon, Draft to Digital,
Smashwords and iBooks. For busy people trying to squeeze in time to experience new authors or books they can listen to one on their commute, on long trips by car or plane, or while cooking or doing housework. One book, with a great narrator, can entertain for hours or days.
For promotion, expand beyond Facebook – but don’t abandon it entirely. Advertise elsewhere, too – like Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. There are inexpensive options to use those sites. New Release – try Bookbub’s new release freebie. Shop around to find other alternatives.
Good news/Bad News Books have always been a refuge during times of economic uncertainty, and indie authors have always offered books at a better price than traditional publishers. Which makes us the more economical choice.
BTW – the new price point of choice may be $3.99 – $4.99 for most standard genre novels like romances, or shorter mysteries.
We are now taking guest posts for three of our blogs, and we’d love to see our readers and members join in. If you’d like to guest post with us, all of the details are here!
The main rule of submitting to the blogs are that they CANNOT be fluff, no use posts that promote you. We are very keen to keep the quality of the blog high, therefore all posts should be your original content (we do accept reprints), with links to anything that you’re asserting that is to be backed up. So, for example, if you say that ‘The Benevolent Dictator says that nothing sells one book like the next book’, it’d be brilliant if you could also link those words to the page (https://twirl.indieauthorgroup.com/selling-books/). This means people can see where you’re learning from. Please do not link YOUR OWN blog unless you are an expert – you’ve got your byline at the end for that.
Aside from no ads, we also ask that people do not use affiliate links. If you link to Amazon books, we reserve the right to change the links to our own affiliate link, per our privacy guidelines. We do ask, on the whole that you don’t write articles with Amazon links in if you can avoid it, to avoid issues of this kind.
If you are linking to your own blog, we do ask that you link to specific posts, and that your own privacy guidelines are up to date.
Your byline can contain three links – one of which should ideally be a blog, or other site for people to follow you. We do not allow friend request links from Facebook – you must use a Facebook page.
Finally, we reserve the right to reject any articles that don’t work for our site, or fits with our guidelines. Full guidelines are of course listed here. Once you’ve read our guidelines, you can submit here. The blog posts will then be taken to tech or marketing, or posted to the main blog as the team decides is right. Please ensure you include your email, your byline and any images when you submit. We will not respond to return articles if we reject them, but we will of course let you know about accepted articles and your publication date. If you do not hear back within six weeks of submission, please consider that your article has been rejected.
We invite people to submit up to three posts. We know the categories are odd on the form, don’t worry about that, but if we reject all three, we do ask that you look at our guidelines (which are clearly listed in our post here, on the guidelines and at the bottom of the form) and then wait a few months.
Good luck, we’re really looking forward to seeing your submissions!
A lot of people will tell you that book reviews determine whether a book sells or not, that reviews with four or five stars sell books. While reviews help, that’s not what sells a book.
What sells a book is good writing. A storyline that captures their imagination, characters readers care about – heroes they want to root for and villains they understand. (Even the villain wants to be the hero of his own story.)
Reviews can help, star ratings can help, but as you can see from the Bookbub graphic here, plot, price, and quality come before ratings and reviews. More importantly, though, not just any reviews, but honest, organic ones – in other words, not family/friends but from other readers. Readers are more likely to buy because a family or friend recommended it, but not a review from yours. (With thanks to Bookbub, see the link attached to the graphic for more information.)
Word of mouth is the best marketing.
Also, see this – https://killzoneblog.com/2018/07/it-helps-if-you-can-write.html
James Scott Bell knows whereof he speaks.
Reviews and stars help, but nothing beats a well-written book.
Update and addendum – Another voice about reviews from our friends at ALLi
It’s always sad to see the demise of a platform that supports authors, and I heard (though never personally used) lots of great things about Pronoun.
But it seems like they’re at the end of the road.
Here’s part of the announcement.
Two years ago Pronoun set out to create a one-of-a-kind publishing tool that truly put authors first. We believed that the power of data could be harnessed for smarter book publishing, leveling the playing field for indie authors.
We are proud of the product we built, but even more so, we’re grateful for the community of authors that made it grow. Your feedback shaped Pronoun’s development, and together we changed the way authors connect with readers.
Unfortunately, Pronoun’s story ends here.
While many challenges in indie publishing remain unsolved, Macmillan is unable to continue Pronoun’s operation in its current form.
Any groups marked with a star are closed groups – that is, people that aren’t members can’t see anything in the group until they join. If you advertise on any groups not set up to talk reviews, or other information, you WILL be removed. Pages marked with an (A) allow some form of advertising, either reviews or posts that fit the category or subject of the page.
The Indie Author Community is a great place to be right now. There’s never been a better time to be a writer, in my opinion, and there are some really smart and engaged people out there.
Unfortunately, there’s also a dark side. And there are four things from the ‘dark side’ that I’m here to say that indie authors really need to stop.
1) Disavowing all professional help at any time – while I totally understand limited budgets and not being able to afford professional help, it’s really not right to then tell others that they do not need it. You are not them, and I’ve yet to read a self-edited book that was as good as one that had other eyes on it. And while some people *can* design their own covers, I’m the perfect example of why people should not – I can’t draw to save myself and I know it.
And while some of us (myself included) can format, if you’re not sure about styles nor how to deal with filtered HTML issues, perhaps you need to hire someone to help you.
Instead – Accept that indie author still need to hire outside of their own sphere of reference, and save for it. If you don’t have the necessary skills, find a helper! Your readers will thank you for it later. And you’ll learn from each of the processes. Not sure who to hire, or struggling to find people? We’ve got some really great lists of editors and other service providers on our group.
2) The phrase ‘if this isn’t allowed, admins please remove’. Not only is this at best, an ill-advised comment, it’s also a red flag to anyone that administrates or moderates a group that you’re not reading the rules, or don’t want to follow them, or are posting to too many groups at once.
At worst, it’s a sign that the poster is spamming everywhere with the same message – all of which generally amounts to ‘not really the sort of person active groups like to see’.
If you think that’s harsh, look at it another way. I moderate several large groups who have a blanket ‘no ads, no exceptions’ rule and between the active moderators, we delete between 14 and 40 spam messages a day. Someone saying ‘if this isn’t allowed, please delete’ just pushes people’s buttons. And nine times out of ten, it’s still something that people shouldn’t post.
Instead – Take a minute to read the rules, or if it says ‘if in doubt, contact us’, do so. If you don’t know who the moderators are, you can find them on Facebook under members then, ‘admins’. Please do however, give them time to answer.
Please also bear in mind that the rules are there for a reason – whether y0u feel it unfair that others have ruined it for you in the past or that your post shouldn’t be considered advertising because of (x), then ask yourself why you should be allowed to and others aren’t. And remember too, though readers don’t know everything about how the indie author community works, if they see authors that don’t follow the rules, they’re bound to consider you less readable.
3) Private messaging lots of people with a request to read your book – Not only is it against the rules of Facebook, it’s stupidly annoying to receive private messages from people that others barely know. It’s also important to remember that mass use of the messaging system is not only spamming, but you’re likely to put off people, especially if they’ve just added you/that’s your only contact with them.
BONUS bad idea – messaging people and adding them to events, groups and other places without their permission. It’s not OK to email your whole address book when you launch a book – it’s not OK to message people or post on their personal/professional walls. It’s not to add people to your groups. ASK, don’t assume.
Instead – consider actually using Facebook to interact with people – if you ASK for help instead of assuming it’s OK to message people and intrude (because that’s what messages are – you’re intruding on their personal space to ask for something, no matter how nicely) you’re more likely to get help. You can’t just add someone and do it straight away.
4) Tell another writer they have to help you because you’re waiting to be discovered/ telling people who have added you that if you they don’t buy your book they’re not being supportive/to defriend you – if you can’t see a problem with this one, I’m here to break it to you that writing is not like the field of dreams. We do not build it and they’ll come. It’s more like build, decorate, share, open house THEN they’ll come. And as above, using other authors to help you with your ‘open house’ is absolutely unfair. It’s one thing to get help from friends, it’s another to spam others. Accusing others of not helping when they don’t know how to help or expecting everyone that knows you to buy your book really is something that too many indie authors do, usually in desperation. Not everyone is placed to read your book all at once.
Instead – the two things to bear in mind is it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and that if you’re not marketing and are instead wasting all your time collecting friends, posting to their walls/messaging them and repeating again and again, not only are you running the risk of being banned from the networks you’re doing it on, you’re also driving people away instead of attracting them.
If you’re really struggling to promote, and you’re not sure what to do, there’s plenty of advice available in the indie author community – come join us, for example at the Indie Author Group and Indie Author Writing group on Facebook and join in – we’re strictly no ads, but there’s lots of great advice there and on our website!