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!
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!
In other words, there’s no formula for success as an Indie writer. There will be plenty of people who will tell you different, some will even offer you solutions, software, or fixes, that they promise will make your book great. They will be wrong.
Somerset Maugham said,
“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
That is the truth.
There is no magic wand (if there were more people would be using it) – the magic lies in you. In your dreams, in your heart and soul. BUT, there is no substitute for the work, for the actual doing of the writing. As Neil Gaiman says, you sit down in a chair and you write, it’s both as easy and as hard as that. Do it for the love of it, to create characters that speak to you, to make worlds real or magical, or dark and terrifying, but that IS the truest magic – the writing. If you have the vision, you’ll make it happen.
There are many people out there who will say they have the crystal ball for making your book sing. They don’t and won’t. A great editor will help make your prose clearer and offer helpful suggetions. The so-called experts? They’ll tell you to write this way, write that style, write to the market, or write to their formula. They might even have software that will do it for you. And that’s exactly what you’ll wind up with – a machine-generated formulaic novel, boring and uninspired – that will lack your unique voice, your unique characters, your creation. Most of those who write to formula – like Harlequin or Mills and Boon Romances – disappear or are forced to reinvent themselves as writers, with varying levels of success. Romances are popular, but the best ones like Outlander, are unique.
Tell your truth, in your unique way, with your unique voice, and you’ll make magic.
There will be plenty of naysayers, doubt-sowers, and advisors – some of whom will charge a pretty penny with the promise of making your book a bestseller.
Any time someone tells you exactly what they think is wrong and what will fix it, it probably won’t. That’s their story, not yours.
For example, no one, when it was written, would have believed that a story about a reanimated corpse would be popular, but it was. The writer – Mary Shelley. She became the mother of science fiction. The book? Frankenstein.
How about a book about a magical world featuring peoples you almost recognize where a terrible force threatens to enslave them all? The Lord of the Rings series – Tolkien. Only Shakepeare had written anything close, but Tolkien created epic/heroic fantasy.
Or a tale of a angsty teenage girl with an ultra-religious mother and abilities she doesn’t understand. Carrie – Stephen King.
Or a suspense-filled, dystopian thriller about people living in silos. Wool/Hugh Howey.
Or a story about an astronaut stranded on Mars – told primarily from his POV. The Martian by Andy Weir.
Both of those last, by the way, were originally indie/self-published.
In the end, no one can tell you how to write your story. Only you.
When Valerie and I started talking about the changes on the site, we realized that we were rapidly approaching seven years as a group. Seven years is incredible! And we got to talking about how many changes we’ve seen the community undergo, and how much we’ve looked at in the last few years, because we share everything we’ve learned as we learn it. And then we got to thinking how amazing our community is, that they share too. So…happy birthday guys!
And… welcome back to the Indie Author Group Blog. We’ve been offline a long time, while we planned and plotted and created some really neat new things, which will be rolled out in the coming weeks, plus, we’ll be updating and republishing a lot of advice, so it’s all go here.
But we primarily run IAG on Facebook, and support people with their careers – basically, we share our mistakes so people can avoid them, and news in the indie community and more. So much so that everyone is *off* writing right now, so we’re hoping to kick things up a notch with the blog. When we founded the group, KDP was in its infancy, as was Smashwords, and we’ve done it all. Both Valerie and I are hybrid authors, and we have a team of seven other moderators who help out with their expertise, so it’s nice to think that we’re starting a new phase now.
I’m glad you asked. New things include The Writers Information Reference Library (give it a Twirl 😉 ), and we’re launching a new blog on creating and marketing content on a shoestring, so you can save your money for the foundational stuff. We’ve got a new publishing schedule, new guidelines and some new toys that I’ll roll out later in the year, once we’ve beta tested them. We’ll be adding a provider database and all sorts of other new bits and pieces very soon too, but the biggest thing that’s new is we’ll be providing new and exclusive content at least fortnightly to the main blog, or Shoestring, and we’ll be constantly adding to Twirl, which is a bit like Quora, except its only one answer. Though we are looking at adding a Quora-like function later in the year too.
At [email protected] we’ll talk about the things that indie authors should know – review technology and other items that allow people to keep up with everything they need to in the indie author community – it’s not so much about the technology, but about using technology to make the most of the things around them. We’ll talk blogging software, and the software on blogs, plugins, RSS readers, how to search properly and more. That launches in September.
Finally, we’ve got a news only blog that takes the most up to the minute news on all things author. More on that in a bit, but if you’d like to subscribe, then head over to Breaking News. It’ll have commentary and information on all the things important to writers with a focus on publishing and platform news. We’ll also link to the best resources we use to research, so you can go straight to the horse’s mouth. That’ll be launching as soon as we’re settled into the new blog!
And of course, our social media presence will remain.
Finally, Valerie and I want to thank our team and our members. WIthout you guys, Valerie’s idea, and the work that we both do would never be the same and we’re grateful for our community, every single day.
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.
In the beginning, there were the bards, the storytellers, and the spoken word.
And then, language was written down. Books became rare, hand-copied treasures.
Gutenberg changed that by inventing the printing press.
With the printing press came a new way for storytellers to share their tales. As time went by, multiple venues grew for those stories.
And an industry was born.
Publishers eventually sprung up; businesses who decided what stories would be printed, and then agents who sold those stories to those publishers.
And then, lo, there was self-publishing. First as vanity ‘publishers’ who would take advantage of those who could not pass the publishers’ gatekeepers, to fuel the dreams of those who thought they had wonderful stories to tell and a few who might have had those wonderful stories, filling their garages with their hopes and dreams. Only to watch them turn to dust.
Most, though, still though of traditional publishing as the only legitimate way to publish.
Then came Smashwords offering true self-publishing. However, there was one drawback – one had to read those first books on your computer or laptop. E-readers were few.
Smashwords was followed by Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble, who saw the limitations (and freedom!) of reading on the computer. Thus was born the e-reader in truth as Amazon’s Kindle, the Apple iBook app, the B&N Nook, all of which helped bring about the tablet.
As with all good things, though, times changed. The Nook was the better e-reader at first but B & N wasn’t certain what to do with it or Indie writers and so Amazon came along with the new, improved Kindle. Amazon gave Indie writers a true home. And they all lived happily ever after…or mostly.
Here the fairy tale ends and so it should because it is a fairy tale.
Publishing, whether traditional or self-publishing, is a business like any other. Despite its reputation for being the big, bad wolf of self-publishing, Amazon, like Apple, is a business. But it’s not primarily a self-publisher, any more than Apple is. You could look at Amazon as a mall while Apple is more like an electronics store. Only Smashwords, D2D (Draft to Digital) and Kobo (primarily Canada) are true self-publishers. And what do they owe authors? In truth? Nothing, absolutely nothing. They are ultimately responsible to their customers – readers. All they do is provide authors a venue, a method of getting their work in front of readers, in exchange for a varying portion of the proceeds. That’s it, and nothing more.
Is Amazon sometimes draconian? Yep. They’re a business, and not primarily a self-publishing business. As a business, they owe their customers and only their customers. Like all the other vendors, that’s how they make their money. So, when any supplier pays for reviews – rendering the review process untrustworthy – the company cracks down on reviews. When authors on another site misrepresented the content of their novels and/or had covers that many found too revealing, all but Smashwords cracked down on erotica. When an author gamed the system to make it appear as if they’d sold more books than they had, they started looking at the sales and reviews of other authors.
Did they warn authors they were going to do that? No. Amazon – and other vendors – don’t have to. They are responsible to their customers, not their suppliers. And that’s true across the industry. Despite their avowed democratic and egalitarian outlook, even Smashwords had to bow to their distributors/customers – there are limits to what some distributors will permit when it comes to covers and content. In the one case, a father with his child on his lap looked for books about Daddies – and got an eyeful of content not suitable for small children. All because a few writers decided they didn’t want their books relegated to a separate corner.
Even vendors aren’t pure as the driven snow, though, one particular company colluded with traditional publishers to raise the price of e-books, primarily to cut another company off at the knees. This is why many traditionally published e-books are priced above the cost of paperbacks, even though e-books cost pennies to produce compared to the expense of printing paperbacks.
What do Indie authors owe vendors, whether Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, B&N, D2D or Kobo? In a lot of ways, they owe everything. Where else can they go to print their novels, their way?
Authors owe an understanding of the rules of the site. They should then follow those rules. If you notice one thing about the example given, it’s that in many cases it was an author or authors who pushed the limits, and a lot of innocent authors who followed the rules paid the price along with them. With hundreds of thousands of new books added every day, sites like Amazon and Apple must rely on their algorithms to detect problems.
How can we decrease the likelihood that we’ll be impacted?
First, read and follow the rules of the site.
Second, get legitimate, organic reviews – not from friends/family, not from review ‘exchanges’, but from sales and ARCs (advance reader/review copies). Third, be professional – have a professional attitude, purchase a professional cover, have your book professionally edited. And, on the be professional front, stop complaining and don’t talk badly about a vendor. What business wants to deal with a vendor who complains about them all the time or talks badly about them in public or social media? If you don’t like them, take your business elsewhere. You might take a pay cut, but you’ll do yourself and the provider a favor.
Oh, and stop complaining about how unfair it all is. It is unfair that a few unscrupulous ‘writers’ created the problem. Go to another site if you don’t like it. Indie writers are a drop in the overall bucket of a vendors offerings, however great some of us think our ‘great American novel is’.
Stop biting the hand that feeds you, or it will stop, and then where will you be? Nowhere. And while you’re at it, you’ll squash the hopes and dreams of thousands of others.
We don’t often feature these products on the group blog, but this is one designed for indie authors, and it doesn’t have affiliate links AND you can donate 10% to charity, so we thought we’d see how it went.
Storybundle and HumbleBundle feature products in ‘bundles’ at a significant amount of money off, and if you’re looking to study or intake information, this bundle is a great one for at least one or two perspectives to give you something to think about in the indie author community. Plus, it’s something that the mod team talk about a lot – making sure that the advice we’re listening to isn’t from people just recycling information or not sharing from experience.
Here’s the blurb:
From curator Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Hundreds of writing books get published every year, and most of those books are written by people who have written…a book on writing. I kid you not. These people have a method or a scheme or they teach a writing class—even though I have no idea how they get those gigs. (Okay, I do. They get an MFA, which universities seem to think is more important than actual writing experience.)
Those writing books have nothing in common with the writing books in this bundle. Together, the authors of the books in The Write Stuff 2016 Bundle have more than two-hundred years of writing experience, and have contributed more than five hundred award-winning and bestselling books (fiction and nonfiction) to the world of literature.
We know writing, the writing life, and what makes a writing career. And we want to share it all with you.
You can grab your bundle here. And keep checking back on the blog as we talk about the advice we’re working on for you guys ourselves!
I n all honesty I suspect that Scribd found the path of least resistance in their romance/erotica decision. (Witness the petitions to Jeff Bezos/Amazon asking him to change the review policy.) The truth of the matter is likely to be a more harsh reality – a lot of romance/erotica readers were downloading books, finding them to be dreck and so they didn’t finish them, they just deleted them off their e-readers and went onto the next. Scribd, however, still had to pay the writer for the unread book. So, rather than try to evaluate hundreds of thousands of e-books, they just decided not to carry the vast majority of romance/erotica.
Here is the truth. Amazon/Jeff Bezos owes us nothing. If you want tea and sympathy, go to Smashwords. Mark Coker is a genuinely nice person and will offer you a great deal of encouragement. However, Smashwords also pays quarterly, not monthly, so be prepared to wait for the check. Also post to B&N, Kobo and D2D for the most bang for your post. You’ll make a fraction of what you make with Amazon, but there you go. Understand that Amazon is a business – a business that provides a venue for Indie authors to post their books and – possibly – make money at it. Indie authors are a drop in the vast bucket of products Amazon offers. The vast majority of their profits come from the Big Five publishers and all the other products Amazon offers. Be ungrateful for the opportunity, become enough of a pain in the butt and they’ll drop the program like the annoying hot potato it’s become.
Sadly, a large number of Indie authors came into the game thinking ‘oh, yeah, I can write my novel at long last’, it’s easy and I can make money at it. As many of you have now noticed, the easy bit is harder than most thought. Writing a book isn’t necessarily easy, and writing a good book is even harder still. Even worse, some folks are still looking for the magic wand that will write the book for them. Some also turned to Indie writing because they suspected that the Big Five wouldn’t take them (not to mention the fact that the author gets a pittance of what the publisher gets. We need a Taylor Swift for that.) And that’s before you get to the marketing. Then there’s the cover art, the editing, formatting and deciding where to upload it. Too many are taking shortcuts, unfortunately, skipping over the most important, the most expensive, and the hardest parts of the process – editing and cover art. Just take a look at many of the Indie books being offered. (Especially the erotica since the explosion of 50 Shades.)
Think this is harsh? Take a look at Scribd, a subscription service much like Kindle Unlimited. They’re removing a vast number of romance/erotica novels – even good ones. Why? They say that too many readers are downloading so many books they’re putting them out of business.
Regarding reviews… Remember the comment about Scribd and the crappy books? It might be overly simplistic, but there is some degree of truth there. Most of those awful books didn’t get reviews saying they were awful. They were just deleted. For all we complain about the mean people out there, most people really aren’t and it takes time to write a review. Rather than take the time, they just deleted and moved on. Want to get reviews? Understand that unless you write something people want to write a review about – and even if they do – most won’t. It takes time. Try to write something good enough they’ll want to review.
Want to get your reviews removed or to devalue reviews? Forget to ask those people who received ARCs or free copies to add ‘I received this book in exchange for an honest review’ to their review so Amazon won’t pull it. Participate in easily trackable review exchanges or give positive reviews to books you haven’t purchase or read. That’ll do it.
If you think Indie publishing is hard, try traditional. Write query letters to agents/publishers, gather rejections, hope for the moment they ask for a revise and resubmit, or a request for a partial or a full, get your hopes up, get them squashed when they decide not to take your novel because it’s not a reiteration of King or Roberts or Sparks or James, or whoever is the flavor of the moment. (For perspective, where is the writer of Twilight right now?) Then, TADA, you find a publisher who will take you. HURRAY. And then you discover you’ll still have to do the editing as well as a large part of the marketing, just to be a mid-list writer – unless you’re one of the rare few who make it big. Or you can follow the Hugh Howey model and write a unique novel, self-publish it, and let the publishers find you. (By the way, he can now afford a boat. A biggish boat.)
The best things in life aren’t free – they take work. Do you want reviews for your book? Do the work. Make people want to review it, but also understand they they don’t have to.