Reality Check for Indie Authors

scribdn 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 CoAmazon logoker 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.

Writing series/sequels

Looks like a good bookFirst, readers love series/sequels. However, the next book in any series should always be a standalone book, that is unless you really want to annoy your readers. And you should only write it because you have more to say, because you like the world in which you wrote it, or because you love the characters so much that you want to spend more time with them. Because if you did, your readers probably will, too.

If you’re going to write a sequel, though, don’t assume that a reader read book one. They may only have seen an intriguing cover or read the blurb for book two or three. I know of one writer who took a lot of backlash because her ‘sequel’ required readers to have read book one – they felt it was a cheat, that book two was just a way to make them buy book one. That’s why every book in the series should stand on its own.

You also have to be careful not to rehash all the info in book one in book two. It should be organic, as part of the story, something that can be shared via dialogue between two characters or as a memory. New readers need to know those shared experiences, so they understand what motivates the characters, why they’re friends or enemies. (Ditto Books Three, Four, and so on.) If you do your job right, then your readers will want to know more, and they’ll read Book One.

When you market Book Two, market it on its own merits. If you set it up correctly, the subtitle and cover will let readers know it’s part of a series. Series can be challenging for just that reason.

If you knew you were going to write a sequel to Book One, or a series, it’s much easier. Just make sure you actually have those books written. Or at least Book Two, with Book Three in-process, if it will be a series. There is nothing worse for a reader than having a writer talk about a sequel or series, but then they don’t deliver. If you didn’t, it gets complicated. For one thing, you need to join the books under a series name. Hopefully, you have an idea what that will be. It also means you’ll need to go back to book one and add that series name to the listing for the book. Ideally, too, the books should have similar covers. Those covers will automatically announce that there is a connection between the books. Without it, it makes it difficult for readers to know it’s a series. That may mean you need to purchase new covers, or contract with your original cover artist to produce a similar one. Similar covers will tell readers that it’s part of a sequel or series, reassuring them that they’ll find more books by their new favorite writer.

And nothing sells Book One like Book Two.

Don’t make me pull out my teeny tiny violin…

teeny tiny violinLately, there have been a lot of writers crying the blues about their books – “I’m promoting like mad, but no one is downloading my book,” or  “I can’t get any reviews,” or “Someone gave me a bad one-star review.” Oh, gee, I say as I search for it on the interwebz, I’m so sorry. My books are selling, but 1. I promote judiciously and 2. I follow the standard maxim – Nothing sells Book One like Book Two.

And while I’ve garnered my share of good reviews, I’ve gotten my share of bad ones, too.

Then I find the book in question. One look at the cover and >wince< Really? Who created that image? A five-year-old? Or it’s stock images fiddled together. And you thought that shade of green was good for the font? And the font? Papyrus? Well, maybe if the book was about ancient Egypt…

Well, that explains a lot.

Okay, now I remember, you were the one who said, I don’t need no stinking cover artist, I can make my own. Um. Oh, darlin’, bless your heart, yes you did and yes you do. Or you said, I don’t have a lot of money, and listened to those folks who suggested that you create your own. Unless you’re an artist or a graphic artist, you really should get a professional. Now I say this as someone who did make their own cover – and even won an award for it – but I was a portrait artist once. Even so, I found I wasn’t getting the readers I wanted. So, I saved until I could afford a professional – and it made an astonishing difference in sales and reviews. If money is tight, try using a pre-made cover by a good cover artist. You might find the perfect one, or you might find one that will do for now.

There’s nothing that screams amateur more than a bad cover. And I’ve seen some truly bad ones. Most writers are truly awful cover artists.

That might be one reason folks aren’t downloading your book.

You do have reviews – most of which are astonishingly complimentary. “Great book” “Best I’ve read in a long time.” So, why isn’t your book doing better?

It’s that one bad review, though, that raises eyebrows. “The editing is terrible.” Well. we all get those now and then, sometimes in phone-text speech (badly spelled, which makes the review even more questionable), or debating the placement of commas.

Then I look at the book sample provided. You also said that you didn’t think you needed an editor, and it shows. Even editors will admit that they need editors.

There are books that can help – The Elements of Style will help you correct the most common errors. Go to your local high school or university, see if one of the instructors would be willing to do a line edit (corrections for grammar) for you. Then find an editor who specializes in your type of writing. Find several. Ask if they’re available, send them a sample chapter, and save your money.

Whether self-published, hybrid or traditionally published, you first owe your readers the best quality writing you can do. You owe the same to every other indie, self-published writer struggling to be taken seriously as well. Don’t tarnish yourself or others with less than your best. Don’t make me pull out my teeny, tiny violin if you didn’t.




What to write. For writers and the like.

Dear writer,

Maybe you already have a very clear image of what you want to write. If so, power to you. If you have not such a clear image, power and pictures to you to get the image you want. I’m going to try and put down some help here for you. Help that I think might be good advice, although opinions, as mileage, might vary.


This is a tricky one sometimes, because you may want to write a vampire-zombie romance in a science fiction setting. Nothing wrong with that, but before you have a go at it, see what you feel is the most important part of your story. Vampires? Zombies? The romance? Or is it more the science fiction side of your story?

What I mean here is: don’t muddle your story with too many genres. They can end up a confusing mess for your readers, and that’s probably the last thing you want (although I take no responsibility on that). Confused readers won’t promote your work. Crossing boundaries in genres is a great thing, but there is such a thing as too much.

Tense and view

Decide on a tense (past tense, present tense) and a view (first person, third person, third person overview, omnipresent) and stick with that. It’s too easy to flip from one to the other but you’ll have a ball editing all that back into one persistent story. Make sure you understand the possibilities and limitations of the form you choose. Therefore make sure you know how you want your story to look and base your form (tense, view) on that. If you write a story that has many action lines going in many places, picking a first person view isn’t the smartest thing to do (although it’s possible).

Write complex. Or not.

Who are you writing for? How do you want people to read your work?

If you write for children, don’t write too many long sentences, don’t overuse long and complicated words. If you write for a general adult public, consider the level of literacy and the range of their vocabulary. If someone needs to look up three words per chapter to make sense of your story, there’s a good chance they’ll toss the book aside. On the other hand, if someone breezes through your work without encountering any intellectual challenge, guess what will happen?

Keep you work consistent in that too. Don’t go from simple to complex to simple. That’s annoying.


Tie up your open ends. Don’t expect readers not to notice something that’s not ‘resolved’ in your story. Perhaps half of them won’t, but the other half will. Remember: contrary to real life, life inside a book has to make sense. No open ends. (Unless you intend to resolve those in a sequel.)

Our groups and subgroups, and the award winning project!

The Indie Author Group has won a Preditors and Editors award!

We were voted BEST DISCUSSION FORUM, 2014!

And while we’re here – would you like to join some new writer’s groups?

Our main writers groups are our closed one – Indie Author Group
Our open group is smaller, but just as friendly  – Indie Author Writing Group

On top of that we have a Triberr tribe, where we can all share our blogs.
Or, if you’re hankering for genre discussion groups, we run a whole pile of them!

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.

Indie Book Review – Indie supernatural and Paranormal writers – Indie romance writers

Indie thriller writers – Indie Fantasy Writers – Indie science fiction writers

Indie Horror writers – Indie Mystery group – *Indie Erotica Authors

Indie Non fiction – Indie Historical Writers Group*Indie transgressive writer’s group – Indie historical fantasy group

 Young Adult Book Group – Indie Author Children’s writers – The Indie Short stories, poetry, novellas and Lit indie group

[email protected] Heroines (A) – Certified Heroes (A) – Winter Reads (a seasonal group – the name changes for the season) (A)

*Indie author Writing Prompts –  Indie author Blogging group – Indie (Camp) Nanowrimo

*Indie Author Marketing And Social Media (After the Novel)– Indie Author Freelancers (Write and Earn)

 Valerie also runs Ohio Writers Group while Kai runs ‘Write the Cotswolds

So you’re a writer. Then be one.

Dear reading writer,

typewriterA while ago I had a very interesting and eye-opening talk with someone. Before I go into this, let me ask you a question. How many of you look at yourself as a real author/writer? With this I mean a writer like Stephen King, Agatha Christie, George R.R. Martin, Jackie Collins and others in that range of fame? If you do then you can stop reading here, there’s nothing new for you then.

If you don’t – like I don’t – then here’s the thing: Start acting like one. Stop seeing yourself as someone who struggles to put out a book and then worries about promotion and sales. (Once the book is out, tell the world about it in a proper way. Don’t spam. But that’s not the point of this post.)

Believe it or not, but the people who buy, read and like your book look at you as a small George Martin, as the next Jackie Collins (depending on your genre). You’re not the person who could live down the street who put together this reading thing. No. You are the author of the book.

Do you look up at film stars and writers, then put yourself in the position of being looked up at for a moment, and think of the people who read your work as you. They look up to you, because you are the writer. The author.

I’ll leave it at this. Think about it. Try to see the change in mindset that you have to push yourself into.

Maybe you are afraid that you will fall into delusions of grandeur because of this and that’s the reason you don’t do it. Well, forget that. Delusions will happen anyway if you’re up for those. You’ll be you. Just dare to put on the writer-crown (not hat. Crown) and wear that with pride. You do something special. Dare to act like it.

Points of view…

From The Fellowship of the Rings – “There were some that shook their heads and thought that this was too much of a good thing; it seemed unfair that anyone should possess (apparently) perpetual youth as well as (reputably) inexhaustible wealth.

“It will have to be paid for….”

Notice that the sentence is in no discernible particular voice.


From Dune – ‘Paul’ heard the fear in her voice and wondered at it.

Jessica spoke without turning. “Reverend  Mother is waiting in my morning room. Please hurry.”


The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam sat in a tapestried chair watching mother and son approach…


Omniscient Point of View aka the POV of many movies (like Lord of the Rings and Dune) and the bane of many an editor’s existence. Also the Point of View of the novels Anna Karenina, The Lord of the Rings, Middlemarch, Charlotte’s Web and Dune. Also known as cinematic POV for its portrayal of scenery and the POV of the characters – as well as their thoughts. (Although thoughts are better conveyed through their expressions and actions, but that may just be me.) AKA the POV of the generation raised by the movies.

For those who have seen The Lord of the Rings movies, imagine the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring. Neither the movie nor the book is told solely from Frodo’s POV – at least part of the time Frodo is unconscious. The POV changes to Aragorn, Arwen (in her confrontation at the river in the movie), Elrond, Gandalf (when surprised by Saruman) and Samwise. The same is true of the books.

But it starts in Frodo’s point of view. It’s important to establish the primary voice or voices so the reader can identify with them.

Character points of view can be separated by spaces, as with the passage from Dune, or by a string of asterisks (*****).  Whichever you choose, be consistent. I do either, depending on the book, and until all the major characters have been introduced. Once that’s done the ones that work together talk to each other and interact as a group.

“Third-person point of view allows the author to be like a movie camera moving to any set and recording any event, as long as one of the characters is lugging the camera. It also allows the camera to slide behind the eyes of any character, but beware–do it too often or awkwardly, and you will lose your reader very quickly. When using third person, don’t get in your characters’ heads to show the reader their thoughts, but rather let their actions and words lead the reader to figure those thoughts out.” (Bob Mayer, The Novel Writer’s Toolkit: A Guide to Writing Novels and Getting Published. Writer’s Digest Books, 2003).

Which leads to a caveat. Many a writer advises that you end each chapter with a question (not a literal one, but a figurative question. “He looked out across the hills and wondered what would happen next….) That can be a bit stilted. For myself, I end the Chapters as the end of a scene is naturally reached. If I can end it on a question or a cliffhanger, I do, but only if it happens organically.

The second caveat is this – it is omniscient POV, but while the unseen narrator knows everything that’s going on, be careful not to presage events. Even in one of my books where the lead character has foresight, he can’t see everything. And readers like to be part of the journey.

I’m not sure when Omniscient POV went out of style except perhaps that it’s much harder to write and edit than other Points of View and it requires a very good editor in order to avoid ‘head-hopping’. It takes a good writer to properly convey the multiple POVs so that the reader/editor knows who is doing/saying/thinking what, and a good editor to make sure that in the novel they all stay straight. One of my editors insisted that there always be at least three paragraphs in a particular POV. I do that where I can, but there was one scene – a reunion of parents and child – in one of my books where I couldn’t. The scene was too crucial to showing the intensity of the feelings between parents separated from a grown but beloved child, I couldn’t eliminate it.

So, we’re going to walk you through the two most difficult POVs – omniscient, 1st person – and the most common – third person – so you can decide which POV will work best for your book.

Aspiring writers

You’ve probably heard the phrase, or perhaps even used it yourself. “I’m an aspiring writer.”

The free dictionary says this about aspire:

intr.v. as·pired
1. To have a great ambition or ultimate goal; desire strongly: aspired to stardom.
2. To strive toward an end: aspiring to great knowledge.
3. To soar.

If you are an ‘aspiring writer’, please stop being one. Be a writer or be no writer.  How can you strive to be a writer when you don’t write, or don’t write enough? If you insist you’re an ‘aspiring writer’, please explain to me how you define that middle ground between someone who is no writer and someone who is a writer? Do you have half a manuscript that needs to be finished before it can be published? Then you’re a staggering writer, one who needs his or her behind kicked to get the bloody thing done.
Sit your rear down and write, one word after the other. Like Neil Gaiman does, like Chuck Wendig does, like J.K. Rowling did when she wrote the Harry Potter books and George R.R. Martin when he wrote those tomes that make Game of Thrones.
If you feel you can’t finish the thing then throw it away and start something you can finish. If you run aground again then throw the thing away and stop trying. Stop wasting your time and be content to be a happy reader who tried.
Don’t be an aspiring writer. Write or don’t write. If you don’t or can’t write then writing’s not for you. There is no shame in that. Maybe skydiving is for you, or mountain biking. That’s not for me. Writing’s for me. Care to join me in that? You’re more than welcome!

Indie author group roundup, week ending 26th January

Welcome to this weeks’ ‘weekly round up’. Featured moderator of the week is Valerie – please pop on over to her profile and say hiya, ask a question, let her know about your favorite book of hers. She loves to talk to other writers and readers!

It’s been a busy week here at IAG HQ, with blog updates and new features for writers that blog for us regularly.  Now your profile can include your Amazon page link (after a minimum of one submitted article, you can have a login for the site), and we’ll soon be adding a way to feature up to five books on your profile.  All you have to do is create a post for us and the bio and links back are all yours!

This week on the Indie Author Group

We’ve had some amazing questions on the group.  Some really good answers too, so do click through and read the comments and add your own!
Rick Gualtieri asked where your sales are split by market.

Isabelle Leroux asks about Songs in Books.

Christina Bates asks if you indent character dialogue.

Great advice from Valerie Douglas about Proof copies….

A discussion on ‘unexpected character moves‘ by Elaine Angelus Kehler

And Do you need an MFA to write?  by Peter Bahi


This week on the Blog

We’ve had a fairly quiet week on the blog, but we did launch a whole new column type – the Quick Indie guides to….
Twitter!  We’ll be sharing a new one every Friday.  Next week is part 1 to the Facebook guide.

This week in the community and beyond

Rachel Thompson says ‘If you’re not reading Indie books, you’re missing out…’

Mark Coker offers predictions for 2014 from Smashwords.

Chuck Wendig features a fun flash fiction challenge and “something, something blah blah author income.”

Universal Grammar from Tzarzul Nicolai.

Featured community.

NEW feature – every week we’ll highlight a subgenre community.  This week it’s the turn of the Sci-Fi community.
WE’ve got some great sci-fi writers there, who love to talk hard and soft sci-fi, world building, writing and more.  Come join in! (all of our groups are featured here)

Featured Quote



Find more at The Daily Write.

Weekly roundup, week ending 19th January

Last week’s roundup

Every week, one of the IAG moderators will round up what’s gone on, on the group and in the Indie community as a broader view.  If you’ve been busy writing, editing, or promoting, let us catch you up and find conversations and blog posts that should interest you and dive into the information you’re really keen to see.

On the group

Nikki Broadwell started a conversation about Createspace versus LSI last month, which concluded here.  All great information if you’re stuck with the decision.
Valerie Douglas shared a link discussing Pintrest and what it can do for writers.
Denise McGee shared a ‘How to write a one page synopsis’
Alison S Moore asks how a writer can get the most out of Goodreads
Brian Margraff asks whether free or deeply discounted is better (there will be at least one post on that in the coming weeks on the blog!)
We discussed an Eventvwr scam, raised by Valeire Douglas
KDP formatting tips from Rik

Resources and more

We’ve been cleaning up and setting up discussions on the Subgroups.  Come join us and see if there’s anywhere you’d like to join!

On the Blog

We launched our Twitter listing – come and join in (but read the instructions first!)
Formatting by Paul Kater
The Four E’s of Indie Publishing, by D Kai Wilson-Viola
The blog Two Midlist Indies merged into the archives 🙂

In the community

A great article from Bookbub partners – 5 Test Results To Help You Market Your eBook
Hugh Howey’s 13 Publishing Industry fixes

Repinnable images

Posted by Valerie Douglas, originally from the Random House page.



Until next week,

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