Indie ‘maverick’ writers setting the rules.
* This article was first published in Expats Post
Quick note re this article. This not a rant and shouldn't be taken as such although you can if you want. Who the hell cares? - that is all.
The easiest way to stifle creativity – just follow the rules.
In actual fact, the title of this article should be, “You’re promoting your book using social media? What the hell? Let’s have no more of that nonsense, plus you’re doing it all wrong” followed by a strongly worded tweet about those age-old rules that must be followed during promotion, the social netiquette you must follow when publicizing that book you’ve spent years writing and really wouldn’t quite mind if people heard about it and then paid a few dollars to read it or not.
Who are these gatekeepers, the ones guarding those ancient chiseled-in-stone tablets of the almost mythological rules of indie publishing? The ones who feel the need to shout down others for having the tenacity to promote their books?
Well, they’re on twitter mostly.
You can find them easily, just follow the links to their latest book or the book before that or the one before that (in some cases there’s at least the space of a month or two between books before the next one hits the virtual shelves). You’ll also find that they don’t just place these links for a week or two or maybe a month or two after their book has been launched. No, they’ll do it every single day, multiple times per day, hourly sometimes, across every online channel they can find. And it’s fine for them to do that, I personally don’t have a problem with that and applaud their tenacious, never say die spirit but it seems that if someone else promotes their own book on their own Twitter feed then there are some golden, hallowed gatekeepers who suddenly sprout wings and fly from their ivory towers with an overwhelming need to dispense advice to that oh so naive newbie writer to inform them that there are rules you know, even in the world of indie publishing.
The ‘newbie’ writer who was the recipient of this tweet just happens to be someone I know who has years of experience in the writing world and simply blocked the gatekeeper, which is a shame because I’m sure that advice would have been invaluable to someone who has written five novels, books of poetry, has appeared in journals and on literary websites, is the founder of a literary website and has ran his own publishing press in the past. The things he could have learned but will sadly miss out on now as he forever roams the tumbleweed strewn, virtual highways, wailing in anguish and muttering, “If only I’d listened.” Ah if only indeed.
Okay, so we have people who tweet the so-called rules (seriously is there some book I’ve missed out on with these rules – I’ll check Amazon or Twitter) but we also have another set who are outraged to Scanners-like, head exploding levels of anger because writers are using certain methods to get their books seen. “Friends are reading their books and leaving reviews, they’re doing free promotions, they’re using fucking Fivver to try and advertise their books – may they burn in hell for pissing all over the sacred stone tablets of indie publishing!”
Let me clue you in outraged ones. Indie writers usually have minimal to zero advertising budgets and they’re up against millions of other writers, all trying to get their books seen. Imagine walking into a book store and seeing millions of books by unknown writers but at the front of the store you see racks of best-sellers, many of which are selling for less than the price of a cup of coffee. Best sellers by big names such as E L James, yeah you know who she is. You know who she is because she’s never out of the newspapers and her books, cinema adaptation, branded soap powder, chocolates, hand-cuff wearing teddy bears and regurgitated edible undies are plastered all over the internet.
You’re probably sick to death of having 50 Shades of Mediocre Soft-Porn being thrust into your face from your screen every day but yes, let’s be enraged by that indie writer who is trying to promote their book using links or book reviews from friends rather than those professional marketing men with their million dollar advertising budgets who present us with their golden literary jewels and which the majority of us buy into. Because we’re not being manipulated by them at all are we?
I’m not a big twitter user because frankly I cannot be bothered by what seems like a wall of rolling advertisements. But I see the advantages of it for writers – it costs nothing to use, you can reach an audience and you can put some work in and engage with other writers.
But there’s also the downside. The ones who want to shout down others for not following the rules, their rules. There are no rules. It’s indie publishing, you’re supposed to stick to your own way of thinking – you’re not beholden to the big publishing companies. You can do what you want, write what you want, share what you want. You are not beholden to anyone’s rules.
There’s a line of thinking that writers are filled with jealousy about the success of other writers – it’s a line, you don’t need to buy into it. If your book isn’t selling then you can become frustrated and you can let bitterness seep in and start shitting on others, on their work or on the way they go about promoting their work.
Or how about you simply become inspired enough by others to push yourself further with your next book and simply leave those who have an overwhelming need to set rules to govern over those who have a need to follow them.