Girls of a certain age – hands up who remembers Cathy & Claire? These were the agony aunts of every 70s girl’s favourite teen magazine, Jackie. Would you believe you can pay nearly thirty pounds now for original back copies of this magazine that told us what to wear on a date and how to tell if a boy liked you?
So in the spirit of our lovely 70s aunties, I’m going to use this month’s blog to offer some advice to independent authors. These are things I’ve learned in the two years I’ve been self-publishing on Amazon and elsewhere. Maybe some will resonate with you, maybe not. Maybe I'm just being a grumpy old woman this month... You probably won’t agree with me anyway.
Dear Aunty Debbie: I’ve published a book on Amazon and some people don’t like it. Should I tell them they’re wrong, or get all my mates to vote down their reviews? A Sad Author
Dear Sad Author: Reviewers are our friends. What they write in a review is entirely their own business and you have no right to trash them, call them out or down-vote their reviews en-masse. Snarky and/or inappropriate reviews will be seen by readers for what they are. Dozens of the authors’ “friends” descending on a reviewer to attack them will only scare away other potential reviewers of your book who won’t be brave enough to be honest or even bother. Unless you know the reviewer and thank them privately, the only correct response to a review is nothing at all.
Dear Aunty Debbie: Amazon is trying to steal my money. Should I tell everybody how awful they are? Broke Author.
Dear Broke Author: Amazon is a company that is out to make a profit, yes, but by and large KDP is set up to mutually benefit it and the author. It serves no purpose for Amazon to prevent people from buying your books, so why the conspiracy theories? I'm sure there *are* times when Amazon has genuinely made an error/revoked your privileges/removed reviews heavy-handedly, but for the most part they play fair. Are you really sure that your friend bought a book and the sale didn’t register? Sales take time to register, algorithms change, reviews get removed (or not), so why expend time and energy that you could be putting to use in your writing?
Dear Aunty Debbie: I’ve found this brill place where I can post my books. It’s fab. What do you think? Soon-To-Be-Famous Author
Dear Soon-To-Be-Famous Author: ALWAYS read the small print. This used to be only applicable to small independent publishing companies but is rapidly now applying to the big 6 too. Don’t sign and/or upload anything until you are sure you have read and understood the terms and conditions. It’s no good complaining you have no rights if you signed them away or agreed to waive them by uploading your book. There are some horrendous examples of t&c from publishers floating around on the internet at the moment – do you really want to give up your digital rights for “life of copyright”? Until 70 years after you die? With no reversion clause? Click yes to accept and you will NEVER have control of that digital copy ever again.
Dear Aunty Debbie: Why is Smashwords not like Amazon? Should I tell everybody that I don’t like it? And why don’t I get my money quickly from the sites it distributes to? And why when I earn money, does every US company insist on keeping 30% of it. It’s my money. And why can’t I … Whinging Author
Dear Whinging Author: STOP WHINGING! Honestly. It’s everywhere. Complaining about reviews, ganging up on reviewers, whining to amazon about anything and everything. Talk about biting the hand that feeds – nobody forces you to enrol in KDP Select or even to put your book up on Amazon or anywhere else at all. Facebook posts, blog posts, you name it. Authors complain about Amazon, Smashwords, other authors’ allegedly dubious practices. Really, it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things and just makes you sound like a sulky child who hasn’t got the toy he wanted.
The best way – the only way – to deal with these companies, authors and reviewers who are all out to get you is to:
· Write more books.
· Write better books.
· Be professional.
Do those three things and you can’t go wrong.
Love from Aunty Debbie