(I Don't Need No) Good Advice? - Debbie Bennett

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


Kathleen Jones said…
Bravo Debbie!! Spot on. You can have the Agony Aunt (Agony Author?) slot here any day.
Lydia Bennet said…
an author friend and colleague (now dead sadly) used to write this for Jackie mag! she sent up her own agony advice on her website later, calling herself 'Jenny Taylior'... astringent words of advice Debbie, good to see some old-fashioned 'pull your socks up, stop moaning, pull yourself together' for a change! of course we all get cheesed off and I must admit I wonder how amazon choose who to put in those special promotions I get in email - some of them have no reviews on them, so I'd love to know how to get into that algorithm.
Chris Longmuir said…
Dear Auntie Debbie, Thank you for your excellent advice. I've locked my whinging author in the cupboard, performed a sideswerve to avoid publishers and their contracts, and blessed my reviewers, even the snarky ones. Now, if you can give me some advice on how to join Amazon's millions club, I'd be mighty grateful. Ambitious author!!!!
Jan Needle said…
dear debbie, i was most impressed with your breadth of knowledge, humanity, and absolutely spot on advice. perhaps you can help me with a related problem? i've got an unsightly boil on my b..t..m. is there any way i can make it virtual?

seriously though, lovely piece. and excellent advice.

late news flash. i haven't really got a boil. sorry to have caused you any unnecessary stress.
glitter noir said…
Way to go, Debbie. I'd like to see more of these Dear Debbie posts. Am especially with you on the subject of reviewers--both the pros and cons. Attacking a negative reviewer is also career suicide in light of a Goodreads post I just read: one writer who'd blasted a critic became the victim of an online 'gang bang': consisting of about 288 members of a group committed to putting Rude Authors in place. Guy's been ruined. I'm also with you on the subject of public thanks for a glowing review: a private note is fine,I think, but we should steer clear of commenting where the review was published.
Bill Kirton said…
Excellent advice, Debbie, and perfectly judged. We're in a profession - so let's act as professionals.
Dan Holloway said…
Huzzah!!! So much of this needed saying
julia jones said…
Straight to my Top of the Blogs chart
Pauline Fisk said…
Mine too. Loved it.
Dennis Hamley said…
Only just seen this: we've been away. But well said, Dabbie, As others have already written - it needed saying. 'Pull your socks up'? - dead right.
Great post Debbie! (Nice paperback copy of your book, too!)

It can be very frustrating watching other authors make money, get famous, write better books, etc. - and it's easy to look for someone to blame, often the person or company who is doing the most to help. Sometimes we all just need to take a step back and remember why we're writing.
Coming late to this, been offline a lot - LOVED it. Well said. I often have to steer clear of Facebok these days just to avoid the conspiracy theorists.

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