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General Chat - anything Goes > Boy do I hate being an Indie author

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message 1: by Tom (new)

Tom Kane (tigerbites) | 6 comments Been there, got the designer t-shirt and need a priest...

Might night all


message 2: by Jim (new)

Jim | 22035 comments welcome to our world Tom :-)


message 3: by Anna (new)

Anna Faversham (annafaversham) | 1728 comments I love being an Indie - nowhere near the pressure of belonging to a publisher and agent.

But... Big BUT. Marketing is a huge learning curve and a huge time consumer and I wouldn't mind having someone do that for me. Yet I even enjoy marketing to a limited extent; it just stops me writing.


message 4: by Jim (last edited Oct 09, 2016 01:38AM) (new)

Jim | 22035 comments I once helped a Romantic Novelist get some of her marketing set up, and her mother was a romantic novelist before her.

In her mother's day, her mother would dine with her agent twice a year. The agent paid.
She would present the agent with the neatly typed manuscript of her next book, the agent would get that the publisher's royalty cheques were coming through regularly.

There would be an exchange of letters with an editor as the manuscript was tidied up but other than that she was allowed to get on with writing books


message 5: by Kath (new)

Kath Middleton | 25093 comments Nobody makes us do it. Like everything, it has ups and downs. I happen to enjoy it, but I wouldn't want to have to live on it. Marketing would be a nightmare and would take time from what I enjoy - writing stories.


message 6: by Tom (new)

Tom Kane (tigerbites) | 6 comments Anna Faversham wrote: "I love being an Indie - nowhere near the pressure of belonging to a publisher and agent.

But... Big BUT. Marketing is a huge learning curve and a huge time consumer and I wouldn't mind having some..."


I agree on that. Love writing, hate marketing.


message 7: by M.P. (new)

M.P. Peacock | 31 comments For many years I was a marketing director.

I much prefer my new life as an indie-author, working just one day per week as my own personal marketing director.


message 8: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Clayton | 1040 comments Yep, it is the marketing that is the biggest learning curve, especially all the technical bits - but I do kind of enjoy it as well.

Just a pity I also have to work full-time, often long hours and blackberry 24/7, travel for work, look after home, be the slave of three cats, feed husband (and give him attention now and again, as well) - hmm you see how the cats come before the husband in the list?- oh, and write. I guess that is similar to the life of most indies though. We must love it!


message 9: by Tom (new)

Tom Kane (tigerbites) | 6 comments Just like Kelly I too work long hours, feed the dogs, beat my wife at Scrabble (sometimes) and write,write,write... seems selling is the hard bit for us all.


Kay (Golden Girl) | 2286 comments Well I am not a writer,but so glad you all are or we would not have anything to read ,Indie Authors are the best ,I don't really write reviews as never know what to write(so just as well not a writer ) but that doesn't deter from me reading and liking the books ,carry on with good work and hope you get as much enjoyment from writing as Ido from reading them .xx


message 11: by Anna (new)

Anna Faversham (annafaversham) | 1728 comments M.P. wrote: "For many years I was a marketing director.

I much prefer my new life as an indie-author, working just one day per week as my own personal marketing director."


Just looked at your profile - I know that cinema! Great little place and I can imagine you (plural) writing there.

You are obviously good at this marketing thingy to have 19 reviews in such a very short time. Good at the writing too - for them to be 4.9.

Any marketing secrets you can pass on will be gratefully received, I suspect!


message 12: by Anna (last edited Oct 10, 2016 08:08AM) (new)

Anna Faversham (annafaversham) | 1728 comments Kay (Golden Girl) wrote: "Well I am not a writer,but so glad you all are or we would not have anything to read ,Indie Authors are the best ,I don't really write reviews as never know what to write(so just as well not a writ..."

Thank you, Kay, we writers need encouragement.


message 13: by R.M.F. (new)

R.M.F. Brown | 4128 comments "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better..."


message 14: by Kath (new)

Kath Middleton | 25093 comments There are plenty of authors who thought they'd cracked it when they got a publisher. Then the publisher shimmied off with their profits - small as they may have been. I know of several instances of this. Ask around. Being indie's not all that bad.


message 15: by Tom (new)

Tom Kane (tigerbites) | 6 comments Kath wrote: "There are plenty of authors who thought they'd cracked it when they got a publisher. Then the publisher shimmied off with their profits - small as they may have been. I know of several instances of..."

Actually I love the freedom being an indie gives me, but find the marketing side frustrating.
There's a whole host of people out to make money from us because we aren't marketeers... sounds like something created by Alexandre Dumas.


message 16: by M.P. (new)

M.P. Peacock | 31 comments @kay

Assuming you have written a great novel (and launched it on Amazon)

Marketing tip #1: write a second great novel (and a third, fourth, fifth...)
Marketing tip #2: focus on one clearly defined marketing objective at any one time
Marketing tip #3: divide this task into easily achievable chunks
Marketing tip #4: keep on doing it, don't stop, don't get distracted. Only stop once you have hit your target. If it becomes clear you are going to miss your target, stop and >>#2

Real life example: between now and 31st December, we are focused on getting more reviews on Amazon.

We have a target of 50 reviews by the end of the year. We have no money to spend on this.

We started by dividing the task into chunks. We decided to split the target of 50 reviews between three groups of people:
1) friends and family: 20 reviews
2) other crime writers: 20 reviews
3) readers of crime fiction (who write reviews): 10 reviews

We did this based on gut-feeling and the level of control or connection that we have with these groups. It isn't very scientific.

1) Start with the lowest hanging fruit: in this case our friends and family. This is harder than you might think, but at least you know where they live! Messages: just ask them, remind them, make it simple for them, show them, make sure they know how important reviews are.

2) We know that lots of other indie-published authors also need reviews, so it makes sense for us to spend marketing time connecting with other authors of crime fiction, specifically indie-published crime writers - these people are like us. They have no budget, they need reviews, they want to spend time on writing rather than marketing. Just like we do. Messages: I will write a review of your book, you have nothing to lose, we know how it feels, together we are stronger.

We buy their books, we read their books, we write reviews of their books, with no expectation of getting reviews in return. We enjoy reading crime fiction so it doesn't feel like work. Basically we "pay it forward". We retweet and link and try to connect indie-crime writers to one another.

We have set up an invitation only group on Goodreads (Indie-Crime Writers Club) where indie-crime writers can swap ideas and experiences. We never forget that our objective is to get 50 reviews. But we can build something strong and useful for the future at the same time.

It is important to establish the tempo of the marketing activity that you are focused on. This helps you understand exactly what level of activity is necessary for you to hit your target.

This involves some back of an envelope mathematics.
We need 20 more reviews from other writers. So, we probably need to read and review about 30 indie-crime books between now and December. There are two of us so that makes 15 books each in about 10 weeks. One book review every 4 or 5 days.

3) We need 10 reviews from readers-that-review. Sanity check: Say 1% of readers will write a review (wild guess). So we need to sell at least 1000 books to get ten reviews. Last week we sold about 100 books, so that isn't going to help us hit our review target in time. So...

...better to focus on finding more indie-crime writers to join our club... so let's allocate 50% of our marketing time to researching indie-crime authored books, 25% to contacting the authors and 25% to writing reviews (sadly, reading books doesn't count as marketing time).

We have set aside one day per week for marketing. So marketing day morning = research other indie-crime writers, after lunch we spend 2 hours emailing, contacting, twittering, exclusively via social media. We need to find about 30 authors with books we can review between now and the end of the year. That is about 4 new writers per week. Social networks help make this possible.

That leaves us 2 hours a week to write reviews.

Monday lunch is dedicated to a "marketing planning" lunch where we talk about marketing, rather than our next novels.

That's it.

Let me know if you need more explanation or help.

... Messaging is another area that we think about quite carefully.

TL:DR Marketing isn't rocket science. But you have to do it - even if you get a publishing deal you need to do marketing. Write a mini-marketing plan. Keep doing it.


message 17: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 43 comments Hi M.P.,

Just a heads up that friends and family are not the ones to ask to review your book on Amazon. Amazon will remove these reviews and it would be a shame for you to go through all that effort only to have your reviews taken down.

Other than that, it sounds like you have a plan and plans are good! Good luck with all :).


message 18: by Anna (last edited Oct 11, 2016 06:52AM) (new)

Anna Faversham (annafaversham) | 1728 comments Thank you so very much! This is very useful to so many people. I had not thought to base marketing around reviews, basically because I get so few! And perhaps that's the reason. Most of my friends and family have never written a review in their life! They have no idea how much I could do with their kind reviews!

I'm sure you will be a success.

Right! I'm off to write a few emails explaining to friends that a few words and a lot of stars would be much appreciated.

Having said that, I don't think reviews are the most important thing to boost your books but I know you are using 'reviews' as an example of planning.

My marketing time is restricted to 2 hours on a Wednesday and even that gets snatched away sometimes. But... a plan has evolved, so that's a start.

EDIT: A whole day later and I haven't written any begging letters - can't bring myself to change from my previous stance.


message 19: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments I'll echo Marie: DON'T solicit reviews from friends and family. They'll always be seen as biased, and Amazon WILL take them down once they've been spotted.


T4bsF (Call me Flo) (time4bedsaidflorence) How on earth could they spot friends??? I can understand them investigating direct family - as the surname would be the same - but in-laws names would be different anyway (probably direct family would have a different name too - if an author is using a pen-name).


message 21: by Marie Silk (last edited Oct 10, 2016 01:54PM) (new)

Marie Silk | 43 comments If the author is using their personal Amazon account as their account to sign into KDP, connections can be easy to spot. If you have ever shipped something to a friend/relative via Amazon, or your friend has shipped something to you, Amazon might block reviews that are associated with addresses connected to your account. They will also block multiple reviews from the same IP address.


message 22: by Jim (new)

Jim | 22035 comments Marie wrote: "Hi M.P.,

Just a heads up that friends and family are not the ones to ask to review your book on Amazon. Amazon will remove these reviews and it would be a shame for you to go through all that effo..."


just to second that, don't do family and friends. If they spontaneously review your book then it's not really something you can do anything about.


message 23: by M.P. (new)

M.P. Peacock | 31 comments Amazon's rules about reviews are perfectly rational. They don't want your book reviewed by people that you have some kind of influence over or connection with. So no friends or family or business associates...

They know exactly who your friends are - because they define your friends as the people who appear in the Amazon address book that you use to send gifts to your nearest and dearest at Christmas. They also know where you live and who you share that address with.

They can block these people from publishing reviews of your book.

If you haven't sent your friends gifts from Amazon they don't know that they are your friends. They can guess and occasionally they make a mistake. But in general it works ok.

Their systems might also block reviews from people who haven't bought your book and who don't live in the same country as you do. They might also block reviews from people that review your book 30 seconds after buying it. And quite probably they will block reviews from "people" who write thousands of reviews every day from internet addresses in Russia.

In theory they can also do an analysis of 2nd and third degree contacts (friends of friends and friends of friends of friends). They might put you on a list and get a human analyst to review your reviews.

Even if a complete stranger buys your book, takes a week to read it then gives it two stars, their review can still be blocked. The algorithm they use is a closely guarded business secret. Occasionally it goes wrong and generates false positives.

But, and this is important for Indie-authors to understand, Amazon do not punish the author. They just block the individual reviews they consider suspect. If all you reviews are suspect they might investigate. But I imagine that the gaming of their system would have to be quite extreme before they did this.

When a reviewer is blocked they get a message from Amazon. So they know that they should stop. It os not your problem (unless you have paid that person for a review and you don't get what you paid for.

So don't get too worried about Amazon watching and monitoring your friends and family.

Be sensible. Remind the people you send advanced review copies of your book to be honest and highlight it in their review. In general the reviewers have much more to lose than the author. Which is why the reviewers with good reputations defend their integrity with such passion.

Amazon want indie-publishers to be successful. The systems they use are designed to protect their own brand reputation against fake reviews. We all suffer if their review system falls into disrepute.

I for one welcome our new Big Brother Review Overlords.

Full disclosure: I worked on internet reputation systems and product recommendation algorithms powered by so called artificial intelligence for quite a few years.

P.S: If I am grabbed from the street by an Amazon drone and dropped into the sea off Hastings you should tell your mum not to review your book.

:-)).

TL:DR: Don't try to game the system and don't panic if a review or two gets blocked.

P.P.S: I am keen to hear from anyone with first hand experience of having reviews blocked (not what you have read, but what has actually happened).


message 24: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4400 comments M.P. wrote: "Amazon's rules about reviews are perfectly rational. They don't want your book reviewed by people that you have some kind of influence over or connection with. So no friends or family or business a..."

Thanks for writing this detailed post - it comes best from someone with the appropriate techie background.

I would add not letting Facebook know your Goodreads friends and vice versa - I sign in to each separately just as a matter of principle (who MY friends are is none of THEIR business). So far I haven't hear Amazon using its GR purchase to do anything evil, but they have a big fake review problem, and will be using all their algorithmic tools to clean it up as much as possible - and you might get caught in a fine net: I have made friends with many of my readers and thanked them for their reviews. This is AFTER they've read Pride's Children - but unless Amazon takes that into account, it would only show as a 'friend link' and might cause me to lose their valuable reviews.

Hasn't happened yet - I'm VERY small potatoes. Only 25 reviews so far for the debut novel.

But it could - so I like to keep my relationships private.


message 25: by David (new)

David Manuel | 1147 comments M.P. wrote: "P.S: If I am grabbed from the street by an Amazon drone and dropped into the sea off Hastings you should tell your mum not to review your book."

M.P. Since you asked, I had a couple of people post reviews to both Amazon US and Amazon UK. They were all up for about a year, then Amazon pulled some from US but left them up on UK. I just figured it was some kind of algorithm as you described and ignored it. Doesn't seem to have had an impact on the three or four books I sell a month.

But how will we know it's an Amazon drone that disposes of you? Surely they wouldn't use a marked drone to take you out. How can we be absolutely sure you haven't pissed off some of the drone flying governments out there, not the mention SPECTRE, THRUSH or KAOS?


message 26: by Gingerlily - The Full Wild (last edited Oct 10, 2016 03:24PM) (new)

Gingerlily - The Full Wild | 36808 comments I hear yogurt is very good for Thrush, You can call Ghostbusters for Spectre. Not sure about Kaos though. I looked them up and they didn't seem very intimidating... http://www.kaos.ie/


message 27: by David (new)

David Manuel | 1147 comments Gingerlily - Mistress Lantern wrote: "I hear yogurt is very good for Thrush, You can call Ghostbusters for Spectre. Not sure about Kaos though. I looked them up and they didn't seem very intimidating... http://www.kaos.ie/"

Maxwell Smart thought they were.


Gingerlily - The Full Wild | 36808 comments He should have tried




message 29: by David (new)

David Manuel | 1147 comments Gingerlily - Mistress Lantern wrote: "He should have tried

"


Unlike Joan, he wasn't quizzical.


message 30: by M.P. (new)

M.P. Peacock | 31 comments Let's not start metaphysical


message 31: by David (new)

David Manuel | 1147 comments M.P. wrote: "Let's not start metaphysical"

Or even pataphysical...


message 32: by Jim (new)

Jim | 22035 comments Alicia wrote: "Hasn't happened yet - I'm VERY small potatoes. Only 25 reviews so far for the debut novel. ..."

given that none of my books has more than seven reviews, don't knock it


message 33: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4400 comments Jim wrote: "Alicia wrote: "Hasn't happened yet - I'm VERY small potatoes. Only 25 reviews so far for the debut novel. ..."

given that none of my books has more than seven reviews, don't knock it"


Not. I'm delighted, but there are books out there with thousands and tens of thousands of reviews. The bigger promotional newsletters don't take my ads.

I'm not being effective at advertising - just got my first sale in over a month, from the Kindle Countdown. It's hard to become a bestseller at that rate! Or even a seller.


message 34: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments But losing one review from 7, or even from 25, would surely have a much bigger impact than losing one from hundreds...?


message 35: by Jim (new)

Jim | 22035 comments Absolutely Tim
But I'm not focused on Amazon reviews, because by the time they've found them, they've found the book anyway and I'd say 98% of the work has to be done.
What I want is reviews, blogs or whatever, that reach out to people and point them to my Amazon pages


message 36: by Will (new)

Will Macmillan Jones (willmacmillanjones) | 11721 comments Worth remembering too that Amazon will also block writers who review books in their own genre, for rear that they will spitefully diss a rival or boost each other in review swaps.


message 37: by David (new)

David Edwards | 446 comments The reason for chasing Amazon reviews is to encourage Amazon to chase potential readers.


message 38: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4400 comments Tim wrote: "But losing one review from 7, or even from 25, would surely have a much bigger impact than losing one from hundreds...?"

Exactly. I'd hate to lose any of them. Even the negative reviews have their value: the book is not for everyone, and a variety of readers have tried it. If you only have positive reviews, someone will assume they are all sock puppet reviews. Or bought.

I ask readers who get review copies to put the disclaimer in - but several have forgotten to do so - and it is technically against the rules, but I'd hate to lose those when it was unintentional. Of course I never see reviews before they're published - or I'd catch that!

The hardest part of reviews is finding unbiased readers who will read and then write their opinion, as most readers don't review.

But that's always been so for indies.


message 39: by Jim (new)

Jim | 22035 comments David wrote: "The reason for chasing Amazon reviews is to encourage Amazon to chase potential readers."

but with the magic figure apparently 100?
And given that Amazon will probably have to use some sort of variable algorithm to work out who to promote if more books approach 100 reviews then my guess is that Amazon isn't going to promote more books, they're just going to drift the cut off to 150 or 200
In fact I cannot see why Amazon should use reviews in the first place when they have the sales figures and know what is popular. I'd love to know where the focus on reviews comes from, again I speculate but I suspect it may be because various websites have more hope of promising reviews and delivering than they have of promising sales and delivering.
Claiming that Amazon uses the number of reviews you have as a trigger for promoting you is a good sales technique for them, but not for Amazon.


message 40: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments The magic 100 could be an urban myth - I don't know any authors that have reached it to find out. In the days before I owned a house, I could always only afford it at last year's prices -- every year my salary went up, but the house prices rose just a little bit more. Consequently I've always been a little suspicious of goals that are just out of reach: the goalposts always seem to move!


message 41: by Anna (new)

Anna Faversham (annafaversham) | 1728 comments I'm also not sure that a certain number of reviews is required by Amazon to promote a book. Some promotional sites require a certain number of reviews and upwards of a certain rating, but not all of them; some of the better ones make their own assessment.

As has been said, Amazon have the sales figures and that's more likely to count. I also know for sure that if you look at certain books, Amazon picks up on that and sends you a promotional email which includes the books you've checked out.


message 42: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments But then Amazon also repeatedly sends me promos for my own books!


message 43: by M.P. (new)

M.P. Peacock | 31 comments The problem that Amazon have with using sales figures as a way to recommend books is that they would only promote other best sellers. Most readers want help with 'discovery'. A good book shop - like my local book shop in Rye, has a manager who loves reading, loves books, loves helping her customers discover new books. I read somewhere that Amazon's 'other people who bought that, bought this' promotion system helps boost their sales by 20% more than if they don't recommend anything. That is hugely significant.

So Amazon's recommendations use a mixture of overall sales, sales in a category, previous purchases, promotions (countdown deals), author's previous sales performance, sales of books in a series. They also factor in reviews, star ratings, helpful reviews, reviews in a category... they might even factor in cover design, page numbers, book weight, size, location, even the weather. Who knows?

It is designed to be difficult to game the system. So I guess the '50, 100, 150 reviews' rumours depend on the categories you are listed in. Maybe an obscure category like non-fiction>>Science>>biology>>protozoa>>classification>>muddy ponds>> Belarus only needs 2 reviews to get recommended. While a Psychological crime thriller mystery fiction book needs 500 reviews. Who knows? The categories that your book gets put in depend on an automated text analysis of your blurb and what the author says she wants the categories to be. I think you can request being added to one or two extra categories if you want.

Having done a recommendation check, Amazon then do a 'profitability' check. How much margin do they make from a particular item. So they rarely seem to promote paper books (to me) because I only ever buy Kindle editions, but they know that I click on 'people who bought that, also bought this', and 'people who looked at that, ended up buying this."

As a result of all this work and analysis, the millions and millions more of dollars spent on research and development and more on artificial intelligence, Amazon are currently trying to sell me an aquarium. That I don't want.

Honestly it isn't worth worrying about what Amazon do. It is what it is.

Better, I think, to focus on writing a great book that people, even people who aren't your friends and family, love. Write a book so good that people recommend it to their friends.

How do you know they love it? Some of them will tell you, a few of them will write reviews. Reviews help sales, but they also help you feel better about your writing. I find that good reviews inspire me to write more words that day and sometimes a really good, thoughtful review will fill me with a sense of self-satisfied pride and happiness.

The other, much more prosaic reason to focus your marketing efforts on getting more reviews published, is that there isn't much else you can do without a marketing budget.

So write great books, ask people to review your books. Don't stop until you reach your target.


message 44: by Darren (new)

Darren Humphries (darrenhf) | 6980 comments Despite what they say in their promos and newsletters, Amazon do what they do for Amazon, not for indies. Write good books and be available on sites like this one and people will come. Hopefully.


message 45: by Jan (new)

Jan Hurst-Nicholson (janhurst-nicholson) | 360 comments You can longer expect trad publishers to do your marketing. The last contract I signed was accompanied by pages of questions about what I could do to help with the marketing. It took me half a day to fill it in - and then they had a change of policy and cancelled the contract, along with those of other authors :(

I expect reviews will be reduced now that the new policy about spending $50 on Amazon before you can review has been introduced.


Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments First I've heard of that policy.


Gingerlily - The Full Wild | 36808 comments Patti (baconater) wrote: "First I've heard of that policy."

It has been brought in on the US site to stop the sock puppet thing. people are less likely to set up loads of fake accounts to put fake reviews on their book if they have to spend $50 a pop.


message 48: by Jim (new)

Jim | 22035 comments new one to me as well


message 49: by David (new)

David Staniforth (davidstaniforth) | 7939 comments Can't see anyone reviewing if that's correct. I certainly won't be posting any more.


message 50: by M.P. (new)

M.P. Peacock | 31 comments https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/custom...

Eligibility
To post Customer Reviews or Customer Answers, post on Customer Discussion Forums, or submit content to followers, you must have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com using a valid credit or debit card. Prime subscriptions and promotional discounts don't qualify towards the $50 minimum. You do not need to meet this requirement to post Customer Questions, create or modify Profile pages, Lists, or Registries, or to read content posted by other customers.


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