When I published my first book I had no idea how this crazy publishing world worked. I published several books before I started making writing friends on social media and since then I've met some wonderful writers, editors, cover designers and bloggers, who have helped me immensely. They've given me advice when I asked for it, and encouragement when I needed it.
What this post is about, however, is the unsolicited advice given to me recently by a writer. Now, don't get me wrong, I get a lot of unsolicited advice. I've received emails and DMs about how to tweet even, because apparently, as a writer, I can't figure out how to write a 140 character tweet. I've been writing for five years now and have just released my 21st book. In that five years the advice I got a few weeks ago is what has stuck with me the longest, and not in a good way.
This particular writer and I had only been 'friends' for a few months, so imagine my surprise when during a discussion about how to be successful in such a competitive book world, she gave me some very disturbing advice. I'll post the four I felt made the biggest impact on me.
1. Sleep your way to the top. I asked them exactly what they meant by this and they said, "exactly how it sounds. Go to book signings and pitching events and 'do what you have to do' in order to get noticed. If you really want to be a successful writer, you'll have to step on people's backs on your way up the ladder, and possibly spend a little time on your back as well."
2. Don't be afraid to use bloggers. I told them I do use bloggers to promote my work, but they quickly corrected me. "No, I mean use and abuse, for lack of a better term." I won't even say anymore about this because it was that inappropriate and disgusting.
3. Let your readers proof your work. They told me to turn out a book every month and publish it, allowing my readers to proof it for me.
4. Make sure you have at least one permafree at all times and one free book once a month.
Needless to say, those four concepts are not something I can wrap my head around, as person or a writer, so let's break them down so you know what to expect from me as a writer.
1. I don't want success badly enough to step on other writer's backs, writers who are working as hard as I am, to be successful. I've seen this happen early on in my career as a writer and I took very special note of it. This particular author happened to step on the back of several of my close friends in the author community. The only thing I have to 'do' is stay true to my voice as a writer, and true to myself and my family. I promote other writers as much as I promote myself. I've done that on Twitter, and this blog, since I started, and I write reviews for every book I read. I won't sleep my way to the top or step on anyone's backs to get there. If I become successful as a writer, it will be because I earned it. Success isn't given; it's earned.
2. Bloggers are people. They happen to be wonderful people who love books and want to spread the news about good ones. They have families, jobs, and a life outside of books. As far as I'm concerned, the work they do for us as authors is not something we can ever repay. I know there are bloggers out there who aren't in it for the love of books, just like there are authors out there who aren't in it for the love of writing. I'm not so naive to think that there aren't many people in the book world that are in it only for compensation and recognition. You'll know the good bloggers when you meet them, and they'll stand by you for every new release, every disappointment, every award, and every time you need help spreading the world. That is how I connect with, and treat bloggers who are willing to read my books, do promo posts, share the love, and blog about my characters.
3. Let your readers proof the book for you. I guess I am naive enough to wonder how this works, because I can't imagine buying a book, opening it, and then discovering it reads like a first draft. How does that work? Do you get five hundred one star reviews for your book and hope each one tells you where the errors are, or did they mean that the book is so badly written that after some editor buys it they offer their services for free? I didn't bother to ask, because the idea of publishing a book in the romance world that wasn't spit polished and perfect (or as perfect as we can get as human beings) was too outlandish for me. Let me assure you. All my books will be edited and proofed before you buy them. Now, I'm human and so is my editor, so there will be mistakes, but they will not be many. I want my readers to have a good experience with my work, not slam the book closed (or return to their home screen) and never look at my other books again. Sure, we can all write a book that doesn't resonate with the readers, but you still want to make sure that book won't stop them from picking up your next one. A book that doesn't jive with you can be easily overlooked, but an unedited book cannot.
4. Free books. You'll see that I don't have any permafree books, nor do I run free copies of my books. I've seen too many authors have a permafree book and eventually, after a year of permafree, when downloads decrease they decide to take it off permafree. But, they've had it for free for so long though, they can't sell it, even at .99. At one time, I ran a book of mine on a free promo on Amazon. It was a big mistake. Oh, I had a ton of downloads, but what ensued was a destruction of the book when somehow readers confused 'inspirational romance' with 'christian romance'. The book wasn't Christian romance, but it did get into the inspirational romance category the higher it moved up into the free ranks. I guess readers don't actually read the blurbs when they download free books because the bold, and capitalized, warning didn't stop them from downloading a book that was in no way Christian. I also struggle with the idea that while my book is on permafree or free, my VAT charges are being paid by Amazon. This eventually ends in an increase in VAT charges across the board for every author. Last, but not least, is the fact that most free or permafree books that are downloaded (other than through Bookbub) are rarely read. You know what I'm talking about. I'm not the only one with 300 'free' books on my kindle that I've never looked at. (Okay, not that many, but you get the point). I'm sorry to say you'll never get my books free anymore (unless you ask nicely, then chances are I'll send you a copy). I know as a reader, if I have a little skin in the game, I'm more likely to read the book. If I pay .99 you can bet I'm going to read it before the free one I downloaded. You will always find multiple .99 books on my Amazon dashboard. Stand alones, the first in a series are always .99. Throughout the year I always pick a book to put on .99 for a week as well. If you stay tuned to Twitter or Facebook you'll be able to see what book is on sale easily, because I always make sure to promote them during that week.
It saddens me that there are people in the book world like that particular writer. I have, of course, since removed them from my life since clearly our beliefs about life, love, and the pursuit of success do not match up. I want to leave a footprint on the world that can hold a multitude of love, respect, and the joy of getting lost in a world different from our own. The only way I can do that is by making sure my readers know I care about THEM. Making sure bloggers know I care about THEM. Making sure my editors know I care about THEM. Making sure my family knows they come first. Books were created to give us a break from reality, and I, for one, will continue to fight for all that is good in that.