The Trials Of An Indie Author: Getting Reviews & Promotions
One of the big disadvantages of being an indie author rather than being with a traditional publishing house is that the majority of the promotion you get is driven by how much work you're willing to put into things. Sure, you can pay to have someone do the majority of it for you, and I cover that in the piece about outsourcing (found here), but if you're low on funds, or even just new to the indie author crowd, you'll have to work out how best to promote yourself before you can find people to help you.
Of course, once your book is ready to be published, you'll have something to promote, but before that point, you really don't have much to offer potential readers and you'll find that a lot of your time is spent making good connections for once your book is available (a piece can be found here). I know that when I first started out under the Bug Books label, I was completely unaware of how best to proceed to get sales. It was never a massive thing for me, I enjoy writing and I love the idea of other people enjoying my work, so while I do like it when I make sales, for the first year or so I pretty much did nothing.
A big part of promotion is getting people to review your books and you can approach this a number of ways. You can let people come across it, buy it and review if they so choose, which works up to a point, but the majority of people buying books or anything on Amazon or other sites don't tend to go back to review unless they really really loved it, or really didn't like it. Think about the last time you went out of your way and reviewed something. It doesn't happen that often. The exception, of course, is for people who review things for a job, who are pretty much paid to review things.
Now, you can join groups on Facebook that exist for the sole purpose of connecting indie authors with other authors and aid in the process of swapping books, or even just offer to review someone else's work. There are a few words of caution though. If you are ever told that they'll give you a five star review without having looked at the book or even the synopsis or sample, so long as you pay them a certain amount, run away and do not look back. It may be something that some companies do with their products, but even traditionally published authors do not usually pay for their reviews. If you want an honest review, you need to be ready to take whatever criticism you may receive. It's hard, but it's a great way to learn what your strengths and weaknesses are in your story. It's hard when you've poured your heart and soul into your work to be then told that it's not something one particular person enjoyed, but it's part of putting your book out there to be read by the general public. Besides which, one person may hate it, but another person may love it and having a wide array of reviews helps to draw in readers.
The reviews are not there to puff up your own ego, and while that may be a side effect, reviews are primarily there to help other readers decide if they want to part with their money in exchange for a good story. I know that when you're starting out and planning on carving out a name for yourself, it can be tempting to contact the reviewer to ask why they didn't like your book or why they gave it three starts instead of five, but it is never a good idea to respond to reviews, no matter how much you want to know more. There are authors, both indie and traditional, that have done so and it has not worked out well for them.
In addition to reviews, there are other ways to promote your work. I've discussed getting involved in giveaways and events (found here) but sometimes it can be as simple as joining a group whose main goal is to get everyone's name out into the writing world. You can do this through blog posts, through Facebook, Tumblr or Google+. There are always like-minded individuals who want to promote themselves, but who also have space to help you on your writing journey as well. The indie author world is full of interesting people and some of my best supporters and writing friends have come into my life through groups such as these. It's always a good idea to make connections and to have reciprocal relationships with other authors, and as long as you remember to both give and receive promotions and reviews, you'll be off to a good start.
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