You know how it is: you’re a self-published, indie author and your only real source of book promotion is the internet. If you have the balls to do it, you can go cap-in-hand to bookshops and ask them if you can do a book signing, and you might get an interview with a newspaper looking for a local interest story, but let’s face it, it’s damn hard being taken seriously as a self-published author. People always think: self-published = low quality; so you turn to the review and promotion sites online.
As many indie authors have to watch their budget, including me, you would rather have this sort of promotion for free, but you accept you may have to pay for it once in a while. That’s OK: £13 here, £10 there. I paid a one-time fee for Independent Author Network and Independent Author Index (though for the latter I still had to pay $6 to list Goalden Sky). The annoying thing for the UK indie, though, is the fact that two thirds of these sites want your money in US Dollars. Yep, most of these marketing sites are American, with their weird spellings and readers who don’t have a clue what UK authors are on about half the time, even though we had English first, mate. What UK promotion and review sites there are tend to charge a small fortune; take a look at this one, for instance. Fine, go for it if you can afford it, but I wouldn’t.
In 2007 I self-published my first book Goalden Girl and back then I was really green when it came to promotion. I didn’t know where the hell to begin, and I still find it a nightmare. In 2009 I registered with Goodreads, but I quickly realised it was mainly aimed at readers, not authors. Readers post reviews on everything they’ve read, and from what I can tell indies get only a cursory look-in. Also, I was put off by a review for Goalden Girl that one of its members poached from a site I had submitted it to. She may well have read it, but she copied and pasted that review from a site called Front Street Reviews. That site has gone to the wall now, like so many other sites I’ve promoted with. Check out my review pages on my site and I have indicated which ones have passed away. That’s the other thing that p’s me off: the people who set up these sites either die, get bored or can’t afford to run them any longer. That’s why, if you get a review, you should save it elsewhere, even though when you advertise it you look a prize idiot because there’s no link to the site to show for it. Scroll halfway down this page to see the original review for Goalden Girl on FSR dear Violet poached for GR. I don’t believe she’s changed a word.
Last week, however, I rejoined Goodreads again, after reading an article about how it could work for independent authors, and knowing from tweets on Twitter that everyone and his dog is on it and rates it. Why not join the bandwagon, I thought. Well, it’s free for a start. Notice in the article, though, how Michelle starts by slagging off Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest; being the cynic I am, I know all she’s doing is pumping her own site, and why not, but people still use Twitter to promote it and GR is on Facebook. Anyway, as suggested, I listed my books on the various relevant GR Listopia listings because, as the article claims, if your book comes up next to a bestseller it might attract a reader’s eye. LOL. I’ve even put Goodreads buttons by my titles on the home page of my site. Soon after joining I made all these ‘friends’ and got an email from one asking to read and comment on his article. Like me, Ellis doesn’t see the point in Goodreads for authors, but is prepared to persist with it in the hope that someone might notice his work. That’s the point: it’s all to do with ‘hope’, it’s all the indie has. My book Big Brother has been on two ‘want to read’ lists since March 2013! I’m still waiting for one of them to say she’s read it!
In order to become a Goodreads author I had to ‘claim’ that status. Before that I put my own books on a shelf I had to create myself: ‘I Wrote’, and before I did that I had to say I’d ‘read’ them; my personal logic is if you write it you have to read it as well, but it’s a clue that Goodreads is aimed more at readers, there’s no preset ‘I Wrote’ shelf. Actually, as an author my books are now attributed to me, anyway. I also thought it would be a good idea to show what I read. To date I now have forty-seven books and over one hundred friends. When I get to fifty books I can apply for librarian status, whatever TF that means. I have this ‘hope’ that if people are directed to what I’ve read, currently reading, or want to read they might also be directed to what I’ve written, but I doubt it.
For the reader, though, it’s a very popular site, so much so that Amazon have bought into it; but what’s its problem? Yes, you guessed it: free or not, it’s still American, though it does appear to know where you live (probably from your email adress) and so it invites you to add more store selections. Furry nuff; but where on Earth are the UK sites offering a similar sort of service?
Well, a few months ago, I stumbled upon iAuthor, which operates something similar to the Goodreads Listopia, known as Themes. The title of the site suggests it’s geared towards the author. Authors are invited to create a theme and other authors add their titles to that theme, the idea being, I think, for other indies to take a look at your book and think, ‘Yeah. I’ll read that one. If I’m feeling generous I might even review it.’ I’ve created a few themes myself, like this one. Guess which theme appears to be one of the most popular of them all, though? Tells you a hell of a lot, really, doesn’t it! It also tells you that there are plenty of indie authors out there bouncing about like molecules in the air vying for space to get noticed, me included.
Again, with iAuthor, only time will tell if it will help me.
Yesterday, I discovered another UK free site created by a someone frustrated by these promo sites being mostly American: Indie Book Bargains. I joined, but it’s geared towards just eBooks (as a lot of these sites are), and if you have few reviews elsewhere your book is given ‘low priority’ for consideration to the review service. Whatever.
Due to the lack of choice in the free UK book promotion world, I’m thinking of setting up my own service. Don’t know how I’m going to go about it yet, but it will be free, and it won’t be geared towards just readers, either.