If there's something all authors HATE to do, it's pleading for their readers to say something nice about a new book. But for many of us, how our most dedicated readers react makes the difference between success for a book and total failure. So here's my yearly plea for my readers. If you read my books and enjoy them, please don't wait until you see me and then whisper in my ear that you LOVED the book. That may make me feel good for a second or two, but it's not helpful. Authors -- and particularly independent, self-publishing authors like me -- need three things from you:
1. Buy the book. Don't wait for it to show up for free (it won't!) or for the paper version to end up in a used book store. Buy the book. It doesn't matter whether you get the paper version or the electronic version. My profit is about the same (and don't ask how unfair that is!) Readers need to understand that indie authors do not get an advance, and they don't have publishers who are paying the bills. When I write a book, everything comes out of my own pocket -- 18 months of work, travel expenses to do research, registering with the Library of Congress, registering the copyright, paying the editor, hiring a cover designer, paying the layout and formatting costs, and purchasing copies to send to big-name reviewers and book contests. And then I wait to see whether my eventual royalty checks will come close to covering the initial costs. And royalties can be skimpy in some cases. If CreateSpace sells a copy of my book to a brick and mortar bookstore, and the store then sells it to their customer, I get a royalty check of about $0.18. (Yes, that's eighteen cents.) I've got to sell a lot of books at that rate. So buy the book. It'll last at least as long as that double latte from Starbucks and stay with you for a lot longer.
2.. Tell the people you know about the book. Tell them that you're reading it -- that you're enjoying it -- that you're anxious for the next one to come out. Mention it on Facebook and Twitter and anyplace else you hang out. Name recognition is an author's life-blood. How many times do you say things like this to people you know? "Had a great sandwich at that new shop the other day." "Have you ever tried . . ." "The department store has a good sale going on." "The grocery store just stocked my favorite brand." "Check out the new movie theater." It's no harder to say, "I just read a good book."
3. And then, WRITE A REVIEW! I'm not asking for a book report like the ones you had to do in school. Amazon only requires 20 words or more. Short, pithy comments are great. And you don't have to give the book five stars, either. In fact, when I see a book that has received nothing but five-star ratings, I am immediately suspicious. That usually means that the author has paid a company to put up a bunch of fake reviews from people who write the reviews for a living. I won't do that. I'd rather have honest ratings of three or four stars than fake ones. Not everyone likes the same kinds of books. So it's OK to say you didn't like the way the story ended, or you're not much into history, or you wish the book had more detail about . . ."
Study after study has proved that the more reviews a book gets, the more copies it sells. Readers are sometimes herd animals. We all want to read the books that everybody else is reading. That's what Best Seller lists are all about. So if a potential book buyer goes to Amazon and looks up my latest book, he's almost certain to look to see how the reviews are. (Come on. I do this when I'm ordering almost anything on-line. I'm not going to order a pair of shoes that no one else has bought!) Even a really bad review makes other people want to read!
BOTTOM LINE: BUY! TALK ABOUT IT! WRITE A REVIEW!