I recently published my first book, Alice in Condoland. It was a 30-month labor of love that got me through the worst of the pandemic. I worked with a wonderful indie publisher, 3 Swallys Press, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They wrote a press release and reached out to some bookstores. The rest was up to me.
Self-publishing isn’t new. Beatrix Potter’s, Jane Austen, and Mark Twain all did it at some point in their careers. But the advent of online book sellers have brought indie- and self-published authors to the fore, including Colleen Hoover and E. I. James. Amazon offers approximately 32.8 million book titles to their 300+ million customers. The access is amazing, but it brings more competition to everyone. To break through the clutter, authors must self-promote as never before. This requires more time interviewing and posting and less time writing.
If we love books, we as readers have a role to play to keep new stories coming. I have three suggestions:
Take a moment to review the books you read. Whether we like them or not, reviews have become the gatekeepers to most of our purchasing decisions. When you love a book, tell others. Do it in person, and please, do it online. Countless friends and acquaintances have contacted me since I published my novel, telling me how much they enjoyed it. Few of them are willing to put it in writing. Their reasons? They never write reviews, or they like to stay anonymous. They rely on the critiques of others. It may work for them, but if everyone were to wait for others’ opinions, we’d all be choosing blindly.
Be honest, be constructive, and be kind. It takes time, devotion, and intestinal fortitude to give birth to a book. Since publishing Alice in Condoland, I’ve met with book clubs and joined groups for writers and readers. I see how books change people’s lives.
I scan reviews of other authors’ works. Most readers are diplomatic, but the relative anonymity of the internet makes some feel they have license to be downright mean. For example, a woman gave a well-known author’s memoir one star on Amazon, calling it a “Stupid Book.” How is that helpful? If you don’t like something, be specific. What can other readers and the author learn from your feedback? Did you take issue with the writing style? If so, what about it? Was it the author’s life story? Did you disagree with her decisions? Was there explicit content? Of what nature? Just because you don’t like a book doesn’t mean others won’t; most readers gave that memoir five stars.
When you can, buy books. Libraries are essential to an informed society. Libraries buy books. After a certain number of check outs, they replace s work new copies. This practice serves authors, readers, and publishers alike.
Readers buy books. New or indie authors depend on these sales. A dear friend of mine loved my novel. She loved it so much she loaned it to all of her neighbors, whether they wanted it or not. I tried explaining to her that she was giving away my product, which wasn’t sustainable for me, but she couldn’t understand. If every reader did that, how many authors could afford to continue writing?
"Books may well be the only true magic."
– Alice Hoffman
Writers and readers share a symbiotic relationship. The more we support and respect each other, the better off we’ll be.