Sunday, April 25, 2010

Potty Training for Self-Published Authors

In case you haven't figured it out by now, I love book bloggers. I love how they tirelessly read and read and read and selflessly share their insights with the rest of us. They spend a lot of time and money on this hobby, and a wonderful side effect of their efforts is publicity for authors. Free publicity, mind you, except for the cost of the book and postage when you send them a review copy, if they didn't already buy the book themselves. It's a beautifully symbiotic relationship: we write the books that feed their voracious appetites for good stories, and they blog about our books, giving us exposure to hundreds of followers in one go.

Given the remarkable service bloggers are providing to us, you would think all authors would treat bloggers like the royalty they are. Right?

Wrong. There is an astonishing number of authors--sadly, many of them self-published authors--who seem to feel that just because they wrote a book, they are entitled to sit back and enjoy watching their book go viral without any effort on their part at all, and that the world somehow owes them reviews and publicity and fame and fortune. They treat our beloved bloggers with disdain, badgering them with emails asking why their review hasn't come out yet. And they harass booksellers--a publicist recently told me that an independent bookseller she knows gets 20 to 30 self-published authors a day coming in asking them to carry their books. Mind you, these are often the same authors who didn't bother spending the time or money editing their books, expecting that readers will not only send them feedback if anything is amiss, but that they'll actually pay for the privilege. (It reminds me very much of software companies who put out buggy software and simply expect users to do the quality testing for them...on their own dime. But that's a whole separate rant.) It's no wonder so many people in the book industry frown on self-published authors. We're a very mixed lot.

So how can you separate yourself from the unprofessional authors and set yourself apart as one of the shining examples of what self-published authors can be?

1. Always be courteous.
It's ridiculous that this needs to be stated, but it does. I can't believe the stories I hear about authors who request that a blogger review their novel, only to then send the blogger nastygrams because they haven't reviewed their book yet or they didn't like the review once it came out. I don't care how bad a review is--if someone took the time to read your book and comment on it, extend them the courtesy of a professional response, or just don't say anything at all.

2. Do your homework.
Again, it makes me cringe that I have to point this out, but there are authors who find a list of bloggers (which someone took the trouble to compile) and then simply spam them all with a blanket request to review their book, regardless of the fact that a) those lists usually say which types of books the blogger is interested in, and b) most bloggers also clearly spell out their review policies/interests on their blog. Why on earth would you want someone who doesn't care about your genre to read and review your book? Don't be lazy and expect other people to do your homework for you--only send requests to bloggers, reviewers, and bookstores who are actually interested in your genre.

3. Edit your work.
I've brought this one up several times, and I can't stress it enough. Do NOT expect your readers to edit your work for you, or worse, try to pass off horrible grammar and punctuation as "a unique voice." And if someone is kind enough to point out a typo in your book, for heaven's sake fix it and upload a new version. That's one of the key advantages of print-on-demand that we self-published authors have over our traditionally published colleagues who have tons of stock they can't just up and replace. I don't care if it costs you another $30 for a proof copy and you have to stop production for a few days--do the right thing and put the highest-quality work out there that you can.

4. Be gracious about interviews.
Recently, I read a comment from an author who was all up in arms about bloggers asking questions about her book that had already been covered a million times in other interviews and for asking stupid questions like what's your favorite color. Again, most bloggers are people who do this for a hobby. They are not paid professionals. If it annoys you so much to answer a question that's already been answered, copy and paste your answer from a previous interview. If you don't like the more mundane questions, just don't answer them, and maybe suggest some other questions that might be more thought-provoking. But remember--every blogger has a specific following, and while one blog's followers might be very interested in hearing you wax philosophical on how your book is a searing indictment of human frailty, another blog's followers might be much more interested in hearing which flavor of Ben and Jerry's you prefer. Either way, be gracious about it, and better yet, be a good sport and just answer the questions.

5. Be patient.
This overlaps with the other categories, but really take this one to heart. Do you see how many books a blogger lists in his or her "In My Mailbox" post each week? They're busy, they have a lot of books to read, and they'll get to yours when they can. It's fine to send them a brief email to confirm whether they received your book that you sent them, but then drop it. Yes, there are some bloggers out there who are only after free books, who request a review copy and then never review your book. But these are very few and far between, and unless you FedEx'd a copy to Timbuktu, you're not out that much money. So be patient, set up a Google alert with your name and book title so that you get an email alert whenever a post shows up about your book, and then let it go. Whenever a review appears about Rising Shadow or Merger, I see it as a gift--a wonderful, happy event that always makes my day, rather than my God-given right simply because I spent $10 sending them a copy of my book.

So there are my top five tips for setting yourself apart as a professional self-published author. Please leave comments if you have other tips to share...bloggers, here's your chance to share the good, the bad, and the ugly.


  1. Jacquelyn, can I hug you now? Beautifully written as always. Though book bloggers have there issues too, and I often wonder if I am to forward or pushy when it comes to contact...but I loved your tips...even if the books not self published. I have been bombarded with emails from an author just days after I received his book - asking about a review...via email, twitter - and it's not self published. Anyway. ((HUGS))

  2. Bloggers aren't perfect, of course. There was a great blog post recently ( with similar tips for bloggers (things like "don't ask the author to pay for your airfare"--I guess these things actually happen!). But Jenn, I can assure you that you've never committed any of these transgressions. Hugs right back atcha!

  3. I still remember being blown away by the kind words of some famous online book reviewers. Amazing, the dedication to story these folks are. Yes, they DO deserve every courtesy -- because, let's face it, they do it out of love.

  4. Its funny how I came across your post. I am a new author whose first book is coming out this summer. I have been putting together a list of authors whom I have read and wanted to do a Blog post on their blog. As someone who is entirely new to the business I have much anxiety about doing this because I don't want to be the pain you described. I have taken all of your comments to heart and though many seem obvious it doesn't hurt to remind ourselves that it doesn't take much to be nice.
    Really enjoyed this and am looking forward to more.

    Sean McCartney
    Secrets of the Magical Medallions

  5. Thanks for stopping by, Sean, and best of luck with your book! When you comment on posts and articles, don't be shy about putting your web site URL in your signature. (If you don't have a web site yet, you can set up an author page on Goodreads, Amazon, LibraryThing, etc.)

  6. Thanks for the ideas. I am in the process of putting that all together.

    Sean McCartney
    Secrets of the Magical Medallions

  7. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me. Potty Training Problems