This month, there has been some serious turbulence in the old indie author community surrounding the thorny issue of boxsets. Now, I know this is pretty much a weekly occurrence in one way or another, but this time, the storm is pretty big and it's feeding off a lot of hurt.
In almost all cases, calling folks out on the way they choose to travel their individual author path isn't a good thing - it can be a path paved with assumptions, false information and misunderstandings.
There are always two sides to a story (often more) and there are multiple truths of a situation. I am sad to see my community so divided and potentially destructive over the box-set matter. The world is tough enough for everybody in the authoring world at the minute.
Like with all the other dramas in the community, I'm keeping my mouth (almost) shut on this one and approaching it with a more positive reframe; This post is me nailing my personal (as in me and me alone) author values to the door. BTW - I have disabled comments on this post because this is not about igniting some kind of crazy bonfire of opinions.
Over the last year, I have become increasingly aware of all kinds of ways that authors are choosing to lead their creative life and run their marketing. Some of them have left me feeling sad and hollow over the state of our creative industry, others have been inspired and clever. It's tough times and it would be highly naive to believe that the book world was somehow spiritually protected from some of the 'evils of capitalism' (assume Orwellian scary voice for that phrase but at the same time, know that capitalism can be a beautiful source of ethical invention and resourcefulness)
Like Midas, I have been offered all kinds of ways to increase my visibility, my reach, my sales rankings, garner titles, pay for reviews, create (buy) a 'success' story.
Seriously, dear reader, for an investment of under $15k by this time next year, I could have a USAT bestseller title (maybe even a NYT bestseller title) have a newsletters of 10s of thousands of 'engaged' readers, 50, 100, 150 x 5 star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads; I could be bumped up in forums, reading groups, book clubs, access to exclusive signings, I could have my book reviewed by some of the biggest book tubers and reviewers - you name it, anything that makes me 'look' like a success, I can buy - ANY author can buy; tempting isn't it?
And the problem is, when you know all this is on offer to be purchased, how do we, the community know what is real or ethical anymore?
There are a lot of grey, shady areas, a lot of different truths being lived, and that's okay, we all have the right to make our own choices, create our own reality, but I wanted to share with you my personal author manifesto so you know where this author stands.
- I believe in working hard; crafting, nurturing, building. I do not believe in quick fixes; I've been cursed with an over-achiever mentality.
- I believe being an author is a professional career, and like any career, it takes years of dedication and conscientious application to truly attain knowledge, experience and aptitude.
- I believe books and stories are sacred things, not to be played with just for the sake of market, and I also believe that authors should write whatever intrigues, interests and excites them, meaning if they want to butterfly genres, good for them.
- I believe quality will always trump clever marketing in the long run. I believe quality demonstrates respect for your reader and the word; it ensures you can always be proud of the legacy you will leave behind.
- I believe that uniting with other authors who share your values, who share your passion, integrity and love of the book community, will produce great opportunities and exciting works of creativity. Sharing is caring. Sharing is power.
- I have never purchased a review, and I never will. When I 'gift' paperbacks & ebooks etc, it is always with the understanding that it will be an honest review.
- I have never purchased perceived favour, or scale, in the form of purchased Twitter followers, Facebook Likes or newsletter subscribers. They have all been built up organically through an approach of engagement, follow back, and involvement in the book community.
- I believe a small, engaged community of fans is gold dust. I genuinely appreciate every single person who picks up my books because there is something that has appealed to them.
- I will never use money in a way that will dishonestly manipulate rankings on Amazon or USAT lists - I am aware there is a shady 'almost accepted' approach by all facets of the publishing world to buy back, or gift, copies of their book to influence rankings.
- I will never buy click farm services to help the launch of one of my books. (I can barely get around to organising the pre-order function on Amazon)
- I love working with other authors, and I think it is smart to buddy up and cross promote, share each other's successes. I believe with a whole heart that somebody else's success never detracts or damages the potential for my own. I genuinely air-punch the air when I see one of my buddies reach a goal.
- Box sets and anthologies are a really great way to introduce readers to other authors in the community who share the same approach and love of story telling - they are a great way to broaden readership and gain visibility. They are also great fun to work on. (I'm going to be in two this year with authors I have known a long time, and whom I respect; okay, they're actually my buddies and we love working together so it's a total excuse to play.)
- Personally, after looking into and flirting with the idea of buying in to a $$$ box-set to pool marketing budgets, it's not for me - although I am sure there are many advantages and it can and is being done, with great integrity and ethics.
- I believe it is the moral duty of the elders in the author book community to lift as they climb, to mentor, nurture and encourage newbies.
- I am uneasy with the understanding that I could invest $2-3k of money next month and by the end of the year have a USAT or NYT bestselling author title pretty much guaranteed. I know where to go and how to do it (and there are several organisers, companies, services that provide this 'help') Hell, I've even checked it out out of curiosity and had some pretty tearful conversations with the hubby about it - but I JUST can't do it. When I get my USAT bestselling author status it will be because I have done it all by myself with the help of my dedicated readers, for a novel I really believe in.
- I believe everybody has the right to conduct their life and their business in whatever manner they decide, but if someone else calls out the ethics of it, it is despicable to turn around and accuse the community of bullying and jealousy - that's passive aggression on a big scale and I'm seeing too much of it of late.
- I will always have time to help, support and encourage new authors - seriously, reach out; I've got 9 books under my belt and run a small press house, as well as being a professional editor, so feel free to ask.
And there we have it folks. This is how this author has spent the last ten years doing her thing, and how she sees the next ten years, and hopefully lots of ten year blocks to come.