Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Writing 101: Dealing With Other Authors

Every kid has a dream, right? Mine was to be a writer, and I spent a lot of time imagining how it'd be. I would sit in some beautiful room somewhere, in front of a window overlooking an idyllic garden perhaps, quietly tapping away on my keyboard at rapid speeds. No one would ever bother me. I would complete my books and send them off to some huge publishers, who would turn the pages into a perfect book with a fabulous cover and all of that. Everyone would buy the books, and I would continue writing. Now, I am a writer...and I realize how foolish every bit of that imagery really is. 

I hardly ever have the time to write. It's the last thing I add to the list and the first one I take off when things get dicey, the task I wish I could get to but rarely do. And some of the time I'm not writing and yet still fully engaged in the job of being a writer, I'm dealing with other authors other than myself. 

And if you're self-publishing, you're going to have to deal with them, too. 

Hey, There Are Other Writers Here

You're a member of the indie author community even before you self-publish your first book. Once you make a decision to self-publish, you're part of the group...and it's a huge group. You're going to need them right away, so that's a good thing.
  • Reviews. Most all your early reviews are probably going to come from other authors if you're participating in the indie community. Review swaps can help you get your first reviews, and even if you don't swap you will find lots of indie authors who really want to review other self-published writers. Participate in forum groups (like the ones at Goodreads) to find them. 
  • Networking. Indie authors share information with other indie authors. Participate in forums where you find useful links, and look for indie author blogs where writers share from their own experiences and provide resources. If you want more specific information, send a message to the author through social networking sites or through email addresses, if they're listed on the blogs themselves. 
  • Supporting. Indie authors will support one of their own. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, and they'll follow you back. What's more, they'll re-tweet and re-post your stuff when you're sending out links and information about your books. This is a great reason for keeping the indie author community on your side. 
  • Opportunity. Speaking of indie author blogs, you'll be exposed to a world of opportunity when you participate in the indie author community. You may receive invitations to provide guest posts, join blog tours and participate in other special events that will help you promote yourself and your work. 
 Now, Deal With It

Any one of the reasons listed above is a compelling argument for participating in the indie author community, but in reality it's a whole lot easier said than done. Dealing with other authors in almost any capacity, especially indie authors, can be extremely trying...and there are times when you're going to need to marshal your strength in order to do it.

But a few tips can't hurt. 
  • Reviewing Them
They'll be more inclined to review you if you're reviewing them, and it's always a good idea to read other self-published authors so you understand your own market. You want to know what your readers are reading, because they aren't reading your books alone. You may also be approached by other authors about doing a beta read, or looking over their work and giving them notes. Hang around in the community long enough, and you may end up giving out reviews.

And that's when things start to get dicey. You may be met with anger and unappealing behavior after giving a self-published author some well-meaning criticism. It's your job to stay professional and polite, and that's the beginning of the first thing you need to know.
  • You're a professional
You're a self-published author. You're an indie. You are an entrepreneur, perhaps well on your way to full-time self-employment. That makes you a professional, and that makes your pen name a brand name, so at all times try to act like one -- especially when you're engaging other authors. Treat them with respect, politeness and some necessary distance at all times. They're not your best friends, nor are they your enemies. They are your colleagues, each and every one of them from Amanda Hocking to the Fifty Shades of Grey author to me, Jade. Think of them as business associates, and always remain polite to them even if they're lashing out at you in some way. We're all human, and writing is pretty emotional business. Outbursts are bound to happen, but you've always got time before hitting Send to take a deep breath and re-read whatever you've about to post/email/blog. Editing and reading is part of being a writer, right?
  • Supporting them.
If you want to get support from the community, you should return the favor by supporting other self-published authors. Retweet, repost, share links, tell them things that you've figured out and don't be afraid to recommend their books if someone asks you about what you like to read. You should absolutely be reading other indie authors, and familiarize yourself with those who write in genres similar to your own. To be a part of the community, be a part of the community. Get it?
  • Tolerating them.
It's easy to get overwhelmed by it all. I started following 7 groups on Goodreads, boards I picked with great care for well-thought reasons that were driven by logic. Now I'm a member of 30-something groups, at least, that quickly become overloaded with new posts in a matter of hours. I could pay an assistant a full-time wage to keep up with it. If I had an assistant. Or money for an assistant. The point is, there are so many self-published authors out there that you're going to get swamped. There might be times when you're receiving so many requests to do so much stuff, you want to swear off technology and swear at your ereader. I'm constantly reminding myself to focus on one thing at a time, instead of thinking about the long line of tasks awaiting me. I like to make a list, so I can check each item off one by one. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, and helps me stay focused on the particular thing I need to work on right now. Even if you have to comb through 30-something forum groups, it is doable if you avoid distractions.
  • Reading them.
I used to love Patricia Cornwell books. You know, Kay Scarpetta? Anyway, I devoured them. She couldn't write them fast enough for me. Then one day I got to talking about books with an acquaintance, and without a bit of prompting she roundly disparaged Cornwell right in front of me. She said the books ought not to have been published, and went on to impugn Pat's writing with colorful language. I was stunned, affronted, shocked.

All readers don't respond to all writers the same way, and you're going to find lots of indie authors to whom you don't respond when you read their work. You might end up reading and reviewing an indie book that quite literally makes you miserable, or one so filled with errors it brings you to tears. They're out there, guys. I know where they're at, and you'll find them, too.

You might hate them, for that. You might hate them for those errors. You might, like me, go to the very brink of insanity because of repeated formatting issues (justification, justification, justification). You might hate yourself for agreeing to read something that turns out to be not worth reading beyond the first page. Everyone has hated a book produced by a major publishing house, too. I've found errors in mass-market paperbacks that could curl your eyelashes.

You might think to yourself, I'm not like them. I don't belong with them. I've seen, and been offended by, flowery forum posts that say pretty much this. There's a stigma associated with self-published authors, and believe me if you read enough of them you'll know why it's there. But there are fantastic indies out there, too, the discovered and the un-discovered who are just waiting for their words to catch fire (and they will). I've found them as well. Like every single other kind of author, self-published authors all have their own writing strengths and weaknesses, and you're going to love some and hate some. Do not become guilty of grouping them together the way the media and the numbers-crunchers do.

All books are books, and all authors are authors. They all write the same way, don't they? They've got the same standard keyboard as you, and me, and every other self-published author. They're on the same social media sites. They've got the same plot problems, and they roll their eyes the same way when it's time to start editing. They just have a few more people around them and a few more dedicated readers, that's all. The main thing you ought to know about being an author? You have to extend some professional respect to all other authors...and that's the best, and only, way you should be dealing with them.

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  1. You know... I could live on your blog.
    You constantly post helpful tips and things you dont even think about when you start writing a book.
    I mean, I already talk with many self published authors (well, talk is a relative term, maybe I should say, blog with, or email, or comment on their posts and they reply...) and hopefully, once I finish my book, they will have the time and patience to read and review my book back...


  2. I'm glad you're enjoying the blog! I'm sure many indie authors will be happy to review your book once it's available.

  3. Just wondering, what's your "soon to be" novel Mrs. Jones? Also I'd like to give a hand of applause to Jade for a marvelous post. I don't know how you do it. Managing a blog, writing your series, marketing your book, reading some tips, joining in on the community it seems so hard! Also I was wondering what werey our thoughts on groups who do follow for a follow? As a blog do you think it's healthy? I peronally do not participate in these social events although i've had mixed opinions about some mattters in the book industry and your oppinion does come off strongly and it does count, atleast for me!

  4. Thanks, Nic! I've actually considered the follow-swap topic very seriously in the past, though I can't stress enough that I'm not at all an expert on any matters whatsoever.

    I've found that it depends on the blogger. Personally, I DO think it adds a certain something to a blog if there are a lot of followers. I believe this compels other people to follow the blog, and makes it look popular. Perceived popularity is a powerful tool. Other bloggers don't like follow-for-follows because they'd rather have "genuine" readers. My opinion is pretty much this: when you're displaying visible numbers, it can only help to inflate them by any means possible. I DON'T participate in follow-for-follow posts, however, because I don't have that kind of time and I'm already following so many blogs I don't want to lose track of them. But I do think they're a good idea.