Monday, February 27, 2012

Group Mentality - Dissenting Opinions Are NOT Allowed!

I promised to continue in my last post from Indie Publishing - What Not To Do & What To Do - the actual process of what you really need to do to get your book published. However due to something that occurred...we interrupt the regularly scheduled program to bring you this post.

Before I begin let us throw up a picture.

Now down to our story folks, and what you should really be aware of. There will be no names mentioned here. I will not give you any names in email either. As I mentioned while researching out the Indie market, on purpose I sought out some of the groups and forums out there to see what people were saying about this market. Most of these forums and groups are fairly good for information, and again, I repeat, you should not waste too much time in them.

One such group is owned and run by a wonderful woman, who really does it for the good of the community. She is cordial, nice, professional and she is not a writer. What her motivations are to put oneself into a position like that is beyond me, but I am sure she is well aware of all the pitfalls and problems involved. It makes no difference how I found this group, but in the course of natural events I did find it, and was invited to join it.

This group has many members. Around 50-100 are really active (that is truly being above fair with the numbers.) They are a group of Indie authors, (though the group is open to all authors), and like most groups has its own rhythm and movement. It is also well-run by the administrator mentioned above. Most of the posts are not up my alley so I read and ignore. There are of course the posts that you will find in every group:
  1. Name My Character
  2. Do you like my book cover?
  3. Is this a good first paragraph?
The reason I ignore such posts and those like them is simple. My immediate reaction would be "name your own character - it is your book for goodness sake". You have to like your book cover - not 300 other people who all have different opinions. (Unless of course you are a book cover designer, but then again they do not usually throw out book covers and ask if people like them.) And if you need opinions on your first paragraph you need to go back and take a creative writing course. But those are cynical and sarcastic statements - true - yet cynical, and thus I just ignore such posts, and do not comment. I also do not comment on posts like the above that are clearly just put up in very "clever" ways to get people to download a book. 

Of course there are the ones that make you spit coffee over your keyboard. Like the "book reviewer" who said "I never bought an ebook in my life". Makes you wonder just how "literate" this book reviewer is. Would you want your book reviewed by someone who knows how to put up a blog, but does not buy books but only reviews those they can get for free? I do not know about you, but that is some scary stuff. You are comparing the writing to what, may I ask? I was tempted to ask the person who said that, if he had a University Degree, but I desisted. Because, well, in a group you have to be real careful what you say. Right? Right!

I also ignore those authors and people who call themselves "publishers" who rave about YAVB and YAZB. (You get 10 gold stars if you figure out those acronyms, but they should be added to the official Oxford English dictionary.) Not my thing.

Now to the part of the story which I must share with you. Indie authors are sometimes a "pack". What seems to have happened is since Amazon has done some amazing things with publishing, and allowing people to put out their own books (a good thing), they are feeling their oats. Now they feel it is time for revenge on the literary agents and publishers that would not look at what they wrote if they got down on their knees and begged. And let us face it folks. Time for the truth. To be sure, some wonderful authors have been discovered with this route. To be sure, there are many more who will be discovered. And to be sure the "some" here makes up maybe 5% of what is written by Indie authors is worth the electronic symbols they use up. (Some of you may say 10%, some may actually quote the correct statistic of 1.8%, but I will happily agree to any statistic you chose for your own measuring stick.) I want to make this clear. Not all books published the traditional route should be published either. They do not deserve the paper they are printed upon. But we are talking about Indie authors here. 

Amazon of course, in its marketing genius (and it is genius no kidding) to goad on more and more people to write hangs up the "success stories" for everyone to see. And of course, every Tom, Dick, Harry, Sally and Jane are sure they are the next great success story. That is fair to be honest. It is important to believe in yourself. What they do not take into account is a very well-known statistic.

Amazon also recently introduced a KDP program. A lot of discussion has gone into the plus and minus of this program. But one very specific aspect of this program is as follows:

If you join KDP in a period of 90 days you are allowed to offer your Ebook for FREE on 5 days of your choice. In other words within 90 days you can chose 5 days in consecutive order or 5 days on a calendar and the book will magically be offered for FREE. Not only that but Amazon in another piece of marketing genius, now places two Best Seller Lists. One is Normal paid for books (which you can guess are 95% occupied by non-Indie authors,) and another list which the FREE Best-Seller list.

Many people use the Free days to get themselves known to readers. I have said this in 2 previous posts, and it is a legitimate and smart way to make use of this perk. For the most part you will get compulsive addictive freebie hunters (such as the "book reviewer" above) who will download anything and everything as long as the word "FREE" is attached to it. Others claim that once they offer their book for free then people go ahead and buy it when it is off the free days. (Possible, maybe even probable, but the statistics they claim, let us just say do not make sense. More on that later.)

Now up until this point it is clear. Where I come from, and in the English language that I learned, the word "Free" and the word "Sale" are two different animals. If you get something for free you did not pay for it. And if you pay for something you did not get it for free. That seems to be fairly logical, at least to my mind. 

So along came a post where the OP ("Original Poster") asked about this practice of free and did it not hurt other writers who were trying to "sell their books". This is a fair, logical and important question. Something I would think every single Indie author should want to look at, think about, and discuss. This was the only post I saw. I did not look down the page, (my mistake), and find that a few posts before someone had posted that they are a "best-seller" because they had just given away a few thousand books for free and posted a picture of the Amazon page to boot. My bad! 

So I gave my opinion and here it is:

I just do not know how to say this in a more clear manner:
  1. Free Books are simply NOT sales. 
  2. I challenge anyone who puts out their book for free and even hits #1 to paste the same exact book and its position in Amazon KDP - 7 days later. In other words let us see how far your book "dropped" in the "real" world. It is getting real old to see people claim "best sellers" based on freebies. 
  3. If you bother looking at the lists, either Amazon or NYT best sellers, you will find a great many Kindle books priced at anywhere between 2.99-9.99 and people are buying them at a rate that keeps them in the best seller lists. 
  4. The one thing a Free giveaway will you, is possibly acknowledgment of your name as an author - which I admit is important and critical. 
  5. If you want to give your books away for free and claim best-seller status, open a blog, post a download of a PDF and then voila, it is free. 
  6. If you are serious about writing, and maybe have the ability to break into the big leagues, prove it with "real sales" not with 5 free days on Kindle. (And to be clear I have used these days as well, but am dropping out of KDP after the 90 days are up.) 
  7. To prove a free giveaway works you must show the stats a week and 2 weeks and a month later. And your "real sales". I apologize for being "cruel" here but again, giving away something for free is simply NOT selling it. And there are tens of thousands of people who hunt free stuff all over, almost as a compulsive addiction. So telling us that if you give away 10,000 books that 2,500 people will read in my opinion malarkey. I would say maybe 500 people MAY just open the book and maybe 50 people will try and read it. And that is on a good day with the angels smiling at you.
You do not have to agree with the above. That is the point of a post. You offer your own opinion. Well, dear people, all hell broke lose. It seems pack mentality took over. How dare I imply that giving away free books does not make you a best-seller? I was called a "pompous ass" and other such nouns, adjectives and adverbs for daring to suggest that something like giving away books is not sales. A publisher of Indie books, even claimed 10,000 free downloads which of course helped with their YAZB. And then the attacks came. I stood on the side and laughed. And I realized these people are truly headed for oblivion. It did not stop for 24 hours. The same people over and over again, who did not even bother reading the original set of posts, showing how giving they were to the Indie community, how they edited books for free, how they wrote book reviews, how they did this and did that. But interestingly enough not one person was willing to publish their statistics! Not one person was willing to show how their book did and where it dropped to AFTER they had stopped giving it away for free. Not one person was willing to say my check after the free giveaway for that month was $X which means that I sold Y amount of books. NOT ONE!

Around 10 posts later (in the same section which is around 15 minutes) when I realized that people simply would not think for themselves or allow a dissenting opinion this is what i wrote:
But enough is enough. I respect your right to totally disagree, and I understand your position, completely. You made your point clear and I made mine. Let us just agree to disagree and see a year from now if the market proves you right.
But you cannot beat the pack. You really cannot. But then of course the person who had posted the picture of their book in the best seller list (FREE best seller list) - decided that I had something to do with them, even though my post was not even in their original post, and went into a long speech about support and help of each other and pulled out the "drama queen" act and said they would leave the group. Rolls eyes. You got to love drama queens.

Now if you are halfway familiar with a computer mouse, you do know how to click, find the person's book, look it up on Amazon and see its current standing. So why did I not do that? Because it would have embarrassed the hell out of the people who were claiming such numbers. Because it would have just added fuel to a fire and would have proved futile. Because that is "flaming" and I do not flame or call names.

So I stayed away. Why waste time? I offered an opinion, not a popular one, but a legitimate opinion. Pack mentality took over. Why? Well I have my suspicions that I did hit a very raw nerve. That these authors are not as successful as they want everyone to believe or they are deluding themselves, (and their stats in Amazon lists do prove my point fairly well.) I also think that they know deep inside that if the playing field were level, and they had to vie for the "real" best-seller list, where people actually read books and buy them and download them, or buy the paperbacks, they would no longer be writing especially those YAVB and YAZB.

So what are the lessons to be learned:

  1. Groups & Forums should be approached by those who want to write with a great deal of caution.
  2. If you are looking for popularity, nod and keep your mouth shut. And a forum or group is not the place to look for popularity but for information.
  3. If you are looking for knowledge - read, absorb, and try not to drink anything while you are reading (otherwise you may need a few new keyboards.)
  4. Pack mentality is scary and dangerous. It is something that has been written about often, and exists within groups and forums. So chose if you are a member of the pack or you are an individual with your own brain, and then act accordingly.
  5. Indie people have a lot to learn about publishing and the real reading public. Putting up a blog does not make you a book reviewer. Writing words does not make you an author. Being a best-seller means you "sold" those books, you are being reviewed in traditional areas and your major area of concentration is - Writing Not Posting.
Oh and one more lesson! How did I forget?

Don't like what I said here? Leave a comment. Trash it. Prove it wrong. All comments will be published except spam. Because I happen to respect dissenting opinions!

All illustrations above are from the All hyperlinks on the posters will take you to their original page @


Laraine Flemming said...

You seem to be inviting dissent but, from my experience, you are spot on in all your observations. I'm a print author of many decades and I also want to self publish, so I'm in both camps. I really want to see self-published e-books take off, but my sense is that most of us didn't/don't realize how difficult it is to write a book worth reading. And saying that it is difficult is not encouraged. Despite a lot of experience in print, I'm surprised at how many obstacles there are to doing the kind of book I want. They can be overcome but they take work, lots of it, and money, a significant
amount--editors don't work for free, nor should they, and forget about the writer doing the editing and proofing; it doesn't work-- and plenty of marketing connections, who know how to target your audience.

I just found this blog. It's wonderful. Sorry not to be more dissenting.

Teddy said...

Laraine...I don't invite or turn up my nose at dissent. I just try and remember there are always other opinions. And if expressed, they deserve to be heard without going into a "pack mentality". Communication is the key. And you are so right about the editing, marketing and financials. Which will be in the next posts (that were promised).