I’ve touch on the importance of reviews and feedback before. I want to come back to this, though, because for independent authors, I cannot stress enough just how big of a deal reviews, feedback, and sharing are.
Independently publishing a book is more than just hitting submit on Amazon or Smashwords and waiting for sales to come in. Thousands of books are self-published every day. Your new release is going to get lost in the shuffle quickly, so as an independent author, you have to not only write the work, possibly edit the work yourself, and submit it to your platform of choice, you also have to promote it and advertise it. You have to see out reviewers.
And sometimes, you have to remind people who have read your book to share their thoughts.
For consumers, the importance of reviews is pretty simple. It tells you what to expect and gives you an idea if what you are about to get is worth while. For example, when my husband bought me Doctor Who DVDs for Christmas, we quickly learned, Christmas Day, that we could not play them on the DVD player because he purchased them through Amazon UK, not Amazon USA. I got online and searched through reviews of different region-less DVD players until I found one that, by the reviews listed, appeared to be what I needed. And when it turned out to be so and to reliably play my DVDs, I was sure to share that feedback as well.
For independent authors, however, reviews are much more.
The Threshold Guardians
Independent authors have several avenues available to them to seek people to promote their work. Most are paid to promote, and can get very expensive. A few offer their promotion services for free on their website, but with caveats. They want to see a certain number of reviews. To these people offering a free service, they want to know that the work they are going to promote has merit, because as a free promoter, they are putting their name and reputation out there to push a work. Reviewers also take into consideration reader reviews when selecting a work, looking at the number of positive/negative reviews for a work, and if people are responding at all.
Just as an agent acts as the threshold guardian for publishing houses, the reviewer is the threshold guardian for an indie-author’s ability to access some avenues of promotion.
Reviews also affect how works can be found on sites, and how quickly they show up on searches. Reviews are buzz, and if readers are talking about the works, retailers are going to highlight those works, and new readers will pick them up.
These are the reviews, the expressions of readers and professionals. They are not a dialogue between the author and reader, however, and authors really should never respond to them. While yes, reviews can provide valuable feedback for future writing, they have to be used carefully in that regard. Reviews are going to be, chiefly, opinion. Opinion is great, but you cannot write to an opinion any more than you can write to an imagined audience.
The Feedback Loop
For indie-authors, feedback is just as important as blog and sales-site reviews. The reviews tell an author what people think of the work. Feedback, however, is so much more. Feedback tells an author what is working and how a work is being received. Reviews can serve this function, but an author should not rely solely on reviews for that, and readers who want to provide feedback to an indie-author should look for additional ways, outside of retail sites, to engage the author.
And this is where self-publishing is so wonderful. Because Independent authors rely on social networking and our own blogs (like this one) to promote our work, we are highly accessible to our readers. This means that you can come to my blog or my Facebook page or my group (hint, hint) and you can talk to me. You can ask me a question about my book or short stories. You can give me feedback about the book that you think will help me later. Did you want to see more description in the locations I used? Was there something you found to not be very believable? Did you notice a grammatical error that popped up several times? Did you really like something and hope to see more of it? Maybe a character you hope to see again, or some aspect of the story that really stood out.
This type of feedback is invaluable because, honestly, a lot of this is feedback traditional authors already get before a book is published. The agent, upon accepting an author, often times will go back to the author with feedback and suggestions for changes. Once a publisher picks up the work, editors scour it for developmental needs and mechanical corrections. Because indie-authors often don’t have these people to review the work before hand, not without shelling out hundreds or even thousands of dollars first, they rely on reader feedback to tell them what is working and what they need to look for before releasing the next novel.
Share, and Share Alike
So, I don’t mean uploading a book illegally to a site for people to download. I think I’ve covered that already.
I mean telling people about the work. Like the author and/or book page on Facebook so that your friends know it is there. If you know someone is looking for a new book and likes the genre of your indie-author, let them know to check it out. When your favorite indie-author shares information about an upcoming book, or is promoting an existing work, take a moment to share that.
Every day we share things on our social media sites. How many memes did you repost today on Facebook or Twitter? Was it a “what character/thing are you” quiz? Maybe it was a cat picture or the lasest spoiler-heavy Game of Thrones meme. Or a funny video of someone getting punched in an inappropriate place.
When was the last time you shared a post from an independent author?
People do not magically know about things existing. Consider our media culture. You know about the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey movie not because it is being made, and therefore mystically you knew. You know because it has been promoted and people have talked about it. I first learned about it because someone shared the trailer on G+. Indie-author works are no different. If the indie-authors you follow are going to get popular, it will be because you and others like you share them.
And so that’s it.
Please. If you have read my works, review them on Amazon and Smashwords. Follow my pages, join my groups because I want to do things, I just need participants.
And do the same for other indie authors as well.
And good reading everyone.