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AUNTIE MJ’S INTERNET SCHOOL

There’s been a lot on the Internet in this last week about publishing. The big news a few days ago was the exposure of the fact that authors (primarily self-published) can buy reviews.*Many people were shocked and horrified. Some shrugged. But there is no doubt that self-publishing is on the rise, and that more and more people are doing their own book marketing. Which means: THE INTERNET!

I happen to think this is largely a good thing, and am pretty excited about the worlds self-publishing will open. I am equally aware that as these doors open, lots of crap will flow in. There will be bad books. There will be spam. There will be loads and loads of people—who have always been around—finding new ways of separating you from your money. It’s a big and interesting world, and I have some thoughts on it. Which is why I am starting this series of posts called AUNTIE MJ’S PUBLISHING SCHOOL. And I start it by answering this question and putting in my disclaimer.

@MeFlyRocket Are there different rules for different author types, eg published, self published, aspiring / blogger etc?

There are no rules at all, for anyone. There are only ideas and practices, and they are highly individual. Anything I suggest here is my opinion, based on my experience. I do spend a lot of time online, and I do think about this a lot, so my opinions may be of use to you. If they are not, they should be ignored.

I will put a disclaimer like this in every post in this SERIES.

Q: I’m a self-published author. If I don’t just send out links to my book to authors, how am I supposed to get attention?

I’m going to say something now that’s going to sound really harsh, but it’s meant to be helpful. I say it because it is true. Knowing it can only help you.

No one owes you anything.**

Just because you write something doesn’t mean that anyone has to read it. Writing a book doesn’t make you special. Loads of people have written books. Sticking that “author” tag after your name is pretty much meaningless. It’s not an official title, or an accreditation. No matter what your book is like, the world is not begging for it. We already have a lot of books. The problem with just saying, “I wrote this, now read it/RT it!” is that it implies that just because you wrote it, the world is now supposed to recognize it and get excited about it. The world is not your mom.

I am not talking just to you. It applies to all of us. It applies to me. No one is exempt.

In terms of sending links to authors, with read/RT requests:

a). Most authors already have much, much more to read than they can possibly handle. There is no compelling reason to stop and read some random thing sent by someone they don’t know.

b). Random links from strangers look scary and virus-causing.

c). No one likes spam. And really, no one likes the implication that they can just stop what they’re doing and read your stuff just because you want them to.

d). Likewise, why would an author just blindly RT something they haven’t read?

Totally harsh sounding, right? I know, I know. But bear with me. We’re getting to the positive stuff. I just had to put out the hard stuff first. That’s me explaining why I think you shouldn’t do that. Now, what should you do?

Having said there are no rules, I keep one primary rule for myself: Be Interesting. “Interesting” is a word that can be interpreted in many ways. For example, there is a particularly odd guy who has self-published his book and spends seemingly all of his time making up new accounts for himself, which he uses to send insults to writers (usually female). He has told me, when not sending insults, that he considers this a form of art and a way of getting attention. I do not recommend this, as what this guy is, in actuality, is a dick, and everyone blocks him. That’s not interesting. It’s repetitive, for a start. And just being offensive for the sake of being offensive is boring.

So what is interesting? LOADS OF THINGS. What will you talk about? Dude, I don’t know. You’re the writer. I know! It’s totally hard! But this writing business is hard. It’s work. But if you want to write, do the work. And hard work, careful study … these things pay off!

Some more specific thoughts on things you SHOULD do. (Remember that disclaimer, it applies double to everything you see below.)

1. Figure out what you want with your online life

Why are you online? Is it purely because you want to be? Is it to sell books? Is it both? Really think about this. I tend to think that first one is best. It produces the most life satisfaction. If it is two or three, you kind of have to make it look like it is the second one. The most fun people to read and follow online are the ones who engage with the world and have things to say.

2. Talk about something other than you or your book

People need a reason to come and visit you and read what you are writing. If you are a totally new, unknown writer, your book is not that reason. Not yet.

3. Cultivate actual friendships online

Imagine you walk into a party. It’s kind of an open gathering, people who don’t necessarily know each other are mingling around. You can walk up and start a conversation anywhere. Would you just rock up, interrupt some people talking and say, “I WROTE A BOOK STOP EVERYTHING AND LOOK AT ME”? If you would do this, I would say, don’t do that! It’s awkward and selfish. Talk. Listen. LISTEN. (Listen is a big one.) Read what other people write. If you do this, soon you will have more things to talk about aside from you and your book, and you will have people who will want to have a look at what you’ve said.

4. Find the good blogs/streams in the topics that interest you and read them

Self-explanatory.

5. Give it time

It’s highly unlikely that your book will just pop overnight, or that your social media profile will suddenly skyrocket. People who have loyal followings online have usually been doing it for quite a while. It all goes back to the fact that just because you wrote something, it doesn’t mean that people will just come. When you know this, you don’t get upset when you don’t get a thousand readers overnight. You know to keep working, to keep going nice and steady. You will know that you can improve. Knowing that it takes work and time is the remedy to getting depressed and freaking out. And that is how you will succeed.

Or just get a reality show or something.

* I’m going to get to this one.

** Unless you saved their life or something. Then they totally owe you.

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Posted: Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 @ 10:28 am
Categories: advice, ask mj.
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