Monday, July 23, 2012

The Victimization of Indie Authors and How to Protect Yourself

(c) Zach Frailey
Being an indie author is great: You get to write what you want, defy trends, and set your own goals. The downside is that you must remain ahead of the curve at all times, regarding what the publishing industry is doing. Although writing is an art form, publishing is a business through and through. Let your guard down, and you are apt to be taken advantage of.

The latest buzzworthy news in the world of books has been the acquisition of the company Author Solutions by Pearson (Pearson is best known for its textbooks, but is also the owner of Penguin--a traditional publisher you've likely heard of). Why is this buzzworthy? Because Author Solutions has a reputation for being predatory toward authors. Among other issues, it has a seriously wonky royalty payment system (as reported by Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware here) and a vast number of dissatisfied customers. 

The main thing to remember is that ASI makes most of its revenue off of authors, not off of readers buying their books. They exist because there are self-publishers who are daunted by all it takes to publish a book, and are willing to shove money at someone to take care of it for them. 

Jane Friedman thinks this is an extremely unwise decision. She says, in her blog post on the topic, "... the self-publishing authors making big bucks are folks primarily using Amazon KDP or related 'free' services." In other words, don't fork out your money to companies like ASI, who are betting on you being too overwhelmed and confused to resist their sales tactics. Stories abound of authors who've emptied their savings account to get their book published, only to have it sell a few measly copies to friends and family. 

So, what can you do to be competitive in a publishing world that's just getting more and more confusing? How do you make sure you know what you're doing so you don't become a victim of less-than-well-meaning companies? Be honest, and ruthless, with yourself. Evaluate the competition at the top of the charts and see where you rank in relation to them. 

Porter Anderson, in his excellent post on the issue of ASI and Pearson, states, "One of the thorniest elements of all this may be that authors actually work against themselves in their representations of their own work." Indeed. We're not doing ourselves any favors when readers visit our websites and see broken links, drunken pictures of us at Friday's party, or invective about readers/reviewers/the general public who just don't live up to our expectations. Visit websites of traditionally published authors whose work you respect and admire. Do you see them doing any of the above? 

Here are 3 tips to help you establish a professional platform:

1. Evaluate your website. Is it easy to read? Easy to navigate? Have a few people not related to you visit it and give you their honest opinions (and be prepared to take their advice without getting offended).

2. Read your bio. Is it professional? Or does it make mention of your pets/kids/spouse/drinking habits? 

3. Analyze your social media content. If your posts/tweets are primarily hard selling your books or other items, or are political/religious in nature, rethink how you're presenting yourself to the world. Would you be comfortable sitting down with a reader and talking to them in the same manner you're tweeting? If the answer is no, you likely need to revamp your social media outlets.

Some final thoughts: subscribe to publishing industry blogs such as that of Jane Friendman or Bob Mayer. These experts keep up with the hard stuff and then give it to you straight. Often times, their comments sections are great places to meet other authors who might be willing to help you out by taking a look at your website or reading your bio, in case you don't know who to turn to. 

Always remember: You're doing the indie thing, but you don't have to do it alone. Inform yourself and don't be a victim.

About Adriana Ryan

Adriana Ryan writes captivating fiction in beautiful Charleston, SC. She is currently at work on an urban fantasy series. A huge fan of spooky stuff and shoes, she enjoys alternately hitting up the outlet malls and historic graveyards. Visit Adriana at her website, or say hello on Facebook or Twitter.

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