The goal of Indie Books List, from the very beginning, was to draw in readers by posting quality independently published work. We quickly realized we had to include books that were traditionally published as well, simply because we had so many requests. And the truth is, publishers do NOT promote their books and they never have. They leave it up to the writer, unless that writer is in a very small group of authors who are already bestsellers.
I may regret writing this. In fact, I’m fairly certain I will. I suggest taking screenshots if you’d like proof because I’ll probably delete this post. I’m writing this in response to the requests we receive on a daily basis to “please post my book!”
Here’s the thing: good work attracts readers. Shoddy work does not. I wanted with all my heart to post good, quality work here, but that was not always the case (and no, I’m not naming names). And by “good, quality work,” I mean, books that people want to read. I hoped that by posting good excerpts, it would draw in more readers. Instead, what happened was, we received an overwhelming number of submissions from books that were never going to sell, no matter where they were posted, but the writers just expected sales to roll in. It didn’t matter if the work had a spelling error in every other sentence, or if it was boring, or if the cover looked so amateur it was laughable. No. “Submit to Indie Books List. You’ll make sales.”
Over time, we saw more clicks on the submission form than we saw clicks out to purchase books. That’s a BAD indicator.
Now, we were never in this for some big monetary payoff. Good thing, because it never happened. We just saw a need and wanted to help. But after many months of seeing nothing but declining web traffic, and almost nobody reading the excerpts, we had to call it a day.
Where we went wrong
Calling ourselves “Indie.” Listen, nobody cares if you’re Indie. You may have a reader here or there who tells you, “I love to find new Indie books!” but, in general, “Indie” is synonymous with “crap” or “garbage” to most people.
If you’re trying to sell books, the best advice I can give you is NOT to put that label on yourself. Daily, it seems as if I find new some new blog popping up, usually a conglomerate of authors calling themselves “indie-something-or-other.” Don’t do it. Just don’t do it. The lines have already blurred between “indie” and “traditional.” There’s no need to draw attention to your “indiehood.” Instead, create a website with a cool name, call it a “press” and use that as your publishing company name. You can even get some other friends together and have a website where your books can be found. But don’t you DARE call it “indie.” Trust me.
I would have come up with a clever name for this blog if I had it to do over again. The name “indie” was always like shooting ourselves in the foot, but it took me a good while to realize it.
The best thing you can do is just make sure your books look like they belong among traditionally published books on the virtual shelves. Sure, your sweet grandson may have designed that book cover for you with all the love in the world, but it still looks hideous.
Also, don’t publish a first draft. Or at least, don’t make it look like an obvious first draft. I highly recommend Ginger Software. It will help you catch a lot of errors that a proofreader–or even a copy editor–might catch. And guess what? It’s FREE.
Grammarly is also a great software that will catch a lot of obvious errors. It is NOT free, but it is more powerful than Ginger Software.
Or, of course, you could always just hire a good freelance editor. A “good” editor is one who won’t try to destroy your unique voice, but will be honest with you about what’s good and bad about your manuscript. These people cost money. If you do not hire one, you do so at your own risk.
Make sure you understand the different types of editing services. Some people will gouge you for what they call an “edit” but really it’s just a proofread. Don’t fall for it. At least get a copy edit. See if the person you hire offers it. There are various copy editing softwares out there that may also do you a world of good. It’s worth a Google.
Other characteristics of obvious “indie” work are things like:
- Every sentence in a paragraph begins with the same word, such as “She” or “He.” Don’t do it – it smacks of amateur. Vary the way your sentences begin.
- Too many exclamation points.
- Lack of tension.
- Too much passive voice. SOME passive voice is okay, and even necessary in some cases. But be mindful of it.
Why isn’t your book selling?
- It’s literary fiction. This is the graveyard where books go to die. It doesn’t matter how well written it is. Literary fiction does NOT sell like genre fiction, especially if you are an unknown author.
- You have only written one book and you are out there doing everything you can to promote that one book instead of just writing another. Promotion will not help you sell more books. You need to write more and gather your audience. Depending on the genre in which you write, it may take longer to get noticed or build an audience, but that’s just the way it is. Posting your book here or anywhere else will not help.
- Your book blurb (and your title, in some cases) has obvious grammar errors and misspellings.
- Your book blurb looks unprofessional because you saved it for last and just wrote whatever came to mind when you were sitting there at the KDP upload screen. People will judge you by your blurb. Give it at least the same care and attention you gave to the book.
- Stephen King’s On Writing. But I must warn you: you will never look at an adverb or a dialogue tag the same way again if you read this. Follow Mr. King’s advice and your writing will sound more professional. I disagree with certain things he advises, like, making your books shorter. I think that was always a publishing industry method of conserving shelf space. So many subplots, characters, and scenes have been eliminated by editors over the years just to save shelf space (and also to save on overhead costs such as paper, printing, shipping, storage… all that stuff is now obsolete with digital books). (Side note: adverbs aren’t always evil. Turn them into a cleverly-placed adjective and no one will ever know the difference.)
- Keys to Great Writing, by Stephen Wilbers - An invaluable resource!! This book is especially great for people who have never taken a writing class (which is the case with many new writers). It will help you avoid many of the obvious pitfalls that will make your book sound like it was written by an eighth grader.
- Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style – this is an obvious recommendation. It’s a great resource to always have on hand. It does, however, make me fall asleep. There’s an X-rated version that’s kind of funny but I’m not going to link to it here.