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How Not To Create Buzz For Your Book

I like to think the best of people. I really do. I can’t help it. I believe that everyone is entitled to a fair chance, and I refuse to let bullying stand. If I see it anywhere I have to say something. It’s part of my DNA.

Recently on Twitter I was watching an author have an absolute meltdown. His eBook was being annihilated in the star rating system an Amazon. Everywhere you turned there were 1 star reviews. At first I thought “well the book must be utter garbage” but upon reading the 1 star reviews I began to notice something. Each of them said the same thing. There was very little difference between one amazon reviewer and the other. When I saw that every single 1 star review has helped between 36 and 40 people decide whether to buy the story or not I felt annoyed.

I thought it was a bit fishy, and so I bought the book. I tweeted the author and told him I’d bought it and would be happy to review it for him honestly. He had been talking about being trolled and how the people who had left the reviews hadn’t even read the book, but that Amazon wouldn’t do anything about it.

So I did as I said. I bought it. The story which was about 4 high school girls who become Super Hero’s wasn’t all that bad. There were plenty of spelling mistakes – note: even if the word is spelt correctly, but is used incorrectly it’s wrong (peace v piece, form v from) and I told the author about that in DM’s on twitter. He tried to explain it away as formatting errors when he uploaded the eBook but I pointed out at that uploading to eBook format doesn’t change the words he used.

The story was quite interesting, not bad at all to be honest. I enjoyed it. A light bit of escapism for the never ending commute to and from work. I was sitting at home last weekend, trying to figure out what star rating I was going to give the story. It wasn’t a 5 there were too many clunky sentences, character names changing place and correctly spelt incorrect words for a 5. It definitely wasn’t a 1 or 2, the story was quite good, although I thought the battle scenes were too short and not emotive enough.

While I had a problem with the superficial nature of the lead hero – a cheerleader turned into a hulk who spends 200 odd pages refusing to do anything but complain she’s no longer pretty – I felt the story was a good set up to a possible trilogy or series.

Was it a 3 or a 4? I couldn’t decide, and as I until I felt comfortable with assigning a star rating to the book I decided to wait. I know how important the Amazon star rating is to the writer, so I didn’t just want to flip a coin.

One afternoon not long after that I was on Twitter and happened to spot a tweet from the author that really infuriated me. The gist of the tweet was how he’d decided to try and revive interest in a book no one wanted to buy by “creating a public meltdown on his twitter page.”

He was crowing about how successful it had been and how he’d done it all as an experiment and how it had worked. He’d sold more copies of the book during his public meltdown about trolls then he had since the book had been released.

He seemed very happy with himself and quite pleased that he had suckered people into buying the book.

I was pissed.

I’m all for promoting your work. Authors work hard to create a product. Call it whatever you like, but when you are a creative person, a writer, an actor, an artist, what you are doing is building a product that you hope to sell. Writing is a business, and as a business it’s something you need to take seriously.

I’m sure the author thought he was being very clever with his very public breakdown, begging people to buy the book and give him a fair review when he was being trolled and bullied. I bought his act. I felt sorry for this guy who had worked so hard for however long to create this world, to develop (superficially) these characters, to give of his time and energy to write this story that obviously sung in his heart.

I thought it was awful the guy was being bullied. It triggered the part of me that stands guard over my own whimpering bully victim that hides in the dark corners of my mind.

I had drafted a review, trying to be objective. Good, improvement, Good. I believe that all reviews should state the good as well as the not so good. I was going to provide a fair objective review, and while I wasn’t prepared to give a whitewash review – you know the ones that say things like  “Oh it was absolutely awesome I shall name my first born child after its characters” – I was prepared to provide honest feedback.

When I saw these tweets, basically thanking the troll for the idea that has seen his book start to sell really well, I felt betrayed. I also lost all faith or trust in the author. Regardless of how much I may have liked the book, I will not buy it’s sequel, or anything else he has his name to.

It got me to thinking about the importance, not only in marketing eBooks as an independent author, but in the customer service. The importance of providing your readers with a great experience that will have them coming back for more, telling their friends about the product and recommending it to others. About developing a sense of trust between yourself and your customers.

It’s the same with an eBook as it is with a physical product. You don’t want to give the reader a reason a turn away and go somewhere else. A reason to spent their 99 cents with someone else.

When I first downloaded my Kindle app, I was hesitant to buy eBooks. I had an attitude of “why is it only worth 99 cents, you get what you pay for, I’m not buying a book the author feels is worthless, and don’t even get me started on free books, they must be utter rubbish.”

One afternoon on the train I finished my book and thought “meh, it’s free who cares” and downloaded a eBook from Amazon. I loved it. I was stunned that such a talented author was willing to give away their product free to whoever stumbled across it. I was hooked. There have been some fantastic books I’ve found since them, some free, some where I’ve paid a few dollars, and there have been some absolute stinkers, but all in all I’m impressed with the effort and quality.

One of the 1st books I bought was a bit of a mess. I had no idea what to expect and was frustrated by the constantly shifting character names – at one point the dead aunt’s named changed from her name to the killers name and back again in 3 paragraphs – but I left a review and because I’d already bought the sequel I read it.

What really surprised me was the author of that book thanked me for my review, and we got talking. I thought “wow, Amazon makes it so that we have direct access to the writers, and they listen, this is really cool.” That particular author has never once failed to reply to a review I’ve made and I’ve read all 6 of her books. If a friend asks me for recommendations for eBooks I always recommend her and her mystery series.

It is so easy for authors who don’t have teams of people around them to forget the most basic business principal. You are a writer regardless of whether you sell a word or not, but you are an author only when someone buys your work. When customers are left with a sour taste in their mouth by your product – or your own attitude – they buy elsewhere.

I’ve decided against leaving a review for the author who spun a tale and created a public meltdown in order to sell his work. I can’t leave an objective one when I feel like he used people to get his sales. I wish him well, but it’s not a series I’ve got any interest in following anymore.

In the social media age, we’re so used to scandals and PR disasters, they drive traffic. But frankly if my work can’t stand on it’s own, if I can’t put together an efficient and usable marketing campaign to get the story out there, then I’d rather it not sell. I don’t want to be known as the “author who cried wolf”

I guess the point to this post is that as writers you need to remember you’re a business person. Granted it’s a small business, but your words are still a business. If you want to succeed at business, then you have to put in the hard work. Being prepared to alienating your potential readers by gloating about how your “meltdown” was faked purely to sell copies of your stories doesn’t seem to me to be anyway to create long-term, sustainable success.

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by

43 year old Australian writer currently working on the first of a planned three book Epic Fantasy series. When he's not writing policy discussions, or tales of swords, Gods, and magic, he can be found making a mess in the kitchen, and turning perfectly good ingredients into crimes against humanity.

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