With my first novel released on Kindle and Nook this week, marketing and self-promotion are very much on my mind. And I've been learning a bit about the types of things that have been successful in the past for other indie authors, and the things that haven't been. Aside from the self-promotion, I've also been trying to get to know some of the other authors that hang around the Amazon discussion boards, among others. I've been keeping my blog updated regularly (which honestly is something I'm starting to enjoy quite a bit), and I've been keeping my Kickstarter backers well informed. I'm waiting for reviews to start coming in from some advance copies, and the reviews I've received so far show that the few copies that have been sold have been very well received.
But I keep asking myself, is this enough? I'm not Harper Collins, or Tor, or Scholastic. I don't have the budget for major marketing campaigns. I have to rely heavily on word of mouth. And building up interest in an unknown author's book looks like a very daunting task from this side of the street! That's why I've been looking into alternatives.
One alternative that I'm strongly considering (strongly enough that I figured it into my budget) is paying for a review from Clarion. Now, Clarion is a well-respected review publication, and they don't typically look at indie authors. But they've started a service in which an indie author can pay to have a book reviewed. It doesn't guarantee a good review, by any means. Basically, you're paying for the same level of review that they give to the big boys for free; good, bad, or indifferent. It's not cheap, and it's a risk. And although it would be great to have a positive review from a well-known publication, I'm weighing the advantages vs the cost, and I'm still not certain it's worth it. But at the very least, it seems above board.
Which brings me to the next point of this post. I've discovered a LOT of not-so-above-board options out there as well. Some of the things people are doing to market their books seem downright unethical to me! Fake video testimonials, fake reviews, fake excitement for your book. Is this what people are really doing to market their work?
Take video testimonials, for example. Amazon allows people to leave a video testimonial about a product, including books. It seems like a great idea, on the surface. A reader gets so excited about a book that they record a video testimonial telling the world how much they loved it, and share it right there on the Amazon sales page. But did you know that there are people out there willing to record a believable, realistic video testimonial for $5? For a book they've never even read!
I've been asking for reviews, and for people to recommend my book to their friends. But I am most certainly not asking for dishonesty. If people decide to review my book, I want to know how they really feel! Yes, it's true, I'll never get anywhere with a bunch of negative reviews... but if the reviews are that overwhelmingly negative, then that probably means I shouldn't be getting anywhere! If I pay for fake testimonials, I'm basically lying to my readers, and in the long run it will only backfire. Not to mention, it's dishonest!
Maybe I'm being naive. Maybe I'm missing something about how the world works. But I really don't think so. And I find myself hoping that the majority of indie authors agree with me.
And that's my rant for today. I don't want to seem negative, though, and really, I'm very upbeat about things! I'm getting to know the Kindle community, and making the occasional sale here and there, and I'm confident that The Door to Canellin is going to be a success!
So I'd like to leave you all with a question. The Clarion review: is it worth the risk to pay several hundred dollars for the service?