Self-Publishing, Friends, and Family

Self-publishingI read an interesting Dear Abby column about a woman asked by a friend to read their self-published novel and post a favorable review. It’s a topic that strikes home in one way because I’m a self-published author. On the other hand, I’ve never asked anyone to give me a favorable review.

When I published my first novel I did offer it for free to family and friends and asked them to write a review if they enjoyed it. No one took me up on the offer and I haven’t given my books away since. I gave away a copy of that first book to a professional reviewer but found I wasn’t particularly satisfied with their review and the entire process seemed somewhat seedy to me.

As of today my family and friends have largely avoided reading and telling me their thoughts on my novels and I think the reason is probably related to that which is expressed in the Dear Abby column. They are afraid that the books are going to be awful and they don’t want to be put into the position of having to tell me they didn’t like them. I can’t say I blame them. It’s certainly awkward to tell someone their passion and hard work is no good.

What reviews I have gotten from family and friends have been good and they usually point out typos so I can fix them. One of the nice things about self-publishing is that I just have to jump onto Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords and quickly upload changes. I don’t usually do so for a few typos but after a while they accumulate and I upload a new version.

I ended up largely rewriting my first novel and edited a useless chapter out of my third novel because of comments from friends family about the books so I don’t mind criticism. The other novels have gotten updates as far as typos thanks to notes from friends but are largely the same book as originally written.

I also understand that a lot of people just don’t have an interest in the genre in which I write, Sword and Sorcery, and therefore my books just aren’t something they want to read. Still, to be honest, it hurts a little bit that most of my family hasn’t taken the time to read any of my books. That most of my friends haven’t spent $2.99 to purchase one of my books. I certainly understand the awkward situation they put themselves into by reading my books and I don’t begrudge anyone the choice of not reading them.

I have two work friends who have read all my books and like them very much and encourage me to write more because they want to read the next story in the saga. My mother proof-reads and edits my books and I certainly appreciate that help.

It’s an interesting situation. Do you hurt my feelings by not reading my books or read them and risk being put into an awkward situation?

Believe me, I’m not angry at anyone for failing to read my books. Reading one of my books probably takes about seven or eight hours of your valuable time and if the novels are awful, they aren’t, that is a waste of time.

Please don’t take this as a plea to read my books and write a review. It’s not. It’s just me expressing my thoughts.

I am curious if my friends and family have consciously avoided reading my books because they don’t want to be put in the awkward position of having to tell me they didn’t like them and that they were poorly written. Or is it simply a case of my friends and family just aren’t much interested?

Probably a little of both.

If you do like Sword and Sorcery novels I recommend my books. It’s your $2.99 and your eight hours. I’ll keep writing with or without your input.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
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Five Star Book Reviews – for a Price

Five Star ReviewThere is an article in the New York Times that strikes directly to my business model in trying to sell my Sword and Sorcery novels. It turns out most of the five-star reviews you’ve read on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords were likely purchased. The going rate was fifty reviews for $1,000.

Supposedly Amazon and B&N have caught onto the practice and banned the main offender but I’m very skeptical. When I first entered the self-publishing world with The Staff of Naught, I joined a number of author groups all over the internet. I was immediately inundated with offers to review my novel for a fee. I gave a free copy of my book for one of these reviews. I got a four-star review that looked as if the person hadn’t read the book and the review seemed based mostly only the blurb I put as the description.

I had a recent experience that shocked me. One avenue that I use to publicize my novels is to self-pirate it to torrent sites. The torrent site that I use is the immensely popular Demonoid which was recently shut-down by the government. While reading an article on ZDnet I ran across an author who wrote a “good-riddance” letter. I posted my own experience with Demonoid wherein the majority of my book sales stemmed from torrented files that the person read and then purchased. The author who posted the “good-riddance” message got into a bit of a flame war with those who supported Torrenting and some of those people posted negative reviews of her book.

Now comes the shocking part. The author asked Amazon to remove the negative reviews and they did! Apparently this is a common practice. So, not only are positive reviews manufactured but negative ones can be deleted.

My books are priced at $2.99 and a reviewer of The Hammer of Fire, one of two neither of which I solicited in any way, pointed out that while this seems like a small sum there are so many terrible self-published books that even such a minor expense is difficult to make without reviewer proof of a good novel. But, if reviewer proof is manufactured where does that leave the consumer?

Personally, I’m not going to pay for a review ever again, not even for just a copy of the book, and I’ve never asked my friends to write positive reviews. I have asked people who read the book to put an honest review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords.

Don’t think for a moment that is positive review practice is limited to books. And don’t think that competitors aren’t out there writing negative reviews. What’s a writer to do? What’s a consumer to do? It’s a dilemma.

I would suggest finding the author’s blog if they have one and read it to find out about their style. Download the sample and read it. See if they have a GoodReads Author Group where they answer questions. See how they respond to reviews. I have a samples of all my books at my site, you’re currently reading my blog, I have an author group (with six whole members), and I respond to my reviews.

I think there’s a lot of a great writing out there but it’s difficult to find. I think anyone who spends $2.99 on my books will find that they get value for the price. But, in the end the market will determine if that’s true.

Don’t trust reviews, particularly five-star reviews that don’t go into details about the book in question.

Oh, and for sure, BUY MY BOOKS!! 🙂

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire