Last time I wrote here, one of the things I discussed was my writing workshop “crew.”
Do you have a writing crew?
If not, it may be time to “create” one.
Not that you need a local writing workshop. But you do need a group of fellow authors that you keep in touch with, can be via email only, and you need to agree to help each other out.
Are you old enough to remember the shampoo commercial, “And she told two friends, and she told two friends, and so on and so on?”
Why do you need this group? You need to write reviews for each other:
- If your poem appears in a chapbook, or an anthology.
- If his art appears in a magazine or collection.
- If her short story shows up in an anthology, or he publishes his memoir, the “review-crew” should get on it, with all of you leaving reviews for each other.
This costs you nothing. Just a little bit of time. And, in the case of Goodreads, each time you review a book, it links to all the other reviews of the book, and, say a person named Steve reviewed the book prior to you, all the people who follow Steve will get another email to tell them that you have added to the conversation. Think about the wide net you can cast this way.
If you’re really willing to put in a coordinated effort for each other, you could even come up with a “standard” review for each of you, altered to suit the individual leaving the review, but make it easy for the group to do this for each other by automating it as much as possible.
This does mean, in the case of Amazon, that you may have to buy the book on Amazon to be able to leave a review there. It isn’t always the case, but it is sometimes true. And that could end up costing you the price of the book or anthology.
And, so what?
This is the cost of doing business.
This is the cost of a latte, or two.
And you already do it ALL THE TIME anyway. Yes, you do:
For example, my neighbor may show up at my house with her son in tow and say, “Grant’s band is selling car washes for a fundraiser.” And I, on the spot, buy a $25 car wash, when I would normally never pay $25 for a car wash, because they are my neighbors, and it is the cost of doing business, and so they buy cookies from my daughter during the Girls Scout cookie frenzy each year (which, by the way, is no joke; those troop leaders do not play). And the fire department is selling chicken salad, and your mother’s church is having a bake sale for the homeless, and your job is adopting a family for Christmas.
You do these things all the time.
And yet I cannot tell you how many people we have published who have never bothered to post a review, for their own book, or any other (and yes, you can review an anthology in which you are an author, just talk about one of the other authors).
There is, among some of the authors I encounter in this business of mine and in the many and various FB writing groups, an attitude of, “You should do this for me, because I am an author, and you should never ask anything of me in return.”
And yet, aside from the neighborhood harmony we create when we buy a car wash from the young guy next door, we absolutely, I believe, should have a “we are all in this together” attitude, and, if I may cliche again, the belief that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
When we help each other out through reviewing, we help ourselves out, too. It’s a matter of literary survival.
About 15 years ago a friend of mine was endlessly asking me to follow her podcast. I admit freely that I had no idea what that was and was very “technology resistant” to figuring it out on my own, so I didn’t, and she, rightfully, wondered why the heck I wouldn’t support her. And that was wrong of me (especially as I love podcasts now!). I mean, how hard was it really to do that? But, she could have facilitated this by teaching me how to find and follow a podcast. It was not enough for her to have it, she had to make sure I could do what she was asking me to do.
BUT, this is why you have a little posse, a group that makes a pledge to support each other in this way, and helps each other navigate Goodreads and Amazon and the like. And you help each other write a quick review that basically says, “You will love this book! Buy a copy.” And you give a deadline, and you check in that you have done it, and you make sure that everyone gets a pass on doing it sometimes, but that most of you do it most of the time.
But what if Amazon or Goodreads does block your review because you are a contributor in the anthology? Do you have a spouse or a sister or a cousin who can leave a review for you instead? You write it, he or she submits it? Can you buy that person a copy of the book?
IS THIS CHEATING?
Not if you think you’re a good writer and you write well. And not if you think the people in your writing posse review club are good writers and they write well. If you think you and they don’t write well enough to deserve a review…. well… that’s a problem for Carolyn Hax.
And here is another way you pay it forward.
Your friend publishes his/her full-length book. Another friend is in an anthology. You buy a few copies…of both.
AND THEN you give them as presents to folks in your life who are hard to buy for.
You give a copy to your local library.
You put one in a gift basket for that silent auction at the middle school.
And what about that local book club you belong to? Are they reading your book and your friend’s book? If not, why not? Have you asked them to? Are they supporting you? It is, really, a small thing to ask, but if you have a mystery book club and you or your friend managed to get a publisher to publish your mystery, then why would they not read it? Maybe they cannot read it until next year, okay, but they put it in the rotation. And then you help them leave reviews.
None of these things is going to transform you into a New York Times bestseller overnight, but I don’t know how else you’re ever going to even begin to head in that direction, or how the indie publishers who do this work on a shoe-string are going to keep being there to give no-name authors the chance they deserve.
So, if this is a serious thing for you, you want to “make it” at this, you’d like to at least make enough $ someday for a nice vacation or a monthly car payment, you have to start digging away at this notoriety problem we all have by taking your eyes off of your manuscript long enough to help each other out.
BY THE WAY: It’s never too late to leave a review. You can start a whole new conversation by the review you post today.
#1. Develop a group of like-minded authors who solemnly promise to give each other reviews in a timely fashion.
#2. Buy books and give them to your local library and as gifts, etc. (or buy yourself the cheap Kindle version so you can post a review).
#3. Ask that any reading groups you belong to read your/your friends’ books.
#4. Create a budget for book purchases.
#5. Help people who may not know how to post a review post reviews for you, and help them write one.
#6. Keep the reviews short and sweet. “I loved it; you’ll love it too.” “Fast and fun read.” “Great way to spend a day at the beach!”
Thanks so much for your interest in DPP and for reading this blog. We love publishing people who the big guys ignore, and we thank you for helping us do what we love to do.
See you in two weeks for Post 4!