The last few months since the first allonymbooks blog was published has been a period of slow but distinctive change in the arena of independently published books. British book chain Waterstones have embraced the technological shifts by stocking Kindles in their stores, though still show no sign of having the capacity to embrace the indie book market. A leading British newspaper, The Guardian, has begun to publish reviews of indie books, though some work is still to be done by them to define how they can most effectively explore that category of published material without getting ensnared in some preconceptions about the quality and content of the books they will be reviewing.
And allonymbooks has become part of an ever-expanding debate about quality, process, benefits, pricing and promotion of indie books, joining with other authors to challenge assumptions about how these books and their authors should be received and considered by the readership and the publishing marketplace.
So what have we learned?
All fur coat and no undergarments?
A non-publishing acquaintance said the other day they were in awe of how much wordage allonymbooks had generated in the process of publishing and promoting Evie Woolmore’s books. On the contrary, however, in terms of the unfettered stream of tweets and posts emitted by other authors, allonymbooks has been rather mute in comparison, only speaking when necessary and hesitant to contribute to the ever-increasing noise in the indie-sphere. A major problem that conventional book reviewers have when seeking out indie books to read and review is sifting out the substance from the surfeit of blatantly self-promotional suggestions.
And there’s the equation. Buckshot the ethersphere with ‘me, me, me!’ or speak selectively in a controlled manner?
Should allonymbooks have done more tweeting and posting about Evie Woolmore’s books? Probably. We blogged early on about being too British to self-promote effectively, but as time has gone on it seems less a matter of nationality and more one of strategy. We have chosen to build carefully, build steadily, and build loyalty. Build a conversation, a dialogue, rather than shouting a lot over the noise of a party. Build a brand, don’t just hurl a book out into the ether. That was always the allonymbooks plan, to build a virtual publishing house and not just to promote a single novel, but it has been interesting to see how it has developed in practice.
A bit of give and take
There is a strong polarisation around the culture of back-scratching in the indie book world, from the ubiquitous ‘follow’ on Twitter, to the strong antipathy of newspapers commenters towards those who take any platform on almost any article to promote their own book. Even the Kindle reading groups on Goodreads have clear ‘rules’ about appropriate levels of self-promotion, as if to flaunt those would be to bite too much off the generous hand that offers to download your book into its Kindle. In this over-saturated world of publishing, print and e-book, readers have become the bouncers on the nightclub doors, keeping out the riff-raff – not the poor quality books but the badly behaved authors, drunk on the possibility of sales, rudely unsympathetic to just how hard it is to be a reader these days, how precious is both time and attention.
Nonetheless, quite tentatively, allonymbooks has entered into a simple exchange with another indie author of reading each other’s books and writing honest, credible, detailed reviews for online publication. Is this a transaction? Is it part of the rules of the new game? Actually no, not for the other author, who was far keener that a review not be written if it wasn’t going to be a decent length and quality. It was not the praise she was looking for, but the time and attention to detail. allonymbooks has published dozens of other reviews for many years in a number of other places, pseudonymously if not allonymously, but it seemed a good time to put the principles to the test, and engage properly with the same activity that Alison Flood has been doing in The Guardian newspaper. The reviewing is not the hard part. Disengaging the ‘indie’ context is.
If you are interested in the reviews we produced, here is Tahlia Newland’s review of Evie Woolmore’s novel Equilibrium, and allonymbooks’ review of Tahlia‘s YA novel Lethal Inheritance. Thanks to Tahlia Newland for agreeing to the exchange.
This will be the last blog until the New Year, so thank you for your visits in 2012 to allonymbooks. In the necessary vein of self-promotion, if you are looking for some escapist reading to pass the festive period, please do have a look at Evie Woolmore‘s gorgeous magical realist novels, available for Kindle download from Amazon UK and US (links on Evie’s page).
And please visit again soon – more blogs from Wednesday 2nd January.