Guardian Books: A step in the right direction

Like many indie-publishing authors, allonymbooks was delighted to read Alison Flood’s blog last week in the Guardian newspaper, announcing that not only had she read her first self-published novel (Kerry Wilkinson’s first Jessica Daniel novel, Locked In), but that she was now looking for more. It is to her credit that she acknowledges some of her assumptions: that she was “expecting little”, that she expected the book had “only been through the filter of one person’s brain”, and that her instinct says that if a book is free, it probably isn’t much good. As readers of this blog will know, the issue of editing for content was discussed in a recent column, and it is a rather generalised preconception about the process of self-criticism that indie-publishing authors put themselves through.

Nonetheless, what cheers us is that the key points of Ms Flood’s blog were these. What is she going to read next from the indie-published realm? And how on earth is she to sift through the possibilities to settle on something that will be equally worth her time?

To begin with, her strategy is based on the Kindle free chart, which as she notes is a guide only to people reading the books, but not to their quality. But that too is of course a flawed assumption, as any reader of the Kindle self-publishing forums will know. The Amazon option to price your books for free from time to time is one that many authors employ simply to rocket their books up the chart and, as was noted two weeks ago on this blog, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that a book that is downloaded is a book which is then read, Continue reading

Pseudonym, allonym, anonym, username…

allonymbooks posted last week on The Guardian‘s new ‘Authors, tell us about your work!‘ page, and was interested to see that a debate had begun over whether it was appropriate for individuals who don’t normally post comments to The Guardian‘s pages to sign up simply to promote their novels. Contributor kushti had said, ‘Oh my, what a lot of writers have appeared on this site all of a sudden. I shall continue to stick with my policy of keeping to my secret identity and not promoting my books here, but thanks for the offer and good luck all.’ Contributor R042 observed, ‘This is where clicking on peoples’ [sic] usernames is useful; it tells apart those who registered to use this forum, and those who already contribute regularly to the site on subjects other than their own work.’

There are echoes here of the awkwardness I discussed in an earlier blog about self-promotion, but also of a somewhat more critical position I am becoming increasingly aware of as I trample through the ether: that the more blatant and frequent self-promotion that swoops on any and all opportunities on the internet and social media is considered crass by some authors who are choosing their opportunities more selectively. What can be interpreted from the comments above is that a pre-existing presence in the Guardian’s online community is a pre-requisite for being taken seriously when you promote your novel on that page. This implied equation of ongoing contribution being a function of value and credibility is common in other places – the UK Amazon Kindle Forum on Goodreads is a very cheerful place to talk about books, and is very welcoming of indie authors, but the moderators are clear that it is preferred that authors do not just “drop a promo and run”.

This ties in inevitably to the recent ‘sock-puppet‘ revelation concerning RJ Ellory’s penning of complimentary Amazon reviews about his own work and less generous ones about others and it proves, if nothing else, that the internet is a Continue reading