The obsessions of the indie author

What have we done?! No, what have you done? Sitting at your desk, arms like eels sliming ego over your keyboard. The keyboard has become your feeder, encouraging you to keep tapping away because the next message you receive might make you feel alive again. A single piece of toast rests on your cheek, curiously blending in with the rest of your buttery skin.

The sun blazes through the window of the room; the kids are asking where has Daddy gone?

Daddy will be there in a minute, he’s just got to finish joining another Facebook group for independent writers, so he can pretend they are his friends, so they can all pretend to be his, so everyone can have wonderful five star reviews, so people who don’t know what’s going on will end up buying his books. He’s just got to tell them he loves them, again, and laugh at their terrible puns, again, and agree he loves the cover of another terrible cover, again, and pretend to care about the so called struggle of another writer asking help from others about what she should name the characters in her book, again. He knows she doesn’t really want his advice, because naming characters is a personal thing, but he joins in anyway, because he wants to play the game: because this is the game where every writer wins.

But, whisper it: literature is losing. And so are the children.

And so he throws names at the writer who needs help with something she doesn’t need help for; because if she can’t name her own characters what kind of writer is she? And the writer rubs her hands at all the Facebook comments, from the father and others; because the thing is, she thinks, she’s already named her characters, but this conversation is a completely free advertisement.

And everybody wins.

But, whisper it: literature is finding it hard to breathe. And so are the children.

The truth sometimes has an ugly face, but inside the bubble where everything’s fake, nothing changes. Everything is beautiful, and it doesn’t matter it’s not real, because when your head is in the trough with others, you can’t see the pig you’ve become. There are terrible writers and good writers, some fantastic books, and some terrible books. That’s the beauty of Kindle. So what is it with all these five star reviews? Some books are terrible, I’ve read some of them, but the reviews state repeatedly this is the best book I’ve ever read.

So what’s going on? Who is changing the rules?

Not the reader, readers have been around since the beginning. The people changing the rules are the people who should be governed by them…a percentage of the new dawn of Kindle authors. Adults wrapped in tin foil sitting on top of donkeys, preparing to fight a dragon, waiting to be called heroes. But the dragon is just a broom handle covered in socks puppets.

Some Kindle authors are rigging the game; acting as friends, but only for themselves, because the friendships aren’t real like everything else. But the line between pretend friends and real enemies is fine; the laughter fake, but the anger real. The moment a writer fails to return the favour of a review or Amazon “like” is the moment all hell breaks loose. The mask slips, and the selfish, egotistical, obsessed writer who will stop at anything to reach the top, revealed. A dog barking madness, chewing their own arm off to break the chains of the life they’ve wrapped around them.

I’ll explain…

We had a chance to create a world so amazing the publishing industry would be forced to change their approach to literature. We had a chance of building a city built from truth, a land where the best books get great reviews because the best books are simply the best books.

But, you fuckers, some of you have ruined it.

Instead we built a world where the books with the best people marketing them win, where the simple process of the amount of time someone can spend at a PC directly equates to how many books they sell. What has that got to do with writing, with the words on the page, with the substance and imagination and skill of the writer? Nothing, is the answer. Everyone is passing their books around in one big author circle, so up the Amazon rankings books soar, but nobody is reading the words on the page. And nobody cares, as long as the rankings tell others they’re more special than most.

What happened to artists? What happened to writing words that mean something? When did everything become about the Amazon ranking? What happened to not caring about reviews, about not caring what others think because the words mean something to you? What happened to waking up, and seeing the person you love, instead of reaching for your phone in hope your book has moved up in an irrelevant and easily fixed digital ranking?

Nice one, take a bow. Dip your hand deep into a bowl of grapes and pull out your soul. Put your soul through a blender, put it back into an idiot without integrity, zip the suit up at the back, and get on with being who you’ve become.

Writing the best book you could, and allowing readers the freedom to judge without the fear of reprisal or judgement, was all we had to do. People started with good intention, but now the market is flooded with terrible words, plastered over storylines we’ve all read a million times. Quantity has replaced quality. Books with over a thousand reviews, surely these have to be good?

And then after page ten, you realise: you are reading something shit.

Bad writing is now acceptable. Books literally copying and pasting other books, with terrible titles, shoved under our noses to see if we sniff. And if we do, we smell faecal matter, and pass out immediately from over expanding brain cells struggling to find a safe place to vomit. Some books have a great title and cover, and then when you look inside your eyes start bleeding and your brain turns around in your skull, and shuts down your central nervous system as a defence mechanism.

With indie publishing I thought we would get away from the bullshit of doing anything to get ahead, but this isn’t just cut-throat, people are cutting their own throats for the appearance of success.

I thought publishers would start publishing original books, and discover the dip in traditional paperback sales had nothing to do with the Kindle, and everything to do with their continuous insulting of the imagination of their audience. I was wrong. Instead, many of the books with the most reviews on Amazon today are often a reflection of the amount of time people have spent at their PC. We have become the promoters, the marketers, and the fake reviewers: we have become the article in The Guardian praising a book, which turns out to be the worst book ever read.

We are the reporters in the pockets of publishers, and the publishers in the pocket of fear.

We are the collaborators of the demise of the platform we sought for years, because a fake review is nothing more than a sabre tooth tiger with his teeth removed, his tiger passport taken away, chained to a wall by penguins. Told if he doesn’t dance like a monkey and pretend to like fish, he will be shot and his body moved to the back end of an elephant. And a rumour spread, after death, he enjoyed inserting his penis into the bum-ring of giants.

When did everything become guaranteed awesome? Every book is awesome, every author is awesome, every review is awesome, every cover is awesome, every book title is awesome, gumball machines are awesome, being fake is awesome, lies are awesome, war is awesome.

Actually, gumball machines might be awesome.

The books selling the most are not the best books, the writers climbing the charts are not even the best writers; some of them are not even good writers. If you know the name of every reviewer they aren’t reviewing your book, they are reviewing your friendship with them. And they are only reviewing you, so you review them too.

This doesn’t have a happy ending. This ends with people turning away from Kindle because the reviews can’t be trusted. This ends with people not reading books because they think they are rubbish before they begin. This ends with your five star reviews drying up and you wondering why. Unable to contemplate it’s because you used up all your credit with people who have given you fake reviews, and to get more fake reviews you need to sell yourself to more people by handing out more fake reviews.

The process sounds exhausting. And it doesn’t mean anything. If you continue to give fake reviews in return for fake reviews, eventually the only way to spot a good book will be because it has no reviews. I wrote a terrible book when I was starting out, and gave it to someone, and they said it was terrible and laughed in my face. That’s how it should be. Now a writer starting out can write something terrible and manipulate the people around them to tell the world their terrible book is in fact amazing. That is not success. That is failure: redefined.

And it gets worse…

Some authors are now afraid to speak out, because to openly criticise a book and give it a low review on Amazon means confronting a potential bullying herd of spiteful smaller authors who stick to the authors who sell in vast numbers like barnacles on a rusting ship. Leave an honest one star review as an author under your real name on Amazon, and live in fear one star reviews will start appearing on your books. The drive to succeed has driven us mad, the illusion of becoming a household name has taken the smile off the journey and turned it upside down.

So, authors just starting out, or authors long established – here’s my advice:

Promote your book, put your words under as many noses as you can, as writers we have the right to do that. As writers we do not have the right to manipulate how and when people read our work. We do not, or we should not, have the power to influence people into “liking” our book on Facebook or reviewing it favourably on Amazon before that person has read the first page. Turn your back on Amazon reviews exchanged for Amazon reviews.

Observe but do not judge – remember that despite all I am saying, there is no way anyone can truly know if a review is fake or real. The self appointed Kindle author police, the sad old folk who spend all day on the Kindle publishing forum because they have nothing better to do, are just as deluded in their pursuit of justice as some Kindle authors are in their pursuit of success.

Fake Amazon reviews are born from fear: the self appointed Kindle police are born from jealousy.

Remember that reviews are meant to enhance overall book quality for the reader. The whole point of a review is to make authors think they can’t release any old nonsense because strangers are going to read their books and review them honestly. That is quality control. If the review system is rigged, if most writers pretend to be best friends with most other writers, then we are creating a literary world where one day a writer can release a photograph of their left testicle, or vaginal flap, and receive great reviews. Eventually all books will be filled with a single photograph of a testicle or vaginal flap. And the people will gather around in awe at the new Shakespeare.

Remember some books are shit. Get over it.

If you get a bad review, guess what? Congratulations. You are on the path to becoming a better writer, instead of remaining a deluded idiot. One of the great things about Kindle as an author, is you can edit, and update your books. I’ve updated mine plenty. They are now the most complete they have ever been. But, it took years to get them to where they are. If you’ve penned something in a month, prepare to go back to it. You should want to go back to it. Great writers aren’t born: they are carved from thousands of hours of hard graft, and loneliness.

An author has to expect criticism, not run away from it. A writer won’t grow as a writer, won’t become the potential great writer they dreamt of being if they receive only five star reviews for a two star book.

Remember that there is a connection between how readers are expected to review and how hard it is to get reviews. Readers have become afraid to say what they really think. What happened to lots of reviews, with some people saying they like a book and others hating it; a debate with people divided: life, born from a book? Answer: we did – the kindle authors.

Stop asking for likes in exchange for likes, stop saying I’ll buy your book if you buy mine; because you are personally responsible for the death of indie publishing before it begins.

Remember when you had a life? When you wanted to write a book and release it for you? To see what fate had in store? When did you start taking yourself so seriously? When was the last time you went outside in the day, instead of sitting at your PC trying to generate fake reviews for your books? Well done, you wrote a book. You released it. Now keep your head high. Don’t get down in the gutter to look up at the stars, you don’t need to: stars shine brighter with your family and friends around you. Don’t become one of the authors changing what Kindle could still be. Resist the temptation to generate fake reviews because our brave new world of indie publishing is slowly becoming a world full of quite nice, educated, manipulating cowards, more than prepared to lie to themselves and others. And only you can save it.

For all the millions of us indie authors, very few are going to make it to the other side; to that place our words appear on paper, paid for by somebody else. Let that sink in. I’ve made it my life ambition to try, but not at the expense of my integrity. Not at the expense of my art, or my words. There is no point crossing a burning bridge.

Children who once told parents to go away because parents are boring and ruining their game are now hearing just another minute, almost finished. Remember to balance your drive, passion and all the obsessional hours spent at your PC with what you had before: your life.

Because your life might not wait forever for you to go back to it, and if it goes, all you’ll be left with is the pretend friends inside your machine. And a book, in the Amazon charts, with a handful of biased reviews, and old memories of who you used to be.

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50 thoughts on “The obsessions of the indie author

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  2. Further to my original comment…. I agree with francisguenette about the promotion of books you’ve never read, as well. Although I will help people with a free promotion, I won’t promote books on Twitter I know to be shite – I try not to even RT them though sometimes it’s unavoidable. I certainly won’t tweet about them myself, though.

    One thing I’ve noticed more and more lately is not even the bare-faced swapping of glowing reviews, but something more subtle. Authors who give everyone 5 star reviews, in the hope that they will get them back – and it works, because everyone thinks, oh, go on, she’s such a lovely helpful woman, I’ll give it a 5 instead of a 3 and not mention all the boring bits or say that I actually couldn’t finish it. Pisses me off big style – especially when I buy a book myself under the impression that it’s going to be really, really good. Look, I’ve done it in the past. I’ve given a four star when it should have been a 3, because it’s someone I chat to alot on Twitter. But at least I’ve tried to only mention the good in the book, rather than lie about the bad. I have also, a fair few times, told the author that I can’t review the book – and I give them the option of me giving it a 2 or a 3, or not reviewing it at all. it’s got to the point now, I think, where if a book has only 50% 5* reviews on Amazon you know it’s not very good – because 70% of those 50% will be from pals, real or online. Shouldn’t it be that if a book had 50% 5* reviews, it must be pretty damn special?????

    I do know what you mean about it making the standard go down. Main problem is, of course, that there are many people out there who don’t know badly written rubbish when they read it. But that’s always been the way and no-one’s going to manage to change that!

    1. True Terry – I never RT or discuss a book I haven’t read. And, if I do – I will say something like “I have not read this book, but I know the author, and it looks interesting” – I just tell the truth. It’s so much easier than playing the game. That said, I probably sell less books because of it! However, it means I can say what I want, when I want, about who I want. I don’t owe anyone, or have to review anything. I am free. Not sure I can put a price on that, because it means when I do say a book is good and worth reading, it is. At least in my opinion it is.

  3. Your metaphors do go out on a limb and don’t always add up like when you envisioned that maybe someday we’d all be nude slapping ourselves with olive branches and shoving doves in our faces. But, it’s fun stuff. I could see it as a performance piece.

    Anyway, there have always been fakers and injustice in the world.

    Any intelligent reader is going to recognize a fake review on the spot. Fake reviews are notoriously bad, just as bad as the fake books they are attempting to promote.

    1. Thanks Henry…my metaphors don’t always work in this post, you are quite right – I was free writing, rather than tying up all the bits and perfecting them. Hence why it’s the longest blogpost in the world.

      And a tad repetitive.

      That’s how I prefer to write my blogposts – I use them as a break from the more serious process of writing novels.

      I don’t agree any intelligent reader could spot a fake review…sure, anyone can spot an obvious fake review…the art is in spotting the fake reviews that are designed to appear real.

      I could name books, which have gained reviews by being supported by large publishing companies, who employ networks of reviewers to review favourably on Amazon. Books, which are strong on marketing, but weak on content.

      However, I won’t; partly because I think good luck to the authors who have gained from it.

      It’s a shame when the books are a disappointment, but it’s not the authors fault, if they’ve been backed beyond even their expectations.

  4. your post definitely brought me to light to some issues. You’re metaphors in places are down and dirty, very well versed in their purposes. But gosh, is this long, long to the point where you could have probably cut some of the fluff and got straight to the point. Kind of reminds me of the lectures my Mom used to give me. I would have to remind her later constantly. “you could have just said the point in a sentence.”

    But I know TOO WELL what you mean here. I go to a site called figment, and it’s nice finding writers of the younger age… but some of these people literally don’t even need you to read their stuff. They just want a ‘heart’ so their stuff will win a contest or get attention, when frankly, their story was bad and they should have sent that thing back to the idea factory. So many bad stories on that site are getting one-liner comments, saying they’re great, and then just telling them to read their story. Its a madhouse of teenage propaganda.

    Bravo to your points sir. Though I will honestly admit I couldn’t make it through the whole thing. As a college student, time is not always given in plentiful heaps. Good day. 🙂

    1. Thanks Rooks! You are most correct, this particular blogpost could be a contender for longest blogpost ever. And yes, I could have cut it back, and probably still should now. But, well, to edit it now would seem like going back in time to make myself look like a better writer. lol. So, I shall leave it like it is, warts and all. Thank you for reading the bits you did! 🙂

  5. Exactly what seriously stimulated you to publish “Selling your daughter: the ridiculous obsessions
    of the Kindle Author. | Thought Scratchings”?
    I reallycertainly enjoyed reading it! Regards ,Ken

  6. Frankly, this blog post is trite, obnoxious, ignorant, confuddled, and a whole host of other adjectives. You’re intentions are good, but you so clearly love the sound of your own voice (or is it look of your own words) that you ramble on and on.
    You start off with a rant on review exchanging, then you switch to some odd narrative (I’m guessing personal experience) regarding your kids and answering questions/helping in Facebook groups who you don’t really like, which segues into a rant about literature being dead, then turns into a rant about marketing and Amazon briefly, before returning to an argument about literature and bad writing and Fifty Shades of Grey. You then continue to drone over your previous points some more before finally ending the miserable drivel.
    You come off as the prototypical, egotistical writer who cannot understand why his golden pages laced with his diamond words aren’t in demand by the masses at a premium price.
    I can tell by the way you wrote this blog post, that the rest of your writing probably contains lots of boring, purple prose.
    If this had been released as an Amazon short, I’d have rated it 1-star. The execution was sloppy, the rants are overdone and ignorant, and if I hadn’t been snowed in on a boring Saturday, I would’ve never finished the post.
    Now, let’s delve into some specifics.
    First…
    Do you really think that the main stream publisher doesn’t have shill reviews for their releases? You’re an awfully ignorant man if you don’t believe so. You cite the source of the issue as greed and we all know which group is the greediest bunch in this business. Recently, YouTube reset view counts and deleted a bunch of music videos from Sony Music Group who were illegally inflating the view counts on some of their videos. The result was these videos appearing on popular and recommended lists which in turn would generate sales to artists. Do you not think the publishing industries fake a certain amount of sales and reviews to increase their take at the end of the day?
    While I don’t support the idea of review trading or like trading, you can bet on the fact that big publishing does. The only difference is they have the funds and facilities to do these sorts of things in secret instead of “public” Facebook groups.
    Second…
    I’d hate to burst your bubble, but bad/good writing is subjective. While you don’t like 50 shades, millions of other people do. I’m on your end, I’m not a fan, but to automatically dismiss it as bad writing that makes people stupid makes you an ignoramus, unable to see from a point of view other than your own. That book was written and marketed in the correct way by an indie author to score her millions.
    Third…
    For the purpose of this comment, I decided to briefly check out your books on Amazon. The first thing I noticed? The horrid cover designs. I really don’t have any idea what’s going on with your books based on their covers. Hire a graphic design artist. Tell him what your book is about and have him create a few covers that better connect with readers. If it wasn’t for this blog post being randomly posted within a Facebook group that I’m a member, I would’ve never seen your book or given it more than a 2-second look. Your lower reviews suggest your books are written much in the same manner of your blog post, they could use some editing. Your covers are also atrocious and look homemade. Hire a graphic designer, tell him what your book is about, and have him come up with a few ideas.

    1. Bravo, excellently illustrating that you shouldn’t try to please everyone. Companies can go ahead and inflate their products, this post was not for them.
      Writing is an art, some will paint with the finest of bristles, others are happy to smear with their fingers. Different results, different audiences.
      And this post had nothing to do with book covers. Honestly, if you can feel so venomous towards a person based on that, you may want to step away from the computer.

      1. I agree with rnfrancis. Constructive criticism is fabulous but an all out ranting attack on a writer, whose work you admit to not having read, is just a personal attack for no purpose but to try and get people to notice you. Chill out and have a little respect.

      2. Thank you Francis, Ali – and also thank you Ben.
        The whole point of this blog is to engage honest writing with honest responses.
        I love that you flame me so passionately, and hey, you are perfectly entitled to call me ignorant. I don’t really see your criticisms as criticisms, more as compliments.
        All writers, in fact, all people, possess arrogance; and do I think my words are brilliant and my books fantastic? Hell yes! And I make no bones about it. Other people love them too. Squirrel is a completely original book in a world of repetition, and Life Knocks reworks the classic love story with a dose of much needed reality; it’s a wonderful and beautiful read.
        I don’t understand the thought process of not being proud of your work and talent. But, hey, you should see me try and run. I can’t do it. I end up looking like a whale having a heart attack. I can’t draw and I am terrible in real life situations. Pretty much my only talent or ability is writing.
        So, I’m going to stand up tall and proud and say: I can write. I’m bloody good at it, and I’m probably only going to get better, barring serious injury or dropping a mirror.
        My belief in my words does not need or come from validation from reviews.
        Some may call that arrogance, I call it self belief. There isn’t enough self belief in the world.
        I wish to respond to your part regarding bad reviews, as by saying “reviews” you give the impression there are many. So, for the record, here are the facts (from my Amazon reviews).
        Life Knocks (US/UK). 29: 5 Star. 11: 4 Star. 2: 3 Star.
        The Squirrel that Dreamt of Madness (UK): 37: 5 Star 5: 4 Star reviews in the UK.
        So, no bad reviews for Life Knocks. No bad reviews for Squirrel in the UK.
        The Squirrel that Dreamt of Madness(US) 35: 5 Star 7: 4 Star 3: 3 Star 1: 2 Star 1: 1 Star.
        In all of my reviews, I have one, one star review, and one two star review out of a total of 129 reviews. Out of those 129 reviews 126 of them are 4 or 5 star.
        These are honest reviews from people I haven’t made false connections with, or swapped a review for a review.
        And the one reviewer to give me a one star review states: “Perhaps I’m too far into the senior citizen class to understand.”
        But, anyway, that aside, welcome aboard ol’ bean.
        Oh, an lastly, as for my covers, well, the Life Knocks cover I think it quite brilliant. If you look at it, you will notice it’s a guy in a suit. Staring down at railway tracks. Bored of his life. Imagining a sunset from the life he’s lost. The cover for Squirrel is a load of old wank. But, I kept it because it’s the same set up as Life Knocks and the sequel to it. It’s not the best cover in the word, that’s for sure!
        I love your comment and ask people to respond and engage and let’s rip all this up and start again; get into what really makes all of us tick by putting who we really are on a page and saying “I am.”
        I look forward to more of your honest rambling responses.
        I’m quite a fan of a good ramble myself.
        And lastly, thank you for being completely honest and open with your thoughts.

      3. @rnfrncis22 and @Ali

        First off, has Craig Stone read the entire 50 shades series? This post was an all out rant towards Facebook groups, sharing reviews, and literature is dead. The only book he mentions as being “terrible literature” is 50 shades. This entire post was an all out rant and he singled out a single book in his rant. My “rant” was really no different. Although, I did offer him a suggestion on how to fix the book cover problem. It could’ve been worse, I could’ve come onto this, made a comment saying he’s awful, the first 10 pages of his novels are awful (I didn’t read it I’m just making a statement), and the covers are awful and been done with it. In this blog post, Craig comes off as someone who enjoys criticism and doesn’t want to be bullshitted. I’m much the same way. I refuse to accept good criticism from beta’s and critique groups because, I believe, there is always something that can always be improved in my writing.

        @Craig

        First, you’re welcome.

        Second, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be proud of your work. I’m saying you should stop bothering to compare your work to others. It comes off as acting like an insecure woman comparing herself to every other woman in the room. Don’t like 50 Shades? Leave a review on Amazon but don’t single out books/series/authors on your soap box and talk of bad literature/writing because that’s a subjective opinion.

        Third, when I said “reviews” it’s plural, more than one. I wasn’t implying many. I only checked out the Amazon US.

        Fourth, about the covers. I get why you think they’re brilliant from an art standpoint. They have a lot of connection to you and the story. However, writing is a business and being that the covers are the first thing that a person sees, they will judge your book by the cover. Looking at your cover from the standpoint of an Amazon thumbnail, you can’t make out any of the detail. Most people are going to pass on the cover right away. This is why you hire a graphic design artist. If you get one who’s actually gone to school for graphic design, they will have a better understanding of symbolism. If you look at 50 Shades and the covers, they are all designed very simply. You learn a lot about book 1 based on the cover without the need to clutter it up with different images. 50 Shades is about power, BDSM, and submission. The picture of the knot of a silver tie along with a little bit of the noose and the hanging part speaks volumes about the content of the book.

        As a writer, the thing you should want the most is people reading your books. If you turn them off with a cover that is difficult, you aren’t going to attract the readers your writing deserves.

    1. I just thought your critique of his covers on this post was oddly personal because you were offended by the rest of it. Your suggestion would not be something I’d consider because of this. Yes, writing is a business, but indie-pubbing allows for our products to be personal (within reason), too. If Craig loves his covers, but you’re not enticed by them, you may not be the intended audience. Not every book is for every person. Please, don’t feel attacked, I love that you’re no bullshit, too. (But please, don’t go look at my covers, lol :D)

  7. I haven’t been approached personally to do fake reviews or Likes, but I have seen writers’ forums talking about trading Likes or reviews, and I cannot run far away fast enough from it. I believe potential readers can tell when reviews are fake– a reader may love a book, but typically does not express the level of adulation a person with an agenda does. It shows. Sure, it takes longer to amass reviews with the hands-off approach– but I think it makes a difference in the long run.

  8. I agree with a lot of what you said. I could never ask someone to give me 5 stars in exchange for me to do the same. I could also never be a sockpuppet. Not only is it dishonest, but it sounds so exhausting to create multiple Amazon and Goodread accounts just to praise your own work to the skies. I agree, get a life people!

    I understand that it can be upsetting to see your hard work not get noticed or even get nothing but poor reviews. You may want to lash out at the world, but if you ever do, you will totally regret it. You’ll wind with a lot of explaining to do for as long as you continue to publish or you should never publish again. I guess anxiety that creates the lack of foresight. I wish there was a way to stop writers from doing all this, but there isn’t. Heck, even traditionally published authors have done the same, so it is not just indie authors.

    Anyway, great post. A little long 😉 but great!

  9. Good post. Looooonng post. Only had time to skim, but I agree. I don’t want to swap bogus praise–even though I could use more reviews.. As a humour writer, I know humour is such an individual taste that you may not like mine, yet I may love yours. Thanks for this. I’ll check in again. ~ Judy

  10. As someone who has just begun the process of shameless self-promotion, I completely identify. The last few paragraphs of this piece resonate deeply with me. “Pretend friends inside the machine” struck me as particularly poignant.

  11. Maybe it’s because I’m a paranoid cynic, but I’ve long believed the raving (yet generic) reviews on Amazon are left by those with a monetary interest in selling it. I routinely check the 1, 2, and 3 star reviews FIRST to see what their critiques are. Even the harsh critiques will say what was good along with what was bad.

    1. I do the same thing! Usually the one, two, three star reviews are more interesting…and they usually share my opinion of the book. The funny books are the books that are terrible reads, and have three or four five star reviews. Lots of people must be wondering if they should say what they think, then deciding to leave it.

      1. I like the clumsies by Nicola sletar.I realy enjoyed my book because they make a mess.It is about two mice called Micey and Pervis.The best bit is when Micey gets told of by the techer.They get told of for not doing a report about snowing.

  12. Refreshing opinion, as I’ve noticed this vapidness in the kindle and twitter sphere . I’m curating my first book (photography) and I now know exactly what to avoid. What a disgusting subculture. I’d rather have no reviews than one fake one.

  13. Very interesting post and, as a Kindle user, it doesn’t surprise me. I’ve fallen into the trap once of believing Amazon rave reviews for an indie book only to find it, to be blunt, utter crap. It’s a shame as it really risks damaging the reputation of indie publishing as a whole. Unfortunately I’m seeing it creep into the world of book blogging too; I’ve seen bloggers writing rave reviews for what are at best mediocre reads in exchange for authors plugging and driving traffic to their blog. If we can’t have honest grassroots critiques, either via Amazon or blogs, then it’s just going to get harder for the little guys who are producing great work to get noticed. A real shame.

    1. (that’s not the majority of bloggers by the way – most I read are truly independent and doing it for the love of books. It’s just a couple I’ve spotted where I’ve been slightly suspicious of the high rating they’re giving books which aren’t that great…I didn’t mean to sound quite so critical of my peers there! Just wanted to clarify that!)

  14. Brilliant piece, loved it. I have had a couple of messages from people asking me to do a swap read/review thing – I always say no as I prefer my reviews to come from ‘real’ readers who’ve chosen to read my books. I’ve not yet come across anyone asking to do swap fake reviews, but I’ve heard about it. Just how much of a pathetic twat do you have to be to sink that low? As for the mutual congratulation – I can’t really see the point of all these writers groups on FB, apart from to publicise a new release or a free promotion – I want to write, not talk about it. To a certain extent the help from others is a good thing, as it is in any walk of life, but I don’t want to sit down at a screen and talk to a load of other writers all afternoon – many of them only do it to be self-congratulatory, anyway. Showing off because their books sell for more money, or they’ve sold more on whatever continent they’re not in, that the people to whom they’re talking. Oh, and don’t get me started about virtual ‘hugs’ – I’ve been nauseated by this since long before I published my books on Amazon.

    The absolutely worst thing is the tweets asking for votes on some Goodreads poll or other. Why on earth would you vote for some book you haven’t read? Makes a mockery of it all. Re the ‘likes’ – when you’re asking someone to ‘like’ your page on Facebook, you’re actually asking them if they’d like to see all your updates, that’s all – so why not ask them if they’d like to ‘connect’ on Facebook, rather than saying ‘I need more likes on my FB page’ – Jesus H! The Amazon ‘likes’ thing (pages and individual books) started because they’re supposed to raise your visibility on Amazon, but no-one has any proof of this.

    Yes, there has to be a bit of ‘networking’ if you’re going to sell your independently published book, because that is the age in which we live, but the best way to make sure it doesn’t get to you to much is not to take part in all the playground gang type stuff.

  15. Such a good article on the state of writing today. It tears me down and gives me hope at the same time. Until I started writing, I never realized how many books in my genre existed. I guess anything worth doing, is worth doing well and as passionately as possible. I definitely don’t want fake reviews. I guess I’m too old to think I am going to be liked by everyone that reads me. You are very passionate about what you do. Crazy mad I bet it kickstarts you every morning. We are all such little specs on this planet. Who will really miss us when we’re gone?

  16. Thanks. I only left five stars recently for two books, Gone Girl and The Life of Pi, but there are a lot of really good new voices out there. While I get annoyed at all the author hype filling twitter and other spheres, I primarily blame the Big Media who for so long gave Indie Authors no other way to raise awareness except through the social media and online book groups. This too, shall pass.

    1. Thank You Riley Davis for the review! John sttraed out as a beginner, but ended as quite an accomplished sailor and we are glad you enjoyed the journey! The way John came about naming Don’t Hold Back is one of our favorite parts of the book. Not only is it a reminder that we follow our dreams, it is also a reminder that we encourage each other along the way, so follow your dreams! Thank You for sharing with your friends!

  17. My honest comments: A fascinating read: informative, alarming and impassioned. It’s a world that is unfamiliar to me and I intend that it remains so after reading this. Length of this post could be off-putting to some,which woud be a shame. A lot would be missed by skimming. Extra proofreading for typos would be good.

  18. I am so bored of reading twitter users whose tweets are all plot synopses and self-adulation for their
    Kindle or Nook books. I admire DIY, but DIY should not mean only “I, I, I”. Fake reviews are just immoral, and that was true when they were the nepotism inherent in “scratch my back” writers’ workshop publishing as it is nowadays with “sham reviews” and even “sham negative reviews of competitors” on Amazon. People are like salt, and those who tromp their personalities and joy under thoughtless and heartless self-promotion lose all their savor. What profiteth a man/womanto sell 250 e-books, and lose his/her soul? This is the most exciting self-publishing era ever, and yet so many are missing the boat on what it can mean for our media and our culture and the way we interact with those who read, write create, watch and listen.

  19. Wow! I didn’t realise it was so contrived! Seems particularly pointless when getting your work critiqued can help you become a better writer.

  20. Your post is giving me lots to think about. I am soon to embark on the marketing part of getting my first novel out, so I’m going on Twitter (that’s how I heard about your blog) and checking that out and looking at other social media platforms. I see the tweets for the sites you talk about and the groups I could join that tweet each other a million times a day – buy this book, buy that book. It all sucks – sort of like the likes on word press – you never know if these people even read a word you wrote – except for maybe the few that appear in the Reader. I download to my Kindle other bloggers’ books and read them so I can maybe do a review to Amazon for them in the hope that someday they might read my book and review it – but it’s highly unlikely – most of the books I download are genre books – maybe 60,000 words – my book is doubt that size. And I can’t in good conscience do a review for most of what I read, because I won’t go out and trash anyone. So – lots of challenges. Thanks for writing this.

    1. Hello,I am writting to you to say that your book reievw is amazing. I would have never written one like this, you are a very talented girl/boy I have never heard of this book before. I would love to find out if she finds her true mum (please can you get back to me on my comment. Have you heard of a book called War Horse by Micheal Morpurgo he inspires with my reading and writting. From your blogging friend,Eleanor.

    2. I would love to read Hetty Feather’ by Jaqueline Wilson, it sounds good! I woednr if I can get my mum to buy me that; I think I could give you some recommendations: Return of the Killer Bookbag, Diary of a Wimpy Kid Cabin Fever, and lots more!Keep up the great blogging!Chloe

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