Dinner Party. Social Gathering. Business Interaction. Day-to-Day Driving.
What do all these things have in common?
For every single one of these occasions, there is a range of decorum that is expected of others and of yourself. The range will differ according to the occasion, but the goal is the same: show respect and maintain dignity.
So how does proper etiquette play into the life of an indie author and/or a blogger? How does a subscriber, a reader, a reviewer play into this decorum too?
There seems to be an unspoken forfeiture of etiquette when people deal with other people online. It’s as if the decorum we’ve practiced at work, with our family, with our friends, is somehow thrown out the window when we take to our computers. For most indie authors, this is the main form of interaction we experience, business or otherwise. And it seems like many folks don’t know how to properly treat indie authors or bloggers. They don’t know that there’s a proper etiquette to follow when dealing with us, too. So let’s take a moment to clear the air and refresh the standard.
Understand Our Lives:
I’d say indie authors are normal people, but we’re not. We’re total oddities, in fact. We take on an incredibly challenging passion which requires total devotion from our heart, our time, our sanity. We hear voices in our heads- characters– telling us what they want to do with their lives at odd hours when we should be sleeping. We bury our noses in any book we can get our hands on instead of partying with friends. (Friends? What are f-r-i-e-n-d-s?) We find art in the everyday, and prose in the peculiar. Our minds are on fire and our hands can’t keep up with the pace. Writers are madmen. Our passion controls us, we do not control our passion.
And yet, we have to balance normal routines demanded of all humans. We work day jobs (some of us more than just one), we have a family life to maintain, and other countless obligations demanding of our time and attention.
But we really, truly want to make our passion our day job.
So many indie authors take on an even greater workload simply to make this dream a reality.
We build a webpage as a central point for interested readers to read more about our novels (and for people to realize that we even exist).
Then, if we haven’t already, we join Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, and any other social network that will announce our book’s existence to a potential audience.
However, some of us want more traffic directed to our page in a unique way which draws on the wants of the passerby. So we start a blog to draw attention to our work by offering posts, or products readers are interested in. In this way, we hope they will also see our works of fiction and buy the novel we’re so proud of, as well.
With starting a blog, however, indie authors start an entirely new line of work. Not many folks truly understand how challenging a blog is to run. Because our day to day is packed with obligation, we must find odd hours to write. And we must produce regular, inspired content. For instance I myself write most of my posts anywhere from 10 p.m to 2 a.m. on available nights. I get lovely red-eyes, needless to say!
With blog posts come newsletters. Those take another hour or so to craft, depending on how well you know the programs you must use to write, format, and send the newsletters.
With a blog also comes the need to learn photoshop or a similar program, because advertising your post is vital to gaining traffic. And excellent photos bring in interested readers.
We do all this (mostly) by ourselves for very little reward. And yet all of it costs us time and money.
And what’s incredibly difficult is- well- balancing all of this.
In fact, for those of you who don’t know much about me, I’ve been blogging for about three and a half years. I started this blog around the same time I decided to get serious about publishing my works of fiction. I alone run this blog and its newsletters. I also create each workbook and ebook found on this page. I also record, edit, and host two different podcasts, and yes, I love writing fiction novels and short stories. I appear on social networks as often as necessary. Despite my “indie” life, I’m also a happily married wife of four years, I’m a daughter to two fantastic parents, sister to one brother, and to such ones I have obligations. I also work two other day jobs and every month I take part in a special volunteer work dear to my heart. My life is incredibly busy, yet, I acknowledge and understand that success is a slow process.
Just like you, indie authors are imperfect people trying to make ends meet while on our journey to finding success. And most of us don’t have spare change to pay for extra classes, workshops, editors, proofreaders, or any other valuable services for the first few years because we are struggling to simply pay the bills. But we want to, so badly; and so we educate ourselves with what we can while saving every penny to put toward our precious passion.
Indie authors know what they’re getting into. It’s a cut-throat, dog-eat-dog business. And it’s more difficult than ever to be noticed amongst the masses. Indie authors and bloggers understand how long it takes to receive even a little support. And sometimes, just the opposite of a “thank you” or a pat-on-the-back, is received for our work. Instead we get overtly critical or harsh commenters on our blogs and/or crazy negative reviews left on our books.
Folks who truly don’t understand all we put into our various resources and works of fiction are usually the quickest to deal out unduly harsh comments. And some folks even challenge the idea of paying for our works of fiction at all.
Respect the Price Tag:
It’s never safe to assume that an indie author is making his millions already, living the good life. We are all struggling to make ends meet, to simply have one or two people even notice our work. Yet many folks, I have found, have this idea that indie authors are “doing what they love” so “that is its own reward”- right? Why should they have to pay an artist for his art? (Even writing that sentence made me cringe).
While it’s true that writing is our passion, make no mistake: we’re working incredibly hard to make this passion our day job. Because many folks overlook this fact altogether, I’ve heard many claim, “I shouldn’t have to pay more than $.99 for an indie book” and some have even said, “why should I pay for an indie book at all?”
To help folks out there who may agree with these destructive thoughts, I’m going to give you a scenario:
Let’s say you work a 9-5 job. You work well at it. You’re eager to help customers, you add a little spunk to your personality when you’re pushing products. You’re on time, you stay late, you don’t let private matters interfere with your work, and you’re eager to take most of the load on all by yourself. You are an excellent worker– there’s no debating that!
Yet, your boss is elusive. You hardly ever see him. You believe he exists, because he did, after all, interview you that one time and hire you. After your first week, you meet up with the boss to collect your paycheck. But there’s only a note at his desk which says, “Sorry pal. I’m sure you did excellent work, but I didn’t see it with my own eyes, so let’s wait ’til next week for your paycheck, okay? Besides I’ve heard how much you seem to love this job, so I’m sure that’s payment enough for you!”
You’re frustrated, you feel a little betrayed- tricked, even! But, he’s the boss, so you swallow your pride and you push onward because, let’s face it, you need this job. Yet every week, the same note is left at his desk for you.
What happened? He read all your references, those who can testify to your quality work ethic. This job advertised a standard pay. So why isn’t he paying you when you’ve rightfully earned your paycheck?
Because the boss is making irrational judgements and is abusing his power. In short terms: he’s stealing from you.
As I’ve said, indie authors work incredibly odd hours because they are simultaneously balancing a day job, family life, and other obligations. And most authors also run a blog, and anything else to help get the word out there. They work much more than a 9-5 schedule, yet they are not getting a 9-5 paycheck.
What they work hard for is the small pittance at the end of all this: an asking price anywhere from $.99-$2.99 for their novels.
And still, folks aren’t too eager to support them with pocket change. Sometimes, it gets even worse than lack-support. It’s not all that uncommon for indie authors to get sneaky folks looking for a way to get their work for free.
One time I had a woman contact me about my novel Treefell: Legend of the Wood. I was so excited because it was one of the first personal letters I had received about it. This woman went on and on about “how interesting my storyline sounded”, “how original the plot idea was”, and how she was “eager to get to know the characters”. But her letter continued with: “I am contacting you because I’m a book reviewer. I have a blog where I review books that I’ve read. So as a favor to you, I wanted to review your book in exchange for a free copy.”
That’s where I stopped reading. Book reviews are great, don’t get me wrong. They are certainly a major support in selling our novels. And at this stage in the game, it would’ve been one of my first reviews. Was I going to sacrifice the years of dedicated work I put into my novel just to hand it over for free because of one self-proclaimed book reviewer?
I could tell this was a ruse, a cover-up, a sneaky way to steal from me.
It made me think: is there even one product in the world anyone has ever walked out of the store with for free because they offered to leave it a review? And I don’t mean because someone got some buy-one-get-one limited deal offer, or because they were the crazy coupon lady, they were able to walk out of the store with a free item. I mean, has anyone ever been able to successfully talk a store manager into letting them walk out of the store with an item they felt should be free, all because they offered a product review in turn? Isn’t walking out of a store with self-decided “free” merch actually called shoplifting?
The thing is, if you read a book and leave a review, you’re just like other folks who will do the same thing. If you’re identifying yourself as a “book reviewer”, it shouldn’t change how you treat indie authors or how you attain their works of fiction. If anything, you should have more respect for their craft and for their hard work.
Just because indie authors are newbies without any power to our names does not mean folks should disrespect our work by using some self-proclaimed “favor” as a bartering chip.
Needless to say, I told this woman that she was welcome to buy a copy of my work and leave her review on it. And despite the mere pocket change it was going for, she backed out immediately, claiming, “Oh I can’t afford that right now. But maybe later.” The book was $.99. And I never heard from her again.
I didn’t feel for a moment that I had lost some privileged opportunity. I did not regret my decision in the least. I absolutely wasn’t about to betray all my years of hard work by accepting her opinion regarding the value of my product.
Falling victim to people like this only enables their behavior and others like her, making it more difficult for fellow artists and indie authors to make an honest living. So if you’re an indie author yourself, don’t fall for such ruses. It only harms you and your community in the end.
And dear readers, please, respect indie authors. Creating clever ruses to get our work for free is stealing. That’s practically the definition of it. The only time getting a book for free is acceptable is when it is gifted to you from the author directly, or when the author himself decides to give it away for free. So, don’t barter prices; you’re not at a bizarre. If you’re interested in reading a book, do what you would have to do at Barnes & Noble and pay for the book. We’ve at least earned your pocket change!
Leaving Reviews and Comments:
Readers hold a wealth of power in their hands. Readers turn into reviewers. Reviews are more trusted than any other source of information regarding a product. Reviews can make or break any self-proclaimed “miracle” product. And it can do the same for indie authors’ works of fiction.
Remember uncle Ben’s words when leaving your review!
Even if the book was horrible, if it lacked any and all imagination, if the characters were all one boring predictable note, if there were endless plot holes and formatting errors, even if it ruined indie-authored books for you, there is still a proper way to go about leaving a review.
It’s important that you leave an honest, un-biased opinion. That is absolutely necessary. You should do such things. But keep in mind that a little class goes a long way.
Leaving a review on their blog page or on their Amazon page is not an open opportunity for you to take out your soap box or pull a Kanye and rip the mic out of our hands.
It’s poor etiquette to heartlessly rip apart an author or their work.
There is a fine line between honesty and harshness and reviewers have the responsibility to honor and respect that line. Leaving a review is not some warranted Simon Cowell/Gordon Ramsay moment, either. Don’t let that little paragraph of power go to your head, now! You can absolutely leave your honest opinion on a novel without destroying the author who put a sincere effort into it.
If you truly, absolutely hated a novel, then picture the indie author like a kindergartener:
He’s getting into this wild thing called “writing” and he’s eager to get better. But he’s gotta start somewhere. And that means he’s going to make some crazy, colored-way-outside-the-lines artwork before he betters his craft. So don’t scream at the kindergartener. Acknowledge that he has a ways to go yet, but don’t crush him. There’s no proactive use in crushing anyone crafting in earnest. Simply remember that compared to your favorite author who has years of education and experience behind him, this kindergartener is just beginning his road there.
Yes, a book, like art, is subjective; one man’s masterpiece is another man’s trashterpiece. But take the high road: have a little class and leave the artist his dignity.
Much the same can be said when leaving personal opinions or comments on the indie author’s blog page, or anywhere else related to their blog.
If you have something to say, say it with class and respect the blogger who devotes their life to their work. Consider that your viewpoint is only one point of view and so you may not have the entire picture to judge your aspect by. It’s incredibly rude to leave overtly harsh, critical, or shallow comments on a public forum.
If you have a suggestion or a personal point of reference to add to their environment, then keep calm and leave your comment with balanced perspective. After all, you truly don’t know all the odds, ends, and countless hours of effort bloggers put into their articles. Again, it’s a public arena, not a place to make nasty, nit-picky claims or unfair blanket-statements. So, have some class: be aware of what you say, how you say it, and where you say it. Negative words are potent- they will be noticed!
How to Show Your Support:
There are many ways you dear readers and subscribers can show support to your favorite indie authors and bloggers.
Buy Our Books: Again, most prices are mere pocket change. If the synopsis sounds enthralling and the reviews look positive, why not support our work the best way possible?
Leave a Review: Be honest, but keep it classy. Reviews are so powerful and influential. All of our potential buyers go directly to the reviews section and trust your word as gospel.
Share a Positive Comment: If you truly enjoyed an article on an indie author’s blog page, tell them. Either comment on the article itself, or shoot them a direct message to truly leave them on Cloud 9 for months. Either way, it’s nice for them to know that the article they spent hours on is speaking to someone, somewhere.
Share the Book/ the Article: There’s nothing quite as powerful as word of mouth. If you loved an indie author’s novel, blog post, ebook, podcast, or whatever else- share it with your friends. Share it via social network, via word of mouth, even via carrier pigeon!
Subscribe to our Newsletter: We seek like-minded individuals to share our journey with. If you see the opportunity to subscribe as a chance to learn something new and valuable from a willing content provider, then subscribe to their work. We aim to give you articles you’ll enjoy.
Share A Suggestion: There is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing a suggestion with an indie author or blogger. A good idea from a reader who is genuinely interested in helping us improve our work is a kind support. But because your suggestion comes without a request, be respectful and be considerate.
Ready to Practice your Etiquette?:
Indie authors and bloggers: We can’t always avoid those odd, negative people who’s only real wish is to make us feel small or under-qualified. And when those people inevitably come, we can show a little class too by taking it in stride, rising above it and moving on.
Readers, subscribers: We appreciate you being apart of our community, celebrating our works of fiction and otherwise. You really do mean so much to us. Through your support, we thrive. We aim to produce the best work we can offer, and we appreciate it to no end when you both voice and act on your support in various ways.
Thank you so much! You’re beautiful!
Eager to Support Rae? Check Out Her Various Books:
An android slave seeks his previous life as a human king, but finds his calling protecting others.