Author Credibility in the Age of Alternative Facts

All authors face an uphill climb to credibility and none more than independent authors. In this digital era, the internet is like the wild west and author after author enters their book into the mix, hopeful as a gold miner looking to strike it big.

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Advertisements saturate our devices, turning choice into a chore. Netflix is nailing the streaming game, making it acceptable to binge entire seasons in a sitting. Individual time is eaten up quick as movie popcorn (handful after handful smashed into the mouth until life is chewing, butter, and previews). And that’s not including work to pay off the debt that floats the economy. Everyone has a side hustle these days. Hopefully your side hustle doubles a passion project.

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The best route to credibility as an independent author is likely to garner a multitude of positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Having champions in various genre forums and subreddits to sing your praises is crucial. Getting on a powerhouse mailing list like Bookbub is also a solid boost to the reputation. Paid advertisements get the author’s name out there, but what is the point if no one knows the name? And then there are competitions.

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Many competitions exist for independent authors, some more legitimate than others, yet all offer potential glory. Note: these competitions tend to cost $50-150 USD to enter and usually require that the author mail multiple copies of the book, so factor extra postage into the expense.

After carefully researching the available competitions, I entered Daughter of Shadow into four this past summer. DoS was a finalist in two competitions and two were never to be heard from again. The 2017 IndieReader Discovery Awards gave this fine review, even though DoS didn’t end up placing.

“In DAUGHTER OF SHADOW, a must-read for all fantasy lovers, the world is splintered into light and dark and a young female warrior struggles to choose a side. Author Tyler Sehn takes great pains to lay out a richly detailed realm of magic, monstrous creatures, and political upheaval. ”

The Colorado Independent Publishers Association chose DoS as a finalist for the EVVY Awards. 2017 was the 23rd annual CIPA EVVY Awards, which in independent publishing is practically prehistoric.

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*Turns out illiteracy killed the dinosaurs*

DoS finished with Merit. Not #1, but not bad. Not bad at all. That’ll do book.

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Plus I got these neat stickers to slap on the cover for the next little while. And THAT is what makes the competition worthwhile. A literal seal of approval. A symbol of authenticity to instill trust. An image to catch the perusing eye and make the hand pick up the book.

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What say you, reader of blogs? Have a success story about entering a novel in a competition? A not so success story?

 

 

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Marketing: So You’ve Written a Novel

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Marketing: the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.

How does one use marketing to sell books? Theories and tools abound but none can legitimately lay claim to a surefire technique. The rapid ascension of self-publishing has thrown a kink into time tested models and everyone in the publishing industry is scrambling to adapt.

When listening to speakers at a writing/editing/publishing conference I attended there seemed to be a unanimous approach to modern marketing from independent, small, medium, and large publishers—the shotgun method. Splatter the wall and see what hits. Not the most efficient or eloquent of approaches but no one seems to be able to say for certain what will, and won’t, work.

The phrase, “Write the best story possible and the cream will rise to the top,” kept appearing at the conference as well. How then to explain massive successes like 50 Shades of Grey? Clever marketing obviously had a hand in making that poor-to-mediocre story a success. I think it all comes down to word of mouth. The more people talking about a product, or at least are aware of it, then the higher chances of potential sales.

The shotgun method is an attempt to connect with various streams in the hopes that one, or multiple, will raise awareness of the book and author. Sounds easy enough but when everyone is doing it then the “cream” has a lot more crap to rise through to get to the top.

The amount of available funds at a publishers disposal also plays a major role in marketing. Rarely can a self-published author match the concerted and widespread marketing effort of a Big 5 publisher. Not all shotgun blasts are created equal. Not everyone gets to reload.

But what about social media? It’s free and ubiquitous! There are many success stories of self-published authors using social media to raise awareness and even the big time authors with big time contracts have to be involved on social media. Yet I can’t help but get philosophical about the apparent advantages of social media—if a self-published author blogs does anyone hear it? Do all tweets come from songbirds or is it just a bunch of honking geese?

Whatever the case, I’m trying my own shotgun method with my novel, Daughter of Shadow. I have to admit that aspects of marketing are fun—it’s like jumping into a game that’s already in process and nobody fully understands the rules. The most frustrating part is the not knowing. What works? What doesn’t? Why?

It’s incredibly easy easy to drop a piece of yourself into the internet but most of the time that piece sinks away never to be seen or heard from again. Maybe message in a bottle method is more appropriate than shotgun, although the reference to a weapon conveys a sense of control and applied direction rather than casting out wishes and hoping for the best.

To close on a point of optimism—we’re all in this together. The big time authors and first time self-pubs are all caught up in the same game. I can read Rothfuss, King, Gladwell, and Le Guin all at the same time and everyone wins, because the beauty of writing is that it’s meant to be shared. Books are a very different product then say a blender; you can never have too many.