Demonstrate Your Excellence
If you are the author of a well written, well edited, self-published book, you need to help it get the attention it deserves. There are lots of people who will assume that just because your book is self-published, it must be crap – poorly written drivel featuring lots of typos laid out incompetently on the page.
Since there are, in fact, many “indie” published books fitting that description to a T, it is very difficult for most self-published authors to get their books reviewed by established media. To take advantage of this situation, some book-trade publications (including the erstwhile respectable Kirkus Reviews and Publishers’ Weekly) are now selling reviews for what I consider to be way too much money ($425?? Are you kidding me? What’s the point? How is even a good review from one of these outlets–and the price doesn’t include any guarantees that the review will be positive–going to improve your sales? You’re still not going to be eligible for most awards competitions, and most established booksellers still aren’t going to stock your books. Furthermore, your average readers couldn’t give a damn about Kirkus Reviews or Publishers’ Weekly–if they even know what they are). As far as I’m concerned you can spend your book-promotion budget, if you have one, much more wisely.
To help get your wheat to stand out from the chaff:
1) Submit your book to every awards program for published books for which it is eligible that you can afford. (Some awards programs are also quite expensive, and may not be worth the investment, especially if there are likely to be so many books submitted that winning becomes a crapshoot: check out the previous years’ winners of these competitions. But don’t dismiss award competitions just because they cost a bit of money: there are certainly administrative costs involved–including, we hope, some payment for the judges.) Don’t overlook local and regional competitions, and those specific to your genre (e.g. western, historical fiction, speculative fiction). Google to find them (“writing competitions self-published books, steam punk” for example). You may not win, but you may be a finalist or semi-finalist, as The Whole Clove Diet was in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition four years ago, or you may not be even a semi-finalist but may still get a great review from a judge that you can then use in promotion (as I recently did from the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards);
2) Look for groups of readers that are giving their stamps of approval to well written, self-published/indie books, and submit a copy of your book for their review. Leaders in this field include the folks at the Book Readers Appreciation Group (B.R.A.G.): their readers evaluate books that are nominated or submitted, and the ones they find to be of sufficient quality receive a B.R.A.G. Medallion and appear as recommendations on their site. Such notice can bring side-benefits aside from the actual selection: not only was The Whole Clove Diet a B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree (which is an accolade I can and do use in my promotion and on my website), the news of its status was also tweeted by the B.R.A.G. organizers and mentioned on their Facebook page. Recently the novel was also named a B.R.A.G. Book of the Week, which gave it even more attention.
Aside from B.R.A.G., there are many other sites that are devoted to helping readers sort the worthwhile from the junk in indie/self published books. (I invite you to add your recommendations of such sites as comments to this post for the benefit of other writers.) In a world where agents and publishing houses are no longer the gatekeepers they once were, readers need to help other readers find the best new writers and books around. When they get themselves organized into groups (or become individual book review bloggers), the work they do benefits us not as readers, but as writers too.
Thanks for more great links, Mary! I’m on it. As far as indie awards, I think we owe it to ourselves to try. Don’t surmise that big numbers of entrants means it’s a lottery. My first SP, Butchers, Bakers and Building the Lakers: Voices of Collingwood, was an IPPY gold medal recipient in 2009. At the time, I confess, I thought it was a bit of a vanity prize, given the huge number (far too many IMHO) of categories you can submit under. But when I saw the company I was in: distinguished indie and university presses among them, I took a lot more pride in my accomplishment. Did it sell any books? Maybe. But more importantly, it gave me the confidence that comes from knowing my indie book really is of comparable, professional quality to stand amongst its small-press (but better funded) peers.
Indie Awards? Yes, get out there and get ’em!
Maybe I’ll enter the IPPY awards after that bit of encouragement, Christine. I had decided they were too expensive, but so was Writer’s Digest and I should put some money where my mouth is. Thanks for your comment. For those just tuning in, here is the link to the Independent Publishers Book (IPPY) Awards. The deadline for books with 2012 or 2013 copyrights that have been published between August 2011 and March 2013 is March 16, 2013.