Every day we do a little something to build our platform: send a Tweet, write a blog post, post an update on a Facebook Author Page. As authors, we need to stay relevant; we need to produce content to stay visible. We want people to find us and our books, and that won’t happen if you neglect a blog or don’t update your social media. The more you post, the more visible you are—that’s how it goes.
But it’s difficult to produce content, and it’s just as difficult to remain upbeat and cheerful all the time. Sometimes you need to let out a little negativity, a little frustration. The chapter you just wrote is shitty—let’s tweet that out there for some sympathy. You tell your fans on FB that you’re having a bad day. You dropped a jar of pickles on your foot and you post your black and blue toe on Instagram. Sometimes those things aren’t bad, but your fans, the people who read your books, don’t want to hear it all the time. Twitter is a great place to pout because misery loves company; when I’ve had a bad day, there’s always someone there who can relate. But I don’t want to be known as Twitter’s Debbie Downer and neither do you.
This goes for other things on the internet as well. There’s a lot of controversy about whether or not to leave “honest” reviews on places like Amazon and Goodreads. This isn’t controversy as a whole—a reader who reads a ton of books every year and reviews them can say whatever s/he wants. They are readers and consume books as readers only.
We are writers as well as readers, and that can be a problem because every review you leave is added to the foundation of your author platform. This question comes up a lot: Do you post honest reviews? Most authors will tell you that no, they don’t leave poor reviews—it’s not their place. Especially if the book they’ve read is an indie book. Some authors will say no because they don’t want people to do the same to their books. Some don’t just because they don’t want to post any negativity online. I tend to agree with the authors who say this simply because I try to keep my online presence as positive and as cheerful as I possibly can. I’m a contemporary romance writer. I’m supposed to be in love with life, right?
When I first was introduced to the indie world, I read a lot of indie—and I quickly became discouraged. Poorly formatted books, books that needed an editor, books that were boring—I discovered why indie publishing has a bad reputation. I read some good ones too, don’t get me wrong, but the books that weren’t that great—I didn’t review. Because let’s be honest, I was new the game, (still feel like I am most days) and who in the hell was I to criticize a book? It’s not like I’m selling a hundred books a day (though I aim to change that sooner rather than later.) But even then, while my success may justify a negative review, do I want to throw that kind of negativity out there?
Unless part of your platform building is being known as a reviewer who will give an honest review no matter whose toes you step on, then I would suggest not giving unsolicited advice in the form of a review. I’ve given advice to my friends who ask in private messages. I’ve beta read for friends. I’ve edited for free. Doing that, one on one, can do more for your platform than giving a book a bad review. Throw good karma into the online universe, and good karma will come back to you.
But I believe that advice is good for every situation, not just book reviews. One night at Olive Garden the waiter forgot to put our order in. My sister and I were going to a movie, so we didn’t have time to wait for him to fix his mistake. We had to make due with our drinks and the salad and appetizer we ordered. Did I bash Olive Garden online? Did I tweet to them to get better service in their restaurants? No. Well, I posted on my personal Facebook profile that if you wanted to actually eat the food you ordered, eat elsewhere, but I made it into a joke and I did not post any harsh words related to the event. That night we were kind to the waiter, and we left. (The chocolate martini I drank probably helped.)
When the movie theater gave us stale popcorn, did I post about it? No. (Luckily that occured on separate evenings, otherwise that would have been a bummer of a night.)
Sometimes I get down just like everyone else, and I do tweet to ask for advice or a cheerful word, but I do not make those posts the mainstay of my platform, just like I don’t use my blog to bitch about the publishing industry or my lack of sales.
I share my frustration with and about the indie community: I want our reputation to turn around. I want people to think quality when they think of an indie book. I want people to want to buy indie over a traditionally-published book. So I will post advice, I will write about things I wish indie authors would do (take the 8 point space between paragraphs out of your manuscripts please, and can you full-justify your file even if Mark Coker tells you not to?). But I would never post a book review and say this author needed an editor, or the formatting was so screwed up I couldn’t read it and too bad I wasted 13.99, you shouldn’t either.
Stay positive online, put a smile on someone’s face, be a friend, be a contributing, productive writer in the indie world, help where you can, offer advice when asked.
In the words of my oh-so-wise mother-in-law, “Don’t crap where you eat.”
What do you think? Let me know!
(Thank you to pixabay.com and unsplash.com for the photos.)