One Thing You Should Never, Ever, Ever, Ever… Ever Do As An Author

I was shocked – shocked, I tell you – when I read a recent article written by Brent Sampson titled Top 5 Book Selling Tips.  Now, I don’t know Brent personally.  He’s got many years of publishing experience under his belt, and I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but one of his tips is the single worst tip I have ever seen posted by someone who should know better.  Here is his tip:

TIP # 1 Online reviews are paramount in importance when it comes to drawing attention to your book. And the best part is, you’re in control of your own destiny! If you haven’t yet submitted your own review on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, what are you waiting for? This should be one of the first steps for every published author.

Authors Don't Let Other Authors Review Their Own Books!

In case you missed it, his advice is to review your own book on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He is correct in that online reviews can help you sell books, but he couldn’t be more wrong by encouraging you to review your own book.  Never review your own book! I don’t care how desperate you are to sell books. It is never okay to review your own book.  It’s completely unethical.  If you identify yourself as the author, it is useless because consumers will see it as tacky.  If you hide your identity (which I should point out, Sampson isn’t encouraging you to do), it’s seen as dishonest and could sink your publishing career if your secret gets out.

He goes on to advise you to ask family and friends to review your book on these sites, as well.  I don’t have a problem with this if they actually read your book.  They have just as much right to review your book as a stranger.  Granted, they aren’t going to be as critical as someone you don’t know, but reviews are opinions and opinions are based on a lot of factors. If eating all your peas when you were four-years-old matters to your mom when evaluating your book, then so be it.  As long as you’re soliciting honest reviews and not positive reviews, I’m okay with this practice.  The mind of the reviewer is out of your purview no matter how close you are to them.  Accept every review graciously.

So, what aren’t you going to do today… or any day if you’re an author?

BTW – Here’s a story from 2004 about authors who were caught reviewing their own books: Amazon Glitch Outs Authors Reviewing Own Books

*Note – Again, I’m not suggesting that Sampson is encouraging you to surreptitiously review your own book, but still it’s horrible advice.

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Old Publishing Rant That’s Still Relevant

I originally posted this on August 21 of 2008.  And given that two pieces of news came out yesterday that seem to conflict with each other, I realized the content of the rant is even truer today.  The two pieces of news?

Essentially, that means more units of a product are being produced when demand for that product seems to be in a decline.  Why?  I think this old post explains why.  Feel free to leave your comments.

To say the world of publishing is in a constant state of change is a lot like saying the sun is hot. The ever-advancing realm of technology has not only transformed the method of production and delivery of books, it has also changed the buying habits of the reading public. Because of print-on-demand and the growth of online commerce, the barriers to getting a book to market are virtually gone. Anyone with a computer can write a book, upload it to a POD provider and make it available for sale with an online retailer. Inventory is no longer necessary. The cost of publishing is frighteningly reasonable, certainly more so than it ever has been before. The publishing world is no longer for the elite. It is an industry for the everyman. In short, we are in the midst of a publishing revolution. The question begs, however, is it too late?

Trends suggest we are reading less, yet more books were published last year than ever before. In fact a greater percentage of Americans would rather write a book than read one. I doubt this phenomenon exist with any other product on the market today.

So what is our love affair with writing, and ultimately publishing? Why is there a seemingly compulsive need to be an author in America when there’s arguably a relatively small market for books? It is a desire based on a lie or at the very least a misconception. Popular culture would have you believe that an author lives a life of leisure and luxury. They attend parties and rub elbows with celebrities from every walk of life. People want to publish for the same reason they want to be on reality shows. It seems less like work and more like being the center of attention.

If you want to write to be famous, put away that story idea. There are easier ways to be famous. Becoming a doctor and separating conjoined twins in a 27 hour surgery may be easier. It is certainly less time consuming. Training everyday for the Boston Marathon may be easier than achieving fame through publishing. You’ll certainly be in better shape than 99.9% of writers. Winning the nomination for presidency from one of the major parties may be easier than becoming famous through the written word. You will at least get to do less work and attend those parties with celebrities that you wanted to attend.

Writing is hard work. Publishing is hard work. Selling books is hard work. The rewards are not usually commensurate with the amount of work you will expend. Write because you love it not because you think there is a pot of gold at the end of the publishing rainbow. If you’ve ever said, “I need to publish this book because I have to pay some bills.” Back away from the computer keyboard and start flipping through the classifieds.

Publishing should come from a place of passion. If you want it to be your main source of income, then plan to do the following:

    • Practice your craft.There are enough crappy writers on the market.Don’t be one of them.
    • Hire a professional designer for the interior and cover.Don’t be all things to your book.You’re the writer.Leave the rest to more qualified artists.There are rare cases where one person can write and design the book, but chances are you’re not one of them.
    • Work with an editor you trust, and by all means don’t be your own editor.
    • Invest time and money in marketing.If you think the book can sell itself, you’re wrong.If you don’t have a lot of money, spend a lot of time marketing your book.If you don’t have a lot of time, spend a lot of money on marketing your book.If you don’t have either, don’t plan on selling a lot of books.
    • Read books.If you’re not a reader, don’t kid yourself, you’re not a writer.
    • Give it time.Don’t measure in months here.Measure in years.

      If you follow these simple rules, you can succeed in publishing even if this new publishing revolution is too late in coming. The reading public is hungry for books of high quality. Give it to them. It’s your duty as an author. You’re part of the revolution. Act like it. Write like it.

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      I Figured Out How to Sell More Books!

      Meet my new author’s photo!

      The "Real" R.W. Ridley?

      It’s not actually a picture of me. My eyes aren’t that kind of “haunting” blue, and I can’t pull off dangling earrings.  Oh, and I’m not a woman, but I have a theory that if I used this picture of my wife, I’d actually sell more books.  As I pointed out to Mia (my wife), R.W. is gender neutral… the name, not the author.  I’ve got gender, baby.  Tons of it.

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      Geeky Publishing Stuff – Who is today’s book consumer?

      Found this awesome presentaion/video from R.R. Bowker on today’s book consumer.  This will only be interesting if you have a book on the market or want to have a book on the market. It really just re-enforces the growing influence of new media marketing in the publishing industry.

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      Don’t Sell Me Anything!

      Id like to sell you... nothing!

      I'd like to sell you... nothing!

      Granted, I am really slow, but I just came to the realization that I don’t want to be sold anything. I want to be informed. I want to be dazzled. I want to be amused. I want to be delighted. But I do not want to be sold. I feel like I’m being worked when I’m being sold something. In short, I feel used and uni-essential – I’m only important to the seller’s cash flow.

      I came to this revelation during my pursuit of finding out about all things marketing. I’m an author. I have books that I need and want to sell. I’ve researched and tinkered and experimented with all types of marketing strategies, and I always come away with the feeling that I was trying to sell something. It made me feel… inauthentic. It’s a strange position to find yourself in when you want to learn everything there is to know about marketing, but never ever want to be marketed to.

      This blog was a calculated element in my marketing strategy. It was created to sell books. I use the word “was” because without me realizing it, it has evolved into something much more than a marketing tool. In fact, I no longer consciously use it to sell my books. It is a way for me to express myself, to meet other like-minded people, to get goofy and have a blast. This is my attempt to inform you, dazzle you, amuse, and delight you. Everything I want out of a relationship. You are not a source of cash for me, and I promise to never treat you that way.

      For authors looking for advice on how to market your book, don’t. Not in the classic sense of marketing, the kind of marketing that results in a sales pitch. Take part in the kind of marketing that is centered on building relationships instead. It’s much more fulfilling, and you’ll never feel disingenuous or phony. You obviously think you have something important to say because you wrote a book. Be yourself and spread your message without asking for the sale. If you do that, you’re going to end up with something much more valuable than a sale. You’re going to end up with a supporter.

      And remember; never, ever sell me anything.

      Here are some experts at the Tools of Change conference this year kind of saying the same thing, only much, much better,  and with a lot more gravitas.

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      A Rant on Publishing & Writing

      To say the world of publishing is in a constant state of change is a lot like saying the sun is hot. The ever-advancing realm of technology has not only transformed the method of production and delivery of books, it has also changed the buying habits of the reading public. Because of print-on-demand and the growth of online commerce, the barriers to getting a book to market are virtually gone. Anyone with a computer can write a book, upload it to a POD provider and make it available for sale with an online retailer. Inventory is no longer necessary. The cost of publishing is frighteningly reasonable, certainly more so than it ever has been before. The publishing world is no longer for the elite. It is an industry for the everyman. In short, we are in the midst of a publishing revolution. The question begs, however, is it too late?

      Trends suggest we are reading less, yet more books were published last year than ever before. In fact a greater percentage of Americans would rather write a book than read one. I doubt this phenomenon exist with any other product on the market today.

      So what is our love affair with writing, and ultimately publishing? Why is there a seemingly compulsive need to be an author in America when there’s arguably a relatively small market for books? It is a desire based on a lie or at the very least a misconception. Popular culture would have you believe that an author lives a life of leisure and luxury. They attend parties and rub elbows with celebrities from every walk of life. People want to publish for the same reason they want to be on reality shows. It seems less work and more like being the center of attention.

      If you want to write to be famous, put away that story idea. There are easier ways to be famous. Becoming a doctor and separating conjoined twins in a 27 hour surgery may be easier. It is certainly less time consuming. Training everyday for the Boston Marathon may be easier than achieving fame through publishing. You’ll certainly be in better shape than 99.9% of writers. Winning the nomination for presidency from one of the major parties may be easier than becoming famous through the written word. You will at least get to do less work and attend those parties with celebrities that you wanted to attend.

      Writing is hard work. Publishing is hard work. Selling books is hard work. The rewards are not usually commensurate with the amount of work you will expend. Write because you love it not because you think there is a pot of gold at the end of the publishing rainbow. If you’ve ever said, “I need to publish this book because I have to pay some bills.” Back away from the computer keyboard and start flipping through the classifieds.

      Publishing should come from a place of passion. If you want it to be your main source of income, then plan to do the following:

      1. Practice your craft. There are enough crappy writers on the market. Don’t be one of them.
      2. Hire a professional designer for the interior and cover. Don’t be all things to your book. You’re the writer. Leave the rest to more qualified artists. There are rare cases where one person can write and design the book, but chances are you’re not one of them.
      3. Work with an editor you trust, and by all means don’t be your own editor.
      4. Invest time and money in marketing. If you think the book can sell itself, you’re wrong. If you don’t have a lot of money, spend a lot of time marketing your book. If you don’t have a lot of time, spend a lot of money on marketing your book. If you don’t have either, don’t plan on selling a lot of books.
      5. Read books. If you’re not a reader, don’t kid yourself, you’re not a writer.
      6. Give it time. Don’t measure in months here. Measure in years.

      If you follow these six simple rules, you can succeed in publishing even if this new publishing revolution is too late in coming. The reading public is hungry for books of high quality. Give it to them. It’s your duty as an author. You’re part of the revolution. Act like it. Write like it.