What is the single most important thing to independent/self-published/unknown authors? Word of mouth. When you do not have access to the corporate military industrial complex marketing machine and the forceful weight of a major publishing house behind you, then word of mouth is all you have.
What is the primary method word of mouth spreads on books from unknown authors? Customer reviews. Now I am talking real customer reviews, not paid reviews, not masturbatory author swaps, not buddies doing you a solid—I am talking about honest to goodness well-thought-out, clearly-expressed opinions from passionate readers who are fans of the genre or concept.
Readers have limited funds (well, at least most do) and limited time. Today—thanks in part to the self-publishing and E-book revolutions—there are more books being cranked out than ever. Or as Carl Sagan might have said, “billions and billions” of choices. So before a reader makes that choice to take a measured leap of faith and try a new author out, they want some reassurance that neither their time nor money will be wasted.
So the number one most vital marketing tool for an independent author is customer reviews. They can be very difficult to get and more often than not an author has to resort to giveaways and freebies at discussion forums where books and reviewers are matched up. This all fine except the one pitfall that can destroy any chance an author ever has of making it—a bad review. Unfortunately good and bad reviews do not carry the same weight. We live in a negative world that thrives on bad news and loves to tear people apart.
Would-be readers will instinctively be drawn toward negative reviews. Anybody who has been through sales-training knows that a customer is first and foremost looking for a reason NOT to buy your book because this helps her eliminate the stress of too many choices by eliminating your book from her potential buying list.
What does an author do about that? The same thing sales people in all fields are taught to do—take away all of the potential objections. That will leave only the benefit—the invigorating, exciting, rousing, visceral, emotionally satisfying entertaining experience your book will provide to those who have the courage to step out and experience it.
Negative reviews are a primary source of objections—a serious barrier to obtaining would-be readers. Now, it is impossible to eliminate all negative reviews unless you have a team of Chris Christi style operatives placed around the world who can deliver retribution to all those who dare oppose you. But one way you can avoid most negative reviews is really simple—tell them not to read it. Yes, that’s right. Think about it. It is logical. Both the author and the would-be negative reviewer win. The reader does have to suffer through your book they would have hated anyway—and you get to avoid the negative review.
So here is my official warning to all would-be-readers. If any of these characteristics below apply to you, then you must avoid my books at all costs. You have been warned.
Bold, visceral, outrageous prose
I grew up reading pulp fiction and I still read it. Action pulps, hard-boiled noir pulps, sleazy sex pulps, men’s adventure pulps—even a bizarre subgenre from the late 1930s known as the “Weird Menace Pulps”. The combination of this and the intense nature of my personality is very evident in my writing style. I write in a very bold, bombastic, often wildly over the top melodramatic style that pushes the envelope of satire, sometimes bordering into self-parody. It is way too much to handle for many readers.
My worst fear is to bore someone. The worst moments of my life involved standing in a crowded room or office, talking to someone, then having them turn away as if I was boring them.
I will NEVER bore you in one of my books. I may offend you. But I will never bore you.
My characters talk like real people
By real people, I mean people I know or have known.
But understand this: I spent my whole life around tough guys, gangsters, football players, muscle-heads, and stockbrokers. There is profanity in my books, sometimes a lot of it. If Quentin Tarantino films or the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” offend you, my books are NOT for you.
My characters like sex
There is sex in my books. Especially “She” and “All About Amy”. My characters have sex for pleasure NOT for procreation. So if you are uptight, judgmental, self-righteous, and a fan of Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee, you should AVOID my books at all costs.
I have something to say
Let me explain about my writing process. I am not one of these people who sits sown at the keyboard and cranks out thousands and thousands of words a day. Now if I was I being paid to do that—if I was a writer for hire doing a “Star Wars” novel or a Blaze Harlequin Romance where I was given a template to work off of—I could crank out a new novel once a month.
But with original material, I need to bleed it. I need to live it. I need to know these characters are real and these things really happened. I method write. I plan. I outline. I structure. I LIVE my book.
This process takes over two years, sometimes decades. Add to that the fact I do not do free E-book publishing at Kindle. I could no more format my own book than I could build a combustible engine from scratch in my garage. I publish a full physical book through a traditional self-publishing house and it is expensive.
So in order for me spend over two years of my life on something and shell out thousands of dollars, I better have something to say that is important to me. All of my books have themes and subtexts and have something to say about the world we live in and the human species. I have a viewpoint. I have a philosophy. I have strong opinions I believe to the core of my being.
If you want bland and safe, I am not your guy.