Glass Houses

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Many established self-published authors are very helpful to newbies, sharing the knowledge that they have gained on their individual scribbling trips. There are also loads of books available too these days covering everything from formatting to marketing. Some things are pretty straightforward to learn, but other things are just opinions, no matter how strongly they’re voiced. Like giving your books away for free. Some authors are quite scathing about there being so many free books out there, that they feel they are losing out on selling their own. Then there are the calls for gatekeepers to stop the badly edited, formatted, or written books from ever making it out there, and thereby offend readers so badly that they will never so much as glance at a self-published book again, thereby also taking food out of “legitimate” self-published authors mouths.

I’ve made pretty much all the mistakes any newbie can flying solo in this indie world – still making them – and I doubt that any other self-published author will have got everything perfectly right their first time at the party without quite a lot of help and the shelling out of amounts of cash that not everyone has access to. What bothers me a little just lately is that some of the authors making the most noise started out themselves by publishing books with errors, and giving those books away on free Amazon promotions. It seems wrong to me that now that they are on their way as far as polished publications are concerned, they have built solid online platforms, and they’re writing their sixth or seventh novel, that they expect everyone else to never give books away for free, even if it’s their very first one, because this could make them lose a potential book sale.

Naah. Not everyone who self-publishes has the same aspirations. Some people publish purely because they want a couple of paper books to hand down to their children, or have a few bound copies of their photos and poems for their coffee tables. Some write stories for their children, and couldn’t be bothered if they never sell one to a stranger. Scientific papers, theses, and all sorts of things find their way to Amazon. Then there are the guys doing it purely for the money – they don’t even write their little books themselves, but hire ghostwriters instead, and churn out hundreds of short stories (extreme erotica) and tiny how to books. And then there are those guys who do write their own, but only because they desperately want to collide head on with the fame and money monster, and not because they love to spin a yarn and write it down for others to, hopefully, enjoy. That’s what I do. I write because I love to write. And so do thousands of other writers.

Regardless of why anyone self-publishes their book, it is entirely up to them what they do with it. If they want to give away thousands of free copies then that’s their choice. Most ebooks downloaded on free days lurk on kindles all over, and are never read before being discarded. But a small percentage are, and for an author totally new to this indie game, the future readers and reviewers gained this way are pure gold. The millions of free books floating around are not going to go away any time soon, so it’s totally pointless whining about them. Think up new ways to sell your books, or don’t use Amazon if their freebie policy is so offensive.

The thing is, it is all free. You can write a book and publish it as an ebook and a paperback for not one single cent. How you sell it is your problem, and having a bitchfest about what everyone else is doing with their books is not going to make the free go away, or force people to buy your book because there are no freebies about. I don’t like the idea of being forced to buy anything anyway. As far as crappy editing and formatting goes – formatting is easy if you take the trouble to learn how to do it. My formatting faux pas on Amazon was not due to anything I did wrong, but because they loaded an extra corrupted ebook. Editing errors are totally my fault, and excuses are useless in this instance. So – fix them and move along. I do have access to outside editing now, and I’ll never let loose a new book that hasn’t been properly gone over again, but not all new writers can afford to pay for editing – it’s expensive.

I’m not excusing badly put together books, but I am saying that what self-publishing IS, is being allowed to publish whatever you like. Self-publishing is a totally different animal to traditional publishing, and now that you’ve made your own mistakes and have a nice backlist of immaculate books, you want to deprive other indies of that same experience? Not fair! If you like the way traditional works, then do that, but stop yelling at newbies and authors who fancy a free promo to round up some new readers. I’ve downloaded loads of abysmal books for free, but I would never have paid for them, so no harm no foul as far as I’m concerned. When I pay money for a book, I don’t just blindly hit the buy button. I look inside, look at the blurb, occasionally look at reviews, and if I do buy it and it’s just rotten through and through, I have the option to return it within three days of purchase – not so keen on that option mind you, but I’ve never used it personally, because I’ve never paid for a self-published book that so appalled me.

The problem is that when a lot of people make a lot of noise about something, sometimes the powers that be change things – just to shut them up. Sometimes they might not make the changes the shouters were looking for, and they could find themselves bitten in the bum in ways they never expected. That’s what happens when mice start blowing raspberries at lions. As far as indie scribblers go, I say leave them be, and tend your own roses. Let those newbie writers walk their own path, and feel all the joys and pains that you already have. So what if you think that a book being #1 on a kindle free promotion means nothing? Those fresh faced new indies are just as entitled to feel the rush of seeing their books downloaded on to strangers kindles, and they should be allowed to take any kudos and knocks along their own trips to where you are today.

Rock those freebies indie scribblers!


40 thoughts on “Glass Houses

    Cay said:
    April 10, 2014 at 9:00 am

    I’m reading lots of writers and authors blogs at the moment, and I think it’s really difficult to wrap my head around all the info that is available. I totally agree with you, self-publishing becomes like blogging, basically. It’s your tiny, little piece of the internet and you can use it for whatever you want, and nobody should tell you otherwise. if they don’t like it, they should just turn their backs to it. They’re not forced to read it.

    But when try to weigh self-publishing up against a traditional publishing deal, I’m old-school and I got to admit that a publishing deal would be a dream come true for me. Self-publishing is more daunting and scary for me. I think I like the idea of the support network a publishing house ideally would be able to provide.


      jorobinson176 responded:
      April 10, 2014 at 9:08 am

      I totally agree that a traditional deal is our Nirvana. Self-publishing can be a lot better than only sending your manuscripts off to agents though. You can do both, and if you do manage to catch the eye of an agent or trad publisher, you actually are in a good place if you have a couple of self-published works already selling, and a decent online platform already in place. Traditional publishers only promote the very cream of their authors, and everyone else has to promote themselves just as we indies do. Also, the fact that everyone gets to choose their own self-publishing route means that you can look on your trip as professionally as you can, and so when that trad guy comes along you’re already on your way. Hugh Howey is traditional with his paper books, but self-publishes his ebook versions – best of both worlds. You own all the rights to your self-published book, and there’s nothing stopping you from still shopping it to agents while it’s selling online, or accepting a trad deal on it. 🙂

      And P.S. If you do decide to go indie, and need help with the nuts and bolts there are loads of us who would be more than willing to help. 😉


    The Story Reading Ape said:
    April 10, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's New (to me) Authors Blog and commented:
    Words of Wisdom (laced with a little humour) from Author Jo Robinson 🙂


    Charles Yallowitz said:
    April 10, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Very well put. It’s funny that you bring up free promotions too because I’m always being told that I should put my books up for free. From limited time sales to Perma-Free, I hear about this a lot. The thing is that it’s a tactic that doesn’t feel right to me. Maybe because I’ve had bad luck with free periods on my books where they don’t do as good as people say they would. Either way, I think a big part of self-publishing is to find something that works for you and fit yourself into a comfort zone of marketing. This is why I always add ‘this worked for me, but it might not work for you’ when I give advice.

    Strange how indie authors are going against free books. I’ve been seeing a lot of crazy behavior in the indie author scene this year. Like somebody kicked a hornet’s nest into our clubhouse.


      jorobinson176 responded:
      April 10, 2014 at 11:11 am

      You’re so right about the hornets this year. Fair game that the traditional guys give us flack, but I think it’s very two-faced of some indie authors who have decided to stop giving away free books after a couple of years going in for the attack. I still reckon hard work and luck in finding the right eyeballs are the only magic ingredients. My novels aren’t on KDP because I have them on Smashwords and so on too, but I’m planning on loading more shorts stories or novellas on Amazon that I’ll use for free promos. I reckon some of your list should never, ever be free. I’ve got complete works for free from individual authors. When I love a free one I’m always happy to pay for more though. I reckon all those guys blathering about the freebies and so on should find something more constructive to whinge about. 😀


        Charles Yallowitz said:
        April 10, 2014 at 11:17 am

        I’m on KDP Select, but I don’t think I’ll be using a free promotion that often. The last one I did was for my first book on its 1 year anniversary. Even with promotion, I did 525 over a 3 day period and the book was ‘frozen’ after it went back to 99 cents. I sometimes wonder if people see a book go free and miss the window, so they wait for it to happen again. I’ve heard some readers even state that they’ll wait for a self-published author to get desperate and go free before they give them a chance. Definitely a dangerous world out there for indie authors.

        I keep hearing that traditionally published authors bash indie authors, but I wonder if that’s only a vocal minority. Honestly, I only hear about such things second hand, so I’m not sure which authors are doing it.


    Sherri said:
    April 10, 2014 at 11:08 am

    I’m learning so much from you Jo, thank you so much 🙂 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


    writerbeelove said:
    April 10, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    I am along the lines with the argument that I worked really, really hard to produce something, using my personal time and effort, and I should be compensated in some small way for that. It’s the same argument that the musicians are putting up everywhere as well – which I happen to be one of those, too. They don’t just show up and play. They have to rehearse, travel, and pay out expenses. The internet world has changed the landscape of music and books and art by giving the masses the expectation that any and all should be given away freely at all times.

    But, we authors have to eat, pay bills, and buy shoes, just like the rest of the working world. Therefore, without book revenue, I work a day job that I find boring and unchallenging to make the cash necessary to live comfortably. (The reason I keep this particular job is the flexibility in the hours so I can keep the kids pick-up times and spend less on daycare.)

    I agree, the option is up to the author, but it does set an unfortunate precedent for the rest of us.


    Margaret Lynette Sharp said:
    April 10, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    There’s a steep learning curve involved in writing and promotion. There’s no harm in trying the give-away approach if that appeals to an author. Once you have a good name, you’ll get fans and it all can snowball. 🙂


    davidprosser said:
    April 10, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Well said Jo. Publishing isn’t a One Size Fits All thing. We’re all different writers, different needs, different genres. Things are trial and error for each of us and the followers we have in twitter may not like free books whereas the followers someone else has may devour them.
    The best we can ever do is be nice and offer advice, but we’re not responsible for whether someone takes it.
    xxx Sending Massive Hugs xxx


    John W. Howell said:
    April 10, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    Loved what you had to say here. I am published by an Indie publisher and loads of mistakes were made. The title Glass Houses is perfect. I think if writers write there ought to be a place to publish. Who really cares where? Those who complain are letting their out loud voice say some of the insecure feelings inside. I am having a bitch of a time getting the message out there which is “I have a book which can be read.” I don’t blame someone else when sales slump. I just do what I can each day. Well done post.


      jorobinson176 responded:
      April 13, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      Thank you John! Ever since I read Hugh Howey’s one post about time and luck I’ve been a believer in that. You already have some wonderful fans – me too – so I know that readers will find you. They do have lots to wade through to get there, so we need patience. 🙂


        John W. Howell said:
        April 13, 2014 at 1:08 pm

        Patience . . . *says ohm several times while sitting cross legged, eyes closed with thumb and forefinger joined*


          jorobinson176 responded:
          April 13, 2014 at 1:09 pm

          Wine helps – and sometimes a bit of sobbing and gasping too – quietly, into your hand. 😀


    Jack Eason said:
    April 10, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    ” I write because I love to write. And so do thousands of other writers.”
    Me too Jo. If you are not writing purely for the joy of spinning a yarn for others to read, then you seriously need to take a step back to reassess why you decided to write. If you make a bit of pocket money along the way, all well and good. In my case the royalties I get each month help to pay the bill… 😉


      jorobinson176 responded:
      April 13, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      True Jack! I’m aiming for 2015 as the year that I might make a penny – this year I’m just going to immerse myself in my scribbling and enjoy it for what it is – love. HUGS to you! 🙂


    aletifer said:
    April 10, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    This doesn’t quite say it, but “you get what you pay for” springs to mind for me. With traditional publishing, the formatting, professional editing and marketing/promotions are taken care of. Self-publishing opens the doors to basically everyone, so not every author out there is going to put as much care and attention into their products, free or paid. The ease of use of online publishing platforms just means you have to be a lot more discerning with what you decide to pick up. There’s a lot of really great self-published stuff out there, but it’s just a matter of wading through the rest. A fair trade-off if you ask me.


      jorobinson176 responded:
      April 13, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      True, true, and true! I think we should all live and let live. As you say, there are some absolutely fantastic self-published books out there, so as long as we just keep on doing the best that we can and trying to improve all the time, that’s a fair deal. 🙂


    Forget the Viagra...Pass me a Carrot! said:
    April 12, 2014 at 7:32 am

    Reblogged this on Forget the Viagra, Pass Me a Carrot and commented:
    The freedom to write and to publish has been hard fought. I remember the disparaging comments aimed at those of us who took things into our own hands 15 years ago….Jo Robinson always puts matters into perspective and worth a read if you are already established or considering putting your best foot forward into the world of publishing.


      jorobinson176 responded:
      April 13, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      Now that is a post I would love to read Sally – bring on those memories, and thank you lovely friend for sharing this. X


    Seumas Gallacher said:
    April 16, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    …magnificent post! a must read for anyone on ANY side of this discussion… beautifully expressed, m’Lady ..I’m gonna reblog this :):)


    Seumas Gallacher said:
    April 16, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Reblogged this on Seumas Gallacher and commented:
    …magnificent post by Jo Robinson !! a must read for anyone on ANY side of this discussion… beautifully expressed, m’Lady ..I’m gonna reblog this :):)


    laurie27wsmith said:
    April 17, 2014 at 12:54 am

    Well done Jo, there are always going to be whingers out there. The literary version of wine snobs.


    olganm said:
    April 18, 2014 at 11:50 am

    Hear! Hear! I also think that as you say not only we’ve all made mistakes (and the only way not to make them is to stop publishing) but also each authors has a different experience and set of circumstances and what applies to one might not work or make sense for another. Thanks Jo!


      jorobinson176 responded:
      April 19, 2014 at 1:52 am

      Thanks Olga! That’s the thing – established authors should remember their own journeys before holding forth and sending poor newbies scuttling for cover. 🙂


    spiritsunshine said:
    April 22, 2014 at 4:06 am

    I’m reading and learning how to swim upstream, thanks for this post 🙂


      jorobinson176 responded:
      April 22, 2014 at 11:31 am

      LOL! Swimming upstream is exactly what it feels like sometimes. 😀


    jazzytower said:
    April 24, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    The whole think of publishing, and self publishing seems so daunting. But I’m pretty sure it’s all worth it in the end. I have yet to read any blog stating how successful sales have been on self published works. I wonder how that end is going.


      jorobinson176 responded:
      April 25, 2014 at 11:40 am

      Hiya. 🙂 It’s hard work, that’s for sure. I’ve seen some really successful indies, although not often straight out the gates – I reckon only after a couple of books, and trying to make yourself as visible as possible. And luck – lots of that too. 😀


    Cynthia Reyes said:
    April 26, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Well said, Jo.


    mihrank said:
    April 29, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Jo: Hope you are having a joyful day – This is a new clip of my musical band.


      jorobinson176 responded:
      April 29, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Thank you Mihran – I truly am blown away at your talent. You and your band are just AWESOME! Love it! 🙂


    nataliescarberry said:
    May 8, 2014 at 2:10 am

    Thank you for visiting my blog today. I’m glad you enjoyed my post and hope you will come again. Blessings, Natalie 🙂


    First Night Design said:
    May 11, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Excellently said. I’ve yet to venture down this path but it’s clear that following you is going to provide me with lots of inspiration and advice and much else besides. Thank you for liking Interval at the Circus.


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