The Kindness of Authors

Kindness

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As some of you may know, my background is in business. I spent over 25 years making money for some of the world’s largest corporations. Unlike some, I never found it as a soul-less existence. I enjoyed what I did and I especially enjoyed working with so many great people. When I decided to leave to concentrate on my writing, I knew I would miss my colleagues. It’s a wonderful feeling being part of a group working towards a common goal. Becoming an author, I expected my working life to be more like one man against the world.

Instead I discovered a wonderful community of authors.

 

The best part of writing has been the care and support shown by many hundreds of authors. It was such a surprise. In the world I’d just left, you never spoke to your competitors. You studied them, sure, but only to find weaknesses in their offer to exploit for your own financial benefit. Yet I had so many fellow authors, competitors of mine, offering help and advice, whether in the craft of writing or how to generate more sales.

And some not only gave advice, they actively promoted my books. How was this possible? Surely these authors telling readers to buy my book meant those same readers wouldn’t buy the books of these authors? But I learnt very quickly that publishing is not a zero sum game. There are enough readers to accommodate all of us. Yes, many of us would love to sell more books, but the issue isn’t a lack of readers, it is a lack of awareness, and as us authors help promote each other, we help ourselves too.

Yet I think there is more to this than a simple “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” I’ve had authors I’ve only ever met through blogging and social media give up hours of their time to beta read my books. Not only have they done so willingly, they were thrilled to help. In my recent promotion, many authors shared and promoted what was happening. One author in particular sent out regular tweets to their followers informing them of my promotion, all unasked.

There was even one writer, knowing how much I loved cricket, who offered me tickets to see England play a test match at Lords as they had a ticket going spare. This was a writer I’d never met in person but purely through blogging. I am still bowled over by the kindness of this gesture, and how much fun that day was.

While not all authors are supportive, as not all in life take time to think of others, I’ve encountered so many examples of authors offering help and support to each other and celebrating the success of their peers – from multi-award winning authors down to those just starting out and every level in between –  that I believe there is something in the psychological makeup of writers, possibly linked to our ability to empathise with others, that encourages this warmth and support to each other.

And the best part is, it’s more enjoyable to give than receive. Over a year ago I started my Pay it Forward campaign. It was a little thing, really. I read a lot of books, so it was no hardship changing my reading habits to read more works by either self-published authors or those published via small presses and promoting this I liked, yet the longer it has gone on, the more I’ve enjoyed doing it and offering just a little exposure to those books I feel deserve it.

So the one piece of advice I would give to any new writer is to reach out to other writers. Don’t just read what people have to say, write a comment, get in contact. For the most part I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the reaction you’ll receive.

So what about you? What support have you received from other authors? Is there a particular act that stands out or is it more the ongoing encouragement you find helpful? I’d love to hear from you.

 

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34 thoughts on “The Kindness of Authors

  1. Aarrghh that reminds me of the FOUR Pay it Forward posts I have scribbled in my notebook which will be posted one day… soon!! And I completely agree, I have loved getting to know other writers and bloggers over the past year or two, it is indeed a lovely community!

    • You should get started right away. Paying it Forward is like speaking in front of an audience for the first time. It’s difficult at the start but gets easier as you go on until by the end you wonder why you’d never done it before. 😉

  2. Writers should never consider other writers to be competition, as you say, Dylan. We all have so much more to gain by supporting and promoting each other and, in the end, it’s the readers who win! And they are who matter the most in this equation.

  3. My author friends have changed my life. When I retired early d/t disability I isolated and wrote volumes. I really did not know what to do with myself and my free time, and didn’t feel my writing was really worthy. Clueless about what to do with my passion, I turned to the authors I met in the blogosphere and lights began to come on. I try hard to assist the newcomers who have the passion, especially the ones who are timid and insecure.

    • I think we’re all clueless when we first start out which is why it’s so wonderful to have the support of those more experienced than ourselves. And even though many of us have gained our own experience to pass on to others – as you do yourself – there is always something new for us to learn and share.

  4. Lovely post, Dylan. Early in my writing career, I came across an appallingly narcissistic author. I spent hours beta reading her work, and also promoted and reviewed her novel. I didn’t do it with the expectation of anything in return but was disappointed at the absence of interest from her when my first novel was published. She never even bothers to contact me any more now she has what she wanted out of me. It made me wary of getting to know other authors. But last year, I read your pay it forward blog. My faith in humanity was restored. I now make a point of reading and reviewing indie authors and it has been so rewarding. I realise that she was the exception and the writing community is full of generous people like you!

    • Thanks you for your kind words, Kat. There will always be people who take advantage of a person’s kindness but I’m glad you’ve had better experiences more recently.

  5. It’s wonderful that you have had such positive experiences. I too have met supportive writers and kind people in general who have given generously of their time and insights. It is part of what inspires me to continue writing. Like you I make an effort to read the work of indie authors whenever I can. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. I agree completely. When I started this blogging thing I had no idea that I would bond with my blogging friends. I was very apprehensive about putting my writing out there for the world to see and everyone has been so supportive. I think I have only received one or two rather oddly mean comments over the months I have been doing this blog. If one of my blogging friends asked me to review their books I would be delighted because the sense of community is so strong (and interesting).

    • One of the things I love about blogging is that you can (usually) have in depth discussions and even disagreements without them becoming personal. It’s a very different atmosphere to most other social media platforms. I think this, plus the natural friendliness of other writers, that brings this supportive community together.

      • I entirely agree. I love this community of bloggers. It is the first time I have ever really felt like I fit in as a writer anywhere – it’s such a solitary pursuit most times.

  7. It’s always fascinated me how my partner is always on good terms with other people in his trade (decorating). To the extent they pass on work to him if they can’t do a job. Why give work to competition? Yet, they do. Strange.

    I don’t think books are quite the same. Different tastes and genres. I only have one editing blog pal. Guess we editors/writers are competitive.

    • I’ve seen this in a lot of trades, especially between small businesses where they don’t necessarily have the resources to cope with high levels of demand. By sharing the workload between people you trust, everybody wins (it’s game theory at its most basic level).

      I can see why editors and editing can be slightly different (and no, I’m not about to have a dig at your profession). For editing to work well, there has to be a level of trust between the editor and the writer and you can’t naturally assume that just because you get on well with another editor, an author will too.

  8. Thanks for this post, Dylan. It’s good for all of us to be reminded of how we’ve been treated kindly, and how these memories can inspire us to treat others in the same way. Several years ago I somehow won a beta-read in an on-line contest, from an obscure author who now is doing well. Her comments on my first project were so encouraging, and so specifically constructive, that I continue to be astonished by the time she spent reading my 200-page manuscript. Since then I’ve met other writers on-line, and each has been generous and encouraging and fearlessly critical. Because all writers struggle, and because that struggle never ends, even after we “make it”, we understand the importance of the right kind of feedback, whether it’s something as simple as “keep going” or as complex as “this part isn’t working for me because ….”

    It may be that recognizing shared experiences makes empathy possible, or it may be that writers, because they understand characters, are pre-set to empathize with other writers who must also wrestle with difficult characters. But whatever the reason or cause, we’re a lucky group to have so many people rooting for us.

    • That’s a wonderful story, Lizzie and you make a great point. Writing is a struggle, regardless of whether you’ve made it (in sales or books written) or not, and one with which every writer can relate. Add that to a pre-disposition to empathise and you realise it’s more of a surprise that there are writers out there who aren’t supportive! 🙂

  9. Couldn’t agree with you more, Dylan. I’ve been bowled over by the support I’ve received from the online community. And I think your thoughts about empathy fueling this are spot-on. We all know what it’s like to work hard to finish our product, and we all know how difficult it can be to get eyes on it. Plus, every reader–whether a writer or not–loves to share good books we’ve read with others.

    • I was at a school sports day last week and one of the best moments was seeing the children on the sidelines cheering all the runners home, first to last, but especially those coming in way at the back.
      That’s the writing community.

  10. Dylan, I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes I forget what a supportive community this is, lost in the isolated process of creating, and this really hurts on the bad writing days. I’ve sort of fallen off the blogging wagon in 2015 for one reason or another, and what I miss most is the comforting support and camaraderie we share with others. We’re so fortunate to live in this digital age, where such things are possible.

  11. As an author, I have no problem helping others in my field. It is such a tough game. We all should be linking arms together and taking on the world for the craft we love. I met a fellow author on line who turned me on to a couple of ladies who write, read, and review author’s books. I have since been in touch with one of them, and she has not only enjoyed my work, but has become a Beta Reader for me. All because one author simply told me I should contact her, because she might really like to read what I write.

  12. I have recently had two books published by different publishers (different genres, that’s why) within ten months of each other. Are there any tips or is there a website that could help me generate more sales of my books? I really want them to succeed. My first book has been widely reviewed, my second book less so. I’m on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and I have a blog but I have a feeling this is not enough. I don’t want to sit idly by and hope these books sell themselves. I’ve invested far too much time in them for that. Thanks.
    By the way, I love the idea of Paying it Forward for other authors. I already do quite a bit of beta-reading for my author friends. How can I get involved in reading and writing reviews for Indie authors?

    • I’ll answer your second question first. The best way of getting involved in reading and reviewing your fellow authors is to buy one of their books. I started with those I’d been in contact with through blogging and gradually widened the net. The “Paying it Forward” part comes from purchasing their book and helping boost their sales rank. I then promote those that I enjoy on my blog (which aren’t all because taste is subjective – but there are quite a few).
      Your second question is the million dollar question we’d all love to know. The best answer is you increase sales by finding your audience and making them aware of your book. You can do this through advertising (as I did for my recent promotion), by contacting book bloggers, by blogging and blog tours. One good piece of advice is to set up a mailing list and ensure you put a link to it in the back of each book. There aren’t any magic answers, I’m afraid. It’s hard work, perseverance and winning new readers one at a time. The more book you have published, the more visibility you have, but the simple truth is to keep plugging away, keep creating and win your readers over one by one.

  13. I review books on my blog and first impressions on Goodreads and I love the interaction with the reading/writing community and that it enables us to support each other. When I read reviews and blog posts I try always to contribute through authentic comments as I find it so encouraging when others do the same and it has certainly inspired me to read and share more. I love nothing more than to be able to support other writers on their journey towards publishing when they have been supportive of others.

    Today it very easy to see the difference between authentic interaction and blatant self promotion, just by viewing a twitter stream. I can’t help but be put off by those amassing thousands of followers on twitter and Goodreads, who seem rarely to actually read or review books. I guess those people are doing pretty well on their own anyway, however it’s the quiet voices that interest me, those we often haven’t seen or heard, that have something equally worthwhile to share.

    Creating a community of authentic followers and interacting with them is not just a great idea, it provides immense personal satisfaction to the writer. One of the early supporters of my blog was the author Patricia Sands and I have watched her publish one book after another and grow and develop her audience and followers in a supportive, caring and inclusive way. She is a wonderful example of what you speak about.

    • I’ve contacted a number of authors who continually tweet promo tweets (as in all through the day, every day) to find out if it makes any difference – not that I’m interested in going down that route – but I’ve yet to receive an answer (which says plenty about their willingness to engage with their audience).
      You are absolutely right. Some of the most successful authors are those that develop an audience over time by being supportive and engaging.
      I also enjoy Goodreads – although it can also be quite scary for an author. I love how it puts readers in contact with like-minded souls so they can share their passion for particular books or genres.

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