Pay it forward – 6 weeks on

Pay it forward

When I wrote my original Pay It Forward post, I had little idea of the reaction it would cause. It was largely written as a statement of intent for myself. Why should I, as a self-published author, expect people to buy my work when I didn’t buy books from other self-published authors myself? I decided to change my behaviour, with the aim of purchasing and reading the work of those I had met since beginning this journey and promoting those books I’d enjoyed.

At the same time, I wondered how many other self-published authors bought work from their peers.  The final paragraph – where do you come in – was written in the hope that one or two of my fellow authors would be converted to the cause of paying it forward. It was added mostly as an afterthought. My think was that maybe my thoughts would influence one or two others to join in and spread the love too.

I should have known better.

Since starting out as a writer I have found many wonderful, supportive people from within the writing community, and the pay it forward post has introduced me to many more. It has become the most viewed, most commented and most liked post I’ve written to date. I’ve lost count of the number of  times it has been re-blogged and retweeted. Since first published it has gone on to have a life of its own. There may be days go by without me hearing a mention of the post before it once more springs back to life as it is discovered by another writers. You only have to read the comments in the original post to see the many wonderful people committed to the idea.

The other thing I have learnt is that it wasn’t an original idea. Many authors had come to the same conclusion long before I had and have been reviewing or promoting books from independent authors they admire. I have never been so pleased to have people approach me to say “welcome to the party.” I’m just sorry it took me so long.

In the six weeks since starting down this road I have read a number of self-published books. Without fail, all have been well written and presented. One or two weren’t for me, but that was more likely a failing on my part rather than the author’s; they still received my money and the statistical uptick from my sale. Those I have enjoyed have been promoted here under recommended reads, as well as receiving a review on Amazon and Goodreads.

One unexpected benefit of starting this process has been discovering how much I enjoy reading short stories. It is a format I’ve avoided in the past (I know, burn the heathen) as I like getting buried in large novels, or novel series, but I’ve really enjoyed the novellas and short story anthologies I’ve read to date and will look them up more often in the future.

An important part of my personal ethos I haven’t mentioned so far about paying it forward is around what I hope to get out of it. The short answer is: nothing. For this concept to work well any support has to be given freely, without obligation. I would be horrified if any author I’ve featured felt obligated to do the same for my work in return. I would, however, be delighted if they decided to pay it forward to self-published authors they have enjoyed (if they haven’t already) but that’s a choice for each individual alone.

So finally I would like to thank everybody who has contacted me, everybody who has committed to pay it forward from now on; all those wonderful people who have been doing this for a while now. I have been truly humbled by the reaction of the self-published community, of which I’m proud to be a member. And if you are a self-published author new to the concept, I would urge you to consider giving it a go. All you have to do is every now and then choose to buy an independently published book and if you enjoy it, tell everyone. That’s it. Simple, eh?

Pay it forward

Pay it forward

I’ve been thinking a lot recently on the difficulties faced by independent authors like myself. The indie author community is very supportive of each other when it comes to the writing process. We encourage and congratulate, offer tips and advice, yet when it comes to talking about independent books we tend to focus predominantly on our own work. I am as guilty of this as many. But a number of things have happened recently that have made me decide to change.

How independent musicians support each other

As some of you long-term readers will know, I used to review the monthly Live at the Cottage gig that is held every month in my local village. These gigs attract high quality unsigned acts, most of which make a living through performing live and selling their independently produced CD’s. There are many similarities between what they are doing and what we, as independent authors, are looking to achieve, and that is to make what they produce available and seen by the widest audience possible.

One thing that has impressed me with many of these musicians is their generosity to their fellow performers. Despite the falling number of live music venues, these musicians often recommend other artists to venues and promoters, as well as offering support slots to give others artists chance to become better known. The other thing that they are happy to do is put their money where their mouth is and buy the work of other independent artists. I spoke to a couple of artists at a recent gig and when they found out I was an independent author they both bought my book without hesitation. Why? Well in the words of one “you’ve paid to see me, it’s the least I can do.”

Book club

I was approached the other day by somebody who had bought my book to tell me how much she had enjoyed it, even though it was “not the type of book she would normally read.” I’ve heard this a number of times from different people, and the phrase is also used in a couple of Amazon reviews. What she said next, though, was great. She used to read all the same type of book but then joined a book club to get her out of her comfort zone. Since then she has discovered a number of books that she loves which she would never have read otherwise. She also said she would recommend my book for them to read (which was very kind).

Promotional sites

There are a number of sites that offer to promote your books. Some are very effective, having built up mailing lists and being selective about what they promote, but many use twitter to bombard you with promos every two minutes. I’ve also seen a number of indie authors use the same tactic, whether to promote their own work or in promoting the work of others. There may be some mileage in this because why do it otherwise, but to me it just comes across as noise. When somebody recommends a book, I want to believe they have read it and enjoyed it.

So where is this leading?

I buy and read a lot of books yet very few, until recently, have been written by independent authors. I have been happy to take advantage of  the many free books on offer – often the first in a series – but rarely move on to buying the next in line. Most of the books I do read are by established authors and like my good blogging friend Jools said in her most recent blog, I am a completer. Once I’ve read a book from an author I like, I want to read everything that they read. This leaves very little time for anyone new to get a look in.

Yet at the same time as an indie author I am desperate for people to buy my book and leave a review. A number of people have been kind enough to do this, but there is a long way to go before I could say I was earning enough to live on, and I know that most indie authors are face the same issues. So it is a little hypocritical of me to on the one hand ask people to buy my book yet not do the same for others.

Pay it forward

I’ve decided that it was time to put something back into the indie author community. I will commit to buying (actually I’ve already started) books by other independent authors, being open-minded about genre or type, initially focussing on those I have discovered through blogging. If I like the book I will post about it on this site under a new series called Recommended Reads. This won’t be a traditional review – if I don’t like a book I’ve bought I won’t say anything (because the fault may well sit with me) – but a series of recommendations of those books I genuinely like. I will also post a review on Amazon and Goodreads. This will help spread provide  exposure as well as a genuine sale. Even for those books that weren’t for me there will be a benefit, as they too will get an extra sale, bumping the book up the charts giving much-needed visibility.

Where do you come in?

I’d like to start a supportive community of indie authors, similar to what I’ve seen with the indie musicians. If you are an indie author, or you are a prospective author, or even if you are a friend of an independent author; I would encourage you to do the same me and commit to buying work from lesser known indie authors. Many authors blog, or have Facebook or Twitter accounts. If you like a books you buy, pay it forward and tell people about it. Write an Amazon or Goodreads review. It will take only a few minutes but as you know it would mean a lot to the author concerned. Even a small number of us doing this will make a big difference, but the more that take part, the more we can support our community.

If you are interested in getting involved, please feel free to reblog this to help get the momentum going. I’m halfway through my first indie book (which I’m loving) and hope to get post about my first recommended read next week.

Thank you for your time.