J.A. Konrath has often repeated the list of what you need to become a successful self-published author: “Write good books, with good descriptions, good formatting, and good cover art, sell them cheap, and keep at it until you get lucky.” I would also add, however, you need the kindness of strangers.
I have a lifetime of experience of being supported by people I know, whose friendship, sympathy, advice, and encouragement has sustained me in my life and work. However, in the past two years that I have been involved in self-publishing, I have been overwhelmed by the way previously unknown strangers have helped me, and today I wanted to give thanks to them.
First there were the bloggers. When I started on the journey to self-publishing, my writer friends were still firmly enmeshed in traditional publishing. That was their experience, and most of them thought that was their future. This meant that I had to turn to strangers, bloggers I had never heard of before, like Morris Rosenthal’s with his How to Publish A Book, Jane Friedman’s There Are No Rules, Mick Rooney’s POD, Self-Publishing, and Independent Publishing, Joanne Penn’s Creative Penn, Henry Baum’s Self-Publishing Review, and J.A. Konrath’s A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. I know how difficult it is to write consistently, clearly, and frequently about a subject that is so complicated, varied, controversial, and changeable. Yet these bloggers were doing exactly this when I started to look into self-publishing in 2009. It was these bloggers that convinced me that there were other options besides traditional or “vanity publishing.” These were the bloggers who gave me the confidence to choose self-publishing and the information I needed to become successful, and I thank them.
However, among their ranks there were bloggers who reached out and directly helped me in ways I can never repay. When April Hamilton made me a regular contributor to her wonderful and comprehensive site Publetariat this provided a platform for my ideas that I would have never have reached on my own, helping me build a following.
Joel Friedlander is another blogger who has gone out of his way to promote my blog, featuring my posts on his blog the Book Designer and tweeting about them. Whenever my back posts get a spike in hits, I can often count on Joel to have been the one who has caused this.
Next came Steven Windwalker, the champion of all things Kindle, who responded to some of my comments on Kindle Nation Daily with the offer to publish a Kindle Short (this was in the days before this cost anything), which then sent my first book, Maids of Misfortune, rocketing up the Kindle historical mystery best-seller list, where it remained for nearly a year, greatly facilitating that book’s success. I would like to specifically thank these three.
I know that on the surface the examples above might not seem like kindness, but just people making good social media connections for their own benefit. Yet what has struck me consistently about these and other members of the self-publishing community is that they seem genuinely interested in both sharing information with and promoting other self-published authors. I am a very small fish (in terms of length of time in self-publishing, books published, and breadth of my social media following) in a vast ocean, yet I have never been made to feel that way. Instead, I have been made to feel welcome, and the kindness of these strangers has been a large part of the reason I have enjoyed the process of self-publishing so much.
Then there are the writers. I have a writers group, who long ago stopped being strangers and became friends. But the group I am talking about is the growing number of writers who I have come to know in the past two years of self-publishing. I mean the strangers who I have never met face-to-face, who live scattered around the globe, who I may have encountered only briefly when they comment on my blog or participate in the same thread of discussion as I do on a list or blog. They have made me feel a part of a community of writers.
In particular I would like to mention my fellow members of the Historical Fiction Authors Cooperative. This group of historical fiction authors who came together in 2010 to promote their ebooks has given me so much in the past year of my membership. These are men and women I had never met before, and they have edited, read, and reviewed my books, shared their knowledge of marketing, and spent enormous amounts of time working on building the membership and creating a wonderful website. In the process a number of them have moved from strangers to friends. For this I give special thanks.
Finally there are the readers. Strangers who write unsolicited thoughtful reviews on places like Amazon or Goodreads, write me emails telling me how much they enjoyed my work, and comment on my facebook page. Small acts of kindnesses that are more precious to me as a beginning writer than all the sales. Some of these people even offered to be beta readers for my sequel, Uneasy Spirits, giving me wise advice, close edits, and the confidence to get the book out before Christmas. Without every stranger who was willing to take chance on buying a book by an unknown author, I would have no success, and I thank them all.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
M. Louisa Locke