Indie Author Support: Are You Harmful or Helpful?

This post came, literally, out of nowhere. In no way did I intend on taking an hour out of my schedule to write this post, but I wanted to share this article that was delivered to my email and get some feedback on it. It’s a great conversation starter.

http://www.creativindie.com/the-cardinal-sin-of-self-publishing/

According to Derek, the cardinal sin of self-publishing is hubris: foolish pride or dangerous over-confidence.

In brief, Derek explains how many Self-Published authors destroy their own success by getting too excited about their book and being rigid and inflexible.

I also took the time to read through the comments, which were just as interesting as the article. One comment in particular caught my attention:

“But, another factor, aside from the lack of ability of some to admit that they don’t know what they’re doing, is influence. The wrong kind. Authors are usually around other authors online, and the fact is, very few will tell their fellow authors that their covers suck, that their manuscript is not polished, that their blurbs are confusing, that the book needs major editing – an author cannot get honest feedback from their peers. Feedback which could help them improve. Maybe this happens because most authors don’t welcome negative feedback themselves – so they don’t give it. The result is, a mediocrity virus goes around, contaminating those around it.” – Eeva Lancaster

Whew! That’s a mouthful, but is she wrong? I’d love your feedback on this.

I get a small taste of this reviewing books. Though people are always respectful to me personally, it doesn’t take much to see when someone didn’t like how you felt about the book. You can sense it in the watered down thank you they give you or smell it in the silent treatment (where you never hear from that author again, nor are you on the receiving end of their support).

I’ve also seen poor work highly promoted, especially book covers that are not very pleasing to the eye (to the point where I am not interested in reading the book). We promote these books like they are NYT Bestsellers because these are our friends and we may not want to crush them by admitting “the person who did that book cover messed you up”. I mean, you wouldn’t say it like that but you get my point. Friends don’t hurt friends but such a thing feeds into Eeva’s point.

I’m not one to judge. I know that book cover design is expensive and I’ve had my own experience with mediocre looking covers. In addition, I’m a big advocate of treating others the way that I myself would want to be treated. Would I want you to publish your one and two-star reviews of my book and bring my rating down? Of course not so I don’t do the same to the books I read. I do, however, provide honest feedback (as promised) privately through email.

Still, for the everyday readers who purchase books and leave reviews, there is something genuine about those reviews when you read them that let’s you know the reader is being real. Readers don’t feel obligated to say something nice about a book because they know the author. They just keep it all the way real. Is this how it should be?

I think so but to an extent. I’m also a huge advocate for professionalism. Everything should be done with as much excellence as our time can afford. People are just not respectful. Period. While reviewers should be honest, I also think tact goes a long way. Criticism sandwiched between two soft pieces of bread goes a long way.

A lot of people also don’t understand the books they read. The first time I read Beowulf it was boring. I was also just in High School and had no clue as to what I was reading. I was just reading to get a grade pretty much. Meanwhile, boredom oozed from every page I turned. It was painful. Today however, because I understand the book, I find it intriguing and deep. Tell you another quick story.

In 2006, I went to the movies to watch Dreamgirls when it released. I was eighteen or nineteen years old. Anyway, I complained about the music. “It’s too much music in this movie”, I said. The lady behind me promptly put me in check, “It is a musical.” It sounded harsh to my young ears but she was right. Dreamgirls is a musical so there will be lots of music. The point? A lot of people don’t understand the books they read. If you’re reading erotica don’t complain there’s too much sex. That’s kind of the point.

And so, the question remains, in our quest to support each other, are we helping or hindering? Here’s Derek’s reply to the comment:

“There’s a common problem in self-publishing, that authors help each other and support each other (great) but also reaffirm misleading beliefs or ideologies that can be harmful (bad).” – Derek Murphy

That’s deep and I myself cannot honestly say that Derek does not have a point.

One of the disclaimers we reviewers use for book reviews is: “…in exchange for an honest review…”

(My disclaimer message will change. I will now be using the following disclaimer: ‘I received a copy of this book as a gift from the author’ will be the message that accompany each review instead of ‘I received this book free in exchange for an honest review’. To learn more about why I am making this change, read Debby’s most excellent article about cleaning up your Amazon links HERE.)

But, back to the point. We, reviewers, say, “…in exchange for an honest review..” but, are we being honest? Furthermore, how does one display honesty respectfully? Surely there’s no way to not hurt someone’s feelings. It’s inevitable and since people have so many different ways of thought, who knows what they may consider disrespectful. My thoughts is that everyone should just be as respectful but as honest as possible but I want to hear from you.

In our efforts to be supportive, are we helping each other by providing valuable feedback or hindering each other by sugarcoating the truth?

What are your thoughts?

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48 thoughts on “Indie Author Support: Are You Harmful or Helpful?

  1. I started giving unsolicited advice to review requests with typos or a synopsis that didn’t work, but I got crucified for it and gave up. With regard to reviews, I only give 3, 4, & 5 stars. If I’m half-way and debating whether it’s worth 3 stars I’ll DNF it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I feel you. I only give 3-5 as well. I’m sure people think a three is bad but I do not think so. For me it means I thought the book was OK. It wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t amazing (as a 5 would be). I think anything less than a three is not even worth posting. BTW, what’s DNF?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’ve had similar experiences when giving private feedback on books I’ve red that still need work. Therefore, I now keep those thoughts to myself. Also, I only write reviews for books that I feel are 4 or 5 star reads. However, if I receive reviews of 3 stars or less, I tend to listen up. Glad to know I’m not alone.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve lived this! LOL!

    An author asked me what I thought of a tour banner she’d made. (And please know, NEITHER of us are graphic artists or designers in any way, shape, or form.) It wasn’t good, and not just from an visual-appeal standpoint, but with far too many font types and distorted photos, it was a nightmare. I told her so as “nicely” as I could. It was like I blew up her house!

    The problem wasn’t just that I didn’t like her art, but so many others had told her how good her artwork was! They were not doing her any favors. She went as far to say how EASY it was to create book covers…and did. Yeah, you can guess the rest. I’ll always believe somewhere deep inside she already knew, because since our ‘banner talk’, she has NOT done her own art or covers…and no, I did not traumatize her! LOL!

    I prefer reviewing for authors I do not know. I feel I’m pretty fair, and with the exception of editing/grammar, the review is a relationship between the story and me. Only problem with this is some of those authors become friends. LOL! One of the nicest emails I received for reviewing was from a male author whose book received a three star review from me. He actually thanked me and said the areas I had problems with were the same ones he struggled with…but no one else ever mentioned them. Now he and I talk every day, share tips, and encourage each other. *Shrugs* We all approach books differently and look for different things.

    I’ve stopped asking close friends to review my writings. The responses I was getting were too generic, and not really telling me anything. Like the male author mentioned above, I’m new to publishing and especially need critical input, but it’s either feast or famine. I posted a character sketch in my writer’s group for feedback. Note, I said CHARACTER sketch. One author responds…to tell me how to develop the STORY. *BLINKS*

    You cannot win! LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing, I feel you. The male author who got the three handled it best. Kudos to the friend who took your constructive feedback to heart. Constructive feedback, the genuine and most valuable kind, can do wonders for authors. I don’t mind getting feedback on my work if it will help me to be a better writer. I prefer it be done respectfully, professionally meaning please know what you’re talking about, and in private but don’t mind it nonetheless. I try to always keep in mind that people get better at something when they are around the best. If there are people who will give them everything they need, praise when it’s due and constructive feedback when needed, the person can only get better. Everyday I discover something new about writing and look at myself like dang, I don’t know anything lol. But, this is how you learn. I would hate it if we’re stunting our own growth by shunning someone for trying to plant the seed.

      Like

    2. Felcia, that happened to me too. Only my review was a 2-star. The author contacted me on goodreads and thanked me for the review, becuase she felt what I pointed out would better the story when addressed. It does happene, which is why I think being honest and constructive is always the best way to go.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True. I think it may also have to do with the reviewers understanding on the writing too. Like if I got a two star rating I’m not gonna front, I’ll take it in but I’d be devastated! But if the person gave an in depth understanding and pointed out some valid and valuable points, it would make it easier to process.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic post EC! Sometimes as authors we are caught in a Catch 22, so true, we don’t want to hurt our friend’s feelings and say negative things, and I don’t like to review a book with 5 stars that I know isn’t worthy but don’t want to create bad feelings. What do I do, or what have I learned to do? I keep my trap shut. I don’t happily tell my author friend I’m reading their book so they can wait with baited breath for my wonderful review. I read the books, and if I come across one that I can’t give a good rating, I just won’t rate it, period. On the other hand, I’ve been asked to beta read quite a few times and that is where I will leave my constructive criticism if warranted, as I’d hope my friends would do for me. On the upside, I am proud of the work of the majority of my author friends, they understand what it takes to write good books. I also think authors fairly new in the game are beginning to learn from those before them, the importance of good book covers, although I’m still astounded by so many covers I see that scream amateur. I would highly recommend people to read The Bookdesigner’s monthly book cover awards where authors enter their covers for critiquing, and one winner in fiction and nonfiction is picked each month. I was thrilled to be chosen for one of my books. But you can learn a lot from his critiquing what the important elements are and what screams amateur. For example, photos that are pasted on a cover and a photo editor used to add text on top is a huge turn off. Okay, I’ve said my piece. Now I’ll just add, thanks for linking to my post, although, the link doesn’t work. Perhaps you could correct it? Many thanks. Here’s the link again https://dgkayewriter.com/are-you-cleaning-up-your-amazon-links-be-careful-sharing-book-links/ 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Here it is! Found it. It was in my SPAM smh. I am no longer on FB too BTW but I have noticed an increase in Spam on this blog. Not sure what’s going on. Do I need to downgrade? lol. Anywho:

      Thank you for telling me about the link. I will re-link with the one you’ve provided.

      I also think your system of reviewing is very wise. Sometimes it’s best not to say anything at all. Sometimes I don’t say anything either. I think not telling people you’d review the book until after you’ve read it is spot on. I’ve had people to promise me reviews only to not hear anything from them. I assumed they disliked the book but boy does it feel weird not to hear anything back. Tell me something lol.

      Like

    1. Gals, don’t know whether this may help, but I had a spam problem some two yers ago too. My comments would always end up in the blog’s spam.
      Turned out, for some reason, the antispam of MY blog didn’t work, and so every other blog considered me spam. I had to contact Akismet and have them taking me out of the spam hell.
      Don’t know if this is the case for you, Debby, but thought I’d mentioned it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I would write more reviews if I were better organized time-wise. My reading is sporadic at the best of times. Sigh. When I can, I inhale and almost choke. Sorry. Hope not too much information.
    I would never leave a review with less than 3 stars and if I felt I might be helpful in private, I ‘d have no problem contacting the author in private in a friendly approach/manner. My hope is writers understand suggestions are not an attack, so long as the suggestions are forwarded in a kind and friendly manner. ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sadly, I would agree with this, but on the flip side, some of these writers online think they are the best writers. When I used to be part of a bigger writing community, I found a lot of the feedback biased. Writers who were friends would give themselves amazing reviews, but for other writers, they would tear apart their work.

    Honestly, I think you need to find writer friends you trust and a few beta readers to give you the best feedback. I find too may online writing communities are about popularity, and not about improving the craft.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks for posting this article and for you commentary on it. I think this is a very serious problem in the self-publishing community. And that’s quite obvious, since we desperately need evey help we can and we’re not luckily to get it from people we give not so positive critiques.
    Me, I always try to be honest, if that sometimes requires a gloved hand. But I don’t have a golden rule, becuase it all depends on the person I’m dealing with.

    The people I prefer to deal with are friends who like me think that if I need to know something, then I’d prefer to know it, no matter how negative that is.
    It’s a joy to work with these people, I’ve learned a lot from them and I will never turn them down when they ask me for something. I normally also know how they write, so I don’t have problem accepting to review a book for them.
    As a rule, unless it’s a 4-5 review, I contact the author before I publish the review and let them read it. So far, no author ever asked me not to publish.

    Friends who are more sensitive. This is the worst category to work with, because I feel I should be honest with them, but I know they won’t take my honesty when it’s on the negative side.
    By this I don’t necessarily mean that they will get angry at me. Sometimes they just won’t listen. For example, I have a friend who has helped me a lot, that publishes books with terrible self-made covers and novels that are self-edited just in passing. I tried to discuss the self-publishing process with him a few times, but when I got what he feels self-pub is all about (working by himself, spending as little money as possible), I just stopped addressing the matter with him.
    When I beta-read the first time for a friend, I always email early and give an impression of the first chapters, so that I get a feeling of how far I can go. Happened to me more than once that the author gave explanations of why the story works nonetheless, in spite of the problems I point out. I will be honest with these authors anyway, but I won’t go in as much details as I do with friends who are willing to discuss a problem.
    Not to mentions (as someone else did above) the authors who tell me: everybody else loved it. To which I say: amen 😉

    Then there are books I review because I’ve read them and I don’t know the authors. I’ll admit I feel freer here, I’ll also admit I’ve never given a 1-star review – so far.
    Both when I beta-read and when I review, I always try to keep a balance between things I like and things I don’t. Normally, there are both in a story. I always try to give reasons why something works or doesn’t work for me, I try to stay away from what i ‘like’, because that’s personal and other readers won’t be interested it in. As for the author, it won’t help them know what I ‘like’, right? Especially when I beta-read, no matter what I like or don’t like, I’ll try to keep at what works and doesn’t – unless the author asks me, of course 😉

    So, yeah, it’s a very fine balance and I have the feeling many authors don’t even try to reach that balance, as long as they get good reviews from their friends. I’ve seen cilques forming everywhere, supporting their members in the best of cases, attaking everybody else in the worst. I don’t think this is healthy for anyone, and I do think it’s hurting the self-publishing environment. But hey…. it’s just my opinion 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate both your opinion and honesty. I love that you email your low ratings to see if the author wants it posted!

      In the end, its all about growth. Life isn’t shiny and sun flowery all the time and neither is love. Sometimes its discipline and correction and only fools despise both.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. These are true words.
    There is also a fine balancing between constructive advice and ‘messing’ with the book because unconsciously as a reviewer you become involved and inadvertently try and take it over. (My wife writes poetry and on one occasion, the advice turned into a hijack of re-writing the entire last two stanzas….)
    I usually avoid reviewing these days because I am hopelessly partisan to most self-published work in principal and willing to cheer them on. Thus am no use really (the last reviews were of work by folk who had worked at self-publishing for a few years and were thus quite ‘professional’ so no problem there).
    And of course being anarchical in all matters to do with writing I am the least qualified to give constructive advice.
    Oh well…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “There is also a fine balancing between constructive advice and ‘messing’ with the book because unconsciously as a reviewer you become involved and inadvertently try and take it over”, VERY good point Roger!

      Liked by 1 person

              1. Not at present. She visits some of the more sedate FB sites where poetry can be discussed in civilised ways. She recommended WP to me, but doesn’t get around to visiting WP herself 😊
                (Sorry for the delay in replying WP is being quirky with me…again)

                Liked by 1 person

  8. Although I now write (so far unpublished) I started out as a reviewer first on Amazon so I’m used to giving out 1-5 stars. It takes an extremely badly written book to get less than 3 stars but it does on occasion happen. I’ve suffered a LOT from past authors who thought their work was amazing and truly wasn’t. Grammar errors and an overall badly written books I’ve been offered and yet other authors gave the book 5 stars saying how great and recommended the books are. It turns out that I was the first person, usually, to mention privately the problem and they don’t appreciate it :/.
    One author I gave 4 stars too was my friend until I gave them 4 instead of 5 stars. They blanked me completely.
    I’ve also faced a verbal attack and shut down of my Facebook account due to one author who didn’t like a post I wrote on advice for authors.
    I’ve been offered so many terrible books to review, not where I just don’t like the plot, but the ones with typos and grammar issues that as a reviewer I’m nowvery wary of new requests and am honestly reluctant to accept new offered from random authors who I don’t know. Many amazon reviewers who used to review indie books also don’t now because of the badly written books. And yet I still see these same books have several 5 star reviews from fellow authors. It’s not just the fact some authors are not being honestly critical but perhaps (and I hope no one mistakes what I say for something nasty) some authors may not see the errors themselves if their own work it too filled with errors.
    I write a blog post called Dear Authors… And it’s about asking all authors to take greater care with their work,etc. I’d post up the link but would you believe this whole comment’s been typed on a phone 😮 lol. As for book covers, I knew that one author who thinks his ideas of covers are brilliant and he doesn’t want help in improving his books even though their sales stats are abysmal… Sometimes you can’t help a person who doesn’t listen 🙂 Great post thank you!!!

    Like

    1. Wow. Thank you for sharing! I’m familiar with your blog and thanks for following mine. You have some valid points. Especially this one: “And yet I still see these same books have several 5 star reviews from fellow authors. It’s not just the fact some authors are not being honestly critical but perhaps (and I hope no one mistakes what I say for something nasty) some authors may not see the errors themselves if their own work it too filled with errors.”

      That’s heavy and leads now to another thought: anyone can read and review a book but to call oneself a reviewer, to be someone who reads and offers valuable feedback and advice, should there be a kind of certification involved? I’m not asking you I’m just thinking in general. Should anyone be allowed to review books? On the other hand, perhaps reviewers are just focusing on the story itself (like the typical reader) and aren’t bothered with the mechanics?

      Oh and I’ve read your Dear Authors post! It was spot on.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, I was worried after posting that but I’m glad it was taken well. Good questions which I don’t have a clue how to answer. Reviews are still done for free (unless an author chose one of those paid services) so it doesn’t take much to be courteous. I don’t know if a certification is necessary, what is necessary is for those ‘bad’ authors to deal with the facts that people are free to like or dislike books and should be free to leave a review that they want. The issue with reviews that have been asked for (versus ones that are left by people who bought the book) is that in many cases reviewers are agreeing to spend time reading and then writing a review of a book they might never have bought. Reviewers are doing authors a favour and if authors aren’t ready for someone to give a bad review then they shouldn’t ask for a review – and maybe on some level (possibly subconsciously) they know their book isn’t that good? Thank you for reading my other post too 🙂 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Of course, no worries. I’m not offended by this kind of stuff. I respect everyone’s opinion and am eager to be enlightened by the various responses this post is getting. I can’t argue with truth. One thing is for sure: Reviewing books do take lots of time and they are free. If that doesn’t deserve respect, I don’t know what does.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. I had a couple of welcome emails from reviewers when I first published. I preferred that to a bad review. They gave me great outside insight and a way of moving forward that wasn’t misleading or hindering me. I appreciated it so much. I don’t get this stroppy attitude of people who ask for reviews but don’t like that somebody offered them feedback. If you don’t want anybody to say anything about your work then it might be worth considering whether you really want to release it.

    Liked by 1 person

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