After publishing, I decided it would be a good idea to join the community of several websites catering to self-published authors. It seemed like a good idea to network with other authors, seek advice and support, glean wisdom from more experienced authors, and potentially help each other market our works.
What I found surprising was the relative lack of community I found within these communities. They largely serve the same purpose as a cluttered bulletin board in some dingy third-rate English department. People wander in and out, affix an (often poorly constructed) advertisement for their book, ignore everything else on the board, and never return.
This is not how communities work.
It’s selfish and egocentric and absolutely reeks of the pseudo self-esteem upon which we snowflakes have constructed our identities.
Print on demand self-publishing companies help to reinforce our cultural arrogance by giving anyone with the capacity type and use the internet the ability to publish a book with little to no upfront costs. It gives us all a platform and a potential audience for whatever we want to write. And I do mean whatever. This inherent lack of quality control is precisely what creates the uphill battle that all self-published authors must fight.
If it’s not already apparent, and in the interest of full disclosure – I am self-published. And, yes, I’m quite aware of the irony of a self-published author righteously bitching about self-publishing.
Predictably, self-publishing is dominated by opportunistic bandwagoning. There are crazy numbers of 50 Shades of Grey knockoffs, just as many Game of Thrones style fantasy epics, and exponentially more ‘Young Adult’ books, all of which are attempting to ride to fame on the coattails of books like Twilight and The Hunger Games. It’s all just bondage, and dragons, and vampires, and kids killing each other.
What I found much more surprising and interesting is the number of memoirs I have seen. Sure, some of these folks have a story to tell whether it’s surviving a natural disaster, abuse, war, mental illness, or struggles with substance abuse. I’m sure some of them are well written and engaging, I just have no interest in them, since most people have experienced some degree of hardship and have a story to tell as well.
It seems like a lot of the people I have encountered in communities catering to self-published authors lack the ability to understand that other people are not obligated to care about their book. Just because they like their story does not make it a good one. Even if it’s an amazing and well written book, there is still no guarantee that people will buy copies by the thousands.
There are countless topics on these message boards about marketing, all of which basically say ‘how do I market my book?’ None of these posters have bothered to read the countless other topics where people have given sound advice, or provided links to marketing resources. They apparently don’t have time for that, as this would probably increase the time it takes to make their first million, so they just ask again, feeling very much entitled to the time and knowledge of the community while investing minimal time and energy of their own.
Laments of difficulty are my favorite category of topics. These generally involve the author pointing out that their book has been published, they have Facebook and/or Twitter, yet they have only sold a few copies and cannot begin to understand how this is possible. Again – nobody except your family and close friends cares that you wrote a book. Winning over the masses takes a whole lot of work, and even more luck.
Don’t even get me started on the unabashed lack of regard for grammar, spelling, and cohesive thought in most of these posts. If you can’t be bothered to write a semi-coherent post to promote your book, I can’t be bothered to even read the description.
Not everyone in these communities embody this narcissistic value set. I have connected with several people who I am fortunate to have met on these boards. I often communicate with them to seek advice for marketing, discuss new ideas, and generally offer support and motivation. They are a welcome minority, and it was one of these folks (GT Trickle – you should absolutely go check out her book) that inspired me to write this particular blog.
Just because I (or you) have the ability to publish a book, does not mean that we are entitled to a large and devoted readership. Stepping away from our inflated expectations and view of ourselves increases our ability to feel proud of our accomplishments and enjoy what success we are fortunate enough to earn.
TLDR: Stop whining if your self-published book hasn’t sold a million copies. You are not entitled to success. Whining doesn’t fix problems, work does.