Friday, January 24, 2014

Amazon Forums - a dangerous place for the innocent.....

There is very little point in producing a novel if you don't want people to read it. That said, I am sure there are a small number of people that write purely for themselves, get their books into hardcopy and just put them on their own shelves - If you are one of those then I suggest this blog is not going to be of interest.

However, if you are looking to get your book 'out there' then advertising and promotion are critical. This is another one of those huge topics that I've seen mulled over and over again with all sorts of right and wrong answers. I'm not telling what is right and wrong, I'm just telling you my experiences and you can decide what's right and wrong.

As an Indie Author everything that needs to be done, needs to be done by me. I am sadly lacking a Marketing Department, an IT Department and a Promotions Department, but I have Me, Myself and I. So it has been a very steep learning curve indeed. Every penny that is spent needs to be justified, and it needs to work hard for the 'cause'. And the same applies to 'time'. Consider your time the biggest investment you are going to make in getting your book to where it belongs. Looking down the track you might well see book signings, TV interviews, Chat Show appearances etc, but you have to get there first, it doesn't just happen over night (well, it hasn't happened to me anyway).

Every interaction is a sales opportunity, every person you come into contact with is a possible customer. Keep that in mind. From the start I have taken a very multi dimensional approach to growing the awareness of 'Russian Redemption' - this blog page is just one example. I will explain more about other tested avenues as we move on but one thought I had was to 'mix with like minded people'. There was a few thought processes behind this:

a) I could learn from them
b) They, having been Authors for much longer than me, could have contacts and strategies that I could utilise.
c) Only Authors can truly understand authors (that's not to say that ALL Authors understand ALL Authors, because that is not the case)
d) I could learn from them (that's not a typo!)
e) If they share their experiences with me, much like I'm doing here, then they could save me some pain..

And so my brilliant mind (?) took me to the forums of Amazon.

The Amazon forums are very public, anyone can go and read or post, and there are some interesting topics that are discussed. There are also some interesting characters that seem to live there.

My first piece of advice: You've just published your book and you want to tell the world so you decide to visit ALL of the forums (and there are dozens, if not hundreds) and post all about your new book, where to find it, when it's free download day is and so on, then skip to the next forum and repeat. DON'T DO IT!

There are 'do's and do nots' and that one is at the very top of the 'don'ts'. Consider a group of people in a pub stood around chatting socially, or in deep conversation about the solar system or quantum physics. All of a sudden this whirlwind sticks their head into the middle of the group, "go get my book it's great, it's free now, there, get it, this is my book yes yes go now.." and then the whirlwind disappears. People can get very annoyed, and they tend to respond in an unpleasant manner. Y'see the people that inhabit the forums are just people, a cross section of the world populous and we all know there are some 'very strange' people on this planet, and a percentage of them can be found on the forums. Bear that one on mind.

If you go onto a forum then it is good manners to maybe introduce yourself briefly, familiarise your self with the discussion to that point by reading back posts, observe. I don't know how long the Amazon Forums have been running, quite a few years I'm sure, but there are feuds on those forums that have been going just as long, and if you're not careful you will be expected to take a side. Do NOT promote your book, it will bring the wrath of 1000 naysayers, witches, warlocks and self imposed guardians of the written word to bear, all aimed at you! Hopefully, I've made the point. There are one or two very specifically titled forums like "Authors, post your shameless plug here" or "Indie Authors Self promote your kindle here.." where you are actively encouraged to post about your book, but they are there so when you do get a slaughtering for promoting your book on the wrong forum, they have somewhere to send you.

I tend to stick with the 'Meet the Authors' forums. The title topic is more of a dream, it's what people would like the thread to be about but they do tend to bounce around a bit. The forums are populated with a real mixture of personalities, positive, destructive, argumentative, obnoxious, self imposing, self important, way out and whacky; but there are also some quite brilliant people, experienced and knowledgeable, absolute gold mines of information. You will find legal people, editors, mothers, rocket scientists, teachers and just about every other possible walk of life on there. Each forum and thread that I have visited has, at some time or another, descended into play ground mentality; name calling, unfounded accusations, 'she said he said', and some mind numbing statements of untruths. But, there are occasions when there are some very interesting opinions and experiences that are worth taking note of. I'm no 'old hat' at these forums either, so I tend to read a lot of the posts but comment rarely. I have however started to network with a few people from the forums, and THAT is the second main reason I visit them. The first being the opportunity to learn. It's the same reasons why I joined a few facebook groups as well, but I'll mention that a bit later on. Back to the forums. You will hear a few words, the context of which you may not understand, for example 'Troll', 'Sock Puppet', 'BBA' and 'BBR'. The last two are easy Badly Behaving Author and Badly Behaving Reviewer'. 'Troll and 'Sock Puppet', well, they're not so easy. Sufficed to say they are not compliments. You have the ability to vote on every post to say if it 'adds to the discussion'. If enough people vote 'no' then the post gets hidden. This function does get abused when a group of individuals have a dislike for one person so they gang up and all vote 'no', it's a sort of childish protest. Sometimes these forums swing from courtroom to school yard on a sixpence. There can also be hectic traffic, multiple posts which make it difficult to follow the theme. It wasn't until I discovered the "In reply to an earlier post" in the top right hand of each post that it started to make sense. If you click on the 'earlier post' bit it will show you what the post is replying to. It's obvious now I know it's there but before that it got damn confusing - although mildly entertaining occasionally.

It is difficult to explain, or possibly to understand, some of the personal attacks that do take place. I have seen threats of personal data exposure, sinister innuendo's and outright abusiveness and bullying. There is a 'report abuse' option in every post box, don't be afraid to use it! It can get very ugly. Amazon aren't too keen to moderate these forums, they certainly aren't proactive other than some auto censorship on a few select words. But when you're talking about writers/Authors etc 'words' tend to be their strong point so getting around the basic censorship doesn't seem to present a problem.

This is the reality of the Amazon Forums that I have visited. There are a lot of good people that will help you, there are a few that will see you as a target and attack you. You have to be able to take the rough with the smooth and hold on for that occasional golden nugget (information or person) that will help you on your way. They DO exist.

My strategy has been to observe a lot, identify the people that I think can help me or that I think I want to associate with and converse only with them. Do not get drawn into mud slinging fights with pigs because you both get dirty but the pig enjoys it! Ignore the disruptive individuals (and there is an ignore option) and take it all for what it is.

I suppose you are wondering why you should bother. A valid question. For me it is because it is a resource that can help me on many levels, it's free and if it is utilised properly it can help build my own reputation within the world of writers. Just a footnote, people on these forums will check out your Amazon Authors profile so you should make sure that is up and running before you put in your first appearance on the forums.

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