For years I made sacrifices for many people, people I have never met, helping them with their writing, producing covers for them, critiquing their work, writing reviews, contributing to forums, writing groups and so on. For years I invested huge amounts of personal time pleasing up and coming writers around me. In all that time I rarely had time to write my own books. That I finished anything at all is a small miracle. I did all this because I believed, as others have said, that by being part of it all, I would see benefits for myself.
But as selfish as this is going to sound, it just isn’t so.
You can blog and write and critique and give and give and give of yourself, but you will rarely if ever have it returned in kind. So, I stopped caring about others and chose to focus only on myself, on my craft, on my books. Surprise, surprise I am writing again. In fact, I just finished two books and am half way through a third in less than two months. It used to take me a year before.
The current wisdom amongst self published authors is that in order to receive and gain a fan base, you must give until you are bled dry.
What a load of nonsense.
The only thing you will accomplish if that is your focus is you will never finish another book. Instead you will create websites aimed at helping others. You will be asked to critique, to read, to edit, to do anything but write. Your life will not be your own, but will be owned by other writers far more selfish than you.
So, I stopped. I went cold turkey, much to the dismay of some of my online friends.
In all the time I did what I was doing, I never asked to exchange likes for likes or reviews for reviews. Instead, I simply gave of myself to others enthusiastically and wholly, in the vain belief that at some point, somehow, I would magically reap some vague reward for all my efforts. I came to realise that the only ones gaining from the arrangement was everyone else but me.
My sales not only did not improve, they came to a grinding halt. Did I get reviews from some? Certainly and I am indebted to those few. Did I get some re-tweets, likes and reposts? Absolutely. But always from the same people, those few people who selflessly gave as I did. But they were far too few. Not enough for a fan base, certainly not enough to have any impact on my own status as a writer. For every hour I gave in the form of my personal time, I was given a couple of seconds if I was lucky. For every thousand words I wrote for others, two or three were returned. For every video I produced, every blog I wrote, every cover I created I received so little it may as well amount to nothing.
They say that the life of a writer is a selfish one. If this is true, then I plan to be very selfish indeed.
This might seem in stark contrast to accepted wisdom amongst indie writers, but if you think about it, traditionally published authors don’t do what I have done. They already have their books in bookstores and supermarkets. They might attend the odd book signing and reply to a few emails or update their blog or Facebook page occasionally, but there is no way in hell you will find them sacrificing so much time for little result. That’s why they are able to sit in their den and write a one thousand page novel. They don’t have to care anymore.
So why should I?
Now, before you jump to conclusions about my state of mind, let me say this. If I see someone in genuine need of help, I will extend my hand. If I read a book I care greatly for, I will write a review. If I read a blog written by another author that appeals to me, I will comment. But what I won’t do anymore, what I refuse to do, is become subservient to the masses of indie authors who are relentless in their efforts to drag you into their little world they have created. They promise much, but deliver little to nothing. They are, like me, selfish. The difference is, they (not all but most) neither have the patience nor the skill to finish anything worthwhile. They are the equivalent of groupies, hanging off the fame of others in hopes of getting some for themselves.