People vs products


Sometimes there is a hidden connection between things. A golden thread that links this thing over here …

… to this one all the way over here.

And when you spot one of these threads it can feel like a connection is being made. A spark.

Over in the UK Amazon Kindle Forum part of Goodreads, there’s a discussion going on about the impact of Amazon taking over Goodreads.

Nasty big corporate bully takes control of cuddly user-driven community. It will be a disaster. Goodreads will be ruined forever. Doom, gloom and other things that end in oom.

Except it hasn’t really happened that way. Not as far as I can see. Goodreads is still Goodreads. It is still gloriously unpredictable, friendly, unique. Most of all it feels 100% human and not corporate money-grabbing machine.

Admittedly, some forums on Goodreads work far better than others.

Then there was Tricia Drammeh’s beautifully written but sad blog from yesterday. She is taking a holiday from book reviews because she was fed up with spam-and-run authors. Total strangers burst into your house, scream “read my book, read my book” and then run out, never to be seen again.

And I can’t really blame her. I wish her well. I feel so sorry and ashamed that wannabe authors have driven her to this point.

Three bits of good news for me. In the last few days three people who sent me messages to say that they were reading my books and enjoying them.

A fellow author I know from had looked at Love, Death and Tea. I suspect she was glancing at the “look inside” preview on Amazon to prove that she didn’t like zombie stories. But she found herself liking the characters and wanting to know what happened next. So when the preview ran out she bought the book. And she had the kindness to send me a message telling me that she is still laughing.

Hopefully she is laughing at the intentionally funny bits…

Someone I had never spoken to before sent me an email. He enjoyed my chess writing on so had followed me into Love, Death and Tea. And we started a conversation about whether diesel engines would work in a world without electricity. As you do.

The third message was from someone who glanced at Global Domination for Beginners while he should have been clearing out his yard. Boy, but I know that feeling! He enjoyed the book, wanted to know more – so we’ve exchanged emails and I have sent him a review copy. I don’t know if the yard has been cleared yet.

The common thread? It’s not about the product, it’s about people.

I used to think that the product was everything. Write a good book and the world will want to read it. Fortune and glory, as Indiana Jones would say.

There is still something in that. A badly written, badly edited book will struggle to find a market. And rightly so.

But the people angle is hugely important too. Some parts of Goodreads work – especially the UK Kindle Forum – precisely because authors don’t try to ram their books down your throat at every opportunity. We chat about the weather. We tell jokes. We give hugs when needed. And bacon sometimes too.

Tricia started her blog because she likes books and she wanted to help authors. The experience has been tarnished because too many people are treating this as a marketplace for products and not as a place to make friends and form relationships. And no sniggering at the back. I didn’t mean those sorts of relationships.

When I started writing, I thought that readers might like my ideas, my plots, the way I write, the jokes, the artistic juxtaposition of something with something else.

I was wrong. What people have talked about are the characters in the books. Sharing their adventures. Living their lives. Caring for them.

And I haven’t been selling books to total strangers. A large proportion have been to people who know me through some other context – chess players, Goodreaders, fellow authors on Absolute Write.

I’m no expert. I haven’t sold many books yet. You might say I’m at the beginning of this adventure. But I’m sure that I would rather share a small number of books with friends who will enjoy them than make myself unpopular by shifting a lot of product to strangers.

It’s about people, not just about products.


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