In 1965, halfway through the second season of prime time television favourite, Gilligan’s Island, there was a two week break. Do you remember that happening? I was two, so I’ve only seen the show in reruns, but I’ve heard about the famous gap.
This is how it played out. In between the first and second part of season two, something happened. When the stranded islanders came back there was a difference. The captain and Mr Howell weren’t getting along, and Mrs Howell kept sending sideways glances at the captain while waving her little white-gloved hand at him. The professor seemed like he was hammered all the time and Gilligan had become sullen, and was always off by himself. Something happened in those two missing weeks. There were episodes; real things that happened that were never explained to us.
That’s how I feel right now. I’ve been in the cave, writing, and I’ve emerged to some major discontent in Indie Publishing Land. I totally feel like I’ve missed a couple of episodes. I mean I’d never even heard of “sock puppets” until now.
Firstly, there’s Reviewgate, the review scandal that’s mildly rocking the publishing world.
From what I can tell, this is what happened. Apparently, a major indie author paid to have his books reviewed. He’s since been defended (kind of), ostracized (kind of), and now he’s just plain quiet. Same indie author sold approximately 38,000 ebooks last month by the way.
Then there’s the traditionally published writer who has admitted to writing bogus reviews of his own and his fellow writer’s work. This is where the “sock puppets” come into our story. He’s not being defended anywhere of course, and I imagine he’s now doing a Gilligan and hiding out in the darkest part of the island.
And finally, there’s the word “indie” itself. Independent, or self-published writers, are up in arms at the way “indie books” are being described. There are some mainstream, traditionally published authors, and I suppose some of their publishers too, who are trying to liken indie books to poorly-written books. So, will there now become a whole group of writers who are “reluctant indies”? Will there be more and more self-published authors publishing their work under their own XYZ Publishing House label in order to authenticate their legitimacy and not be labelled indie? Will there be a “United Artists” kind of arrangement amongst indie authors who are trying to appear as though they’re not indie authors? Or, are these things happening already?
I got lucky earlier this year. I self-published a book and it sold very well. The first advice I received as a newly self-published author is still the best advice I’ve received. Robert Bidinotto, author of Hunter, told me: Make yourself look professional. Have your work professionally edited, purchase a good cover that looks like the covers that are in the top ten of the genre your books fits into, and find your sweet spot in terms of pricing, not too high, not too low. I followed Robert’s advice, and I feel I have a book that looks professional. It’s not perfect and I was called out by a couple of readers for some editing and formatting mistakes but I corrected those right away. In spite of that, every time I’ve been interviewed on radio, print or online, I’m referred to as an indie writer. I’m certainly not anywhere near to being an indie poster child, (Did you see that Hugh Howie got to go to the Amazon press conference? Lucky bum), but I have the clippings to prove that I’ve been talked about. I even laminated some of them just in case the dream suddenly ends.
The truth of the matter is, there’s no race, and no finish line, and quite honestly, if this is a revolution, it’s always going to be here. The publishing, and self-publishing world is going to keep evolving and changing. Will indie published books someday be held in the same reverence as indie music and film? Possibly, but the content and presentation has to improve before we get there. And, we have to realize that everything we do is transparent. The old Bob Dylan saying still rings true-If it ain’t right, it’s wrong. We need to consider that when it comes to reviews and promotions. Sales of self-published books are exploding, and it’s a great time to be a writer. Traditional publishers are adjusting and accepting us, slowly. As self-published artists we need to make sure sales keep exploding and we don’t implode in the process. I constantly talk about paying it forward, and there are a lot of indie authors doing just that. In other words, if everyone on the island just got along and helped each other, nothing could stop us. It’s the only way we’re going to have a shot at being treated with respect by the most important group of people-our readers. And, it’s the only way we’re going to compete with traditional publishing houses.
As I climb back into the cave, and leave you, in the hopes that I return to only positive energy in our community, I’ll prologue this little rant of mine with a comment that the freckle-faced girl I live with fired at me the other day. She said, “Nobody cares. Readers don’t care. They only want to read a good book.”
So, with that in mind, forget everything I said. If you’re a writer, go and get better at writing, and if you’re a reader, go read a book, indie or traditionally published, it doesn’t matter, because like the freckle-faced girl said, “Nobody cares anyway; they just want to read a good book.”
20 thoughts on “Gilligan’s Island -the Missing Episodes”
All true, Martin, and well articulated. But I still have a question. How does the freckle faced girl find that good book to read? If you’ve followed your friend’s advice, have a good book and still no readers, what then? So many of us are in that boat. Somehow we have to stand out from the crowd.
That of course, Yvonne, is the question. Where are our readers and how do we find them? I walked around Vancouver Airport a few weeks ago handing out my business card to travellers who had kindles. The sales spike didn’t happen and I suspect that security would be all over me if I made a habit of doing it. The folks with the robes and tambourines are long gone I suppose.
I tend to wonder sometimes if Facebook promoting has just become authors talking to other authors, and Twitter seems to be hit and miss for me. KDP Select’s free promo has still been the single most effective way I’ve found to reach readers even though it’s not as strong as it once was. I’m running a .99 cent sale with the ereadernewstoday.com promotion on Oct. 10th. I hear from others that it’s giving about the same results as KDP’s freebie is these days, especially for a book, like mine, that has run free already a few times.
So, I’ll continue to utilize Facebook and Twitter to interact with readers and potentially find new ones because you just never know, and I will report back on how the ENT promo goes too.
And, I’m continuing to work on my next book and trying to become a better writer because, to specifically answer your question, I think the only way to stand out is to have good content. A good book will find readers and they’ll tell other readers.
Great post, great question by Yvonne. I love this discussion.
Nice post. Regardless how good your book is, you still have to have readers. A lot of this is luck, of course the harder I work, the luckier I get … I know, it wasn’t my quote, just borrowing it.
In the end, we can’t worry about what the other people are doing, we have to go out and just do it. Maybe spending your time in that cave is a huge advantage, but thanks for popping out for a spell and telling us how it is and keeping our feet on the ground and our heads in the sky.
Totally agree, Jim. It’s like any other vocation or industry, If we work hard at what we’re doing and keep getting better at it, the rewards should come. You’re right about luck too though. That’s a factor in everything I suppose.
I agree with you, Martin, and thanks. I’m proud to be known as an indie author.
This is a new era, with all that was once held to be sacred in flux. No one knows where the dice will eventually fall; however this (Indies Unlimited) is a good place to ride out the storm. We have a good mix of some of the best independent, professional authors in the world; I’m proud to be in your company, fellow Indies.
We will sharpen our weapons here, while biding our time, as we show our metal to the world with the constant gorilla action of our quality writing: making sorties on the establishment until we succeed: finding the most effective route to the reading public. Success of course is a subjective affair and, personally, I already feel successful; I’m delighted to be an Indie.
Excellent post, Martin!
Thanks T.D., and I agree. This is a great place to be. There’s more Sensible constructive discussion here than anywhere else I’ve found. I’m very glad to be able to hand out with you guys.
Thanks for your comment.
Great post, Martin and one I was contemplating writing (I was gong to title it “To Be or Not To Be….Indie) lol, or rather vacillating at calling myself an indie, but you did a much better job at conveying what I have felt; I love Gilligan’s Island and though I am a few years old than you I don’t even remember the two week break.
There is just so much angst out there as to what to call ourselves, or at least I am feeling that way. I know a couple of once trad published authors who are having a hard time even finding an agent to sell their books and absolutely refuse to acknowledge the world of self-publishing, like there is a stigma attached to it that is evil. And a couple of other trad published authors that I have been on this long road of writing with who now are embracing self-publishing and proud to call themselves ‘Indie’.
Thank you and great to see you here as part of the writing staff.
Thanks Jacqueline, appreciate your input and your welcome.
Your title would have been good too. I wrote a blog earlier this year comparing Indie writers to Punk Rockers from the late 70’s and called it, I Turned Out A Punk.
Although the comparison was a bit of a stretch I still like imagining myself sitting at my computer with a safety pin through my cheek and Sham 69 blasting on the stereo.
Just kidding of course.
Another great post from IU and Martin Crosbie. As much as we would all like to think that we are on equal ground with traditionally published writers, the general consensus shows otherwise. Being a writer is no different than any other profession. In order to succeed at anything you’ve got to be the best that YOU can be. So when you put your work out there, no matter what genre, you better make sure it shines from cover to cover!
Good point, Renee. I attended a panel last year at a conference and there were four or five bestselling authors telling the audience what it’s like to be a gazillion-seller. All of them, every one of them, said they were trying to become better writers. It sounds obvious but it made me think. If those guys who are selling tons of books are all trying to get better at what they do then I better be doing the same thing. And, with some luck and hard work, as Jim said earlier, it should all work out for all of us.
Thanks for your comment.
I totally Agree, Each and every self published author has a true story to tell. I found that their story always comes from the HEART. We (self published authors) definitely place more emphasis on creating a remarkable story because we are reaching from within. Our work usually isn’t being produced for a deadline, where rushing starts to create unnatural results. I will always select a heartfelt story that was written for a purpose besides mass production.
Weird, I’ve never seen a single episode of Gilligan’s Island!
Agree with the overall sentiments and just wonder, along similar lines to Yvonne, how do we escape the echo chamber and find that rich seam of readers we all know is out there? Don’t get me wrong: I love the echo chamber, too. I have met countless interesting people, many of whom I think of as friends, but I think we’re in danger, sometimes, of forgetting to come up for air, of staying in indie writer land too long and too often. But in the meantime, it’s definitely incumbent on us to be better writers. Good post, Martin.
David, you should rent some Gilligan and do a marathon next time you’re confined to the couch.
Thanks for your thoughts. I keep thinking that the answer is right here in front of us in terms of where the readers are but we just can’t see it.
I guess you’re right, become better writers and once we have a fine body of work the readers will find us.
Wouldn’t that be a treat.
Sure would. 😉
And my ignorance of all things Gilligan is entirely down to my upbringing in the UK and not due to any philosophical differences I had with the show. I like your idea. I bet Netflix has it.
It is SO true.
Nobody really cares who you are, where you write, if you are indie or otherwise. If you have a killer book–they will read it!
Sometimes I wish it was like I imagined it to be BEFORE I was published–I write–people buy–the end. But alas–nothing is that easy…
Yes, Penelope, I’m buzzing the “agree” button on your comment too. If we build it they will come, and then, hopefully, they’ll want more too.
Martin, you have summarized the recent hot topics in publishing very nicely. I have come to feel that, for the most part, on FB, we are just authors trying to sell our books to other authors. Twitter is a slightly better way to reach READERS, as are blogs, and getting good reviews is an essential marketing/publicity tactic, but there seems to be nothing quite like being in the right place at the right time (aka “luck” – as in Twilight, 50 Shades, etc – the readership was hungry for these types of stories, just at the time that they were released) .
It never hurts to try all avenues though, especially maintaining a presence wherever readers hang out. (I’ve heard about handing out business cards to Kindle readers, but I am not that confident yet.)
Wishing you continued great success in your writing journey!
PS congrats on the marathon!
Thanks Dianne, I appreciate your comments. When I handed out business cards at the airport I received a lot of blank stares, people just aren’t used to that happening while they’re waiting for a plane I guess. Anything to get our name and our book out there though, it all helps.
Marathon is done and over with, back to halfs now, my body will thank me.
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