How to Give Your Indie a Five-Star Holiday

The indie author in your life is rather easy to pick out from amongst your other, more stable, better-adjusted friends: we are the perpetually bloodshot-eyed ones, living in self-imposed exile, surviving on nothing more than ramen-noodles and hope, and “borrowing” awkward amounts of beer from anyone that will “lend.”

Now, I imagine you’ve been asking yourself, this holiday season, “What can I do for this poor, emaciated soul? This pale, sad specimen of humanity? What do you get the person who has… well, nothing?”

Worry no longer. I’m here to help.

There’s really only one thing your indie author wants under the tree this year: a nice bump in book sales. Here’s how you can help to make that Christmas wish come true.

Step One: Buy your indie’s book

Sort of obvious, I suppose, but it really matters. And not just for the money. (Well, a little for the money. We do have tremendous beer-debts, after all. And we will pay them off.) (I swear.) (I’m talking to you, Nick.)

But more than the money, we need rank. If your author has a low sales rank on Amazon, for example, it means their book is buried like a CIA secret every time it gets listed by a search. Less people see the book, and no one will ever buy a book they can’t see.

Every sale puts your indie higher up in a variety of categories. Every page they move up is one less page a customer needs to click through to see their book. And books that get seen are the only sorts of books that sell.

If you already bought a copy of everything your indie sells, thank you. You are amazing. But, consider purchasing a book as a last minute Christmas gift. It’s a gift that would give in two directions at once. (I know. Poetic.)

UPDATE: Smashwords just started beta testing their gifting service, right in the St. Nick-of-time for Christmas. You can see an example of this gifting option on our book’s page, right under the “add to cart” button, which I give you full permission to click with abandon.

Step Two: Rate and review

About a month ago, Anne R. Allen wrote a great post detailing how Amazon reviews operate, and how those reviews impact writers. If you buy anything on Amazon, it’s well worth a read.

I’ll reiterate one thing Anne said: reviews matter, especially to indies. Each review is like a little mini sales pitch. If you read an indie book you enjoy, giving that book a thoughtful review is one of the nicest things you can do for your indie. (Petra and I actually danced when our first review hit Amazon!)

But, keep one thing in mind: three stars on Amazon means “This book was completely average, nothing special.” Too many three-star reviews can keep an item out of some of Amazon’s linking algorithms. By all means, please rate honestly; but if you enjoyed a book and intend to give it a favorable review, four or five stars is the way to go.

Think of Amazon stars this way:

1 star: “This was dreadful to the point of causing mental pain and anguish. My life has less meaning now. I will regret reading this drivel for the rest of my days.”

2 stars: “I didn’t like it.”

3 stars: “It was just so-so, but I doubt I’ll be recommending it.”

4 stars: “I liked it and will probably recommend it to others.”

5 stars: “I loved this book and can’t wait to share it with my friends!”

Step Three: Tell everyone

Many authors use Goodreads, Library Thing, or Shelfari as places to connect with readers. If you have an account at any of these sites, help out your indie by starting a discussion, or making a quiz based on their books.

Amazon also has a ‘customer discussions’ section on each book’s page. Try starting a discussion there about why your favorite character is so obviously better than other readers’ favorite characters, or start a thread where readers can speculate wildly on the future of the series. Trust me; do something like this and your indie will love you forever.

But nothing sells a book like the ultimate marketing tool: a personal recommendation from a trusted source. Word of mouth is everything for an indie author. So, if you like a book, tell a friend. Tell your co-workers. Tell everyone.

There you have it. Three ways to give your favorite indie the best hug/pat-on-the-back/boost they could ask for this Christmas.

Plus, my suggestions save you from wrapping one more gift. So, you’re welcome. 🙂

And, on behalf of the indie community, thank you so much for all your support. We love our friends, our readers, and our beer-lenders, and wish you all a very Happy Holiday.

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2 thoughts on “How to Give Your Indie a Five-Star Holiday

  1. annerallen says:

    LOVE this post. Best Holiday gift for any author is a nice review. And thanks for reinforcing my message about the star ratings. Giving a great rom com 2 stars because it’s not War and Peace, or one star because you’re having a bad hair day isn’t useful and can negatively impact an author’s livelihood. Thanks for the shout-out!

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