Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Grooming for success


Do you ever wonder, as a writer, if blogging here on WordPress is really some kind of variation of “the prisoner’s dilemma”? Are we part of a grand experiment?

Okay, that’s just a teasy opening line to pique your interest. I don’t believe it. Much. But I do find, the more time I spend blogging and planning for my book release, that many of us are here specifically to grow an audience but that we are also in a position to help one another. The currency of our social media economy is intangible: likes, comments, reblogs, tweets, hits, follows, awards. Oh, and something that is tangible, I suppose — book purchases.

Birds do it, bees do it

The concept of “reciprocal altruism” has always appealed to me, partly because it occurs in the natural world and because it often creates beneficial outcomes for both, or all, parties that practice it. According to the handy-dandy Wiki page, reciprocal altruism is to help “someone else although incurring some cost for this act,” with the hope that one will receive similar help from that individual at a later time.

Variations of the strategy are used in game theory, often referred to as “tit for tat.” Using tit for tat, you are good to your opponent as long as she’s good to you. When she turns on you, you hit her right back. It’s not “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; it’s “do unto others as they do unto you.” It works a lot of the time too. We see it among the apes, and we see it in blogging and social media: “I’ll follow you if you follow me!” And if someone should unfollow you? Yep. Off with his head.

The concept applied

I want to be a writer who puts his money where his mouth is. I can’t expect everyone to buy my books if I’m not also supporting their efforts, and not just with über easy-to-dispense “likes.” So now that I have my Kindle and can access Amazon’s vast collection of self-published books (one-stop shopping central), I plan to “spread democracy,” as it were.

But here’s a tit-for-tat twist. For everyone who buys Parts Unknown (sidebar convenience), I’ll run straight over and buy their book, or books, to equal the cost of P.U. That’s a promise. If you only have one book and it’s cheap, I’ll pump you up on Twitter et al. to make up the difference as best I can.

And starting today, without announcing whose, I’ll also be buying your ebooks independent of P.U. sales. For the ones I’m really jazzed over, I’ll try to contribute a review. This I can’t promise, since I’m not well-versed in a lot of the genres out there, but if I can wrap my mind around the story and characters I’ll be happy to do it. The only reason I’m not going to tell you up front is that I wouldn’t want to raise expectations for a positive review and lots of strokes. I’ll let you know later, when I’ve finished reading and can laud you openly and enthusiastically. (PS — I’ve already bought one this morning…)

In return — the old quid pro quo — I’m going to need a lot of help when Yesterday Road comes out. I’ll need all the social media firepower you guys have got. I’ll need word of mouth up the ying-yang. And yes, I’ll need your $2.99’s too. Now and then I might subtly remind you that I bought your book in June or July — can’t you give up a latte this week and buy my book instead? Or maybe I’ll make an appeal for an all-out blog blitz, or Twitter blitz, or whatever kind of blitz we can cook up. And I’ll do the same for you when you need it.

End game

The point is, in our world of self-publishing, we are one another’s safety net. But it is a complex community, and its participants have personal motives that can be in conflict, or competition at least. It is self-publishing, after all.

The best we can do is offer the most useful kind of support we’re all looking for: the tangible stuff. Boots on the ground. Moolah.

When we do that? — I have to think we’ll get it back in spades.

(Photo by Jim Bowen)

6 comments on “Grooming for success

  1. sknicholls
    June 18, 2013

    I read a few posts yesterday, all written by other authors. Some praised self-promotion as the only way we have to advertise, and others admonished it as self-serving and selfish saying that we should just build our brand and thereby become desirable as authors. I am all for whatever works. I mainly want my story read. It is not about the money. I would have to sell many more copies than I probably ever will to make up what is already vested. It may also be the only book I publish. I am writing two more, but I don’t know what is going to happen. I might drop dead. I want my story read, so I am giving it away for free right now. If that is self promotion then so be it. I am already reading two cyberworld friend’s books, but I’ll put yours on the list. Stay Happy! Keep Writing! Keep Reading!

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 18, 2013

      No doubt that this is a tough business. Self-promotion is clearly part of the picture, but so is writer’s philanthropy. Nothing is worse than those bloggers or tweeters or whatevers who do nothing but push their own stuff without giving back.

      And you’re right. Getting our books read is the most important goal. Maybe people will come to like them so much they’ll actually pay for our next efforts!

  2. Andra Watkins
    June 18, 2013

    Here’s the hard thing for me: we only have so many waking hours in a day. I give more than I get every single day. It isn’t enough to reciprocate in today’s marketplace, but it’s a start. Of course, you can count on me for the $2.99 when your book is available, Kevin. I am looking forward to reading it.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 18, 2013

      Oops. I clicked the wrong reply button. Again. See below.

  3. Kevin Brennan
    June 18, 2013

    You’re the best, Andra! Seriously, what you do is so far above and beyond that it makes a newbie like me feel like I’m trying to fly by flapping my arms. The point I’m making, obviously, is that altruism is a real, and effective, way to approach self-pubbing, given the tools we have available now. You happen to have mastered it, beautifully.

  4. L. Marie
    June 19, 2013

    You can count me in too!

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