Yesterday I spent an amazing morning in Rhos-hill in West Wales at the Penfro Book Festival. A beautiful estate near Cardigan hosted three days of workshops, talks and literary interaction. Genuine book lovers, writers and devoted organisers made this an event that I will put on my calender each year from now on.
I had a stand to sell my books at the estate and, thanks to a well-timed event that morning about literary inspiration from German history, I had a massive footfall. Besides selling a lot more books than I had anticipated, I enjoyed some really great conversations about the eras that I write about, about the historical, political and socio-cultural issues touched upon in my novels and self-publishing. I got to talk about the inspirations behind my books and learned a lot from people who had similar or different views and experiences to mine. It was pure heaven. I made contacts with other writers and book-sellers, too, and hope what I saw there will help me make the next book fairs in Llandeilo even better. I@m looking forward to the Tenby Book Fair on September 24th.
It made me realise how important the contact with readers and literature-minded people is. As indie publisher you spend so much time just advertising and talking, and so little interacting and listening. You watch your sales figures and read your reviews, but the personal contact and interaction is one of the most rewarding and uplifting experiences you can make.
Coming home elated, I found this letter on my blog contact form: “You are my favourite author and I’m especially fond of The Luck of the Weissensteiners. Your writing takes readers on a eye-opening journey of the corrupt human beings who plotted to corrupt and destroy our world, and those who fought to defend it. Your contribution to the public awareness regarding the second world war is an inspiration to me.”
What more can a writer want? (And the sun shone in rainy Wales, too!)
All this came at the back of a social media frenzy around my book “Ludwika”, which was nominated for the Summer Indie Awards and came a high-pointed second. There’s some controversy around this type of award where readers can vote at least once a day. As my friend Ian, who won in the Science Fiction Category stated (I copied his full statement at the end of this post), these votes are not on merit of your book but on the size of your fan base and how willing they are to repeatedly vote or maybe even find ways around the once-a-day limit. Ian refused to accept his award, not being tempted by the shiny object that helps us advertise and praise our books, but holding out for one that truly means a ‘best’ in category. My voting figures dwarfed those for books that really should have been in the top five. With the huge amount of books being nominated in each category, the vote should have been more split and some magnificent work should not have found itself so stunningly neglected.
I was in two minds about participating and winning such an award myself and discussed the ethics of this with my friend Brenda throughout. But, I got reeled in by the huge support my friends and readers gave me initially, so I kept asking for votes, too. I can’t thank all of those who voted for me enough. I came very close. I caught up with a lead of 300, coming into the vote and campaign five days late, due to my attendance at the Oxford Conference. But every time I was in the lead, batches of 60 – 200 votes arived within an hour and even 500 within the space of the last two hours before closing. I applaud my competitor for being able to conduct such a huge amount of voters in such a tiny space of time on a Saturday night, almost twice the number of those who initially voted for her in the first five days.
Thanks to Ian’s integrity and sobering statement, to me this is a lesson well learned about what really matters to me.
Here is the post from Ian D Moore:
“It appears that Salby Damned won its category in the SIBA 2016 Awards. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone so much for their support which has meant more than you can possibly know. Please don’t hold my decision against me.
Dear Metamorph Publishing,
Thank you so much for taking the time to run this awards competition for indie authors. It has certainly caused quite a buzz in our world.
When the voting began, it quickly became clear that books were not being voted on their merits alone, but how many people the author had connections with. Great swathes of votes were being registered for books without Amazon reviews, or literally released weeks before the awards.
In my humble opinion, this was not a justified voting system which would reflect the high quality and effort of the author to produce work worthy of selling. While some books have received first place recognition, or even second and third podium spots, the general feel of the voting structure led me to believe early on that it could not be relied upon as an accurate measure of a quality work. One other concern was the constant display of the results, which, in my view, should never have been accessible to voters from the outset – it merely encouraged en-masse voting.
I have spent three years building my writing craft, with luck, helping others along the way to learn to write professionally. I co-manage a group of over 300 international indie authors who produce some frankly amazing stories. Our group, the Indie Author Support and Discussion group, strives to help each other maintaining professionalism, honesty, and openness at all times. We share the same affliction – a love of the written word.
When I realised votes were being made in blocks of over 200 at a time, this award, for me became not a challenge to reach first place but to use my title, Salby Damned to thwart those who sought to win such a position by grossly unfair means. I have accomplished that with the help of my friends and readers of my titles alike. My prize, therefore, is not the first place but the true friendship of those who came to my aid at my request. Given that such awards DO impact upon sales, it would be wise to have at least some quality control regulation in place for the 2017 awards I see planned. I understand fully the difficulty in monitoring so many titles and votes, not to mention policing such a massive award scheme spread over every genre.
It is not my intention to offend any of the organisers of this event, nor belittle any of the many genuine authors who placed their work into the competition, which has seen much publicity, and in that respect has succeeded.
What little integrity I hold means much more to me than the accolade bestowed upon Salby Damned in this venture. It is with regret that I must decline acceptance of the award. I trust, as educated fellow writers, you will understand my reasoning behind this decision and accept it without undue preamble.
Ian D Moore”