rec·i·proc·i·ty /ˌresəˈpräsətē/ Noun. – The practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, especially privileges granted by one country, organization or entity to another.
I’ve given a lot of thought to this word, lately, and used it in quite a few situations. The definition above is great, albeit a very formal one. In the real world and to a lot of people, simply put reciprocity means, “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” It’s one of those age-old adages that in contemporary writing would be considered a cliché. However, in the world of indie writers, it’s a staple and a mainstay, if practiced properly.
When I clicked the “publish” button and put my book out there for the world to see it that first time, it was terrifying. Many new authors I’ve spoken to since that time have attested to this fact. All your insecurities real and perceived rise to the surface from the pit of your belly and you feel as if you’re going to be choked by them until you can no longer breathe. However, as the days go on and you get over the first few days of new author-itis, and the reviews, good and bad begin to roll in, you begin to accept that you are no longer aspiring–you’re published.
If you’re like me, this fact brings with it so many more issues that you never thought about before clicking that button. There is no dearth of information on the internet and in published form about self-publishing books, marketing them, building your brand. However, there is not a lot out there definitively on how authors should support one another in the Indie world. Traditional Publishers have stables of writers that they encourage to support one another by reading each other’s books and providing a cover blurb. They even have the big reviewing outfits many of whom don’t review Indies, and if they do, these services come at a hefty price.
Necessity being the mother of invention, Indies are being courted more and more by book review blogs springing up all over the blogosphere. Therefore, for every infrastructure that exists for traditionally published authors, something similar springs up for Indies. However, the one area in which we tend to flail around with very little protocol is the area of supporting one another. Yes, there are many loosely banded groups who do promotion of each other, but I have yet to find one that works for all involved all the time.
Oftentimes a few pull the weight while some sit back and reap the benefits; some are strong in the areas of providing information but weak in the areas of real promotion; and better still the groups are so loosey goosey no real promotion ever really happens. In addition to this, I’ve found as I talk to indie writers I meet in the many groups in which I’m a member, they are not willing to promote others because they feel like they’ve worked so hard to build their brand, build a following, and gain a modicum of success for their product, they don’t want to recommend any other writers.
Some have legitimate reasons why, like their inability to assess quality before they promote. It would take more time than I have to write this blog post to go further into why they refuse to read other indie writers’ works (I guess that will have to be a blog post for another time). And I know for a fact, that like myself, many Indie writers have other jobs, because they simply don’t make enough money writing to support themselves, so organized promotion becomes that thing that is a chore they simply can’t take on–not when it’s so labor intensive that your writing and your attention to your own social networks, fans, and writing suffers.
I suppose I’ve said all I’ve said here to say that I wish there was a more organized manner in which Indies could support one another in promotion. If we could forget all the reasons why we don’t want to and just do it–provide a reciprocal sharing of our works with the masses, we could all reach more readers and get our books in front of more purchasers. A more contemporary, slightly different action that takes on a similar meaning to reciprocity is “paying it forward.” The difference in this case being you may not do something to benefit that person from whom you received the favor, gift, or privilege. You’re helping someone else entirely in many cases. I know this might be one of those idealistic notions that many might view as a fad, but I’d like to think there are enough readers around for all of us, and we should gladly help other writers find theirs, as others helped us find our own.