Matt Johnson on ‘Getting noticed’, the seedy side of social media

As an indie author, getting noticed amongst the huge pool of talent that exists in the social media world is an incredible challenge. If there were an easy way, we would all be doing it.

Only yesterday, I read a tweet from a fellow independent author asking to people to do an ‘exchange review’ with him. What he was offering was a ‘quid pro quo’, ‘you scratch my back…’ type arrangement.  I’ve had a few similar requests myself, normally by DM, and I always decline. It was the first time I had seen an author being so public about courting such a favour.

I was so tempted to contact him and tell him not to get into that ball-game, but then decided that it was, really, none of my business. If he wants to, that’s up to him, but it’s not an avenue I would ever go down.

My personal feeling is that any means to secure reviews other than through genuine readers is fraught with danger. Sure, you may get a few lovely things said about your book, but it’s not genuine feedback is it? It’s not going to give you any idea as to whether your writing actually appeals to book readers and, surely, that is the purpose of a review.

Some authors argue that reviews are a way of getting noticed, an aid to securing that elusive book deal.  I guess that the argument is that publishing editors, on seeing a large number of excellent reviews on a book will then be tempted to take a look at it. That assumes, of course, that editors don’t know how the review system can be manipulated, that they don’t hear that companies are selling 5* reviews and that authors do review exchanges to boost their ratings. The truth is, of course, that they do, and they look at reviews with a very sceptical eye.

What happens after the initial rush of 5* reviews? What happens when genuine reviewers start posting what they think of your work? You can be very sure that if they feel they have been conned that they will say so. So, if your bought or exchange reviews create a false impression of the standard of your work, then you’d best be prepared for the backlash.

The same applies to followers on twitter and ‘likes’ on facebook. I have a healthy ‘followship, not outstanding, but each and every one of my followers is a genuine person, I think! I tend to followback and also follow readers to see what books they are talking about. It also enables me to talk to readers, secure feedback and see if my own work is heading in the right direction.

Like many, I have had my share of unwanted messages offering me opportunities to buy new followers. I can understand why a struggling author might be tempted, it can create an artificial appearance of status which may encourage genuine twitter users to take an interest in you. I was looking at the followship of a well-known author recently who is one of the top in my chosen genre. I saw that most of his original followers were ‘bots’, so he too had fallen for the offer.  Given that this same author has a name for creating fake profiles to promote his own work and attack others, I had to ask myself, is he right? Is this vanity, or is it good marketing? Not an easy question to answer. Books are a business after all.

Sometimes, I look at the twitter pages of fellow authors, newly established indies like me, who have yet to break into mainstream. I see that some of them have tens of thousands of followers and I ask myself, how? How is it that someone with that large a fanbase has not been snapped up by an agent and publisher?

Just yesterday I received this unsolicited email…

Hello xxxx

I am called  Harry. I also specialise in  Facebook and Twitter management helping to generate more customers  and also give your Twitter page  the wow factor.

 Our daily newsletter consists  of nearly  500,000 people whom have all completed a lifestyle survey , so we have a ideal  indication of what interests our customers . When someone submits an order through us unlike most of our competitors, We then submit your link through our newsletter  and in turn people then like your page. We do not use robots or fake likes.

 Prices from :-

£50 for 2,000 Facebook Likes

£50 for 6,000 Instagram followers

£45 for 7,000 Twitter followers

£50 for 30,000 YouTube Views

If a new visitor  logs on to your Facebook page  and can see that you have 7000 likes compared to your competition with just 350 likes, they tend to side with you even without considering price differences, as they are added  with confidence. This will also increase your position  through Facebook and start to drive organic  traffic through your page and through google.

We always have special offers, currently we have buy 20,000 Facebook likes for £170 get 5,000 Free Twitter followers Samples are available for serious buyers.

Many Thanks,


Well, Harry. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but the answer is a very definite, no.

It did answer my question, though.

Publishing on Kindle

Building Your Book For Kindle

Topics covered in this FREE e-book:

  • Before You Write
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Definitely worth the one-click to download; and did I mention it’s free?

I started with kindle and found it quite straightforward to upload. Begged a favour for the cover and waited. Nothing…
Then I started reading about marketing. Once I had a facebook account, a twitter page and this blog things started slowly. If there is one thing I am learning it is to be patient. If the book is a good read then word will spread, but it will not happen quickly. Twitter seems to be the best medium, my facebook has been blocked twice after sending out ‘friend’ requests. Twitter offers the new author the chance to simply invite people to look at your work. If they like what they see, they might buy, and if the like what they read a few will be moved to review it. It’s the reviews, in my opinion, that sell the book.
I had an early reviewer that loved the story but heavily criticised the format and typo errors. He was right. I pulled the book and had it properly proofed. It was worth it. BUT… the criticism is till there from the reviewer, albeit he was kind enough to put a qualifying postscript to say the book is now proof-read.
In the mean time I keep plugging away, doing some marketing every day, and some writing, with a few days away from it completely.
This week I sat down with a professional from the world of marketing who had read the book and liked it. She helped me draw up a structured plan to promote the book. It will involve an hour or so every day but having seen the plan I like it very much. It targets and records the right people, invites their interest and hopes to catch their eye. A bit like fishing really, which doesn’t bode too well for me, I was the world’s worst fisherman!
According to Amazon stats, over 12K people have downloaded the book. So, I now have a reasonable readership. Three publishers, here in Wales, are looking at the manuscript, so something might be in the pipeline. I’ve read the journals though, and I know the chances of being picked up by a publisher are small, especially during this recession.
For me… back to the tweets


I awoke today to discover that my twitter account has accumulated over 1600 followers. From what I have read twitter seems to be the best way to market the work of an author who is an #indie, ie independent of an established publisher. It has worked fairly well, with regular good feedback and sales ticking over nicely. I’m not selling enough to make a living so the feedback is very encouraging. A couple of days ago one of my readers suggested asking a couple of established authors to re-tweet my work. My novel has been compared to these writers very favourably in reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, so I thought ‘why not’, give it a go.

They ignored the requests. Oh well, back to the daily search for new friends who will spread the word.

Then, this morning, I log on to find I am being followed by an author who I have admired for years. Stephen Leather. Stephen has written over thirty great thrillers. I was flattered. For a newbie like me to have attracted the interest of one of the major writers in my chosen genre has given me a real shot in the arm. is his website, he’s a great writer with an excellent sense of humour, as you will see from the comments he makes on his site.

For me, its back to the grindstone. But I have sent Stephen Leather a mail, I wonder if he will respond…