It occurred to me the other day that being an indie author these days is a bit like a never-ending popularity contest.

I only say this because so many online sites where indie authors are featured have contests where the author has to try and get friends, family, readers to vote for their books. So instead of a book being judged on its own merits, or an author being judged on ability, it’s really the author being judged on how many people he or she can muster.

And when agents these days insist on an established platform, what they’re really asking is, “How popular are you?”

Sites that demand you have a certain number of reviews or a minimum star rating before they feature your book—they’re asking you to prove your popularity.

Unfortunately for me, I’ve never been popular. I don’t think I was unpopular in school, either, just sort of quiet and people left me alone. Which works well enough for me being a writer, but not so well when I’m trying to market myself. Or when “popularity” is the deciding factor in whether my book wins an award or an agent signs me.

Life is not a meritocracy. It’s a shame, but true. It turns out gold stars are not for stellar work; they’re given to the students the teachers like the most for whatever reason. Same goes for job promotions. You don’t have to be the one who is really good at the job, just the one other people like.

Alas, in school they don’t teach you how to get other people to like you. Feels like a missed opportunity, doesn’t it? “How to be Popular” would be a full course every term, I bet.

Maybe I should grab a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People . . .