Recently, this article by an author caused a huge wave in the indie community. For the most part, this author pretty much spoke out against shit that has been happening for years around the indie community. There was a lot of support, but there has also been a lot of people, both authors and readers alike, who I personally feel totally missed the entire point of the article (and NO, it’s not about pen names, it is about people pretending to be something they are not in an effort to defraud readers into buying books based on false facts about the author and his/her life and/or events).
Let me start off by saying I did not wake up two years ago, three years ago, or even five years ago and decide I wanted to start writing. I’ve been doing this for DECADES, long before Amazon hopped on board the self-pubbing train. I started my journey into the trade publishing world at the tender age of fifteen. I am both trade and indie published, and those two worlds are as different as night and day. In all those years, I have sat back and watched the community turn itself inside out, I have seen it get a really bad rap from the actions of a few, and I have watched it slowly turning into a cesspool where a growing number of authors will do anything and everything they can all in the name of making a sale, all without any ethical qualms whatsoever.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but what that article pointed out absolutely happens every single day of the week. I have seen authors throw themselves pity parties, using everything from their own disabilities to those of their children all to garner some type of pity sale. I’ve seen authors try to guilt their readers into buying their unedited books because “this is how I make my money.” I’ve seen authors spill out story after story about their bad luck, their failing health, the death of a loved one, and so on, all in an effort to get someone to buy their books, regardless of whether or not what they are saying has actually happened or has any truth to it. I’ve seen women authors take on male personas and flirt outrageously with their female readers all in a bid to get them to buy a book. I’ve seen authors send their street teams after any author they deem a threat, I’ve seen them bully and harass other authors, I’ve seen them instruct their fans to leave 1 star reviews on any author’s book that they feel threatened by (something that got so bad that at one time, even Anne Rice took notice). I’ve seen men pose as single male model-turned-erotic-author and sweet talk their way into a legion of screaming women who all think this persona has some deeper feelings for them, all so they can sell a book. The list goes on, and on, and on.
Remember this? Yeah, it’s something like this, only it’s not a guy looking for a date, it’s someone trying to get your money.
It makes you wonder why anyone would be this gullible. The truth is, who the hell wants to own up to the fact they were played? I mean, seriously. It’s bad enough when you fall for such shit, but when it’s put right out there in front of you, and you can’t believe you were so naïve as to not see it for yourself because, after all, you are far from stupid, sometimes it’s easier to try to cover it all up, pretend it didn’t happen, or support the offender rather than own up to the fact that you were duped. It happens, but so long as you are continuing to support the bad behavior, they will continue to exhibit the bad behavior, they will continue to make money off of people who have no idea what this persona behind the computer is doing. You know the old saying: Don’t feed the trolls. Yeah, authors can be trolls, too.
I’ve seen it with my own eyes, over the past fifteen years, and it’s only getting worse. If anything, I think the author of this article down played exactly how bad the indie community has become. Now virtually every other author is a NYT Bestselling Author. I have seen authors who have created dozens upon dozens of sock accounts in an effort to make it look like they have a huge following on social media. Click farms and fake review sites are kept rolling in the dough by indie authors who continue to use every single underhanded gimmick the internet throws at them. It’s hurting the careers of those authors who have spent years, hell decades of their life working their asses off doing everything by the book, ethically, just trying to make a name for themselves. Everyone gets pissed when someone gets rich off the hard work of others, but yet it’s okay for authors to do this just so they can make money? It’s okay for them to defraud their readers in any shape, form, or fashion, and everyone looks the other way because it’s just a good marketing strategy?
Yes, we all understand publishers have engaged in some pretty questionable behavior, but there is a huge difference between an author who has no control over how their publisher markets their work and an author who chooses to behave or market in an unethical manner.
Back in the day when KU was first introduced, authors who sat down, did the math, and figured out they could make more money on a 10K short story through the program than they could a 100K novel were quickly called out as fraudsters, schemers, unethical for taking money away from hard-working authors who entered the program trying to get better exposure for their books. When everything changed and KU started paying out by the pages read instead of on the total number of borrows from the program, it didn’t take authors long to get their panties in a bunch when people looking to make a few quick bucks learned how to embed click through links in their 1 million page fake book, thus achieving them a huge payout through Amazon.
Both of these things were considered gaming the system, defrauding readers by making them think they were getting a full-blown novel when they were either getting a short story or a “book” filled with gibberish designed to do nothing but make its creator money, but how is it any different than an author who slaps NYT BESTSELLING AUTHOR on the cover of their book when they have not actually hit that list?* How is it any different than a woman sitting behind a computer pretending to be a man while flirting with their readers and convincing them to buy their books and pimp them out in countless groups? How is it any different than a married man pretending to be a single underwear model, a former Airforce pilot, or a Navy Seal all while flirting with their readers and convincing them it’s okay for them to leave bad reviews on other authors’ work, or creating dozens of fake profiles on FB to leave messages and comments and likes and shares from their main page all in an effort to sell more books and make it look like they are more popular than they actually are? It’s fraud, a wrongful deception intended to result in financial or personal gain, and yet as authors so many of us are turning a blind eye to it, trying to make it seem like those who are blowing the whistle are bullying others simply because we are sick of losing money to people who spend all their time lying and coming up with ways to defraud their readers. If someone sold you a car based on lies and the car’s engine blew up the day after you bought it, you’d be pissed, right? So why is it okay for an author to sit behind their computer and convince people they are dying of cancer, their child is disabled, their husband just left them, their dog ran away, or they want to carry on some fake committed relationship with you via FB Messenger all for the sake of selling a few more books?
When did it become socially acceptable to be a dishonest artist?
This article just points out what a lot of us have already witnessed over the years. For those who did not agree with the original article by Kyle? The article states it is because those who have protested were probably the ones who engage in this type of behavior. I’ll go two further. Most indie authors are new to the community and honestly just haven’t been around long enough to see all the shit that goes on behind the scenes. Give them a few years, and if they stick around, they’ll start to take notice and realize the author of this article isn’t as full of shit as they originally thought. And second, for the readers who have fallen for this, they don’t want to admit it. They don’t want to admit they were played, they were used by some rando group of middle-aged men and women sitting behind their computer taking advantage of the lonely men and women out there who would do virtually anything just to have someone be kind to them. And to me, that is even more disturbing than anything this article pointed out.