Why Author Signing Events Are a Waste of Time

 

 

 

Yeah, I know I’m going to piss off a lot of people with this. But hey, I’m nothing if not honest. I’m not the type of person who can sit idly by and watch newbie authors be taken for a loop with people who are always after money. So here are my top reasons why authors should skip the large-scale author signing events and spend their money elsewhere*.

*side note – if you really want to do book signings, work with local libraries and book stores. They are usually very eager to get local talent in their doors. And if you think you can’t pull in a large enough crowd on your own, see how many authors they can host and make it as large-scale of an event as possible. I’ve put together two events at my local library and both had a decent turn out. And if you write in some genre besides nonfiction and romance and really want to get more bang for your book-signing buck, head to the comicons. These tend to draw really large crowds even in smaller towns.

 

10. You are not a special snowflake. Unless you are a big-name author, chances are slim to none that you will actually sell enough  books at these things to even pay for a tank of gas, much less the table rental fees.

 

9.  These events aren’t geared toward getting exposure for the authors who attend or about bringing in readers. They are geared toward making money for the organizer of the event. They tend to be put together by other authors who want to organize an event, invite all their author friends, try to snag a few big-name authors to make it sound like it’s going to be a big to-do, and if they have room left over, they may let others join them. And again, unless you are a big name author, the few readers who do show up aren’t there for you.

Then there are the expenses involved – hotel fees, travel fees, buying your books, the endless free swag you need to entice the readers to your table – it gets pricey really quick, and that’s not even counting the table rental fees. And speaking of those fees, be prepared to pay your non-refundable deposit a good year in advance of the event, if not more. The rest of your table fees are generally due three months or more before the actual date of the signing as well.

Wonder why? It’s because it’s being organized by people who do not have the capital to pull off the event in the first place. They are depending upon the deposits and rental fees being paid up front by the attending authors to cover all the venue rental fees and other costs of putting the event together. And if something happens and you have to cancel your appearance, you are not going to get any of that money back as a general rule, even if the event has a huge waiting list of authors who are more than willing to take over your table. If you do have to cancel, the only way you are going to get your money back is to sell your table to another author. But you better double-check with the organizer first; some of the events have a non-transfer clause which forbids you from selling and thus transferring your table to another author.

 

8.  The ratio of tickets sold to authors attending are more around the likes of 1:3, maybe 1:5 if you are damn lucky. Most are only around a 1:1 ratio. What does that mean? For every one author that shows up, there will only be one to five tickets sold. To do the math, that means if there are 100 authors signed up, you can count on approximately 100 tickets sold. 300 or more tickets sold is generally considered an above average show.

 

7.  Readers who come to these things are there to visit with very specific authors. These aren’t like the comic cons and other conventions. You don’t have thousands of people casually walking through checking out all the tables. It’s a few hundred people at best who came with a specific game plan in mind – they know which authors they want to visit, which books they want to buy, and they do not tend to be out there looking for new authors to start reading. Remember, they had to pay to get into these things. If they want to “browse” they can do that, for free, at any ebook retailer or their local library.

But they’ll come along and pick up some swag and that will help, right?

Sure, you’ll have people who will walk around and grab a bookmark or a flyer – which will get dumped into a bag filled with all the shit from all the other tables and then added to a scrapbook (if you’re lucky) or a memorabilia box where it is promptly forgotten as it gets mixed in with everything else. These things are looked at more like trophies, no matter how ‘sensible’ the item might be, like a pen or a lip balm.

But at least you got some swag into the hands of readers, right? Yeah – no. You would have come out better sending those bookmarks to libraries in your local area (or hell, ship them to libraries out of state if they will take them) where there are, you know, actual serial readers.

I know what you are thinking – that you are bound to get some exposure, right? Even if your not a big-name author, you think you are sure to get some of the run-off from the other authors attending, right? Or maybe see a spike in sales after the event because of all the ebook buyers? Yeah, about that.

 

6. You’re going to be in a room full of other no-name authors who may have one or two readers who showed up to buy a ticket and visit with them. And we’re back to the number crunching again – see reason number 8. And reason number 7.

But it’s good to help get your name out there, right? I mean, the whole reason to go to these things is to meet with readers and hopefully get a few new fans. That’s worth all those hundreds of dollars spent. It’s all about networking.

 

5. Look, let’s get down to the nut-cutting, shall we? Do you want to know the real reason why authors go to these things? So we can post it on social media and pretend we are relevant in this industry. So it looks like we have an actual career. They can claim it’s all about networking all they want, but that’s the real reason if they are honest with themselves. Just look back at numbers 10-6. These things don’t bring in large crowds, and the few who do show up are generally not going to take a chance on someone they’ve never heard of. The ROI for going to these things are miniscule, even for well known authors.

But surely there has got to be some benefits? I mean, if you’re in a room full of other authors and there are readers and they are walking around taking things off your table, your’re bound to get a tiny bit of exposure, right? Well…

 

4. You’re better off spending those hundreds of dollars on real advertising. Let’s say for argument’s sake BookBub was going to charge you $200 to only send out your book information to, let’s be generous here, 300 readers. Would you think that was a good deal? And let’s say that out of those 300 readers, 90% of them had never heard of you and weren’t known for taking chances on a new-to-them author. Would you be so quick to hand over that $200 for such a small ROI? Probably not, so why would you want to plunk down $200 on a table rental plus book costs, swag costs, travel costs, food costs, hotel costs, etc. just to potentially gain a half-dozen readers? There are a lot more efficient ways to advertise than traveling long distances to sit in a room full of other no-name authors in the hopes one or two readers from the one bestselling author sitting across the room from you might decide to buy an ebook six months down the road.

Now, I’m sure there are going to be those who think, ‘Well, if I get a primo spot in this event then everyone will have to walk right by my table and I’ll be there waving them right over to my table and carrying on actual conversations with them so they’ll be more likely to remember me after the event.’ Okay, reality check time.

 

3. Unless you are BFFs with the event organizer(s), you are going to be placed in the nosebleed section of the event. Hey, someone has to end up in the shitty section, right? Not all the spots are going to be primo spots, so unless you  intend on getting seriously buddy-buddy with the organizers then you are going to be shit outta luck when it comes to table placement. I’ve been to more than a half-dozen of these things in my own backyard where I was a local known author and guess what? I not only ended up shoved into the back corner as an afterthought, but I also had pretty much no fans to show up. Oh, and yeah, I didn’t get much traffic over at my table, even with me waving them over and begging them to just talk to me about their favorite genre. Unless you plan on tossing dollar bills at them, and that could get weird pretty quick, then they are pretty much going to avoid you no matter how much you smile (and that could get weird too).

 

2. Be prepared to be schooled. Well, be prepared to go back to high school. And you thought your days of cliques and back stabbing were over? You wish. Welcome to the wide, wonderful world of indie publishing, where bullying runs rampant, and if you aren’t friends with the cool kids then you may not even be invited to these events. Yep, a lot of these things are by invitation only. Don’t like it? Then don’t become the squeaky wheel begging to be let in because believe-you-me, you get on one of these people’s shit lists and you’re doomed to stay on it for the duration of your career. And don’t think for a second your fellow authors are going to back you up if someone decides you are just being jealous because you didn’t get invited. People are going to side with the organizer or just keep quiet so as not incur the wrath of anyone. And I’ve got the screenshots to prove it.

And finally, the reality check that is surely going to hit you in your ego:

 

1. We are not rock stars. Unless you are seriously one of the top 6 bestselling authors of all time, even if you are making enough money to make EL James jealous, people don’t really care to actually meet you. I’ve seen photos of some of the large scale signings she’s attended and there weren’t hordes of fans lined up to see her. Seriously, porn stars get more people at their table than even the big name authors. People aren’t going to camp out overnight just for the off chance they will get to be one of the first in line to meet you. I’m sorry, it sucks, and as much as we’d like to think our rabid fans would come out to support us, it just ain’t happening. I’ve had ample opportunity to meet Anne Rice, who is my personal authoring mentor, and yet I’ve passed up going to meet her every single time. After all, she’s no Bret Michaels. Oh, and speaking of rock stars, at least they get a cut of the ticket sales. Authors? Nope, we have to pay to be there and the organizer gets to keep all the proceeds from charging people to come see you. Welcome to the freak show.

 

So this pretty much sums up why attending author events that charge any type of table rental or admission fee are a complete waste of time for authors. It is a large amount of money to spend for a very low, nearly non-existent ROI. It’s not very good for networking as the crowds tend to be smaller. Unless you are really big, top-earning bestselling author, you are not going to attract a large crowd of fans. Even the best paid authors aren’t always getting fans lined up to meet them. Most readers who attend are there for a very select few authors and have little interest in finding others they might enjoy reading. And since you are probably going to be in a room full of other unknown authors, you aren’t going to see much foot traffic because the few readers who do attend are only there to support their favorites. Your time, and money, would be better spent on real advertising where you get more bang for your buck. If all else fails and you really can’t help yourself when it comes to buying bookmarks and other swag, then network with some of the event organizers and send in your stuff for their VIP bags. Most of them are super-happy to receive the freebie items for their bags plus it gets you about as much exposure as you would actually being at the signing. Plus, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper. And if by some miracle you see a huge spike in sales after that show, then by all means, try attending it.

 

Bottom line, if you do decide to start doing the signing circuits, then keep this in mind:

  1. Be exclusive. If you really want people to be excited to see you, then only attend one or two signings a year, and make sure it is the same ones. The more accessible you are to readers in the flesh, the less likely they are going to drive out of their way to come meet you. Making yourself exclusive to a very few, specific events means you are more likely to have readers show up to meet you if they know this could be their only chance to meet you.
  2. Go easy on the autographs. The fewer autographs you have in existence the more sought-after they are going to become. Don’t go crazy signing every piece of swag you have on your table. Sign only your own books that you sell at the show or those readers bring in. And if the event is selling some type of anthology, coloring book, keepsake autograph booklet, etc. for the show, then make it clear you will only sign the first XX number of people who show up at your table asking for your autograph. You have to start thinking of yourself as a business commodity and stop begging people to take notice of you.]
  3. Choose your events wisely. You want to go to the ones which offer you the most bang for your buck. If you have the money to travel, this means finding the largest events which has the largest turn out, preferably one which has at least two very well-known authors. I’m not talking about authors who slap USA TODAY bestseller on their books because they managed to list as part of an anthology or someone who is “well-known” in the indie business. I’m talking about a bonafide house-hold name author who is guaranteed to bring in the readers. If traveling isn’t an option, then pick the largest one you can get to.

 

Whatever you decide to do, remember you are representing yourself not only as a business, but as a business professional. Unless you have some serious cash to burn, I would strongly recommend not doing the signing circuit at all. There are much more efficient ways to use your advertising dollars which will have long-term benefits you simply cannot get attending a book signing.

Why Authors Should Stay Far, Far AWAY from the New Book Boyfriend App

 

I’ll be honest, I practically live under a rock these days. But when it comes to anything related to potentially reaching more readers, I’m all ears. I’ve been on the band wagon for such supposedly “awesome” “author-friendly” apps as Book+Main, Vevo, and Mewe, just to name a few. Like everything else which has come and gone over the years, all of these apps have failed miserably when it comes to helping the “little author” build a loyal reader fan base. So when I started seeing the posts in my FB newsfeed about the new Book Boyfriend app, I started listening to see if this was going to be anything worth investing in, or just another useless app that fizzles out as quickly as it got started. And boy, oh book boyfriend, am I glad I did, because when even NYT & USA TODAY bestselling authors are afraid to touch this app, you better take note.

In a nutshell, the Terms of Service are shady as fuck for any author who signs up. It should be pointed out this app was actually created by a small group of authors. The first red flag is the app’s notice that as an author, your book won’t be promoted at all while they try to cultivate a reading community. So – if it’s not benefiting me as an author with ways to promote, what good is it? Why create an app designed to highlight books if you aren’t actively promoting books? Did I mention this app was created by a core foundation of authors? Do you see where I’m going with this?

 

Then there is the way they use your personal information. Now, I don’t speak lawyer, but these TOS give me all the feels – the bad feels. They agree they will retain your information, use it, keep it safe, but if said data gets transferred to a country where there are “loose” data protection laws in place, they merely say they have “security measures” in place. You are agreeing to give your personal information “voluntarily” and, of course, can withdraw your permission to use said data. However, if you choose to ask them to remove your data from usage, you “may not” be able to access the app any more. And there is this lovely clause that states they “will securely and permanently delete your personal information when there is (a) no justification for its further retention…”

 

 

And here is some more legal jargon which makes little to no sense: 6. What legal basis do we have for using your personal data?

“The legal basis we have for processing your data is based around the consent you have voluntarily provided us.”

So, what happens if you decide you don’t want to be any part of this shit-show and asked them to remove your information? Well, they’ll be happy to do it, but if they don’t and you keep asking them to stop using your data, they withhold the legal right to charge a fee for “administrative costs” for providing the information for “baseless or excessive/repeated requests…”

 

 

Now, if you are an author, here is why you should be running far, far away from this app. Basically, if you post anything to the app, such as a book cover, a blurb, an excerpt, a graphic teaser, etc., you are giving the owners of the app permission to re-use and re-distribute that content however they see fit, on any channel they see fit, and without giving the original owner of the content any attribution to said content. In other words, while you may own the content, you are giving them and any third party they want a “perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, transferrable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use, story, and copy that content and to distribute it and make it available to third parties…” – basically a free ticket to do whatever they want with your content without giving you credit as the owner and/or originator of said content.

 

 

To put it another way, they are forcing you to agree that if you upload content to their app, they can use the content however they want, without giving you credit as the creator/author, and there’s not shit you can do about it:

 

Now, remember above I asked why would you create an app based around books but then not offer any type of promotions for said book? And then they force authors who sign up to agree to let them do whatever they want with the content that is uploaded, which could include claiming it as their own without any credit to the creator or actual author of the book?

 

 

 

Of course, when authors began talking among themselves about how uneasy they felt with the TOS, the creators of the BB app immediately began crawfishing in an attempt to assure the authors via email that they “do not have the ability or legal basis to steal your content.” No, but the Terms and Conditions does give them the legal basis to USE said content without giving the author credit, and that they can adapt and amend the content at their sole discretion. It clearly states this in the TOS. Let’s take another look, shall we:

Their email appears to be them doing some major damage control when authors bring up legitimate questions about the TOS, questions which came with answers which approximated to little more than “please, let me assure you.” So long as the TOS gives them the legal right to NOT give me credit for my own content, or to edit it however they see fit, then no thanks. Like I said, when even NYT & USA TODAY bestselling authors are advising everyone to steer clear of this app, it’s time to sit up and take notice  –  and then run in the other direction.

 

 

 

**screenshot credit to those who took them

Confessions of an Indie Author – What My Royalties Really Look Like

 

For the last 30 days, I’ve made $0 and sold 0 books. And chances are I’ll be making, and selling, about the same amount next month.

If you’ve ever decided you wanted to write and publish, it has never been easier, or harder, to be an indie author. The last time I checked, Amazon reported they were publishing approximately 4,000 books per day. Let that sink in. It takes me months to write, edit, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, format, & finally publish a book. And on any given day it will pop onto the market with roughly another 3,999 books who are all elbowing each other in a mad race to be discovered.

I miss the “good ‘ole days” when I could chat about my books on social media and make a decent living. Well, maybe not decent, but I could buy groceries for the month, put gas in my car, and have enough left over to fund my next project. These days, I’m spending hundreds of hours working and way too much money to get my book into production – all so I can be in the red by several hundred dollars each time I click “publish” on Amazon.

“But, Nikki, there are so many books on marketing, so many promotional and PR companies, so many marketing gurus and other authors who are making sales. Surely you haven’t tried everything there is to do to get your books out there.”

Yeah, about that. First, with 4K books hitting the virtual shelves each day, trying to get your one book (or even you as an author) discovered is like trying to get a drop of water to stand out in the ocean. It’s practically impossible. And trust me, for every one author who is succeeding at this game, there are several hundred thousand of us who are failing miserably. Like – epic fail.

Since there are now so many “writers” out there, there has been a boom in the “basement-built” companies popping up to feed off of said writers – promotional companies, marketing companies, editors, formatters, publishing houses, etc. – and most of them do not have any more of a clue about how to be successful in the publishing industry than the authors whose money they are happy to snap up in exchange for zero results and zero sales. Honestly, most of them consider “marketing” to be nothing more than posting to FB groups, creating a FB fan page, group, and twitter account, and promoting on those platforms.
As if it were that damn easy. That’s something every single author on the face of the planet is already doing, I’ve yet to figure out why authors seem to think paying someone to do the same thing to thousands of fake “followers” is going to help any more than posting to their own accounts. And if readers think the endless sea of shit-tacular books on Amazon is hard to maneuver through, you should see the ever-growing list of wannabe business owners who promise to do everything from post in FB groups to tweet your books multiple times a day – all for a price, of course. Hey, a girl has to eat I guess.

And let’s not even get on the subject of the piss-poor writers who are blowing through their savings accounts buying up their own books, buying up fake reviews by the hundreds, and paying click farms to buy and/or borrow their book and grab that elusive Amazon high rank for a whole hour – all so they can pretend they are a bestselling author and slap that lie on a book cover. Someone who is going to boast about selling 7 million copies of a book should have two things to show for it: their name on the USA or NYT Bestsellers list, and a trad publishing deal.

So here I sit, re-branding my books for what has to be the sixth time each, redoing book covers and blurbs, wasting money I don’t have on AMS ads, and writing book 5 in the Before the Sun Rises Series while plotting books 6 – 10.

Well, I can say one thing for certain. When the editors at Random House told a 15-year-old me that I shouldn’t “quit my day”, like ever, I’m glad that was one piece of advice I actually took to heart.

Amazon Continues to Strip Page Reads from KU Authors

Several months ago many indie authors who have their books enrolled in the KU program began noticing a disturbing trend – sometime around the 2nd week of the month Amazon began sending out the dreaded “we’ve noticed some fraudulent page read activity on your books” notices. What it boils down to is this – Amazon constantly monitors the number of page reads an author has on any book currently enrolled in the KU program. Anytime they see something which even remotely looks like it might be getting page reads from the “click farms”, they take notice. And with their scrutiny comes the dreaded letter which basically tells the author not only are they having their page reads stripped for that month i.e. the author will be stripped of any royalties regardless of whether or not the page reads actually are fraudulent,  but Amazon goes on to threaten to terminate the author’s KDP account. And in some instances, the mighty Zon has actually gone through with suspending and/or terminating some author accounts.

At first glance, they appear to be hitting honest authors who have done nothing wrong – authors who have paid for advertising either direct through Amazon itself, or through one of the standard promo companies such as BookBub, Robin Reads, ENT, etc.

Here’s the sucky part of this. Amazon is doing this despite the fact there are dozens of legitimate “scam” books dominating the Zon rankings and receiving potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in KU payouts each year. Zon knows about these books and these scammers, but their idea of rectifying the situation isn’t to go after the scammers, but to hit real authors who are trying to make an actual career out of writing.

Authors, of course, have many theories on why the Zon does not seem to want to alleviate the problem or do anything which would actually help the situation. The top theory on that list? Money. Amazon is getting paid by anyone who purchases a monthly subscription to the KU program. Whether it is purchased by a legitimate reader getting their lit on or by a click farm, the Zon still gets that monthly payment.

Now, let’s hit the halls of the conspiracy theory, shall we? What if Zon is the one hiring these click farms? What if they are the ones putting out the scam books? This would enable them to not only keep a huge chunk of the KU payout each month by raking up tens of thousands of page reads on scam books, but they then get to strip honest authors of their page views and thus their KU payout by sending the click farms after their KU enrolled books. What better way to hide your own fraudulent activity than in plain sight? You deflect your own illegal activities by spreading that activity around to other authors who have real, legitimate books enrolled in the KU program.

Now, here’s some observations that I’m sure is going to piss off a lot of people, but I think it needs to be said. First, I’ve noticed the romance/erotica genre tends to be hit the hardest not only by the Zon when it comes to sending out these accusatory emails, but also the one which seems to be hit the hardest by the click farms. This specific genre has the most books, many of which are badly written porn novels created by ‘authors’ whose answer to ‘making it’ in the publishing industry is to churn out as many badly written pieces of word porn as they can as quickly as they can and then put them into the KU program where they hope to eventually find the serial reader who will buy and click-through every title in their catalog. These types of readers tend to not really care about quality of writing and specifically look for authors with dozens of titles to their names. (There’s an entire FB group dedicated to walking “authors” through this process.)

Second, this type of environment makes it a prime target for click farms. I’ll reiterate – what better way to hide your own illegal activity than to go after authors who have dozens of titles to their names, all of which are enrolled in KU. And since the romance and erotica genre seem to be the one genre where you have serial writers churning out the most books hitting the market each month, it makes it the perfect target to hit. Because whether these authors want to admit it or not, a lot of the page reads they get every month probably are from fake click bots and not actual readers. It’s one of the reasons why they notice such a huge spike and dip in sales from month to month. And these click farms are not biased – they are not looking to see if the author in question has published one book a year for the past twenty years or if they shoved all twenty of those books into the market in under six months. They are basically targeting authors who have a relatively large catalog of books with a huge chunk of them in the KU program. And while it certainly is a good idea to strip out fake page reads from any author, it sucks that while the Zon can supposedly tell when page read are fraudulent, they can’t seem to tell which page reads are fake and which ones are real, thus stripping authors of their legitimate page reads for the month right along with the fake ones.

So where does this leave authors? The only real answer right now is to pull their books from the KU program, or at least a good portion of them. Some of these authors will argue if they do that then they won’t be making any money, which begs the question – if you were making money before you pulled out of KU program but not after, then you really have to ask yourself – why are you no longer making money? The obvious answer is that those page reads you were racking up each month weren’t coming from real, legit readers who are following your work. Because real readers who are genuine fans will continue to purchase your books even if they are not in the KU program.

Recent polls conducted by not only by several PR and prom companies, but also by independent authors, are showing a trend of readers who are no longer opting to keep their KU subscription because the program has become a gluten of badly written books. With an influx of self-published authors growing each year, it’s making it increasingly harder for readers to find the types of books they want to read. What they are reporting is the vast majority of the better quality books aren’t actually in the KU program, or the author has one or two titles in the program and the rest are wide. It’s even been theorized the KU program will either eventually disappear completely, or the indie authors who choose to enter the program will no longer receive any royalties from the Zon. As with anything related to Amazon, only time will tell.

For now, the only recourse an author seems to have to keep their account in good standing and not risk the wrath of the mighty Zon is to pull the majority of their catalog from the KU program with hopes they have a large enough dedicated fan base to continue to purchase their work. For those authors who still intend to keep their work inside the KU program – be careful. Even if you are not doing any type of marketing which could potentially be using click farms, chances are you will be hit by them at some point, increasing your chances that you, too, will receive the dreaded “we’ve noticed some fraudulent page reads on your account” email from the almighty Zon.

Take care out there, peeps. It’s still the Wild West, even if the gold veins are drying up even as we speak.