Are Author Marketing Courses Really Worth the Money?

I’m about to give all authors some advice – and I’m not going to charge you a few thousand dollars, or even a few hundred dollars, to impart my 30+ years of wisdom. I’m going to give this to you for free in hopes you don’t waste your time and money on all those marketing courses, masterclasses, and utterly useless books that all the authors-turned-marketing-gurus-turned-authors are peddling these days.

Here’s my first piece of advice for anyone who is looking into maybe taking a few courses or buying a few self-help books from all these people who claim their info will help launch your book into the stratosphere – yes, even those famed gurus all your author friends are talking about.

So here it is: 99% of the information they offer you can actually find on the internet – for FREE. There are literally thousands of videos on YouTube which will break it down for you, offer you good advice on how to market, how to promote, give you all the dirty details on what it’s really like to try to market and promote your own book. There are articles, there are resources, there are even free PDFs on all this information if you just spend a few hours researching. And as much as I loathe FB groups, there are many, many indie author support groups filled with authors who are more than willing to give you the skinny on everything if you just ask. So, if you do nothing else, find yourself a few support groups and start nosing around. Seriously. Most of these authors are more than happy to tell you what they’ve done and if it’s worked for them. No masterclass or self-help book required.

Here’s my second piece of advice, and it’s what basically ALL the marketing books, masterclasses, free courses, paid course, YouTube videos, and your author friends will tell you – marketing and promotion boils down to two very simple things which you need in order to succeed: a large support group of people who are willing to pimp you out, and/or a shit-ton of money to funnel into advertising.

Advertising. This. This is what it all boils down to. See, being an author isn’t any different from running any other type of business. It all comes down to advertising. That means you have to get your name in front of as many people as possible as often as possible. But I know what you are thinking – how do I do that?

Again, if you go into any author support group and ask your fellow authors what they are doing to advertise, they are going to toss out the same handful of names at you – they are advertising on BookBub, on ENT, on Fussy Librarian, on Freebooksy, on BargainBooksy, and a few other smaller sites, and utilizing both AMS ads and FB ads. Why? Because these sites are where readers are, making them the best choices for getting as many eyeballs on your ad as possible. But be prepared. Some of these sites, such as BookBub deals, come with a price tag starting out in the $300 range and go up to several thousand dollars.

This is why I said in order to succeed you really only need two things – a large group of people willing to spread the word, or a shit-ton of money. You see, advertising on the above mentioned places isn’t going to suddenly get you a built-in reader base. If you are just starting out, getting that reader base is going to take years of consistently shoving your name in front of people as often as possible. Eventually someone will pick up the book, hopefully love it, and tell one other person who may or may not ever read it. Until you become a household name, you either have to have a huge group of people who are constantly pimping you out all over social media, or you have to be ready to funnel a whole bunch of money into advertising. That’s literally what all this boils down to. Keep your name in front of as many people as possible, as long as possible, until you have a fan base built up so they take over word-of-mouth advertising. To do that, you have to advertise, which translates into years of funneling money into promotions.

Now, if you are sitting there with your mouth on your keyboard and a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach while your brain frantically keeps chanting but I don’t have the money to do all that! then you are not alone. Welcome to my world. I’ve been doing this for 30+ YEARS and I still haven’t managed to turn a profit. As in, even with all the sales on my entire back catalog of 15 books, I still haven’t made enough back in the past ten years to offset the cost of producing just one of those books. Why? Because I don’t have the money to funnel into advertising, and I don’t have a support group of people willing to pimp me out all the time.

And therein lies the other thing you are going to need. Time. If you have the time to devote to burning up multiple social media accounts, posting on them multiple times a day, blogging your little heart out, researching and emailing hundreds of book blogs asking for a spotlight on their blog, and interacting on book forums as a reader (This is important. GoodReads will eat you up and spit you back out if you go over there trying to promote yourself as an author), tracking down and securing your own interviews, and basically reaching out to everyone on the planet who has ever done anything with a book, all while still churning out a new book every single month, then yes, you can “make it” as an author without spending too much money. Don’t have that much time? Then refer to the other two things you need as stated above – a large group of people willing to support you, or a lot of money to hire some people who are willing to support you a.k.a. a PR or marketing firm.

Look, trying to get noticed in this industry with hundreds of thousands of new books hitting the virtual shelves each month and hundreds of new authors hitting the industry every day is like trying to get a drop of water to stand out in the middle of the ocean. It’s next to impossible, which means you have got to have some serious resources in your corner to make it happen. It’s not rocket science, it’s just standard business. You couldn’t start a business in your town and think somehow everyone is going to magically know where it is and what it sells if you don’t advertise it, right? You can’t expect people to just stumble across a new business no one has heard of and expect to keep it packed. Writing a book is no different. You have to market it, you have to promote it, and that means you must have money to run the ads, or you must have the funds to hire a PR or marketing firm to do it for you, or you must have a whole lot of people who are willing to promote it on social media for you. Barring having either of those two things, then it all comes back to you spending every single spare second of every single day doing the leg work, contacting blogs, blogging yourself, chasing down interviews, posting in useless groups, constantly posting on social media accounts, and getting involved in the reader world on forums as a reader to keep your name in front of people.

Being an author is hard work, and even that doesn’t guarantee you spot on the charts. Trust me, if all it took to make a name for yourself in this industry was hard work and dedication, then there would be a whole hell of a lot more successful authors. Even funneling a shit-ton of money into your work isn’t going to guarantee you anything. If readers don’t like it, you’re screwed even if you have a million dollars in your back pocket to toss into the endeavor.

Or, you know, you could always win the lottery or get a celebrity spokesperson. And not even that is going to work. Ask me how much help it was to have Bret Michaels as one of my readers. Yeah, do you see my name hitting the big lists?

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Why Dafuq Do Authors Think BookBub is So Great??


Let’s just talk about how so many authors are so hell-bent on handing over fistfuls of money to BB (BookBub) for a “promotional” deal. For the longest time, authors sang the praises of BB as being the “cure-all” to their sale woes. Everyone claimed all it took to jump-start your career as an author is just land that coveted BB “deal.”

These days, with the market saturated and there literally being several hundred thousand free books available for download across multiple retailers, more and more authors are becoming aware of one simple truth – BB won’t help your sales. In fact, most authors report losing money on these BB deals.

For those authors who claim BB deals work, they often already have a fairly large reader base who are more than willing to buy their books. What they are actually experiencing is just regular sales from their fan base. They may or may not experience a bump in sales. And more times than not, these BB deals are stacked with other marketing and promotional ads going on simultaneously as the BB deals, making it practically impossible for them to measure exactly how well their BB deal actually did. All they know is they are getting sales, and they do not stop to really track down where those sales are actually coming from. It is this lack of investigation and blissful ignorance which BB continues to rely on to keep their business running.

Authors who claim BB deals were an utter failure for them often don’t stack their deal with other promotional ads, oftentimes having exhausted their small advertising budget with BB. (And with these prices, who could blame them?) When running only one promo deal at a time, it makes it much easier to really look at your numbers to see if a marketing venture is raking in a decent ROI or not.

But is it really worth it? Let’s break down the math, shall we?

The graphic at the top of the page shows the first few book genres, the size of that genre’s list subscribers, how much they charge for a free book (don’t even get me started on this thought process), for a $0.99 book, $1-$2 books, and those that are $3+. The last two columns are the book stats – the number of downloads you can expect on a free book on average, and the number of sells you can expect on a paid book on average.

Crime fiction has the largest number of list subscribers and has the second largest number of average expected sales on a deal. Obviously, you won’t get a return advertising a free book, so we are not even looking at those stats. But let’s say you discounted your $4.99 to just $0.99 That will cost you $1138 for your BB deal. Now, the average sales one can expect on crime fiction (which BB openly admits) is only 3180. If you do the math, that will net you just $1113 in average sales for your book when sold at $0.99 with a 35% royalty rate from Amazon. That is less than what you paid BB to advertise the book. Now, if you want to actually make money, you could toss $3983 their way and potentially gross over $8K in profits (netting around $4880 after you subtract the BB deal expense).

My biggest question – why would someone toss so much money at this company knowing they stand to not even break even?

These numbers are, of course, just estimates. But I find it incredibly strange that out of over 3.8+ MILLION subscribers, they are only averaging a few thousand sales on paid books. I seriously do not understand why authors rush out to hand over their cash for such shoddy results. It begs the question if anyone is actually sitting down, dong the math, and taking a hard look at these numbers. An average of 3K sales out of over 3.8 million is hardly what I would call “results” when it comes to paid advertisement, especially when I’m forking over upwards of $4K for said advertisement.

Another thing which really caught my attention is the number of average free downloads per category. Each one of these genres is pulling in average download rates of tens of thousands. Going back to crime fiction, out of 3.8+ million subscribers, the average download for free books is over 51K. When compared to the average books sold in that same genre, only around 3100, it shows just how huge of a gap there is. When comparing the average downloads of free books across the board, an alarming pattern comes to light – most people who subscribe to these BB newsletters are only in it to receive free books. It’s attracting the freebie-seeker, those who are usually only after free books, the type of reader who rarely becomes a paying customer.

The sad part? Authors are still tripping all over themselves to fork over hundreds of dollars just to have BB send their free book link to a bunch of readers who have no intentions of ever buying a book. So I once again ask – why do authors think this is such a good idea?

After looking at these figures, there’s one thing I know for sure – short of raking in close to a 7-figure a year income from my books, I can’t imagine any scenario where I would happily apply for a BB deal. Call me crazy, but when the ROI is this shitty, I’m going to look for more effective ways to spend my marketing dollars.

Why Should Amazon Clean Up This Giant Book Scamming Mess?

Because when you aren’t losing money, why should they give a rat’s ass, am I right?

It took the better part of 10 years before the rest of the indie community finally took notice, but I’ve been screaming FOUL! since 2008 on the shit going on over on the Zon. Ever since I hopped on board the KDP train back in 2008, about a year after it was unveiled, I’ve sat back and watched this entire industry dissolve into one huge cesspool of nothing but crappy books by even crappier people who are in this to do nothing but make money – by any means necessary.

Yes, I know I’m in this to make money. But when book stuffers and other scammers are literally bringing in more money each year by scamming the Amazon publishing system than authors who have been around for decades hitting the NYT Bestsellers list repeatedly, you would think this would clue Amazon in to the huge shit-storm going on with their site. But as I said, when it’s not technically costing them anything, why should they care? Even if they were to shut down the KDP platform to indies and just went back to allowing trad published books to be sold there, it wouldn’t hit them hard enough for them to do much more than blink. We’re only talking about $150 million compared to the 7 BILLION they grossed last year across the entire store worldwide.

The KU book stuffers are just one more piece of the scammer puzzle that has wrecked havoc on the indie community in recent months. Before it was KU, there were prolific authors who were publishing 5 page serial shorts each week, charging ridiculous amounts for each short, and using shady, unethical business practices to manipulate the rank so the “books” would eventually begin to get organic buys (purchasing reviews on Fiverr & using the earlier versions of “click farms” – basically taking one book, breaking it up into multiple parts, selling each part for $5 a pop and/or enrolling each part into the original KU 1.0 program which then netted each 5-10 page short upwards of $3 and using groups from Fiverr to purchase or borrow each section in mass groups to manipulate rank thus leading to more organic borrows and purchases)

And remember that high profile erotica writer who was sending “his” army of oblivious female readers to harass, bully, and 1 star his competition? That behavior wasn’t just isolated to this one moniker. Many, many authors have been known to engage in social media bullying and sending their hoards of fans and sock puppets to try to strong-arm their competition into quitting the industry or bow down to whatever ridiculous demand they had. Then there is the catfishing that was running rampant in the erotic romance genre. Men pretending to be women authors and women pretending to be male authors who sat around sweet-talking their female fans until they had these women completely convinced these swindlers actually cared about them. It’s the tried-and-true Casanova swindle except with romance authors and readers. It was designed to part these women from their money, pure and simple.

So will Amazon’s new TOS and recent “house cleaning” continue? Who knows. Everyone remember when Amazon finally cracked down on all the padded reviews? Did you notice they didn’t take down the reviews or ban the author accounts? No, because when you have high-profile authors burning up the ranks and bringing the Zon more money, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Instead, they decided it would be a good idea to go after Fiverr instead, although how on earth THAT was supposed to curb purchasing fake reviews is beyond me.

Even when they do finally decide to take action and ban these scammy authors, their accounts rarely stay deactivated. You all remember the whole debacle with boxed set guru? (If not, go take a gander at THIS kboards thread, it’s a real eye opener) After multiple complaints of her ill-gotten gains through boxed sets which hit the lists through mass gifting and author purchasing of literally HUNDREDS of the boxed sets, on top of the illegal lotteries she was running to tip the sales in favor of the large lists, Amazon finally banned her from publishing through them. But guess what? She’s back on Amazon and is even still putting together boxed sets for the hefty sum of $2000 per author, among other author services. And there are still dozens of authors who continue to sing her praises either out of sheer ignorance or the usual I-don’t-give-a-shit-so-long-as-I’m-making-money attitude which seems to run rampant among a lot of community members these days.

Then there is the prolific book stuffer Chance Carter who recently lost his publishing privileges through the Zon. This is at least the second incarnation of the same person so who knows how long it will be before he’s back up and running. He’s also the mastermind behind the BookClicker and BookBoyfriend apps. The BC apps has been used by hundreds of authors who have all unknowingly given this guy access to their MC and ML mailing lists which can then be skimmed for the subscriber information. I found all sorts of fun, incriminating information over on this Kboards thread. And if all this wasn’t enough to make your toenails curl, Chance Carter is also the mastermind behind a whole crew of authors using nefarious tactics to game the KU system. It’s really scary just how deep and convoluted this entire debacle goes, and just how many authors are all tied into this. I just don’t get why it took nearly a decade for other authors, and readers, to finally wise up to what’s been happening right under their noses. These authors are basically embezzling money and instead of the Zon firing them & having criminal charges brought against them, they are literally being slapped on the hand and allowed to carry on as if nothing happened. What the actual fuck Amazon?

Basically, the mighty Zon has changed their own TOS so much and are only half-ass enforcing them to the point that what they decide to do next, or if they will continue to enforce their own TOS, or if they will continue to catch innocent authors in their broad net while they try to clean up their own act, is anyone’s guess. If I’ve learned anything in the past ten years of being independently published through KDP it’s this – if you are making the Zon enough money they basically don’t care. Even if enough people throw a big enough fit to force the Zon’s hand, they are just going to allow these scammers to come back under a new name (or in even if their own name, in some people’s case) and keep right on with business as usual.

And about the only way a legitimate author is going to be able to compete with their black hat tactics is if they have a whole hell of a lot of cash to funnel into the marketing. After all, when everyone around you is using a bullhorn, about the only recourse you have is to break out the sky-writing.

Quick Links:





Authors Behaving Badly




BOXED SET SCAMS ON THE PASSIVE VOICE (please note the original article this thread links to on The Passive Voice has since been removed. While we are unsure why the original article was removed, it has been speculated it was due to the civil suits still going on between RH & some of the former participating authors of her boxed sets.)

Blood Rising – Coming August 30th 2018

Coming 8/30/18 to all major book retailers.


We were outcasts now, forced to once again live in the shadows of the night.

We were the chosen ones, those Fallen From Grace, those who would rise up against everything meant to destroy our world.

We were just the beginning, the first few who would discover the dark secrets left behind in our city, the front-runners of the battle which was yet to come.

Aleria had been around the vampires for nearly a decade, welcomed into their world if still slightly apart from it. Until one night she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She saved him, giving up her mortal life, and he in turn gave her an immortal one. Now she was a part of his coven, but not everyone was so eager to welcome her with open arms.

Who could be trusted when no one was what they appeared?

In this new world where the lines of humanity and the supernatural have been blurred, it was becoming increasingly harder to figure out who were friends – and who was the enemy.