Why I’m Probably Done with Being an Author

 

 

Guys, I just can’t. After 30 years of chasing this dream, I feel it may have come to the bitter end. I’m so thoroughly disgusted with what the publishing industry has become, specifically the “self-publish and get rich quick” scamming aspect of it, that I simply can’t any more. I’m tired, I’m frustrated, and it has become abundantly clear the only way I am going to make it in this industry is if I have tens of thousands of dollars to blow on marketing and promotion in an effort to try to keep up with all the scammers that are raking in 6+ figures off of KU every year.

The simple truth of the matter is – I don’t even have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on my regular bills, much less a stash sitting around to pour into what is quickly becoming a useless endeavor. I can’t continue to torture myself pouring my heart and soul, blood, sweat, and tears into great books when it is becoming ever-more painfully obvious that readers only want more 50 Shades of Shitty books. I’m sorry, but I just CANNOT compete with that.

These stories, this huge world I have created, and these characters mean everything to me. I have literally spent more than a decade of my life creating this world from scratch. These characters represent real people I have known in my life. These books are dedicated to my hero, my mentors, my family, my friends – people I love. They pay homage to some of my favorite bands. They have been my way of coping with the anxiety, the fear, the hardships which have cropped up in my adult life over the years. They were an escape for me, a way to deal with all the curve-balls life kept throwing at me. Despite all the shit I’ve been through in my life, from finally escaping the abusive home life I grew up in, to my family finally half-ass digging itself out of the debt-ridden hole we had collapsed into after Hurricane Katrina decimated our home – despite all that, I still managed to keep writing.

I kept writing, no matter what. Because it is who I am at my core. Because these aren’t just stories and books and characters. They are a part of who I am as a person. They represent trial and tribulation, not just years, but decades of my life, time spent away from my family, money I honestly didn’t have to spare invested into cover art and book signings and swag and paperbacks and stock photo subscriptions and photo design software. It’s more than just blood, sweat, tears, time, and money – these books are a part of my soul.

And to have my dreams slowly crushed by assholes who are constantly stuffing books, lying to readers, brainwashing readers into believing everything they do and say is on the up-and-up, stealing from legitimate authors, funneling huge amounts of cash into AMS ads and other marketing and basically crowding out all the other authors right off the market – to see them consistently racking up ungodly paychecks they managed to acquire by lying and stealing and manipulating their way right into the top of the charts with really, really godawful books.

Guys, I just. I Can’t.

I just can’t do this anymore. Unless readers report these books and start seeking out legitimate authors and buying their books, mine included, then I simply cannot keep doing this. I cannot justify spending so much time away from my family and investing money I do not have to push out yet another book that no one wants to read.

I’m going to be honest here. If what is currently sitting in the top 100 of the vast majority of the romance and paranormal genres is what readers really and truly want to read – then there is no need for me to keep going.

If really great books written by authors who have spent decades of their life honing their craft and who agonize over every single word put to paper, books that are properly edited and actually written by the author and not some underpaid ghostwriter is not what is selling, then that’s it. I’m done.

So if this is what readers really want, then count me out. I’ll leave you to it, because I can’t compete with any of it. And to be honest, I don’t want to. I care too much about what I write, about my characters, my worlds, and my stories to even attempt to write something so shoddy.

I want to appeal to you, to the readers, because only you can bring this to an end. If you come across a really great, legitimate author you love, tell someone. Follow them on social media, share their posts, buy their books, leave them reviews. It really is that simple. The only way to get the really great books to rise to the top again is if readers demand more books from these authors and stay away from the shoddy ones. Because without you buying our books and helping us spread the word, then we literally have no recourse but to stop writing completely. It’s really up to you – swim in the sea of what’s currently taking up all the top ranking on amazon, or seek out the great unknown authors and shout their names from the rooftops.

And Mr. Bezos, there’s something you should really think about. One day, there won’t be anything left sitting in KU but the stuffers and the scammers and the really crappy books that no one wants to read, because all the good authors will have either stopped writing completely, or will have bailed on Amazon in favor of another retailer. And when that day comes, just remember all of the authors who begged you for years to do something, and yet you chose to let this continue to fester until no legitimate author wanted to have anything to do with you or your bad business decisions. And when that day comes, and it will come, you’ll find yourself up shit-creek without a paddle, and without a single decent author who is willing to help you bail the shit-water out of your sinking boat.

Advertisements

Why I Don’t Hang Out on KBoards as an Author

I heard about Kboards several, several years back. I would periodically pop in every now and again whenever I came across a thread while doing research. After everything which happened with Rebecca Hamilton I quickly realized a few things which has made me avoid the place for any real interaction with other authors like the plague.

Before I get into those reasons, I would like to first acknowledge that Kboards is a HUGE message board. I understand it takes a lot to moderate it and those mods probably don’t get paid. But here’s the thing – many of us are running several high-traffic FB groups all by ourselves and we don’t get paid either.

So with that said, here’s why I do not hang out on Kboards as an author (and why you shouldn’t either).

1: The godmodding. This grates all over my nerves more than anything. I cannot stand for someone who literally has no ties to the community or the board itself to treat it like their own personal playground. This is why I left the XN forum and no longer go on there, even to check my DMs.

2: The thread locking. And this happens on several levels. First, basically, any thread the mods think has gotten “off topic” is quickly locked and the “offending” messages either edited or completely deleted. I can’t stand this. It’s not only a form of censorship, but it is highly unethical practice in my opinion. Everyone on there is an adult. If someone is going to get butthurt over something they need to stay off there completely (mods included).

Second, they will lock a thread or close it down completely if they don’t like the “tone” of how others are talking about something. For example, they have quickly shut down the threads which brought to light the scamming of Rebecca Hamilton, the scamming of Karla Marie, and the intense talks regarding the massive number of book stuffers currently clogging up KU.

Hold. The Fuck. UP.

You have to ask yourself why any message board that is supposedly built around helping authors would blatantly shut down threads which openly try to out scammers and warn other authors. Well, let’s look at #3, shall we:

3. Kboards has knowingly had some of the members of the “community” openly encourage other writers to join some of these scammers’ groups and buy their services. Before the shit hit the proverbial fan with Rebecca Hamilton, there were numerous posts and threads about her services filled with “satisfied” members who were happily telling other authors to buy into her BS. Yet THOSE threads weren’t locked. But yet the thread about the on-going lawsuit she’s currently involved in IS still locked as of the time of this post.

Take away from this what you will. I, for one, may lurk, but I have no intentions of ever joining that community. I’ve seen someone make 3 whole posts and then get their butts banned for no reason other than they wanted to remain anonymous.

A Few Things? I Wish it was Just a “Few” Things Wrong with the Industry

 

Many years ago, a huge chunk of the people on my friends list were other authors. There was one who I looked up to and tried to copy her strategies when it came time to release new books. Her books were always pretty high up in the ranking, and she was consistently posting photos of herself at these big signings she was always attending. Her timeline was filled with stories of people “recognizing” her at airports and restaurants. And she was more than happy to tell everyone about how many days in a row she had worked around the clock so she could meet her “deadlines” and get her books to the editors.

She was able to make enough money at being a writer to actually write full-time.

Or so she wanted everyone to believe.

She played the part of “successful” writer really well. She didn’t bother to tell other writers the reason she was able to keep writing, attend signings, and funnel so much money into advertising was because her husband made more than enough money to allow her to stay at home and be an “author.” I, like so many other writers who had on beer goggles when it came to “successful” authors, thought she only had everyone’s best interests when it came to dishing out advice for authors. And let me tell you, she was more than happy to dish it out.

When the first KU rolled out, this particular author was very vocal about how it was “hurting” her sales. She kept doing this for weeks until other authors started to take notice. Before long, she was encouraging writers to quit KU because, as she put it, her “sales had gone way down but her borrows were through the roof.” We all took it at face value. I mean, she was one of us and had always been there to encourage us, to chat with us, etc. So I, like so many other authors, bailed on KU. We all encouraged each other to leave the program. And a huge chunk of us did. Several thousand of us, in fact.

You see, none of us had bothered to do any real research. We weren’t crunching numbers. We were just blinding following someone who appeared to be successful. After a few weeks I noticed this author’s books were all still enrolled in KU, which I thought was odd considering she had been rallying for months for us to all pull our books. So I got to researching on my own, I got to crunching the numbers, and what I realized was I could actually make more money on a smaller book in KU than I could a regular sale.

So I pointed this out to her, showed her the numbers, and she responded with something like “yeah, that sounds about right.”

I called her out on her bullshit, reminding her she had told everyone who would listen we needed to leave KU because we were getting screwed yet her books remained in KU while the rest of us bailed at her insistence. Her response? It’s a personal decision. Everyone will have to decide for themselves if they want to stay in the program. She basically laughed it off and blamed us for leaving the program.

That was not the first time I had an author basically shit on me, and it wouldn’t be the last time either.

The bookstuffers, #TiffanyGate, #CockyGate, these are all examples of authors who blatantly break the rules and rub everyone’s noses in it. But it’s not just these types of authors you have to watch out for. There are still hundreds of them who will undermine your courage, step on you, lie to you, bully you, stab you in the back, sabotage you, start rumors, start up drama, go on witch hunts, twist your words – basically do anything they can think of to keep you from taking away what marginal bit of success they are experiencing. Whether it’s giving out bad advice, purposely sabotaging your career, or just not bothering to help out when you need it after you have done so much to help them succeed, there will always be authors who are more than willing to stomp all over you as they try to claw their way to the top.

And this type of backstabbing and sabotage isn’t just in the book selling market place. It’s permeated every tiny little nook and cranny in the indie publishing industry like a foul stench.

About three years ago I was trying to get a book signing event together in my birth town. People were interested – until someone decided to tag the author who had just had a book signing in that same large metropolitan area. The end result? She told me, and I quote “…you are trying to recreate it because you weren’t there.” I was basically told I was just “jealous” because I had not been invited to her event and how dare I try to put together a signing in my own state, in my own birth town. Because obviously just because there was more than enough authors to go around, I apparently didn’t get the memo that she had the monopoly on book signings in my state.

And as soon as she came along voicing her opinion and calling people out, guess what? Suddenly no one was interested in attending my author event any more. No wanted to side with me because doing so meant they could suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of her temper, banned from attending her event, or worse – have her chatting with other event coordinators who would then ban them from even more events.

This is just yet another way some of these bad eggs operate, yet just another example of #AuthorsBehavingBadly. Fear, intimidation, lying, cheating, scamming, bullying, and let’s not forget playing the perpetual victim – they are willing to do whatever it takes to keep the money coming in for them. They have no moral compass but they certainly like to pretend they do. They like deflecting blame, putting up smoke screens, make it look like they are taking the high road, and pretend they are the ones being bullied. Many of them aren’t really that successful, they just like to pretend they are. And then there are the ones in the big leagues, the ones who operate on a completely different scale, who are literally scamming their way into six-plus figures a year.

Unfortunately, we are still in the “wild west” phase of this industry, and we can’t just sit around and wait for a sheriff to come along and fix the industry for us. Until Amazon decides to begin minding their store with real people and actually take our complaints seriously, it’s up to us – the readers and the authors – to continue to shed light on the sleazy underbelly of this industry and bring the scammers and the cheaters to their knees. This industry may not be perfect, but it’s my industry, and I’m not going to sit by and let people continue to take advantage of me, my work, or my fellow authors who continuously bust their asses trying to produce a quality product for their readers. I’m tired of being intimidated, I’m tired of people trying to shame me, blame me, and bully me into staying quiet. It ends here.

#BookStuffers #BookScammers – #GetLoud

Sit back, this could take awhile. #BookStuffers #GetLoud

image

(Graphic credit to Anteria Hawbaker)

For the past four or so years I’ve been utterly miserable and disheartened with the publishing industry. You see, I’ve seen this shit storm building for years now. I saw what was happening. I knew there was bookstuffing going on, I knew there were authors who were purposely using black hat tactics to not only manipulate rank on Amazon, but who were also managing to get some of their books to hit the big lists. I’ve seen the illegal lotteries happening with the boxed sets and the big players who were teaching and instructing authors to buy up huge quantities of their own books and the boxed sets they were involved in and gift their way right onto the USA Today Bestseller list. I knew there were groups dedicated to teaching authors how to scam the system, how to skirt Amazon’s TOS, how to lie and steal their way into making KU All Stars bonuses. And let’s not forget about the droves of people who were, and still are, buying reviews, using click farms, or those who were bullying others and sending their “readers” to blast their competition with bad reviews and harass them to the point where many of them finally gave up and left the writing community completely.

This shit is NOT something that just cropped up in the past few days, or weeks, or even months. This shit has been happening for YEARS. And no matter how much I told other authors and readers about what was going on, no matter how much I blogged about it, no matter how much I tried to call attention to the blatant SCAMMING going on with all these top, “bestselling authors,” no one wanted to believe me. I was told I was “just jealous” of their success. I mean, who wanted to believe that an author who had hit the big lists multiple times did so by scamming their way onto those lists?

Needless to say, with everything that has been happening, I’ve slowly lost my desire to even be a PART of the indie community, not to mention I’ve lost my love of writing. Over the past four years I’ve slowed down tremendously, only pushing out two, maybe three full length novels a year if I am lucky. I stopped doing take overs, I stopped doing cover reveals, I stopped doing launch parties, I basically stopped doing any of it because the cold, hard truth of the matter is – no matter how many books I write, no matter how good I am, no matter how hard I work, I simply can NOT compete with the scammers. I can’t compete with someone who spends $30K, $40K, $80K a year on advertising and various scams that push their stuffed, shitty books to the top of the categories.

Y’all have no idea how happy I am to see other authors finally saying ENOUGH IS ENOUGH with all the shit that has been happening in this industry. I’m glad to see others who are finally standing up for themselves and their work and telling the scammers they are sick of being shit on by them and the industry.

But us just getting angry over the whole thing isn’t going to change it. Us just talking among ourselves in author-based groups isn’t going to change anything.We must UNITE, we must EDUCATE readers on what is happening and how to spot these scams, the stuffed books, the ones who are buying up fake reviews or using excessive ARC teams to manipulate reviews and ranking.

We have to continue to #GETLOUD and report this shit to Amazon, report the books, report the so-called authors. Because let me tell you, YOU may not think you deserve better, but by God I KNOW **I** deserve better. I know my work DESERVES better than to be forced to compete with such shit and the so-called authors who want to screw over and manipulate the system. I. DESERVE. BETTER.

Authors, stop letting these scammers shit on you and all the hard work, the YEARS of sacrifice you’ve made to get to this point. STAND UP, #GETLOUD, and FIGHT for a better system, for equal footing in the system, and for a equal share of the playing field. To loosely quote a fellow author, life may not be fair, but the publishing industry should damn well at least allow everyone to be on an equal playing field.

But it won’t happen if we don’t stand up for ourselves, our work, and each other. Let’s continue to #GETLOUD until the cream has finally risen to the top, and the shitty, scammy books are nothing but a bad, distance memory.

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 everyone 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.

 

Just Another Day in the Life of …

 

While fellow friends on my social media are posting about happy moments in their lives, awesome memories they are making, and their life’s ambition and goals just generally lining up to be awesome, I am left with another story which I simply have to laugh at. Because, let’s face it, when you are the poster child for Murphy’s Law, you either learn to laugh at life’s constant barbs at you, or you sit down and cry. I’ve cried enough over the years. Not to mention I figured out by the time I was twelve that shit happens, and if it’s going to happen to anyone, it’s going to happen to me.

On Friday a fellow comic book enthusiast and I were chatting via FB messenger. We’ve been talking off and on for about a month or so about comic cons, upcoming conventions in our area, etc. I’ve discovered a lot of really fun events thanks to him and been invited to join the local group to attend various functions such as the upcoming cosplay screening of Avengers. Yes, I’m a giant nerd/geek/kid.

I had already been tipped off to the upcoming Free Comic Book Day excursion to 3 Alarm Comics in sunny Biloxi on May 5th. I’ve been looking for a reason to drive to the coast but have not been able to pull myself away from my current WIP long enough for a day off. Well, who wouldn’t want to visit a comic book store on Free Comic Book Day? Bonus!

On Friday afternoon RW messages me and asks me if I would like a table with their group at the store on May 5th. Um, does a reader love the library and bookmarks? Hell to the yeah, hook me up!! It’s like the sun broke through the clouds and angels were singing! It. Is. AWESOME.

It’s short notice and I’m completely out of a good portion of my books and down to my last 100 bookmarks or so, but holy hell am I excited. I rush home, do some quick math, and decide since I’m already hoping to get my foot into the door of an upcoming convention in October I’ll just bite the bullet and order some more books and bookmarks. It’s not like I won’t ever use these things again, even if I have to put them on my credit card. It’s not like I’m not going to have buy all this crap later in the summer anyway.

Yeah, so, awesome sauce right? My books and bookmarks will make it just in time for the Saturday excursion. Again – It. Is. AWESOME.

Then, reality sets in. Or rather, Murphy’s Law comes home to visit. With me, NOTHING is ever as simple as spending too much money on my credit card that I probably can’t pay off come next billing cycle. Cause, you know – MURPHY’S. Effin. LAW.

Saturday morning I log into FB to find a nice message from RW reminding me of the tornados which came through week before last. And guess what store they hit …

 

So, yeah, today’s lesson kiddos – don’t count your chickens before they hatch. And never put money on your credit card unless you have the cash in your bank account to cover it. And when you think life is about to hand you a juicy pineapple, it’s really just looking for an excuse to bend you over and shove that sucker where the sun don’t shine – sans lube.

Happy Tuesday Y’all!!

Booking in Biloxi 2018

It’s about that time again, kiddos! Join me for possibly my one and only book signing for 2018 as I converge on the IP Casino Resort & Spa this Saturday, 3/24/18, from 12pm to 1pm with over 70 other authors for a day full of books & fun!

I’ll have limited paperbacks available so if you want to grab one, be sure to hit my table first. I’ll also be selling autographed 11×17 posters, a variety of jewelry including the vampire protection necklace, earrings, and keychains. All jewelry is hand-crafted by me.

If you haven’t liked my FaceBook and page, joined My Vampire Fix readers group, or joined my newsletter, you need to do that ASAP! I have a HUGE contest coming up in the next few weeks so you will not want to miss out. Links to my readers group and FB page are below. You can join the newsletter by clicking on NEWSLETTER in the menu at the top of the page.

Until next time divas!

Peace, love, & books y’all!

Nikki

Nikki on FaceBook

My Vampire Fix Readers Group