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 two 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 hundreds 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?

Follow Me on BookSprout & BookBub!

Can’t get enough #paranormalfantasy #vampires #shifters & #PNR ? Be sure to follow me on BookSprout & BookBub for quick updates on new releases, price breaks, book recommendations, & ARC review alerts. Never miss another update!

 

BookSprout Offers:

Promo offers such as reduced price & new releases

ARC alerts of authors you follow – be the first to know when your favorite authors are looking for ARC reviewers for a new or previously released book

 

BookBub Offers:

New release updates from your favorite authors

Book discounts from your favorite authors

Book recommendations from your favorite authors & readers you follow

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 Rebecca Hamilton? (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 Rebecca’s case, her own name) 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:

CASSANDRA DEE AND MOSAIC BOOK STUFFING

ONLINE RATINGS AND REVIEWS ARE FAKE

HAMTILTON LAWSUIT – MERGED THREAD

BOOKCLICKER

BAD ROMANCE

WHEN #COCKYGATE AND #TIFFANYGATE COLLIDE

WAIT, I’M ONE OF THE ADULTS?

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.

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.

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.

This board has seen more than it’s fair share of scammy authors. Chance Carter, recently shunned book stuffer and mastermind behind a shit-ton of author rings who were all coordinating their efforts to scam the KU program out of MILLIONS of dollars, was welcomed with open arms. And when someone linked to a blog post which spilled the beans on a ton of high profile indie and trad published authors who had been caught buying up hundreds of fake 5*star reviews, everyone was so quick to jump to their defense. I found their actions laughable considering one of the names on that list, the now infamous Hugh Howey, openly admitted on his own website and in interviews that he not only bought fake reviews, but that he systematically bought his way onto the NYT Bestsellers list. Call me crazy, but I tend to want to stay away from places that want to take up for known scammers.

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.