In recent days, news began to spread of the closing of CreateSpace as the service is being migrated with the current print option through the KDP dashboard. Several months back when they announced CreateSpace was discontinuing its editing and cover creator services it was theorized CS would eventually close its doors. Well, it was theorized by me and other authors insisted I was just being paranoid. Who’s being paranoid now? So – when Amazon finally shuts down indie publishing through their platform, just remember you heard it from me first.
But why would Amazon want to discontinue selling books? They are pretty much the world leader in book sales. In fact, it’s estimated that about 35% of their total annual revenue comes from book sales. It would not make any sense for them to stop selling books.
Well, I didn’t say they were going to stop selling books. They were selling books long before they introduced KDP (the indie publishing platform which allows anyone to create an author account and self-publish an ebook to Amazon’s Kindle) and allowed everyone with internet access to start uploading junk files. It’s safe to say they’ll probably be doing it long after they’ve taken their toys and kicked us all out of their sandbox. What I’m saying is Amazon is eventually going to close down their direct publishing platform, potentially giving indies the boot for good.
The signs have been around us for years, but no one seems to want to pull their heads out of the sand long enough to see what has been staring them in the face for a good five years now.
First, Amazon closed down Kindle Worlds. For those unfamiliar with KW, this was a section of Amazon which allowed authors to write in worlds already well established by other authors. While I personally had not heard of the majority of them on there (they were mostly composed of worlds created by successful indie authors as opposed to well-known trad published authors), there were a few that I recognized, most specifically the Pretty Little Liars world created by Sarah Shephard.
Most indie authors who wrote in KW were making more money than they were with their own books. But that’s to be expected. Fanfiction is big business (hello EL James & Cassie Clare). You already have a built-in reader base who are just itching to get their hands on some new material. I can see why both the authors who created the worlds, and those who chose to step in to fill the gap with fanfiction, would find it so appealing.
For whatever reason, Amazon chose to close out KW. Maybe the authors who had agreed to share their worlds were having second thoughts, maybe they wanted a larger royalty cut and the Zon didn’t want to part with more money, maybe they just didn’t want to hire the manpower it was taking to ensure the books were up to par. At this point, it’s literally anyone’s guess, but the fact remains they chose to shut down this part of their publishing business, a part that was largely successful by self-publishing standards.
Second, there was the announcement earlier in the year regarding CreateSpace discontinuing their editing and cover design services. Now comes the obvious next move – closing down CS altogether and migrating the Print-on-Demand feature over to the KDP dashboard. Doing this makes no sense from a business perspective. They already had the CS site up and running, and it had been running long enough that most of the website bugs had been worked out. In fact, Amazon wasn’t the original owner of CS, having purchased the POD company from BookSurge back in 2005 when it was still called CustomFlix (the name was changed to CreateSpace in 2007). It begs the question of why they would want to pull a website their creative audience had been using relatively pain-free for fifteen years.
But the questions do not just stop there. Why would Amazon then hire programmers and coders to reinvent the wheel over on the KDP dashboard? The interfaces are nothing alike, and God only knows how much of a disaster the new “cover creator” is going to be for full wraps on the paperbacks. From a business standpoint, it would have made more sense to have simply created a click-through button on the KDP dashboard to take authors over to the CS dashboard where they could have continued on with business as usual. I’ve paid for my own webhosting. The price is not so astronomical that most authors can’t afford it, much less a multi-billion dollar powerhouse like Amazon. So getting rid of the website that had been around and working fine for nearly two solid decades makes little sense on either side of the fence. But I digress.
Third, there are the continued problems which have plagued the Kindle Unlimited (KU) from its conception. In the beginning, long-form authors (those who wrote full length novels and enrolled them into the KU program) soon learned there were sub-par micro-fiction pamphlets with less than 10 pages being uploaded to the KU program. Since the initial KU program paid per book read, these micro-fiction scammers were able to push out thousands of these 10 page-or-less shorts and upload them to KU, netting them upwards of $2 per borrow, a feat which hardly seemed fair to the long-form authors who were only getting paid the same amount for a 100K word novel. After everyone took to the streets screaming for an improvement, Amazon then rolled out the KU 2.0 program, a system which paid authors per page read rather than a fixed amount per borrow.
It didn’t take the micro-fiction scammers long to realize this new program took them to the opposite end of the spectrum. Now if they wanted to make bank, they would have to fill a book with as much recycled garbage as they could to net them as large of a payout as possible. They used all kinds of dirty little tricks to game the system, something which had authors utterly livid for years before they had finally had had enough of getting shafted and once again threw a big enough of a collective fit to get Amazon to take notice and do something about the scammers.
Then there is the simple fact that KU isn’t a very sustainable model, at least not in its current form. It’s estimated there are only approximately 100K KU users. At just $9.99/month for a subscription, that is only netting the Zon approximately $1M a month. Yet, the payout global fund for the KU program for participating authors has routinely been $20M/month for several months. It’s obvious Amazon is funneling money into the program in an attempt to keep authors in the program. But how long can they continue to pour money into a sinking ship? The payout per page is already less than half-a-cent, meaning authors have to have hundreds of thousands of page reads each month to even bring in a living wage. With more and more authors jumping ship to push their books to other platforms, one has to wonder just how long they can keep their own ship afloat.
Fourth, Amazon has absolutely zero quality control over on KDP. Literally anyone who has an internet connection can slap up a file, a cover, and be up and running as a “published author” in under a day. This means there are now literally hundreds of thousands of books hitting the Zon every single month. This translates into hundreds of thousands of new authors using KDP each and every day. But why does that matter?
If you are in the indie world, you have no doubt seen the drama in previous months surrounding #CockyGate, #GetLoud, #BookStuffers, and all the other drama. It basically all boils down to far too many “authors” using the KDP platform to game the system, screw Amazon and readers out of money for shitty product, and push legitimate, quality authors and their books right off the charts. The amount of money and manpower it would take for Amazon to put real people in charge of quality control over this platform far outweighs the amount of revenue it is generating.
Amazon doesn’t have to worry about any of this with trad publishers (well, they mostly don’t have to worry about sub-par books. We’ve all seen the questionable content some of these publishers have produced). They know they are going to get properly formatted books that have at least seen a cursory glance by an editor, something you are less-often to come across from a self-published book. So from a business standpoint, it makes much more sense for them to close down the KDP platform for good than to attempt to overhaul it and bring it up to the same level of quality throughout the platform as you are currently going to get from a trad published book.
And this brings me to my last point – all the bad publicity. With all the drama that has been going on, and with so many of us indies, we have all pretty much had it up to our eyeballs with shitty books hitting the #1 spot on Amazon, we’re sick of the bookstuffing scammers screwing legitimate authors out of a huge chunk of profits, we’re sick of the Zon not treating us as equals in the publishing business, and we’re really tired of being forced to compete with shitty books. Basically, we are all shining a very bad light on how the Zon operates its indie publishing platform. And as I noted above, it would cost way too much money and manpower to get that platform under control and up to trad publishing standards than what they are willing to spend.
I always knew it would eventually get to a tipping point. For many years we were all on a see-saw, teetering back and forth, talking among ourselves. But in the past few years, authors like me who have practically been forced to give up writing because Zon won’t get their shit together have become more and more vocal about just how unsatisfied we are with them, demanding we be treated better, demanding they have better quality control, demanding they actually mind their damn platform. We’ve all felt these complaints had fallen on deaf ears. But I don’t believe they have.
Taking a look at the signs from the past few years, I’d be willing to wager the Zon will eventually get tired of all the bad press we keep giving them and shut out indie publishers for good. They’ve already proven they do not care enough about us to offer up any type of real change. And the changes they have implemented, like closing down KW and CS, and making the KU platform so easily manipulated while making it nearly impossible for the little author to make any money, have not exactly been in indie authors’ best interests. We do not help their bottom line enough to warrant spending any more money on us to create a viable platform which weeds out the scammers and the sub-par books, much less give us an equal footing in the publishing world. We are a thorn in their side, the squeaky wheel which keeps getting louder as more and more of us hit the platform and voice our displeasure at their treatment of us.
So, all you conspiracy theorists out there. When KDP finally does go the way of the dinosaur, just remember you heard it from me first. I’ve already made several predictions which have come to pass, and I figure this one is coming. It’s just a matter of time.
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?
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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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.