Calling all WattPadders! I have joined the ranks of WattPad and will be posting new short stories and full-length novels from the Before the Sun Rises Series to my account. Each week I’ll be posting a new chapter to on-going stories, books, and more. Check out my WattPad account today and be sure to follow my account and all my books to your reading list so you will receive notifications each time an update or new story is posted.
If you spend more than two seconds on FB and other social media, you have no doubt come across at least one sponsored ad post announcing how, for just a nominal fee, you too can begin making extra money by writing books.
Where do I even begin with this crock of crap? *insert eye roll here*
Okay, so the first thing you are probably asking yourself when seeing these ads (or at the first hing you should be asking yourself when seeing them) is: if making extra bucks being a writer is so easy, then why are you so eager to tell me how to do it? Why aren’t you out there writing books and making extra cash instead of trying to teach others to essentially become your competition?
There were over 100m new books uploaded to Amazon just in 2018 alone. What could these “gurus” possibly be teaching that literally tens of millions of other authors do not know?
Here’s the quick and simple answer to these questions:
First, they are not making money by writing books. They are making money off of gullible people who are all looking for that pie-in-the-sky promise to quick and easy money. Sure, they probably have a few books out there for show, but they are basically making their money off of you, not by writing earth-shattering novels that people are flocking to in droves.
“There are only so many spaces at the top, and chances of you landing in one of them without
a ton of hard-work & a whole lot of books under your belt are slim-to-none.” – unknown author
Second, there is absolutely nothing easy about being a writer.
Third, here’s what all these “gurus” aren’t telling you:
- Writing the book is just the first step. If you independently publish, you will still need to vet and hire a developmental editor, a copy editor, a proofreader, a book formatter for all the different platforms, and a cover artist.
- Thanks to all the basement-built “companies” sprouting up all over the place and put together by work-at-home moms trying to cash in on the “writing boom,” you have to know enough about all the different aspects of each of the above mentioned professional jobs to be able to properly vet and hire someone who actually knows what they are doing, rather than hiring someone who is just blowing smoke. And here’s a little hint – just because they have a large client list doesn’t mean they actually know what they are doing. With several million authors out there now, it’s easy for even the absolutely worst businesses to still turn a profit and boast a large client list.
- Writing isn’t cheap. Contrary to what everyone tries to tell you, it can take upwards of $10,000 (yes, that’s right, ten grand) to properly produce a quality product. Note I said quality.
- If you want to actually make money as a writer, you have to treat writing like a business. That means you have to learn to market everything yourself, and you also have to have a lot of disposable income to invest in marketing in order to compete with the heavy-hitters in your genre(s). And if you don’t know anything about marketing, do not want to learn, or do not have the time to learn, be prepared to come off even more cash as you plow through the PR firms and companies trying to find one that actually knows what they are doing and proves that they can turn your latest adventure into a profitable book.
- Unfortunately, just writing a good book isn’t going to make you any money. No one is going to buy a book if they do not know it exists. And marketing, at least in this day and age, is super difficult. Thanks to Amazon, all writers are being forced to compete with literally tens of millions of “first, rough-draft” books, a lot of which are burning up the charts on Amazon. You may ask yourself – if these bad books are making money, then why can’t I do the same? Well, if you have a few hundred grand sitting around to piss away, you can. Some of the most predominant authors in the romance and PNR categories have admitted to spending a hundred thousand dollars or more each year just on Amazon ads. Even the smaller authors who write in a very small niche spend upwards of $50K or more each year on Amazon ads, and that’s not counting the BookBub deals and all the other marketing that goes along with it. These days, it’s more pay-to-play, with those authors who have the cash to burn being just about the only ones who are able to claw out a space for themselves and keep their hold on the market. Thanks to Amazon, being a good author no longer means you can find an audience – it’s all about who has the largest bank account and can buy their way into a large fan base.
The takeaway for this is simple: if it sounds too good to be true, it properly is. “Make money writing books” is just the latest in an ever-evolving line of get-rich-quick money-making schemes.
Here’s a truth bomb: If I had figured out a way to make a nice chunk of change by writing books (or doing anything else for that matter), then the last thing I am going to do is sell my secret to others, create more competition for myself, and basically run myself out of business. But if I can find a few thousand people who buys my load of BS, then I’m sitting pretty with a fat bank account. Sound familiar?
And that, my friends, is why you need to ask the tough questions.
“Life distributes talent equally, but it doesn’t always distribute opportunity equally.”
Yes, I know that’s from a commercial, but it still rings true. Perhaps it rings truer for those whose life chose not to distribute opportunity to. And perhaps, it is extremely difficult for those who have been blessed with opportunity to understand why those of us who have not had such great opportunities to be bitter towards life in general. And maybe, just maybe, those of us who had someone rip our opportunities away have good reason to be the bitterest of them all.
To be successful in life, one needs to either have plenty of money, or plenty of connections. If you have connections, then you do not really have to have money. If you know the right people, rub elbows with those in the right crowd, then you can convince them to take a chance on you, your ideas, and pull those magical strings to open up all sorts of doors. And if you have the money, then doors are naturally going to open for you because, let’s face it, when you toss enough cash at something, great things are bound to happen.
It doesn’t matter how you really get to the top, not really. We’ve all heard the stories of those impoverished people who clawed their way to the top, worked their asses off, took chances. But what all that ultimately boiled down to was those people finally managed to network with just the right people so those magical doors finally opened. Let’s be real for a moment. It does not matter how great of an athlete you are if the right agents and recruiters don’t find you. You can’t become a star making mega bucks without signing a contract, and that contract isn’t going to appear in front of you if you don’t have the right people looking at you. So in essence, it really doesn’t matter how hard you work – it is all still going to boil down to making the right connections, or earning enough money to buy your way into something.
The are many problems with the “overcomes all odds” type of stories. Perhaps the one which sticks out for me the most are these people generally either do not have families who depend on them to keep a roof over their heads, or they have no real idea of what it means to truly be impoverished. I’ve read stories where people literally wiped out their entire life savings or spent their last dime to bring life to their idea, gambling everything they had on something they believed in. For those of us who have literally been one paycheck from having their children become homeless, doing something so reckless to risk their children’s well-being is truly horrifying. If you have never been in a situation where you literally feared your children would be taken away from you because you lived in substandard housing and had no way of digging your way out of the hole you were in, then you can’t imagine just how precious a few extra bucks can be. When you literally know feeding your children this month means your electricity gets cut off, then doing something like gambling away your last few bucks all because you “believe so strongly in your idea or yourself” seems so damn idiot and reckless. People like that, people like me, do not have the luxury of betting the entire farm on something, no matter how much we believe in our vision.
We read these types of stories, but for every one that ends up in a happy ending, there are literally hundreds of others who have ended up homeless, on the streets, or so far in debt that their previous situation looked like a vacation. We never hear about those people, only the ones who “make it.”
But what about those of us who could have had a chance? What about those of us who literally had everything lined up to finally break free from the never-ending loop of poverty and living paycheck to paycheck – only to have life basically spit on us?
If you are still reading this, then I hope you will stay with me just a little longer. I’ve avoided talking about my past for good reason. I’ve hinted at the hell I grew up in, but have never really went into much detail. I’m still not to the point where I feel comfortable sharing too much about what happened to me, and honestly I’m not sure I ever will. What I’m about to write, to share with you, is something very, very few people know about.
It’s become common knowledge I grew up in an abusive household. I refuse to go into any more detail than that. It was what it was. Truth be told, my father was just as likely to ask me how my day was when I walked through the day as he was to punch me in the face. I lived in constant fear that something I did was going to piss him off, send him into another rage. There were some days I honestly wondered if he was going to end up killing me. I learned to cover up the bruises, to lie to everyone around me, and just pray to whatever God might hear me that I would live long enough to graduate high school so I could finally be free.
Most people know I grew up in extreme poverty. My father had heart disease, and I don’t ever remember a time when he worked. My mom carried the weight of the household bills on her shoulders. She didn’t have a formal education, and thus her career choices were limited, made even more so by the small town we lived in where work of any kind was slim, much less a job which would pay all the bills on a single income.
Looking back, I now realized she shielded me from my father’s rages. He had always been my knight in shining armor as a child. It didn’t matter that I only had 5 pairs of pants to my name and I only ever got short sleeve shirts to wear. It didn’t matter that you could see the door beneath our house through the slats in the floorboards. And as hard as it was going to school with kids who made fun of me because we didn’t have nice things, somehow it didn’t really matter because, once I was home, I was safe – and I was loved.
Then, when I was ten years old, my entire world ended. My mom left, so it just became me and my dad. Without my mom there to witness the rages and shield me from them, my knight in shining armor suddenly became the beast I feared more than anything else. The once happy home became my prison, and all the hiding places which had brought me hours of pretend play in a fabulous fantasy world suddenly became a nightmarish hell I could neither escape nor wake from.
For nearly 9 years I lived in constant fear. I never ate because there was hardly any food in the house, and I stayed so upset all the time I generally puked everything back up on the rare occasions I did decide to consume food. My dad was great about reminding me how much of a burden I was, so I never asked him to cook me anything as this oftentimes sent him into a rage. I was emaciated, and everyone at school just assumed I was purposely starving myself. I lived for years with everyone whispering behind my back that I was anorexic. Having them think I had an eating disorder was much more desirable than the truth.
I’m not going to go into details about the depression, the many suicide attempts, the problems I had with cutting. Anyone who has followed my career knows I still owe my life to Bret Michaels – the one bit of brightness in my dark world. My mentor, my hero, my beacon of hope in the rough seas that was my life, the lifeline I clung to as I slowly drown in despair.
Here’s what a lot of people don’t know, though. Not even my family knows this. And this is why I tend to be so damn bitter and withdrawn.
My father pissed away my six-figure college fund. How’s that for a grand screwing?
As I mentioned, my dad never worked. He had been trying to get on disability pretty much my entire life. He had been on it once, right around the time I was born, but had been cut off. After years of fighting with the courts, it was finally determined he should have been on full disability. More importantly, it was determined he should have been drawing this disability for more than a decade. That meant back-pay for all those years. And not just on him – on me, and my mom.
My dad had initially refused to sign the divorce papers after my mom filed them. He was intent upon punishing her, and was going to force her to wait the whole 5 years before the courts granted the divorce. But as soon as he found out he was going to be getting back-pay for his disability, he signed those papers quicker than you can say what the fuck.
When those checks came in, my dad didn’t tell anyone. He was recovering from surgery, and it was my cousin who took him to the bank to deposit the checks. She told me, many, many years later, that he had received 3 checks – one for him, one for me, and one for my mom. Nearly twelve years in back pay, at over $2500 a month. You do the math.
It sounds like a dream come true, right? We would never have to worry about money again. We could finally get a decent house, I wouldn’t have to wear clothes from rummage sales, and we could afford an actual car and groceries for once.
Except none of that ever happened, because no one knew the money existed but my dad, and my cousin who happened to get a glance at one of the checks. She wasn’t supposed to have seen them, and she was smart enough to keep her mouth shut while he was still alive.
My dad ended up with a bad gambling problem. He liked to pretend he had money, liked to go the casinos as a ‘high roller’ where he finally got the attention and devotion he craved. There’s nothing like going from being a big nobody to suddenly having money. It makes everyone want to be your friend, to be by your side.
And then there was the endless stream of gold-digging whores he spent thousands of dollars on. I remember one Christmas he bought his girlfriend at the time a full length mink coat and a one-carrot diamond ring. Me? If memory serves that was the year he spent a whole $30 on a porcelain doll I had been eyeing for months. That was the only thing he got me, but at the time I felt so damn grateful, because you don’t spend money on someone you don’t love, right?
For nine years I walked on eggshells. I lived in fear of his temper and his fists. I cooked for him, I cleaned the shack we lived in while he laid up in bed, I excelled in school. I did everything I could to make my dad proud of me, subconsciously hoping I’d eventually be good enough for him to love like he used to.
My mom eventually found out about the money, although I’m not sure she knew exactly how much he had received. Legally, she was entitled to half of the settlement. She was entitled to half of the 6 acres of land he owned, could have forced him to sell the house and the land and the mobile home which was still in both their names and give her half of it. But she didn’t. She agreed to not take anything, not a single dime, under one condition – the money he received in her name was to be put into a trust fund for me to go to college.
He agreed, of course. And just like she had done before, she took him at his word. As far as I know, there was no formal paperwork involved, just her trusting he would take care of me, do right by me. She was still blissfully unaware that I was now standing in the same place she had been, with no one to shield me from the monster that no one else knew existed.
Despite everything, I still managed to graduate as one of the top 4 students in my class, with a 3-way tie for salutatorian. I managed to make a 29 on my ACT on my first and only try. Despite my 3.8 GPA and test scores, I was not offered any scholarships save for 4 semesters paid tuition at a local junior college. Just another small town nobody who wasn’t going to amount to much of anything.
And there was no trust fund.
Not that it mattered, because I didn’t even know there was supposed to have been one.
You see, I actually did have opportunity. My story would have been one of those you read about, where I would have overcome so much adversity to finally reach my goals. I could have gone to any college in the country. Between my grades and the money which my father promised to keep aside for my college, I would have been able to get my PhD. I could have started my own business. I could have done anything with my life.
Except my father pissed away my college fund.
And I didn’t even know just how bad he had screwed me over until years after he had passed away.
So you probably know the ending to this story. I did not go to college until I was 33 years old, and even now I’m up to my eyeballs in student loans for a degree that has not made me one single penny more money than what I could have made without it. I’m still struggling in a dead-end job, writing on the side, and always fighting with myself to just keep going when all I really want to do is toss in the damn towel and say fuck it.
Because life has done nothing but beat me down every fucking step of the way.
The harder I fight, the harder life fights back.
Every step I take trying to claw my way to some sort of life where we don’t live paycheck to paycheck, I end up with hundreds of people kicking me in the face as they step on me to obtain their own goals. The harder I work at writing, the more society rewards those who game the system. The harder I work at my regular day job, the more work they pile on me, and the more promotions I get passed over for. The more I try, the more life is determined to keep me beaten down to the point where I’m once again suicidal, depressed, fighting those constant inner demons which have been my companions for more decades than I can count.
I was one of those who should have had a rags-to-riches story, a ‘overcomes all odds’ type of story.
But I’m not.
I’m just a 43-year-old woman who still gets triggered on a regular basis by something someone says to me, who fights depression every single day of her life. But somehow, despite everything, I still manage to put one foot in front of the other even though I know I will NEVER have anything more than what I have right now. I’m a mom who tries to shield her kids from the horrors of this world, who wishes I could give them more and knowing I will not ever have the means to make their lives easier.
It seems that no matter what, I’m always going to be that scared little girl clinging to a porcelain doll in a pretty lavender dress, hoping that some day, somehow she will finally be good enough for her daddy to love her again – even when she knows that will never be possible.
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.