Why BookBub & FreeBooksy Aren’t Really Kosher

If you tend to be a big reader, chances are you are constantly being fed sponsored ads in your social media feeds for BookBub and FreeBooksy. While these sites promise lots of free books, there are a few things you need to know as a reader.

First, the “free books” is a bit misleading. First, a lot of people misunderstand their ads and think you are getting free paperbacks. That’s not accurate at all. What you are actually getting is a listing of ebooks that can range in price from free to regular price.

The price of the book it is advertised for is also only good for the day of that newsletter run. So don’t be surprised if you find a supposedly “free” book being advertised in the newsletter only to click on it a day or two later to discover it is now regular price.

Second, there is no “vetting” process. Authors have to pay to have their books featured in these newsletters, and the price tag is hefty with a book that is selling at $3 or more costing the author a whopping $3983 for a single newsletter run.

 

 

These sites aren’t vetting books for anything other than to see if they currently have a high rank on Amazon, and how many reviews they have. As previously discussed, a high-ranking on Amazon does not necessarily mean the book is any good. A disproportionate number of the high-ranking books are scammy, half-assed word vomit pushed out by book-mill “authors” looking to cash in and are paying click farms to “buy” or “borrow” their book in KU, thus artificially inflating their rankings. Also as previously mentioned, a lot of these books with an over-the-top number of 5* reviews are facilitated through fake accounts.

For this reason, those authors with the largest marketing budgets are the ones who get to apply for these spots. This means you are not always guaranteed a quality book. Add in the fact that a lot of authors purposely mis-categorize their books, and there is even less guarantee of what you will end up with in your newsletter.

So what is a good alternative? First, follow your favorite authors on Amazon to ensure you get updates on their new releases. Better yet, FOLLOW them on Bookbub rather than signing up for the BookBub newsletters. Whenever an author has a new release, you will get a short email from those authors you follow alerting you to a new release. Now, you need to understand that following an author on BookBub will only alert you to a NEW RELEASE from the author. Unfortunately, BookBub does not offer any way for authors to alert their followers of sales, etc. without actually paying BookBub for a newsletter spot.

A second good alternative is to follow the authors on social media. However, given the state of social media these days, the best way to find out what is going on is to sign up for your favorite authors’ newsletters. This ensures you stay up-to-date on all your favorite authors, their books, their sales, and what they are working on. You may even find yourself able to snag a coveted autographed paperback for less than the cost of a burger meal!

I Write My Own Damn Books, Thank You Very Much

Back in January, I unofficially announced that I was “taking a step back from publishing.” I feel there has been a lot of misconception on exactly what I meant by that. A lot of my readers took it to mean I was no longer going to be writing. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In all actuality, I have the next two books in the BTSR series ready to go to print, and am currently working on book 7 of that series and I’m plotting out what could turn in to another paranormal NA series. So, if I didn’t stop writing, then you maybe wondering exactly what I meant when I said I was taking a step back from publishing.

If you haven’t read my blog post Can We Just Real For a Momentthen I strongly suggest you take a look at it. This post helps identify a lot of what is currently wrong with the self-publishing industry right now. For all intents and purposes, Amazon has basically become the get-rich-quick poster child for indie publishing at this point. It’s the new-age MLM (multi-level marketing) scheme that thrives on hiring cheap ghost writers off of fiverr and other websites like it, shoving the atrocious books up on Amazon as fast as possible, putting them up on KU among other “stuffed” books (books that are actually several books bound together to look like a single book done so to max out the number of pages that KU allows so instead of getting a few pennies off of a 200 page book that legitimate, honest authors are making, they are raking in upwards of $15 per book for each KU read because the book is 3000 pages long), and running up the click bids on AMS ads (Amazon Ads) so legitimate authors can’t afford to run ads any more. So when you do a word search for popular categories such as romance, paranormal romance, paranormal fantasy, vampire romance, shifters, alpha romance, etc. all you get shoved into your search results are unedited pieces of drivel with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of fake 5* reviews also purchased off of fiverr.

It may surprise a lot of readers to know that such horrendous, bestselling books by the likes of Bella Forrest, Amanda Hocking, and Melissa Foster, just to name a few, have been padding their books with fake 5* reviews for years. Some of these authors have been known to hire ghost writers as well so they could push out more and more books each year, resulting in an over saturated market that has made it increasingly harder for legitimate authors to be seen on Amazon. Then we have the Chance Carters & Cassandra Dees of the world stuffing books and getting awarded All Stars bonuses from Amazon even though he is reported to have used click farms to artificially inflate his page reads. Let’s not forget the whole fiasco with Faleena Hopkins for trying to trademark the word “cocky” and force authors who had been using the word in their own book titles to re-brand books that had literally been out for years before Faleena even decided to start writing. And now we have #copypastecris going on where a self-proclaimed USA Today bestselling author (she’s not, by the way. You can actually search the list and her name has never appeared on it despite the fact she claims to be a bestseller) plagiarized at least five books by Nora Roberts and dozens of other books where she basically hired ghost writers to Frankenstein some books together for her using large sections of other, popular books that had been copied and pasted directly.

Guys, the list of the shit going on in this industry is endless.

So, let me make this as clear as possible. Every review you see on my books, and heaven knows they aren’t many, are all legitimate reviews from regular readers or a variety of beta readers that literally signed up through BookSprout to review the book. I do not hire ghost writers. I have a degree in business management and work a full-time 45-hour-a-week job. I agonize over every single last word that I write down. I have to foot the costs of editors, proofreaders, and graphic art work out of my own pocket. Taking all this into consideration, this is why I only manage to hammer out two books a year.

And nothing is going to change that.

Because I actually give a damn about the books that get published in my name. I’m not out to get rich by shoving out as many half-assed books as I can a week and dupe unsuspecting readers into buying them because I hired a bunch of click farms to buy the book, thus raising my ranking on Amazon, and I certainly do not buy a bunch of fake, 5* reviews to make readers think they are getting a good book. I’m a real person, with real social media accounts. I go to book signings. I’m not a nameless, faceless stable of ghost writers hiding behind a fake persona on Amazon. I post pictures of myself, I post pictures of my kids, I tell funny stories about what happened to me.

I am a real person, writing real books, at a real person speed. And I’m not going to apologize for that. When you follow me on social media, what you see if what you get. When you read my books, you know I worked my ass off to write them, and that **I** actually wrote them, and then had them polished by editors before they were published.

So, when I said I was “taking a step back from publishing,” I meant just that. I am still writing, and from here on out I am no longer going to sit idly by and let the Bella Forrests and the Chance Carters of the world ruin the industry that I’ve busted my ass in for the past thirty years for. When I see shitty tactics going on, I’m going to start calling bullshit, just like Nora Roberts.

Because I’m sick and tired of getting shit on in this industry. And that’s exactly what is happening to good, hard-working, legitimate writers. We are being told to stop rocking the boat, we are being forced out of the industry, we are having our books targeted by backstabbing, bitchy writers whose scams we are threatening.

Well, enough is enough. I’m going to continue to write, and at the end of the year I will once again begin publishing after I’ve got a few more books written.

And from here on out I am going to start calling a scam a scam when I see it.

I am Nicola Chey Matthews, and I write my own damn books, thank you very much.

Can We Just Get Real For a Moment?

Honestly, as much as I write, as many times as I have addressed this, I do not believe I could possibly have explained how bad the publishing industry has de-evolved as well as what Nora Roberts did in this post. 

What I do find enraging is the number of authors who are still choosing to stay in total denial about the harsh reality staring them in the faces. Yes, authors who are pushing out cheap, quick, badly written ghostwriter books are ruining the system. A real writer, one who writes their own books, cannot possibly shove out a decent book complete with developmental line editing, proof reading, copy editing, rewrites, and all the many, many necessary steps that goes into getting a book ready, in a month, and certainly not in a week. While I believe it is possible to write the first, unpolished rough draft in a few weeks to a month, it’s going to take as much time, if not longer, to adequately polish and rewrite the book. Add in the fact that most authors are working regular day jobs and are staying up late into the night to get a few words in, and you’ll quickly understand why it takes so long to write a really great book.

Authors who are consistently giving away their catalog for free or at ridiculously reduced prices are ruining the system. And yes, readers who are demanding the free and the fast and the cheap are helping to feed the beast. I know readers are on a budget, but so are the authors who write these books, and they are often having to budget the production costs out of their own personal paychecks they get from their regular jobs, forcing themselves and their families to do without so they can publish that next book. They have bills to pay, they have kids to feed, and they deserve to be paid for the work they put into these books just as much as anyone else does for the work they do for any other company.

 

The problem is, this is an ugly, cheating, greedy beast with many, many tentacles. You can’t kill the beast by ignoring any of those tentacles. because it’s going to take another swipe, and the other tentacles will regenerate.” -Nora Roberts

 

Add in the book stuffers, the scammers, the rings of so-called authors who are joining secret groups and teaching each other how to game the system, teaching each other how to lie, to cheat, to steal, all in the name of making a few quick bucks. I’ve seen this going on for years now. Run up the click bids on AMS ads from a few cents a click to a few bucks a click, choke out your competition with the sheer volume of crap. That’s been the modus operandi for years. I’ve been screaming this from the rooftops for literally five years straight at this point.

But no one has wanted to believe me. Again, just shove your head into the sand and pretend it’s not happening, because so long as your own little boat isn’t rocking, then what do you care.

Guys, we get it. Trust me, when it comes to reading on a budget, or doing anything on a budget, authors totally get it. Indies are solely responsible for footing the bill for the thousands of dollars paid out to editors, to proofreaders, to graphic cover artists, and then there’s the bottomless money pit that is marketing and promoting of the book once it’s finally ready to go to print. We are the poster children for “tightening your belt.” But if all you are looking for is a cheap, free read and you don’t care if it’s been properly edited or not, then there is WattPad, Booksie, FanFic, Fiction.net, and a whole host of other freebie websites where you can read free books and stories until your heart is content.

Going to Amazon and downloading these trainwreck books for free or cheap should not be an option. These books have no business sitting next to books that have been put through the wringer with editors and proofreaders. Amazon should be where the real books are, written by real writers who are serious about their craft. It shouldn’t be a get-rich-quick scheme populated by word vomit slapped up for sale by scam artists out to make a quick buck. Amazon should not be turned into a “book mill” farm designed to part readers from money. And unfortunately, every time you download these books, you are just feeding the beast.

Wondering what you could possibly do as a reader? First, READ THE REVIEWS. Popular books that are constantly being shoved into your search results on Amazon generally have a lot of reviews (most of which are fake reviews purchased from fake accounts, but that’s another story entirely). Look through the 1 and 2 star reviews. If a lot of the reviews point out the immense number of typos and grammatical errors, then give it a hard pass, especially if you are having to pay money for it. As noted above, there are plenty of free books and stories on other sites you can read that are probably better written and with fewer typos than the books pushed out by the “book mills.”

Second, take a peek inside the book using the LOOK INSIDE feature. You can read the first few pages of a book to get a feel for the author’s style. Granted, some authors will polish just this portion of the book so you may not find many errors. But, if you do happen to get suckered into purchasing a book that is riddled with typos, grammatical errors, and/or is a virtual trainwreck that is really difficult to read, then you can always report the book. I don’t think most readers realize this function exists on Amazon. If you scroll all the way to the bottom of the book page on Amazon, there is a little blue box with the heading Feedback where you can report a book for poor quality or formatting issues, as well as report it for inappropriate content or copyright violations.

However, and I cannot possibly stress this enough, please do not go reporting books all willy-nilly. Keep in mind in the trad publishing world, one typo/error per page is considered acceptable upon publication. For a 300-page book, that’s approximately 300 grammatical errors and/or typos that can sneak through without any problem. So seeing a misspelled word here and there is fine, but if you come across one that is littered with errors or incorrect formatting, please do report those books. Unfortunately, Amazon will only take action once the readers start to complain.

So please, if you are a reader, take back control of your reading material. Demand better. Stop feeding the beast. If you want cheap, free, and do not care about a polished product, then please browse WattPad or Fiction.net. When you go to the virtual shelves of Amazon, demand better. Expect to pay money for a book, and then expect that book to be polished and readable. No, demand it. And if it’s not, report it.

You may not think it’s really hurting anyone. I mean, if you are an author and it’s not hurting you, then why try to stop it? You’re making money, so who cares?

I care because ten years ago I was making money. I was easily bringing in as much money a year as what I would have working a regular, full-time job. My first few books were selling hundreds of copies a day. I had that beautiful orange bestseller sticker on more than one occasion, on more than one book. And then slowly, it began drying up. My books went from selling close to a thousand the first day to not even getting a dozen pre-orders. I was a forgotten commodity, tossed aside for the cheap, the fast, the free books. I, like so, so many authors, went from being on top to literally going months without a single sell despite having a back list of over 20 books.

This is why you should care. Because if it can happen to a former international bestselling author, then it’s just a matter of time before it starts happening to everyone else.

Authors, it’s time we started demanding better as well. It’s time we stop trying to play nice and stir in the shit pot. Maybe it’s time we dumped out the shit & started calling out the Chance Carters of the author world. Because when Nora fucking Roberts starts to take notice of just how fucked this industry has become, then you better believe the shit has really hit the fan.

 

#bookscammers #bookstuffers #copypastecris #tiffanygate #cockygate #indiepublishing

Read the Latest Shorts & Novels for FREE

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.

Memories in Black

“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.

Why I’m Probably Done with Being an Author

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Guys, I just. I Can’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Or so she wanted everyone to believe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Confessions of an Indie Author – What My Royalties Really Look Like

 

For the last 30 days, I’ve made $0 and sold 0 books. And chances are I’ll be making, and selling, about the same amount next month.

If you’ve ever decided you wanted to write and publish, it has never been easier, or harder, to be an indie author. The last time I checked, Amazon reported they were publishing approximately 4,000 books per day. Let that sink in. It takes me months to write, edit, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, format, & finally publish a book. And on any given day it will pop onto the market with roughly another 3,999 books who are all elbowing each other in a mad race to be discovered.

I miss the “good ‘ole days” when I could chat about my books on social media and make a decent living. Well, maybe not decent, but I could buy groceries for the month, put gas in my car, and have enough left over to fund my next project. These days, I’m spending hundreds of hours working and way too much money to get my book into production – all so I can be in the red by several hundred dollars each time I click “publish” on Amazon.

“But, Nikki, there are so many books on marketing, so many promotional and PR companies, so many marketing gurus and other authors who are making sales. Surely you haven’t tried everything there is to do to get your books out there.”

Yeah, about that. First, with 4K books hitting the virtual shelves each day, trying to get your one book (or even you as an author) discovered is like trying to get a drop of water to stand out in the ocean. It’s practically impossible. And trust me, for every one author who is succeeding at this game, there are several hundred thousand of us who are failing miserably. Like – epic fail.

Since there are now so many “writers” out there, there has been a boom in the “basement-built” companies popping up to feed off of said writers – promotional companies, marketing companies, editors, formatters, publishing houses, etc. – and most of them do not have any more of a clue about how to be successful in the publishing industry than the authors whose money they are happy to snap up in exchange for zero results and zero sales. Honestly, most of them consider “marketing” to be nothing more than posting to FB groups, creating a FB fan page, group, and twitter account, and promoting on those platforms.
As if it were that damn easy. That’s something every single author on the face of the planet is already doing, I’ve yet to figure out why authors seem to think paying someone to do the same thing to thousands of fake “followers” is going to help any more than posting to their own accounts. And if readers think the endless sea of shit-tacular books on Amazon is hard to maneuver through, you should see the ever-growing list of wannabe business owners who promise to do everything from post in FB groups to tweet your books multiple times a day – all for a price, of course. Hey, a girl has to eat I guess.

And let’s not even get on the subject of the piss-poor writers who are blowing through their savings accounts buying up their own books, buying up fake reviews by the hundreds, and paying click farms to buy and/or borrow their book and grab that elusive Amazon high rank for a whole hour – all so they can pretend they are a bestselling author and slap that lie on a book cover. Someone who is going to boast about selling 7 million copies of a book should have two things to show for it: their name on the USA or NYT Bestsellers list, and a trad publishing deal.

So here I sit, re-branding my books for what has to be the sixth time each, redoing book covers and blurbs, wasting money I don’t have on AMS ads, and writing book 5 in the Before the Sun Rises Series while plotting books 6 – 10.

Well, I can say one thing for certain. When the editors at Random House told a 15-year-old me that I shouldn’t “quit my day”, like ever, I’m glad that was one piece of advice I actually took to heart.

Just Another Day in the Life of …

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Happy Tuesday Y’all!!