How Scammers are Ripping Off Authors Now More Than Ever – And Why You May Fall Victim

“The only constant in business and marketing is everything is constantly changing.”

These were the words my professors told our class in both my intro to business and intro to marketing classes in college. I have found no truer words in all the classes I took while studying for my business management degree. If someone out there insists that they know how something in business works every. Single. TIME, without fail, I have one word for you – run.

Anyone who has spent more than two minutes in any type of business, but especially in the publishing industry, knows the one thing which never changes is nothing ever stays the same. There is no one-size-fits-all marketing plan that will work 100% of the time for 100% of the authors for 100% of all fiction books, without fail. Anyone trying to tell you different doesn’t know as much about business as the average college student still sitting in Intro to Business/Marketing 101. Veteran authors know you have to go back to the drawing board every single time, every single book, every single launch. Just like we have to have our fingers on the pulse of the next hot new trope, we also must be able to roll with the latest marketing strategies that get results.

Not sure if someone is trying to sell you snake oil or if they really know what they are talking about? Take a look at how they are actually making their money. Does the bulk of their income come from selling courses and other services that target authors, or are they making their money off doing the thing they are teaching? If you are not sure, then ask yourself these two simple questions.

Question 1: If this course worked so well, and they were able to truly turn anyone into a bestselling author making thousands of dollars every month, then why would they want to share that secret? Why wouldn’t they just do this wonderful business strategy they are peddling to produce their own bestselling books and make thousands of dollars like they claim they can do for other authors?

Question 2: Why would they also then create more competition for themselves in the publishing industry by helping other authors hit bestseller status?

The long and short of it is – it simply doesn’t make economic sense to sell an earth-shattering money-making secret and simultaneously create even more competition for yourself in the market, unless the way they are making their money isn’t by using their own advice, but selling said advice to other authors while promising them the moon (and a six figure income to boot).

This brings me to an important case study I came across when I began researching the best ways to market an indie book. Everyone knows what a “success story” 50 Shades was (and still is, considering we recently got the same book from a different POV which also sold millions of copes). However, what most people don’t know (and what EL James has tried to scrub from the internet but hey, screenshots are forever) is James used a combination of gorilla marketing and a huge pot of her own money to basically buy her way into bestseller status. Let’s take a look at the backstory.

Some people may not be aware, but before James became a world renowned author, she was relatively famous in her own circle of readers on a Twilight fanfic site. That’s right, 50 Shades started out as fanfic. But you probably already knew this. The book was initially called Master of His Universe and after prompting from readers, James self-published the book. She coerced her former fanfic fan base into nominating and then voting for the book in one of Good Reads’ many lists and contests that used to frequent the site where it ranked very well. The book would later be picked up and published by an Australian press before Vintage Books (now owned by Random House) offered her a contract. (there is a lot of interesting details to this story and I highly recommend doing some in-depths search if you can still find anything from the old archives. You’ll want to look for articles written between 2010 and 2013, anything written in the past 3 to 5 years mentions little to nothing about the origins of how all this really came about) According to one case study I came across, James spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $100K of her own money on marketing and promoting the book. If rumor serves, I believe the deals for the first movie was also signed, or at least in the works, when she was signed on with VB.

Now, James will vehemently deny spending this much money. In her own words, “I didn’t even have $100K!” But as I said, the internet is forever, and try as she did to scrub this sordid backstory from the catacombs of the past, those of us who were lucky enough to see the articles and the original posts, etc. know the real story. Fanfic and bitchy attitudes aside, there is still a correlation between this story and what it has to do with selling and buying marketing courses in the publishing industry. As far as that goes, there is a direct correlation between this story and what it takes to actually make money as an indie author. That in itself is no big secret – you have to have money, and lots of it. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In a nutshell, if you toss enough money at it, you can literally make any book into a bestseller. And while I used 50 Shades as an example, there are other books out there where authors have tossed even more of their own money into marketing their books in order to crack bestseller status. I came across one romance author who admitted to sinking $1K a day into Amazon ads just to keep her books ranked in the top 10K overall on Amazon. It’s the age-old adage where if you throw enough shit at the wall, something will eventually stick. To be blunt, publishing has turned into a pay-to-play industry where only authors who have a hefty marketing budget are able to gain any real traction. And this is a tiny little tidbit which many marketing gurus and those peddling author courses that promise to turn you into a $100K/year earning author conveniently leave out of their own marketing pitches.

I’m sure there are marketing coaches out there reading this shaking their heads muttering, “But I show authors exactly what to do and exactly how to word their ad campaigns and exactly where to marketing/promote, and the exact set of keywords they need to use on the Amazon ads to make them effect. If they follow my directions and do what I tell them then they are guaranteed to make big money!”

And what happens when the book doesn’t make the author lots of money? What is the excuse then? Will the coaches then claim it’s because the book didn’t get a proper edit or have a good enough cover or wasn’t a very well written novel? I’m sure they can sell you all those services. And do they even bother to tell authors their books aren’t up to par? What if they don’t? Then who is at fault when authors shell out thousands of dollars on these courses only to find out they didn’t have a marketable product to begin with? Where does the money pit end?

Let’s look at the flipside of that argument. What if their book has everything going for it? What if it has a killer cover, edited within an inch of its life, perfectly formatted, and written to market yet it still fails to become a bestseller? The author does everything to the letter but the book still fails to perform. Who is at fault then? Is it because the author didn’t have the money to spend on marketing (something which isn’t their fault and definitely should have been disclosed prior to signing up for any of these courses), or is it because the one-size-fits-all marketing plan just flat doesn’t work? Either way, it disproves every sales pitch used in order to get authors to sign up for their courses. You can’t very well claim that it’s just the course/advise/service that is earning an author $100K/year if they also have to sink $100K/year into various marketing avenues. When it comes down to it, any book with that kind of marketing dollars behind it will have a fairly decent ROI, as 50 Shades has proven time and again.

Do you see where this is going? There simply isn’t any way anyone can claim to make any author into a bestseller making thousands of dollars a month, no matter how “fool proof” the courses are. When the books fail to thrive, and there are many which will, it begs of the question of where the fault lies.

Thus there are two very important lessons to learn which lies at the heart of marketing courses – the first being how much time and money will ultimately be required for an author to find something that truly works for them (throw enough shit at the wall to see what sticks) through trial and error, even when following step-by-step instructions on what to do. (I wrote another article on this very thing – the three “missing ingredients” or “secret sauce” these courses do not tell you about) And second – when the book fails to thrive, where does the blame fall? Even when the book is up to par, and an author follows everything to the letter, where does the fault lie? Is there a money-back guarantee? .

This brings me to a few important questions to ask prior to signing up for any course.

1.      Is there a money-back guarantee? If the book fails to perform, regardless of the reasons, is there a money-back guarantee offered? If not, or if they offer other of their services instead of a monetary refund, then you may want to seriously rethink their offer.

2.      How much money will you need to spend on marketing and promotions after you have completed their courses and/or services? If they have a very specific marketing plan in place, then they should know how much money their plan will require to at least get it started. If they can’t give you an answer on how much money you will ultimately have to shell out to make their plan/course/services work (it just depends on your book and the genre and the keywords you use, but if you follow my instructions you’ll start seeing a ROI in no time!), then you may want to give pause. Trial-and-Error should not be a part of their sales pitch – they should be giving you hard data that clearly shows how much money their average author is spending on marketing when using their courses/services, how many sales that marketing strategy is generating, and how much net profit the author is seeing. Claims like creating thousands of authors making six-figures or that they have thousands of happy authors or pointing you to a bunch of reviews of their services should not ever be offered up instead of hard data. If the claims can’t be backed up by hard numbers, then you may want to pass it on by. And never, ever, let the company harass you, guilt you, or threaten you. Above all else, do your due diligence and research the person/company across the internet, including keywords such as “scam” and “scandal” with their names. It should go without saying any company wanting to bully, harass, or threaten you or your career, who otherwise act in an unprofessional manner online, even in private groups, should not warrant your money or time. If you even suspect the company of doing this, even in the past, it should be an automatic hard pass no matter how many raving reviews from authors. It’s not worth your hard-built career chasing after rainbows which may end up getting your butt scorched by the lightning that comes out of the thunderstorm. The quickest way to taint your name is to have it associated with a person or company who has been known to scam authors, be in legal negotiations/have been sued, who use threats/bullying, or have otherwise been involved with, suggested, or used black hat/immortal business practices to further their careers or the authors they are selling services to.

3.      Does it require signing a contract or NDA? Again, there is literally nothing anyone can teach you that isn’t already out there on the internet somewhere, in some form, if you know where to look and how to research it. Anyone who thinks otherwise and tries to force you into signing some type of contract or NDA or calling any of their ideas “trade secrets” is an immediate red flag, especially if the contract gives the company/person the right to cancel their services without a refund because the author was “suspected of leaking secrets” or otherwise discussing or disclosing any of the information. This is a loophole which gives the company a legal way to pull their services without a refund and without prior warning. Imagine shelling out thousands for a marketing course only to have the company ban you from receiving any more of the information because they suspected you had “leaked” something from their course. Short of getting a lawyer, there is little recourse for authors so again. It bears repeating for you to do your due diligence and be wary of any company who makes you sign any type of NDA or contract to gain access to courses and marketing information. And if one does require it, have a lawyer look over it before signing it. The last thing you want to do is sink your life savings into these courses only to be banned from receiving the rest of the course/service you paid for because of something in that agreement.

Right now I know there are multiples of you shaking your head mumbling, “But what about the ones who truly want to help authors out of the kindness of their heats?” To this I’m going to say, “Bull. SHIT.” and here’s why. If they were really interested in helping authors they wouldn’t be charging for their services. I’m not saying charging for things isn’t good, but let’s not sugar coat this. We’re all adults, and whether you want to admit it or not, making money off of authors has become big business in recent years. No one is doing this because they legitimately want to help others make money; they are selling these types of courses and services for one very simple reason: to make money for themselves. And that’s fine, but thanks to an influx of authors over the years because of the ease of self-publishing, it now means scammers and snake oil peddlers have a never-ending supply of authors who do not know any better, who do not do their due diligence, and are easily taken in by anyone claiming they can make all your writing dreams come true. While it is a sad fact, it is still a fact nonetheless. So again, ask yourself – if their advice works so well they claim they can easily make you rich as an author selling books, why aren’t they using this advice themselves and getting rich off of selling their own books?

For all you authors out there, be you a newbie or a veteran, take heed and use caution. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

** Chances are, I’ve hit a very big nerve with this article. Authors who were taken in by these companies and individuals who don’t want to admit they made a mistake, scammers who are pissed that I’m shedding light on this sordid topic and will begin to do damage control, and readers who may feel they were taken advantage of by buying into a hyped up book that turned out to be just another average story written by an average author. I don’t write these articles for anyone but my fellow authors as a warning. So long as we are quiet about the dark side of this industry, it allows the scammers to thrive and spread like a cancer. By not talking about it, we are indirectly supporting such companies and scammers. If nothing else, do your due diligence and stay away from any suspect company or person. Even if you are not shouting names from the rooftops, at least warn your closest author friends who may not do as much research as is required to fully steer clear of the sharks swimming in the waters. I also know there are going to be those out there who wonder what my qualifications are that makes me such an expert on all this. 30 years. That’s my expertise. I’ve spent 30+ years in this business. I have spent decades researching authors, marketing courses, promotional strategies, and everything remotely related to the publishing industry. I have been both traditionally and independently published. While I may no longer be a “bestselling” author, I have been an Amazon international “bestseller” several times over the years. What I haven’t done, however, is lost thousands of dollars on sketchy author courses and marketing classes. I did research, I compared the information available in the classes to what I could find for free online, and I asked questions of my fellow authors, many of which who were more than happy to share their own research, experiences, and techniques. I researched the hell out of companies and classes, I scoured old archives, articles, and message boards (those message boards are a treasure trove of “author beware” information on companies and individuals), and no matter how great a company looked, there was always some dark secret that surfaced when digging deep enough. Take my years of wisdom or don’t.**

Unpopular Opinion: Yes, Authors are Just as Entitled to Their Opinions as Everyone Else

Okay guys, I’m about to play devil’s advocate here. Why? Because when I see everyone jumping on the bandwagon to completely trash someone’s career, be they author or blogger, I’m not going to sit back and watch the shit hit the fan. After thirty plus years in this biz, I fucking know how hard it is to be an author, how much money it takes to properly launch a book, and how much money and time and energy it takes to try to keep that book in front of someone, anyone, who is willing to pay for it. I also know that you can literally do everything possible, literally move the earth, and it still not be enough to get your book noticed.

So I’m going to try to lay this out as clearly as possible and show the problems I have with how all this went down. First, the jest of it. To put it all into a nutshell (which, honestly, you can’t really do that and get the full story, but we can at least try to recap) a blogger wrote a review on a ARC copy they had received. Blogger did not like said book and gave reasons. Author got butthurt over a bad review and proceeded to post on her blog about her getting butthurt over the bad review. Blogger finds the post on the author’s blog and gets butthurt over the butthurt.

Pretty simple.

Not.

First, I’m going to say that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, in their own damn space. And I do mean everyone is entitled to their opinions. Personally, I think this whole “authors aren’t entitled to get hurt over a bad review and should grow a thicker skin” is a bunch of BS. If bloggers and readers are entitled to express their opinion publicly over how bad a book was to them, then by all the gods authors have the same damn right to express how much it pisses them off, or how much it hurts, to know that someone hates something that took them months, even years to write. Sure, we need to go about it with poise and grace and not go all crazy hunting down bloggers or readers who leave us bad reviews. We have to draw the line somewhere.

But in our own space, among our own fans and tribe, then yeah – we have every right to voice our butthurt.

 

 

Now granted, there are limitations to those rights. I said everyone has a right to express their own opinions in their own space. That means if you come onto MY blog post on MY website or onto MY social media thread and make a comment on MY threads, then you bet your sweet ass I’m going to defend myself. It’s my space, it’s my fans, and it’s my tribe that I’m moaning to. It’s my right to be bitchy in my own space. They get me. They understand.

It’s one thing to go into MY space and moan about my butthurt. I find nothing wrong with that. It’s when authors or bloggers go outside their own space and invade someone else’s to moan about the butthurt that I find unprofessional. And this is why I find this whole situation to be suspect.

The blogger in question admits her fellow blogger confronted the author after she came across the author’s butthurt post. And then she confronted the author herself. Let’s make this clear. The author posted a blog post on HER OWN WEBSITE. She was in HER private space, on HER website, expressing HER feelings about a review. The blogger admits to this openly, and has said this on at least one thread about all this.

Everyone on social media is calling out this author for acting unprofessional, yet the only unprofessional behavior I’m seeing here is a blogger who confronted an author after said author expressed how much a bad review hurt. In her own space. On her own social media accounts. The fact of the matter is, what started this whole thing was the author posted on her own personal blog about how much it hurt to get a bad review. And this is what happened, according to the blogger:

 

 

 

Okay, let’s make sure we have this straight. The blogger posted her review up on GR’s the same exact day the author posts her butthurt post on her website about seeing a bad review. Now, here is where I’m having more problems about all this. The author states the review she was referring to in her blog post was one she had seen on Booksprout, a website specializing in ARC reviews. Below is the author telling one of the bloggers this:

 

 

For those who do not know, when an author offers ARC copies of a book through Booksprout, we have access to see those reviews DAYS before they actually hit the platform they are being posted for. In the case of Amazon and GoodReads, I’ve seen a lag time of as much as four days from the time the review showed up on my Booksprout dashboard til the day it actually showed up on the platform it was posted to. So yeah, I absolutely believe the author when they said they were talking about a review they saw through Booksprout. The blogger assumes the author is speaking about her review because it was the first one posted on Goodreads. However, it is very possible the author was looking at her Booksprout dashboard and seeing a review on THERE that hadn’t actually posted to Goodreads yet. I know the blogger has said she knows it was her review the author was talking about because hers posted to GR first. But, as I said, when you do your ARCs through BookSprout and the reviews post through there, they show up on the author’s dashboard as much as 4 DAYS before the review actually posts on some of these platforms. So, yes, it absolutely is entirely possible the author really was talking about a completely different review that only she could see on GR at the time.

These “assumptions” being made are the very reason why no one should ever confront anyone about a bad review. It wasn’t okay for the blogger to confront the author over her posting in her own space about the review, any more than it’s okay for an author to confront a reviewer or a blogger or a reader about a bad review. Sure, bemoan about it on your own website, page, social media, private groups, etc. but do NOT call out or confront whoever left you the review. By the blogger’s own admission, that is not what happened here. The blogger actually hunted down the author and confronted the author on the author’s own social media pages and platforms. Despite the author apologizing and trying to tell the blogger she was misunderstanding which review she was speaking of, the blogger just wouldn’t let it go.

This is not okay. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why people think it was okay for the reviewer to do this.

And honestly, judging by what was posted on the blogger’s website about all this, if the screenshots taken are as bad as things got with the author, then quite frankly I honestly do not see what the problem is. The author was in her own space. The blogger invaded that personal space to call her out.

If this is not what happened then someone please fill me in. Cause I’ve been all over the blogger’s website and from what I’m reading, this is what happened.

Now – the fall out. The author was dropped by her publisher. Great. The author has been forced to completely erase her social media accounts and start all over again – from scratch. I find it ironic that the blogger specific states on a blog post over all this “I’ve seriously considered giving up everything I’ve spent years working my ass of [sic] for with our blog.” And yet this is EXACTLY what the author in question was forced to do – all because she defended her right on her own blog to post what she wanted to on her own blog.

Hell, maybe the author went totally ape shit and said some really shitty things. I don’t know. Since all her social media is gone now, I have no way of looking into this any further. All I have to go off of is what the blogger herself posted and the screenshots she took. And as I said, from where I’m sitting, I only see one person who was behaving unprofessionally – and it wasn’t the author.

The reviewer struck first, and if someone comes after you in your own space, then I say all fucking bets are off. You would get upset if someone came into your house and started badmouthing your family, right? Same damn principle. From what I’m seeing, the author was merely defending herself.

But as I said, maybe I’m missing something, or a lot of somethings.

But I will say this.

The blogger keeps saying we need a change in the book world.

We absolutely do.

We need for everyone to stop thinking they are the only ones that matter. If authors aren’t willing to write, then bloggers won’t have their review blogs. If authors aren’t willing to give away ARCs, then a lot of reviewers won’t have their blogs or be able to read books for free. And if bloggers and reviewers aren’t willing to review then authors won’t have nearly as many reviews on their books.

Let’s face it – we need each other.

But we also need to respect each other’s right to voice our opinions.

Stop confronting each other. Reviewers, write your reviews and be done with it.

Authors, don’t read the damn reviews and if you stumble across one, take the butthurt with a grain of salt.

Yes, it fucking hurts. Bloggers, do you hear what I’m saying? You know how much it hurts when authors get pissy about your bad review? Yeah, we’re hurting just that damn much because we opened ourselves up to ridicule when we opted to publish – kinda like you did when you decided to post your review. It fucking hurts when someone pisses all over your hard work, regardless of whether that hard work is in the form of a book or a book review.

It.

Fucking.

Hurts.

So everyone, please, can we just pull our heads out of collective asses and get back to what matters – writing?

Advice from Random House – The Hard Truth from Editors that Every Author Needs to Hear

I am no stranger to the indie scene, nor the trade publishing scene. In recent months, however, I have noticed a growing trend among authors who are constantly losing their cool and ranting all over FaceBook, blogs, Twitter, and writing groups about the bad reviews they are getting from reviewers. It’s something that I can no longer sit idly by and watch as countless authors step up onto a soapbox that they have no business being on in the first place.

For now, I’m going to play devil’s advocate. As I said, I am no stranger to the publishing game, neither indie nor trade. I began my decent into this dog-eat-dog world some twenty-three odd years ago, when I was but sixteen, when I first started sending out query letters to every publishing house in the country. I was met by nothing but rejection letters and a lot of well-meaning editors who were more than willing to give me advice on what all I was doing wrong, and what I needed to work on to become a better writer.

A lot of what I heard from editors was cut-to-the-bone insulting. It hurt, a LOT. I cried an ocean of tears the first few years I spent trying to get published.  I, like so many other aspiring authors, thought I had written an absolute masterpiece beyond compare.  I could not understand why they were not jumping all over themselves to publish me. Their advice couldn’t possibly hold any type of truth to it. After all, all of my family and friends all raved about how well I had done. These editors had to be doing this out of spite because their own writing careers had failed.  They just wanted to take out their own inadequacies on good writers, ruining their chances of ever becoming published. Because, let’s face it, if there was a single shred of truth to anything they were saying, it would mean I was no where near as good a writer as I thought. Worse, it would mean that maybe I just wasn’t cut out to be the one thing on this planet I really wanted to be good at, and that was weaving a tantalizing tale.

I will admit that it took me YEARS of writing and editing other people’s work before I realized that 99% of what those editors told me over the years had been 100% truth. It took me even longer to admit that I actually NEEDED to hear the earth-shattering truth as to just how gawd-awful my first attempts at writing truly were. They were not secretly out to destroy me or my career; they were trying to get it through my thick skull that NO ONE writes well the first time around, and that EVERYONE needs to practice, practice, practice in order to hone their writing skills. It took me a while, but I finally stopped whining about how they were all plotting against me and actually looked at my writing through their eyes. Only then, once I stopped being so full of myself and to actually look at the work without any emotional attachment, that I realized they were all RIGHT. Most of my first few attempts at writing novels truly sucked eggs.

The self-publishing industry has done authors a great injustice because there is no longer editors standing in the way telling authors exactly what improvements they need to make to their manuscript before it can be published. Today’s fly-by-night, work-at-home editors are out to make a few quick bucks, and the scene has been flooded with phony basement-built publishing houses filled with ‘editors’ who will take anyone’s manuscript, tell them how greatly written it is, and be more than happy to publish it on Amazon for a cut of the royalties.

It’s a business built out of scores of poor, unsuspecting writers who are so eager to become published that they will do, and believe, anything, so long as they get to see that book in print. These people never stop to think that, out of hundreds of thousands of submissions sent in to the several hundred publishing houses in the country each year, only about 1/3 of them ever get any type of contract. So why on earth would some no-name publishing house suddenly take their first attempts at writing and be willing to publish them? It never occurs to these writers that these companies are not about quality literature and making your manuscripts the best it can be; they are only out to piggy-back off of the little bit of royalties you might can make them if you have a strong enough social media presence. These writers have never had a professional editor tell them the honest truth about their manuscripts. And since none of them have ever had any type of rejection letters or had anyone to tell them the cold, hard truth of just how badly written their work really is, it has left them unable to adequately deal with reviewers who not only know what makes up a good book, but also may be editors and authors themselves.

I can honestly say that, as a freelance editor with nearly two decades’ experience, a good 95% of what I have seen come across my FaceBook feed would NEVER be allowed to see the light of day by any self-respecting, professional editor. At least, not as-is.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received in a rejection letter came to me when I was about twenty years old , and it came from an editor from Random House. The rejection letter I received (and ripped to shreds in a fit of rage) called my work ‘amateurish’ and my writing style ‘bland.’ The editor went on to say that it was ‘painfully obvious’ (one of my favorite things to say now) that this was my first attempt at writing a novel (it was) and as such he had this advice to give to all aspiring writers: Never try to publish your first book, your second book, or even your third book, because it takes a writer approximately four novels before they settle into their ‘writing voice’ and really get a feel for what they are doing.

I cannot possibly stress how right this editor was. I have seen it happen time and time again, not just in the indie community, but in the trade publishing industry as well. Those who like to read series have no doubt noticed the change in an author’s style as the series progressed, the storyline becoming richer, the characters more tangible, and the overall flow of the writing much more palatable. Whether you like to admit it or not, the first thing that you write is going to be utter crap, pure and simple. The second thing is not going to be much better.

Now that I have adequately pissed off all the authors reading this, let me say that there is hope for every single writer out there, and it comes in the form of criticism and practice. A lot of authors are cutting their noses off to spite their face by NOT listening to all those negative reviews. Sure, it’s easy to chalk it all up to haters, jealousy, people just trying to pull you down. And while there ARE legitimate cases of weird people out there who make it their sole mission in life to ruin an author, most reviewers’ only intent is to warn people away from a book they deemed truly heinous.

We have all seen the mountains of astro-turfed reviews sitting on independently published “Amazon Best Sellers,” reviews  that are all the work of family, friends, fellow authors, ass-kissing bloggers and hundreds of street team members all singing the praises of an author. So you buy the book, get a chapter or two into it and wonder how on earth anyone could think it was actually a good book. So you start looking at the one-star reviews and realize that it’s not just you, there actually ARE people out there who thought the book stunk as much as you did.

But now here’s the question: how many of those authors blew a gasket on FaceBook and proclaimed to the social media world that they were being ‘picked-on,’ ‘bullied,’ or otherwise had jealous people ‘hating’ on them because of a few bad reviews? If you see any of them doing this, what is your first reaction? Chances are you feel like telling them to grow up, and take some notes, because you actually thought the book was terribly written as well.

You’ve heard the old saying, “The proof is in the pudding.” Well, in the publishing business, editors like to say, “The proof is in the one-star reviews.” It doesn’t matter how many perfect reviews you have if people are also complaining that your manuscript sounds childish and is an editing disaster. It’s one thing when someone just doesn’t like a story for no reason other than they just couldn’t get into the storyline. There’s not a whole lot you can do when they hate romantic comedies but read it anyway and still hated it. However, when you have people complaining about actual, tangible problems within your manuscript that an editor would have warned you about, such as typographical errors, bland writing style, formatting issues, etc., then it’s time to stand up and take notice.

I have often told writers, “If you want someone to stroke your ego and tell you how great your writing is, go talk to your mother. If you want to actually learn how to become a better writer, come talk to me.” What separates a mediocre writer with great potential from a mediocre writer without any potential is ability. Not the ability to get better, but the ability to WANT to get better. A mediocre writer who thinks they don’t need to practice or listen to criticism or to improve on their craft will never be anything BUT a mediocre writer. They will turn their noses up at the fountain of help that reviewers are offering, think none of it applies to them, and will continue to float around in their self-absorbed bubble until one day their rose-tinted glasses come off and they see their writing for not only what it IS, but what it COULD HAVE BEEN this whole time, if they had only listened and taken heed to what others had been trying to tell them.

This is not meant to discourage. Writers who are willing to listen to the criticism and try to get better WILL get better. It is those writers who want to throw pity-parties about how everyone is against them that will not improve their craft. Writers need to be encouraged, yes, but they need the RIGHT kind of encouragement. So if you want to get better, to really, truly become a better writer and have a snowball’s chance in hell of making it in the writing world, you are going to have to put on your big-girl panties, listen when others are trying to help you better your writing, and DEAL with the criticism. Otherwise, you are just another lonely, bitter author raving on FaceBook about how the whole world is out to ruin you. No, they’re not. But they may be trying to tell you to take that manuscript to a decent editor who isn’t afraid to tell you that you suck.