An Open Letter to Nora Roberts (and other authors, too)

 

 

I’ve been following your blog as the #CopyPasteCris saga has unfolded, and I’ve tried so many times to comment on the posts, but words have failed me. Not because I couldn’t think of what to say, exactly, but because there simply is so much to say on the matter, and honestly, words cannot express how happy I am that someone with some clout has finally had their eyes opened to the atrocities us “small fry” authors have been enduring for a good five years now.

I do not mean that disrespectfully. What has happened to you with #copypastecris is beyond deplorable. I’ve been plagiarized myself, on more than one occasion, although not to the extent you, and so many other authors, have been suffering at the hands of this most resent, high-profile plagiarist. Even a single line taken is like a knife through the heart. Entire sections, entire books – that’s more like the proverbial sword through the midsection.

I say this because honestly, I feel like now maybe someone will actually listen. For years I’ve sat and watched an industry I grew up in, an industry I absolutely loved, de-evolve into nothing but back-stabbing authors, con artists, scammers, and wannabe “writers” who are more than willing to step on anyone and do anything, and I do mean anything, to make a quick buck through the self-publishing industry. I’ve watched no less than a dozen really great writers from my social network toss in the towel in 2018 alone.

And I may be next. Although quitting is the last thing I want to do.

The truth is, I’m tired. And with so many scammers skimming off 6+ figures a year through shady tactics, I simply cannot compete. Not when I’m barely drawing in $100 in royalties a year, and losing thousands on publication and marketing expenses.

Like so many other authors, I work full-time. Writing is my escape from the drudge of the dreary 9 to 5 I do every day. Nothing makes me happier than to sit down at my keyboard and enter into the worlds I’ve created.

But, I’ll be honest. I do expect to get paid for the hours upon hours, the weeks, the months, sometimes the years it’s taken me to write a single book. And I thoroughly expect to be reimbursed for the thousands of dollars I’ve paid out-of-pocket to have my books properly polished before publishing. If I was doing this just for fun, I’d stick with my WattPad account and stop clogging up the proverbial slush piles that Amazon has become over the past few years.

I’m hoping with someone with as much pull in the industry as you, that maybe, finally, authors and readers alike will pull their heads out of the sand and finally start demanding better. I’ve been begging, screaming, and pleading with everyone for years now to stop giving their books away, to stop pricing them so cheaply, to stop pushing out a new “junk” book every week or month and realize how much damage all this has been causing authors, to the industry as a whole.

This revolution, this epiphany if you will, it must come from the authors because honestly, readers will only continue to demand what authors are willing to give them. If all the cheap and the free went away, maybe readers would start demanding better books. Maybe they wouldn’t mind paying for the books they want to read. Maybe that $5 for an ebook wouldn’t seem so pricey if it was once again the norm. If Amazon and the other platforms would finally start manning their stores, if they would put some type of quality controls into place, if the writing world would right itself so the really good authors would once again rise to the top of the rankings instead of the top being dominated by whoever has the largest pocketbook, then maybe, just maybe, authors like me won’t have to give up on their life-long dream.

I’ve been screaming it from the rooftops, but alas, I am just a nobody-author who has been pegged as “jealous” because I’m no longer making money.

But you, my dear Nora, please keep fighting the good fight. Please give those of us whose voices have gone ignored for years now a chance to finally be heard. I’m tired of fighting this alone.

Because after more than thirty years of fighting, clawing, and having my butt handed back to me by editors, by publishers, and now by the very authors I’ve helped support over the decades, I’m not sure I have much fight left in me. There’s only so much any one person can take before they are forced to give up on their dream.

Today, I do not want to join the ranks of the really good authors who have been forced to quit.

Tomorrow, however, may be the day that I am finally forced to face the staggering odds that have been stacked against me by others in my profession.

All because no one wants to listen. After all, if it’s not affecting their bottom line, then what do they care?

 

Also on #CopyPasteCris:

Can We Just Get Real for a Moment?

I Write My Own Damn Books, Thank You Very Much

Why I’m Probably Done with Being an Author

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Guys, I just. I Can’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I Don’t Hang Out on KBoards as an Author

I heard about Kboards several, several years back. I would periodically pop in every now and again whenever I came across a thread while doing research. After everything which happened with Rebecca Hamilton I quickly realized a few things which has made me avoid the place for any real interaction with other authors like the plague.

Before I get into those reasons, I would like to first acknowledge that Kboards is a HUGE message board. I understand it takes a lot to moderate it and those mods probably don’t get paid. But here’s the thing – many of us are running several high-traffic FB groups all by ourselves and we don’t get paid either.

So with that said, here’s why I do not hang out on Kboards as an author (and why you shouldn’t either).

1: The godmodding. This grates all over my nerves more than anything. I cannot stand for someone who literally has no ties to the community or the board itself to treat it like their own personal playground. This is why I left the XN forum and no longer go on there, even to check my DMs.

2: The thread locking. And this happens on several levels. First, basically, any thread the mods think has gotten “off topic” is quickly locked and the “offending” messages either edited or completely deleted. I can’t stand this. It’s not only a form of censorship, but it is highly unethical practice in my opinion. Everyone on there is an adult. If someone is going to get butthurt over something they need to stay off there completely (mods included).

Second, they will lock a thread or close it down completely if they don’t like the “tone” of how others are talking about something. For example, they have quickly shut down the threads which brought to light the scamming of Rebecca Hamilton, the scamming of Karla Marie, and the intense talks regarding the massive number of book stuffers currently clogging up KU.

Hold. The Fuck. UP.

You have to ask yourself why any message board that is supposedly built around helping authors would blatantly shut down threads which openly try to out scammers and warn other authors. Well, let’s look at #3, shall we:

3. Kboards has knowingly had some of the members of the “community” openly encourage other writers to join some of these scammers’ groups and buy their services. Before the shit hit the proverbial fan with Rebecca Hamilton, there were numerous posts and threads about her services filled with “satisfied” members who were happily telling other authors to buy into her BS. Yet THOSE threads weren’t locked. But yet the thread about the on-going lawsuit she’s currently involved in IS still locked as of the time of this post.

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

Take away from this what you will. I, for one, may lurk, but I have no intentions of ever joining that community. I’ve seen someone make 3 whole posts and then get their butts banned for no reason other than they wanted to remain anonymous.