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

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.