Predators in the self-publishing world

Predators in the self-publishing world

What is about to occur in this post is a rant. There will be gratuitous usage of swearing and math. You’ve been warned. /rant on

Hello My Lovelies,

Here’s the backstory to this week’s rant. Two years ago I stumbled upon a writing class and fell in love with the teacher and their method of instruction. I joined their newsletter and their endless amount of Facebook groups. I sent all my novice writer friends to the groups to find their support system. It was an amazing time, and I learned a lot, or I thought I did (but that’s another story for a different day). Then the number of their emails quadrupled (there were days when I received up to ten emails). Each email had links to everything from journals at Amazon to expensive lessons from those they believed would alter our writerly lives forever. After a while, I began to realize that this individual didn’t know anything more than anyone else and their do-it-yourself MFA wasn’t going to make you a better author. You didn’t need every single product they offered on how to plot a book, how to blog (and when they got tired of blogging their anti-blogging classes), and you don’t owe them a monthly stipend via Patreon. Also, you don’t need to follow their lead and buy every single product or service they advertise in every blasted email or Facebook post that they are getting financial kickbacks for.

I was a dedicated follower, and I admit it. If they needed help with anything, I would do it. The death knell began when one of the group leader’s buddies (a published nonfiction author) told a newbie to put their book up for sale without editing it so they could make money to pay for the editing. Really? The final nail in the coffin was when the group leader put up a GoFundMe to help their admin buy a car.

Seriously? What the bleep does that have to do with writing? Why is that acceptable, when you remove every similar post put up by other members of the group because it’s self-promotion (even when the posts were put up by other members of the group)? How is your post not self-promotion? When I asked you about it, you told me how much the admin does for the group and how you personally pay him for ten hours of administrative work each week, but it wasn’t enough to help him get a car. I listened as you told me that he works tirelessly for you and how some weeks he spends more than sixty hours doing the work you need to be done for little financial compensation. The implication was clear, the members of the group owed him a car because we make him work so hard.

Then you say how you’ve done so well selling your classes, through affiliate programs, and Patreon that you quit your job to write full-time, and travel to conferences. Here’s a novel idea, pay your admin assistant a fucking livable wage. You even had the gall to tell me how selfish I was to consider this GoFundMe unfair to the other 10,000 members of the group. All because I felt the need to point out the number of requests you and the admin removed in the past from members who lost their homes in fires, had cancer, or other major catastrophes and needed a little financial help? How your post seemed like a slap in those people’s faces. I was offended when you told me I was ridiculous for finding your post somehow wrong. After all, it’s your group. You’re right, I was ridiculous. Ridiculous for not realizing the truth for eighteen months. The truth that your groups aren’t there to benefit anyone or anything other than your financial bottom line. So I left your groups but kept myself enrolled in one of your newsletters.

mistakes-1756958_1920Now that you have the backstory my lovelies let’s get to the point of this diatribe.

Yesterday I had a newsletter from this person. I opened it and read it, and then I lost it. I started cursing so loudly that my mother felt the need to tell me to stop (that doesn’t get old at 49 years of age let me tell you). I had to show it to my sister so she could understand why I was so pissed (sorry Mom, not sorry). In this letter, the person I’ve been talking about mentioned their new service. Perfect for the self-publishing author. A service designed to help them self-edit their novel. I just don’t have words for how I feel about this (total lie, I have words they’re just really bad words).

For the amazing price of $40 their admin assistant (in real life a community college student and an intern for a literary agent) and their child, also a college student, will edit FIVE pages of your manuscript and give you a detailed editorial letter so you can make changes through the entire manuscript. What the ever-loving fuck (still not sorry)? Five pages works out to about 1500 words. Most editors will charge around one cent per word for a copy edit or three cents per word for a developmental edit on the entire manuscript. How the heck are you going to give them a detailed editorial letter on a standard manuscript after only reading 1500 words? What about the remaining 48,500 words (I know most novels are longer. Heck my first was 84,000 words)? Why are you telling writers to self-edit a novel they plan to self-publish when anyone with half a brain knows they’re too close to their own work and won’t see where the pitfalls are?

So here’s the best part, they’re also offering beta reading services. For the bargain basement price of $150 – $200, they’ll beta read your manuscript and critique it for you. I guess those of us who’ve been doing it for free are feeling pretty stupid right about now. I should have charged for the sixty-two books I beta read last year while working on my own manuscripts. Wow, I wasted the chance to make nine grand by giving it away to my fellow authors, who knew? (yes, that’s sarcasm. I would never charge for beta reading.)

I hate predators, and that is exactly what this person is. They’re preying upon those who want to be writers. The classes, the GoFundMe’s, Patreon, all the affiliate programs, and now editing/beta services are preying on those who trust them, who believe in them. I got smart and left the groups, so I didn’t feel beholden to this individual any longer. This is after I spent far more money than I want to admit for their classes, programs, and other crap, but their group keeps growing today there are over 16,000 members who’ve all drank the Kool-Aid this person sells.

If only one percent of their main group buys this new service at the lowest possible price point of $40, that’s $6,400. If half of those decide to buy beta services, at $150 and receive the discount for the self-editing package, you are looking at $8,800. How can a person who exhibits this type of predatory behavior on those who trust them sleep at night? I don’t know about you, but that seems like a lot of money for what amounts to nothing useful to the person who purchases it. I guess it really is a case of buyer beware. So please, my lovely writer friends, check out your editors before you hire them. Don’t make the mistakes I made with book one (a mistake I’m still trying to fix). Remember, a college student and a literary agent’s intern aren’t the skilled professionals you need to make your baby shine. One last thing, if you need a beta reader message me and I’ll see if I can fit you into my workload. I promise I won’t charge you and if you don’t like what I have to say you can find another (in fact, I insist you find as many as possible). /rant off

Love you all,

V. L.

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Hello My Lovelies,

To ARC or not to ARC that is the question of the day. Advance Readers’ Copy, or ARC, is a free book that we give away to advance readers in hopes of receiving an honest review in the first week of publication. I didn’t do this with Golden Opportunity, so I only have eight reviews. With Seas of Gold, I decided to see if I could get more reviews and maybe sustain sales a little longer. I offered advance reader copies to my email list of 650 subscribers and ten took me up on the offer.

Untitled designI  did a little research into other authors’ opinions of ARC readers, and I’ve found they fall into two camps. Camp One, these authors love their ARC readers and claim that at least fifty percent of their ARCs turn into reviews in the first seven days of release. Camp Two, claims they no longer use ARCs because they get no reviews. Of the two camps, I tend to believe camp two is the more honest based on my own experience with ARCs. In seven days, I’ve received one review from the ten advance reader copies I gave away. I’m at a ten percent return on my ARCs. I know it sounds like I’m pouting or whining and I guess I am to some degree, but I think we need to look at this a little more realistically. When a reader accepts an ARC they are taking it with the knowledge that the author has requested a review in return for advanced exposure to the book. I know it’s wrong to consider this a contract of sorts, but let’s be honest…it is. So I gave away ten copies with a sales value of $49.90 which would have returned approximately $35. In the grand scheme of things, I guess $35 isn’t much to give away, but I paid for several things out of my own pocket before publication, so I started in the red to the tune of nearly $1800. Any money I earn will go back into the pot for book three’s cover, editing, and everything else. I’ve always said I only want to make enough to pay for the next book and this is still true even though I haven’t managed to do it yet.

When you take into consideration the problems other authors have had it makes ARCs too great a risk for such a little reward and I’m seriously considering either creating an ARC team of vetted reviewers or stopping ARCs altogether. I guess we’ll see in October when I’m ready to release ARCs for Golden Parachute. I’ve received ARCs from authors in the past, and I will hopefully do so in the future, and I will always review in return to thank the author for the trust they’ve given me.

Love you all,

V. L.

Happy Release Day!

Happy Release Day!

Happy Release Day My Lovelies,

That’s right, Seas of Gold (Book 2 in the Custodian of the Golden Assembly series) is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iBooks. It’s $4.99 for ebook and $12.99 for paperback thanks to Createspace. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. As a treat, here’s the opening lines of the book:

“Heat from the summer sun radiates on me from above with the delicate hand of a blast furnace. Sweat trickles along my brow in a salty deluge of stickiness burning my eyes, giving me a case of boob sweats. Grass and weeds from the pasture scratch me from every angle as I evade my stalker.”

Is it wrong that this is my favorite line I’ve ever written? Seriously, how often can you discuss boob sweat in the first two lines of a book?

lower priceAlso, Golden Opportunity is going to be free for the next few weeks. If you try to purchase it at Amazon and it is not free, could you please click the “tell us about a lower price link” (see photo) and provide them with the links to prove its price (Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks). Thank you so much, I appreciate your help.

Love you all,

V. L.

A Quick Update

A Quick Update

Hello  My Lovelies,

I promise no ranting today. Today is just a quick update about Seas of Gold and maybe a couple other things. Like my main character, I have a hard time sticking to a plan. So let’s get this show on the road.

giphy (5)First, Seas of Gold is available for pre-order and goes live on September 1, 2017. I can’t believe it’s just two weeks away! I’ll have links to the pre-orders available at the bottom of this post. Second, my new editor is about halfway through the edits on Golden Opportunity, and I think you’ll really enjoy it. I promise far fewer mistakes, though I’m sure one or two might get through since no one is perfect. Third, I will have the cover for Golden Parachute in November, and I expect it to release in December of this year. I’ve placed the orders for covers for books 4 (Black Gold) and 5 (Golden Girl). I expect these to be released in March and April of 2018.

giphy (3)Now for my final piece of writer type news. I am working on a new series set in the same world as the Golden Assembly series. This one is a paranormal romantic suspense, and I really hope you’ll enjoy reading it. I don’t have a release date scheduled yet, but I would expect it to come out somewhere between book 4 and 5. A lot depends on my editor, my betas, and my cover designer. I’ll keep you posted. I will give you a couple pieces of information about the series, it’s a retelling of tragic love stories throughout history, like Tristan and Isolde, Paris and Helen of Troy, or Heloise and Abelard, and will take place in modern upstate South Carolina. It focuses on daimons who are also operatives for the Golden Assembly’s artifact retrieval team. A team that my sister wants me to name the Surreptitious Heirloom Investigations Team. The acronym seems a bit risky, so I responded with Tactical Artifact Retrieval Team. Its acronym seems a bit more safe, though far less amusing. We’re still working on it (translation: arguing daily). If you can think of an acronym that might be a little less offensive, feel free to share it in the comments I’m open to suggestions. Bonus points to anyone who can come up with the name for a similar team of bad guys who steal the artifacts for nefarious purposes. Also, there will be crossover from the Custodian series but not necessarily in every book.

I love you lots,

V. L.

giphy (4)P. S. Here are the links for the pre-order: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and Apple

I’m Disgusted…

I’m Disgusted…

giphyHello My Lovelies,

I don’t understand people some of the time. The margin for self-pubbed authors is slim. Let’s be brutally honest, by the time a book is published we’re usually in the hole for a substantial sum of money when you count editing, covers, proofing, and formatting. If you count the costs of contests, giveaways, ARCs (advance reader copy), advertising, etc. the amount of red ink in your balance sheet can be overwhelming. Then add in the fans who think a $4.99 price tag for an ebook is too high, or who believe there is nothing wrong with “sharing” an ebook with the general population and it gets even worse.

I follow a lot of fellow authors on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and various author blogs. Today, one of my favorite paranormal romance authors made a post on Facebook telling her fans that someone received an ARC and released it in a free ebook group. What the bleep? Do people not realize the level of trust an author is giving to this reader? An ARC is a mutually beneficial exchange. An author gives a book before release to a fan, in return, they are asking for a review on release day. How flipping difficult is this to comprehend? What in the world makes it okay for you to take the blood, sweat, and tears of an artist (yes, authors are artists) and give it away? What the heck is wrong with you? Are you so self-absorbed that you don’t realize what you did is STEALING?

giphy (2)Most authors don’t write to get rich, we write to share our stories with the world. If we can make enough to cover the costs for the next book we write, then we’re doing great. Elle Boon’s heroes are my goto book boyfriends, but none can beat out Turo, the wolf shifter and the main subject of her next book. I’m waiting patiently to receive my copy on release day like most of Elle’s fans. To the skank who released Elle’s book to the masses without a thought to the cost of your decision, I hope you realize what you’ve done. Not only did you violate the relationship between author and advanced reader, but you’ve also made it so that Elle will no longer give out ARCs…good job!

giphy (1)There is a little karmic justice in the world, Elle used InstaFreebie to send out her ARCs, and she knows exactly who ripped her off thanks to the tracking code installed in the book. I hope she uses every legal means available to her to make sure you learn a valuable lesson about violating trust.

Till next time, I love you lots,

V. L.

The Search For My Ideal Reader

The Search For My Ideal Reader

Every author, blog, group, chat, or marketing guru who has an opinion on how to be an indie author states that we (the author) need to know who our ideal reader is. Heck, I don’t even know what my ideal book to read is, how can I know who my ideal reader is?

So I sat down and thought about it and here’s what I’ve come up with to solve my perfect reader dilemma…questions.

Does your book have excessive bad language and/or sexual situations? Are the sexual situations any of the following:

  • Multiple partners?
  • Daddy issues?
  • BDSM?
  • Fetishism?

If you answer yes to any of the bulleted situations, you’re writing for an adult. If not, then the jury is still out so let’s continue.

What is the age of your main character?

The odds are if there are children as the protagonist you’re writing either MG (middle grade) or YA (young adult) novels. So your ideal reader is someone younger.

Is there a major romantic component in your story?

Is there excessive violence?

Does your main character have any personal issues that may be difficult for someone under the age of eighteen to understand?

What is your character’s gender? If you didn’t know the character’s gender would the story read the same?

The answers for the Custodian of the Golden Assembly series are:

  1. Yes, I have bad language in my book. I do not believe it’s excessive, but I do believe it is too much for someone under the age of 16 to read. While I have lots of innuendo about the male body and eye candy’s importance to a female of a certain age, there is only one kiss in the entire novel, so sex is not an issue. Apparently, I’m writing for an adult.
  2. My main character is forty-four-years-old, so again I’m writing for an adult.
  3. Yes, there is a romantic component to my story which does become important in later books, so again I am writing for an adult, but romance isn’t exclusively adult in nature. Kids have romance too, and it should be important to YA authors to remember the passion.
  4. Hmm, excessive violence? My MC threatens a gnome, fights a serial killer, and threatens her ex-husband. I don’t think it’s “excessive.”
  5. As for the next question, are an addiction to chocolate, being prone to melodrama, and having self-esteem issues challenging for a younger individual to understand? I doubt it.
  6. Finally, my character’s gender is female (duh), and no, the story wouldn’t read the same if I changed the gender or hid it. Although, I could change the gender of my male and female leads and it would probably still work.

So here’s what I’ve got: I’m writing for an adult.

Well, that’s not much of an ideal reader description. So I go back and look at all my answers, and I realize one thing, the person I’ve written for is me. Seriously, I wrote this book to be read by a fortysomething, divorced, possibly childless woman who believes that life doesn’t end at thirty-five and those women deserve to be respected, honored, revered, and loved for what they bring to the world. This does not mean men won’t enjoy my books. I hope they do, but there are things in my books a man might not appreciate (can you say junk check?), though I hope they’ll try anyway.

Until next time,

V. L. COoke

The Story of a Self-Published Scammer … A Must Read for Every Author

The Story of a Self-Published Scammer … A Must Read for Every Author

In March, I took Golden Opportunity out of Kindle Unlimited. There were several reasons I chose to do this, but the simplest reason was money. It wasn’t paying me to keep the book in KU. While I acknowledge my books was less than perfect and since I don’t have a huge backlist taking it out seems foolish the truth is I don’t like being forced by Amazon to beg for crumbs from the tables of scammers.

In my best month I managed to eke out 2,000 page reads in KU. All of which means I made approximately $8.50 for my 2,000 pages read through their ten dollar a month program. Somehow this seems off to me. While I’m more inclined to believe it has to do with my being unknown, the fact my book needs to be edited better, and a myriad of other issues that I take responsibility for. It’s hard to reconcile it with people like the one in the article below. I believe every self-published author should read this and I hope you all will. When you’re done, come back and see what I discovered about the author in question. Thanks.

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts. The Kindle Store is officially broken. This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed […]

via Scammers Break The Kindle Store — David Gaughran 

I was curious about the person who would use a clickfarm to game the system. I found his blog and I found this intriguing interview where he shares this gem with the world: “First and foremost I am a philosopher, an aspect of myself that is deeply ingrained in anything I write. Ever since a young age I deigned to think of questions to reality and challenge our perception. I would consider myself a natural skeptic, a characteristic that spills into any endeavor. I am a very competitive person, but also a calm soul. A little bit of fire and ice packed into one form.” Philosopher? I guess that’s one word for it, although I would have went with arrogant, self-absorbed, elitist, but I digress.

I also found his Twitter account. An account created in March of 2017 while his book came out in October of 2016. Gosh, if only you’d put your social media presence to work before you resorted to ripping off your fellow authors this might have been a different post.

So, using my newly discovered internet stalker skills I went to Amazon and found this literary gem (Yes, that’s sarcasm. Yes, I know it’s the lowest form of wit. Yes, I just declared myself to be a little stupid). Inside the book, thanks to Amazon’s Look Inside feature, I discover the author is such a scammer he can’t even come up with an original idea to work from on his own. The book is a poorly written knock-off of Eragon. Shame on you Mr, Karadjian.

The rest of his books include a duet of fantasy novels and a memoir. I won’t say anything about the memoir because you never attack someone’s family, but those novels are fair game. How do you feel knowing the second book in your series has a four-star review which reads: “I received this book from the author for an honest review. This book is definitely better than the the first in the series. It answer a few if the questions that were left by the first book” and came out the same month as your book Dragonsoul?

I’m sorry that you felt the need to do what amounts to cheating, but where’s it going to get you in the end? If your product sucks then no one is going to tell their friends to buy it and this little surge you got by paying for your clicks is going to fall sooner than you realize. What then? Perhaps this author says it best with the title of his article.

Love you all,

V. L.

P. S. I’m open for Reviews or Beta Reading, just use the contact form.