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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Judgments

Judgments

Hello My Loves,

There was a post on Facebook today by an author I follow. I won’t share the author’s name because I don’t have permission. It was the content of the post that bothered me. She was basically apologizing to the people who follow her for talking about a vacation she’s planning on taking. A trip she’s been planning for over a year.

This author is an amazing lady, and I adore her books. She’s also a workhorse when it comes to writing. She writes non-stop and turns out four or five books a year. She makes enough self-publishing, so she no longer has to work at anything other than writing. She’s living the dream so many of us share, yet she felt the need to apologize for taking a couple weeks off…why? Seriously, why? And who the hell had the cajones to get snarky about a woman’s vacation strictly because they like her work? Sorry, I love writing, and I love meeting my readers, but if any of you were to do that to me, you’d get an earful of blistering blue language that will peel the skin off your ears.

Untitled designEarlier this week a woman I know from school wrote about how people were judging her for going to Walt Disney World with her children. The trip in which she’ll be staying at a value resort she and her husband had paid for before her husband lost his job. Yes, they’re struggling right now, and she could have canceled the trip and recouped some of the money she’d spent, but she feels her children deserve the trip. Yet, people feel they have the right to judge her for keeping a promise she made to her children because her husband is without a job? If her bills are paid, and there’s food on the table, what right does anyone have to judge how she spends her money? Is it because they think they know her life and have a right to comment on it? Or is it that they never got over being mean girls from high school?

I’ve seen other authors post about trips they’re planning for research, yet no one questions how they spend their money, and I have to wonder how much of this is because they are more famous and traditionally published. If it’s alright to judge either of my two examples, then you should have the right to judge everyone equally, am I right?

How about if you see an obese woman buying a dozen donuts, are you going to give her a lecture about wasted calories, junk food, and healthy eating?  Or are you going to talk behind her back? What about someone getting a five hundred dollar tattoo? They could probably make a car payment with that kind of money, why should they defile their skin with ink? No, I don’t really feel that way. I love tattoos and donuts. What is going on in the world that we no longer respect peoples’ right to privacy?

GUILTY!I am guilty as anyone else when it comes to this. I have made judgments and comments I had no right to make. Some political in nature, some personal, all wrong. I’ve been the woman buying donuts, I know how she felt. I’ve been a person judged for doing something as simple as buying an expensive gift for a family member as a way of saying thank you, and it didn’t feel good. I learned from it. I learned how to quash my judgmental nature and accept people. I think we need a little more of that in the world, don’t you? So share your triumphs, whether it be a book, a trip, a hot guy, or even just a weekend of Netflix and chill. I will cheer for your successes, just like I will cry when things don’t work out the way you intended. I’m always here for you. If anyone says anything negative feel free to send them my way, I’m trying to expand my creative cursing and could always use a willing victim.

Love you all,

V. L.

I’m a realist, which is kind of odd for a creative type person. I spend my free time immersed in fantasy worlds, yet when I’m not writing I understand the harsh realities of life. So when an author on Facebook made a post about what piracy is in the creative world, I kind of ignored it and moved on. I already knew what piracy is. The post made me think about the cost of piracy and what it would do to someone like me.

I do not condone downloading books from torrent sites (not that there are many of those left) or from other piracy sites, the same with movies, music, television shows, or anything else you can download. If I can’t afford it I save up and buy it when I can. That’s how I live my life, but I know others don’t feel the same way.

Imagine my surprise when I searched my book and my name and found that it’s available for free. Why? Is $2.99 for a Kindle copy and $9.99 for a paperback really that much to ask for a book that I spent hundreds of hours and nearly $1,800 to bring to life? Obviously it is, because I’ve made less than $60 in three months, and people are able to download it for free from these sites. I’ve submitted requests to have it taken down and have been ignored, or told that I have to prove I’m the author. I guess paying for a copyright will be of some use after all, but why should I have to? Why do so many people think it’s okay to take away from an author’s livelihood, whether they be traditionally, indie, or self-published?

no-piratesI’ve made it my goal to fight piracy in all forms. If I know someone who does it then they can expect to be called out on the behavior. If I find a site with my book on it, I will send them a takedown request. Fighting piracy is my number two priority for 2017. My number one priority is to get Seas of Gold ready to publish for those who like Golden Opportunity. To me 2017 will always be known as the year of anti-piracy, which is so much better than the year of loss that 2016 was, in my opinion at least.

What is 2017 going to be for you? What change will you create in the world, even if it’s just a minor change? I’d really love to hear from you.

V. L. Cooke

Shaking My Head At Myself

Shaking My Head At Myself

I belong to several Facebook groups for fiction writers, I’m not going to tell you which are my favorites, but suffice to say I have a couple that I read several times a day. During the last couple of months several strange things have happened in a few of the groups I belong to. One group closed completely after the owner of the page received threats of physical violence toward not only him, but his family. Seriously? What is wrong with people, not just writers, but all people? How is it that they think it’s okay to threaten a man’s family because they disagree with the writing advice he shares? I’d also like to point out that this man is a college professor and was giving the information for FREE! Now thanks to this person, he is refusing to do it because…shock of shocks…he needs to keep his family safe from harm. I don’t blame him.giphy.gif

Another group that I’m in is having issues with one of the group’s two moderators being accused of favoritism when it came to their choices for an anthology. It eventually culminated in the moderator explaining the acceptance process, including why his EIGHT-YEAR-OLD daughter was allowed to put a 300 word story in the back of the book supposedly taking a spot from a “real” writer. Below is my reaction to this situation.

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Then I got angry. Here is a person that is publishing an anthology from members of this group. An anthology that had strict requirements for length and quality. After all the stories had been chosen. Then, and only then, did they ask the authors who contributed to the anthology if it would be okay for the girl to add her story. It was put to a vote and the girl’s story was added, all three hundred words of it. What is so wrong in this world of writers that someone felt it was okay to A.) take it to another group where the moderator was unable to defend himself, and B.) to attack a little girl who dreams of being a writer? A dream that we, as writers, should be nurturing not getting butt hurt because our little story didn’t make it in to the anthology.giphy (2).gif

Finally, in a third group I belong to, several of the members started complaining about the level of emails they were receiving from the email list they voluntarily chose to join. This is the one that bugged me the most, probably because it was in my favorite group. These complaints have gone on for several days and today I had enough of the whining. I spoke up, basically attacking someone for being stupid. Yep, I violated my own rules and got involved in trolling (I’m a horrible person). Yes, people were receiving a large amount of emails, but they have the option to unsubscribe…Hell they can choose to delete them on sight if they wish. For the life of me I couldn’t understand the problem with 3 or 4 emails a day when the person who runs the list specifically stated it was only for a 2 week period. Then the person posted screen shots of the HUGE amount of emails they had received. My bad. But trust me, it gets worse. The person running the list sent me a message asking about the three emails I received. It turns out I wasn’t supposed to receive that many, so I promptly go to my inbox and find out that I didn’t receive 3 as had stated, but 2. I misread the name of the sender on the third one…oops.

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Of course being my typical INFJ self, I immediately apologized to the person I had just attacked on Facebook. The person running the email list learned that there was a problem with the emails being sent out and immediately fixed the problem. Here’s the best part, she sent a mass email to all of her subscribers apologizing…oh the irony.

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So here’s my question why do we writers think it is okay to start tearing down those who go above and beyond the norm? Why is it okay to tear down those who are more successful, have a bigger email subscriber list, or who, out of the goodness of their own hearts, attempt to lift up a fellow writer? Why don’t we live the lives we claim we want to live?

V. L. Cooke

P.S. I’d apologize for all the gifs, but I was having a little fun with them. If you don’t like them I’d apologize, but I’m going to dance instead.

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Where are the real women in paranormal fiction?

Where are the real women in paranormal fiction?

First, I want to make it clear that anything I write in this post is my opinion and my opinion alone. I am an author, but first and foremost, I am a reader. So, could someone please explain to me why 95% of the female protagonists in paranormal fiction seem to stop aging at 35? Now before you jump on me, I am aware of older female protagonists in mysteries, and occasionally a romance or thriller, there’s even a genre called matron lit. I’m pushing fifty, but I love urban fantasy and paranormal fiction, I want a female protagonist who is someone I can relate to, someone closer to my own age and build.

After years of reading books I love, I realized there was an under representation of strong, yet flawed, 40-something, female protagonists. Just because a woman is over 40, or may not be a size two it doesn’t mean she has nothing to offer to the paranormal fiction arena. When did it become okay for the male of the species to get better with age, but women are supposed to just act like life has ended once they’ve married and had kids? What about the women who whether by choice, or not, have no children? What is wrong with the idea that a woman can continue to be a well-rounded role model for all women long after the mainstream media decides she needs to be put out to pasture?

THE NEW YOUThis is where I came up with my goal of creating a character that was what I, as an over 40, divorced, childless, female wanted to see. A woman who could kick ass and not be perfect. Yes, she’s prone to melodrama, foul-language, and an extreme addiction to chocolate, but she’s real. She’s modeled after several women in my own life all of whom are amazing and have a lot to offer the world.

One of the things that I focus on in my book is the forgotten woman. The woman who was tossed out like trash because her partner decided he wanted a new, younger, fertile model. Yes, my MC wallowed in self-pity, binged on chocolate, and endless marathons of Supernatural, but when it counted she was an active, strong, kick ass woman. A woman who likes to break the fourth wall in her narrative, loves cheesy, nerdy jokes, and has no problem ogling a hot guy (pun intended). She’ll fight for the collection of strays she brought into her life and home. The family she chooses to create to make up for the lack of a natural family.

In fact, two of my major characters are 40-something women who are not restricted to quietly hiding in the shadows or hovering over their children’s lives. Neither of them are antagonists, they are strong women who have lived life, yet still have a lot to offer. Yes, one of them is a witch and the other is her not-quite human best friend, but they are the characters I want to see and those I believe a lot of women would like to see as well. The story isn’t about my protagonist, or her best friend, finding a man at this stage of their lives, although that may happen at some point. This is about recognizing your worth as a citizen of the world, about realizing the mistakes of our past create the person we are today. Accepting our flaws and trying to move beyond them. Plus, if you can throw a little humor, eye candy marathons, and some good chocolate into the mix isn’t that what we all want? Yes, some women want the romance to end all romances in their lives, there’s nothing wrong with that, but there are women who are happier being single, living out their dreams, instead of wishing for things to be different. Women who believe size is just a number, that you can be sexy and fat (there’s that dreaded three letter word) at the same time. Women who know that being a true bad ass, strong woman is knowing when to accept help and when to go it alone. Do you agree? I would love to get others’ opinions on this subject.

V. L. Cooke