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.

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

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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The First Thirty Days

The First Thirty Days

For those who don’t already know, I self-published my novel. When I started this blog, my intention was to share the ups and downs with my readers. If you’ve read my post on the cost of self-publication, then you know I don’t account for every expense. Nor do I expect to make a fortune. My financial goal has always been to make back what I’ve spent out of pocket so I could spend it on the next one.

Recently, someone asked me how it felt being a “published author” and what I was planning on doing with my “buckets of money”. I feel it should be put somewhere on my permanent record that I kept my snarky-self under control, and I didn’t throat punch them. Rather than assault, I said that I loved my book being available for people to read and hopefully love my characters as much as I do, and that when I earn buckets of money I’ll let them know what I plan on doing with it. Then the person told me that they looked my book up on Amazon and felt my price was too high and would I be willing to give them a copy? Really?

It has been thirty days since Golden Opportunity went live, via self-publication at Amazon. I thought I would share with you all the sales and “buckets of money” I’ve made in the last thirty days. Are you ready?

date ebook/paid paperback KENP pages ebook/free
12-Sep 0 0 0 0
13-Sep 3 1 128 0
14-Sep 2 1 161 0
15-Sep 3 1 110 0
16-Sep 0 0 404 0
17-Sep 0 0 0 0
18-Sep 0 0 0 0
19-Sep 0 0 0 0
20-Sep 0 0 0 0
21-Sep 0 0 424 39
22-Sep 0 0 0 25
23-Sep 0 0 0 48
24-Sep 0 0 0 49
25-Sep 0 0 0 25
26-Sep 0 0 0 1
27-Sep 0 0 0 0
28-Sep 0 0 14 0
29-Sep 0 0 0 0
30-Sep 0 0 152 0
1-Oct 0 0 75 0
2-Oct 0 0 72 0
3-Oct 0 0 90 0
4-Oct 0 0 577 0
5-Oct 0 0 0 0
6-Oct 0 0 354 0
7-Oct 1 0 0 0
8-Oct 0 0 0 0
9-Oct 0 0 219 0
10-Oct 0 0 254 0
11-Oct 0 1 0 0
12-Oct 0 0 0 0
Totals 9 4 3034 187
Royalties 25.76 * 12.40 13.65 ** 0 *** 51.81

 

There are my buckets of money. $51.81 is what my book made in its first thirty days. I’m happy with what it’s done so far. I haven’t advertised because I can’t afford it right now. Maybe after book two is ready advertising will be a little less of a financial burden. Right now, I’m more focused on things like utilities, groceries, and the holidays.

I did change my price from $4.99 for the ebook to $2.99, but I refuse to lower the print version from its current price. I think $9.99 is not too much to pay for a physical book by any author, and really what’s $9.99 in the grand scheme of life? You can’t buy a ticket to a movie for less than ten dollars at most movie theaters anymore, you could get a couple of drinks from your local Starbucks, or a meal at a fast food restaurant. Me? I’d rather cook at home and read a book.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, someone read Golden Opportunity and gave it a five-star review on Amazon. When I saw it I screamed like a tween girl at a Justin Bieber concert. The review is the reason I’m a self-published author. To whomever wrote that review, thank you. I hope you’ll read book two and still love my girl and her dragon. Big changes are coming to my world.

V. L. Cooke

* – the royalties after exchange for currency other than USD has been applied.

** – amount based on the last per page payment for KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) read on Kindle Unlimited and via Kindle Lending from Amazon from the Global Fund and is not accurate as of 10/11/2016.

*** – Free promotion provided as part of the Kindle Select enrollment and available every ninety days of enrollment. Royalties are based on the price paid for the book, thus no royalties for these books.

Author Branding 101 – Blogging

Author Branding 101 – Blogging

So we’ve discussed branding, social media, a few things you want to avoid as part of your brand, and building a blog, now we’re up to the big lesson…blogging. Most of the authors I know blog, the biggest issue is deciding what to blog about and how often to post. Let’s start with the basics.

When it comes to the topic of blog posts, stick to your brand. My brand is a self-published author sharing their experiences as a newbie to the self-publishing world with my readers. I share links to classes that I’ve taken, shared a breakdown of my costs, even discussed reviewing, beta readers, etc. I do this for those, who were like me a year ago, learning from the ground up. I fail and I share those. I discuss my books, NaNoWriMo, and more. I try to avoid anything too personal, but I’m about to start opening myself up to those who read my blog to help connect with my readers. I tend to be very reserved, but I’m trying to overcome this tendency for the next twelve months. I’m going to be doing NaNoWriMo in November and right now I’m plotting that book. I’m going to share this process with everyone in a series of posts. Whatever works for you and your brand then do it.

wishing-you-all-thehope-wonder-and-joy-that-the-season-can-bring-1Size – On the technical side of things try to keep your posts consistent. A great size is between 300 and 750 words. It reads fast, and since most of us are busy, time constraints figure into our lives.

Respect your readers – They are giving up their free time to read what you’re sharing and deserve respect.

Pick a schedule and try to stick to it – If you’re writing a multi-part series, try to remain consistent. Don’t follow my example. I screwed it up during this series.

Keep it visually interesting – Try to break up all the words with something to stimulate a person’s eyes. It means they will be more likely to read further.

Spell and grammar check – Try to have someone proofread, use spell check, and grammar check EVERY TIME YOU POST. Mistakes will get through; you can’t avoid it. I write my posts in Word, then I walk away. I have my sister read them, then I read them out loud, and amazingly mistakes still get through. Accept that you won’t be perfect, but fix them as soon as possible.

Most of all have fun! – Remember, to have fun. This is the face you share with the world and no one wants gloom and doom all the time. Yes, there will be some downers, but most people prefer a little light-hearted fun.

Homework – In the comments share your blog post. I promise to respond and follow anyone who links their blog to me. Good luck and happy blogging.

V. L. Cooke

Author Branding – Create Your Blog

Author Branding – Create Your Blog

Yes, I’m back. Last time I gave you homework to decide whether or not you’re going to blog and to choose a platform. I did this back in June and you’re looking at the results. Am I happy with it? No, like me it’s a perpetual work in progress some days it’s better than others. Will you be happy with yours? I hope so, but I doubt it. If you did the homework, you have an idea about your blog’s style and your brand, so let’s get to the grunt…er…fun work.

Blogging Basics – Where to begin? It’s what I have been building toward with the previous three posts. If you know your brand, by now you have a basic idea about what you want to put on your blog as a way of promoting your brand. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the behind the scenes stuff you need to do first, so let’s proceed.

Step 1 – Create your blog. Once you’ve chosen where you will host your blog you need to decide on a name. It can be as simple or as creative as you’d like, but remember this is your brand’s homepage. Try to make it all about you, your writing, and the topics you wish to share with the world. I believe that if this is your author homepage you’re going to want your name somewhere in the title. Also, this is where you’ll want to consider reserving a specific .com or .net name that matches your blog name at one of the hosting sites to make it easier for your fans to find your blog. Yes, this will cost money (notice I haven’t done it yet) but it is something you’ll want to consider. Once you’ve done that we move on to step two.

Step 2 – Pick a theme. This is not as easy as it sounds. If you’re like me, you want to go as cheap as you can until your presence grows, and you don’t want anything too distracting. Take the time to explore your options. Don’t feel like you have to choose the first one you see. I’ve changed themes on this blog four or five times and I finally have one I like. You need to do the same thing.

Step 3 – Pages/formatting. Obviously you’ll want a section for contacting the site author (you), you’ll want a section for your blog, probably one for your work, a page about you, and a home page as the very minimum number of main pages. However, there is no reason you have to stop there. For example, right now this post is housed on my blog page, but I want to make them easier for people to find when they visit. Thus. I use categories to make posts easier to find. If you click on “author branding” all three posts show together. I also chose not to use a static home page; I prefer people see the newest posts first. Whether or not you want to go a different route is your choice. Remember, this is your piece of the internet do what works best for you and your brand.

Step 4 – Once you have everything tweaked to perfection, when you’ve added your work on your page for work, filled out your bio, added you contact page, and the rest, then you’re ready to write your first blog post. This is where you’ll introduce your brand to the world. Try to make the post true to your brand. Also, keep your posts of a manageable size (this is one I fail at all the time) if you think you can write only once a week, because of real world time issue then don’t try to crank out 3,000 words stick to 750 – 1,000 words. Most readers don’t want exceptionally long posts anyway. Double check spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. If you link to another page, make sure that the link comes up in a separate tab. Also, if you cite information make sure to show your sources. Don’t ever declare something to be a fact without the ability to back it up. Finally, make sure to add graphics. They catch the reader’s eye and break up the monotony of the post. You can find free use images at pixabay.com and create graphics at canva.com. Trust me, even a moron can do it because it’s what I use every single time and I’m a certified moron.

Step 6 – Make sure to cross post. WordPress allows you to do that from their user control panel. If you choose to use a different provider, you’ll have to learn to do it from their platform. The great thing is once its set up, you don’t have to worry about it.

Step 7 – Remember to respond to every comment, even the harsh ones. Thank the commenter for posting and keep the conversation flowing. Don’t get embroiled in a flame war because someone doesn’t agree with you. Accept it, thank them for the comment, and move on. Finally, remember that every time a person follows you, at your blog, Twitter, Google +, Facebook, etc. it is only polite to return the favor.

the-new-youStep 8 – Go to a company like Mail Chimp and create a subscriber mailing list. If you notice, mine pops up when you first log in. I use the mailing list to send updates about book events, releases, sales, and blog posts.

Homework – Create your blog and leave a link in the comments. I guarantee you’ll get at least one follower (me). Next time we’ll be discussing controversial topics and political ideology and why you should avoid it in your blog posts.

V. L. Cooke