Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Friday, October 25, 2013

Watch Your Money: A Warning to the Self-published

It is happening. The sharks are coming thick and furious to infest the red ocean.

With the self-publishing boom, more people than ever before are writing and publishing books. And the red ocean is full of hopeful writers, new books, not so new books . . . and sharks, those looking to make a fast buck off anyone floundering at sea. Those who are lost or confused or innocent, or unsure where to go. This is when the sharks eat freely and get fat.

At first it's not too bad, even exhilarating, as you embark on the self-publishing adventure. There are the expected costs of editing, formatting, design, and printing. Savvy self-publishers are careful to watch what they spend for these production expenditures. Because of all the warnings about scam "publishers" who charge exorbitant prices for what you can do yourself for less, most are careful to watch for sharks at this point.

But what about once the book is out and you want sales? Or maybe you had sales some years ago when ebooks were fresh and new and people were downloading en masse on their new Kindles. But the market has slowed and money is tight. You've written more stuff and need increasing funds to pay expenses and still meet your bottom line.
This is when I say watch your money. The sharks come in disguise as "publishing companies", "literary agencies", "marketing and SEO specialists," "publicists"-- all those nice respectable labels that used to mean something.

Beware, however, of the wolves in sheep clothing. Or to stick to the metaphor, sharks dressed like helpful professionals. Big promises, fast talkers, the hard sell: "There's a million ebooks out now. If your book is to stand out in the crowd, you've got to do more than the other guy. Pay me and here's what I'll do to make it happen."

It's deceptive since some of it is true, but then comes the part about "pay me." Remember this one key fact about being a self-published author: You are first and foremost a business. If more cash is going out than coming in, the business will soon be broke. Do the sharks care? Not at all. They took your money and are busily zeroing in on their next victims.

Or you can learn how to make Greek yogurt. I finally mastered it! Instructions are on my website. Because when I'm frustrated and annoyed by all the greedy opportunists out there, I go to my kitchen and make something. Or maybe I clean out a closet while ignoring everybody.

Meanwhile, you've been warned: sharks are infesting the crowded waters of the self-publishing  ocean. And so, my writer friends, please watch your money.

22 comments:

  1. Yes, smart advice. I'm fortunate to have a publisher, but I've also never paid for any advertising on my own.

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  2. Good advice, wish I had gotten it soon because now I think I have been nibbled on by one of those sharks....Oh well, at least I have a book out there. Next time I will spend more time thinking and less time jumping for the easy way.

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    1. Siv, sorry to hear that but after all, they are very clever and cunning, able to suck in anyone. Live and learn, right?

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  3. The business-around-the-business of the publishing business has no business being there, but it is the most thriving sector $-wise.
    It's easy to spot it in the money charging agents, for example. An agent makes their living off of sales, not reading/mailing/calling fees. It's easy when it comes to publishers, because they too make money form sales and not from authors.
    Not so easy when it comes to the promoters.

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    1. Mirka, Exactly. If you watch where the money goes it's much easier to know what's what.

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  4. Some of those sharks, in addition to taking your money, do unethical things to increase your visibility. Then you're broke and you look bad.

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  5. I just read an article by an author who lost nearly 10K to different publicists who did nothing for her. I'm glad to be working with established publishers.

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    1. Susan, Oh no! That is really sad. Can you post the link in a comment so others can learn from what happened to her?

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  6. Good advice, Karen.

    My hubby likes greek yogurt. It's been a few years since I've made homemade yogurt. My sister had taught me, but after awhile I quit making it. Might have to give it another try.

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  7. Wise words. Too many sharks are taking advantage off those too quick to publish.

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  8. You're right - and they're not offering to do anything you can't do yourself (though I do pay for a copy-edit, as I know that I can't see those tiny mistakes that so irritate me when other people make them!).

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  9. Great advice. I haven't ventured into the self-publishing world. But when I do I will keep your advice in mind.

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  10. Hi Karen, it's so good to touch base again. Your posts are always so helpful. You know, I stopped blogging for a while this fall with the intent of cleaning up my blog and my computer, but ended up cleaning up my house instead as my hubby left for the month to work with a friend. So I read your other blog and it inspired me to begin a blog cleanup. I had no idea people took over other people's blogs. And now you see why I cannot make it on Facebook or Twitter.....

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  11. I didn't even realize that there were scam artists preying on self-published writers, but it's good to know about them. It's terrible that there are people out there who deliberately take advantage of other people.

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  12. Hi Karen .. great reminders to watch our backs and all things else that could be infiltrated by the nasties of this life .. people who prey - are serious pains ...

    The internet sadly is a breeding ground ... take care one and all .. Hilary

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  13. Timely advice - I guess publishing is no different to any other sphere of activity.

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  14. Good reminder. And yes, self-publishing is a business and should be treated as one.

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  15. Great advice! I agree that you are a business if you self-publish--spending more than what you will make isn't wise.

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  16. You're so right. I'm now being contacted by people who call themselves Writing Assistants. Enterprising and quite possibly a good deal for some writers.

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  17. I decided this year that I was going to work towards becoming a hybrid author, taking advantage of self-publishing opportunities while still working with WiDo. I think working with a publisher first helped me learn what to watch out for in the industry.

    Just like when choosing a publisher or an agent, when it comes to editors or marketing experts, you must do your research. Find out who their past clients are, see what people have said about them. And always, always, get everything in writing.

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  18. I noticed this when I decided to self-publish. You could spend a fortune! I just decided to spend money on what I thought mattered most, and what I thought I couldn't do well on my own--quality editing and a professional cover.

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