I read a lot. And I know a lot of writers. From lots of genres. Some of us are published with big companies, others published by small companies, a few published by vanity presses and the majority here independently on our own dime.
And it is that last group over which I’m about to dish up the hot goss and spill the tea. Too too often the enemy of the amateur self-publishing author is their lack of budget and a plethora of cheap, irresponsible amateur freelancers, be they editors, illustrators, or even cover artists.
What do I mean? Imagine that you have written a book and now you want to get it published. The publishers won’t have you despite having sent your one-hundred plus query letters, plus maybe a few naughtily suggestive photos, but you are sure this is what you want to publish and you push ahead and jump on Fiverr and grab some quotes.
Success. Someone’s gonna do your cover for a cool hundred bucks, you have an illustrator doing a small picture each page for $5 a pop, and you have an editor who will do the whole manuscript for two Benjamins. What a deal!
Welcome to the world of Caveat Emptor, my friends. The general lawlessness of the internet makes it a chaotic frontier in which little things like ethics or a job well done are haphazardly enforced and things are decided more decisively by e-mail than it could ever be in the courts. Especially when dealing with a nickel-and-dime horde only eligible to be seen in small claims court.
The things I’ve seen in this authorial world of ours makes me wonder if some of the support roles aren’t predatory. An editor who misses half of all mistakes but won’t give a refund is perhaps even more dangerous to an author than a great white shark is to a swimmer, because those mistakes are going to land the book into the dregs on stars and even possibly get it dropped from Amazon completely. (Plus, sharks are responsible for fewer deaths each year than vending machines, which further and even more beautifully proves my point). And most of these authors already aren’t making much money on their sales. It is a death knell to plenty of authorial aspirations. Likewise with a bad formatter whose pages singe the very eyes that light upon it. No refund. Etc.
But perhaps even worse is the case of a bad cover. Cover artists need to have a feel for genres. If they are taking money for their work, they should have a sense of what the work is about and what sort of genre it is. It might seem like small money but even just one measly Ben Franklin bill can end an author’s dreams. There needs to be some professional accountability and many newbie authors assume the accountability is there. It is not. Caveat Emptor–– let the buyer beware.
AND THAT’S NOT ALL!
The worst by far are the review swaps. It is fine and dandy to review people’s books and have your books reviewed. I have a book club where we take turns reading each other’s books and discussing them whole-heartedly and in detail in the comments. But there are groups in which people promise to read each other’s books, and then mostly just don’t. They read enough to make a five star review, then expect the other author to do the same. Sometimes you see someone get a 4 star review instead. Or even a 3 star, heaven forbid! And the comment wrath is mighty. Huge tidal swathes of words slosh down on the bad reviewer and punishment is meted out on Amazon with one star being returned to them and possibly a few more one stars from friends for good measure. It is tremendously destructive, and it misleads both authors and potential customers big time.
There was one book that I read, one-hundred and twenty-two 5 star reviews, and it was so badly written that I felt it had to have been translated from some foreign language to English from someone with a very incomplete grasp of the language. I tried to help her out with the problems, for free, and was rebuffed strongly with cries of “People love my work! People love my books!” It was sad because her rankings were well visible and by her own later admission she didn’t sell many nor did she sell often. She was roped into this false mentality by fake reviews and a faux editor.
It’s a dangerous place out there, kids. Be safe, and be smart. Pass out your Benjamins with care.
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