There are days I am overwhelmed with the number of people who want me to give them money, and I don’t mean regular life bills. I mean “experts” who are going to tell me how to sell more books. Who are going to make me a Kindle millionaire or get me 300,000 followers on Twitter or deliver 20 million new subscribers to my newsletter or… I mean seriously it is exhausting, and these “experts” and their offers usually aren’t quite writer scams, but many of them are also not of a high enough value for me to invest with them.
Writers have always been major targets for scammers. Writing is a dream for many people, and the scent of someone in pursuit of a dream is like blood in the water for true sharks. Back in the day when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the Kindle had yet to exist, most of these scams involved agents and editors who took writers’ money and delivered nothing, or worse got writers in legal contracts that tied them to that scammer in perpetuity. There were also the vanity publishers and book “doctors” who charged exorbitant amounts for services that either you just shouldn’t pay for or that you could get at a much lower fee, minus the air that was being blown up your skirt in the form of impossible promises of your upcoming greatness.
The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) has a great site for this Writer Beware. Definitely, check it out before sending any of these types of businesses a big bunch of money or signing a legal contract.
But as self-publishing has grown, so have the number of ways that a writer and her money can be separated, and not all are good investments.
Many are not.
Here are all of the expert advice or services people have tried to sell me over the past few months:
- How to run ads on… (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Amazon etc.)
- How to get followers on… (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Amazon, etc.)
- How to get newsletter subscribers by the gross
- How to improve the SEO of my website
- Website that will get me readers through excerpts (for a fee)
- Website that will remove pirate links (for a fee)
- Websites that will automate my social media presence (for a fee)
- How to make six figures as a freelance writer
- How to set up my a “shop” to sell my books on my personal website
There are more. I find a new one daily through (haha) Facebook ads.
Now some of these services/sites/classes are useful and certainly not writer scams. But some, even if the service is a good idea, the person offering it has very little to offer in the way of qualifications. Many I suspect took a similar class from someone else and is now out there hawking their own version.
So how do you know if a service/site/class is worth the cost? And not a writer scam?
Don’t be a sheep.
Don’t accept that someone is an expert just because they know more than you do. I have some experience with horses. I can probably talk a good enough game to make those with less knowledge than me think I know something. This does not qualify me to train a horse. Not even close.
Check their results.
This one always floors me. I’ll come across someone who is touting their success with Amazon and how they are going to give me the tools (For a measly few hundred dollars or a thousand…) to get success just as big for myself.
What do I do? I check their book sales. Those rankings are handy for this. And what I find is frequently their rankings are worse than mine.
Now I realize rankings go up and down, but if you are going to tout your success specifically with how your books do on Amazon, make sure your sales on Amazon are actually tout-worthy. When I see this, I usually assume that the person’s “technique” that they are trying to sell me is not the reason for previous success (assuming their claimed success was real). Because if this success had been from their technique, why isn’t it still working? Or it shows it isn’t working right now. And I’m am stuck in the right now to sell my books, not the Amazon of five years ago.
Check their credentials.
Most often the only credential listed is claimed success for themselves or others. This may be enough if it checks out, but having real credentials like professional experience in whatever area is definitely a plus.
Consider what it is you really want.
Most authors want to sell more books. They invest in Facebook, AMS, even swatting down pirates in the hopes this will sell more books AT A PROFIT. Some of these sites/services/classes will insinuate that whatever they are teaching, etc. will sell more books, but that isn’t usually the measure of success.
So ask yourself, will getting this help me get to my real goal? And second… if your goal is to sell more books, will this help you MAKE A PROFIT? Because selling a lot of books at a loss is really no different than that old vanity press writer scam we all know to avoid.
Consider your time and sanity. And don’t feel guilty!
So much this last part.
I see it all of the time. Some new “must do, must learn” thing makes its way around writer circles and people who have no shot whatsoever of making the money back at this point in their career line up to hand over their cash and take time away from life, writing, and other promotion/learning opportunities to do this current VERY IMPORTANT thing.
It’s like our little version of high school. Everyone is doing it. I mean everyone!
No, they’re not, and even if they are, if your friends jumped off a building…
You get the idea…
So consider your time and sanity and what the payoff will be for you, and trust me when I tell you I have seen thousands of “must do” things peter and die with only a very few at the tippy top of the pyramid reaping any actual rewards from doing them.
So what’s in your inbox? Any writer scams to warn others about? Or a NOT writer scam that was worth every penny? Don’t be shy…. share.