I think independent authors are a special kind of targeted audience. It seems that way, at least with all of the fraud, spam, and alerts. People who you thought were trustworthy are running off with hard-earned authors’ money for either shoddy work, partially finished or work that hadn’t even begun yet. So, we as authors/writers end up filing claims for this and that, trying to get our money back, which eventually we do, but it’s just the hassle and the fact that some person x-miles away got our money in the first place. It’s irritating, and we need to be vigilant as a community about who we do business with.
So today I present to you, my list of “experts” that you need to be wary of when it comes to doing or engaging in business.
1. The SEO Expert. This is the guy/gal that will swear to you up and down that book marketing is a long-term thing and that you need to focus on SEO and not book promotions. Lo and behold, they try to friend you, and sell you their consulting service. When you go to look at the person’s website, you’ll see maybe 3-4 blog posts, no engagement and a cruddy looking website. Then, you go visit their books on Amazon and find that they only have single digit sales or reviews. Your rankings are significantly higher than theirs. Are they really an SEO expert? If so, why no engagement or sales? Why is their website scoring so low? Wouldn’t there be more sales and a higher ranking if they truly were an expert? This is the person who will gladly sell you their $90 or $150 consulting package… only to deliver you… well, probably the same results as they’ve personally had. Nothing worth that amount of money, I assure you.
SEO is not that hard to learn. Plus, this is something that only you as the writer of your books will really be able to key into – you know exactly what your books are about, who your competition is, and unless you find someone who is willing and able to read every single one of your books and provide you with over 1000 keywords that relate to your author business, I would run the other way. You need to learn SEO, anyway. It’s a good piece of education to have.
2. The Book Sales Guru. This is the person who gives you an incredibly high number that they can guarantee for book sales over a specific period of time. Really? 1000 book sales? 6 months. Get real. No one can guarantee that, and if they can, please send them to me with actual proof of having done it. Otherwise, they’re blowing air up your skirt. Run, run, run far away. They’re probably not even published authors themselves. Shocking, right? They’re ready to help you and take your money, though! RUN AWAY!
3. The Overwhelmed Service Provider. This is the person who just ran a sale and is posting about how incredible the results were on their website design or book cover design sale. Once a designer gets to be overwhelmed with the incoming clientele, it’s hard for them to dig their way out of the overflowing inbox. Sometimes, they just shut down. You either don’t hear from them for months while they have your money, or not at all. Medical excuses start rolling in. Time to call your bank for non-delivery of service. You didn’t exactly get scammed… just pushed aside. Still, be wary of these situations.
4. The Hostile PAs / Book Promotion Crews / Author Bullies. These are the people who are less-than-positive with their posts on their blogs on a REGULAR basis, and often can be found engaging in online arguments with people, bullying, acting like the rescuer if some other provider fails to deliver while bashing the original provider online, etc. The behaviors are curious, cliquey, and probably not something you want to be associated with.
There are hostile people in our community, unfortunately, and while they may seem “cool” and “nice” to some people, if you watch them over time you’ll see how very toxic they can be towards others, particularly those that may oppose their own views or differ in morals. You may lose money just by association. Be careful with who you choose to represent your book tours, promotions and such. Who you affiliate yourself with may dictate your overall success. You need to evaluate, internally, which is more important – sales and popularity in the short term, or working with positive people who although may not be as popular, will give you longer-lasting results.
Also watch out for the bullies. They are plentiful in this community. Some choose to create videos calling other authors’ books garbage while talking about page stuffing and confusing that with bonus material. Others get butthurt over similar designs and covers. Some are just jealous over author income and success of others. Some are too busy on Facebook ranting and criticizing other wrtiers that they aren’t writing themselves, and haven’t published anything for over a year. There’s a lot of jealousy, focus on competition, and just not enough writing going on. Lots of talk, not a lot of writing. My advice is to focus on your writing, and your own projects, and use as much software and reputable third-party resources as you can. Make friends and be social, but avoid the cliques.
5. The Spammy or Needy Editor. I really like my editor. We work well together, and she knows not to hassle me about deadlines, where I’m at with my projects or even to message me about whether or not I’ll have work headed her way. She knows that when and if I need her, I’ll let her know. There are “editors” out there that will message you, inbox you on Facebook to “check in” and comment on every book update you make. They wait for that moment that you type “The End” so they can send you an invoice and collect money. They’ll spam you on LinkedIn with their services and what they charge per word. If you don’t like any of that, then be wary of these types of editors. They’re not busy for a reason. Either they got too annoying with their past clients or they’re just charging way too much for what the market is really indicating as the going rate. Spammy editors tend to take your money and do a shoddy job. Needy ones just tend to be annoying and are looking for accolades. That’s just not my style, and if it’s not yours, either, then just be aware. Find an editor that understands you, respects your boundaries with your projects, including ones that you may want someone else to work on without your regular editor getting all butthurt, and acknowledges your projects when you’re ready. If you need a recommendation for an editor I will gladly give you one.
6. The New Book Designer. Anyone with PicMonkey or Canva seems to think they can call themselves a graphic designer, as opposed to what they really are – creative people who like using easy software with hundreds of limitations. Every book designer is going to have their limitations and specialties (including yours truly). If you find a designer that can design “anything” you could be setting yourself up for heartache. Sometimes it’s best to look carefully at portfolios as well as existing sales of covers and interiors they’ve designed to see if they’re really good. And sometimes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To each his/her own here. Just be careful add don’t get wrapped up into a super cheap or super expensive book cover that my kid could have made in minutes for free. Great designers take into account your entire book portfolio, look, feel, branding, font usage, copyrights, photography, overlays, textures, teasers, social media assets and more. If you’re not having these topic discussions with your book cover designer, run. Newbs wouldn’t know where to start with topics such as these and while they may be super talented, you may end up with a super big graphics problem down the road.
7. The Underwhelming PA. We love our PAs, right? They do a great job. I love mine and use her sparingly for certain projects that I just don’t have time to do. And for the most part, they’re trustworthy, hard-working people. But that doesn’t exactly mean quality or entirely reliable. Especially if you have one working for free or for limited funds. For authors with multiple books and marketing needs, you’re going to want someone who isn’t underwhelming you creatively or actively with social media posts. You want someone who works without a whole lot of babysitting or hand-holding, and someone who creates the extraordinary and delivers results. Often times I think friendships get in the way of business and it’s not so much about sales as it is about maintaining relationships because so-and-so knows so-and-so and if you piss off or hurt the feelings of one person then you’ll have a whole tribe of people coming after you. It sucks. But sometimes you need to move on and upward in terms of quality and delivery as it relates to PA services.
8. The Vanity Publisher. Are you willing to buy your books from your publisher, fork over thousands of marketing dollars or pay an upfront fee for them to publish your book? Google Tate Publishing and you’ll see exactly why I feel that no one should engage with a vanity publishing company. The minute any publishing company asks you for money, run. Don’t sign anything, just run the other way. Self-publish. It’s the way to go. Build up your reputation, collect some sales, and then start approaching publishing companies that will take your BOOK seriously – not your WALLET. Personally, I saw the writing on the wall with Tate Publishing way back in 2015 when they started marketing services to set up Facebook pages and other social media platforms (which is free to do and takes under an hour to do all of them) for $750. They were desperate for cash and their marketing reflected it. It was so cannibalizing with their author clientele that it was almost humorous.
9. The Book Event Planner Holding Deposits. Should a single person be accepting payments via PayPal for deposit s for a book event? I don’t think so. Look at what happened a few years back when an event got canceled, but one person had collected all the money and stopped answering emails and phone calls. Anyone remember Lauren Calhoun?
10. The Amazon Ads Expert. Alright – so as someone who has had experience running ads on Amazon for my books, let me tell you. No one is going to be an “expert” on every single genre, title or category. Not every experience is going to translate the same for everyone else. “Oh, just bump up your dollar spend per day so Amazon will take you seriously and show your ads to more people.” Yeah, did that, and it doesn’t work all the time. Even at $115 a day. “Use super-expensive software developed by book professionals so you know your keywords will be successful.” Yeah, did that. Invested money. Still, not completely “the answer”.
Sure. There are courses. There are keyword apps you can use. People to
help you take your money and leave you with mediocre results are plentiful. You have to decide how you value two things – money and time.
Let me key you in on a little secret. Only through repeat testing, trying out some things and being willing to spend/lose money on Amazon ads will you find what actually works for YOUR books in YOUR genre for YOUR budget. You. That’s it. No one else. Anyone trying to tell you that they can “nail” your Amazon ads for your books on the first try is lying to you. It takes time, multiple attempts, and willingness to fail and get back up again. That’s the truth. Anyone telling you different is not being truthful with you. Keep working at it. Try, try and try again. You’ll get the hang of it. But let me tell you – each book is different and what may have worked for one may not for the next!
This concludes my list of author services-types of people that you need to be aware of. Lots of people are in our community willing to take your money, and sometimes run with it, without delivering anything worthwhile. It’s sad, but true. There are behaviors to watch out for, and obviously claims and substantiation of “expertise” that needs to be communicated very clearly. If you’re not careful, you can easily get lost and excited in all the hype that these people project, and forget to look “behind the curtain” a little bit.
This is just part 1 of this post – I plan on creating part 2 within the upcoming week for additional author services types of people you need to watch out for! Hope you enjoyed it!
Also published on Medium.