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8 Ways For Authors to Waste Their Money

26 November 2017

From The Digital Reader:

Publishing a book can get quite expensive. A good cover designer can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, and the editorial costs alone can set you back even more.

While there are many important expenses, there are also many ways to spend money and get nothing useful back. For example, take the Bowker SAN. This costs $150, and is basically a way for you to list your physical address in a Bowker database – something you can do with your website, or  dozen other services, at no cost to yourself.

I recently polled a number of experts, including David Gaughran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Joel Friedlander, Victoria Strauss,  Jane Friedman, and Hugh Howey. The following post lists a few of the things they thought were a waste of money.

. . . .


Of all the suggestions made by the experts, publicists topped the list, with several experts saying that publicists just weren’t worth the cost. “They don’t do much you can’t do on your own, and what they do, they do poorly,” I was told.”They also cost tens of thousands of dollars.”

It would cost less to learn how to do the work yourself (or at least get a virtual assistant to do it), and you’ll get better results.

. . . .

Classes on the “Secrets” of Millions Sales

Like most professions, it takes a lot of learning to be a successful author, and you have to keep picking up new tricks all the time. And there are many experts out there who can teach you what you need to know, but there are also a lot of scammers who promise more than they can deliver.

Authors would be wise to avoid any course that promise to show you “the secret” to getting millions of sales. Before you sign up, you should check to see if the “guru” has actually written and sold a lot of books or just teaches marketing courses for a living.

Many of these million “sellers” have either given away most of their copies or sold the copies of their fiction books at a loss. Other have sold hardly any books at all, and are making money from their marketing tips, not from their writing.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader


10 Comments to “8 Ways For Authors to Waste Their Money”

  1. One nit to pick – “marketing” is a very wide range.

    I believe the contributors to this list are thinking of “costed” marketing: placing ads, discounted (or free) first book in a series, etc. Things that have a cost (money paid or potential revenues foregone).

    BUT – you really need to start “marketing” from Day One – or even before. If you have a blog, that is marketing. Work any networks you might have (particularly if you happen to have a spouse with a highly popular blog about the writing business…) Circulate snippets. Talk about your work in progress (carefully, though, there is a fine line between simply telling people what you are doing, and having relatives and former friends cross the street when they see you coming). All of these are free – and essential to start building a core audience.

    Okay, okay, I don’t do so well at execution (getting better). But at least I know the basics, coming from other businesses. One company I worked for started their “marketing” at least six months before a new product was even announced. Inserting “rumors” at trade shows. Passing “confidential insider” information to trade journalists, which they knew full well wasn’t going to stay under anyone’s hat – but would boost the interest with the info coming from a “trusted” disinterested source. None of which cost a single dime – but resulted in orders the first day.

  2. Maybe more of a pet peeve:

    Articles on writing which act as a trojan horse to sell marketing services.

  3. It never ceases to amaze me how much money you can save by being well-informed.

  4. I had that attitude about piracy until I read (in this space) about an experiment that showed otherwise.

    I recently hired, at modest cost, a service called Blasty. In doing the initial blasting myself (I upgraded so they’re supposed to do it now), I was disgusted by the number of sites I saw that appeared to be really functioning. While some of them may well contain viruses, I don’t doubt that some of them are really giving away my books.

    It isn’t “promotion” when people learn they can just download any of your books for free. Especially for those of us putting a lot of time and energy into reissuing backlist.

    It remains to be seen if sales rise. I’ll be watching.

    • I’ve used the beta of Blasty too, and what amazed me was /how/ these sites got their hands on my first ebook. It did not exactly set the world on fire, but I did do quite a bit of ‘free’ promotion, and I think that is the problem. We all use Amazon’s free promotion to increase our visibility, but I think pirates are probably downloading more of our books than genuine readers.

      Free ebook = easy and ‘cheap’ ebook to pirate.

      I’ve decided that from here on in, I’ll put the first book of a series up for free, but NOT the rest of the series. In fact, where possible, I’ll make the first of the series permafree for everyone. But that is as far as I’ll go because I don’t believe the pirates will bother paying even 99 cents for a book. Why should they when millions of books are completely free?

      • I’ll be interested to hear about your results if that’s possible.

        Interestingly, many of my pirated books were issued by my former publisher, Harlequin. I am almost certain none of them were ever free. Moreover, I believe Harlequin uses DRM (although that’s easy to get around). So, except for those sites that claim they’re “sharing” their purchases, I’m not sure how these crooks steal our work.


  5. RE: Publicists… “‘They don’t do much you can’t do on your own, and what they do, they do poorly,” I was told. ”They also cost tens of thousands of dollars.’ It would cost less to learn how to do the work yourself (or at least get a virtual assistant to do it), and you’ll get better results.”

    Yep. I’m getting ready to release my saga about the birth of New York City, and just for fun have been checking a few publicists to see what they offer. I closed that file pretty quickly. I’m doing it myself. Here’s why (besides the savings of thousands, which is exactly what they cost)…

    When I first started publishing magazines in the 1970s, each of us three partners divied up the different jobs. The MBA guy became Publisher. The writer gal became Editor. The designer guy (me) became Art Director. Then we realized we also needed someone to promote us and spread the word. We all looked at each other until I finally raised my hand and volunteered to be PR Director, too. And you know what? That was the easiest job of all. Why? Because it was obvious what had to be done. I just had to lay out the Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? of it. The media outlets were looking for stories, and we had a story to tell. And who better to tell the story than the person owning the story: one of the magazine’s publishers. We got tons of publicity and the magazines went on to success.

    Skip ahead 30 years. I was launching my digital printing non-fiction reference book. I had a major publisher but they weren’t offering much in the way of PR (publicity) so I just stepped up to the plate again. “I’ll take care of it,” I said. And I did. Reporters and editors (there was no social media) wanted to hear directly from the author, me. Not some PR flack or agency. They wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

    So now I’m going to be at it again. I will be my best publicist. I’m the author, not some paid hand. Who knows the story I’m telling better than me?

    I’ll tell you how it goes.

    • Hmm, having seen this from the other side (receiving emails and phone calls from PR people), what you say makes perfect sense. No reporter wants to talk to the PR person; the PR rep is the middleman to route around.

      DIYers, do yourself a favor and try this one neat trick that way too many PR people don’t seem to master: READ. The. Masthead. The masthead is the listing of staff at a publication, as in editors/reporters. Don’t send car news to the guy who writes about concerts. A romance blogger is probably not going to review your horror novel. Don’t shotgun it, carefully target prospects. Do your homework. Knowing is half the battle.

  6. On the wait till the 3rd book advice, I’ve noticed that an author’s listings can also firewall between different series. I read Evan Currie’s ‘On Silver Wings’ series all the way to book 6 before I finally got tired of waiting for the next instalment and started in on his ‘Odyssey’ series. Now I’m chain-reading my way through those books.

    I think it’s time for me to start writing book 5 in one of my earlier series.

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