Thursday, 29 June 2017

A Cautionary Tale for Self-Published Authors

As a self-published author, it is exceptionally hard to know who to trust. There are countless companies out there promising to promote your book, to make you a best-selling author, blah, blah, blah, when most people know that it's luck and who you know that will propel you into the stratosphere. Good writing doesn't necessarily come into it at all (step forward, E.L. James.)

I don't want to go into the stratosphere. It would be nice for people to enjoy my work, and to get reviews from round the world. It would be nice to be able to afford a facial every month, or get a Discovery (the new model but 18 months old, so we don't get stuck with depreciation.) It would even be lovely to fly my family to the Bahamas (premium economy, not Gulfstream. We're just not interested in that world.) And yeah, I'd like to make enough so that people don't dismiss my writing as my "little hobby.' That would also be nice. But that is cloud-cuckoo land - ain't gonna happen, no matter how many "positive thoughts"I send out into the universe. I guess I'm too much of a realist. 

And now I'm a cynic as well. 

And self-promoting is HARD, which is why, when someone I trust implicitly (and still do) recommended a company to give one of my books a leg-up, I was cautiously optimistic.

In February, I approached blog tour company, wanting to arrange a Blog Tour for one of my books, Closer Than Blood, and for inclusion in their Review Vault. If anyone wants to PM me on Facebook, I will gladly tell you who they are, but I'm not throwing bricks at them in public. They will know who they are anyway. 


NOTE: The company has since been taken over by a larger promotion company. Apparently, the merger happened on April 17, which is something I had been unaware of until very recently. Contrary to popular belief, I don't spend all my time on Facebook and obviously missed the post that said the merger had happened. I'm not an expert in corporate matters but I'm sure that mergers do not get organised within a few weeks, which meant that they must have known this was happening when they took my money. 

Looking back, there were signs all was not well. The fact that the owner wanted to communicate via Facebook rather than email as "she didn't often get to pick them up," was one. The simplicity of the website was another. And the fact that I had to send through everything again after she said I hadn't provided her with the information she needed (I had.) It all seemed very disorganised and a bit haphazard.

So I was asked to provide teasers, links and synopsis, which I did, in the form of a blog post. I was then told that people were picking up Closer in the Review Vault and reviews would start coming in soon. True enough, I had two reviews from authors I was already friends with plus another one saying "It was great!"  I was grateful, but for $50 I was kind of expecting a bit more than that, even a few bad ones would have been good. 


And yes, I know blog tour operators cannot force bloggers to review a book. That would be impossible. But it seems more people are saying, "yeah, I'll review it," then never doing it, and hey presto, they have a free book. It's a dick move, but THAT ISN'T THE FAULT OF THE BLOG TOUR OPERATOR. However, if arranging Blog Tours and Reviews is your business, your reputation depends on people getting some kind of result for their money, even negative reviews, so you need to work a bit harder to get good contacts so that results can be seen. 

The same with the Blog Tour. I was disappointed when the bloggers just cut and pasted my own post. It made me wonder what I had paid the company to do. After asking, I was provided with a list of bloggers approached to feature Closer Than Blood. This wasn't the list of people who had actually done it. I didn't get that. I had to hunt down each blogger and find out myself whether they had featured Closer or not. As I did 80% of the work myself anyway, I believe $150 is a hell of a lot for not much.

Saying, "oh, you need to do two or three before it makes an impact," doesn't cut it, because established authors with a wide fan base have experienced the same thing with some blog tour operators, including this one.

So I guess the moral of this story is, there are very few people you can trust, and if you're a self-publisher, you need to trust no-one and hunt down bloggers yourself and don't be afraid to ask them to feature you on their blog. I paid $150 for a blog tour, and $50 for a space in the review fault, with a company that no longer exists. 

This is fraud, isn't it?

And I'm actually sure that the owner of of the company is so disorganised, she just doesn't get it, rather than make an active attempt to defraud people. The problem is, you can't run a business like this as a cottage industry. People expect to see something for their money. My sales didn't increase one iota, and I had 2 reviews maximum for $150, which is piss-poor value for money. 

Lesson learned.