There is no magic bullet
Something that’s been really bothering me for a couple years now is this pervasive idea in indie publishing that there’s a formula to success, and anyone can be making five+ figures from their writing if they follow the formula. You’ll see it a lot on social media, especially on Facebook in writers’ groups. Authors will post that their book isn’t selling, and the peanut gallery will come racing in with the old tried and true: Change your cover, change your blurb. Re-edit the book. Are you doing Amazon ads? Are you doing Amazon ads correctly? If you’ve done all of the above and your book still isn’t selling, you must have done one of the above incorrectly. Redo it. Change your cover again, change your blurb again. Re-edit the book again. Redo your Amazon ads again. Repeat.
What these people really don’t want to have to admit is that there is always a factor you can’t control, and that’s luck. While it’s true that a good cover, a good blurb, and a well-written and well-edited book will help, we all know that there are books selling gangbusters on Amazon that have horrible covers and are written like junk. And then there are lots and lots of great books with great covers and blurbs that just aren’t selling. There are authors that advertise on AMS or Facebook, and they’re advertising “correctly,” and their books are still not selling. They’re doing everything they should, Note that I’m not talking about myself here. I am well aware that I’m not doing things “right”, I just am too sick to give a crap. 😂 But I feel I should point out that … Continue reading and the book just isn’t selling. There’s nothing you can really do about that. Sometimes that’s just how it goes.
Unfortunately, there are people within the indie author “community” who prey on authors who are in this boat. They want you to believe that there is a special formula that you can use to guarantee success in publishing. They happen to know exactly what that formula is, and they can teach it to you for the low, low, price of $500! And, really, that price is a steal, because this content is worth $2000, but they’re giving it to you for this great bargain price because it’s not about the money to them. It’s about helping other writers.
Guys, these people are con artists. I unfortunately have had some very close experience with a couple of them, and I’ve seen some of their numbers. They’re full of it. Their real moneymaker isn’t their books, it’s you. It’s the naïve authors who are paying them hundreds of dollars, and the hundreds of other authors who are paying them hundreds of dollars, to give you advice that you could get for free and that may or may not work for you, depending on whether you get lucky or not.
This has been bothering me for a while, but the last straw—and what drove me to writing this post—is Kindle Vella, Amazon’s new serial platform which had a disastrous rollout in July. Amazon did a terrible job of promoting it to readers, meaning most people don’t know what it is or why they should spend money on it. Amazon has relied entirely on authors nagging their audiences to sell this product to them. They only rolled it out in the US, meaning that authors in other areas and readers in other marketplaces are shut out. The app is (or at least was on launch) only available on iOS, not on Android or on Kindle, Amazon’s own platform! They expect readers to come back and re-vote for a story every single week, which most people aren’t going to know or remember to do, but those votes are essential to authors getting ranked and getting paid. Even the top-ranked stories for the first month earned less than $50. Amazon sweetened the deal for authors by paying a bonus out of a $200,000 pot paid among all the authors, and that was basically the only thing that made all the nonsense they’d gone through worth it. I saw authors looking at their statistics and sinking into a pit of despair that they were doing so “poorly”, despite the fact that everyone was doing poorly because the way Amazon rolled this platform out was an unmitigated disaster.
And six weeks in to this very rocky experiment? Here come the snake oil salesmen peddling online classes about how to master Kindle Vella. When the truth is, it’s impossible for anyone to know. It simply hasn’t been around long enough to have any kind of reliable data. We can guess, based on what kinds of stories do well on other serial platforms like Radish and Kiss, but we don’t know that the same audience is going to be using Vella, so we don’t know that what works on Radish or Kiss is going to work on Vella. We don’t know that this service is going to take off at all. We don’t know that the serial bubble that burst in 2015 isn’t going to burst again in 2021. We don’t know that Amazon isn’t going to get bored of it like they did with Kindle Worlds and just shut the whole thing down. Even if it does turn out to be successful, we don’t know how many readers are going to use it, what type of story they’re going to like, what kind of money is going to be spent on it, or what kind of numbers are going to constitute “midlist” or “successful.” The entire thing is a gamble and is going to remain a complete guessing game until the service has been out long enough that the bugs have been eliminated and several months of solid, reliable data can be compiled. But I legitimately saw an advertisement yesterday for a $400 course (and that’s just the introductory price) with the tagline, “SOMEbody is going to be the first Vella millionaire. Why not let that be you?“
Cue me throwing up in my mouth.
Guys, please don’t fall for pitches like these. I’m not calling them outright scams—I’m sure that some of their advice is going to be valid and useful, and maybe some people will find success using the methods they outline in their coursesidk about the Vella one since it’s too early to say, but these companies all offer lots of different courses—but they’re not worth $400. The vast majority of authors are never going to see a return on that investment. It doesn’t matter to these people. They’ll talk nice to you and pretend to be your friend, but they’re not. They’re salesmen. They got your money. That’s the only thing they care about.
When you’re first starting out as an indie author, there are aspects of the business that are really hard to understand. For example, despite having tried multiple different times with various different methods, be it books or videos or advice from friends, I have never been able to figure out AMS or Facebook advertising. So I absolutely understand how a class dedicated to teaching you those things could be appealing. I personally would recommend that you try some free resources to start with, or maybe buy a book for $10 or less. Obviously I’m not the boss of you, but I do urge you to consider not giving money to people like this, as it both enables them and encourages more of them to pop up. But no matter what you do, please remember that there is no magic bullet. Just do your best and don’t let your self-worth be tied to anyone else’s definition of “success.”
|↑1||Note that I’m not talking about myself here. I am well aware that I’m not doing things “right”, I just am too sick to give a crap. 😂 But I feel I should point out that I’m not talking about myself so that the rest of this post doesn’t come off as sour grapes. I am talking about the authors I’ve seen with amazing books, gorgeous covers, and engaging blurbs, who are marketing, advertising, doing newsletters and social media, who have nitpicked those covers, blurbs, and books to hell and back and are beating themselves up thinking that there’s something wrong with their books when there isn’t.|
|↑2||idk about the Vella one since it’s too early to say, but these companies all offer lots of different courses|