If It Looks Like A Scam

Crowdfunding’s a bit of a strange one. To me it’s sort-of the same as advertising; if you help to crowdfund a project you get a mention. But it seems to me that if you crowdfund a project getting a mention isn’t anywhere near as good as getting a piece of the action i.e. some hard cash return. It would make crowdfunding more appealing to people with money to burn if they were to get a mention and some return. Otherwise they’d be better off scrawling their names on bus shelters and buying lots of scratch cards.

I was intrigued to find out more about a particular crowdfunding project. On the face of it, to me no-one would cough up a penny. It’s a book that’s taken more than twenty years to write, and the author’s stated that it’s due to be published by these chaps; take a few moments to read this carefully. Seems to me that the authors are doing all the work while, not doing all that much work, the publishers are taking a good cut of the royalties. Sound like a scam?

And I think this is worth pointing out: the author has to crowdfund the project, and the publisher sets a target of £15k. Obviously the publisher needs the £15k to produce and publish the project. Or do they? Simple answer: no.

But that’s other people’s money. Would the author care if the project budgeted £500 for cover design? No. Would the author care if they were charged £500 for cover design? Yes. There are very few, if any, potential or current writers who have or would pay a ‘publisher’ £15k to publish their book. That, I believe, is a throwback to the days of vanity publishing. Proper vanity publishing…

Whether you’re a fan or not of massive FREE online publishers like Amazon, one thing they have done (most likely as a consequence and not a deliberate action) is to see off vanity publishers. Why? Because, unlike these guys, they’re FREE. All it takes – and this removes all the hassle of (apart from writing a book) organising a rather ominously large and difficult crowdfunded project – is a little time and research. It’s all online and it’s all FREE. Not £15k.

However, if you do have a small budget, I would recommend investing in something like this. Or, if like me your budget’s £0, then you can always borrow a copy from your local library. It’s FREE.


This is an interesting article, and reinforces what Amazon said recently: only 40 self-published authors are a success. And by ‘success’ they mean ‘make money’. Right at the tip of the cash iceberg there sits a handful of successful self-published authors; the rest of the iceberg consists of writers like me: skint.

And so what? First of all, Amazon couldn’t give a monkey’s who is and who isn’t making money. It’s all money for them. Second, isn’t the wealth distribution not unlike that of traditional publishing anyway? There’s a handful of fat cats at the top of the pile supported by those like me: skint. Here’s another article that says most writers are below the poverty line.

And I suppose it’s true for other creatives. There’s a handful of rich musicians sitting atop the musicians’ iceberg while the rest (and I’ve seen plenty) ply their trade whenever and wherever they can, creating their music and hoping people buy their CDs or download their work. Just so they can get by, or at least make it all worthwhile.

Which is what it’s all about in the end: if you’re hoping to make a living through your work, you’re going to have to make some money. Which is where I’m leaving this: I’ve got a deadline today, but only a chance that I’ll make money from about a week’s work (give or take).

In the meantime, if you’re feeling the need to support a skint writer, have a look at my work. Go on. Download a book. It’ll mean I’ll be able to buy some matches to light the candle I use to huddle over on cold, Edinburgh nights. Like tonight…

Keeping Up To Date…

I came across this by accident; a link that followed a link to a blogIt’s Amazon’s KDP updates about the quality of the material they publish. The upshot is, if it’s not up to scratch, it’s out. Which is fine by me. I’ve downloaded some ebook samples that looked as though they’d been written by someone with no head. Or fingers.

And I’m kind-of paranoid about typos. One of my ‘friends’ emailed and said he’d downloaded Build The State, and found five typos. He was kidding. Just a subtle wind up…

Anyway, it’s good, is it not, that Amazon imposes some standards on what gets published? It’s for their benefit too, I suppose, that they want to cut ties with those writers who habitually upload crap to KDP. Worse still – it’s the poor mugs who actually buy it.

I had assumed – because other sites, like smashwords, have a bit of a strict checklist when it comes to uploading work for publication – that Amazon would already had their own guidelines in place and weren’t publishing work riddled with errors. Some of the examples they use suggest they have, and are maybe in some sort of checking process, and removing substandard (as they define it) material.

Just a shame they don’t tell indie publishers – current and potential – that they’re updating their guidelines because the consequences are a bit annoying. Would be nice, Amazon, to be kept informed?

Reviews: The Good, The Bad, And The Other Ones

If you’re an indie publisher reviews should be important: they can decide whether a book sells well or not (if at all), drive new readers to your online media, inspire new readers, etc etc. Or they can kill you dead. Or, in this case, just blow you out of the water (I’m betting that the review to actual sales ratio is about 10:1). Whatever your opinion is, when it comes to reviews they do throw their weight about. But are they all that helpful?

Best case scenario: you publish a book and it gets a lot of positive, well-written, inciteful reviews. It gets you noticed and you sell a lot of books. 

Next best: you get a lot of positive reviews but they’re not well-written or they don’t have much to say. They’re not inspiring new readers to buy your book and some of the reviewers have names like ‘Uncle Bill’ and ‘Mother’. Looks like you’ve got a lot of family and friends willing to write a review for you but, to be honest, people spot these sort of reviews and see them for what they are – they’re reviews that merely pay lip service and a lot of potentially new readers are put off.

And then: some reviews. Probably the most common scenario. A mixture of good and bad. The good reviews are great, but the poor ones, the one-stars and throwaway comments are crippling. The key thing here is to remember that you’ll always get poor reviews; suck it up and move on. Take solace in the good reviews. 

Not so good: pay people to write reviews for you. Yes, there are websites out there where you can buy reviews (I’ve mentioned them before but never put up any links to them…) A couple of hundred dollars will get you a handful of glowing reviews with five stars. I’m not sure – given the life-cycle of books in online stores like Amazon – that paying $$$ for reviews is worthwhile. Financially anyway. But if you’ve got the cash to spare? More cash than brain cells, in my opinion.

Towards the bottom of the barrel: one review, one star, no comment.

No reviews? It doesn’t necessarily mean that your book is worthless. But I’ve realised – while I’ve been thinking about reviews over the past few weeks – that if I’m shopping online I skip over the products with no reviews in favour of those that do. Even those with a couple of average reviews give me more insight than nothing at all.

So what’s it all mean? I’d like (just like everyone else) to be able to delete bad reviews but can’t. I’d like (just like everyone else) to be able to create a hundred Amazon accounts and write a hundred brilliant reviews for every book I publish but I don’t have the time and Amazon’s not that stupid anyway. And like I’ve said (or written) before: there aren’t any easy quick fixes. This whole indie writing/publishing malarky is long and hard (add your own punchline. And review. Or not…)


Read The Small Print

Despite the recent post about reading the brief I’ve just completed a 3000 word story which doesn’t meet the brief… It was cobbled together from a few ideas I’d had, and I’d still a few left in the tank so I rechecked the submission guidelines to read that yes, yes, I could submit two pieces, so with the stuff left over I could put another submission together.

Then I checked the deadline. Plenty of time. Rechecked I could submit two pieces. Yes, yes. The first prize is as good as mine etc etc. Then something caught my eye:

“We invite science-fiction short stories (and also self-contained novel excerpts) of up to 3000 words that address themes of medicine, health, and illness…” My story was about time travel…

Of course, I could rewrite elements of medicine, health, and illness into the story but that sort-of feels like cheating. I’ll give it a go if I have the proper inclination and the time. The second idea definitely does include elements of health and medicine, although I was a bit annoyed to find this appear in the media. I’m sure it won’t inspire thousands of people to write stories on the same theme but it was my idea first. So steer clear. And don’t forget to read the brief.