I’ve been writing for a long time, I’ve had plenty of disappointments. And when I shared a few of them with my writers’ club, people got discouraged. But I wasn’t trying to be an Angel of Doom, I was just trying to let them know that writing is a tough business.
One of our new members has gotten lots of rejections for a well-written book. She’s read some of it to us, and we love it. And we’re picky. But writing a good book doesn’t mean you’ll sell. NO ONE wants to hear that. I didn’t. But writing is a business, and as in any business, what sells one day might not a week later. Trends change.
I’ve watched the market try to follow what readers want next, and there’s a pattern. A writer sends in a story that some editor can’t resist. He buys it, and readers clamor for it. It becomes a best-seller, and then other editors say, “Whoa! Mysteries with zombies as detectives are popular right now. Our company needs some.” Authors notice and write a few. Editors buy them, and soon, writers write more and editors buy more until…the market is glutted, and readers are tired of the same old same ole, so they move on. And then NO ONE can sell a zombie mystery, because editors have seen hundreds of them and readers have bought all of them they can stand. And then the next story hits an editor’s desk–a story about dogs taking over the human race and training us to fetch for them –and it hits the bestseller lists, and everyone scrambles to write and buy those.
Marketing is tricky. It’s hard to spot a trend until it’s almost over. My friend writes middle grade books. So does another friend of mine. And boy, are they hard to sell. I don’t know that market, but I know that even if you’re a wonderful writer, the planets have to align and sprinkle rainbow sprinkles on you for you to find a publisher. But let’s face it. It’s hard to find a good agent and it’s hard to sell your book to a publisher, no matter what you’re writing. But it can be done. It’s just not easy.
So, there are people who know how much authors want to find homes for their books, how much they want readers to like their work. And that’s where scams are born. There are publishers who’ll print your book and help distribute it. By “distributing it,” one of my friends had 1,000 copies loaded into the trunk of her car. What do you do with them? Book stores don’t want them. There’s no guarantee of quality at all. She traveled a lot and went to lots of events and sold quite a few of them, but it was a lot of work. There are agents who charge fees to read your book, and that’s all some of them do. Period. When I first started writing, the expert advice was never to pay a fee to an agent. The whole point is for them to make money for YOU, and they profit when you profit. I’m not advising to not pay for an editor to look at your book. Or to shy away from cover designers. Experts deserve to make money for their time. All I’m saying is to be careful.
The reason I’m writing this blog is because I had one of the best scammers I’ve ever dealt with call me yesterday. I didn’t send any money, but I did lose 45 minutes of my time, because he started out by asking me if he could write an article for the magazine he worked for about me, how I write, and about my book The Body From the Past. I’ve participated on Facebook Author Panels before, a blog or two, a couple of Zoom library book clubs…so I was flattered he’d called. And he asked me questions for close to 25 minutes. And THEN, he asked why I’d decided to write a darker cozy like POSED IN DEATH. He’d noticed it was self-published. His magazine often looked for writers with promise and helped them develop their careers. And then the sales pitch started. His company would be happy to include me and my books in their newsletter once a month for two years to help me find a bigger audience. They could assign me a personal publicist to help get me on the radio, on Zoom panels, and maybe even TV. And after helping me build my name and presence, they could put my next book up for auction and make a lot of money for me. And all it would take is for me to match the $7500 it would cost his company to make me famous.
The sad thing is that this man knew how hard it is to build a writing career, the right things to say, and he used that to try to get money from me. I looked up his company, and it sounds wonderful online. Then I looked up his company with the Better Business Bureau and read a list of complaints. There are legitimate companies out there. Then there are companies that only SOUND good. Do your homework and know what you’re getting into to.