Monday, March 20, 2017

Avoid Scammers

When I first began my journey to becoming an author, like all those before me, I had visions of fame and riches running through my head. It didn’t matter that the odds were heavily stacked against me. I was what you might call, a ’true believer’. I would succeed where others have failed. I would be the exception rather than the rule. Well, in my case, it actually worked out.
But there was a period of time when my faith was shaken; when I thought that maybe things wouldn’t go according to plan. People weren’t lined up around the block to buy my book. And I began to considered that maybe it wasn’t as good as I thought it was. Nine months had gone by, and I was no closer to achieving my goals than the day I wrote the first line – or at least that was what I thought. What I know now, that I didn’t know then, was that I was laying the foundation for what would later become a fantastic career. But that’s another story.
Thinking I was just spinning my wheels and not knowing what to do next, I was about as vulnerable to scams as I have ever been in my life. Fortunately, my career took off before I fell victim to the scum who prey on the dreams of the hopeful. But, as I am sure you are aware, many aren’t so lucky.
Recently, I saw someone post on an online forum an offer that, to me, sounded too good to be true. Claiming best seller status with millions of copies sold, this person listed what on the surface appeared like the greatest offer an aspiring writer could hope to run across. It included everything from multiple email blasts to tens of thousands of this authors loyal fans, to professional covers and editing. Hell, you even got to talk to this person once a week, and go over strategies and receive help with your story – from a NYT BEST SELLING AUTHOR. I mean, wow! Who wouldn’t want that? Isn’t that worth a scant $1300?
The answer is no. It’s worth a lot more. And that’s what made me suspicious. Editing alone from a reputable editor can cost more – for just one book. And even premade covers using stock art run over $100. And this person was saying that they would produce three manuscripts, edited, formatted and ready to upload.
And then there’s the mentoring. I remember the thrill I felt the first time I had a one-on-one phone conversation with Michael J. Sullivan, then later Hugh Howey. I had been on a radio show panel about the different stages of publishing. It was me Hugh and Michael. The only reason I was there was because I knew the guy running the show. Afterward, I contacted Michael and Hugh and asked them for a bit of advice. Both were very cool, and graciously gave me some of their time. Afterward, I was over the moon with excitement. So, the idea of a weekly conversation with the top tier author would be extremely enticing.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this person can back up the claims. The post was anonymous, so it’s not like anyone could dispute their story. But it smacked of a scam. It is pricy enough so that a writer with a day job, trying their best to break through, might think it’s legitimate, yet cheap enough that it’s not out of the range of affordability.
To put this into perspective, I spend between $3000-$5000 on a typical release. This includes editing, covers, formatting, and proof reading. This does not include marketing and promotion. That’s ONE book. Not three.
Were I to offer a comparable service (which I would never do), I would have to charge roughly $10,000 just to cover my own costs. This is taking into account that as my name and reputation would be on the line, the work would be professionally done by the same people who do my books. And that’s where I think part of the scam is. For $1300, I could easily do a quick edit, a premade cover, and format a manuscript. I could even farm out the work for about $500. But it sure as hell wouldn’t be professional quality. The rest – the weekly conversations and mentoring…window dressing.

What I’m trying to say is that there is no easy way. The better something sounds the more likely it will turn out to be a scam. I know it can be hard to resist the urge to believe. But before you make the leap, take a minute to think. When people offer their services, they do so with the expectation of a profit. If what they are offering simply doesn’t add up, there is a good chance you’re going to end up the victim of a scam. 

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