Self-publishing to fuck over your readers

How to cheat, trick, and lie to your readers

(This is going to be a different post and I’m pissed off writing this, so I apologise in advance for my language (though if you’ve read the title, you’ve probably seen the worst of it). This needs to be said.)

I attended a seminar a few days ago that I was interested in because one of the topics was online marketing, specifically using ebooks. Disclaimer first: At this point, I know very little about online marketing. I’m only just starting out. I read, I talk to people, I try a few things. So I’m not an expert by any means. But I know enough to take a stand right now and say that this is the way I’m never never ever going to do it.

Just a couple of highlights that were said at the seminar:

  • Anyone can write an ebook (true). It doesn’t cost you a dollar to publish it on Amazon (true). You shouldn’t spend more than a day writing it (?!), otherwise it’s not worth the effort (?!?) and you don’t need an editor, but you ought to run a spell-check (this is the point where I almost got up and left, but it was morbid fascination that kept me in my seat).
  • It’s easy to become an Amazon bestseller (true, I’ll post a link about that at the end of this post). For a few dollars you can get that shiny orange badge on your book and, basically, fuck your readers over because they now believe you’re one of the top sellers in the world, so… your book must be good, right?
  • 91% of people don’t read past the first chapter of a book they’ve bought. (I don’t know where this statistic came from. It might be true. However, the conclusion drawn at the seminar was…) So you really shouldn’t put a lot of effort into it. Just throw a few things together, no one’s going to read it anyway, it’s just about helping you build your brand.

These are just the highlights, but I think it’s quite enough to make my point. I’m writing this to take a stand for passionate, honest, ethical, hard-working self-published authors who write because they love to write and not primarily for money, who will never, never lie to or cheat their readers, and who strive to write the very best books they can to make sure they don’t waste a second of their readers’ valuable time.

And maybe, that means we’ll make less money. Maybe it means we won’t hit the bestseller lists at all, but if we do, it’s because we’ve earned it. We don’t push our books up there by purposefully putting it in the wrong categories and pretend we just conquered the world. We don’t claim to be so skilled that we can do without an editor (there may be about 5 people who actually are, but chances are you’re not one of them; I’m not). We don’t pretend that our book will be available at that reduced price only today, when in fact it’s going to stay that way forever. That’s lying to your readers! And yeah, I can just about guess the comments I’m going to get on this:

  • That’s how marketing works today (partly true).
  • Get off your high horse, you don’t have any sales to show (true, but that doesn’t take away my right to an opinion).
  • You sound like an angry child envious of the big writers out there because you haven’t made it (maybe I do, what’s your point?).

But you know what? Bullshit. There are ways to market your ebook ethically, to readers who are genuinely interested, without lying to them. I believe that I’ll be able to find readers who appreciate exactly that respect I have for them and stick with me because of it.

Will this mean I’ll never make a living off my writing? Maybe. But I don’t think so. Let’s talk about it in 10 or 20 years and see how things have gone, shall we?

If you’re a self-published author who intends to market ethically, do you know why this matters to you? Because there are people out there giving self-publishing a really bad name by publishing low-quality mass-produced, unedited ebooks. Look what someone wrote in a review on my book (and yes, I’ll be honest and say I’m posting a couple of sentences more than I need to because I want you to see the good feedback my book got, too):

If you love deep, thoughtful fantasy along the lines of Connie Willis, Brandon Sanderson, and such, I think you will really like this book. If you prefer lighter urban fantasy with vampires, werewolves, etc., be prepared for a different type of read. I found the quality of this book especially amazing for a free book. Most free fantasy books on Amazon are pure dreck.

The last sentence, though. Think about it: People are always talking about how it’s important to ‘stand out’ when you do marketing. I’ve got a suggestion. How about standing out by writing a really high-quality book? Doesn’t that sound good?

Please, if you agree, share this article with your fellow self-published authors. Let’s spread the word and group together as authors who write because they love to write and who vow to market ethically. For readers whom we respect and whose time we value. 

Here’s the link I promised. How anyone can turn an ebook into a #1 Amazon bestseller:

Still here? Please remember to share.


Did this article offend you? Ask yourself why. 



4 thoughts on “Self-publishing to fuck over your readers”

  1. Wow!

    What hideous advice. That statistic of people not reading past the first chapter probably completely applies to the host of the seminar if they’re only spending a day on writing their book!

    If everyone followed this advice, I guarantee that in 10 years fiction would be obsolete because no one would be buying it anymore.

    Building a brand by putting out substandard work??????? Only if you want your ‘brand’ to be avoided and scoffed.


  2. I am as upset by that horrible experience you had, as you are! Who in the world thought that kind of “advice” was legit? I firmly believe many readers get past the first chapter. Even the most difficult to read books I’ve attempted, I’ve read past the first chapter! There are a great number of books on Amazon that are dreck, commercially published and self-pubbed alike. But the same is with anything, whether it be lightbulbs or books. I agree with you that we should be putting out the best books we can, whether we have an agent or it’s just us writing our hearts out alone. We don’t want a book out there that will make us cringe a year or five in the future.
    I’m afraid if I had been at that seminar, I would have stood up and challenged that advice and those statistics. But I’m stubborn and confrontational like that. *wink* Thank you for sharing that experience and your legitimate outrage with us. Anyway we can flood that speakers email with our outrage at their lies?

  3. No doubt you’re pissed off. I can’t believe they were teaching this garbage at a seminar!! They should be ashamed of themselves for calling themselves “writers.”
    I knew there were people out there releasing rough drafts, unedited manuscripts, and so forth, but I wasn’t aware it was with the intent of claiming a #1 Bestseller label. What a load of shite that is.
    It really does upset me that there are indie authors and indie-pubs doing the hard work and releasing the best, polished work they can, only to be buried by the great garbage avalanche of people working the system.

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