Thursday, 7 December 2017

Is gambling the new culture of indie publishing?

I thought I'd write a quick blog post in response to the recent Goodreads announcement to charge upwards of $119 for indie authors to host a giveaway. I said quick, but it has become a longer post, because I'm very concerned about this new "gambling" culture that is sneaking its way into the publishing world.
Goodreads was bought out by Amazon a few years ago. We have all been waiting to see where this venture would head. It seems that it's following the trend of encouraging authors to gamble their money in the hopes of making sales, attaining reviews, getting exposure, punching through that glass ceiling.
Not a lot of indie authors are happy with the announcement by Goodreads and we're making our dissatisfaction known. But will it make any difference? Or will authors in ten years time be saying "we need to stop this culture of exploitation and paying for promises that are never delivered".
I call this the 'golden ticket' sales approach. There were five golden tickets and hundreds of thousands of Wonka bars were purchased by customers in the hope of being the one who won the golden ticket. In a nutshell, this is gambling. We do this when we buy a lottery ticket. But if we were to spend our weekly wage on the practice, there'd be a need for an intervention.
So why are we authors spending more than we earn in the hopes of being 'the one'?
It isn't just Goodreads that I'm concerned about either. They make no claim of guarantee, but they will state that:
Goodreads giveaways are a special type of advertising campaign. A Goodreads giveaway is much more than just getting your book into the hands of a group of readers. It includes building awareness through placement on Goodreads’ highly-trafficked pages, social amplification through stories in the Goodreads updates feed, notifications to your followers, and reviews. All of this helps build your audience and drive discovery of your book.
There are hundreds of promo sites, and more will open up, offering email blasts to their subscriptions lists that could be all bots for all we know. They could have bought a list from a washing detergent company. And they're charging us for sending out emails about our upcoming promotions.
Most of these sites are genuine and you can find some reasonably priced sites, from as little as $10 you can get a one time email blast. BookBub is the leader in this type of marketing and so many authors will admit to a great return on investment. Many say they've wasted their $450. The problem with BookBub isn't that it works for the majority, it's that it isn't new anymore and the shine may fade while the price remains the same. And we won't do anything about it.
Why? Because indie authors are desperate for success. We'll gladly give away our money for poor return on investment. We are like no other business on the planet. Even a not-for-profit organisation pays themselves wages, insurance, holiday pay, heating and electricity. Not-for-profit simply means that after expenses, all the profits of the business are poured back into the business.

Many authors are like for like when it comes to sales and royalties. For every $100 in royalties I've earned, I've shelled out $125 in marketing and promo.

This is bad business. Retailers would shut their doors if this continued.
Yet we authors persist, convincing ourselves that exposure is just as important as sales. Sadly, it's not just authors who are fair game for exploitations. It's all creative people. Musicians. Actors. Artists. Models. Anyone who does something in a highly competitive field will fall prey to immoral people. There's people making money off of us. Lots of money. Sure, nobody asked us to do this, but I think we've been shooting ourselves in the foot for so long now that we're starting to hobble badly and finally we're looking for something to fix the problem.

And what I also want to say is, disagree with me if you must, but please allow me to speak. The standard we walk by is the standard we accept, and I will not accept the poor practice of scammers profiting off the hard work of others. True, nobody asked us to do what we do, and there are millions more where we came from. Can you see how this type of thinking leads to a practice of exploitation?
What I'm most concerned with is that the blame for lacklustre sales and success for indie authors is being flung back on us. I've seen it stated many times that our failure in sales lies with the author. It's either the blurb, the book cover, the pricing, our the lack of reviews. It's never the promotion site. Good grief that anyone should call them out on this. I have and I've now got a ban on promoting from one site. But I got my refund. Again, another step in the foundation for exploitation - it's our fault, if we want to improve, we'll do whatever they say.
An alarm keeps going off inside my head that this is how every oppressive culture begins. Blame the victim, never the perpetrator. I've very cautious and I urge everyone else to be very cautious. There are people out there who have no morals when it comes to taking money for nothing.

So here's some things to be mindful of:
  • Do your research. There are some sites that do email blasts for free or for $5-$10.
  • Set a budget and stick to it. And don't be swept up in the frenzy.
  • Accept that well known authors will always have better success than unknown authors and sometimes we simply cannot compete with their budget or exposure.
  • Ask other authors in a Facebook group if they have an opinion on a promo site.
  • Ask the site what they'll do if you get zero results.
  • And lastly, stand up for what you believe in.

What do you think? Has this happened to you? Have you got any tips to suggest? I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

This is the link to the original post and my comment below:
I have to agree with the overwhelming response from indie authors about the lack of return on investment from many online marketing strategies, not just Goodreads. There is also a high cost for some (not all) email blasts/promos that don’t generate sales.
It’s not that I expect authors NOT to pay to promote, but I’m growing more and more concerned that these marketing strategies are turning into gambling habits.
Strategies that are developed by marketing people no less, who are skilled in buyer behaviors.
I also agree that we should start questioning and sometimes calling out these high priced promos that guarantee results but fail. No other product on the market can make that claim and get away with a non-committal shoulder shrug.
Sorry, this has become a long comment, but I am seeing a trend that is scary. Indie authors keep putting money into the slots and get nothing in return. Then we’re told the fault lies with the blurb or the cover or the lack of reviews. Sometimes true. Sometimes not. This is how bad cultures start. (And maybe great fodder for dystopian writers).
Alas, someone is making money from these high cost ventures, but it isn’t me and I doubt it’s the majority of indie punters.
I’ll stick to my budget and try to avoid getting swept up in the frenzy of the ‘golden ticket’.
Thank you for letting my voice my opinion.


Thursday, 30 November 2017

Coffee chat with Cat Sparks - author of Lotus Blue (Part 2)

Last week I hosted award-winning fiction author and former magazine editor and manager, Cat Sparks into my vitual café. She had so much to discuss about climate change fiction that I decided to split the coffee chat into two parts.

Here is a link to PART ONE.


DL: I can't help thinking that reports on climate change are something world leaders are treating as indifferently as an annual health check up. Like they can't see the damage so why change their habits now, or they're waiting until they have a heart attack to do something about it. I'd also like to think that maybe it'd take a major disaster to wake them up, but major disasters are already happening. Do you think climate change fiction will play a role in inciting today's generation into demanding that our leaders do something? And what do you think is the biggest threat for the world right now?

CAT: There have been notable incidences where fiction impacted strongly enough on readers in the past, enough to change views about the world and initiate a call to action. Two examples: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) is generally credited with kick starting the modern environmental movement. It’s a non-fiction book that utilises the device of an embedded science fiction story, “A Fable for Tomorrow.”  
Neville Shute’s best-seller On the Beach is said to have influenced Kennedy and definitely inspired many to anti-nuclear protest, both the book and film versions. Dr Helen Caldicott, then a 19-year-old medical student, credits the film as the catalyst which radicalised her into a lifetime of anti-nuclear activism.

The biggest threat to the world right now is complacency, particularly in the West, where so many of us lead soft, comfortable high-consumption lives. Most of us alive today are too young to have struggled through war rationing and the Great Depression & we’re used to thinking we deserve anything we can pay for. We trust in capitalism as some kind of protecting entity. We work and we buy stuff – that is how it has always been. Except that it hasn’t. History abounds with examples of societies who didn’t face up to the need for change, with dire consequences. Unfortunately, I don’t believe much of our society is going to change until cataclysmic events start affecting large numbers of middle class white people.

Complexity theory suggests that when societies develop beyond a certain point, collapse is inevitable. I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that parts of the world are going to become uninhabitable much sooner than we think. That hundreds of millions of people will be forced to move and globally we do not have a good track record of dealing with masses of displaced people.

Prof Brian Cox has expressed the opinion “if we can get through the next couple of decades and we begin to move off the planet, I think that then secures our future.” That’s quite a challenge. What will happen to us if we don’t?

As Bill McKibben says, “We’re under attack from climate change—and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in WWII.”

I completely agree with that. Plus, the old Cold War nuclear threat is back on the table. There are at least 15,000 nukes out there – and at least two world leaders who might actually be crazy enough to use them. And then there’s all those other threats: weaponised pathogens, unregulated synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, autonomous combat weaponry, computer hacking, terrorism, species extinctions, antibiotic resistance, religious fundamentalism and the widening gap between rich and poor. We have never had a wider and more varied array of methods by which we could sterilise this planet.

DL: For anyone interested in writing cli-fi or including climate change in their world building, I thought I'd ask these next few questions. What is the biggest myth or lie on climate change being pushed at the moment? Who is pushing the lie? And what would these people gain by continuing this lie?

CAT: We could eventually find ourselves in the situation where pretty much all realistic fiction is climate fiction by default. As Margaret Atwood says, it’s not climate change, it’s everything change.

The biggest lie is that Climate Change is not an existential threat. That it isn’t such a big deal, that it’s something likely to affect other people somewhere else. That the rich will be able to bunker down and somehow manage to continue business as usual. That we are not risking everything we have.
That continued dependence on fossil fuels will not have devastating consequences. People who make big money out of fossil fuel dependence are the ones holding back the sustainability revolution. The necessary technology to transition to renewables already exists and is being improved upon all the time – and there’s loads of money to be made in it. But the disruption to traditional financial infrastructures and power bases will be immense.

My view? When all the life known to exist in the entire universe is concentrated on one small blue planet, we are obliged to take that situation very seriously and behave accordingly.

It seems idiotic to have to point this out, but the last humans left standing should this planet has been reduced to a smoking ruin, will not be classifiable as “winners,” no matter what treasures they’ve manage to stuff into their underground bunkers.

DL:  And lastly, are you a biscuit or cake kind of person? And what is your favourite biscuit/cake?

CAT: I like biscuits AND cake! In fact, the only cake I don't like is pavlova. My favourite cake would be a toss-up between lemon tart and Portugese tart. Never met a biscuit I didn’t like.

DL: Thank so much to Cat for sharing information about climate change and how it translates into fiction.

Cat Sparks is a multi-award-winning Australian author, editor, and artist, whose former employment includes media monitor, political and archaeological photographer, graphic designer, Fiction Editor for Cosmos Magazine, and Manager of Agog! Press. A 2012 Australian Council grant sent her to Florida to participate in Margaret Attwood's The time Machine Doorway workshop. she's currently finishing a PhD in climate change fiction. Her short story collection "The Bride Price" was published in 2013. her debut novel "Lotus Blue" was published by Talos Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, in 2017.


Seventeen-year-old Star and her sister Nene are orphans, part of a thirteen-wagon caravan of nomadic traders living hard lives travelling the Sand Road. Their route cuts through a particularly dangerous and unforgiving section of the Dead Red Heart, a war-ravaged desert landscape plagued by rogue semi-sentient machinery and other monsters from a bygone age.

But when the caravan witnesses a relic-Angel satellite unexpectedly crash to Earth, a chain of events begins that sends Star on a journey far away from the life she once knew. Shanghaied upon the sandship Dogwatch, she is forced to cross the Obsidian Sea by Quarrel, an ancient Templar supersoldier. Eventually shipwrecked, Star will have no choice but to place her trust in both thieves and priestesses while coming to terms with the grim reality of her past—and the horror of her unfolding destiny—as the terrible secret her sister had been desperate to protect her from begins to unravel.

Meanwhile, something old and powerful has woken in the desert. A Lotus Blue, deadliest of all the ancient war machines. A warrior with plans of its own, far more significant than a fallen Angel. Plans that do not include the survival of humanity.

 Buy Lotus Blue on Amazon

"Obliterate" release day - L.L. Hunter's Hidden Magic series

Today's it's my pleasure to shine the spotlight on L. L Hunter's urban fantasy/ paranormal romance novella series, "Hidden Magic".
Hidden Magic is a series of novellas and a prequel to L.L. Hunter's "Dragon Heart" series.

Emma thought she’d made peace with herself and her past, but when her past comes back to haunt her, she’ll be forced to face her demons once more.

When she is turned unexpectedly mortal, she and Darcy reluctantly return to the world she fled to seek help. But when they arrive, Emma is confronted with a choice. One which, if she chooses wrongly, could come between her and Darcy forever.

 Emma never met a challenge she couldn’t handle. She once ran from her destiny, but she can’t escape her fate. 
You can’t obliterate your demons.
These fabulous covers are designed by Desiree DeOrto. This blog tour is hosted by Lady Amber's Reviews & PR.


L.L. Hunter is the author of over 20 published works, including The Legend of the Archangel Series and The Garden of Eden. She has studied everything from veterinary nursing, forensic science, and dramatic arts, but has always known her true calling was to be an author.

She has been writing since her teens - everything from fan fiction, to song lyrics, to plays and musicals. When not working on her next paranormal romance, she can be found at home in Australia, reading somewhere comfortable with one or both of her “fur babies.”

Released November 30 2017
Amazon US:


Friday, 24 November 2017

Dear Trophy Hunter, this is what a house of animal memorabilia looks like

Any animal lover on Facebook and Twitter will have seen the news feeds this week about lifting the ban on elephant hunting and the feeds about making it legal to hunt bears in hibernation. Seriously? What. The. Hell. Is. Wrong. With. These. People?
Whether fake news or not, these sorts of stories impact animal lovers. Deeply. I guess they know this and that's why they do it.
I decided today's post would be a collection of all the animals décor in my house to show trophy hunters what a real collection looks like. And if it's the story they seek as a reason to hunt innocent creatures, I got news for you, each of these items has a story behind it and no animals were killed in the collecting of them. 
I love the story behind this gorgeous art deco elephant. A friend gave  it to me as a thank you for minding her dog. He passed away the next year so this is a beautiful reminder of when Bruti came to stay.
art deco elephant sits on my book shelf
this ceramic vase zebra head looks better as a book end

And this stunning zebra print has a story. I saw this while I was working as a sales rep (yeah I did a lot of shopping in between store visits) and I absolutely loved it. It wasn't cheap so I put it on lay-by and paid it off over a course of months. It was my Christmas present to myself. This print has moved to many houses with me and will continue to do so.

I like how the eye is always watching

Then there's a glass horse and cart that I saw at a collective garage sale (that's where a group of people hire a hall and display all their home crafts or second hand goods) and I also bought this stunning photo of a deer that the photographer digitally designed and it's housed in the frame my sister bought me.


 I certainly don't mean to bore you with images of the animal wares I've collected over the years. This is a giant poke at trophy hunters who have no true understanding of what a collection should be. There is absolutely no need to aim a rifle at an animal in sport, shoot it dead, cut off it's head, mount it on a wall, and feel proud that you did that to an innocent creature. I mean, come on. There are better ways to show your love of animals.
This zebra print was at a yard sale and despite having a bucket load of zebra print in my home, and I just couldn't resist.
it's #001 of a limited print

 The following are a few pieces I've bought while out on retail therapy days.
I adore my little moon gazing rabbit
This is the living beast who rules our house. She even has her own animal print throw rugs. My collection of images doesn't even include the framed photos of our beloved pooch hanging on the walls.
wild beast who terrorises the villagers
This year's Christmas decoration is a moss deer and a tiny bird on the tree. I think anyone can see how obsessed a person can become with animals. Doesn't mean I want to go out there and shoot them.

 These two prints of a lion and a zebra in a decoupage design have also travelled with me from house to house. They go through the process of being painted to suit the current décor, at the moment they're blue. You can't recolor the head of a lion, now can you, dear trophy hunter.

The point of this post is to show how a home can be filled with a wonderful collection that has taken years to gather, without the need to hunt and kill.

I hope everyone has enjoyed having a look through my home. All of these photos are straight up as they sit in my home on shelves and cabinets, I did not want to doctor these photos to make them look like they are in a sales catalogue.

I'll finish by saying this:
Dear Trophy Hunter, this is what a house of animal memorabilia looks like. Come round and have a look. But don't expect to leave with certain parts of your anatomy still attached.