Publishing a book can get quite expensive. A good cover designer can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, and the editorial costs alone can set you back even more.
While there are many important expenses, there are also many ways to spend money and get nothing useful back. For example, take the Bowker SAN. This costs $150, and is basically a way for you to list your physical address in a Bowker database - something you can do with your website, or dozen other services, at no cost to yourself.
I recently polled a number of experts, including David Gaughran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Joel Friedlander, Victoria Strauss, Jane Friedman, and Hugh Howey. The following post lists a few of the things they thought were a waste of money.
The first items was suggested by Robin Sullivan, business manager and wife of author Michael Sullivan.
Promoting an Author's First Book
Robin gives monthly seminars in book publishing, and a couple months back she revealed that authors should not start marketing their books until after they have published the third book.
She based this on the observation that readers don't just buy a book by an author they like, they buy as many of that author's books as they can afford. If an author only a single book out, they can only make one sale per reader, which is why they should wait until they have several books to sell.
Of all the suggestions made by the experts, publicists topped the list, with several experts saying that publicists just weren't worth the cost. "They don't do much you can't do on your own, and what they do, they do poorly," I was told."They also cost tens of thousands of dollars."
It would cost less to learn how to do the work yourself (or at least get a virtual assistant to do it), and you'll get better results.
Email & Social Media Blast Services
Another great way for an author to waste their money would be to pay a service to tweet about the author's book to a service's million robofollowers on Twitter and Facebook, or pay to have a press release sent to 10,000+ news outlets.
Here's the thing about spam. Whether you send it by email or social media, hardly any real people see it, and most don't want to get the spam. It is immediately deleted (or worse, dumped in the spam folder before it is ever seen).
So there's no value is spamming everyone.
The better way is to take the personal approach. Identify the sites and bloggers you want to work with, learn what they are interested in, and pitch them one at a time.
Buying Followers - Newsletter, Twitter, or Facebook
If there is one thing that is just as worthless as spamming people who don't want to see your message, it's paying to add followers to your social media accounts or newsletter.
It might look like a worthwhile shortcut, but in reality the followers are all going to either be (in the case of social media) bots or (if we're talking about email addresses) random people whose emails were sold to mailing lists without their consent.
So if you do buy followers you will end up with followers who either don't exist or have no real interest in hearing from you.
That's why you should save your money, and accept the fact that followers have to be recruited one at a time.
Classes on the "Secrets" of Millions Sales
Like most professions, it takes a lot of learning to be a successful author, and you have to keep picking up new tricks all the time. And there are many experts out there who can teach you what you need to know, but there are also a lot of scammers who promise more than they can deliver.
Authors would be wise to avoid any course that promise to show you "the secret" to getting millions of sales. Before you sign up, you should check to see if the "guru" has actually written and sold a lot of books or just teaches marketing courses for a living.
Many of these million "sellers" have either given away most of their copies or sold the copies of their fiction books at a loss. Other have sold hardly any books at all, and are making money from their marketing tips, not from their writing.
Piracy is a scourge, right? Not according to Neil Gaiman, who regards it as free marketing, or Baen Books, a publisher that gives ebooks away and sells the rest DRM-free, or The Authors Guild, whose data shows that piracy isn't a serious problem.
There are many companies that promise to scour the web and remove pirated copies of your books, but before you hire one I will let you in on a secret. Most "pirate" sites are pretending to have a copy of pirated book. They're usually running some type of scam (it varies) but they are not committing piracy so it makes little sense to pay a service to go after them.
Any Service that Promises to Get Your Book on a Best-Seller List
A quick Google search will turn up a dozen services that will get you on the New York Times, Amazon, or other bestseller lists. In a lot of cases, they can get you on that list, but only at a cost.
When it comes to the NYTimes list, you're going to end up buying thousands of copies of your own book - a five-digit expense. It has been done, but some have also been caught out as frauds for using this trick, permanently marring their reputations.
And even if you're not publicly exposed, buying your way on to a lot can have negative consequences. If Amazon catches you gaming their best-seller list they will punish you. At a minimum they will remove the ebook from their list, and for particularly egregious or repeat offenders Amazon has been known to remove the ebook in question or even ban suspected offenders - permanently.
Is it really worth the risks or costs?
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There you have it; eight services and products that can cost you upwards of thousands of dollars and deliver nothing of value.
While these services are expensive and worthless, they are really just a few of the many ways that authors can waste money.
Have you found a worthless service not mentioned above?
If so, why don't we crowd-source a more complete list in the comments.