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Confessions of a Kindle Store Content Farmer

203625065_2670204a72_oThe internet has been blamed for killing off any number of categories of how to categories, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering "authors" like the following.

The Hustle has a piece up today that offers a behind the scenes look at one author’s ghost-writing operation. This unnamed author started out by writing his own nonfiction books, but then hit upon a sure-fire method to write books as quickly and cheaply as possible.

He sells 6,000 books a month, and nets $150,000+ a year, by using a low-rent James Patterson method to out-source the actual writing to someone in the Philippines.

For $150 per book, I send him a 2,000 word outline and 7 days later he sends me a 20,000-word book. I spend about a week editing those 20,000 words It’s that easy.

I make (net) around $1,000 each month per book. Again, I know what you’re thinking…too easy. Plus, having a ghostwriter allows me to publish books on virtually any subject. For example, after noticing a hole in the DIY market, I wrote an outline my ghostwriter turned into a 40-page book on gardening that started selling really well.

At this point I’m an outline creator, cover designer, copywriter, internet marketer, and editor.

Do I know anything about those topics? Hell no — but I make a hell of a lot of money pretending I do. Plus, even the best “authors” use ghostwriters…it’s just one of those dirty little secrets.

I hope this guy isn’t depending on Kindle Unlimited, because he strikes me as exactly the type who will take a hit now that the payment model has shifted from loans to pages read. But that is a post for another day.

The important story today is that what we have here is an entrepreneur who has hit upon a modern-day version of the Stratemeyer syndicate.

While some might be appalled by his gaming the system, I was struck by the similarity to the model that a prolific writer named Edward Stratemeyer pioneered in 1905. Stratemeyer was the founder of the Stratemeyer syndicate, a network of freelance writers and editors which was designed to produce as many books as possible as cheaply as possible.

The Hardy boys, Nancy Drew, and Tom Swift series were all invented by the Stratemeyer syndicate, and all the books were ghost-written (and they still are).


According to The Atlantic, the syndicate used methods very similar to the tricks mentioned in The Hustle excerpt above:

The Stratemeyer Syndicate helped prove that book packaging with ghostwriters could be incredibly profitable—for managers and owners, at least. Writers signed away their rights to royalties and bylines in exchange for a flat fee. (Early on, it was around $100 per book.) … It debuted Tom Swift in 1910, followed by The Hardy Boys in 1927, and Nancy Drew in 1930. That same year, Stratemeyer died in New Jersey, by then not so much a writer as a tycoon.

The Babysitter Club, the Boxcar Children, Sweet Valley High, and many other series are published on this same model today. So while Simon & Schuster may be paying a lot more for each Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew manuscript, the only real difference between S&S and the author mentioned in The Hustle’s excerpt is scale (and also quality).

Far from being appalling, this guy is just one of the  crowd.

images by nelly!Kaarina Dillabough

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fjtorres July 17, 2015 um 8:28 pm

The Vampire Diaries is a very successful example of modern book packaging.
(Albeit with some questionable aspects that ended with the creator writing "fan fiction" in the realm she created.)

The Rodent July 17, 2015 um 9:16 pm

A crowd can still be appalling… 😉

What can we learn from a ‘Kindle Gold Rusher’? – TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics July 18, 2015 um 10:44 am

[…] Hoffelder compares it to a latter-day Stratemeyer Syndicate, the company responsible for many of the famous juvenile […]

Maria (BearMountainBooks) July 18, 2015 um 11:11 am

It’s called "Write for Hire" and there’s even an entire form for it when you fill out copyright paperwork. Kensington tried to move some of their romance books to works for hire (and may have succeeded) many years ago. I stopped following the story, but basically they wanted to stop sorting manuscripts and just have writers turn/churn stuff out on a formula for a flat fee.

One of the reasons that I think mysteries are selling better than romance these days is that so many romance books became formula. After a couple of decades of it, many readers moved to something else. Although I do see some signs that cozies have gone the way of the formula. It’s very, very hard to find unique, fun cozies that aren’t stuck in a rut of the "hobby of the day."

azteclady July 23, 2015 um 11:09 am

Out of curiosity, could you give a source for "mysteries are selling better than romance"? (Color me skeptical)

AvidReader July 19, 2015 um 9:12 am

There’s a big difference between writing fiction for hire and passing yourself off as an expert on non-fiction. Even so, when it comes to non-fiction, I am already disinclined to purchase a book with a low page count.

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[…] Quelle: The Digital Reader […]

Confessions of a Kindle Store Content Farmer, Pt Two: It's Harder Than It Looks | The Digital Reader July 21, 2015 um 10:44 am

[…] The Hustle published an editorial by a Kindle Store content farmer last Friday, they promised to follow up that post with one that details just how easy it is to game […]

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[…] here’s another example. On The Digital Reader site, Nate Hoffelder shares “The Confessions of a Kindle Store Content Farmer.” He tells us of an unnamed author who sells 6,000 books a month and nets over $150,000 per […]

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