Can You Follow Advice from Someone Who Isn’t Successful?

There is no shortage of advice. Everyone has an opinion on what to do and what not to do, and not many are afraid to shove it down your throat either, or take offense when you don’t follow what they say, or want you to drop down on your knees in gratitude they gave you five seconds of their time.

I think about this when I’m blogging and sharing my experiences, tweeting my own opinions, and especially when I’m scrolling through Twitter and my Facebook writing groups. I was poking around for motivational quotes for another blog post, and this one caught my eye:

I really like this because we’re all struggling writers, all trying to find that magic bullet that will catapult our book to bestseller status (with as little work and money as possible, if we’re being honest here), and we should be open to advice. We should be open to learning from other people’s experiences.

Probably one of my favorite topics to blog about is scammers–people offering a service they aren’t qualified to provide. The indie community is full of them, and how many indies finding ways to game the system or relieve you of your money knows no bounds. I got into a discussion with someone on Twitter the other day who is getting to the blurb-writing business. I asked politely, as I have never had a problem with this person before, if he had a refund policy in place for the blurbs that don’t convert to sales. He said that blurbs aren’t part of marketing that therefore he had no refund policy in place as it wasn’t his responsibility to market your book and that conversion on a new blurb wasn’t measurable. I said I wished him well and that I hoped his own sales success was proof that he could write a good blurb. He said he was doing just fine. I took a look at his book rankings, and unless he meant something other than book sales, no he wasn’t doing just fine.

So he 1) didn’t believe a blurb was part of marketing a book, 2) didn’t have a refund policy in place if you were unhappy with conversion 3) didn’t believe blurb conversion could be measured and 4) his own books weren’t doing well sales-wise. I hope people followed along our tweets because there is no way this person should be offering a blurb-writing business AT ALL. I did the best I could to call him out, but there’s only so much I can do, especially without looking like a big B. I think I already have a reputation on Twitter as being a bit aggressive, and I’m trying to soften up my look. It’s not working.

This goes for a lot of other advice too–writing advice, cover advice, marketing advice. I know one writer who loves to give writing advice, is always sharing excerpts of her work, but it’s all telling and she’s not selling books. People who don’t know what covers are hot in their genre love to give advice on what they like and don’t like. Maybe their advice is valid, maybe it’s not, but if you’re trying to ask for advice from a perspective that others don’t share (like writing to market, covers to market, writing commercial fiction, or the other way–if you want to write your own thing getting advice from someone who doesn’t share that viewpoint won’t help), it can be tough. You’ll be inundated with opinions that would never help.

Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can help whether the people those eyes belong to have had their own success or not. I feel like I know what goes into a bestseller, and I can say easily that depending on Twitter for sales will only go so far, or you need to learn an ad platform, or you need to change your cover, simply for the fact your cover is horrendous and I don’t need to be a bestselling author to know it.

I think that’s why I like Bryan Cohen’s free Amazon ad challenge so much. When he shares his screen/Amazon Ads dashboard during the videos, we can see that he’s selling books. We can see that he’s written books that people want to buy. Yes, he spends a lot of money on ads, but he also makes it all back and more. His ad challenge wouldn’t be worth much if he wasn’t selling books.

Just the other day in a group someone was asking about a different indie author who offers classes (that aren’t free) and one poster said, “I stopped taking his classes when he stopped selling books.” Like the blurb-writing guy, people forget that it doesn’t take much time to go onto a book’s product page and see the ranking in the Kindle store. You can go onto any of my books’ sales pages and see that I’m not selling many. I’m very transparent–in fact it’s practically the premise of my whole blog–I’m not selling books, this is why I think that is, how I’m changing that, and I hope what I try can help you. I’m not interested in making money off this blog. When I get a couple of readers who thank me for the resources or thank me for sharing my experiences, or tell me they tried something and it worked, I consider my job well done.

So what do I suggest you do when you might consider taking someone’s advice?

  1. Take a look at their success rate if at all possible. Look at their covers if they are going into business creating covers and see if they know market trends, what’s selling right now. Look at their books’ rankings and decide for yourself if they’re qualified to give the advice their giving.
  2. Ask yourself if what they’re saying makes sense. Trends change, and maybe someone isn’t up on the newest thing–like that lady who told me my first person blurb isn’t how everyone else is doing it, when actually most are now, at least where billionaire romance is concerned. But it could be that you missed the boat with something and their advice is legit. Check it out and see if it’s something you want to experiment with.
  3. Where else are they online? Sometimes Amazon sales rank won’t always be the greatest measure of success. LIke the guy who wants to write blurbs, maybe he is successful somewhere else (like writing ad copy for his day job), but if he doesn’t make that known, it reflects poorly on the business he wants to start. Some writers publish to Wattpad and have a large following there. Some write for blogs that have good traffic and they have a large following in that circle. Some submit to literary journals and are published in lit mags. Dig deeper. You might be surprised–and learn their opinion is steeped in more experience than you think.
  4. Do they have a good track record giving advice? Sales aren’t the end all be all, I know that. Sometimes questionable books do quite well and no one can figure out why. Maybe someone has a great marketing tip that didn’t work for themselves but worked really well for someone else. Maybe they know a secret ingredient and it turns out to be the last piece of your own puzzle that can bring your books to the next level, like a promo that didn’t do much for them but made another author’s book rank high in the charts. I edit on the side for friends who can’t afford it. Just because my sales aren’t great doesn’t meant I’m not a good writer or editor. I have a handful of people who could tell you that I’m good at what I do and that I’m qualified to give grammar, punctuation, and writing advice.
  5. Look at the viewpoint of the person giving the advice. I tweeted about this not long ago–taking the advice from one writer on Twitter when there are a million readers out there probably isn’t the best idea. Writers read differently, and what would bother a writer may not faze a reader. I catch myself doing that all the time–stressing while editing or writing about something a writer said they disliked. Why should I care if a writer says she doesn’t like the word moist (or whatever?) Chances are 99.99% that she will NEVER read any of my books. So why does it matter? All that matters is what readers think–and they will tell you.

I’ve taken advice (and my cover for Faking Forever is better for it), but I’ve ignored my fair share. I’ve also given a lot of advice, and usually in some way the people I’ve spoken with aren’t ready to hear it–even if they’ve asked for it. I’ve told plenty of people their covers aren’t working. I’ve looked inside a lot of books and said they need another editing pass. I’ve pointed out blurbs that aren’t written well, and I don’t think a day goes by where I haven’t told someone that they need to branch out from Twitter for marketing if they aren’t seeing the results they want. Usually my advice consists of either spending time or money (it’s work, y’all), but you have to invest something in your books if you want to find readers and nurture an audience. Just today someone on Twitter said he would take down his YouTube channel if he couldn’t get up to a certain number of followers by the New Year, but when I asked him what he did to drive traffic to his channel besides Twitter, he didn’t answer me. So in that non-answer I know the answer. Nothing. I don’t need to be a YouTube guru to tell him he needs to promote his channel to expand his audience and threatening to take his channel down won’t do anything to build his audience. The opposite, in fact, because why would someone invest time in something that may disappear?

At the very heart of your business, only you can make decisions for you, and only you can decide what to apply to your book business and what not to apply. If you’re not seeing the results you want in blog follows, sales, YouTube subscribers, whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, that will be the true test. Trying to achieve different results doing the same thing over and over again will not work, and you don’t need anyone to tell you that. (And if you can’t admit it, it won’t matter how many people tell you–you won’t believe them anyway.)

So, after all that, should you follow advice from someone who isn’t successful? I guess the murky answer is maybe. I certainly wouldn’t pay for anything if the person dispensing said advice couldn’t put his money where his mouth is, and in the indie publishing business, that usually means book sales. There are quite a few top-tier indies who do dispense advice through podcasts, non-fiction books, interviews, and various classes they’ve decided to teach. Some will do consulting, some blog and offer their advice for free. There is plenty of advice out there from indies who are making it, so maybe there’s no need to take advice from someone who isn’t. It could be that simple.

Do you give advice? Take it? Let me know!

Until next time!

Scammers Gonna Scam

2020 indie publishing predictionsI’ve fallen a bit behind with the 2020 predictions published by Written Word Media at the beginning of this year. I try to always finish what I start and I wanted to at least end this series even if half the year has already gone by and maybe no one really cares what’s going on because we’re dealing with bigger things right now.

I’ve forgotten where we are when it comes to the numbering of this series, but we’ll keep going.

Another prediction that Written Word Media predicts is that scammers are going to become even more prevalent as the the industry grows.

There will always be scammers. From the big guys who ask $10,000 to publish your book to the jerk who charges $25 to use a free photo and slap some text on it to make a book cover, someone is always looking to take advantage of someone else.

This is the part of the in the industry that I despise. There isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not online getting bent out of shape about something. I’m a member of lots of groups on Facebook and every day there’s someone who posts, “My client asked for XYZ for their book and I don’t know how to do that.”

This bothers me on two levels: 1) these guys are charging for a service they don’t know how to provide. If you don’t know how to do something like hell you should be charging for it. And 2) they’re asking the group to do the work. You have the audacity to charge for a service you are not qualified to provide then you ask someone else for the answer.

A case in point: Lots of people have started a formatting service using Vellum. Fine. Whatever you want to do, but if you are going to charge for your time and “expertise” the least you could do is look up answers for yourself. I’m not the one getting paid to answer your questions.

Another thing I can’t stand is all the crappy book covers for sale. Buying a book cover from a shady designer will get you into trouble. If they steal artwork, or use photos not available for commercial use, or they use fonts not available for commercial use, that is all on you – your name is on that book.

There are scammers out there who have whole premade cover businesses made entirely on free images off Pexels, Unsplash, and Pixabay, put some text on it in Canva and sell it for $50 or $100 for paperback. Some of these people don’t know any better. They think anything online is fair game, but some just want to make a quick buck off a new indie author who is excited they wrote a book and want to publish it.

These guys are dangerous. Trusting them is stupid, and with a couple of hours of practice in Canva you can do for free what they are charging for.

Another place where scamming has become popular is editing. You need an editor to proof or edit your book and you have a ton of offers when you ask around on Twitter. A lot of people who edit charge way more than their experience allows, or they shouldn’t be editing at all.

There’s a guy on Twitter who wanted to edit for me, for a fee, and I’m glad I never took him up on it. He published a book and it’s complete trash. If you’re going to solicit at least put out some quality work on your own or you’re going to look like a complete ass–not to mention look like an asshole–charging for a service you have no business telling people you can provide.

At any rate, those are only my pet peeves. The predictions article is a bit more encompassing.

Don’t pay someone to publish your book. Watch out for “small presses” where it’s just a guy living in his mom’s basement eating Cheetos and charging you to upload your book into KDP.

Learn how to do things on your own. Or network and develop a couple friendships and add them to your publishing team. Always ask for a sample and/or reviews and testimonials from other authors. Be responsible or you’ll pay $500 for an edit and your book will come back with typos and a million other things wrong with it.

There are legitimate people out there. Take your time in look. And seriously, if you aren’t happy with what you get as a finished product, say something. If you find out you’ve been scammed, maybe you can file a claim with PayPal if that’s how you paid or ask your bank for a stop payment.

You can contact Writer Beware if you feel you have been scammed. There are resources to assist you in legal action, and perhaps add the person who scammed you to a list so they can’t scam anyone else. This is a wonderful resource provided by SFWA and you can look at it here. Also, you can, and should, look at the list before you hire someone and make sure some else hasn’t reported them.

Your books are your business and responsibility. Take care and be careful. On the same token, don’t charge for a service you don’t have the skill or expertise to provide.


The article didn’t go into this kind of scammer but they are out there. One type are the writers who take advantage of Kindle Unlimited. Scammers like Chance Carter, who used to bookstuff and offer prizes to readers who would review the most.

Or the authors who will put blank spaces between paragraphs (making their book “longer”) to up their page read. In fact, I just read the look inside of a book like that a couple days ago. Sometimes this is ignorance–authors don’t know how to properly format a book. Most times it’s

intentional, trying to scam Amazon out of page reads. And hurts us. Kindle Unlimited Authors are paid out of a giant fund, and if those funds go to authors who haven’t earned the page reads, then they are stealing our royalties.

Another type of author scammer is the kind that uses click farms to get page reads. It was rumored that the writing duo/trio Alexa Riley used click farms for page reads to catapult them to the top of the charts. That was what I had heard in a romance group I’m in on Facebook. Upon looking up an article to link to this post, it seems they were banned from Amazon for bookstuffing, but it could be they were also using click farms for page reads.

Another author said they were plagiarizing and using ghostwriters to publish their books faster. Whatever is true, and whatever is not, Amazon took their books down for violating terms of service and/or using their account illegally.

David Gaughran likes to keep track of these “black hat” authors as he calls them, but he doesn’t publicly denounce them. Lots of us want to know who they are so we can avoid them, not work with them, etc. But as he states, there does come a risk when pointing fingers and sometimes it’s best just not to say anything at all.

The point I’m trying to make is that scammers can be on both sides of publishing. Yes there are people who offer services and charge exorbitant prices for those services, when they do not have the skills required to offer any type of services at all. And then there are the authors who think they can make a quick buck or two scamming Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, and therefore, their fellow authors.

It’s too bad that an industry can be so riddled with people who would do anything to make a bit of cash. (And sometimes it’s a lot more than a bit. A top selling book on Amazon has the potential to make thousands of dollars a month.)

The one thing you can remember is that authors like Chance Carter and Alexa Riley, even Faleena Hopkins, do end up getting theirs. I’ve heard that Chance has tried to come back under different pen names such as Abby Weeks, and Amazon has blocked those as well. Alexa Riley may end up coming back too. She could already be out there writing books under a different pen name. It’s difficult keeping track of these authors when you are trying to build your own business.

Scams will continue to pop up as the article suggests. They aren’t going to go away.

As an author who requires services, be careful who you hire.

If you’re an author who needs to supplement their income by offering services, make sure you know what you’re doing and that you’re earning your fees ethically.

And for the love of God, don’t try to earn a quick buck with your books. Even a simple question like “Can I publish a book in KU but put a different version wide?” will put you into scammer territory. (This is a real question I’ve seen posted to try to take advantage of being in KU but also being able to sell her books wide. The answer is no.)

I fell down the rabbit hole looking up what Chance Carter, Faleena Hopkins, Alexa Riley, Cassandra Dee and others have done. There’s not much recent, a lot of it comes between 2015-2019, but it’s interesting reading all the same. I’ll add some links below if you, too, don’t have anything else to do today besides read what kinds of things authors will do to make it to the top of the charts.

It’s fun, y’all. 

This isn’t going away. Keep your eyes open, and your white hat on.

Want to read more about Chance, Alexa, Faleena, Madison Faye? Here are some links I skimmed to write this post:

#BOOKSTUFFING AND WHY IT MATTERS

Kindle Unlimited – A Cheater Magnet

An interesting Twitter thread from two years ago:
https://twitter.com/CAlmeidaAuthor/status/1002942665019846656

More by David Gaughran: https://davidgaughran.com/2018/06/10/cassandra-dee-mosaic-book-stuffing/

Reactions to the Amazon Clickfarming Scandal

BAD ROMANCE To cash in on Kindle Unlimited, a cabal of authors gamed Amazon’s algorithm


We have one or two more blog posts to finish up this series. Next up, a prediction that ebooks will continue to be grow and be the top way indies make their money.

See you there!