Today I’m honored to share some important thoughts about the state of editing, publishing, and—by extension—literature itself in our digital age. I can’t take credit, though, as this is a guest post from Cairenn Rhys, a Chicago-based author and poet, who freelances as an editor, proofreader, and social media manager. In short, Cairenn is well-positioned to call out certain failings in our rush-to-publish culture. This post first appeared at her lovely blog, The Spirited Quill, on March 16, 2015.
“My lighted pen, my mighty sword”
Some of you may know that I freelance as a Content Writer, Copy Editor and Social Media Manager. I was being considered for a huge editing project last year that could have earned me thousands of dollars. I backed out of the deal. Why? Because the newbie said to me: “I’m approaching this book as a business. I came up with the idea when I saw everyone creating ebooks and thought I could get in on it, too. Erotica seems to sell very well.” He hasn’t written a word in his life, except maybe a college paper that he plagiarized last year.
He had a ghostwriter working on oh-gee-we-need-another-erotic-vampire story, because the market doesn’t have enough bandwagon copycat Twilight novels. That was his grand inspiration. He got my free consultation, my proposal for the job and I allowed him to ask me anything. But when he wanted to continue to pick my brain about Social Media promotion and learn all the tips and not commit to the project, I set my boundary and cut him off quickly. He was an opportunist, not an author. I don’t work for opportunists. Apparently, this ghostwriter had no problem working for him, and I’m sure she was not getting paid her self-worth.
From my freelancing accounts, I have seen the following jobs posted in the last week alone:
“You must write and speak English fluently, be capable of writing 2-3 books per week, and capable of writing in various genres. The price listed is per ebook written. Again, this is for a long term relationship of writing up to 50-100 ebooks.” Budget: $60 or less
That’s the entire post. No criteria for this book project. Onward…
“Your writing must be HIGH QUALITY, GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT, 100% ORIGINAL CONTENT THAT WILL PASS COPYSCAPE. It must be an eBook that will help attract 5 star reviews on Kindle.I am willing to pay $70 for 7,000 words to start. Please only apply if you can meet my expectations in regards to high quality, grammatically correct, 100% original content that will pass copyscape. Otherwise, do not waste your time or mine if you cannot fulfill the above requirements.”
Professionals, true professionals are not going to accept the payment terms, and they should not.
“I would require a ghostwriter for my kindle ebook on Erotica. If you can write good Erotica E-book, please submit your proposal on the characters, the plot etc so we can move forward to discuss more. Estimated duration: 1 – 2 weeks Num. of words: 15000″ Budget: $75
“Looking to hire an e-book writer capable of writing quality non-fiction books on topics that I provide to you. You must be able to research the topic and write an original, quality book. 4000-10000 words is ideal, and proper grammar and spelling is necessary. I’m willing to pay $1.00 per 100 words. If you can provide me with quality books quickly, I will provide you with steady income.”
“Outline & Structure: Hi, I am seeking someone to to write an eBook for me on the subject of proofreading. The book needs to be around 12 pages long with around 700 words per page.”
Do you even know how this book-writing thing works? I had to respond to this post as well. I politely informed him that publishing industry standards are 250 words per print page and approximately 300 words per electronic page. I then asked him to clarify the project based upon those standards. Only 58 words per page or a two-page book, because there’s no getting around the way the pages will format on Kindle devices so readers can actually read it.
Over the last few years, I’ve been asked to do book reviews, not for payment. I don’t offer the service and I never will. Most people don’t want the truth. They want 5 star reviews because Amazon and others hype their advice to indie authors about customer programs and how to tap into it. The higher the stars, the more their book will be seen. It also exposes the scams some authors are pulling on their own readers, too. Transparency is great, but sometimes something is so see-through, people miss it entirely.
I can spot fake reviews a mile away. And paying for fake book reviews is running rampant. This discredits all authors and scams the readers.
“Post Fake 5 star reviews to google plus page, please be located in the US (for SEO purposes) I will provide you with content.”
Of course he will provide the content. Nothing says “fake” better than “I’ll tell you what to write.”
On my freelancing job hunts, I came across posts that I feel should be shared. If I can post comments without bidding on these projects, I do so. Why? Because it educates the person posting on how things are done professionally. There will always be someone who sells out and participates in their farce to make a quick buck, but it won’t be me.
Here is another ad I passed up:
“We would like you to write and post book reviews. Ideally these reviews need to be ‘verified’ and you should have a Prime account. Please quote for writing and posting 5 reviews. Each review needs to be 300-500 words and should be a balanced critique.” Budget: $20-25
You know about Amazon Prime? Prime is a subscription service through Amazon that you can download as many books you want as part of the “lending library”. When an indie author is bombarded by Amazon to allow their books to be included in the lending library, Prime members download the ebook, don’t have to pay, and can also leave reviews. So this person is looking to give their book away for free to tap into the KDP Global Fund. They don’t want honest book sales. They don’t want “balanced critique”. They want 5-star reviews because they believe the hype that they will become a famous author, and they’re willing to pay more than they will earn through actual book sales to get recognized.
What they do not realize is that they will become forgettable in about an hour, as Amazon updates its internal search results.
When a book has 5-star reviews down one side of their book detail page, and 1 star reviews down the other, as a reader, take the advice on the 1 star reviews because those people are telling the truth and are not afraid to do so.
Here’s an example from one ebook that someone asked me to download for free and review:
5 Stars: “Great writer! Been reading his blog. I’m sure the book is great!” (big reveal – Oops. This reader didn’t actually read the book, but did download it for free and was able to post a rating.)
1 Star: “Self-indulgent twaddle. The book was stupid, quit reading it. Could not make any sense out of it.”
Brutal – but the pseudo-author got back what he put out. I made mental note of all the reviews, read each one. Then I read the first chapter myself, and had to stop. I left a polite, but truthful, 1 star review.
Free or not, readers are smart. You had better be a good writer, and an honest one, or you will lose at your own book promo game. I’m seeing it every day now. I only extend myself on respectful, professional projects and will not be putting out another of my own books for a long time. I want to focus on doing the professional work that helps get good writers self-published.
I never started writing to become a millionaire. If that means I have to pick berries to survive, then so be it. I will savor each and every berry that I pick. But selling out…
I am not that woman. I am not that writer. I always work within a client’s budget and even mentor and volunteer my services for those that I believe in. But I do not and will not compromise my self-worth to satisfy the greedy ego of others.
It all comes down to self-worth. A lack of both self-worth and integrity is an especially bad mix.
Now, if you will please excuse me, I must be off to pick berries.
Visit The Spirited Quill, Cairenn Rhys’ blog.
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