From Rick:

As we approach the end of another year, I’m looking back on what I’ve learned and observed, what I’ve accomplished, and what I haven’t accomplished.

Year after year, I’m constantly reminded that writing isn’t an easy endeavor, and if you’re the perfectionist like me, it’s even harder. It’s not as simple as sitting down at your computer and putting your thoughts into words on a page. Even though I say this to you, some won’t believe me because you’ll believe that you are different, that you’re immune to the struggles of writers, even the more experienced ones. The sooner you accept this, the greater will be your chances of succeeding and being happy with your efforts.

I’m still seeing too many beginning writers stuck in the past of publishing and believing that traditional publishers are the road to success. What I’ve learned—sadly—is that these writers either aren’t doing the research or don’t believe what they read when it contradicts what they think is true. I’ve also learned that no matter what I say to dissuade these people, I’d guess only half of them believe me. I’d guess that about half of those who don’t believe me later learn I was right—some the hard way, but some realize it in time not to learn the hard way.

More and more indie writers are recognizing the need to have their work edited properly. One of my accomplishments has been doing some of that editing at rates a lot more reasonable what others charge for a sometimes less-than-the-best job.

I’m also seeing more and more indie authors successfully designing their own good book covers and having their design efforts recognized by professionals.

I’ve learned that you have to be careful of promotional services for marketing your books, particularly those that promise results.

Here’s an excellent article from Kris Rusch that talks about that:

HYPE MACHINES

Although some of these “services” may falsely promise result that never materialize, far more dangerous are those that employ unethical practices. One of these practices is known as a “click farm.” Essentially they amount to something akin to—but far worse than robocalls except that these are far more insidious and can have disastrous results for authors who knowingly or unknowingly employ them. These seek to artificially inflate your book’s rank on Amazon by excessive free downloads to inflate the rank or by faking the borrows and pages read on Kindle Unlimited. The latter results in authors getting paid for illegitimate reads.

Here’s one link for you:

WHAT IS A CLICK FARM?

These practices are forbidden by Amazon, but scammers are still getting by with them for the time being. While Amazon is aggressively trying to find and stop this, their search algorithms are not perfect and innocent authors have been caught up and had their books or their entire Amazon account taken down. One of my author friends had this happen and is still trying to fight it. But for the time being that author is unable to sell books on Amazon.

In some cases the authors are indirectly at fault for not doing the research on these promoters before signing up with them. In some cases, the click farms target books without the author being aware of it. Either way, the author suffers. Sometimes authors’ books are getting hit with fake one-star reviews and getting hurt with bad publicity.

Although getting fake “likes” for your book may not seem so bad, not like getting fake reviews clearly is, both practices are unethical, as is any practice that generates false information. Apparently some authors are more interested in making money any way possible than doing it ethically. From my perspective these practices are just as bad as plagiarism.

One way to protect yourself from getting caught up accidentally in Amazon’s foraging is not to be in Kindle Unlimited. If you’re not in Kindle Select, you have an option. If you chose to make yourself exclusive to Amazon, then you don’t have a choice. In either case, you make yourself vulnerable to these scammers. Some of you may argue that Kindle Unlimited is a good source of income, but the truth is that this service of Amazon’s is currently wide open to scams. If you fall prey to a click farm, Amazon tends to turn a deaf ear, even it’s not your fault.

I also learned about the practice of “book stuffing,” another scam authors use to inflate book profits from Kindle Unlimited.

Here’s an article on that topic:

BOOK STUFFING AND THE DARKER SIDE OF KINDLE UNLIMITED

I’d love to say that, as long as you keep your nose clean and steer clear of these schemes and practices, you will be safe, but that’s not necessarily true. You might end up on Amazon’s radar if your book suddenly shoots up the charts for completely legitimate reasons (like you’ve penned a real hit). And this could happen (and has apparently happened to a few authors) even if you use a legitimate promotional service like BookBub.

So my takeaway is to be very careful of the choices you make for promoting your book and always be suspicious of any scheme that guarantees results.

Another thing that I’ve seen driven home more this year is that bestseller lists mean next to nothing nowadays. In the past they meant something, but no longer. I hear authors all the time say they made such and such a bestseller list on Amazon, and they boast about it, feeling as if they’ve “made a mark” with their book.

All these bestseller lists on Amazon indicate is that certain books are currently outselling other similar books. The more obscure the list, the fewer the sales you need to be at the top of one. Your book might simply sell only ten copies on a particular day and by doing so happen to outsell all of its current competition (which might not be much anyway) for that day. The next day your book might not even be on the list. And I can almost guarantee that no one except for you noticed. I’m not sure that even being on a bestseller list for a few days really matters unless that list represents a major genre category.

But what about my accomplishments this year? If I’m being honest, I have to say that this year they have been both good and bad. I’ve done a lot, but not in the areas I need—like working on my own writing. I’ve made money from my editing practice, which is good, but my own writing is suffering.

I find that the longer I go without writing my own stuff, the harder it is to get back into it. The solution, of course, is simple: spend more time on my own work. That’s easier said than done because—as is typical for me—I take on more projects than I possibly have time to complete in a certain span of time. And, honestly, I sometimes find too many other distractions (like streaming favorite TV shows). This blog has suffered a few times because I haven’t left enough time each week to write it and find myself doing so at the last minute. I didn’t do a blog last week, and this one is a day late (the holiday is no excuse because I had Friday off).

At my age I should have learned better, but I am going to promise myself to make a serious effort to do better in 2019. I hope that next year at this time I will be able to report significant success in my writing accomplishments.

We’ll see what happens.

–Rick