It probably comes as no surprise that the writing business is often a long, hard road full of disappointments, some accomplishments, and not a lot of money. Most authors don't make a living from their writing alone. We have day jobs, we do freelance work, and we often have spouses who carry the brunt of the financial burden. The dream of earning a hefty paycheck from writing fiction remains just that... a dream... for the majority of writers.
So it probably also comes as no surprise that there are plenty of people out there looking to take advantage of that struggle. Every single day, I see yet another "bestselling author/marketing expert" touting their wares in the guise of "free training videos" or a "free bestseller secrets e-book." If you sign up for their newsletter, they'll send it right to your inbox, you guessed it...for FREE!
We writers tend to perk up when we hear "free." We're poor after all, so why not?
I've literally downloaded, watched and read a lot of these "free" guides myself, not because I hold even a slim hope of finding one that holds THE magic key to success. I'll give them credit for one thing. If brand spanking new writers looking to publish use a few of these guides, they'll find a lot of useful things to start building their brand and author platform before they even publish their first book.
For us oldies, however, these guides are pretty much full of the same stock advice, with slightly different variations. We should be doing these things, or many of these things, anyway. But...and this is a big but...there is NO GUARANTEE of success. I don't care how great the title sounds: "How You Can Sell a Kajillion Books in a Month", etc. There is NO, I repeat NO guarantee of success, even if you implemented every single tactic in these guides.
But, the authors of these writing guides are making a killing. Why can't I? Ah, there's the catch. Yes, they're making a killing, because they are profiting off struggling writers like yourself.
Now, how can they profit off FREE training videos? Because they draw you in with it. The advice sounds good, sounds wise, and then you get to the end. They don't tell you EVERYTHING, you see, because they leave the best advice for their paying customers. Yes! If you really want to see your book rise to the top of the NYT Bestseller list, now you can buy my full length book, "How to be Rich Without Working." That's also a common claim - teaching you how to make all kinds of automatic money while you drink a margarita in the Bahamas. They may also implore you to Sign up for my 6-week course for just $299.
$299? That's not THAT bad, is it? I mean, it's a six-week course, after all, and if it helps me sell books, why not try it? Oh I don't know, maybe because you could do a lot of wiser things with that $300. Like spending more on a quality cover or professional editing. Or placing ads in prominent spots that actual readers frequent. There's also the six weeks you could be spending on WRITING your next book and making it the best it can be.
But why are they making a killing? They must be doing something right. So, surely I can do the same with my books. Well yes, I'm not saying they're not good at what they do. But they're good at it because of WHAT they sell. They are appealing to a HUGE audience of thousands upon thousands of us who struggle every day trying to get noticed among a sea full of hopefuls. Their genre, if you will, is a popular one simply because of the demand. We live in a day and age where it's become the norm to capitalize on someone else's weakness. Writing - our art, our passion - is falling by the wayside in favor of attention-mongering.
Even if you implemented all the tactics they advise AND pay $299 for the 6 week course, there is still NO GUARANTEE of success. This is because there is not a big audience for every book. If people aren't looking for your book entitled, "The History of 16th Century Chinese Ceramics," guess what? They're not going to buy it. If it's not a popular genre, it's a niche, and niche means only a small percentage of readers are interested in that. Does it mean you shouldn't write about 16th Century Chinese Ceramics? No, absolutely not. If you are passionate about it, write it! Write anything you want! Just don't bank all of your hopes for fame and fortune on that ONE book.
So what if you write in a more popular genre? Say, I don't know, romance? You're more likely to have more readers than the 16th Century Chinese Ceramic fans. But again, you can't place all your hopes in just ONE book. Gone are the days when a one-hit wonder strikes it rich. Books are so accessible now that authors have to keep writing more and more if they want to keep the readers buying.
If you want to write fiction AND have any hope of making a living at it (P.S. No, I am not there yet, either), here is my advice:
Don't waste your time and money on "Instant Bestseller" gimmicks.
READ widely as possible, preferably in your genres. See what the real bestsellers are doing right with their craft.
WRITE. Write every damn day if you can, even if it's only 100 words. Even if it's a quick plot idea on a napkin on your lunch hour. Even if you have to get up at dawn to have an hour of quiet. And then keep writing. Make your book the best it can be.
DO spend your money on producing a quality product. Spend as much as you can on a great cover, editing, and advertising.
Learn from your peers. What worked for them? What didn't?
Don't be afraid to try new things when it comes to your craft. Be an innovator. Try writing in a new genre or subgenre. Please don't do the copycat thing. Make a name for yourself with something unique.
Will your book soar to the top of a bestseller list? Maybe, maybe not. But the real secret isn't in a $299 marketing course. The real secret is working hard on your craft and on growing your audience over time. It may take years. And that's okay. If you truly want to be one of the "greats" that's how you do it. Have patience, my dears, keep writing, and don't be afraid to jump.