Make real money from indie writing – fast

Psst! Come closer. No, closer than that. Hear my secret. WoOAH, that’s too close, are you insane? Back off, creep. STOP. There. Right there. Where you, but no-one else, can hear me. Now listen. Shall I tell you how to make big money from indie writing?

I shall? Good-oh.

Here’s my idea. I thought, there are zillions of new indie writers popping up every day. And what do indie writers want when they publish a new book? They want reviews. Lots of reviews, to attract more readers, in a lovely virtuous circle. But of course, these reviews have to be genuine, as we can all spot a glove-puppet review a mile off. They could just sit and wait, of course, but that’s not what real publishers do. No, real publishers send out review copies to everyone they can think of. Perhaps there’s a way to make this work in the indie ebook market?

Well, of course there is. It’s the simplest business proposition. You set up a website and invite a large membership of book-lovers of all genres. That’s the hard part over. Now, you simply charge indie authors a reasonable fee for sending out their books to this network. The members of the network get free books to read, and the indie authors get their reviews on Amazon, while the site owner steadily brings in revenue. Everybody wins. In theory, it’s foolproof.

In practice, it’s called Bookrooster.

Yup. Turns out someone already had this idea. And it certainly does appear to work, at least for the readers who want free books, and for the site owner who wants lots of money. For the indie author, not so much.

Reader, I tried them. I know, you might wail, what is the famous Nick Green doing, paying for reviews? I would answer, no more than any traditional publisher does, to promote their own authors. Remember, I wasn’t paying to have good reviews. Just reviews, real ones, of any kind. Bookrooster promised a community of more than three thousand readers who had specifically signed up to be reviewers, and I calculated (I’m no slouch at maths) that if a mere half per cent of them were to read and review my book, that would be fifteen reviews where before there had been none. I reckoned that might be worth the listing fee of £42. I was writing in a very popular genre, YA post-apocalyptic, so my half per cent estimate was, I think you’ll agree, not wildly optimistic.

Three months after listing my book and paying my money, I do indeed have nearly fifteen reviews in total. But I know for a fact that none of them have come through Bookrooster. They are all from readers who bought or downloaded my book of their own accord. From Bookrooster, nothing. Not so much as a ‘Like’.

I queried this – several times – and when there were still no results, I asked politely for my money back. The response has been silence.

Now – and please correct me if I’m wrong – it would appear that I have paid over £40 merely for the privilege of having my book sent out free to several thousand people. Yes, I’m an idiot. I should never have fallen for the Bookrooster claims in the first place. But it sounded such a reasonable proposition. People read and review books anyway, so why not harness this and make a modest commission in the process? It wasn’t pie-in-the-sky.

You see, it is a reasonable fee. Reasonable, if you get so much as a handful of reviews. Bookrooster doesn’t specifically guarantee a set number of reviews, of course (they’re not stupid), but if a book is of decent quality (mine is) and fairly broad in appeal (mine is), then isn’t it… dare I say… reasonable to expect that the system would work? And just as reasonable to request a refund when it doesn’t?

So there is it. The secret of making money from indie writing, fast. You promise a service for which indie writers are desperate, and whether or not you deliver it is immaterial. Because by then, you’ve already got their money. Writer, beware.

Nick Green


Susan Price said…
No author's name in the title box.
Lydia Bennet said…
Nick, I think the problem is the same as in using Twitter and sites that send out info about your book - they can say it will reach n thousand people, but the chances of them taking any notice are quite small as those same thousands will be bombarded by lists of books and will ignore most of them. There are free books on promos all the time anyway, piling up on kindles worldwide.It's like those sites which advertised they'd feature your book and then when you look at the site there are thousands of the things. but yes, a good business idea for someone! Also, and this relates to Mari's thought-provking blog yesterday, indie authors are striving to be ethical in ways trad publishers don't - you see reviews in print by pals of the reviewed all the time - this is normal yet indie authors fret over being reviewed by 'friends' and how it makes them look. You see cover quotes on best sellers by colleagues and friends of the author and there's nothing wrong with that because in the world of writing as in any other people do tend to get to know each other and avoiding people you know is difficult and stacks the decks against you. But thanks for such an honest assessment and a valuable piece of info, and for spending over 40 squids so we don't have to!
Kathleen Jones said…
Thanks for passing on the tip Nick!
Bill Kirton said…
Yes, thanks, Nick. If/when you do find a holy grail that works, please let us know. I'll do the same.
Mari Biella said…
Interesting post, Nick. I once spoke to an indie author who'd tried Bookrooster, and found that it worked for her, but evidently results are somewhat variable. Your book sounds as if it was in a very popular genre, so I'm really not sure why it shouldn't have worked.

Getting reviews - any kind of reviews, good or bad - does strike me as being one of the toughest parts of self-publishing. Very few readers, in my experience, leave reviews - they are probably most likely to do so if they either really love or really hate a book. It's a problem, and I've no idea how it can be addressed. But it's a good start to know what doesn't work!
Lynne Garner said…
Thanks for the advice will continue to wait for 'real' reviews for my books and spend the money I don't spend on such a service to pay my editor/proof reader.
glitter noir said…
Clearly, there are secrets some of us aren't meant to know. A few days ago I spied a link for learning the secret of one ebook who writes 'bestsellers' in hours--not weeks or months or years. In addition to his secret, the link offered to tell how he wins up to 900 reviews.

Glad I didn't hit the link.
JO said…
Thanks for the warning, Nick. Seems relying on people who just feel like reviewing is the most sensible option.

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