Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ebook Spam - "Bound" to Happen

Too much too fast leads to mistakes, trips and sometimes disaster. In my opinion, the publishing business has tried to morph repeatedly in the last couple of years, which means change for change's sake in many ways. Now we have ebook spam, scams, and plain old bad form.

Anyone can publish an ebook. Many are rushing to write something...anything...in order to jump on this train. They sell it for 99 cents to $2.99, for the most part, because people will buy cheap quickly. Less of a risk. Now we have people cutting and pasting something...anything...into an ebook, and dumping it on Amazon for pennies.
And somebody buys it...because it's only pennies.

Mike Essex, a Search Specialist at UK digital marketing agency Impact Media, wrote a blog post recently entitled "Are eBooks the new Content Farms?" If you didn't know, Google has somewhat pulled the plug on content mills - those sites that take any writing from anyone on just about any topic in order to build web presence and increase hits on ads for revenue. The writers don't have to qualify, and so many of the pieces are wrought with errors and weak writing. Fact checking doesn't exist. Those content pieces no longer float to the top in Google searches. (See more at The Kindle Swindle, on the Publishing Trends blog. )

Now, however, there are signs of people turning any group of words into ebooks. The content can be stolen from blogs, other ebooks, you name it. It's regurgitated into new ebooks. Amazon and online ebook sales sites have no copyright lie-detectors in place. Remember when people tested Publish America and other self-publishing entities that claimed to vet their writers? They made up junk and got accepted for publication? Everyone went "oooh" and "aaah" over that sting. I did. Now folks can steal info, or publish the same word 100,000 times, slap a price on it, and sell it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, et al. No checks and balances.

So...now that everyone knows how to publish an ebook, like everyone once learned how to self-publish, we will see a deluge of crap in ebook form. What will that do to the rest of us? What can we do about it?

PLATFORM, people.

Make yourself known. Website, blog, social networking, speaking. Become a trusted commodity, so that your books are purchased for the right reason, not because it's marked down to 99 cents. Before long, in the not-so-distant future, I see the 99 cent ebook idea as tainted...too closely affiliated to scams. Companies will hire writers to write these little ebooks, and like they did with content mills, have several writers writing the same information only from different angles. That way a search turns up several of their "products." Before long, a search in an ebook website possibly will turn up the scammy ebooks before reaching the legitimate material. In turn, readers will become even more skeptical and more savvy than they already are, and want to know more about the writer before risking an ebook purchase.

Per Author and ex-Agent Nathan Bransford on a recent blog post:
The author out there with a blog or active in discussion forums is going to have an advantage over the author who quietly uploads their book to Amazon. . . . there is even some growing evidence to suggest that rather than level the playing field for everyone, the rise of e-books is leading to more polarized sales between the bestselling haves and microselling have-nots. Not less, more. . . It isn't good or bad that authors are now expected to promote, it just is. It's the time we're living in.

Everyone does have a shot, but the best shots go to the authors that are able to give their books a boost
If you have no strong online presence that buys credibility, you run the high risk of being considered a fly-by-night, content mill, ebook writer.

When something is easily obtained, it inevitably becomes a ripe rip-off environment. Think about that when publishing becomes too easy. Your reputation is at stake.


Debra Stang said...

I so wish I had read your article before I self-published my novel, Visiting Grandma. I had no idea how to build a platform or market my book effectively. As a result, what could have been a good book ended up being DOA.

This spring, I'll be releasing a set of stories about hospice patients and their pets called Hospice Tails. This time, I've taken the time to build a web presence and learn marketing techniques. I think the outcome will be much better.

BECKY said...

Thanks for the advice, Hope. It really is a strange time for writers and publishing. Thank goodness for wonderful writers like you who share your knowledge...and especially share it with us "newbies"!

Sally said...

The story never changes; Money Talks. Where there is money to be made someone is figuring out how to make it, legitmately or not. As the publishing industry finds it's internet legs we all need to tread lightly and with discernment. Thanks for sharing these cautionary issues.

JDuncan said...

Think you're right. Content mills are going to eventually kill the dollar ebook market. They ruined a lot of the freelance market by driving prices down. Personally though, I think good stories are worth more than a dollar, so seeing the fiction ebook market bumped back up to a $2.99 standard or so would not bother me overly much.