This last Friday marked my sixth anniversary in publishing. Things started off slow and I struggled, in fact I still struggle. Many indie authors do. We struggle to find the artists for our covers, the editors for our manuscripts and the best practices for marketing. There are certainly others far more adept than I am at all of these things. The one thing that I have learned over the years is that there are no rules. What works for one project or for one author will not necessarily work for all authors or projects.
I’ve been fortunate enough to find artists that I respect and offer a great deal of professionalism. Every cover I’ve assembled wouldn’t be what it is without a great artist. Every map I’ve had commissioned wouldn’t have turned out as amazing if I hadn’t found the artists who put my ideas into action.
Editors haven’t always been as easy to track down and going from a rough draft to a draft ready for editing wasn’t always as smooth as it is now.
Marketing still largely eludes me. I’ve built up my “author platform” on twitter, facebook and reddit…but I still often feel cheap and tawdry every time that I promote my work. So I try things, like blog tours, interviews, ad spots, anything and everything as I search for the “right answer” that very likely does not exist. There are months that pass that I simply rely on a twitter or facebook post a week, perhaps a blog approaches me to give an interview or discuss my books or journey. Once in a while though, I try old fashioned marketing; I pay someone to put my book on their website and see what kinds of results I get.
Before I continue, I should point out that none of this is the fault of Fiverr. Actually, I love that website. I’ve had a couple of promos made for podcasts I’ve had over the years, I found some editors that I still use through their website. Hell, I even found my cartographer (map maker) using Fiverr. As we all should know by now; marketing is an art form. It’s highly subjective and the same thing doesn’t work every time. So when looking for someone to market something for you anywhere, you should be aware that you’re buying their access to an audience…and not a result.
Obviously I wouldn’t be writing this if I’d had an excellent experience. To be honest, the only marketing campaign I purchased that had a result beyond my expectations was when I purchased an ad spot on the Keith & The Girl podcast. I find that I get the best results when I have an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit. It might not work for everyone and there’s certainly a risk of being trolled or mocked…but I’m happy to take the good with the bad and for the most part Reddit has been a lot of fun. However, back to the problem at hand.
Fiverr has many folks offering “gigs”, as I mentioned before; some of these are home runs and some of them are empty promises. Fiverr does their best to weed out the liars and cheats, but they couldn’t possibly nail down all of them without a staff of thousands. Fiverr has truly become a marketplace for people to find those willing to contract out their time, skill and audience to new customers. That being said, here was this months adventure;
I run a traditional, indie publishing company. We have a blog where we like to showcase authors and their books, especially if you are up and coming. You can be an author of any genre. We will interview you for our blog, which is ranked NUMBER ONE for out TOP keyword search (over three million searches monthly!), and showcase your book as well. The interview will stay up permanently on our site and be in the author spotlight section of our blog. It is great advertising and exposure for your book and as an author, as we have been publishing books now for seven years and have had 8 best sellers. You might ask then, why are we on fiverr with this gig? The answer is simple: We like to work with authors who value themselves and their work enough to market their vision in a savvy business place like fiverr. Let us help you find some new people who will appreciate your literary vision!
That was the ad and it sounded like something I was willing to give a shot. $25 included a “gig extra” that would have my book cover up on the website for 90 days. Assuming three million searches monthly, that’s great value. Of course, I assumed that three million was an exaggeration…but I wouldn’t know how right I was until I purchased the gig.
Now, I wouldn’t never fault another writer for taking the chance that I took and I would never judge one who found this gentleman’s service to be everything it was promised to be.
However. I was less than impressed when I was sent the website.
Ok, first impression? It looks like a BBS message board.
But who the hell am I to judge? My website is built on a wordpress blog platform, I don’t hide the fact that I’m a woefully sub-par website creator. I’m not alone thankfully and wordpress has made it easy to at least look moderately professional. But I also don’t claim to generate three million hits a month. The seller also claimed that it’s a top search on google.
Alright, I typed in “Sakura Publishing” on google. Top three results? A facebook fanpage, librarything post, and an absolutewrite.com forum post (it wasn’t too complimentary in which the “owner” shows up to defend his publishing firm and is taken to task by the forum regulars).
Alright…so “top” search result might mean top 10, right? Fair enough.
#4 – Smashwords profile.
#5 – Twitter handle.
#6 – Yelp profile with no reviews.
#7 – bookbuzzr.com profile.
#8 – publishersarchive.com profile.
#9 – Linked In profile.
#10 – biblio.com bookstore profile.
Ok, why am I being so mean?
Even though I didn’t get any results at all from the Fiverr gig I purchased, that didn’t really shock me. I wasn’t purchasing a result. The odds that out of nine million hits (remember, the claim was three million a month) during my ad’s scheduled run that not a single person clicked on the book are fairly remote. Regardless, I was purchasing an audience and the audience might have thought my book sucked, my personality turned them off (by far the most likely), they didn’t like the image, or they didn’t like the interview.
Actually, let’s talk about that word for a moment; “interview”.
When you read the word “interview” and romanticise it in your head, you might imagine something like Barbara Walters sitting down with a prolific writer and getting down to what makes them tick. At the very least you expect a question sheet from the interviewer with questions that they might ask. If it’s a blog, then you might get a list of questions that you then write your answers to. I’ve done that before. No problem. I like to write. In the case of this gig, the “interview” portion I “misunderstood” from the gig was that I would provide both the answers AND the questions. Now, where I come from that’s not an interview…but like I said; I love to write. So I found a few blog tour question primers I had from previous marketing excursions, picked my favourite questions and then provided some answers.
I wish I was kidding.
Now, after one month…like most writers…I became insecure and thought: Hey…maybe it’s me?
So I tweeted a book cover.
361 impressions, 11 total engagements, etc….on twitter. Results in my sales? 241 ebooks, 5 print books and 5,132 pages read.
Is it possible that coincidentally all of his site hits blasted my book sales on the same day as my tweet? Sure. But frankly, I’d learned a lesson and I was moving on to my usual marketing gimmicks and started posting to my twitter and facebook feeds more regularity until my sales went back to where they were before this little experiment.
I left a review of the Fiverr gig in the most honest way possible. I gave five stars out of five for communication, because even though I’d “misunderstood” what an interview was, he did at least communicate right away. I left four stars for “was this gig as described” because who knows? Maybe he does get three million hits a month. I mean…when I google my name, the first result is my website and it damn sure doesn’t generate three million hits a month. In fact, when I used an Alexa search…the publishing company mother-ship website gets less than 100 hits a month. The blog website for us lowly authors who demean ourselves to use his services to reach “three million” people, doesn’t even ping on Alexa.
Anyway, I didn’t want a refund. I was willing to leave my huge $25 on the table because I’d been stupid and wandered away from what works for me. Lesson learned.
That was, of course, until last night. What follows is the completely unedited chain of events for your enjoyment.
He “bro’d” me…I couldn’t stop laughing for a solid minute. But, up until that point…he’d actually delivered on the “gig” promises…up until the point where he pulled the ad with sixty days left. He thanked me for my $25, which I thought was polite…even though it passive aggressively said “you get nothing”…the fun continues.
Alexa is wrong though…you know…the industry standard. I’m on Fiverr though, so I must be doing horribly…I cringed a little because is he on Fiverr to “take advantage” of rubes like me then? I didn’t even know what to take away from that. He’s absolutely right though, only two reviews for my latest book is pretty sad. I’m not quite sure what to make of the “bought” reviews other than perhaps he’s used Fiverr for Amazon reviews, which is against Amazon policy and they’ll pull your book if they suspect reviews have been purchased…but that’s supposition.
Anyway, he did not contact Fiverr support by the way. I had to. No offer of a refund or even a partial one for time not used on the ad. But no spoilers! Keep reading.
Ah! Finally the mention of a refund. Now we’re getting somewhere.
But he did lie. He stated that his blog gets three million hits a month. He also lied in that he didn’t want to interview anyone, he wanted others to interview themselves and he’d post it. We might be “peers” in the way that both myself and Tom Clancy fancy ourselves writers…but clearly one of us is a more adept communicator than the other.
Again though, all a seller on Fiverr has to do is click “cancel gig” and the refund is issued. All of this back and forth and name calling is just frosting…delicious frosting that I get to have for free. I feel all warm and tingly inside. We continue.
To be clear, he never represented anyone except the poor desperate folks he cajoled into believing that he is indeed a “traditional, indie publisher”…whatever that is. Sakura Publishing’s website is down, but after a little Amazon searching most of their books are nutrition based. It’s been around since 2011. In 2015 they stopped charging writers to publish their own books and that was their most prolific publishing year. Although, since that was really their only publishing year, I can only conclude that the new business model (likely triggered by the forum post earlier) wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Now he’s on Fiverr. Lucky for me.
He…by the way…is Derek Vasconi and he’s written a book called “Kai” which is a Japanese horror story. There’s a litany of indie prizes he’s won, I’ve seen them all before and they’re purchased reviews, in fact of the twelve reviews of his book there are only three that were made by verified purchasers. I’m sure the rest just got donated review copies, like I said before; I would never fault someone for trying to make things happen. However, one really shouldn’t drag out the judgmental pendulum until one is aware that it swings both ways.
The moral of this story boys and girls is simply this; While you are out trying to make your writing dream a reality, you will be taken advantage of at some point AND it’s okay to fight back.
Don’t be the road…be the boot.