The digital revolution has created many companies that are reputable – and probably just as many that are not. As self-employed writers, we’ve been casting around for ways to keep pace with this rapid transformation and it’s been tricky. And the synchro here, I think, falls in the trickster domain. Hey, psstt, got something for you to check out, Trish and Rob, whispers Smeagol, from the shadows. And yes, on the surface, it looks pretty good. Then you dig a bit deeper and discover it’s mostly smoke and mirrors.
In 2005, my editor at the time, Kate Duffy, told me I needed to put up a website. Seven years ago, there were no companies – at least none that I knew of – where you could use their online software to create a site. So I paid a guy in New Jersey several thousand to create a website for me. It was a pretty website, pleasing to the eye, and I could update it without having to pay him for every single update – which at that time was about 50 bucks a shot. But he rarely answered my emails and when, several years later, the landscape had changed, with services cropping up with online software for creating websites, it was months before he transferred my domain names back to me.
I suspect that company is now out of business as there are many sites that offer online software for creating your own websites – and for a lot less than what I paid! We use www.1and1.com for our two websites and our blog. Their prices are good, there are no hidden costs – and that’s important. We have published several of our out of print titles through smashwords, which is great if you can wade through their 80 plus pages of guidelines for formatting and know how to design a cover on your own. But if you don’t know how to do this – or don’t have the time – they maintain a list of people who do know the ins and outs. The 3 titles I published through smashwords cost about $150 each and I used a wonderfully talented woman, Katrina Joyner. She scanned, formatted and designed great covers.
Around this time, my agent’s agency contracted with an outfit called Argo-Navis, which bills itself as a company that brings your back list titles back into print – but for a very steep price. It would have cost me nearly $7,000 to bring some of my titles back into print through this company, and why would I do that when I could do it through smashwords for a fraction of what they were charging? I wrote them off to greed and kept searching.
Then along came Crossroad Press, who did everything Katrina did, everything that Argo-Navis did – for no upfront fee at all, and the split they offer is unheard of in publishing: 80/20, and that’s 80% of the cover price for the author. We did a post on them last month. In traditional publishing, the author receives between 8 and 15 percent of the cover price. Rob and I signed for ten back list titles with David Wilson, who heads the company.
But because I dislike having all my proverbial eggs in one basket, I kept researching. When I ran across Marcus Anthony’s webpage, where he’s got an actual store, I wrote him and asked a bunch of questions and decided to check it out. The site offers a friendly interface, you don’t have to know any html code to create a website. But their advertising is fraudulent. They lead you to believe you can create a free website in moments, but the truth is that it took me five hours to realize that the thirty bucks I’d paid for the year, to create a webstore, was just for the domain name. Really? I can buy a domain name from Go Daddy for ten bucks for an entire year.
I went onto their support forum – no phones, just echat- and spoke first to Erin, then to Tiffany – and learned absolutely nothing that I didn’t already know. Webs.com doesn’t have an app yet that can sell downloadable ebooks or PDF files and you have to manipulate your way around that flaw. It annoyed me that they don’t have phone support – whereas 1and 1 does. Marcus’ experience was obviously much different than mine. Erin and Tiffany weren’t helpful at all.
On another recent search, I was looking for ways to publicize ebooks and ran across bookdaily. Sign up for free! You can upload a chapter of your book and they’ll send it out to their zillions of subscribers. I even found an article about them in Publishers Weekly, the industry magazine. So I signed up – and was then directed to PayPal. Turns out you can sign up for free – but you have to pay for them to send the chapter to their subscribers. In the finer print, I discover that the uploaded chapter doesn’t reach all that many people and isn’t worth what they’re charging. So there are numerous sites that advertise that their services are free, but they aren’t.
David Wilson from Crossroad sent me a link for unshelved, which is actually legit, prices spelled right out, and targets librarians.
So it goes, as Vonnegut would say. Of course, stupid me, all of this took place while Mercury – the communication trickster – is retrograde. Sure, start something new while Mercury, your ruler moves backward through the zodiac. Sure, go right ahead – snicker, snort.
The retro ended shortly after this post went up. Three cheers for Mercury turning direct!