Self-Published Authors are Not Entitled to a Free Ride

This post is based off of several alarming things I’ve seen on the Internet.   I see stuff like self-published authors asking for people to buy their book so they can fund their college education, their vacation, etc.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to make money at writing, but to come out and ask for someone to buy your book so you can buy something?  That seems tacky to me.  Then I talk to a couple of cover artists and find out authors are asking to be given “free” covers.  Never mind that the cover artist spent time and money buying stock photos for those covers.  Then I see authors who want others to fund the editing costs of their books.  I’m guessing some of these authors expect editors to do it for free.  I don’t know any editors personally enough to have had that discussion with them.  Then I see authors using other authors’ blogs, Twitter pages, FB pages (and who knows what else) to promote their book (often without permission).    Then I hear about authors who put people on their email list without their permission and won’t remove their email address when asked.  Then I hear about authors who threaten book reviewers if they don’t like the review.  I mean, really?

All of this has the entitlement mentality to it.  Since when does one author, one editor, one cover artist, or even one reader owe an author anything?

There are two things the self-published author is entitled to:

1. To write the book they are most passionate about.

2.  To publish that book when they want.

That is it.  You want someone to do the cover, editing, formatting, and some promotion?  Find a publisher.  That’s why they rock.  They take the headache and costs out of the equation for you, and they deserve their share of the profits for doing it.

No one owes the self-published author a sale to fund something in their life.  No one owes that author a free cover, free editing, free formatting, or free anything.  No one owes the author a free promo spot on their blog or social networking pages.  No one owes an author a review at all.  And if the reviewer doesn’t like a book, that is their right and the author has no right to harass that reviewer.

I can’t believe all the shady things I see going on.

This is going to hurt self-published authors.  I hate to say it, but the way some self-published authors are acting are going to piss off a lot of readers.  It’s not the quality of our books that are going to give us a bad name.  It’s the way we behave.

Think about this for a minute.  How would you want to be treated?  Would you want someone to ask you to make their cover for free?  Or edit their book for free?  Or pay for their vacation out of your money?  Or post a promo for their book on your site where they are accessing your readers without your permission?  Or putting you on their email list without your permission and spamming you all the time?  Or emailing you with nasty comments because they didn’t like the review you gave their book?

Whatever happened to the idea of treating others the way you’d want to be treated?  I thought we were all taught to be polite and respect others in kindergarten.  I tell you when my kids came home from kindergarten with all the nice behaviors they were taught, my first thought was, “Too bad adults don’t act that way.”

I know I’m speaking to the choir here.  The authors on this blog have been exceptional.  Everyone who comments on this blog have been professional in the way they act.  I’m happy to be in with this group.  I guess what I really needed to do was vent and get it off my chest.  Thanks for allowing me the time to do so.

68 Comments

  1. Patti Hall says:

    I do see some of this around, however you and I are in at least two different writer circles that are not doing this. Are we just lucky, or are the few (once again) making it rough for the reputation of the many? Let’s just keep giving them as much advice on how to do it without sleazy short cuts that are bad for them and the rest of us.
    Thank you for posting this.
    Patti

    1. I think it’s the few making it rough for the many, and the few seem to be the most vocal. It’s very unfortunate, too.

  2. I don’t know what the problem is here, but I have a wordpress account and I cannot get it to work.

    Anyway, I was going to say that I don’t see how these people think that everything is free, or that they are entitled. The fact is that I have to pay for everything before I see a single cent, and I know how to do everything already. All I can say is, I am published and they are not. As for reviews, I can do without them. They have never helped me, and it does not make much of a difference if they are free or not. Who says all this stuff should be free? People who don’t know how the world works. Nothing in life is free, there is always a price.

    1. I hope the problem isn’t on our end. I think we have the comments open to everyone, but I’ll do in and check. It’s possible we require WordPress log in first. I’ll see if I can remove that.

      I learned how to do most of the stuff myself so I would be able to fix any problems in case they came up. I’m glad I did, too, because from time to time, I need to tweak on something. I don’t understand why people can’t swap services if they can’t afford to pay someone. Well, I guess I can. They want something for nothing. It’s sad and I hate to think of what this does to the reputation of all self-published authors.

  3. kd says:

    Right on! Being both a writer on the one hand and a freelance editor and book designer on the other, I see this from both sides and strongly agree that some writers need to grow up a bit about their work. While I’ll definitely work for free for love (I don’t charge my husband for editing his work, obviously) and I’m willing to negotiate for a rate that a struggling writer can afford (we all need that grace), I get a really unprofessional hit off people who don’t look at their work as something that NEEDS WORK. Writing isn’t the only strenuous endeavor involved in getting a book into its final form!

    1. I can only imagine the headache you go through as an editor and book designer. What I heard from a cover artist was enough to make me throw up my hands in disgust.

      I think it’s awesome that you will work with someone who needs it. That’s a very kind and generous spirit you have, and I hope you end up reaping more of a profit because of it.

  4. Rohan 7 Things says:

    Those are some very worrying behaviors there. I too am in with a very good group and I haven’t seen this kind of stuff going on, but yeah, it would be a pity if these people’s action reflected badly on self published authors as a whole!

    Thanks for sharing and spreading awareness of these issues!

    Rohan.

    1. Agreed! I hope it won’t reflect badly on the rest of us. None of the writers groups I’ve been a part of have been like this either, and I have never heard anyone who commented on this blog doing it either. I don’t know where this began but hope it’s not a trend.

  5. Avery J Fics says:

    I think this post ( http://shaysavage.blogspot.com/2013/07/help.html) falls in the same vein … “Do my marketing for me so I can quit my day job…”

    1. Yes, it does. I’ve seen giveaways where authors asked for some people to do a marketing gimmick to enter the giveaway, but I haven’t seen anyone state it this way.

      If there was a magic marketing technique out there, we’d all be doing it.

  6. My son does cover designs, and he has a handful of good customers, but I was surprised that he’d occasionally encounter a self-pubbed author who was actually offended at the prospect of having to pay for their covers. My editor gets free covers for his books in exchange for his editing services on mine, but I can’t understand why anyone else expects a freebie.

    1. What a pain when your son has to deal with authors who get offended by having to pay for their covers. I don’t understand it at all. We put a price tag on our books in hopes that people will be willing to buy it, so why would we begrudge a cover artist or editor from their right to make money?

      I love the trading services you do. I do those frequently, too.

  7. jzrart says:

    I’m with you 100% on this. I’m not even a fan of crowd sourcing unless I know the person and know they aren’t using the money they receive to go on vacation. I have always worked for what I have and if I don’t have the money to do something that is important for me, I’ll either let it go or get a loan and pay the interest.

    1. Same here. I’ve played the fool a couple times in the past when I later realized what I gave money for went somewhere else, and it pissed me off. Now I try to be careful.

  8. I have seen little or nothing of the behaviour described here, and I’ve been in the business over 25 years. Few independent authors get hung up on entitlement, because they know they wouldn’t last long if they did. Hard work is what I’ve seen a lot of, and dedication, and sacrifice, and more hard work.

    1. I won’t say where I saw this going on, but I was shocked by how many authors seemed to be in agreement that it was okay to do it. Fortunately, it seems to be restricted to that place. I’d hate to think we’re on the edge of this becoming a trend.

      The authors I know have all been big fans on doing their own work or paying for services they don’t know how to do or don’t have time to do.

  9. Bless you Ruth, because honestly someone needed to say this. Authors shouldn’t expect people to just give them money for editing costs or to create a cover or buy them plane tickets without garauntee of something in return. Any author who believes otherwise is a little full of themselves or deluded, if you ask me.

    1. Thanks, Rami. This seems to be something that just started happening. I’m hoping word will go out fast so the authors stop doing it. It seems that self-published authors have to be careful in everything they do, and I’d hate for this to end up hurting the reputation of all self-published authors.

      1. Tell me about it. We really can’t afford to mess up on this.
        Oh by the way, a friend of mine commented on this post when i reblogged it. He said you were really hitting a tough subject on the mark.

        1. Thanks! This is a tough subject. I hesitated to say anything, but I knew if I didn’t, then I would be agreeing with the way these authors are acting because I failed to speak out against it.

          1. And i’m so glad you decided to speak out against it. Now I’ll be more vocal on the subject myself in the future.

  10. There are authors that really do that? It disturbs me because I am an indie and it hasn’t even come to my mind to ask anyone for anything for free. Yikes! Okay, if they outright offered it to me, I might accept…but I’d have to see what the catch is first. I would never, ever ask for a free book cover or free editing services, etc. Yes, I’ve heard of indie authors attacking those that give them bad reviews or just1-2 stars. It’s the readers prerogative to leave any type of review and as authors, we need to go back into our manuscripts to find out why a person gave us a 1 or 2 star review…not bash that reader.

    I’ve seen some odd author behaviors that I have just brushed off – everything from attacking readers, throwing tantrums and dissing the work of other authors, but this…asking for free stuff, is nuts.

    1. Fortunately, this seems to be limited to a small number. Most indie authors are hard workers who strive to be professional. I don’t know any of these authors personally. I just saw a couple of things crop up on the Internet and it disturbed me.

      I agree with you about the reviews. I know authors don’t like getting 1 or 2 star reviews, but instead of going out and attacking the reviewer, they should look at their story and ask whether or not the reviewer has a point. If not, keep on trucking along like normal. If yes, then do what you can to improve. Arguing will always get you in trouble.

    2. Oh, and if someone offers, then by means, go for it as long as there are no strings attached. Sometimes people want to do something to be nice or to thank someone. There’s nothing wrong with that. 😀

  11. Jill James says:

    Wow! I live on the internet and I must have missed most of this. (thank goodness) Nothing in life is free. Even though you pay after a sale, the retailers aren’t free either, they take their cut.

    1. I would have missed it if I hadn’t happened to be there when someone made the discussion. I run into most things as I’m browsing along the Internet. Fortunately, this isn’t something that’s in a lot of places. I’d hate to see it become a trend.

      1. Jill James says:

        I think if we have blog posts like yours we will be okay. If you see a problem at least you have the chance to try to fix it.

  12. I agree, Ruth. A writer works hard to build his/her craft and produce a good product. Freeloaders do not want to do their own work. They are leaches, and you have to take bad reviews with a grain of salt. I have one on Goodreads. She did not like the Christian content (even though my romance, Lockets and Lanterns, is not preachy). The characters live their lives and faith is part of that but someone reading the review actually might purchase it because of her comments. Remember not even the best-selling authors are loved by everyone. We are each unique with different tastes and this is a good thing. God bless.

    1. Plus, a book that has all glowing reviews tend to look like the reviews are all faked. The best thing a book can have is a wide range of reviews to show the pros and cons so readers can better decide if the book is for them. 😀

  13. Have you heard of Kickstarter or any of the many other crowd funding sights? Since when does ASKING for help require receiving that help and how is that an entitlement? While I agree that writers have shot them selves in the foot by writing for free (sic HuffPost) there is certainly nothing that rings the entitled bell for me. People give and take and that is the way the world works. If you don’t want to participate you don’t have to but don’t blame writers who the big ‘publishers’ don’t feel are saleable (because sales is how they decide, not whether an author has something important to say) who ask for help from others who might ask for the same type of help. You have a right to post your opinion and I have a right to disagree.

    1. I’m not talking about Kickstarter. I don’t necessarily agree with Kickstarter, but this isn’t specifically what I’m talking about.

      I’m talking about someone who asks for a cover artist for a cover or an editor for an editing job and then refuses to pay them for their work. The cover artist and editor did not offer the service for free. The author just didn’t want to pay. And this happens. I’m also talking about an author who emails strangers they don’t know and asks them to fund part of their book. I also don’t think authors should be asking people to fund a part of their book production expenses on a blog post.

      I think swapping services or taking the time to learn how to do these things ourselves is much more advantageous. It gives the author knowledge, resources, and probably some great friendships that will benefit them from years to come.

      I’m fine if you don’t agree with me. 😀 Thanks for being honest.

  14. Reblogged this on Rami Ungar The Writer and commented:
    These days, you have self-published authors asking their readers to finance their editing fees, the creation of the book cover, and even vacations/plane tickets/living expenses. And when these authors don’t get “donations”, they can throw hissy fits.
    This is not acceptable behavior, and will only harm the author in the end. We as readers don’t owe them anything, especially without garauntee of anything back. For more, read this article by novelist and fellow writer for Self-Published Auhtors Helping Other Authors, Ruth Ann Nordin.

  15. This is all so unprofessional. No one should ever ask for free covers, editing, etc. Now if someone else OFFERS to do something for free, that’s different. Or if you can exchange services, that’s okay, too. But a free ride? Other businesses aren’t expected to get free products, so why should we expect free services?

    1. I agree. I think exchanging services is awesome, and I do that often. That’s actually been a great way to find supportive friends. 😀 And if someone wants to offer to do something, that’s wonderful.

      You’re right. Other businesses aren’t expected to give free products. Why are self-published author or their readers expected to fund an author’s book? It makes no sense to me. If you want someone to do everything but writing a book, that’s what publishers are for.

  16. Ashana M says:

    If and when I ever do publish a book–self or otherwise–it will only be because I think someone else might get something out of reading it. If you have nothing to offer, why ask for money? Sell your work because it has value and is worth purchasing–not because you want a new toy or even a new necessity.

    1. Good point. Let the book sell itself and make money that way. If people value the product, they’ll buy it.

  17. Great post! I’ve seen most of the above behaviors or been on the receiving end of some of them. While I don’t see the problem with asking for help or readers to purchase a book, there are a few things that I do find tacky (and not always from writers). Signing up complete strangers to mailing lists, blogs, and newsletters, and then spamming me with “Buy my book/product!” emails (I get three of these a day and no way to unsubscribe). Asking readers to get the author to the top 100 and then belittling them for not getting the book there. Stalking a reviewer if they didn’t give the author a stellar, 5 star review, or attacking me as a sock puppet because I liked a book they didn’t.

    As a cover designer I do get the occasional client who thinks they are the exception or entitled to special treatment. I’ve had authors who want me to foot the bill of their cover design even after I explain to them that I have bills to pay, images to purchase, and it takes time to do what they want of me. I’ve had a few that get mad that I won’t do cover design for free because they are giving the book away for free. There are the few who want a discount on pricing that is already low. Then there are who ask for numerous revisions and redesigns of the covers and then are upset when they have to foot the bill for it.

    Right now this is a small portion of most authors and I’m very grateful for the authors who don’t fit into this group. 😀

    1. “…Then there are who ask for numerous revisions and redesigns of the covers and then are upset when they have to foot the bill for it….”

      That’s what I run into part time. The one that annoys me the most are authors who will have me create a cover – or in the case of the latest NINE covers – and then suddenly say “I’ve changed my mind, I’m not publishing/my friend decided to make me a free one/I’m going to just use Create Space’s cover maker/etc.” and meanwhile i have done all the work on covers, spent time on them, and sent other authors away – who would have paid for the time – and these authors skate off with just a “sorry”. They don;t seem to understand that they owe me for my TIME.

      1. That’s one of the reasons I started asking for a baseline deposit for each item before I work on it that is non-refundable. It means less jobs, but also authors who are more serious and conscious of my time.

      2. I’m sorry to hear this happens. *shakes head in disappointment*

    2. Thanks for sharing your experiences because this stuff is important to know about so we aren’t surprised when we come across it. If we are prepared for it, then we can decide ahead of time how to respond to it.

      I heard about authors signing up strangers to email lists. I’ve been invited to Facebook events and spammed once every hour during the event and have had authors post their book info on my Facebook page without asking for my permission first.

      Do these people who don’t have an unsubscribe option use personal email or a thing like MailChimp? I’m going to look into buying a PO Box so I can use MailChimp. That way if people want to unsubscribe, they can. I only put people on my email list if they ask to be on it, but I also know people might change their mind and would love to give them the option of unsubscribing.

      I guess I’m lucky since I haven’t seen the top 100 and belittling thing. I have heard of the stalking, which is horrible.

      Thanks for speaking about your experience as a cover designer. Your time is worth money and should be compensated.

  18. AR Neal says:

    Reblogged this on One Starving Activist and commented:
    It seems illogical to think that if anyone were to give you, the author, a bunch of free stuff as described in Ruth Ann’s post, that you should make money off of it. That’s just not right.
    Gifting is one thing, grifting is something completely different.
    We, the self-published authors, should know that it is our blood, sweat, tears, work, and words (and some good ol’ fashioned prayers along with a pinch of right-place-right-time) that makes us successful.

  19. kcharbneau says:

    Wow. It’s sad that people are using self publishing in that manner. It just adds complications for those of us who are starting out… just trying to get our names out there for something we really have a passion for.

    1. I’m hoping this doesn’t become a trend. The more people are aware of it, I’m hoping it’ll get nipped before it becomes a big issue. I want to see self-published authors succeed because so many work hard at what they do and it makes life easier for those starting out to have credibility that wasn’t there when I started publishing ebooks in 2009.

  20. Katie Cross says:

    That kind of laziness is frightening!

  21. M T McGuire says:

    Feel free to rant! These authors annoy all of us and they also damage all of our good names, which is bloody annoying because they make it even harder for those of us who behave honourably to convince our on-line readership that we’re kosher. There seem to be a lot of people expecting something for nothing these days. 😉

    Cheers

    MTM

    1. That’s what I hate the most. Their behavior reflects on us. It was a struggle to be taken seriously as a self-published author, and this doesn’t help. Unfortunately, there does seem to be a lot of people expecting something for nothing.

  22. Great points. It may be that because self-published authors don’t make money on their books and the profits on each copy sold are so small, they try to reduce costs wherever possible. Obviously the wrong way to do that is to expect everyone else to work for free. The right way would be to learn to do their own editing, formatting and hmm, even their own art work. That’s the only fair way to reduce costs.

    1. I completely agree. Reducing costs is a good thing. I am one of the cheapest authors on the planet when it comes to making books because when I started, I was so heavily in debt that I struggled with whether to buy milk or cheese at the grocery store. Thanks to GIMP (which is a free), I can make my own ebook covers. Thanks to some writer friends, I was able to swap services for editing. (Writing groups paid off great in establishing connections.) Thanks for a couple authors, I figured out how to format books. My cost on a book is usually the price I paid for a stock photo, which is about $10-20. It doesn’t have to be expensive. I don’t know why people think it has to cost a lot to make a book.

  23. K. A. Jordan says:

    “It’s not the quality of our books that are going to give us a bad name. It’s the way we behave.”

    I’m going to respectfully disagree with this statement…on the basis that PROFESSIONAL behavior creates professional books.

    Panhandling is panhandling – it’s not professional. The behavior in question is childish, immature AND unprofessional.

    I think it has it’s roots in the ‘goldrush’ mentality – “I rote meza book, now let the monies rolled in.”

    As if that ever happened to begin with.

    1. I probably didn’t word that quite right. 😀 I meant that authors worry so much about the occasional typo that they assume one or two typos in a full-length story is going to destroy the credibility of self-published authors. Traditionally published books have the occasional typos. Of course we want to make the book as polished as possible because it’s our books that we want readers to believe are worth buying.

      I do agree that professional books are important. Books that were done by people who pretty much posted their first drafts are not helping self-published authors’ reputations. We can tell those books from a mile away.

      So we are in agreement about that. What I was trying to point out (and maybe didn’t do a good job of) was that even if authors are producing great quality books but are acting as if the reader owes them a living or a cover or editing, then it will turn readers off from wanting to read their books. And if readers start thinking that self-published authors only want money (like a salesman at the door), then it could hurt self-published authors in general.

      I hope that is better worded. 😀

      1. K. A. Jordan says:

        Aha, we weren’t that far apart after all.

        I’ve read some books published by trade publishers that looked like they just slapped the file into a paperback template, sight unseen. (Shudder) It is truely embarrassing to read something like that — I got out my highlighter, just to see how bad it was. I was really, really shocked.

        I don’t know how that happens in a ‘name imprint’ but it did.

        It’s hard to be an Indie, struggling to be as professional as possible, while there are monkey’s running amuck in every tree.

        Thankfully the monkeys are not winning in this game, the professionals are.

        It’s just SO slow.

        It was a very good, thoughtful post. Thank you.

        1. Sometimes I get frustrated when I see traditionally published books get away with stuff most indies I know would never do. I know it’s something we have to live with and all we can do is our best.

          1. K. A. Jordan says:

            I think that human error is always going to be a factor. Carelessness doesn’t have to be an Indie trait. We can leave that to the pros. LOL

            1. ROFL Thanks for the good laugh. I needed that today. 😀

  24. Crikey Ruth… i think i’ll start asking if someone’s got time to clean my works van, mow the lawn, trim my hedges, run my bath water and feed me too … as they have nothing else to do apart from creating everyone else’s masterpieces of literature during lots of their spare time! (NB At the end of the day we all want to help each other in this world but i thought slavery was abolished many years ago! Cheek buggers!) Thanks for the post Ruth … when you have 5 mins, can you stop what your doing and spellcheck at least 20 novels for people asap please! Ha ha not LOL

    1. LOL I love your comparison between what these authors are doing and us expecting other people to do our household chores without paying them. There is no difference.

  25. Linda Adams says:

    I’ve largely stopped leaving reviews because I’ve seen writers have major meltdowns over reviews that aren’t raving 5 star reviews. I only give 5 stars if the book is really, really good. To me, it’s meant to be rare, for that book that really stands out. I was also told by an indie writer that he thought 1-star reviews were people trying to “get the writer” and keep him from selling the books. He couldn’t seem to understand that 1 star reviews sell books too (since I have bought books because of the 1-star reviews); he viewed a 1-star review as a personal attack.

    It’s too much about me, me, me, and not enough about the readers.

    1. I don’t blame you for not wanting to review books. I’ve noticed the same thing you’re mentioning. This is the kind of thing I’m afraid will end up hurting self-published authors as a whole. It reflects badly on the rest of us.

      Books are best if they have a wide range of reviews. Having all 5-star reviews doesn’t do the author or readers any good. The best thing a book can have are some of every star. If 1-star reviews hurt book sales as badly as some authors fear, then my best selling books wouldn’t be the ones that tend to average a 3 to a 3.5-star rating. Some of the best reviews out there are 1-star reviews, and I even bought a couple of books because what someone didn’t like in the book was something I loved and I was glad the reviewer mentioned it.

    2. Personally, I want to receive an honest review. What good is a distorted review? It is not fair to the reader who makes purchases based on some of the reviews. Good comments and God bless.

      1. It’s not fair to the reader. Readers shouldn’t have to worry about retaliation when they review a book. They should be able to say whatever they want. Besides, I’ve seen books with a ton of 5-star reviews that don’t sell well, so those 5-star reviews didn’t help the author. I think the idea that reviews sell books is a myth. Reviews are great for someone who is trying to decide whether to buy a book or not. But the idea that an author’s career rests on them has yet to be proven to my satisfaction.

  26. I have seen this many times, not just personally but heard from others who edit, typeset and design covers. Many self-publishers use the argument that publishing houses take so much money and by doing it on your own you keep more of the profits. But the thing they fail to realize and why their books usually fail is because they don’t see what they are doing as a business. You have to market your book and make it look good enough for people to buy.
    But it also stems from a fundamental disrespect for others. The fact that they don’t respect what publishing houses do shows that they don’t respect the services of others.

    1. Excellent point. I hadn’t thought of the connection between how they see publishing houses and how they treat others. I agree with you.

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