Would-be Authors: Check Out This Trainwreck Of A Fail-Article

By Jamie McSloy / April 11, 2018

Would-be Authors: Check Out This Trainwreck Of A Fail-Article

Let’s jump right into some business advice for would-be authors.

Check out this massive fail of an article published by the Guardian.


In it, we have a writer – decorated Ros Barker, who says she’s going hungry as a writer but wouldn’t consider self-publishing.

This seems stupid, but then she’s also hired as a lecturer at a British University, so that’s where her income is likely coming from.

Let’s take this article and you can read my thoughts on this:

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Alright, three initial points here:

  1. She made £5,000 for two-years work.

When you read the rest of her thoughts on what it takes to become a professional author, bear that in mind.

  1. The blog was shared on social media and received 10,000 views OMG!!!

Again… this lady thinks that 10,000 views is some massive viral sensation. Again, bear that in mind.

  1. “If you love writing and take it seriously… don’t go into indie writing.”

Not much to add here except read the first point I just made – this is a woman who is telling you that if you seriously love writing, then you should put yourself in a position where you can’t actually afford to do it and live.

This frames the advice I’m going to give you in this article, which won’t help you if you want to believe the world is out to get you but will help you if you want to make a living from writing.

Let’s move on.

#1: To Write For a Living… Forget Writing For A Living?


Ok… apparently people who self-publish don’t write for a living, and instead they market their books for a living.

You can tell I’m writing this as I go along, because I really don’t know what to say here.

She had one self-published author who said he spent 90% of his time marketing and I guess that’s the argument.

I don’t spend 90% of my time marketing my books and for most of the books I have written, I do zero marketing whatsoever.

This is totally up to the self-published writer, and to be honest, let’s ruffle some feathers here: When you have a traditional publishing contract, you have to do your own marketing.

Think a publisher is going to pull out all the stops to get Mr. No-Name New-Author a big gig on Oprah to help him earn out that big £2500 a year advance? Think again.

If you are a new self-published author, then the best marketing you can do is more writing. This is common among self-published writers who make a living doing it, so there’s only one place this argument can come from.

P.S. Anyone whose argument is “to make a living doing something, don’t try and make a living” is giving bad advice. That is common sense.

#3: Gatekeepers Save You From Yourself

I missed out on point two because it was unbelievably dumb. “Self-publishing can make you sound stupid.”

Kind of like writing an article about making a living as an author when you make £2500 a year doing it and give out advice on topics you know nothing about. Whatever.

Let’s go to point three:

Gatekeepers are saving you from yourself. Uhuh.

You know who is a gatekeeper to self-published authors?

The audience.

If you write a terrible book, then you won’t sell many copies. You might get terrible reviews.

But you will get better feedback from the people who actually buy your books. As opposed to some agent who is probably a failed writer and doesn’t even read your book… instead reading your covering letter synopsis and checking it against what their boss says “is in right now.”

You don’t need a gatekeeper. Test the market yourself. If it’s bad, then learn and try again.

#4: Serve An Apprenticeship

So the next bit of advice echoes the advice gave above.

“You shouldn’t be self-published because you get an apprenticeship through traditional publishing.”

No you don’t. You get rejected and waste potentially years of your life if you get accepted. You also then don’t know if the book you’ve written is going to be a hit until a publisher releases it in three years’ time.

That’s not an apprenticeship.

Here’s what an apprenticeship is:

You release a book. It sells a few copies. You do better next time. You test the waters. Write another book. Learn what sells, learn what doesn’t. Keep going. Learn some advertising. Make some connections with other authors. Start a mailing list.

You learn all of these things and you keep writing.

This lady has served her apprenticeship and become a professional author who is giving advice, allegedly.

So why does she only make £2500 a year and has only published two novels ever?

How is that an apprenticeship compared with the advice you could follow from this blog:

  • Find a genre that sells
  • Write 1,000 words an hour for 5 hours a day and at in a week or two, publish your first book
  • Do this process again and again
  • By the end of the year, you’ll have twenty books and have learned more stuff that means your books succeed more
  • Keep going and never look back

That’s an apprenticeship because by the end of it you have financial success and you’ll have mastered a bunch of skills to take into the future.

#5: Forget Awards

Ok, I concede this point I guess. I literally don’t care about receiving literary awards and I don’t think anyone else should too.

They have no bearing on how much money you make. The richest author I know writes erotic romance, doesn’t have any awards to his name but is closing in on his second seven figure year this year.

If you’d rather make four figures and then likely still not win any awards, then go ahead I guess.

#6: You Risk Looking Like An Amateur (Because Self-Publishers Can’t Ever Hire Anyone Or Do a Professional Job)

Here’s an argument: a lot of self-published authors have bad editing and bad covers.

So do published ones.

And I’ve written about this before but I can’t be bothered to look up the articles…

When you’re self-published, you can hire the exact same people that a publishing house hires. Most publishing companies don’t have in-house designers and they use editors on a freelance basis.

You can hire them or you can hire better people.

I know cover artists who charge $500+ for a book cover and sell to self-published authors. This is a stupid argument.

#6: 100% Of Not A Lot Is Still Not A Lot

Let’s just finish with some more crabs-in-bucket stuff:

“70% of nothing is still nothing.”

Yeah, and 100% of £2500 a year is still not a living for an author.

If you are a self-published author and you make nothing on your release then you are doing something wrong. Check out the archives and I’ll guide you for free.

I could release a short story, self-published in two hours from now and it would make more than nothing.

We’ve got a quote from some woman who worked really hard to release 7 books in four years and her family never saw her as she worked so hard.

She did something wrong and seven books in four years is slow. Even at 100k words (too long for a novel in today’s market unless it’s the fantasy genre) that’s 700k words in four years.

That’s an average of 400 words a day.

And she knows a bunch of other people who aren’t successful.

Whatever, I’m not trying to put anyone down, but I can almost guarantee that she did something wrong, because if your average over seven full length books is £100 per book, then you’ve done something wrong.

We then go to another stupid example from the article writer who says a benefit to traditional publishing is reach and the fact you can get your book translated.

Come on.

You can reach the whole globe with a self-published book, and you can also – surprise, surprise – get your book either translated yourself and then published in a second language or you can sign a deal with a publisher for international rights in a different language.

Again… the argument is made on false ground from what I can only assume is a lack of any direct experience or business acumen.

This all ties back to the advice I’m always giving so I’ll stop with this: Don’t take advice on business from people who aren’t successful at business.