Beware the Experts

Experts. They’re everywhere. Self-publishing experts, social media experts, writing experts… the list goes on and on.

How can you tell if someone is an expert in their field? Anyone can claim to be an expert. Not everyone who claims to be an expert is an expert. They lack credentials, experience, and sometimes integrity. They sell services to unsuspecting authors and pad their own pockets by destroying a writer’s dreams.

I know an author who paid a “professional” to edit and format her book. When she tried to upload the book, it looked a mess on Kindle. It wouldn’t pass Createspace’s review. Her “formatted” file was useless. When she asked for help in a writer’s group we both belong to, I offered to look at her file. Wow. Not only was the formatting horrible, the editing was a mess too. When I skimmed the document in an attempt to clean up the formatting, I found dozens of errors. I don’t know if the author was able to get any of her money back, but I hope so. Whatever she paid was too much.

Fake experts can come in the form of cover artists who don’t secure the necessary licensing requirements before using a stock photo to make your book cover.

Fake experts can come in the form of editors who don’t understand the basics of grammar and sentence structure. They charge authors hundreds, or even thousands of dollars and leave the author with a poorly edited manuscript.

Fake experts can also come in the form of formatters. Book promoters. Public relations professionals. Writing coaches. They’re everywhere!

Beware the experts. Not only those who are selling services, but those who are selling “how to” books or classes. Don’t part with your money until you’ve checked references and consulted helpful sites such as Absolute Write and P&E.Β Who has the editor worked with? Checked out the books they claim to have worked on. Does the author mention the editor in their acknowledgments or somewhere else in their book? Do customer reviews mention editing issues? Ask the cover artist where they get the stock photos they use. Ask to see the licensing agreement on any images used on your cover. Research, research, research.

Beware the experts who offer free advice too. Their advice might work for some authors, but will it work for you? Their expert advice might be based on their experiences as a bestselling romance author, but some of their advice might not apply to your epic fantasy series or your non-fiction work. Different authors are going to use different strategies to market their unique books. And just because something works for one author doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Learn to pick and choose which advice suits your needs. Writer’s blogs (even this one!) are full of advice, but not all of it will be useful to you. Some of it contradicts. That doesn’t mean one author is wrong and the other is right – it just means they have had different experiences.

Always trust your instincts as a writer. You are the expert when it comes to doing what is best for you.

 


39 thoughts on “Beware the Experts

  1. I’m a firm believer that your best editor is someone who is also a writer and who actually enjoys reading what you write. I’ve had wonderful editing and received priceless advice from fellow authors. I hope I’ve reciprocated too.

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  2. Wise words indeed. Spot on. Makes me remember what my Grandfather used to say, “People who are intelligent, don’t need to shout about it.” The same is true of so-called experts, they louder someone claims to be an expert in a particular field, the more likely it is that they are anything but. True experts tend to be quietly confident people who don’t need to shout about their honed skills. So, I totally agree, beware of those claiming to be ‘an expert’. πŸ™‚

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      1. He was a wise man, wish I knew him but he sadly died three weeks after I was born, but at least he passed his words of wisdom to my mum. Lol, we constantly repeat his sayings nowadays, all these years after he passed. Ahh… πŸ˜€ Thanks honey. xx

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  3. I’ve probably re-edited as many books as I have raw MSS. And to be honest, even a recommend isn’t always a good gauge. If you don’t know what you are looking for, or what you are getting, you might well be recommending an inferior service to another author. Always ask for a sample edit.

    To be fair, it’s easy to find errors in a new work that we read for the first time. But when authors continue to use editors that miss errors (factual and grammatical) that’s their choice.

    And, from an editor’s POV, not all authors accept everything, some insist on leaving poor grammar as their ‘style’. Not a lot we can do about that after we have pointed it out. I’m also past the point of worrying about whether my name goes in a book. After all, I might have missed a full point somewhere! 😦

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    1. Ha ha! Don’t get me started on some authors and their book covers, either. Most of the clients I work with are great but there’s always that one that has some horrible, horrible idea and no matter how hard you try to steer them away it MUST be so, even if it ends up looking like a three year old designed it – even if it’s waaaay too buys, or the colors don’t go together, or the font is unreadable… but they pay me to make what they want, even if what they want is not attractive. The worst is when you try to nicely say that something else would be better, they throw an absolute wobbler, you make them what they want, then later they come back – or even better complain in public – about the terrible cover YOU foisted off on them. Really???

      On a side note I always take my editors suggestions on punctuation and grammar because I figure I went to them for a reason, LOL!

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    2. Good point about authors needing to know what they’re looking for. And such a good point about authors not accepting the advice their reputable editors offers! Some people are just plain stubborn. They aren’t looking for an editor – they are looking for someone to tell them their work is so perfect, they barely need an editor at all.

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  4. “research, research, research.”

    YES!!! It amazes me how few authors who will HIRE me to do their cover have even looked at my other covers, let alone checked out the FAQ or prices. They breeze through and assume they’re the author, they just don’t have time to mess with these petty things – but that attitude could cost them hundreds. I’m sure that for every one I get who didn’t bother to check the site there ate twenty more who go to someone else – and of those how many get ripped off? And some of the covers I’ve seen people come to me with wanting new ones because they paid 100 or more and the work is just terrible (though to be 100% fair, I have made seriously ugly covers because that was what the author *demanded*) but I generally assume if they then want a new one right off they didn’t demand it (again, though, there may be some who did, then changed their minds and to save face moved to someone else). but the bottom line is never part with your money unless you know what you’re getting – especially when many service providers have full websites that just take you ten minutes or so to read or look at.

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  5. Good advice. Self publishing has created a cottage industry of folks who claim to be able to help you with your book. In some cases, that’s good. One of the reasons why self publishing is so viable now is that authors are able to hire help from editors and illustrators, designers, etc.

    But the downside is there are a lot of hucksters who will take advantage. Buyer beware!

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  6. Thank you Jack as always you have hit the nail. It is a minefield, and I have had a few near misses I am now very loath to take advantage of any offers unless I know the people. I have translated some of my books then got some of the ‘locals’ (Spanish) to read them, let me know where the faults are so I can correct them, I THEN ask another person (including my Spanish teacher) to read the book just to make sure nothing was missed – something usually is. Now the definition of an ‘expert’ the person in a room full of people who knows more about a subject than anybody else there.

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    1. Great point! I’m a little nervous about hiring someone to translate my book into another language. I would have to know the person or know the people who are recommending them. And even then, I’d want someone I know and trust to read the translation before publishing.

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  7. I stopped reading all the writing magazines. It seems like the same material is regurgitated out in a different way. It was all too frustrating and exasperating for me. I have no money (it all goes to groceries for my sons that refuse to stop growing) so I have to do everything myself. I love the writing part but can’t tolerate the fact that there are so many people out there trying to make a buck off of me. I only trust other writers, in the same boat as myself – trying to get their books out there for the world to read.

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  8. “Always trust your instincts as a writer. You are the expert when it comes to doing what is best for you.”

    Not only that, but it’s your name that’s going to be on the jacket. Movie directors sometimes get the benefit of the doubt about glitches — studio interference, etc. — let alone screenwriters, who everybody knows have no say over anything, but a novelist is assumed to be responsible for what’s in the book. For better or worse.

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