BEWARE: How to test an expert in writing & publishing

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 BEWARE: How to test an expert in writing & publishing

I am often appalled at who is selling themselves as gurus and experts in books. Because I am a writing coach and also coach on publishing for indie’s in which I defer to many other real experts, I see many ads online, often targeted to me, telling me about someone who is the latest publishing expert.

Ads like this one depicted on my phone calling herself The Book Professor, count on you clicking and buying whatever they are selling.  Now these people may have some good things to say and may be good teachers, I don’t know. The reason I don’t know is I check them out first and am frequently underwhelmed, and occasionally even shocked. I’ll tell you why and how I check.

First, a little background to understand. Currently, we are still in a publishing revolution. We have been in one for some time but it changes so quickly I call it an ongoing battle, mostly for indie authors, but really for all authors to keep up. The game changer… Amazon. In 2011 Amazon went beyond being the largest distributor of books and ebooks and became a publisher buying and creating several of its own imprints. It has a huge advantage by being able to decide how books are searched for and ranked on its site. In other words, how readers find your books if you are an author. Every author these days is in a love-hate relationship with Amazon, who giveth and taketh away as well. We try to keep a step ahead, and ALL traditionally published books are in the exact same situation as it would be pretty remiss for them not to be selling through the biggest global distributor (and publisher) even if they use several other avenues including brick and mortar stores (who can buy books wholesale via Ingrams via…Amazon by the way). The upshot is all authors no matter how they publish are hugely aware of Amazon and if they are successful, they know a lot about how it works and are involved with it in a big way. Getting top rankings is the difference between a nice fat pay cheque and getting a few extra dollars.

So, when I see seminars from people telling how they are “experts” in writing and publishing and how they are going to teach you how to be a successful author, then I simply look them up on Amazon. When I see they have only one book there, barely reviewed, and no author page, I know they are blowing smoke up everyone’s derrieres. The nerve.

I don’t consider myself to be yet an exemplary indie author with only seven or eight books (under the Kathrin Lake name anyway), yet I know enough to know you need to have way more than one book to call yourself an expert on publishing books. You have to have not only learned your writing craft but your online marketing standard set ups, and especially you are present on Amazon and likely Facebook, Goodreads, Kboards, Kobo, Audible, Smashwords, D2D and a lot more. But first and foremost you have multiple books on Amazon, with preferably 10 plus reviews each (unless very new). An author, at minimum has their author page set up on Amazon with feeds to their various social media set up, and their product pages have captivating blurbs, genre appropriate, attractive covers, etc., etc.

If the so called expert has little of that and is only showing what is known as a splash page, or squeeze page website, where they are selling a book and a webinar in which you must get on their list, which will eventually lead to  their educational product of some  kind, but they have nada or little going on in Amazon, BEWARE.

What do I recommend? The best book on the market right now is Write, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. And even they admit the Amazon game is a moving target but they are connected to the huge and very generous Indie Author community who figures it out together. They tell you the brutal facts of today’s authoring, as well as the awesome possibilities.

I follow people like that and befriend as many as I can. When I teach writing I include all of what I know is going on out there in book writing, fiction and nonfiction, as well as what I learned from my theatre days as a playwright that stays true today, as well as my newspaper and article writing days, everything I learned by publishing the first times myself, and from others. All of that is valid, but if I don’t include the here and now I am no kind of expert. It would be like a physicist applying the ideas from Sir Issac Newton and maybe a bit from that new upstart Einstein, but who is that Stephen Hawking guy?  What’s a fractoral?  What is that Higgs Boson particle thing?

Experts need to know what’s going on now and when I teach a writing retreat, even in the writing part, not only am I reading what’s going on, I know how today’s stories are being transformed into other genres, other formats, such as for TV in the new age of series.  What are the new genres? How does an author set themselves up to take advantage of it all according to those who are actually doing it. And how does one builds a platform (as they used to call it) or brand themselves (as they now call it). Also, when should you say pshaw to marketing, stand up and preserve the integrity of your writing, break molds if you want, and other times you should be keeping your ear to the ground and listening to your readers.

In other words, I personally want to  know who exactly is doing what successfully out there and how are they doing it. Simply said, I want to know what works. Then, when I start applying at least some of it and get some success, that’s when I will call myself an expert.

That’s my rant on “book experts” …now you can go out and buy my book… just check me out first.


Kathrin Lake teaches for VSW, writes blogs and books. Her latest is The Happy Hammock and her most respected book on writing is Writing with Cold Feet.

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