Scams and Cons in Fiction by Terry Ambrose

001_Terry-bio-2012-202x270In 1848, James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, CA. The gold rush brought 300,000 people to California, all in search of instant riches. This new world of publishing, in a sense, is very similar. In 2003, 300,000 books were published in the US. By 2011, that number had risen to over three million. Along with the rising number of new titles, the business of writing services, i.e., book editing, book creation, and promotion, is also booming. But, even though the number of books purchased each year has increased dramatically, it has not maintained the same breakneck pace. It’s easy to be caught up in the advertising and promotion offers “guaranteed” to make authors a big success when they are desperate to be found in the midst of all the chaos.

I’ve dealt with scams and cons throughout my working career and I write about them for an online publication. In a sense that makes me jaded and a bad target for those temptations. As I look at the chaos in the industry, I believe that it’s up to me to make my own breaks, and that means I follow multiple paths to increase my name recognition, hopefully without falling for someone’s scam.

Most authors, at least before they publish a book, believe that they’ll have to do nothing more than write and publish their masterpiece and then begin cashing their royalty checks. But, what was once the dirty little secret in publishing, the issue of promotion, is being talked about a lot these days. Despite all that talk and having the deck stacked against us, most authors hold out hope that theirs will be the exception to the rule and sell big. Even the authors who become that rare exception admit that there are no magic bullets and what works for one author may not work for the next. Each case is unique to forces that include the genre, writing style, name recognition, personality, and perseverance of the writer.

One of the paths I’ve chosen is writing book columns for an online news source. I began my San Diego Fiction column about two years 000_SoftCover6x9_300_cover_onlyago, long before I published my debut mystery, “Photo Finish.” I’ve done countless author interviews, covered book signings and other events, and written book reviews for authors—some of whom I admired greatly. In December 2011, I began writing Crime Fiction, a national column that allowed me to expand my range of contacts and coverage.

Writing about other authors has done several things for me. First, it gave me practice in meeting deadlines and writing under pressure. This was a good thing because it’s made me more efficient in my fiction writing. Second, it has given me name recognition I never would have had if I had not written the columns. This, too, is a good thing because it does transfer into some traffic on my website. Third, and most importantly, it has put me in contact with extremely talented writers. Basically, every time I write a column, I’m helping some other author promote his or her book.

Given that name recognition really translates into a game of repetition, I find this approach offers me a way to get my name in front of readers on a regular basis without being one of those authors who stands on the social media corner yelling, “Buy my book!”

Is this approach for everyone? Absolutely not. However, if you don’t mind doing favors for others with no guarantee that they’ll ever want to return the favor or that the wheels on your karma bus will ever turn fast enough to make up for all the hours you put in, then consider writing for an online publication about books or another subject you are passionate about. You may find it a rewarding experience and a good way to gain name recognition.

What do you think? Is this a good approach for you? Do you have questions about how to get started? Let me know.

Author Bio: Terry Ambrose started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quickly learned that liars come from all walks of life. He never actually stole a car, but sometimes hired big guys with tow trucks and a penchant for working in the dark when “negotiations” failed.

A resident of Southern California, he loves spending time in Hawaii, especially on the Garden Island of Kauai, where he invents lies for others to read. His years of chasing deadbeats taught him many valuable life lessons including—always keep your car in the garage.

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3 thoughts on “Scams and Cons in Fiction by Terry Ambrose

  1. Pat Reid says:

    I am sure you have had a lot of interesting experiences doing skip tracing. I know I have. Thanks for the great interview.

  2. What a fascinating post. I used to think (hope) that getting a lot of short stories published would help sell my novels, but that hasn’t happened. I’m guessing that maybe writing non-fiction, as you do, would help more. Reading this might be just the push I need to get more non-fiction articles out there. Thank you!

  3. Pat, you’re right that I had some very interesting experiences. But, nobody ever pointed a gun at me, so I was one of the lucky ones! And Jan, there are some great online news sources that can let you increase your exposure and force you to write on a deadline, to a specific length or topic, etc. It really is a great experience.

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