Saturday, October 31, 2009

Writers beware: Author 101 rip-off

Yesterday I attended the first day of a two-day Author 101 conference. I was looking forward to it, not only because it would get me out of a day of work, but because the focus was supposed to be on marketing, which naturally appealed to me.

What a rip-off. Instead of offering strategies that would be helpful to authors, the whole focus was on how to write a book in 30 days (imagine the quality?) and then sell that piece of crap through the Internet using the get-rich-quick techniques they’ll tell us if we enroll in their very expensive future seminar. (And, of course, there was plenty of “Enroll today and get…” bullshit.) With the exception of one speaker named David Hancock, who actually seemed to know a little about the writing world, it was essentially a day-long infomercial; the author’s equivalent of sitting through a timeshare presentation.

I’ve been around the writing circles long enough to know there are plenty of people out there preying on writers, and every writer should research Predators and Editors before querying agents, signing contracts with publishers, or enlisting the services needed to self-publish. So I ended up walking out during one of the afternoon speaker’s pitches for blah, blah, blah… and the guy at the registration desk could tell I’m a bitch on wheels, so I supposedly will get a refund. I’d better. But even though I’ll get my $179 (!) back, I’m still pissed as hell.

You can’t rip people off in this economy. You just can’t—it’s immoral. And I’ll tell you what really burned my ass (to use my mother’s expression) was that one of the offenders was Mark Victor Hansen, the co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. He spoke for about 45 minutes, 44 of which was a pitch for a $2000 workshop he’s offering next month. He told us all about what we’d be learning… next month. But hello, guess what? We all paid good money to learn something TODAY.

On top of that, every two seconds he’d tell us to do something, like “Touch your heart and say, ‘I can do it!’” and “If you agree say, ‘Yeah!’” like goddamn Simon Says. I’m not kidding, that guy annoyed the crap out of me. I really felt he was totally full of bullshit, even when he was speaking about all the charity work his organization does, and don’t even get me going about how he’d pepper his infomercial with spiritual overtones and abundance-speak. Really, the nerve of him spouting that shit while he’s ripping people off.

In contrast David Hancock, the one good speaker I heard, talked about how authors must be at the service of their readers and encourage personal contact. It’s important to develop a relationship, he said, and to give readers much more than they expect. Mark Victor Hansen was obviously there to serve himself and I sure as hell didn’t expect a 44 minute pitch session. My opinion: there's something sleazy about this guy. Just my opinion.

I did learn from him, though—what not to do. Violating your readers’ trust is unconscionable, and I want my readers to trust that whatever I have to offer is of the highest quality I can possibly produce. Okay, some of my blog posts are total vile, crude and tasteless shit, but you're not paying for this and I can tell you with all my heart that my book is funny, poignant, and well written. And if you don’t agree with me, send it back and I will be happy to refund your money.

I’m a Chicken Soup contributor, you know.

I feel kinda dirty.

15 comments:

Haddock said...

I feel kinda dirty. ..........Why ?

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Well, because I really got an icky vibe from the Chicken Soup co-creator. I sat there thinking, "This guy is a phony." And for him to spend essentially his entire presentation trying to sell us another seminar is just wrong.

Having an essay published in Chicken Soup is a good credential for a writer, but after seeing this guy, I'm not terribly proud to be part of that club.

Rekaya Gibson said...

I am glad that you saw pass the bullshit on the wall; I am sure it glows in the dark. I hope those who stayed did not look into the light. Writer's turn on your beware signs!

I am proud that you have written a funny quality book. I look forward to reading it. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Best wishes,

Rekaya Gibson, Author
The Food Temptress

Hurricane Mikey said...

That whole series kinda gave me a televangelist vibe, and now I know why...

OHN said...

You lasted till the afternoon?

You really have some stick-to-it 'ness (yes, I am almost sure that is in a dictionary somewhere) that you lasted that long.

Those kind of "gatherings" piss me off royally.

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

You know my story of Chicken Soup and what they did to my proposal. I want nothing to do with Chicken Soup or the co-authors. So sad that they took everyone that attended the seminar for a ride. I'm glad that you're getting your money back.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

I remember that, Chocolate Covered girlfriend. Fingers crossed for getting the money back, but I bet I will.

Christine Forest, M.D. said...

There are all sorts of "motivational" speakers for inexperienced writers, who don't know what they are talking about. You have reached out to learn more. Why not? You have been disaponted, but at least you've learned they are such terrible ideas floating around and there are people bying into it, as incredible as it may sound. Now you know. Don't feel bad. Not always when we try something, it's going to be the right fit. But immagine not trying...!

ModernMom said...

What a shame...sorry to hear you were dissapointed with a workshop I'm sure you were looking forward to.

Linda and her Twaddle said...

Hmmm, sounds like a sneaky way to get money from hopefuls. And it seems to me that when one successful author then tries to make money out of people starting off (without being OPEN about it) then the integrity of writing is affected.

I could be wrong - I hope so.

R. Jacob said...

Linda
It sounds a lot like the services one must buy to become a sucessful blogger and make big money, when in reality, you are making someone else rich by buying the service.

Mandy's Life After 30 said...

What a crap thing to have experienced! Thanks for sharing your story and warnings with us. I hate self-righteous, conceited folks like that! Reminds me of that movie "Yes Man" with Jim Carey where the guy running the seminar at the end admits that everything he said was bullshit. Well, at least he admitted it. So sorry about Mr. Hanson (aka Scam-son!)

JeannetteLS said...

Oh, great. Another blog to follow. I just read a fwe of your past entries and I am hooked. With regard to this entry? I've bookmarked the predators site, and Everyone should get a refund. The workshops I've attended have included presenters who were very careful about marketing themselves. They even have directed people to ask about their other workshops, or their books after class, or during breaks. Thanks for your advice. AND for your writing.

K a b l o o e y said...

Maybe you can do a sort-of class-action thing and get everyone's money back, or at least generate some press about whap a rip-off it was. You phrase it all so well, and are right about how criminal it is to rip people off when things are so bad. Any kind of marketing/self-promotion makes me tense (which is part of the reason I'm so fabulously unsuccessful, but, enough about me), but when it's the only focus of anything arts-related, I'd be cringing and looking for an exit. Good for you for standing up for yourself.

slacker-chick said...

What slimy turds! I was once sent to a "personal success" seminar via my company and they did the same thing - well we can give some pointers now but if you spend $1,000 for the online teaching series you'll REALLY become successful! Uh huh.