16 years ago I moved to Mexico, changed my name for reasons that shall become clear shortly, and started a new life as a retiree, lazing in the sun, after which I decided to become an architect and builder, and then, a winemaker, and ultimately, an author, restaurateur, and entrepreneur.

But the past never stays in the past, at least if vengeful pecuniary interests are involved.

To understand what I’m talking about, a little history might be in order. Before I moved from the U.S., I sold my medical company and became somewhat of a Wall Street sensation, first as the creator of a website that countered the hatchet jobs of a Who’s Who of short sellers, and promptly thereafter, once I recognized that Wall Street had a systemic problem, as the creator of a group that exposed the criminal antics of the seedy underside of stock traders who destroyed companies for profit.

That website and organization drove very powerful people in NY berserk, because my opening salvo was a full page ad in the Washington Post highlighting a practice called Naked Short Selling, which is basically counterfeiting stock and selling it as though it was genuine, in order to destroy a targeted company’s price.

Given that was the livelihood for some unscrupulous players, they weren’t amused. My audacity of confronting them publicly was an affront to massive egos that ill-gotten gains had inflated to Hindenburg proportions. And their “investors,” which included Russian and Italian crime figures, tended to play rough, and didn’t appreciate the antiseptic of sunshine directed into their customary shadows.

But I’d watched retirees driven into the poor house so some rich, corrupt players on Wall Street could buy a new place in the Hamptons, and because I had the time and resources, decided to take on an impossible fight even if it endangered me and paid squat. So I spoke truth to power in a very visible manner. Note to self: bad idea, as Assange has discovered.

The SEC and every major financial publication insisted I’d called the naked short selling conspiracy wrong, I was nuts, this was all nonsense – that naked shorting never happened, and if it did, it was tiny volume, and completely innocent. Which was pure bullshit, because when forced to detail exactly how many shares per day didn’t settle (i.e. didn’t exist), it turned out to be a massive number – something like 15% of all trading on the NYSE on many days.

So the benign explanation – that this was all innocent, likely grandma forgetting where she placed her stock certificate, turned out to be BS. As did the next parry, which was that, well, okay, maybe it did happen, but it was nothing to worry about. I was vilified, even on the front page of the WSJ business section (you can imagine why I was tickled that I made the front page of the WSJ above the fold years later in my new incarnation as a highly successful author), attacked constantly in major publications – me, a little nobody who used a pseudonym for self-protection, with a cheesy website calling out a problem with stock settlement.

One of the kindred spirits who joined this fight against Wall Street miscreants was the CEO of Overstock, Patrick Byrne, who was a pugilistic kindred, and pitted himself in a public manner against the big dogs of Wall Street, eventually suing them and emerging victorious, all the while being described as a loon, a nutter, a dope fiend, you name it, by the NY mainstream media – which is largely nothing more than a propaganda arm for Wall Street and their compromised politicians in Washington, as many have learned over the last four years.

Then the 2008 crash happened, and suddenly naked short selling, which we’d been assured never happened, was conspiracy theory lunacy, or if it did, was benign…had to be made illegal when directed at the big Wall Street firms – not for everyone else, of course, but for the banks responsible for most of it. The irony was not lost on me, but I was vindicated, because in a matter of days the thing that never happened had to have emergency legislation in order to be stopped, or it could collapse the entire economy in hours. They literally said that, out loud, in print. It was a magical moment, where the “you’re a conspiracy theorist and are wrong about everything” turned out to be that I was 100% accurate about it, in spite of all the denials, including from the highest levels of the SEC.

Those who know how to use the Wayback machine should look up – the National Coalition Against Naked Shortselling, as well as You can see the entire labor of love, and judge for yourself whether it was a noble pursuit, or Satan’s plaything, as it was colored by Wall Street. Needless to say I was vilified as a combo of Hitler and Chuck Manson by the three or four captive “journalists” who essentially were the lapdogs of the big hedge funds and brokers who lost big due to my actions.

Naturally, given the powerful enemies I’d made and warnings from some powerful folks on my side of the battle, I decided to bow out of the limelight and move on – my point that Wall Street was a rigged game populated by snakes and connected con men had been made by Wall Street itself during the financial crisis, so there was nothing left to fight for, especially with Patrick continuing the battle with his website,, which chronicles the entire ugly crusade in detail and is a worthwhile read.

Given the level of danger involved in hitting Wall Street and organized crime snakes on the head with a stick, I got out of the country for good, changed my name, and began a new life, reinventing myself and leaving the cause celebres to brighter minds.

Now the same Wall Street press lapdogs are coming for me again, using their usual tactics of innuendo, misstatements, unverifiable or false claims, half truths, etc. Their purpose is to cause me problems. There is no other reason – it isn’t news, nobody in their audience cares, and there is no there there. But their masters have long memories.

I expect to see a slew of lurid innuendo and half or partial truths. But as any author knows, the irony is there is no such thing as bad publicity. Should be good for more than a few sales of my Wall Street novels, like Zero Sum (which is somewhat autobiographical, and available from Amazon for a song – wink) or Silver Justice.

The good news is that my little crusade was on the side of the white hats, and did nothing but threaten the ill gotten gains of some of the biggest predators on Wall Street. That comes at a cost, and the price is the threat of one of them trying to get even for the financial damage the exposure of their scam caused them. One large hedge fund actually went out of business due to Patrick’s lawsuit, and another, one of the biggest on the Street, wound up being prosecuted and found guilty of all sorts of impropriety – but was powerful enough to avoid anyone going to jail. That’s the clout of these people. There are two sets of laws, as should be clear by now: the ones you and I must follow, and those they get to ignore, which are one and the same.

If this sounds like something out of one of my novels, as I’ve said many times, the truth is far stranger than any fiction I can engineer. My job is really just toning down reality so it is believable.

The irony in all this is that I’ve spent my entire life creating – building companies from scratch, writing, generating content of all types. I’ve learned there are really only two types of people – creators, and destroyers. Creators are driven to build. Destroyers try to profit from destruction. Which brings me to why this, why now: this is all about my pulling my endorsement from Adwerks, and Michael, who uses a fake name in order to conceal his criminal past, trying to punish me in retaliation.

Being as that is the case, I’ve been advised by my attorneys that I should make no further comments and offer no rebuttals, so this will have to suffice until the Adwerks legal action is adjudicated. I apologize in advance, because I’m sure there will be a ton of torrid prose churned forth I’d love to chime in on. But make no mistake that this little welcome bump in publicity stems from the Adwerks kerfuffle, and an embittered felon’s attempt to engender support from some of the most malevolent folks on Wall Street. Peas in a pod, so to speak. Whether the “journalists” will see through the effort to get them to do the felon’s dirty work for them is unknown – I would expect so, as these aren’t stupid people, but you never know. Anyone who wants more info on that felon’s criminal history can email me for the horrific details – I hesitate to sully my blog with it.

So sit back with popcorn and enjoy the coming show. I have no doubt it will be C-movie level competence, but A-level interest, and should command considerable positive attention as the truth becomes known.

For the record, I’m not depressed or suicidal, nor do I intend to nail gun myself, shoot myself in the head twice with different weapons, drown while canoeing, or ram my car into an embankment at 150.

Anyhow, that’s what I am allowed to write. I have more. Way more. But attorneys gonna law and such. So my fingers is all tied.

To conclude, I’m fond of saying everyone’s got a story. Some are just more interesting than others. And you have to admit, this one just got a lot more interesting…


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Nine years ago I pressed publish on my first novel.

To say it’s been a hell of a ride would be the understatement of the century.

Since then I’ve published sixty-something novels, including two co-authored with Clive Cussler. I’ve been celebrated on the front page of the WSJ, I’ve been featured in The Times, the Boston Herald, Huffington, you name it. I’ve had my work translated into a whole bunch of languages I can’t even remember. And thankfully, I’ve been able to build a loyal following of readers who seem as happy to read what I’ve written as I am to write it.

If it gets any better than that, I’m not sure how.

When I first got into the game, names like John Locke and Amanda Hocking were the rage. We were still a couple years from them fading from the indie spotlight, and the future looked bright for authors for the first time in forever. Up until 2010 or so, being an author meant even if you had a bestseller or five, you’d best not quit your day job. All that changed when Apple forced Amazon’s hand to match its 70% royalty rate, and suddenly it was the content creators who saw most of the rewards instead of the middlemen.

Fast forward, and the meritocracy of the early days transitioned into a more mature retail market, where the tsunami of crap that was warned about became a viable business model for the blink of an eye, and organic visibility got replaced by pay-to-play advertising, exactly as I warned a few years before it happened. Now, we’re in a difficult market where it takes money to make money, and the dream of writing something, creating a cover in a few hours, having your mom “edit” it, and getting rich, seems an impossibly distant dream from a naive time where anything seemed possible.

The business is now largely a battle of marketing dollars to attract eyes. Amazon ads have become ineffective as the market has been saturated by the desperate seeking any chance at being seen, and bids have gone through the roof, which shows no signs of stopping. And now, with the virus, trad publishing has been kicked in the throat with the closure of hundreds of indie, airport, and chain bookstores, slashing its profits to the bone. The future is no longer rosy, and there are storm clouds lingering on an uncertain horizon.

Still, after shifting something like 4 million novels over the years, it beats flipping burgers, and many are still making bank, albeit less than before, and working harder for each dollar. That’s how mature markets work, as Amazon has crowded out the other players to dominate online book sales, giving it a de facto monopoly in many genres.

Meanwhile, spiders and flies continue to do what they always have, and the world continues to turn.

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to another nine years of writing. I love the process, love being my own boss, love the joy of inventing a new twist or story.

And of course there are the orgies. But I digress.

To my readers, thanks for an amazing run, and be sure to buy my crap, and encourage everyone you know to do the same. To my enemies, as always, you can bite me and fester in your own sick at the fact that I’ve done as well as I have, in spite of a dearth of talent and a penchant for malingering. To my fellow authors, I’ll raise a cup, because that’s sort of the whole point of it, besides the writing and the human sacrifices.

Oops. Hope I’m not giving anything away there. Better shush before I commit suicide with a double tap to the back of my head with two different guns, or decide to plow my car into an embankment at 120 MPH.


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The tenth installment in the international bestselling Day After Never series is now live, and is one of the best yet, in my completely biased opinion.

There are a lot of surprises in this one, so strap in for the ride, as it goes in unexpected directions you won’t see coming.

Exclusive to Amazon, it’s available for download now, although it typically takes a few more days to make it live internationally.


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I’ve begun working on a story about a lowlife named Steve, who, on his last legs after having destroyed his life in the US with criminal activity and recklessness , illegally immigrates to Mexico…but in an upbeat twist, is befriended by a prominent local with a charitable streak.

This chap decides to help tackle the lowlife’s problems, and tries several things to turn his life around before finally settling on helping him develop an enterprise that winds up making the lowlife prosperous.

Of course, human nature being what it is, Steve slips into his old habits over time, and eventually squanders it all and destroys the business through negligence, laziness, and substance abuse. When confronted over this and the resultant imminent failure of the enterprise, rather than resuming a productive path, Steve elects to steal the business’ intellectual property, cutting his benefactor out. He rationalizes his theft and betrayal by demonizing the helpful chap, creating a convenient justification in his mind, because he’s a victim/hero in this false narrative (as he is in the narratives of his criminal misconduct as well, of course; virtually nothing he does is due to being a lowlife – it’s always external forces that conspired against him, thus anything can be justified).

But the theft scheme implodes, being as poorly conceived as his others, and the core character problems remain for Steve, so the outcome is easy to see – although he seems blind to all of this, which is part of how one remains a lowlife in spite of plentiful opportunities to avoid being one.

I’m trying to figure out a compelling ending. The predictable way to go is Steve winds up back on the street, with nothing to show for his experience – no greater wisdom, no prosperity, no relationship, no prospects, and having burned his bridges, no future other than misery – all of which he blames on others, of course. Or possibly in prison – recidivism is common in lowlifes. Depends on how much more illegality he engages in, and whether his past misdeeds catch up with him.

If I need to puff up page count I could probably delve into the psychology some, the character being a walking Venn diagram of borderline personality disorder, narcissism, and psychopathology, with self-destructiveness, promiscuity, dangerous behavior, drug abuse, lack of impulse control, and emotional lability the classic characteristics of BPD, an exaggerated sense of false self to be defended at all costs and a superficial charm artifacts of the narcissism, and a disregard for the value of others except how they can be used (thus the criminality), from the psychopathology. But it might slow the pace and bore the reader, so perhaps leave it out. I can go either way on that.

No matter what I decide to include, though, it seems a depressing, if realistic, denouement is unavoidable.

I’ve tried to come up with a happier ending, but the lowlife has spent his entire life on the road to failure, and lacks the self-awareness to realize that road is one of his own creation – so for veracity’s sake, the outcome is foreordained.

Too melodramatic?

Anyhow, that’s the current project I’m storyboarding, titled The Lowlife Diaries, although God knows I have a lot of other things I could work on. Teen vampires in love. JET. A new Ramsey’s. Another DAN. My restaurant project. So what to devote my time to?

If anyone says another BLACK, I’ll scream…


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Many know that I made an investment in a company called Adwerks a while back.

In proof that no good deed goes unpunished, I’ve had to part ways with Michael Beverly, who was the public face, after it became obvious that the company’s performance was slipping, and more clients than not were leaving – it was losing 25% or more of its clients every month.

This is a shame, as the company was created in an act of friendship.

I won’t go into the nitty gritty of Michael’s shortcomings. Let’s just say he’s grappling with some existential problems, as well as some pending and past legal issues, and I decided to change my involvement with the company and pull my support.

For all Adwerks’ clients, who are justifiably confused by a communication from Michael advising them to pay some new PayPal account and that he’d “changed the name of the company”, please be advised that Adwerks doesn’t have a new name or a new paypal. Its attorneys have advised me not to say anything more at this time, so I can’t go further into it, except to say that I’ve washed my hands of Michael both professionally and personally. This is my public announcement he no longer has any relationship or connection to me, and thus any implicit endorsement is rescinded. Treat him exactly as you would an unknown.

As with all things, caveat emptor.

Anyhow, that’s this week’s drama. Never a dull moment. Sigh.


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9 Jul 2019, by

Taking a Break

After eight years of turning out roughly 8-9 novels a year, about April of 2019 I hit a kind of wall. Moving to a new place, dealing with personal issues, working with several new investments, designing homes, traveling…

After sixty-something novels, it seems the universe is telling me it’s okay to take a break.

So I am. I’m chipping away at the new DAN – Nemesis, but not at the 5-6K a day rate I’m accustomed to. More like 1000-1500 words a day. So it’s taking what for me seems like forever. If I’m lucky I’ll be done by the end of July for an August release.

Which has created an insane level of guilt in me, as I feel like I’m totally slacking. I know that’s nuts, but it’s the way I’m wired. And of course, there’s the fear that I’ll never be able to write decently, much less prolifically, again. Irrational, but it’s there like the fear that mole is something more than an annoyance.

My production schedule this year called for five novels: 2 JETs, 2 DANs, and 1 Ramsey’s. At this rate I can see perhaps the 2 JETs, and possibly either a Ramsey’s or another DAN in addition to the current WIP, but doubtful I’ll achieve both.

The truth is that my income is up by almost triple from where it was a couple years ago, entirely due to AMS advertising, so the pressure to publish every 5-6 weeks is minimal from a revenue standpoint. And there’s no fucking way I’m ever going to use a ghostwriter – it’s not that I’m opposed to the practice if the market doesn’t mind, it’s that it seems like it turns a labor of love into a manufacturing scheme, and that’s not my thing – I have enough business interests so that I don’t feel the need to turn my writing into another one.

This is all a long way of saying I’ve made the decision to take it easy this year, recharge my batteries, and only write when I want, so it’s not like it’s a job. Part of the problem in turning what you love into a job is you can lose the passion for it – it becomes work. And being shiftless and lazy, I’ve always despised actual work.

I would rather take a hiatus than hate what I’m doing. So I’m slowing to what I consider next to nothing, and taking it day-by-day.

For everyone who was eagerly awaiting a new DAN at the end of July, I apologize. For those who expected a new Ramsey’s, well, it could still happen in 2019. I’m not saying it won’t. I’m just saying that right now, the beach and margaritas and swaying palms and long siestas soothed by balmy breezes sounds better than 12 hours in front of a monitor.

Hope you bear with me.

I’m not gone. Just…resting.


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I just got done doing a podcast with one of the top indie publishing gurus that will air in the next couple of weeks, and it seemed as good as any an excuse to summarize some of the discussion here, in the second part of my State of the Ad Union rant.

I was joined by Mike Beverly, who runs AMSAdwerks, and who exclusively specializes in Amazon advertising. Disclosure: I’m invested in the company, as well as being a longtime client (almost a year!).

One of the points I drove home is that Amazon advertising doesn’t sell books – it creates visibility for books. The sole function is to get more traffic to your product page. It’s your product page that sells the book, via the blurb, the look inside, the reviews, and to a lesser extent, the cover (the cover is key in the ad, but once the reader’s at the product page it’s kind of done its job unless want of a larger version is what was causing purchase hesitation in the prospect).

This is confusing for many authors, because they think, hey, I spent $100 on amazon ads yesterday, but I only sold $75 of the book, so the ad must suck, or the person running it does. The problem being that they aren’t taking into account the long tail of buyers who read book 1 and go to book 2 and then 3, and so on, or the number who then go on to read another series by the same author. But be that as it may, the ACOS on an ad can be daunting, especially when Zon’s sales reporting can be off by days, or weeks, depending upon who you speak to. So you may have determined a program was a failure after a week and a half and stop it, and then your sales will continue coming in for days or weeks after, making it profitable. But too late. You stopped it, so it’s back to the end of the line for you on the program, which may not gain the same traction the second time around.

What I’m seeing is a rapidly changing landscape where the cost to gain visibility is increasing in the popular genres, but even so, it’s not just a matter of out-bidding the other thousand authors vying for the first page carousel – it’s a function of how many volumes your series has, and how much total revenue a book 1 purchase will ultimately earn Amazon – because it knows exactly how many on average convert to book 2 buyers, and how many of those will go on to read book 3, 4, 5, etc. So you may be bidding in the clouds, and still not get shown, because why would Zon sell you that space when it can make $10 more over time if it sells another author with a longer and better read series the space, even if it’s cheaper than your bid? They wouldn’t. It would be bad business.

This creates an environment where success breeds more success, and shorter series with lesser read-through get worse treatment. At least that’ s how it appears to me. Nobody knows for sure how Zon actually tunes their algos, so some of this is the shadows on the walls of Plato’s cave, but it’s a pretty educated guess.

So what is a beginning author to do, much less someone who’s been at it for years, but still can’t seem to make serious money?

My answer is focus on quality. Product quality will win out if visibility can be had. Visibility on a shoddy product won’t result in a deluge of sales, but on something worth reading that satisfies reader expectations for the genre, it means a lot. It’s no guarantee, of course, which is why tens of thousands of new titles are released by trad publishers every year, the majority of which are well written and competently edited, and yet only a slim percentage earn out, much less are blockbusters.

I was eaten alive by many when I wrote blogs back in 2013 and 2014 pointing out that in the arts, there are 10,000 aspiring artists for every one who earns a good living. It’s a truism, if unfair. Everyone thinks they’re different and special, and maybe they are, but the market determines who gets paid and who doesn’t to produce content. If you’re uncomfortable with the long odds, get a day job, or do something else as a hobby, because the odds say you’ll never make a living as an author, just as the odds say you’ll never make a living as a ballet dancer or a painter or a singer or a guitarist. It’s a sad truth that seems to have been forgotten during the gold rush early days of publishing, but the market’s now mature, and in mature markets most content simply doesn’t get bought.

That doesn’t mean there can’t be exceptions, or that you’re not one of them. It means that you need to work with your eyes wide open, and not buy into the “anyone can do this!” mantra that encourages quantity and genre chasing and ghost writing as a “sure thing.” Nothing in life is sure but death, and it’s misleading to say otherwise.

I write because I enjoy doing so. It’s a fluke that I’ve been able to have an 8 year career as a bestselling author, and I realize it – a combination of timing, willingness to work 14 hours a day seven days a week for years on end, being able to invest in pro editing and covers and proofreading, having an active imagination, being a lifelong avid reader, and possessing sufficient talent to get decent at the craft in a fairly short period. If any one of those things hadn’t aligned I wouldn’t have made a dent. Probably if I launched my first book now, I’d be ignored and largely forgotten by anyone but friends and family. I get that, and I’m grateful I got the chance to sit at the big table. But I don’t take it for granted, and I’m deeply suspicious of survivor bias that seems to be at play in many cases.

Can you advertise your way to fame and fortune? Sure. Want to make a million writing books? Start with three. Is it easy or assured? Nope. But what I can say is that my original advice to authors all those years ago – write series, generate quality content fast so the pipeline’s always full, create a distinctive enough voice and product so readers can’t get it anywhere else, be willing to work twice as hard as your competition, pay for quality pro covers and editing, choose genres that can support you if you do moderately well in them and don’t genre hop – holds true, and I wouldn’t modify any of it. I would add that if you’re able to genre blend in a unique way and hit at just the right time you can carve out an original niche, but that’s rare enough so I can count on one hand the number of authors who’ve done it.

That’s my summary. Think of advertising as an investment in two ways: building name recognition while you generate sufficient content so it can support you if readers respond well to it, and as a visibility multiplier where you’re effectively paying to fill your potential sales funnel. On Amazon, at least, it isn’t a way to sell books in a direct A to B manner. The book still needs to sell itself, and other than the blurb and reviews and cover, it will come down to what’s on the page, which is the sole thing you truly have total control over as you sit down to write.


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June, 2011, I released my first novel, Fatal Exchange.

Now, eight years later, with sixty-something novels out, it’s hard for me to believe how quickly the time flies.

I just reread a draft of one of my first blogs, from January, 2012, wherein I was celebrating the fact that I’d hit my first four figure month. My tone was hesitant, and I stated that I was taking nothing for granted, as the mighty could fall as quickly as they rose. Wise counsel, and it applies to this day. I’ve always felt a cautious optimism when it comes to this craft, consistent with my observation of other branches of the arts, where the vast majority toil away for starvation wages while a few bright lights make fortunes and are well publicized.

Looking at the bestseller ranks in romance, for example, I see some of the biggest names from 2012-2015 languishing with rankings that say they’re making considerably less than during their heyday – some, fractions of their prior earnings. This isn’t surprising. Anyone who’s followed pop music, for instance, understands the phenomenon of the fad curve, where you’re super hot for X number of months or years, and then, suddenly, nobody cares. That’s just how it is in pop culture, and there’s nothing to be done about it.

I’ve been fortunate, in that my readership seems stable to growing, and seems to have an unending appetite for my work. 2013-2015 were huge income years, and even the so-so ones that have followed were sufficient to afford me my bad habits. 2018 and 2019 have trended considerably higher, entirely due to advertising, and even after paying the ad costs and associated maintenance, 2019 looks like it will be one of my better years. That’s reassuring, because I haven’t released a book since end of February, and won’t release Day After Never #9 until end of July – an almost impossible to imagine hiatus during which I caught up with life and life caught up with me. And yet sales continue to climb. This proves that Amazon ads, which I openly mocked two years ago, can not only rejuvenate, but can sustain a career during lulls.

Every year I threaten to slow my production to 5 or so novels. 2019 is the year it happens, and ironically, it will be in my top 50% of income years. I’m grateful that the market still consumes my content, and am optimistic for the future given my investments in infrastructure companies like and, which focus on author solutions to increase visibility and sales.

So, does the prediction that books are like opera still ring true? Kind of. Books have never had more competition from other forms of entertainment – TV, Netflix, social media, YouTube, blogs, Reddit, etc. etc. There aren’t sufficient hours in the day to keep up with it all, and with shorter attention spans as a byproduct of an increasingly connected world, books face a tough uphill climb. Does this mean reading is dead, or that it’s impossible to make a living writing novels? Not at all. Will it get harder moving forward? Sure. Welcome to all businesses everywhere as they mature. Can new talents find an audience and break big? They always have, and always will.

But the good old days are long gone, and even the new new things like ghost writing pulp to market and churning out content at rates that boggle even my mind are stumbling and seem to have hit their ceiling. Self-publishing is no longer the gold rush it was, the get rich quick scheme that those who’ve never succeeded at much could dive into with a reasonable expectation of success (even if illusory for the vast majority). That’s fine. The market will continue to evolve and mature, and smart authors will adapt as necessary.

It’s never been easy to be a writer. But it’s also never been easier, given the complete lack of barriers to publishing one’s work. The only difference now is that expectations are coming back to ground, and most understand that it’s a difficult road to travel, and an even more difficult career, where nothing’s assured, and today’s lightning strike can become tomorrow’s footnote.

I’m still loving every minute of it, and hope it continues.

So far, so good.

Now back to writing the next one.


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A few months ago, a woman I’d never heard of contacted me via Facebook, offering her services to run my Facebook ads. I didn’t know her, but she came on confident and strong. The average returns she represented as relatively simple to achieve were impressive: 50% or greater ROI, per month. She billed herself as a “Facebook expert,” which you’ll soon see was akin to someone who’d started taking tap dancing classes last week billing themselves as a dance instructor and star of stage and screen.

At the time, using AMSAdwerks for my Amazon ads, I was seeing north of 100% monthly ROI on a five figure monthly spend, so the thought of being able to pull even half that from a platform I’d left for dead a while ago was appealing.

Her fee schedule was steep and scaled higher as a spend increased, but if she could perform, I reasoned it would be worth it.

I paid her base fee up front ($1600 USD), which she requested given the level of spend I authorized ($50 a day to start), and she “went to work.” Which it turns out consisted of generating a few ads, slapping them up, and then doing nothing.

After two weeks of my tech guru watching the non-performance on $531 of spend, which literally resulted in not a single additional sale, we pulled the plug. There was zero communication from her after the fee had changed hands, and no explanation for what amounted to maybe an hour’s worth of work for her fee.

We requested half the money back, since it was obvious she wasn’t doing anything. She refused. We told her that if that was the case, she could expect me to write about my experience with her. We never heard anything more.

The woman’s name is Kerry Gardiner, and it turns out I’m not the only one who’s been taken by her. Since I posted a FB rant about this last week, I’ve received quite a few PMs and emails, as well as public posts, from other authors who’ve been stung as well – everything from using quotes from luminaries who’ve repeatedly told her to take them down as they didn’t endorse her and didn’t want their names associated with her, to folks who paid for courses that never manifested or were garbage, to shady dealings on bundles she was involved with. You name it, I’ve got ’em, and they’re still pouring in.

Perhaps the most notable is million selling author and internet marketing guru (vs. purported “expert”) Mark Dawson. I’ll post a brief summary that appeared on his SPF site at the end of this blog. It leaves little to the imagination. I could also reprint the rest of the correspondence I’ve received describing various forms of fuckery, but then this post would be novel length. Take my word for it, though, there are numerous authors who got snowed in one way or another.

You may be asking yourself why anyone in their right mind, who was running a scam, would elect to solicit one of the top selling indies on Amazon, and also put the pork to someone with as much visibility as Mark Dawson. I have two theories. First is that she’s become emboldened due to having successfully taken numerous others who didn’t speak out, presumably out of concern of a nuisance suit, and figured she could just keep up the con with impunity. Second is that she’s insane or delusional or desperate to pay the light bill this month (or all three), and figured I would just write it off given what a pittance I’d paid.

Which shows that she didn’t do her research, or mistook her delusion that she could fly for the actual ability to do so.

I’ve been told that she’s blaming her non-performance on everything from “his covers suck” (which ignores that those same covers have shifted several million copies and are generating 75-125% ROI on Amazon all through this period, to this day) to “illness caused me to be unable to perform” – the ever favorite “blame the customer” converting to “I’m a victim.” Which is tantamount to taking $100 to mow my lawn, and then not mowing it and blaming the type of grass or that she hurt her arm – and ignores that I paid to have my lawn mowed, not a sob story or a string of excuses.

I was baffled by all this until I read Mark’s post, which illuminated what I was actually dealing with: someone who saw an opportunity to falsely bill themselves as an expert, in violation of their legal agreement not to compete by creating FB courses (based almost entirely on his material or publicly available content) or by soliciting his customers. In other words, a scammer.

A few of her “satisfied clients” have rushed to her defense, which of course ignores both my experience, and Mark’s partner’s disclosure. How many are genuine authors and not sock puppets is unknowable, and frankly I’m uninterested in finding out. If you’re going to take people’s money and fail to perform, you can expect a bright light to be shined on your methods, and the chips to fall where they may.

If anyone thinks that two of the most visible indie authors on Amazon are inventing all this to persecute some poor victim, I’d advise you to consider long and hard how plausible that is, versus that this is exactly what it looks and sounds like.

Here’s the post from SPF:

“We (SPF) have sat on this issue for some time. We’ve been reluctant to post about it, because we did not want to make an unhappy situation even worse.

However, in light of the comments in this thread and the ambiguity about Kerry’s relationship with SPF, I think it is time to put this on the record.

Please note that Russell Blake and Joseph Alexander are friends of SPF, they are both very experienced and successful in the world of self-publishing and we take what both of them say seriously.

This is our own experience.

Kerry started working for SPF in 2016. She signed a standard contract with us that contains clauses that prevent her from competing with us and a duty to respect confidential information. These are standard terms.

She worked with us until earlier this year. We paid her to help moderate our Facebook groups and make sure they continue to be drama-free and safe places. Mark introduced her to Facebook Messenger bots and she became good at them, so much so that we paid her to produce a module for Ads for Authors. As far as we know, she had never used Facebook ads before; we believe that Mark taught her how to implement them.

Over the course of the last two and a bit years, Kerry asked for and received a lot of help and support. Mark helped her as she tried to build a business teaching others how to build bots (we had no interest in this ourselves, and so there was no grounds for competition); we promoted a webinar for her; we introduced her to other industry figures who might be able to help her. We’ve provided advice and acted as a sounding board for other problems that she’s had, of which there’s no need to get into here. She used her connection with us to introduce herself to the agency responsible for running the Facebook ads for SPF and, despite feeling a little awkward about it, we vouched for her when they asked for a reference.

Basically – we always treated her as a friend.

And then we found out that she has her own Facebook ads course. We were alerted to this by some students, who she seems to have been in dispute with, who told us that Kerry had set up a competing course.

Here are some of the issues we have:

– Kerry signed a contract that prevented her from competing with SPF. We produce a well known and popular Facebook ads course. We believe that setting up this course puts her in breach of her contract.

– Some of the students who have contacted us have assumed – since she was an admin and clearly associated with SPF – that we must have approved or endorsed her course. We’ve seen those sentiments in this thread. Their dissatisfaction with what they have received from her has caused us reputational damage.

– We’ve seen screengrabs of Facebook messages where Kerry has encouraged her students to post testimonials for her course into the SPF Facebook groups while working as a moderator in those groups. Some messages have requested that the posters do not mention that she asked them to make those posts because we try very hard to stop self-promotion. One of Kerry’s jobs as a moderator had been to prevent this type of conduct.

– Further, we’ve seen private messages where Kerry has spoken badly of Mark and SPF, often while extolling the virtues of her own offerings over ours.

– She’s shared information that we consider to be confidential. In one exchange, she gloats that the reason she continued to work for us was to stay on the “inside” so that she knew what we were doing.

It’s me – James – who is posting this because it’s easy to associate SPF with Mark. That’s understandable since his face is plastered everywhere, of course! What’s easy to miss is that the company includes me and John as directors. We left our previous businesses and took a huge risk to help Mark build the company. We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and worked hard, often seven days a week. We are certainly not complaining about that. It’s been an amazing experience.

We’ve made a successful business and community by being super-honest and open about what we do. We don’t take people’s money and hide; you can reach out to any of us and we’ll respond – normally within hours, and sometime minutes. When you buy one of our courses, you get it for life – with free updates. If you request a refund for one of our courses inside of thirty days, we don’t ask questions or make you jump through hoops, we just refund the money. We have a support team that works 24-7 and (almost) 365 days a year because we genuinely care about our students. If there’s a problem, we want to know about it – and help.

It’s therefore all the more upsetting that a trusted person who we’ve worked closely over the years should act in this way. It’s deeply hurtful. It is damaging to the open and honest community we’ve built; we don’t want our students to be compromised in any way whilst utilising our groups or support network.

SPF is how John and I support our families. We have a newly-appointed full-time contractor and other virtual assistants around the world, all of whom depend on the work that we are able to put their way to pay their bills.

Like other entrepreneurs who’ve built something from the ground up, we’re fiercely proud and protective of what we’ve achieved not only as a business but also of the community of thousands of indie authors who have become our students (and some close friends). We see that as being most definitely worth fighting for.

Given that this matter is the subject of an ongoing legal dispute, we will not be making any further statements at this stage and we have, on advice, closed comments on this thread.”

The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own, and do not necessarily represent those of my publisher or any of my associates.


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In the last blog, I covered how to tell whether you’ve got a problem with either your cover or your blurb. To briefly recap, the job of an ad is to get prospects to the product page, and on Amazon, since it’s basically your book cover, if you’re getting plenty of impressions but paltry clicks, it’s the cover. If you’re getting a good ratio of clicks, but few conversions to sales, it’s likely the blurb’s fault, and then, in descending order, reviews, and finally, the Look Inside chapter.

So let’s discuss the content, which is part of that Look Inside.

If you’re selling the first book in decent quantities, but the conversion to sales of books 2 through whatever is poor, it’s time to take a hard and honest look at what’s between the covers. Because the ad worked and got the reader to consider the book, and the blurb worked and got them to buy.

If they didn’t buy, and your conversions from clicks to sales is bad, chances are very good your Look Inside chapter isn’t very good – assuming your blurb rocks. I’d first look at the blurb. If it’s a winner, then I’d look at your reviews and confirm there isn’t a bunch of terrible stuff saying never buy the book. If the reviews are fine, then the only thing left is the Look Inside.

Going back to my original philosophy of “the job of the first sentence of the product description is to get the reader to the second, and the job of the second is to get them to the third, and the job of the rest is to lead them to the inevitable conclusion that they need to buy”, you can view the job of the first book in a series as that of getting them to buy the second. Job of the second book is to get them to buy the third. And so on.

If your first book isn’t seeing good conversion to book two, it probably isn’t an angry God who hates you or the unfairness of life.

It’s the content.

Which means either the story isn’t particularly compelling or good, or the characters aren’t, or the pacing isn’t, or (most likely) the writing isn’t up to competitive levels, and you need a serious editor who can polish it up and point out the deficiencies so you become a better writer.

Nobody wants to hear they have an ugly baby, but as indie authors we have to pay attention to the feedback that the market’s giving us. If you’re seeing plenty of impressions and good click through, your cover is rocking it, and if a good percentage of the clicks result in a sale, then your blurb is doing what it should. But if after book one the reader doesn’t feel compelled to move to book two, the entire effort will have failed, because while you were able to fill your funnel (book 1) the end result of it amounted to nothing.

If that’s the case, you’d be well advised to hire a competent editor, because the universe is telling you that what’s in the tin is disappointing readers, and you’re going to have a hell of a time building a career.

That’s it for this week. As always, show your support for me by buying my crap, and be nice to each other, or barring that, at least snarky and amusing.


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