Fake News! In Self-Publishing

by | Apr 3, 2017

The world has been changed by “fake news” over the past couple of years.

This odd concept came to us from the battlefield of politics, and now it seems that we all have to start learning how to tell the “fake” news from the real thing, the news you can trust.

That’s a big burden to put on the individual, and many will probably just tune out. But the idea of “fake” news can reveal some truths and falsehoods in self-publishing, too.

In fact, it’s undeniable that there’s plenty of “fake” news out there, and although it may not be coming from teenagers in Macedonia, the sooner we learn to spot it, the better off we’ll be.

Here are some examples I’ve come across recently. I bet you’ve got plenty of examples of your own.

Fake News! in Self-Publishing

“Nobody makes money self-publishing, it’s basically an ego trip. Sad!”

More and more authors are reaching far more readers than ever through self-publishing. Top-selling authors get the best of both worlds, publishing some books through traditional publishers, others on their own. But there’s no denying that there are now thousands of authors making a living—or better—from publishing their own books.

“Really good writers don’t need to self-publish, so obviously you are all losers. Sad!”

Methods for publishing your content have exploded in recent years, with all kinds of new digital channels like podcasting, serialization, and live video feeds. Combined with print and audio formats, self-publishers have more ways than ever to reach their audience. And that’s exactly what they’re doing, at a speed and with an agility large corporate publishers can’t match.

“Everything that’s self-published is low quality crap and can’t stand up to books from trade publishers. Sad!

Simply uninformed. Self-publishers are producing some of the best quality books being published, often because they are not confined to the same type of economic models as larger publishers.

“Subsidy publishing is a great way to make your book available to readers.”

Wrong. Subsidy publishers ask you to pay all the money, while they acquire the rights and set the retail prices. Bad idea. They are in business to sell books and services to authors. Why participate in that?

“Completely automated social media sales funnel guarantees massive passive income.”

There is no completely automated system, everything that’s worth learning takes time and commitment, and you know that as well as I do. But sometimes we forget what we know when we’re clicking links in a semi-dream state, and we suspend our normal disbelief. Typical “fake” news.

“Ebooks are the future of books, print is dying. Sad!”

Yeah—no. What we do know at this point in the evolution of digital reading is that there is a large and stable market for ebooks, and a reading public devoted to the medium.

And there is an even bigger reading public buying print books, as they have done for years.

Both are good things for independent publishers!

“Let me show you my 7-step method to write a bestseller this weekend!”

Why do ordinarily smart, savvy, people keep buying into ridiculous claims like these? Is the lure of easy, quick money so intoxicating that we lose our ability to remember the obvious?

No, you’re not going to “write” a bestseller in a weekend, no matter how many testimonials there are on that sales page.

But you knew that.

And knowledge is the best defense against “fake” news no matter where you find it.

Look at the source. Do you trust it? Does it correspond to other reports from other sources?

What does your common sense tell you?

Don’t fall for “fake” news. That would be sad!

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Colin Dunbar

    Hi Joel

    “Let me show you my 7-step method to write a bestseller this weekend!”

    That must be one of the saddest things out there. Apart from the “weekend” mumbo-jumbo, is the “bestseller” part. As far as my experience goes, there is NO formula/method for determining what a bestseller will be.

    Neat post. Thanks.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Hey Colin. Those offfers cranks me up every time I see one of them. It’s hard to believe there are enough people that fall for it to keep these marketers in business.

  2. Joel Friedlander

    Frances, exactly right. There is no “automated” solution because the automation itself removes the author from the equation. This is bad news for those who don’t want to do the actual work of marketing their books.

  3. Tammy

    Great post!

    I think it would make it a fantastic post, if some links were included to prove your points (such as posts/articles/whathaveyou about some successful self-pubbed authors, and examples of high-quality self-pubbed novels).

    Also, I like your site’s design. Very clean and easy to poke around in!

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks for visiting, Tammy.

  4. Anne R. Allen

    Thanks much for this, Joel! I agree on every one. I wish we didn’t have to see this stuff repeated over and over. I’m with Frances on the “automated-sales funnel-passive income” scam. A whole segment of the blogosphere seems to be addicted to this lie. They’ve paid money to be lied to in some course and they keep repeating it, as if repetition would make it true.

    And the “Write a bestseller in 7 minutes” stuff makes me laugh, but unfortunately, there are still newbies out there who will pay actual money for fake information, even when it’s so obviously a lie.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Right on, Anne. I wondered whether it was worth repeating some of these but, sadly, new authors coming into the market keep falling for this stuff, so it looks like it’s up to us to keep reminding people how to get more accurate information.

      • Iola

        And some authors insist on getting suckered over and over because they can’t tell the difference between real news and fake news.

        I was reading a blog yesterday that was interviewing authors let down when a large subsidy press folded. Half the authors had gone straight from one disreputable vanity press to another vanity press (new ones that haven’t had time to build their “reputation”, but paying someone $2,000 to take all your rights? The mind boggles.

  5. Cathryn Wellner

    Good one, Joel. Your site gives helpful, real advice and is a welcome breather in a world of hype.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks very much, Cathryn, exactly what we are aiming for!

  6. Frances Caballo

    Love this post, Joel. I especially like the warning against a completely automated social media funnel. Complete automation is antithetical to the meaning and basis of social media, which needs to have a live, social component.



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