Authors’ Promotional Package Offers – too good to be true?

I recently had an email addressed to “Dear Writer for Children” offering a promotional package. I think I’ll be giving this one a miss as the email was unsolicited – I’ve written on Email Marketing for Writers previously – and I’m not a children’s writer. If you get such an email, how can you evaluate whether the offer is worth taking up?

What’s being offered in the Promotional Package?

In this case is it was a profile on a website where, if sufficient interest was generated, the website owners would help arrange for publication of the author’s work, the author would receive an opportunity to join a workshop or event once a year, and a free ticket to an awards evening. The package has a cost.

Let’s break the package down into individual elements, bearing in mind that initial details are naturally sketchy since the idea is to get people to express interest with further details to follow.

Website Profile

Website profiles can be useful, particularly on a high-traffic site and especially if there’s a link back to your own website or blog. However, there are questions to ask:

What company will you be keeping?

Will it just be profiles of unpublished writers or will you benefit by having your profile on the same site as established, reputable authors?

What traffic will the website get?

The site owners should be able to provide statistics – ask. If no statistics are forthcoming why not? A new site may not yet have established itself, but an established site whose owners don’t provide statistics isn’t worth bothering with.

What does/will the site look like?

A slick, professional looking site provides more benefits than one that looks as if it was compiled by the owner’s young relative and is covered in advertising.

What SEO has been done?

SEO (search engine optimisation) makes a website search engine friendly so search engines are more likely to list it near the top in the results for relevant searches. Do a search for the website using its own name – does it come near the top? Do a search using a relevant term such as “children’s writers”, is the site listed on the first page of results? If browsers can’t find the site, your profile won’t be seen.

Who Writes the Profile and can it be updated?

An out of date profile won’t help you and looks unprofessional. Will you be able to update your profile once it’s live? How quickly can it be updated? Ask the question.

Who will own the copyright? If the package promoters retain copyright, is this going to cause future problems when submitting biographical and profile style information for publishers, etc to use?

Do Publishers and Literary Agents look at the site?

This is an easy claim to make, after all a website is easily available to anyone with internet access so publishers and literary agents could be looking at the site. However, publishers and agents are also busy with existing clients and submissions from potential clients so don’t really have time to go browsing through a profile site to find even more new clients. Unless the package provider can actually name specific agents or publishers they know to be reading the site, treat any such claim cautiously.

Publication

Check what exactly is being offered.

Which publishers will the package promoters work with (ask for specific names so you can do your research)?  How much publicity will be expected of individual authors? All authors are expected to do some publicity, but if you are doing all the publicity with no support from the publisher and/or package promoter, is it worth it?

Workshops and Awards Evening

How much choice do you have over which workshops are part of this offer? Will they be local? By established, reputable authors? How flexible are the dates for attendance and how much notice will you receive? The offer of an opportunity to attend suggests there will not be any help with any applicable expenses such as course fees, travel expenses and meals.

Similarly the awards evening may be interesting and may offer networking opportunities, but if you, like most people in the UK, live outside London and the awards evening is held at a London venue, are you likely to actually attend?

Small Print

Check you are fully aware of:

  • Costs – how much, when payable, can you pay in instalments if that’s more suitable for you? Are payments refundable? Are the costs proportionate to what you are paying for?
  • Hidden extras – does everyone get the same profile or are there different charges for premium and standard profiles? Does an author photo or images of book covers cost extra?
  • Renewal – is there an annual fee or is it a one off payment? Be wary of setting up any payments by direct debits where there is an automatic renewal option.
  • How much input are you expected to have? Are you expected to update your profile at set intervals? How much promotion and publicity are you being asked to do? Can you afford the time investment required?
  • Restrictions – are there limits on what you can and can’t put in your profile (and are these reasonable?), is there a time limit on profile availability (will it be taken down after a set time)?
  • Has the package promoter done their research? Generic emails addressed “Dear Writer”, particularly if they also contain grammar and spelling errors or get an acronym wrong, should ring alarm bells.
  • Are you being asked to sign up quickly? Is the offer only open for a limited time or offered on a first-come-first-served basis? If you’re not being given time to think about it (particularly if payment is needed up front and is non refundable), then how good an offer is it?
  • Ask a friend. Is the organisation making the offer well-known for the right reasons? Have others used the service and what feedback would they give?

I won’t be taking up this particular offer. I have never had any contact with the sender who did not tell me how they got my email address and there was no unsubscribe option.

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