WYSIWYG – Use This One Simple Concept To Vet Author Services (And Avoid Getting Ripped Off)

Buying onlineForget watchdogs and forums – this simple trick will protect authors when buying services online.

When online editors talk about client experience in meetings, we often use the term “WYSIWYG.” This stands for “What You See Is What You Get.”  WYSIWYG means a system of adding content whereby you can see what you will get at the end as you go along, with no hidden or difficult to navigate aspects. In this shaky climate of indie authorship, let’s start applying this one simple concept to product buying, to make sure indie authors are protected when purchasing author services.

WYSIWYG, pronounced “WizzyWig” is an incredibly straightforward concept when applied to consumerism – If what you see advertised is what you get, great. If not, move on!

Author Linda Formichelli wrote recently about her experience with a company called Insurgent. They sent her a list of what they would deliver. The problem was, they were not what we would call “deliverables.” They were just stuff that they would have to do anyway, such as, “Finalize outreach timeline and materials.” A deliverable should be a short and sweet, and very clear definition of what you will get, the WYS part of our rule.

Examples of WYS

What You See should be spelled out on the page, for example,

  • “You will receive a 500-word review within one working month.”
  • “You will receive an advert in full color in Publisher’s Weekly for one week at 300×200 pixels with a link to your book page.”

Simply put, your WYS should be analyzed with seven questions:

  1. What do you get?
  2. When do you get it?
  3. How will it be delivered?
  4. How much does it cost, including taxes?
  5. What is the refund policy if you don’t get it?
  6. Where are the proven testimonials?
  7. Are there hidden costs or upgrades I have to pay for in order to get everything on this list? Some services list their products, but tell you after you need to upgrade to get certain features you thought you were getting upfront.

So what about the WYG part?

When you receive your product, analyze in the same way with one more question:

Did the product delivered meet the WYS seven-question criteria above?

If the answer is no, you should pursue a line of communication with the provider.

Deliverables that don’t meet the WYSIWYG concept

Avoid buying products that have activity-based promises, such as:

  • “We will have our team work round the clock to promote your book” – No result is measurable here – what would the activity be, and how is it measured? How many sites will be contacted, and how many ads will be created? What is the reach?
  • “We will make sure your book is sent out to 1000 blogs for review” – No result is promised – what will be the result of this? You want to know how many blogs will actually feature your book from this activity, not how many will receive an email about your book.
  • “We’ll tell you once you purchase what we’ll do for you.” When it’s too late? Get this upfront. Hang on, probably best not to bother if they can’t tell you upfront.

Avoid buying products that seem to use “puff” to make their authority seem greater than it is:

  • “We have contacts with book agents and publishers that like to look at our recommendations.” So are they recommending your book for sure? Or not? How are they contacting these agents? If it’s the same way you would, then there’s no point in paying someone else to do it!
  • “We reach 100,000 people every day” – If they actually post your book on social media, that’s great. But if they don’t post your book, and only post their own products, there’s no worth in their social media for yourself.
  • “We’re the number one service for this” Are they? I was amazed to see recently that a woman I had never heard of (I will not call her out by linking) was advertising herself as “the world’s number one marketing consultant!!!”  and charging a million dollars for her VIP services! Wow. Better alert Ogilvy and Mather there’s a new kid on the block.

Avoid joining groups or clubs that charge a membership fee for accessing “special” stuff that’s free elsewhere:

  • “Access to our author groups on Facebook” – It’s against Facebook Community Rules to charge for access to a group. Go somewhere else. There are so many author groups for free.
  • “Get a free set of books/templates/tips/podcasts” – Many places do these free. We do. Derek Murphy does. Author Marketing Club does.
  • “Get discounts on third-party products” This probably means you are paying a membership that will work out more expensive than the discounts you receive. Make sure you can see what discounts you get, and if you actually will use any of them before you spend out on membership. 10% of $100, for example, three times a year won’t cover you off for a $250 a year membership. Discounts should stay in-site, for the same brand you paid membership for. For instance, at SPR our lifetime Pro membership ($99) gets you hefty discounts on SPR reviews and editing that can add up to a saving over as little as two purchases. Look for deals like this if you do want to take membership. Other good organizations to join are the IBPA, Author Marketing Club, International Thriller Writers, Authors Alliance, and the YA Authors Alliance *Free

Avoid promises that make broad statements that mean little for your deliverables:

  • “We’re transparent and inclusive for all” – Except when writing descriptive copy?
  • “We believe in books.” Surely this goes without saying if you run a book company?
  • “A unique way to…” Hmmm. To be unique, to be one of something, when there are only so many ways to market online is difficult, and may not always be the best way, either.

Basically, if you cannot see timely and quantifiable deliverables listed as deliverables, it’s likely you won’t get them after purchase either. WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET!

It works both ways too.

Be aware that many so-called indie bloggers will call SCAM! at the slightest new idea coming out. Not only does this kill creative thinking in the self-publishing services realm, it means many good and solid providers get a bad name on launch for no good reason, and authors lose out. Make sure you fully vet any new product using the WYSIWYG questions, and you will be able to leave cognitive dissonance behind and make up your own mind with confidence and impartiality about products you see online.