Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Five Ways Writers Can Waste Money

by DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Most writers would not knowingly squander money on anything related to their personal or professional writing life. We write because we have something to say, and a goal is for readers to find value—and for us to earn a little money. 

We need to make an ongoing investment in our careers for items that improve our craft and our platforms. That’s true for every writer who wants to better themselves in the publishing world. But some expenses are a waste. Usually, these money-stealers are disguised by the seller as critical and necessary. Some sources promise publication with huge monetary returns and perks. I don’t want you to get stuck in one of those pitfalls.

Here are five ways writers can Waste money.

1. Paying an agent to read their work.
A writer ensures a book project is edited and marketable before approaching an agent. If the agent believes in the project and chooses to represent it, the agent and writer become a team. The agent believes the book is excellent and can sell it. Industry standards typically have the agent receiving a 15% commission of royalties when a publisher issues any contracted amounts due.

An agent who requires an upfront payment to read the manuscript is misrepresenting the definition of a literary agent. If an edit is needed, the agent can make a recommendation. There’s no guarantee the agent can sell the project but engaging a reputable agent who is respected in the industry understands the publishing business and does their best to represent the project.

2. Paying a publicist who has no track record.
A publicist is an expert who specializes in promoting a writer’s work or brand to raise visibility and public awareness. They always read the book and search for selling points. A good publicist is knowledgeable of the industry, knows the appropriate contacts, and creates a plan for the writer that is unique and includes how the publicist will regularly communicate with the writer. Although a publicist can’t guarantee sales or media placement, taking a chance on a publicist who has no comparable industry history can be a gamble.

3. Paying a reader to endorse a book.
The practice of a writer paying for an endorsement is not wise. Instead, consider these guidelines: a writer approaches a potential endorser and asks if the person would consider reading the book in the galley stage for possible endorsement. Word the request graciously and respectfully.

4. Paying for social media followers.
True followers are interested in a relationship with the writer—their opinions, personality, publications, special interests, etc. Purchased followers can be fake, never share quality information, and may choose to disconnect with the writer at any time.

Professional writers grow their followers through organic means. A natural process in which the writer and the follower are linked by choice.

5. Paying for a service that promises bestselling status.
Many of us receive emails daily from those companies or persons who promise bestselling status and/or six-figure income by investing in a class or service. Really? 

Writers and their books typically become bestsellers by creating an outstanding project that entertains, inspires, encourages, or instructs a reader. 

All writers can fall prey to these five mistakes. If we’re diligent in our work habits, we can discern what is a wise investment and what is a money-waster. Have you ever regretted purchasing a service or event that headlined as a means to make you successful?


DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. 

She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Retreat, and Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson. Connect here:


  1. DiAnn,

    Thank you for the wise advice built into this article. It's terrible but many people take advantage of writers and their dreams. We need to seek the counsel of others before we move in the wrong direction toward a scam. I also recommend writers use tools like Google typing "TheNameOfTheCompany + Complaints" to see what they learn. Sometimes it is surprising.

    author of 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed

    1. Thanks for warning writers against scams and a website to check out companies. I appreciate you.

  2. Thanks DiAnn. The inbox does get flooded with well-marketed offers of “help”. As a cross-over from the art world - full of vanity galleries - I was wary already; this list really helps clear the path.

    1. Thanks!
      I simply want to alert writers to those who promise publication, huge sales, and social media platform numbers.

  3. Great advice for writers as we navigate our publishing and marketing opportunities. Thanks DiAnn!

    1. Hi Crystal, Glad I could provide a compass!

  4. DiAnn,

    Thanks for this advice. I knew of a couple of them, but not the rest. You set my mind at ease with my blogging efforts, when you wrote "Professional writers grow their followers through organic means. A natural means in which the writer and follower are linked by choice." I don't have many followers, but I never paid for any of them. I believe most sign up because they're interested in what I have to say. That's a good feeling.

    For #5--I always figure "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." I also want to add that just because a writer sees an ad in a legitimate magazine, that does not mean the offer in the ad is legitimate. I saw an offer in a weekly newspaper magazine in which a publisher was willing to publish poetry. It turns out they were willing to do so if you bought a plaque with your poem on it. A writer friend told me that it was close to a scam. Later, I found out a high school teacher urged students to send poems to this same company.

  5. Thanks for this advice! Very helpful!