Sunday, February 15, 2009

Scams Prey Primarily on Newbies--But Also Desperate--Authors

I am tired.

I am tired of people trying to take money from authors--particularly new, unsuspecting authors--for services that they can get for themselves or do for themselves. That's bad enough. But the ones that take money from authors for services that also enlists them in something deceitful--well, that's even worse.

There's a whole list of such services. Paid reviews. Let's face it, an author can write her own review and that review is may be just as credible as one she's paid for.

The games authors play getting to be a "bestseller" on Amazon is another. They may pay hundreds of dollars to teleseminar leaders to show them how to do it. And don't think that those seminar leaders don't realize that booksellers, editors, publishers and all the other knowledgeable people in the publishing industry are onto the game. So they're selling a technique designed to make us look like dolts at the least and like scam artists at our worst.

Then there are authors who figure if they buy up enough books from a bookstore, they'll hit the LA Times bestseller list. One author was caught red handed and his story (not his novel!) hit front pages and the six o'clock news.

And now the New York Times reports on a new "service" that will let authors buy blurbs or endorsements. Apparently they sell 10 of them for $19.95, with no guarantee that the endorsement has any credibility or for that matter that the endorser even read the book.

Many current endorsement practices are considered acceptable because they have been around so long they're part of the tradition, but most of us have a sense that even these smack of institutionalized rubbing of backs. We tend to go along with the practice because it's almost essential to getting your book read. But to pay someone who pretends to read a book and give an honest opinion adds a dimension that is just plain unacceptable. That these reviewers lead readers to think their opinions are freely given is perverse.

Furthermore, it's a scam. For a little more than half of that fee, that same author could get The Frugal book Promoter or most any other book on promotion. For less than their $19.95 they'll get a whole lot of information and also learn them how to get blurbs from fellow authors and celebrities ethically and frugally.

Of course, the endorsers they get may not have well-known names. But then the ones one gets for $19.95 won't be either.

The endorsers an author gets on her own will probably give her the most positive blurb possible or at least level with her and say that her book isn't ready for that yet or that endorser and author aren't a match. The beauty of this sort of input is that it's honest and the author didn't have to pay anything to get it.

Not only that but an author can promote without ever getting a blurb. Again, he or she can learn to do that by buying one of those books.

But mostly, authors need to do their homework. They can subscribe to newsletters like mine (see the subscription form in the left column of this blog), read blogs (see the list of writing/oriented blogs in one of the segments of this blog), and do Google searches for articles.

If an author doesn't do those things, they're more likely to get roped into scams of all kinds. Geez.

So, this comes with a plea to pass information you've learned about the dangers out there. You're writers. You speak to groups. You blog. You talk on listserves and forums. Let's try to protect one another. It isn't really the $19.95. It's the principle of the thing.

Even if we we are newbies, we don't need to be desperate. All we need to be is well informed.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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