Updated: Feb 23
There is a special place in hell for those who con thousands of dollars out of people who work hard and just want to be recognized. Sadly, there are an awful lot of them around. The nature of the beast is simply that if you want your book to rise up, to get your title in front of readers, then you need publicity; but how do you sort the genuine from the scams?
"Do you want to get your book in front of 10K followers?" Let's face it, there isn't an author who would say "no" to that! It's a hook designed with an expectant answer and the poster knows that they are going to get a lot of hits. Those who have been around the block a few times know that there is always a catch and that catch comes in dollar signs. Now, before someone turns around to me and replies to this blog saying that there is no reason why someone shouldn't offer a service and expect to be paid for it, yes! I absolutely agree with you BUT what's the service. We've all seen the 'like trains' and it stands to reason that these people are hardly discerning in finding those who'll simply pay them. How many of those 'followers' are readers? What's there ratio to sales like? What connections pick up on their selections? If you are an Instagram publicist and you cant answer these questions, well, I'm going to be very dubious of you. You're asking to be paid $25, $30, $50, or even $100 for the privilege of posting a picture I sent you on your Instagram page! Are you insane?!
Facebook & Blogs
These come in the form of private messages. "Hi, I'd like to review your book" is the common one. Now, initially, I would be very excited by this prospect but I have learned that the world is a cruel and unforgiving place and there are some incredible douche bags out there. To be clear, this has nothing to do about books. These people (in my experience) do not care about what your book is about and I'm not sure if they even read them! BAD NEWS sells and sadly a lot of these people are trash talkers! They want you to pay them to say horrible things about your work under the guise of 'honesty'.
The worst. The scum of the earth. The bottom feeders of the group! You can tell my feelings about these people, can't you? These people fall into two groups. Group number one doesn't bother to disguise themselves. They specifically say that for $40 they will give you 100 reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and more. Some ask for a single digital copy of your work, while others simply want your cash and once the transaction is complete you MIGHT get some reviews. Say it with me people, S C A M ! For the record, not only is it FRAUD to do this, it goes against the user agreements of ALL of these sites. Repeated offenses will get the author removed.
The second group are more sinister. This is where the trolls live, protected under the guise of the "honest reviewer". I've met my fair share of these. Most recently I had this conversation with one such individual:
"Hi, I'd like to review your book."
"My prices are very competitive."
"I'll post my reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and on my Instagram. I only post honest reviews."
"Ok, well, I'm picky on blog reviewers these days. I'm happy to support you by giving you a copy of my work but I don't pay for reviews when the return is so low."
"How can you say the return is low? I have over 10k followers!"
"Well, I could pay you to read my work and then have you leave a one-star review."
"I give honest reviews but I can guarantee you a good review."
"So you want me to pay you for a good review? You know that's fraud right?"
"That's why I list the money for an Instagram post. I know how to work the system!"
I won't bore you with the rest of the conversation, but I think you see the issue here.
My Review and Publicity Policy
I'm not against paying for publicity. After all, you'd pay to advertise in a paper wouldn't you? However, I have learned to be careful. Firstly, I want to see your proof of claim. If you're going to tell me that you can exponentially increase the uptake of my book, prove it! Give me your references. Show me some graphs! Do NOT show me how many likes you've got in the full knowledge that you grew it by pulling this scam on thousands of others! I know that there are genuine ones out there - I have purchased the services of a publicist before! Secondly, if you want my cash to publicize my book I expect you to say positive things about it. Why would I pay someone to trash talk it? Don't try to tell me that it's in aid of being truthful. You're being paid to promote me. Do your job! Thirdly, yes, of course, I want reviews but I am not going to pay for them. No argument you can present will get me to do that. If I get a one-star review from someone, I want to know it's because that person read my book and discovered that its style wasn't for them (I'm not sure why they would waste more of their time on writing a review - but people do). These are my staples of paid-for publicity. I encourage others to take them on too. If more new authors did, collectively, we would purge these scammers from our midst - they wouldn't find a market to survive in and the world of writing would be a much more pleasant place.
In the main, I don't pay for publicity all that much - I have a policy on not paying for reviews (shock) or interviews. I will supply a copy of my work. I will promote them through my own channels. However, I know that sponsorship is a thing, and bloggers, vloggers, and Instagrammers can and do monetize their blogs. That's excluding the advertising capability they have! I have paid of course. I have hired a publicist before, but I was careful. I sought out and talked to their references, I checked their work, and I found them to be legit. I encourage others to do the same. If you need to give your book that jump-start, hire a publicist DO NOT hire a scammer.
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