Writers as Targets of Scam Artists

Scam artists have taken a page from Levi Strauss. Don’t make money trying to dig for gold when it’s much easier to prey on the miners and sell them stuff. In this updated version, though, it’s a group of scam artists who are preying on authors. God must loves writers because he created so many of them, particularly when it’s possible for anyone to publish a book for almost nothing.

Let me give you an example. Like most authors, I spend months working on writing and then rewriting and revising a novel. Once I finish, I still haven’t really accomplished anything unless I can find people to read the book. If I drop a novel in the forest and it goes unread, did I really write something?

No good deed goes unpunished. I wrote a press release for a non-fiction book about first contact with extraterrestrials. I sent it out to several media outlets. What happened? I received a dozen unsolicited emails and phone calls from PR companies that promised me they could do a much better job in reaching my intended audience. Well, it reached them, didn’t it?

I received an unsolicited email from a mailing list company that promised I could reach thousands of readers just waiting to receive word about my new book. I pictured these people sitting at their kitchen tables with their laptops open while they waited day after day for an email announcing my new book. I almost felt sorry for them.

Of course there are also the self-publishing “gurus” who promise the secret of how to use social media to sell millions of books. They all offer the same message. Start tweeting and be active on Facebook. Yeah, like that really helps. It’s preaching to the choir. Virtual book tour companies promise you’ll get all kinds of attention. Well, when you offer an Amazon gift certificate, people do tweet and re-tweet about your book, but that doesn’t result in sales. It’s simply a bunch of people who will do anything for a $25 gift certificate.

There are other scam artists at work as well. Companies offer to develop video trailers to advertise a novel much the way movie companies produce trailers for their next coming attraction. Book doctors offer to turn your novel into a best seller. I wonder if they were so good, why they don’t have their own bestsellers out there.

Evidently people are making money in the world of books, but it’s not the authors. It’s the group that has identified them as a prime target for over-promising and under-delivering.

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