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Everyone knows it’s tough to get noticed when you’re an author just starting out. This is true for traditional authors as well as indies. It takes time to build up your catalog of work, newsletter subscribers, ARC review list, learn how to properly launch a book and market it, etc. etc. etc. All this requires repeatedly telling yourself that this is a long game, not a sprint. Like anything worth doing, it’s going to take time and practice, something difficult to remember in a field where impatience, insecurity, and frustration abound.

Enter the bottom-feeding-puss-suckers that try to capitalize on these emotions and lure authors into cutting corners with the promise that it’ll jump start their dreams of a writing career. The other day I got an email, Subject: Your Book–My name was never mentioned so I was a BCC to probably dozens of others, if not more–in which “Jamie” (no last name) wanted to offer me so-called marketing packages that were little more than dressed-up methods of fraud.

Some of the options in the a-la-carte menu (this is directly from the e-mail):

  • I and my team of reviewers can provide up to 40 reviews per author. Each review will highlight all the positive aspects of your book and enlighten your future readers regarding the real essence and worth of your book. The book review is written by an avid book reader and Native English speaker so you can be assured of quality. NOTE: You are NOT paying me for the review but for the amount of time I am investing in reading your book. The rating may range from 3-5 stars. I don’t post negative reviews.  I can also write an editorial review as well as create a video testimonial for you.
  • I can promote your book on up to 40 high quality websites EXCLUSIVELY devoted to promoting free kindle books – on Kindle free days. I can also promote your book if it is on Kindle countdown promotion (please note that it is up to each site’s owner to decide whether to list your book or not. If your book listing is approved, it will be shown ONLY during the promotion period). In addition, I can also offer you up to 200 GUARANTEED free Kindle ebook downloads or book purchases (in other words, you can ask me to buy/download your ebook for as many times as you want, for a nominal fee). This in turn can boost your rankings even further!
  • I can add 30 likes to your positive reviews on Goodreads. All likes come from unique accounts and multiple IPs.
  • I can add your book to 70 popular listopia lists by voting for them.  All votes come from unique accounts and multiple IPs.
  • My BESTSELLER SO FAR: I will rate your book on Goodreads, post as many honest reviews as you want, mark your book as ‘read’, become your fan and add your book to the listopia list of your choice. I and my team can offer up to 50 reviews on Goodreads

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Yeah, so, whoever “Jamie” is, he might claim he’s not selling reviews, but come on, yes he is. And “honest” reviews? Please. Probably he trolled through my back-list, saw I don’t have tons of reviews, and is trying to tempt me into taking the easy road. But listen, I don’t want to “appear” successful, I actually want it to be real if it happens, and compromising in this way is NOT going to get me there. It’s possible that others may feel cutting corners is what they should do. Maybe they think, “Well, businesses all over the world participate in unethical behavior and make lots of money doing it, why should I miss out?” It’s a valid question, but just because others have lowered the bar, doesn’t mean we should join them there. There’s a quote from a West Wing episode in which the characters were discussing this very behavior:

“We foster, we obfuscate, we rationalize. “Everybody does it”, that’s what we say. So we come to occupy a moral safe house where everyone’s to blame, so no one’s guilty.”

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THIS is what gives self-publishing a bad name–this collecting fake reviews and likes and follows in an effort to dupe readers into thinking a book is more popular than it is. And readers are getting wise to it, lending strength to some of those big publishing house arguments that say self-publishing is vanity publishing, and that indie books lack quality writing. How can we argue if authors participate in these practices? It’s better to have only a few true reviews than ones that were purchased.

Self-publishing is a tough beat on a good day, but not impossible. It takes hard work, determination, perseverance, and a lot of practice in the art of keeping your chin up. Maybe we’ll get the success we hope for. Maybe not. Maybe we’ll have a small group of loyal fans. Maybe we’ll have loads of them. There isn’t a lot of control over what happens when it comes to the arts. Here’s the important thing though: the type of author you decide to be is completely up to you. Don’t wade into the murky waters and lose your path among the bottom-feeders. You’re better than that. As authors, the Word is our temple. Let no one sully it with lies.

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