Why are there so many people scamming authors?

Author Anne R. Allen has an excellent post on 10 New Publishing Scams to Watch Out for in 2020

Do give it a read

It brings up a few interesting questions

  1. Why are there so many people scamming authors?
  2. Why are authors so difficult to work with i.e. always worried they will get scammed, instead of doing a normal business transaction

These two questions are very important to us, because

  1. We are building a Search Engine for Authors which focuses on the opposite – instead of focusing on finding and outing scammers, at Review0 we focus on finding and recommending 100% honest businesses that are honest in their dealings with authors
  2. In our sister company, Books Butterfly, even though we have sold over $1.9 million of book promotion packages, and even though we have a very low dispute rate (less than 0.30%, which is less than 1 dispute out of every 330 packages sold), we have to deal with problems on both ends
    1. There are companies that purchase packages from us, mark them up and resell them. We obviously want no part of this arbitrage, of authors paying thousands of dollars for packages they could get from us for $250 or less
      1. What is endlessly fascinating to us is that these same companies will then turn around and try to nickel and dime us
      2. A leopard does not change its spots. Even after using our product, marking it up 10 times, and reselling it to authors, they want to come back to us and squeeze money out of us
    2. A small section of authors who are obsessed with ‘not getting scammed’
      1. One author went so far as to say that his behavior with us was justified ‘because he had been scammed by other people in the past’
      2. He said what many authors feel – that because some company in the past took advantage of them, they can behave in any manner they like with every other company they deal with ever after

Basically, what we are trying to say is that

  1. Dishonest people don’t just hurt authors by scamming authors
  2. They also pollute the entire ecosystem
  3. Some authors drop out
  4. Some authors become super defensive
  5. If you’re a honest company in this ecosystem, you have to pay a ‘tax’ due to these people who scam authors

All problems start from people who take advantage of authors

This begs the question

Why are there so many people scamming authors?

There are a few reasons for this

Please Note: We are not saying this applies to all authors, just that it applies to some authors – enough that there can be a flourishing industry of such scammers targeting these naive or hasty authors

  1. The vast majority of authors entering the ecosystem have absolutely no idea what Publishing is, and what they should do
    1. People don’t even know that they can just ‘publish’ through Amazon and B&N ebook stores
    2. People come in thinking it will take a lot of money to publish their book
      1. There are dishonest companies willing to take a lot of money from these authors (reinforce their belief that publishing is a costly endeavor) to ‘publish their book’
    3. People come in thinking they need some expert and that they will have to pay a lot
      1. Again, there are dishonest people willing to pretend to be ‘experts’ and part these authors from their hard earned money
  2. The vast majority of authors entering the ecosystem are not tech savvy
    1. The Internet is a very different entity from the real world
    2. Internet companies and technology companies are also very, very different from real world companies
    3. Many Internet companies are based off of taking advantage of the ‘suckers’ who don’t realize what these companies really are. This applies to companies of all sizes
  3. On the Internet, you don’t know who is a dog
    1. We had someone who runs a service for authors. They were all very nice at the start and purchased a package from us. They had hundreds of real people interviews on their website. We assumed they were legitimate
    2. Big mistake as they did so many shady things – they called up from Korea (though they claimed to be in North America), then they called from a blocked number (caller id hidden)
      1. Then we found a warning about them on Victoria Strauss’ website
      2. Then we found that their website did not have any real photos or names
      3. Basically, this was a company that may or may not exist
      4. And it may or may not have any real people in it
    3. At the end of the book promotion they started asking for a refund even though their book hit #1 in 4 categories
      1. They wanted both – to use our service and hit bestseller status and use that to claim they were ‘experts in providing services to authors’
      2. And also to get their money back
    4. The moral of the story is that the Internet allows anyone to pretend to be anyone
      1. And that people who are dishonest will scam everyone – authors, service providers, their aunt, their mother, their grandmother, everyone
  4. The majority of authors don’t know what a ‘fair price’ is
    1. Firstly, there is no way to say what a ‘fair price’ is
    2. If a Book Publicist can get you an interview of Good Morning America, she’s priceless
    3. Problem is, a book publicist who promises a chance of the same thing, can also charge a high price
      1. His best effort might fail
      2. What does that mean?
        1. Is he a scammer because he almost got you the interview but just missed out
          1. That 5% difference – is that the difference between honesty and dishonesty?
          2. Or perhaps you consider it a 100% difference
      3. Some people would say that Book Publicists should completely stop saying they might get you an interview on Radio or TV
      4. However, then there would be no business left, whatsoever. How would a publicist tell you what they could get you?
    4. To further complicate matters, now you have people who have no intention of doing any work whatsoever, who would come in and also sell high price publicity packages
    5. There is no way to know
      1. Who is Working their ass off for the $10,000 you paid them, and spending $8,000 giving you that service
      2. Versus
      3. Who is buying $250 worth of services from someone else, and pocketing $9,750 without providing anything
  5. Some people are adept at taking advantage of Author’s Fear
    1. Fear that they might not get another opportunity
    2. Fear that they might miss out (FOMO)
  6. Some people are adept at taking advantage of Author’s Greed
    1. Greed that they can become successful and make money without much effort
    2. Greed that they can become a bestseller quickly and painlessly
    3. Greed that they can become a ‘published’ author and get credibility without actually having to work really hard on producing a great book worth publishing
    4. A lot of people will say – Author is the Customer. Customer is Always Right. If author feels author is the next J. K. Rowling, who are you to disagree
    5. We politely reject this entire notion
      1. An author is a small business and an entrepreneur selling their product
      2. Every service provider the author works with is a business
      3. It is a Business to Business relationship (B2B)
      4. Having a ‘I’m the Customer and the Customer is always right’ mind set is not conducive to a good business relationship
      5. In fact, believing you are the customer, and you are always right, is also not good for your career
        1. It is the Reader who is always right
        2. The minute you start thinking you are bigger than the Reader and bigger than other people in the ecosystem
        3. You start failing
  7. As there are so many different things involved in Publishing, it is easy to set up traps
    1. Let’s consider the sheer number of things an author has to do
      1. Get covers
      2. Get editing
      3. Do market research
      4. Pay for software and hardware
      5. Find a Publisher
      6. Find book marketing
      7. Find a book publicist
      8. The list is almost endless
      9. And at every step there is an opportunity for a dishonest company to swoop in and trick the author using Fear and Greed
  8. As supply of authors is much higher than demand for authors, authors are constantly looking for solutions
    1. The best service providers limit their clientele, mostly because some authors are incredibly difficult to deal with
      1. It might seem crazy to you, that for the last 2 years, every single month we have considered switching to ‘no one except our existing customers’ for our book promotion sister company
      2. The ecosystem is so full of frustrated and jaded people, who just want to find someone to kick and punch, that providing services to authors is more of an exercise in defensive driving than actually running a company
        1. Your biggest determinant of success in this industry is finding one of the two
          1. Providing a service where the author cannot blame you for their failure
            1. So doing something like sales reporting or website hosting where there is no possible angle for an author to try and direct their frustration at you. All you do is report sales, or host their website, so there is no way you could be blamed if sales fluctuate
          2. Working only with existing customers that are proven to be hassle free
  9. As supply of readers is smaller than the demand for readers, authors are desperate to market and promote their books
    1. This will upset some people
    2. There are way more people who want to write books
    3. Than there are people who want to read books
    4. Upwards of 70% of Americans want to write a book, usually their memoir
    5. Do we really think 70% of Americans are willing to read someone else’s memoir
    6. Those 70% of people would not even be willing to read their own memoirs
  10. Some authors have a lot of money
    1. The combination of having a lot of money and having no knowledge of the market space, is a recipe for disaster
  11. Some authors are in a big rush
    1. Perhaps the single biggest reason authors get scammed is that most authors have very little patience
    2. Everybody wants overnight success
    3. One company is honest and says – you need to fix your book first
    4. Another company is dishonest and says – just pay us $25,000 and we’ll make your book a bestseller
    5. Which one do you think impatient authors go with?
  12. Some authors are in a Get Rich Quick mindset
    1. The less said about this matter the better
    2. The only people getting rich quick are the ones selling Get Rich Quick Courses
  13. Some authors view a book as just a tool to achieve something for their career or for themselves
    1. This creates a mindset where they don’t really care who they work with
    2. They don’t really care what the experience for readers is
    3. They don’t care if the experience is bad for their partners
    4. The problem with this mindset is that they open themselves up to scammers who are attuned to taking advantage of this mindset

It should be apparent that it is an ecosystem that is ripe for scammers

This is a very, very unique situation you will not find in many other markets

  1. A set of entrepreneurs (authors) who are in a rush
  2. Who don’t know how everything works, yet are constantly being told it’s easy and there’s nothing to it
  3. Who think it is easy to become successful
  4. Who are short on time (or feel they are short on time)
  5. Who are not tech savvy and don’t really understand how the Internet operates (that the person on the other end could be a dog)
  6. Who don’t know what is required in the Publishing industry
  7. An ecosystem that is very, very disorganized

It makes for an almost perfect environment for dishonest people to take advantage of these authors’ naivete, fear, and greed

That brings us to our next question

Why are some authors always worried about getting scammed, instead of carrying out a normal Business to Business Transaction

Fundamentally, it is a vicious cycle

  1. The authors most likely to know very little, are the most likely to get scammed
  2. After that point, their perception becomes that everyone in the ecosystem is out to get them
  3. Then they go about all their dealings, assuming they have to constantly look out for themselves

Instead of focusing on building strong win-win relationships, they start obsessing with ‘not getting scammed’ or ‘getting back at people in the ecosystem’

An author who has gotten scammed, from that point onwards becomes difficult to work with, because their priority becomes ‘not getting scammed again’

Why do lots of honest service providers drop out of the ecosystem?

Firstly, it’s a royal pain to have to work with people whose focus is not on succeeding

Their focus is on avoiding bad outcomes, instead of achieving good outcomes

  1. If a business person or entrepreneur (because that’s what authors are) is focused primarily on ‘making sure they don’t get scammed again’
  2. Then you waste a lot of time first reassuring this person
  3. No one in their right mind would want such a situation where half your effort is going into assuaging their business partner’s fears
  4. What makes it worse is that any slight ups and downs (common to all businesses) get perceived as ‘I might be getting scammed’
    1. Your editor is a day late – any other business, people will email and check, or just wait
    2. With authors, 5% to 10% of authors will start shouting and screaming. They are so focused on ‘not getting scammed again’, they almost become more interested in ‘not getting scammed’, rather than getting a very well edited book back from the editor

The second big problem is that most new authors have absolutely no clue what to do, and yet think they know everything

  1. A majority of authors have no clue what is needed to succeed
  2. When they don’t find quick success, they will often try and find someone or something to blame
  3. That will often be their editor or cover designer or book publicist
  4. Again, because they think success is easy, and that their product is already perfect (which it never is)
  5. They will then start calling everyone a scam

This is the ‘my product is perfect’ fallacy. That the only reason my product is not selling is that I got scammed by my editor and by my cover designer and by the book store and by readers

Finally, there is a third factor which perhaps causes the most misunderstanding and grief

  1. Unfortunately, a majority of authors think of themselves as end customers buying a piece of toothpaste from a grocery store
  2. Instead of seeing the reality, that they are a business selling products (books) to end customers (readers)
  3. And that service providers are other businesses, working with them to help them
    1. Thus creating a B2B relationship (business to business)
  4. They think of themselves as end customers who are buying toothpaste
  5. This creates the mindset that if their product does not do well, it is someone else’s fault
    1. Authors, unfortunately, sometimes fall into this mindset – The Customer is Always Right
    2. Not realizing that it is a B2B venture and that they are a Business
    3. That if readers are not buying their product, they should ask themselves what they can do to improve their product
    4. They should not turn on their partners and say – the Customer is Always Right. I’m the Customer. My Book is therefore perfect. It is your fault that readers are not buying it
    5. If your product is not selling, at some point you have to look in the mirror and ask yourself why YOUR product is not selling

Now consider you are a 100% honest service provider

  1. You will run into some people who have been scammed. Instead of doing a business transaction with you, they are primarily focused on interviewing you and auditioning you and avoiding the pain of getting scammed
    1. Why would you bear the cost of that?
  2. You will run into some authors who have the ‘my product is perfect’ fallacy
    1. If you are an editor or cover designer, they will refuse your input
    2. If you are on the marketing and publicity side, they will blame you if their product doesn’t sell
    3. They will, in general, behave as if they are Stephen King, even though they are not. Pretty sure even Stephen King would not behave the way some of these authors do. Heck, even the Queen of England would not
  3. You will run into some authors who have ‘I’m the Customer and Customer is always right’ mindset
    1. These can sometimes be the most problematic because they want to attribute their own mistakes to you
    2. They will mess up the book document. Then want you to spend 10 hours fixing all the mistakes, because ‘they are the customer and the customer is always right’

An inordinate amount of your time will be spent dealing with such headaches

Which means that most people drop out of the ecosystem

Some other businesses will greatly narrow down who they work with

Talk to any service provider. Unless they are trying to win a PR battle, they will admit that authors are way tougher to work with than anyone else they have ever worked with in their careers

Why is this an issue?

Because it means most of the honest companies will not work with brand new authors

They do not want to go through the experience of these authors waking up to the harsh reality that being a successful author isn’t a cakewalk

That means these brand new authors have very few honest companies left who will worth with them

Which greatly increases the chances they will end up working with a scammer

It’s a painfully beautiful cycle of Cause and Effect

  1. Many new authors will get scammed, as they don’t know what they are doing
  2. They will then spend a lot of time and attention avoiding getting scammed
  3. They will also, in some cases, become very difficult to work with
  4. Honest companies, in turn, will gravitate to working with existing customers and large and small publishers
  5. That means new authors and self published authors have fewer honest companies to work with, and are far more likely to get scammed

When a dishonest company scams an author, they strengthen this cycle

When a dishonest marketer promises that Facebook Ads will turn the author into a millionaire, they strengthen this cycle

Meanwhile, there is no equivalent ‘positive cycle’ that can be created until and unless we start focusing on what works, and avoid focusing on what does not work

What we are hoping to build with Review0 is a focus on What Works. A Search Engine for Authors

  1. Where each and every service provider is verified to be honest and well qualified
  2. Where each and every author is verified to have good intent and understand what the ecosystem is

Hopefully we can get it done

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