Dear Authors, I implore you to take a stand

If you are an author who DOES NOT support the methods of individuals engaged in buying/gifting rings, then you need to stand up and make your position known. I don’t care who you are or how many books you’ve sold, if you’re not making it clear where you stand, then you are part of the problem. If you’re supporting those who engage in these rings, sharing their podcasts, heralding their methods, then you’re part of the problem, and shame on you.

New authors, or those looking for advice: be aware of who your “idols” are in bed with. If your “marketing guru” is promoting a person who teaches others how to game the system, then move on to the next “guru”. There are plenty of experts in the publishing field who remain above board – I promise you, they are out there!

If you’ve been caught up in this nonsense in the past, you can still make a stand. In fact, there’s no better time to speak out then now. The buying/gifting rings are just one piece of the story.

Speak out.

I do not condone or support ANY of these methods, and I do not believe that indie authors must cheat to succeed. I believe that readers deserve better from authors they trust. Feel free to copy, past, or share if YOU feel the same way.

Related discussions on the www:

 

Buying & then gifting 1000s of books to influence sales rank is not the same as sending ARCs or gifting a handful of books to a few lucky readers.

Updated 2/3/18

Rebecca is going to work her butt off to get all 1000 copies given away…all of which will count as a sale. 1,000 copies given away in one day should get us into the Top 100! (from screenshot below)

If you’re an author who engages in this kind of behavior, I think you’re a disgrace.

Your opinion is that it’s perfectly fine? Good for you. Then you won’t be interested in my opposing opinion, so feel free to click away from this page. I’m not interested in hearing any whining about how “all the big 5 publishers do it,” or that’s how the industry “really operates”.  Take that nonsense and stuff it where the sun doesn’t shine.  And for those who think rank manipulation is the only way to hit the lists, I’ve had single-author volume books in the Top 100 (actually, the top 20) without gifting a single copy to manipulate sales rank- and so have MANY other upstanding authors I know.

FTR, we’re not talking about sending a handful readers ARCs via instafreebie, or sending readers a free copy of your book as a pdf or mobi file– we’re talking about authors BUYING thousands of copies through Amazon, itunes, B&N, and then doing massive gifting/giveaways with the express purpose of artificially inflating sales numbers with the goal of making USA Today and NYT Bestseller lists.  Those authors then organize themselves to spread out the gifting over multiple accounts (remember, we’re talking about box sets with 20+ authors involved) so activity with massive numbers of gifted books does not trigger scrutiny by Amazon on one individual account. Those who engage in this behavior will write long-winded explanations to conflate the issues, but they are not the same thing. Per Amazon TOS,  any activities that manipulate or artificially inflate sales rank are expressly prohibited.  If you are buying thousands of books to gift in order to ensure those “gifts” are counted as actual sales in order to inflate your sales rank, then yes, you’re violating Amazon TOS & I think you’re an utter disgrace.

It takes a lot to shock me, but the screenshots I’ve seen today have me stunned. Even more telling, when I questioned the practice directly to one of the authors who engage in this behavior, the author attacked me, questioned my character, insulted me, stated my question was irrelevant, implied that I was simply a mean person (for questioning him) and then defended his practices of buying books to gift to inflate sales rank as doing nothing wrong. Furthermore, one of his supporters then also chimed in to call me names, attack me, and excuse the sales manipulation behavior as “one” small issue that should be disregarded because that author supposedly does so much good for the author community.

Well, I disagree. I don’t think it’s “good” for the author community at all. I also find it disingenuous that any time someone speaks up and questions these behaviors, it turns into a personal attack on the character of the person asking the question. If an author is selling services and soliciting authors to come work for him, you’re damn straight it is relevant to ask him if he plans to teach those authors how to buy/gift thousands of books to manipulate sales rank. And if that person responds to criticism by attacking those who are asking questions, then that says more about what is really going on than I ever could.

Don’t come here to my page and try to defend any of this bullshit. If you think this kind of crap is a-okay and see nothing wrong with cheating your way onto bestseller lists, kindly remove yourself from my list and go pound sand.

Simple questions require simple answers.You buy thousands of books to gift to readers with the express purpose of artificially inflating sales in order to make USAT and/or NYT Bestseller lists (as you yourself have stated you do). Attempts to manipulate sales rank are a violation of the Amazon TOS. Is this what you teach other authors to do when they pay you for classes, or when you hire authors to work for you?

When authors who use these tactics can start answering direct questions without attacking the person asking the question, then I’ll start listening.

PS – I don’t blame those of you that have been sucked in by this stuff in the past. It’s easy to get taken when you’re in a FB group with everyone tooting the same horn. I’m proud of those of you that stepped away from the groups that are doing this. It takes a lot of courage, and I know how scared many of you were to make that break. I’ve seen the fallout now for years when authors try to distance themselves. Good for you, and glad you made it. Those of you who have not been able to break away, who are still afraid, now is the time. You have more support than you can image. Those of you that see nothing wrong with this and continue to support and defend it, however? Your choices DEFINE you.

** This is all public record as part of the ongoing court case, and I urge any authors thinking of getting involved in a box set scheme like this to read the thread here on KBoards http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,252500.

**The court case documents can be viewed online (including the screenshot below and many others). The case # is BC664530 at the LA County Superior Court website here http://www.lacourt.org/casesummary/ui/index.aspx… 

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And more who advocate this practice HERE:

(Apparently it’s an “Awesome hack” and “easiest way to hack the system”)

How to use Amazon’s giveaway feature to spike sales rank and sell more books

Edit: This didn’t work for awhile, but right now (4/26) it DOES work – you can set up a giveaway for 1000 people, get 1000 people to claim it, and you should end up in the top 100 of Amazon.

 

Updates 2/3/2018

THE GOOD:

Derek Murphy at the CreativeIndie has revised his post to explain his stance on gifting books HERE. Glad to see he has clarified his position.

2018 Update: I often share book marketing tactics or “hacks” without fully explaining my entire creative ideology, which can lead people unfamiliar with my brand to confuse me with other authors who are doing unscrupulous things. So first, let me explain that I don’t believe in gifting thousands of copies to “hack” the USA Today or NYT Bestseller lists (those letters are meaningless to me, though I may start using them if I hit the lists with a single book of my own.)

THE BAD…and the ugly:

Those who are involved in these practices are (predictably) engaging in calling me names, attacking me personally with silly insults, musing that I have nothing better to do or that I’m not successful…yadda yadda. Typical behavior when one would rather deflect from the topic at hand. Those involved are also attempting to conflate the issue by making statements such as:

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What I actually said was:

we’re not talking about sending a handful readers ARCs via instafreebie, or sending readers a free copy of your book as a pdf or mobi file– we’re talking about authors BUYING thousands of copies through Amazon, itunes, B&N, and then gifting them with the express purpose of artificially inflating sales numbers with the goal of making USA Today and NYT Bestseller lists. 

And it’s not that I think they’re doing anything. It’s what these authors have clearly stated they are doing – gifting and/or giving away thousands of books to artificially increase their sales numbers and inflate rank in order to make USAT or NYT Bestseller lists. They are organizing thousands of single-entry giveaways for the same book, which are available to the first person to click on the link, and when it is claimed it counts as a sale. Which you can see for yourself herehere, here, here, here, here, here, “How-To” Videos HERE and HERE that specifically state it is done to boost sales rank, an interesting one that explains they are using a deceptive description HERE (also directly against Amazon TOS #19 here and Amazon TOS misuse of sales rank HERE), the additional practice of coordinated buying swaps here, and many more images here.

FYI, as referenced above:

AMAZON TOS #19 

19. How do I make sure that I follow all of the guidelines when hosting a giveaway?
We prohibit and/or discourage the creation of giveaways which will lead to a poor customer or entrant experience. Giveaways should be created with the intent to award prizes to customers who have fulfilled the entry requirements or to drive product awareness. Attempts to game our ranking system, confusing or deceptive messaging, or any other abuse of our terms and conditions can result in loss of entitlements to create giveaways.

Examples of such prohibited/discouraged actions include, but are not limited to:
• General Giveaway manipulation;
• Creating giveaways that are virtually unwinnable;
• Soliciting or inducing (fraudulently or not) customers into disclosing personal information;
Using giveaways to manipulate sales rank (i.e. by creating multiple giveaways for the same ASIN, rather than creating one bulk giveaway)

 

Amazon TOS misuse of sales rank:

Misuse of sales rank:

The best seller rank feature allows buyers to evaluate the popularity of a product. Any attempt to manipulate sales rank is prohibited. You may not solicit or knowingly accept fake or fraudulent orders, including placing orders for your own products. You may not provide compensation to buyers for purchasing your products or provide claim codes to buyers for the purpose of inflating sales rank. In addition, you may not make claims regarding a product’s best seller rank in the product detail page information, including the title and description.

I’m not sure how anyone can read the TOS and still insist that buying thousands of your own books, keeping an organized spreadsheet to ensure all copies are claimed in a timely manner to count as sales, and stating unequivocally that you are doing it to inflate sales numbers to make the USAT or NYT Bestseller list is not against the Amazon TOS.

And to this educated statement:

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Like I said at the beginning of this post, this is my opinion of  events involved in an ongoing court case involving members of the author community. This is a topic that affects readers who are being deceived and authors who choose to get tangled up in these practices without all of the facts. This is a topic that affects all authors who hope to make bestseller lists, when the lists are cluttered up with organized box sets that bought that placement. Use your “valuable” time however you see fit; I’ll use mine the same.

Your opinion is that it’s perfectly fine, and that anyone who discusses this topic is just jealous, unsuccessful, mean, stupid, or trying to be the Author Police? Good for you. And pretty please, keep proclaiming it loud and proud on social media, so authors and readers can see exactly what kind of behaviors you engage in and support.

 

How having fun on FB can make an impact on your marketing

So today I have a message from another author in my personal FB inbox — you know, that weird secondary box they give us where people who are not our friends can message us. (FB calls it message requests, so check it out, I’m sure you’ll be amused.) In all fairness, the person didn’t actually say he was an author, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume he was because I can’t imagine why anyone in any other profession would be worried about how many Facebook fans I have or how many of my fans are actually buying my books due to Facebook.However, the individual brought up a few questions that inspired me to post, so here ya go!

FAQ: Does Facebook really help sell books?

Sure it does. Or it doesn’t. Yes, I know that’s not a straight answer, but it’s the best I’ve got. Ask me something that I can answer, because when authors ask me that question I truly cringe. I can’t tell you that if you post your book ten time a day on Facebook that you’ll sell more books. I can’t tell you that if you spend $5/day on Facebook ads that you’ll sell books. I can’t even assure you anyone will want your books if you give them away for free on Facebook.

What I can tell you is what has worked for me and why I consider Facebook one of my top marketing tools — with or without running ads.

When I started this gig, I was already very active on Facebook with my personal account HERE. So when I started my Fan Page HERE, I already had some idea of what sort of online presence I wanted to have. I made some decisions early on that have affected how I interact on social media, and if you are just starting out, I suggest you consider these questions as well:

  • Am I using a pen name, or my real name?
  • Do I care if fans discover my real name and connect it to my personal page?
  • Will I allow fans to friend me or follow me on my personal page?
  • Am I going to be myself online, or am I going to project a different persona to my fans? (And why would I want to do that?)
  • Will I use my fan page to only connect with readers about my books, or will I interact with readers and use it the same as I would my personal page?
  • Do I have a professional image that might conflict with my author image?
  • Would I care if my co-workers found out I am an author, or if they follow me on social media or want to read my books?
  • Would my behavior on social media impact my family or my job?

It’s a good idea to think about these things before you begin. If you have a career outside of writing (and pretty much all of us do, at least when we start out), you need to consider how your new life as a writer will impact your current professional status. You need to decide if you are fine with both worlds colliding, or if you’d rather they remain completely separate. It is possible to have a pen name and keep it hidden from anyone until the end of time; however, this is the age of the internet and just be aware that curious fans are the best detectives. If you want to be anonymous under your pen name with no ties to your personal life, be mindful of how easy it is to link email addresses and social profiles, and how things like pictures you post can become a link. You might be surprised how a simple Google search will link it all together for anyone on the web to see.

In my case, I decided that I was going to treat my fan page pretty much the same way as my personal page, minus a few of the swear words. Yeah, I do tend to swear a bit in real life, and people who know me in real life know that part of me. I tend to laugh at inappropriate things, I make stupid jokes, I am like an emotional boomerang most days, and I’m always wearing this pathetic excuse for a heart like a banner on my sleeve. Those who know me already know that. Yet how exactly was that going to translate to my author profile? Well, I’m too lazy to be anything except myself, so I carried on my usual hi-jinks and it just works. I already enjoyed Facebook and loved chatting and being silly with my friends. My fan page is just an extension of that — and a very valuable extension to my business.

FAQ: So how does goofing around on the internet help you sell books?

It doesn’t help me directly sell books. What my FB presence (and any social media presence) does do, however, is lead people to my door. I’m not any different or any more fabulous than any other author out there. I don’t have a secret ingredient, I’m not writing some blockbuster NYT bestseller, and I’m not the best writer in the world. But the reason I write books is because I love doing it, and I want to get paid for  doing what I love. Getting paid for doing what I love means getting people to buy my books. Getting people to buy my books means finding a way to get noticed by strangers. (‘Cause let’s face it, my mom buying my book is not helping me pay my bills!) How do we get noticed by strangers? Use the internet.

Leading them to my door is not always a direct sale, but the impact of every connection is more complicated than that. So I keep trying to have fun on my pages and new people like a silly post or picture. Maybe they share that picture, and then a half dozen of their friends share it. Maybe some of them click on my page, wondering, “Who the hell is this EB Brown chick and why are people sharing her stuff?”. It’s the cascade of connections that matter here, not just the initial interaction. On my pages, you will see a wide variety of inspirational quotes, funny pictures, political musings, personal rants, relationship woes, and weekend party escapades (with pictures, until I delete them the next morning). I talk about my Great Danes and my past as a BMX champion. I post pics from when I rode horses and pics of all my travels. Why? Because someone who likes Great Danes will click that pic and become a fan. Because someone who used to race BMX bikes will get a kick out of that pics & tell their mother to read my books. I’ve attracted people within those niches who’ve become some of my most loyal fans. It’s all part of the big picture. Someone might hate a political post and complain about me to ten friends, and then maybe one echoes the complaint to a friend who gets curious and buys a book. Another person might love the hell out of every inspirational post I put up, share it with hundreds, and send more readers my way.

It’s the organic reach that I look at when I’m checking my Facebook stats. I want to see how many people are sharing, liking, and interacting. It just tickles my jimmies when I get a notification from two years ago from a post of mine that is still circulating, and someone new comments (on that 2 year old post!) that they just picked up my book — and that’s what a cascade of connections is all about. Sure, I run FB ads when I need to promote, but if you don’t yet have organic reach, I think your time is much better spent cultivating that before throwing money at ads.

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I don’t have anything too enlightening to share regarding social media, but there is one thing I know for sure — I’d rather be really loved, or really hated. No one remembers mediocre people. As an author, I want people to tell their friends how bad my stuff sucks, or rave about how my book changed their life. That’s how I lead people to my door. If you like it, you are welcome to stick around. If not, well, don’t let the door hit ya in the arse!

So have fun, be yourself, and build your little army fan by fan. Post pics of your dog or 612q9obgkhl-_sy600_funny cat memes. Makes jokes. Vent. Be human. Soon you’ll see that like minded people gravitate towards you, and you’ll be well on your way to building your own loyal fan base.


Thanks for reading. Sometimes I write books, too.  If you’d like to be notified of my new releases, sign up for my mailing list at http://www.ebbrown.net/vip-list or follow me on my Amazon Author Page HERE.

Readers can find E.B. online at:
FACEBOOK: facebook.com/ebbrownauthor
TWITTER: @ebbrown_
GOODREADS: http://www.goodreads.com/EBBrown
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.ebbrown.net

 

 

 

Should I write full time – via Steve Vernon

This morning I was over on kboards and I came across a thread where a young fellow asked the kboard folks to read one of his stories in order to determine whether or not he ought to write full time. Here’s how I answered that question. Funny story. I used to know this old fellow […]

via Should I Write Full Time? — YOURS IN STORYTELLING…

7 Tips for discoverability that you might be missing

“All authors need a website.”

“All authors need a mailing list.”

“Authors need a Facebook account (or Twitter or whatever!)”

Sure, all of the above is good advice, but are you utilizing those tools in the most effective way? I really think many authors miss the boat with websites, mailing lists, & social media accounts.  The purpose of spending all that time online is to ultimately sell books. Yet I can’t count how many times I’ve went looking for more info on an author or wanted to sign up for a mailing list, and I simply could not find it. If I’ve had to click more than four or five times, you’ve already lost me….I’m moving on to another author who makes it easy for me to find what I’m looking for.

Discoverability means making it easy for readers to find out about you & your work.

1. Make sure your mailing list landing page states WHO you are (a blank landing page with just boxes to fill out makes the reader wonder if they’re in the right place and less likely to sign up) Check out my mailing list sign up HERE
2. Put your mailing list link (CLICKABLE) in the back matter of all your books in your “About the Author” section. If you have a list of books to your name, you can also add your mailing list link to the end of your book list.
3. Put your mailing list link in your Author Central profile, along with links to your social media sites. AC is one of the first places readers will look to find out more about you, so make sure you pack it with everything a reader might be looking for. See example HERE: AUTHOR CENTRAL PROFILE.
4. Put your mailing list link in the “About” section on your Facebook Fan Page, if you have one. SEE EXAMPLE HERE: FACEBOOK
5. Put your mailing list link in a prominent spot on your website. Look in the upper right hand corner HERE, and it is also a pull down on the main menu (VIP List).
6. On your website, make sure readers don’t need to look too hard for what they want. The less clicks, the better. Make sure a list of your book and vendors you sell them on is easily accessible via the first page or directly on the menu bar.
7. On your website, make every book cover image CLICKABLE with either a direct link to Amazon, or redirect link to your page where all your book vendors are listed. When you click on BUY BOOKS on my webpage, you’ll see each vendor listed as a clickable image; in addition, I link all the covers direct to Amazon.

Make it easy for fans to find you by maximizing the effect of your online presence. Part of being an indie author is not only having an online presence, but utilizing it in the most effective way.

Now, go fix your website and your Author Central profile. And for Pete’s sake, please add something to your blank mailing list sign up form!

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And this is why I love indie authors

Just when I’m wondering if anything in this industry makes sense, I read a post from a fellow author that resonates with me hard. Hugh Howey makes a lot of great points, highlights the struggle between the old way & the new way, and gives some straight-talk insight on what is going on in the industry today. Check out Hugh’s post here: The State of the Industry