Writer’s Tip of the Week: Beware of Marketing Scams Bearing False Promises – Part Two

In my last post, I talked about my experience with a very persistent caller from a book marketing firm and his sales pitch to me.  Many red flags popped up, but I was curious to see what documentation he would send. We continue now with what happened once I received his email a few hours after the phone call.

The Email

Later that evening, I finally got the email.  It was a note thanking me for the call and two attachments.

The first attachment was about the company and contained pictures of bookstores around New York.  They were nice-looking mom-and-pop independent bookstores.  And they did actually exist (I Googled the addresses under each).  I was also provided with glowing Yelp reviews for one of the bookstores.  

The document included the company’s mission statement and main goal, which were pretty generic.  It also included information about New York’s bookstores, the city’s population, and other basic information.

The second document was far more interesting, and why it’s always good to read the fine print.

This was the Marketing Agreement.  As I said before, if I committed, I would have to buy and then send the company copies of my book to sell in bookstores all around New York.  If you are a self-published author, you know that when someone buys a copy of your book, several people get a cut before you get your percentage (it’s the same with mainstream books as well). 

Then this paragraph appeared in the agreement: “All books sold and its royalties shall be (100%) given to the author after printing cost.  If the book is not published with our affiliate printer and an interested book vendor would order bulk copies of the book author shall do all the necessary legwork including order processing, delivery, shipping etc.  Taxes that come after it shall be taken care by the author and his/her legal tax expert.

Wow.  So, not only do I have to give you $800 to start, but I also have to get the books printed and shipped at my own expense (if I don’t use their printer, which I’m guessing is also at my expense).  So, if they want 100 books, and my book sells for $20, I have to pay $2000, plus taxes, shipping & handling.  Now I’m out $2800+, and I haven’t gotten a book in a store yet. 

Oh, then to recoup some of the costs, the book has to sell, and then I have to pay taxes on the sales!

But, wait.  I’m not done spending my own money yet!

Remember that $800 that was an initial fee to get things rolling?  Well, it’s actually rolling toward another $800 because: “SERVICE AMOUNT = $800 per bookstore

That’s right!  So, if I want my book to be in bookstores all around New York, I have to pay $800 each time it goes into a new bookstore.  There are 13 bookstores they use, so that would be $10,400 to put the book in all those stores.

And don’t forget I would also be paying to print and ship all the copies of the book requested.

Ka-ching.  Ka-ching.  Ka-ching.

My Response

While I know self-publishing is a personal investment that often has little return, I’m also aware of seeing a scam when it tries to pick my pocket.  

I emailed the guy back and said: 

“After giving your company’s offer some thought and reading through the attachments, I have decided that this is not a sound personal financial investment.  I read the contract and noticed that the $800 figure quoted on the phone is now $800 per bookstore, an amount I cannot afford to invest.

I’m still a little unnerved by how your company obtained my phone number, which makes me wary of your company’s proposition.

I appreciate your reaching out to me and your tenacity regarding this opportunity.  I wish you and your company all the best in your future book acquisitions.”

He wrote back, trying to explain away the $800 per bookstore.  He then tried to call me another few times until I blocked the number. 

The End.

Final Thoughts

We all want our work to be presented to the masses, consumed, and enjoyed.  That’s all well and good, but in doing so, you shouldn’t have to max out credit cards or go into bankruptcy to get your work out there.

With no risk on their part and your money to burn, who’s to say that the books end up anywhere?  Sell any copies?  How can you be sure that Netflix is not only interested in your book but willing to shell out $125,000 for the rights?  

The whole situation is fishy.  And when your gut tells you something’s wrong, go with your gut.

So, remember, if you ever get a call from some company offering you all kinds of great things for your book, but you have to send them lots of money and copies of your book…hang up!

Have any of you had similar experiences?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Writer’s Tip of the Week: Beware of Marketing Scams Bearing False Promises – Part One

As you’ve probably already guessed since you’re reading this on my website, I’m the author of two self-published YA novels, The Field and Midnight House.   

I had an interesting experience involving one of my novels recently. I’d like to tell you what happened so you can be informed ahead of time if something similar happens to you. 

The Calls

I randomly received a phone call from an unlisted number based in New York. Like most of us do when we get a phone call – whether we know the person or not – I let the call go to voice mail. A 90-second voicemail was left, so I listened.

A man from a book marketing company was very interested in talking to me about my book, Midnight House. He said his company wanted to help me get the book out to more people and that I should call him back as soon as possible.

I didn’t, at first.

I didn’t answer because I could not find any information online or on social media about the company. Needless to say, this was a definite red flag from the start.

But the calls kept coming. Every day for two weeks. Yes, even the weekend. It was the same guy, from the same number, with the same message.

When I attempted to call the number back, I received a recording that the number was out of service. Not a big confidence booster.

Probably around the fifth message, I listened closely to the background noise, and what do you think I heard? Other people were using the same script this guy was using on me. It’s funny that we don’t think about telemarketing scammers targeting niche groups of people like self-published authors. Still, I guess they hook enough people to be lucrative.

Anyway, I finally decided to stop these calls. So, the next time the guy called, I answered.

The Pitch

This man was so excited that I answered. In fact, he was overjoyed and congratulated me for publishing my book and that he had a fantastic opportunity for me.  

I said okay, and let him read his script.  

His company targeted a select few self-published authors with an excellent opportunity to get the word out about our books. My book, Midnight House, would be placed in bookstores all over New York City, with the potential of up to 13 stores carrying my novel.  

They had a close relationship with Netflix, and my book would be made into a film, and I would get $125,000 for the rights (minus their finder’s fee, of course)!  

He told me that my book was well-written and had a nice cover. When I asked him what he liked about the book, he paused and repeated the line about my book being well-written and having a nice cover.

I asked him about the first book, The Field, which is the first in the series. He said if the second one was successful, they would plan to market the first one.  

And all of this could be mine for an initial start-up fee of $800.  

That’s right. I send the company my account information, and they start marketing my book.

But where do they get copies of my book?

From me. Yes. I would have to send the company two copies to put in the marketing package they send out; then, if things went well, I would send them another 100 copies. All at my expense.

Persistent in getting me to jump aboard the marketing train, he wanted my account info right then and there. I told him I needed to see a contract and further info before committing to anything (I had already decided no after the first voice mail).  

I gave him an email address. I then asked something I was curious about from the start of this adventure:  How did the company get my personal cell phone number? It’s not on my website or on any of my social media. My publisher and the marketing firm I used to publish my book wouldn’t give out that information without asking me first.  

He said they have a great team of researchers who find people’s phone numbers for them to call. 


We ended the call, and I awaited his email.

Check back for Part Two this Monday!