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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Indie authors' real pain

A few days ago, I had a very interesting phone conversation. The larger topic was book reviews.

So, I said to this person, "What kind of books do you review? Where do you review?"

"Ha," the person laughed, "No, I don't review books, I don't have time for that."

So, I said to this person, "If you don't review books why are we talking about book reviews, what's your deal?"

"I want to help authors to find book reviewers. I run a book marketing business."

Now, isn't that nice?

People who have no @#?*! clue about book reviewing want "to help" authors to find reviewers (so they themselves gain customers.)


What kind of help is that?

To me it seems that this kind of help can be compared with somebody offering somebody else to remove an aching tooth with a pair of pliers from the tool box.
Sure, the tooth may come out but long term damage to the gums should be expected.


Indeed, my phone contact is rather late to the game, because hundreds of book marketers who don't review themselves but "advise on the topic" have already done irreversible damage to the review scene.

Reviewers, book bloggers, and even Amazon have cut back on their offerings because book marketers "gave away for free" ideas how to exploit Amazon's fabulous review system of 2012 to 2016.

Obviously, recommending "how others will work for free" can have dire consequences because "the others" may decide they aren't playing along.


There was more to the phone call. The person also revealed with a chuckling undertone that authors and publishers sent him/her books, "presumably in the hope that he/she would review these books." The person summed up by telling me that s/he brought these books to thrift stores so "somebody gets to read them."

Trying to hinder some damage, I told the person that donating books to thrift stores and libraries hurts indie authors and small publishers because many thrift stores resell donated books on Amazon's Marketplace (e.g. Goodwill runs a huge enterprise).

In other words, donating the books to thrift stores would hurt these authors and small publishers financially three times: (1) cost of book, (2) costs of shipping, and (3) that book being offered at Amazon's marketplace for around $1.00.

The person was surprised about what I told him/her but told me that this could not possibly be his/her concern.

Which made me wonder about his/her competence. No knowledge about book reviewing? No knowledge about how Amazon's Marketplace works?


Sadly, this person like other book marketers who also offer advice about tasks they don't do themselves will probably be very successful. Their system is simple: Promise free stuff, lure people in, then sell them another product.

Sounds familiar? It's a very common business  concept.


On April 10, 2018: FB's CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committee hearing.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT):
“How do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?”

Mark Zuckerberg (CEO-Facebook):
“Senator, we run ads.”


In this life, nothing is free. 

Personally, I oppose such tactics.

I believe in delivering honest value and in charging honest prices.

When I, an Amazon top reviewer who has reviewed 600+ books and products, published my (first) "Naked TRUTHS About Getting Book Reviews" in 2015, I did not create "a program" and charge $99.00 for it because I am not in the business of exploiting others' hopes.

Obviously, nobody can guarantee every author that their book will get reviewed, but at least I could show authors best ways to approach reviewers. I also told them "naked-ly" that they'd have to put forth some effort (just saying "Hey, my book is free," did not even work in 2015.)

But, my book's concept worked.

Then, in 2015, there were fewer book marketers and none of them offered "free tips."

Also, in 2015 and 2016, authors understood that learning from an expert is usually the fastest way to reach a goal and that expert advice doesn't come free.


For my book I charged $4.89 (instead of $99 for a program) AND when I updated the book in 2016 to reflect Amazon's changes, I updated the original book, thereby allowing my friends, fans, and buyers to download the updated edition for free.

Could one offer a fairer deal? I don't believe so.


Meanwhile, marketers who had no real insights, did not review books, did not know any top reviewers, hence could not give "free pointers" how to contact top reviewers suggested
  • sending emails tailored from silly templates, 
  • participating in review exchanges, 
  • "let's buy each others books and review them", 
  • sending out street teams
  • and similar tricks

thereby leaving a trail a mile wide for Amazon to track "who is friends with whom." Apparently, these marketers have never heard of AI-Artificial Intelligence (Amazon is a leading inventor, worldwide.).

Most interestingly, Amazon is transparent about these methods, I published how Amazon tracks "friends' activities" in my "Naked Goodreads"-book, priced at $2.99.


The results are devastating!

In the last three years, as a result of non-experts giving "free advice," indie authors went from being able to contact 5,000+ Amazon top reviewers who wrote best reviews for free to zero availability.

The concept, "Hey, I don't review books but why don't you send a mass email to 'these people'...?" doesn't work so well. 
When "these people" have enough of being exploited, harassed, and their email addresses sold or given "as a bonus" to complete strangers they leave.

Marketers also told authors "how to trick Amazon."


Trick Amazon? 

Here are pictures of a few of Amazon's data centers. Amazon also hires this nation's brightest programmers. Does anybody really believe that Amazon won't be able to track "the tricksters"?


Trying to really help indie authors, I also published the tricks book marketers use to "win clients." I updated the book in 2016 and, again, in 2018.

And, again: Buyers who bought the book in 2015 got two free updates, buyers who bought the book in 2016 or 2017 got one free update.

It's my way of serving my fan community - Reward buyers by giving them the updates free. 

That's not luring in people, it's showing friends and fans that I value them tremendously.


My friends and fans might wonder why I wrote a blog about this topic, after all, I posted at least a dozen blogs warning about this specific situation, in the past. 

To be honest, I was and still am in shock that anybody would admit to me (who penned the mentioned books) that he/she didn't review books, didn't know anything about the topic, but wanted to be a player.


Gisela Hausmann is a 29 yr. self-publishing industry veteran, an email evangelist and a top reviewer. 

Her work has been featured in regional, national, and international publications 
including Success magazine (print) and Entrepreneur, on Bloomberg, The Innovation Show  a show for Square Pegs in Round Holes, "The Brutal Truth about Sales & Selling"-podcast, and Austria's Der Standard and Das Wirtschaftsblatt. 

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Gisela tweets @Naked_Determina

© 2018 by Gisela Hausmann 

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