A REVIEWER SCAM AND HOW TO AVOID IT By Beth Ann Erickson

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Writing a book is difficult. Getting it published is even harder – especially when you want to work with a reputable publisher.

After you FINALLY get it published, your next step is to acquire a readership. One way to do this is to submit your book to reviewers whose opinions will hopefully entice readers to purchase your book.

Many reviewers I’ve met with are wonderful people who work hard at a difficult and often low paying job.

I’ve also encountered a number of unscrupulous reviewers. Here’s one scam I hope you can avoid…

It all began last February. As I sat down at my desk one morning, the first thing I noticed was my answer- machine light blinking.

Here’s the message:

“Hi. This is [name deleted]. I’m from [name of publication]. We’re reviewing your book, The Almach , in our next issue and I wanted to talk to you about that. My number is [number deleted].”

I sat for a moment. Then I grabbed my “Reviewers” file. I scoured the list of names of reviewers I’d contacted, wondering if any of them worked for his publication. None worked for him.

Boy,” I thought, “book sales must be going pretty well for an unsolicited publication to want to talk to me about my novel….”

Having been interviewed about The Almach before, I sat back and anticipated the questions he might want to ask me. I gathered some stats about the book, my e-mag Writing Etc. (http://filbertpublishing.com), and pulled out some papers about my wonderful publisher (in case he wanted some info on Booklocker.com), and arranged them on my desk.

With all the papers at my fingertips, thoroughly ready for my big interview, I dialed the number. Next thing I knew, I was talking to the publisher. I introduced myself and he immediately recognized me my book. Boy, was I flattered.

Then he said it: “Since we’re reviewing your book, I contacted you to find out if you’d be interested in purchasing ad space in [his publication].”

I didn’t expect this….

He went on to explain his circulation numbers, what he would require from me if I were to place an ad, and went on to tell me that the smallest ad I could submit would cost around $400 while a full pager would set me back around $2,000.

He mentioned that I’d have to create the ad myself.

I didn’t hear much after he mentioned the price. I was busy calculating how many books the ad would have to move before I “broke even.”

I told him I’d think about it.

“While you’re thinking,” he said, “I’ll pencil you in for the small ad and I’ll send you a copy of [the name of the publication] along with a rate card.”

“Fine,” I answered. Then I hung up.

While I waited for my package I conducted an Internet search. I looked up the name of the publication along with the name of the publisher. Nothing.

I e-mailed Angela at Booklocker.com and asked if she knew him. She didn’t, but warned me it may be a scam. I made a mental note.

Within a couple days my package arrived. As I paged through it, I couldn’t help but notice the tiny 8- point print reviews (all of them glowing, all of the books “masterpieces!”) sprinkled in amongst a ton of ads. Fifty one pages worth. There wasn’t one article in the magazine.

Then I saw it: an ad for a book that looked familiar. In fact, the author lived in a neighboring town. I grabbed the phone.

“It’s a scam,” said the voice on the other end of the phone. “It may be legal, but I’m not sure it’s ethical.”

“Then why did you advertise in that publication,” I asked.

“I didn’t,” she said, “my publicist must have done it.” She added, “Believe me, I’ll be calling him today.”

She went on to say, “This is how it goes. They find lesser-known books, usually newbies to the business, and then contact the author to see if they want an ad. If they author says, ‘yes,’ then they run the review – always a glowing one. If the author doesn’t buy an ad, they won’t run the review.”

“And it gets worse,” she added, “They almost always ask the author to create the ad, but when they receive it, it’s never ‘right’ so they charge a couple hundred bucks to re-do it.”

“In the end,” she said, “you’re out a lot of money and don’t sell many – if any – books.”

My heart sank.

Then she said, “But there’s a really easy way to tell the legit reviewers from the shady ones. Tell them you won’t run an ad. If they run the review without your ad then they’re legit. If they don’t run the review without the ad, you’ve just been the target of unethical business practices.”

She finished her conversation by saying, “You don’t have to pay for reviews. All a good reviewer will require from you is the book. Sometimes they’ll purchase it themselves. But you don’t have to purchase ad space in a reviewing magazine to get your book reviewed. It’s just bad business….”

I didn’t run the ad for The Almach. I never heard from that man again.

I figure that woman saved me a ton of money. My hope is she’ll save you a bundle as well.

Beth Ann Erickson is the author of Jumpstart Your Writing Career and Snag Paying Assignments and The Almach. She’s also a busy copywriter, speaker, and publisher of Writing Etc., the FREE e-mag for writers. Check it out – plus receive the free e-booklet Power Queries – at: http://filbertpublishing.com

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: At Booklocker.com, we received review requests all the time. Several times in the past, we’ve then received faxes, emails and letters quoting advertising rates. Some even “imply” that they won’t review the book unless you buy an ad. What I want to know is…if my book is being reviewed, which will bring exposure, why should I buy an ad, too? And, if I do buy an ad, it would make the review of my book look fake…like I “bought” the review. So, don’t ever buy an ad in a publication that tries to sell ad space to you to complement the review. It is, in my opinion, unethical and possibly a scam.