DISRUPTIVE AND DUMB: Do NOT Lie to Your Publisher About ANYTHING!

DISRUPTIVE AND DUMB: Do NOT Lie to Your Publisher About ANYTHING!

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Ah, cascading lies and liars. What a fun topic for today!!

Here is an actual conversation I had with our son, Max, when he was three years old, and had smashed blueberries all over his face:

“Did you open the back door?”
“No.”
“Did you go outside all by yourself?”
“No.”
“Did you pick and eat the blueberries?”
“No.”
“Why is your face all blue and sticky?”
“It’s not.”

That type of lie is funny to parents. There are endless videos online of small children lying and lying and lying in an attempt to cover their tracks.

However, when you lie to a business associate, a neighbor, family member, or anyone in the adult world, real life consequences can ensue, including their loss of trust in you. Lying, no matter how small the lie may seem, creates a tremendous amount of anxiety for the liar, and frustration and anger for the person hearing the lies, especially when they know the person is lying to them. Don’t even get me started on the amount of wasted time for both of you when your lie is about a business situation.

Today, an author swore up and down that sales were missing from his author account because he “KNEW” people had purchased his book. After all, some people had actually mentioned parts of the book to him. And, he himself has purchased “SEVERAL COPIES” from Amazon to “test the system,” and he “didn’t get paid” for any of those sales.

After more than 20 years in this business, I’ve seen it all. Seriously. Including occasions when authors either exaggerate, or outright lie, when they find it unbelievable that their book isn’t selling.

Let’s dissect this situation:

1. IF YOU DON’T PROMOTE A BOOK, IT ISN’T GOING TO SELL. PERIOD.
This author does not have a website, and does not have any social media accounts. He has literally done nothing more than tell a few friends and family members about his book when it was first published. The author also chose not to have an ebook edition. While print editions outsell ebook editions (and always will), people who are tight on cash, or who simply want to avoid paying for shipping, will buy the ebook edition. Also, ebook fans typically read a LOT of books. Not offering an ebook edition for those folks was (and usually is) a mistake.

2. FRIENDS AND FAMILY LIE, TOO!
I’ve covered this very common phenomenon previously in the following articles:

EMBARRASSING! When Friends and Family Lie About Buying Your Book

AWKWARD HOLIDAY GATHERINGS! When Relatives Say They Bought Your Book (But They Didn’t)

3. FRIENDS MENTIONING PARTS OF THE BOOK
There’s a simple explanation for that. There are free excerpts of the book online.

4. ONE FRIEND BOUGHT THE BOOK.
There are two sales in the author’s account. One was from right after it was published. The author could clearly see the sale in his author account if he’d bothered to look. But, he ignored it, and complained there were no sales. We again gave the author the info. on where to click to see the sale in his author account. The author continued to claim there were no sales. A year ago, the author sent a note to us that said he was sorry he missed some info. we sent to him because he “reads fast and tends to skim stuff.” Uh huh…

5. THE AUTHOR BOUGHT ONE COPY OF THE BOOK; NOT SEVERAL
This was the lie that made us question every single thing the author sent in his email. There is a sale for one copy during the month the author claimed to have purchased “several copies” to test Amazon’s system. He did not buy “several” copies. He bought one.

I asked the author to send me copies of his Amazon email receipts so I could audit the sales for his book in the distributor’s system. And, then…

6. THE AUTHOR LIED AGAIN
Of course, the author knows that Amazon sends out email receipts, and the author also knows you can clearly see your Amazon purchases in your Amazon account. When he realized he wasn’t going to be able to prove he bought “several copies,” he played dumb, and lied again. He said that Amazon never sends out email receipts.  My eyes rolled so far back in my head that I still have a headache.

“Playing dumb” is another thing you’ll see with people who lie. When backed into a corner, they start pretending they don’t know what’s going on, they deflect the discussion elsewhere, or they ignore what you’ve written/said, refuse to send you what you requested, and then double down on their accusations. The entire discussion turns into a round robin game of utter nonsense. In reality, he knew that I knew he was lying and he tried to deflect my attention elsewhere.

7. THE AUTHOR WILL NEVER ADMIT HE LIED.
I’ve played this game with enough fibbing authors to know that this author will never, ever admit that he bought one copy, not several. And, to save face, he will continue to play dumb. He’ll claim something outlandish, like that he can no longer login to his Amazon account. I will never see that Amazon receipt. And, he will continue to accuse Amazon of ripping him off. He may even start to accuse me of ripping him off just to save face. That’s when I will tell him that he lied, that both he and I know he lied, that he’s wasting my time and his, and that I will not discuss the situation with him further until he produces those Amazon receipts (that never existed in the first place).

8. AND, RATHER THAN ADMITTING THE LIE, AND APOLOGIZING, THE AUTHOR WILL CONTINUE TO HURL FALSE ACCUSATIONS TO SAVE FACE.
When someone lies, and is backed into a corner, he or she will tell another lie, and another one, and another. I’ve had six kids. I know how that works. You parents out there know how that works, too.

Don’t take my word for it. Scientists have actually studied how the brain reacts when people lie, and how it leads to more lying.

9. HOW IT WILL END.
I already explained to the author that I can’t audit a book’s sales with no receipt. Think about it. If I contact the world’s largest book distributor, Ingram, and tell them an author claims copies of his book have sold, but that he has no proof whatsoever, what do you think Ingram is going to do?

A. The person reading my email is going to laugh at their computer screen because, believe me, they’ve seen this entire scenario play out before.

B. They’re going to tell me they can’t chase down sales that never actually occurred. It’s impossible!

We have audited Ingram’s system numerous times over the past 20+ years and we have never found even one missing sale.

A FUN ANALOGY TO CONCLUDE THIS POST!

Let’s compare this to a non-publishing scenario, shall we? Let’s say my family and I are on vacation. And, let’s say my neighbor has a large, beautiful blueberry bush. While my family is out of town, the neighbor wakes up one morning, looks out her window without her glasses on, and can’t see any blueberries on her bush. She calls me because she knows my son is a serial blueberry thief. She demands that I do something about the missing blueberries.

I play along because I don’t want to upset her any more than she already is. I need to find a non-accusatory way to diffuse the situation. After all, I’m on a sunny beach down south, and have been for days. The serial blueberry thief is happily digging a hole in the sand by my feet.

I gently ask her to send me a picture of the blueberry-less bush. She says she’ll call me back. I can picture what’s happening on her end. She puts on her shoes, puts on her glasses, walks outside, and realizes the blueberries are still on the bush. She calls me back and, rather than admitting her mistake, she says her phone camera isn’t working. I ask her to have a neighbor take a picture. She claims nobody else is home. I ask her to send me a picture later, when her husband gets home. She starts getting agitated because she knows the gig is up. So, she doubles down on her accusations, and refuses to have a photo taken of the bush.

When I finally point out that our car has been missing from our driveway for a week, and that we are a thousand miles away on a beach, she stammers and stutters, and says something like, “Well, he must have stolen them before you left!”

Of course, she knows that’s not true. Had she simply admitted that she didn’t have her glasses on that morning, all would have been fine in the end and we probably would have laughed about it later. However, she, like the author in this story, in perpetuating the lie to save face, may have ruined what had previously been a great relationship, and has ensured that future interactions with me will be very stressful for her.

I’ve experienced this enough that I harbor no long-term ill feelings against authors when they’ve backed themselves into a corner with lies. Unfortunately, after experiencing cascading lies from people over the years (children and adults alike), I know how the human mind works. Kinda sucks but it’s part of life. In a year, I probably won’t even remember that this particular author was the one who tried to hoodwink me today. But, of course, he doesn’t know that so his stress will remain.

Don’t lie to your publisher about ANYTHING. It never, ever ends well.

UPDATE

The author I wrote about above sent me another email, saying:

  1. He would not insult his friends/family by asking for copies of their email receipts. (He knows they don’t exist.)
  2. It would be “too much trouble” for him to take a picture of the book order in his Amazon account to send to me. (Because he knows that purchase never happened.)

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Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).

Angela has lived and traveled across the U.S. with her kids in an RV, settled in a river-side home in Bradenton, FL, and lived on a 52 ft Irwin sailboat. Angela now resides on a mountaintop in Northwest Georgia, where she plans to spend the rest of her days bird watching, gardening, hiking, and taking in all of the amazing sunrises.

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