I received the following email this week:
A friend is taking an online course on how to write ebooks. At one point the instructor told the students that they could write a book on a subject they know nothing about simply by reading several books on the topic written by others, and compiling the information. I was shocked when she told me that he then suggested creating a pseudonym that sounds like an expert in the field, and purchasing a portrait from a stock photography website to go with the name.
He didn’t tell them to invent fake credentials, but it was implied that a persona/backstory would be created for the pseudonym. It seems to me that if someone buys a book because they believe the author is a real person who is an expert in the field, it is fraud if that person does not exist. Regardless of how unethical this is, is it legal?
At my request, “K” then sent me a link to the online class.
Let’s start with the obvious. Using a fake name, and a fake photo, and a fake bio in non-fiction is absolutely fraud. Imagine someone writing a book on the stock market and using a fake name, fake photo, and fake bio filled with fictitious stock market success stories.
Imagine a high school drop-out adding “M.D.” to the end of his name, lifting a picture off the Internet of a guy in a white coat with a stethoscope around his neck, and creating a bio about all his fake medical successes at specific hospitals.
Imagine a child predator writing a book about child psychology, using a fake name, picture, and bio (that, of course, doesn’t mention his child abuse convictions).
Imagine an individual writing a book about criminal defense, calling themselves a lawyer, lifting a lawyerly photo off a website, and filling their bio with fake court cases they claim to have successfully fought.
What this “instructor” (and I do use that term lightly) is doing is teaching his students how to commit outright fraud. And, his students could very well not only get sued someday but they could also be prosecuted, depending on the subject of the book.
I looked up the class online and I wasn’t surprised to find one of those long, over-the-top, ridiculous marketing pages on their website, going on and on about how you can get rich writing books and publishing them on Amazon, blah blah. You know the type of website I’m talking about. They include verbiage like this:
Desire to Succeed!
Change Your Life!
Ultimate Financial Freedom!
Serious About Getting Rich!
Geez, they even have cheesy graphics of dollar bills on the page.
I mean, really, do people still fall for this crap? And, if someone does, are they really that surprised when the shmuck selling this stuff suggests their customers commit fraud?!
Whenever you see these types of websites, click your “back” button as fast as you can. Nothing that leads to financial success is “Free!”, nor “Easy!”. Writing and selling books take a LOT of hard work. Anybody who tries to tell you otherwise is simply selling snake oil.
Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker.com. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker.com is: “As close to perfection as you’re going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I’ve ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can’t go wrong here. Plus, they’re selective and won’t publish any manuscript just because it’s accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors’ books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know.”
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