Newly published authors are bombarded with advice about how to get their book into the hands of readers: You need a platform, you need a website, you need a social media following, you need to attend conferences, you need to invest in advertising, you need, you need, you need….
It can get overwhelming. Nobody can blame a newly published author for wishing there was a short-cut. Or, at least, someone to walk them through the process. Nobody can blame a newly published author for considering paying an expert to help them navigate the perilous book marketing trenches. But, buyer beware! There are scammers out there! And they are designed to take advantage of those who research nothing… and fall for everything.
In February of this year, I was contacted by Spring Book Reviewers Club over Instagram’s Direct Messenger: Hey. We’re providing a bunch of services main being guaranteed sales for books, posting reviews on various platforms and publishing articles and blogs on top global magazines. Interested to know more?
Now, my modus operandi when approached in such a manner is to ask for references from satisfied customers.
Most scammers tell me they can’t reveal clients’ personal information, and that ends our negotiations right then and there. But these guys were ready for me. They wrote back: Our recent project with @martha_teichner. He (sic) got more than 3500 sales through us in three weeks and still counting.
When contacted, “Martha” very enthusiastically recommended their services.
Now, in my former life, I was a researcher for ABC Sports. I know how to look things up. Spring Book Reviewers Club claimed they’d gotten Martha an interview in The New York Times. I did find a feature article on her. But when I reached out to the author who wrote it, she told me: I’ve never even heard of (them) You’re absolutely right — coverage in the Times cannot be bought, and everything must be approved by an editor.
So I ghosted my friendly neighborhood book scammers. But, they proved highly motivated to attract my business. Their next happy customer testimonial allegedly came from the one and only Susanna Clarke. The Hugo Award winning author who was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian First Book Award, was spotlighted on their website. The same website which boasted: WE ARE WORKING SINCE 2007 WITH TOP PUBLISHERS & NOW WE ARE SERVING BOTH TRADITIONALLY & SELF PUBLISHED AUTHORS. WE HAVE EXPERTISE IN MARKETING STATARGIES (sic) & BOOK PUBLICITY.
When contacted over IG via the account provided by Spring Reviewers Book Club, “Susanna” was equally as enthusiastic as “Martha” about their book marketing services.
My curiosity piqued, I asked them to send me a contract. The one I received contained no identifying information about the signatory, including company name, address, or contact information, and was in a format where the text could be edited after the fact. But these paragons of professional of integrity were asking for $1024 US in exchange for:
📍1 ARTICLE IN THE NY TIMES
📍1 ARTICLE IN GUARDIAN
📍DIGITAL BLOGS IN BOOKBUB, KIRKUS, BOOKBUZZ & BUZZBOOK
📍7 VERIFIED POSTS
📍20 FACEBOOK GROUP
📍LIVE BOOK CONVERSATION WITH BEST SELLING AUTHOR
MINIMUM 2800 BOOK SALES
When I, once again, proved reluctant, they insisted that this was a risk-free deal, since I would be paying via Venmo, and could always get my money back by disputing the charge.
I declined to sign the contract. But I did Venmo $175, the minimum amount we’d negotiated it down to, to the address they provided.
I did not expect a feature article in The NY Times. I did not expect several thousand book sales. But I did expect… something to happen. (Followed by a barrage of excuses about why what they said would happen didn’t happen.) I am a writer. I love stories. And this was shaping up to be quite a story!
Except then… nothing happened.
Their IG account disappeared. Their website disappeared. “Martha’s” IG account disappeared. Though “Susanna’s” is still there. I wondered why that was. And then I found out.
After I shared my experiences on my Substack (click here, here, and here for a detailed transcript of all our interactions), I started hearing from fellow authors who had been approached by seemingly the same folks. They were, apparently, on Twitter for a while as: @bookpublicityhq. And, they are still on IG!
Akshay, who goes by PerceivingThings on that platform, messaged me to share that: SRB have “re-branded” to “Book Central Inc“, but still use the same website that they sent you. Their main IG page has a lot of believable good looking posts, website looks okay (until you read the details), they have set up and posted on multiple “client” accounts. Conversation was going fairly well (very believable to someone inexperienced with scams), until they said Susanna Clarke used their services and got 3000 sales. That just made me laugh. Someone who has millions of sales and a TV series under her name buying their service for 3k sales!”
Dear Fellow Authors – We get it. Book marketing can be difficult. And the temptation to outsource that part of the process (after all, you got into this business to write books, not to sell books), is very, very strong.
But, please, please be careful out there. It’s not just that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is; it’s even that if it sounds a little bit plausible, it probably isn’t.
A good rule of thumb is: If they are such great marketers, why are they trolling for clients on social media sites? If they can’t even market their own products effectively, how can they possibly be an asset in marketing yours?
My story had a happy ending. Even though the Venmo account I’d sent my $175 dollars to disappeared, I did appeal the charge, and Venmo did refund my money. But I was doing this as an experiment. You don’t have the time to waste on such nonsense.
Buyer beware! Buyer, definitely ask questions! (And, take screenshots.)
UPDATE: This company is using other names when soliciting authors online as well. BEWARE!!!
HAVE YOU BEEN CONTACTED BY ONE OF THESE OUTFITS? Please share your story using the comments box below.
Alina Adams is the New York Times best-selling author of soap-opera tie-ins, figure skating mysteries, and romance novels. Her Regency romance, “The Fictitious Marquis,” was named a First Own Voices Jewish Historical by The Romance Writers of America. Her historical fiction, “The Nesting Dolls,” follows three generations of a Soviet Jewish family from Odessa, USSR to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, while “My Mother’s Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region” shines a light on a little known aspect of Jewish history. Alina immigrated from the Soviet Union with her family in 1977, and now lives in New York City with her husband and three children. Visit her website at www.AlinaAdams.com
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