It’s not easy to compose a book-length story. Writing requires discipline, creativity and persistence. While independent publishing is far more viable now than it was while I was in my teens, getting noticed in a sea of self-published novels is a daunting task. Most authors have little, if any, experience with marketing, and if a writer sells more than a few hundred copies, they’re actually doing well.
The problem of getting noticed as a writer has created a market for scam artists, especially in India. These scammers scroll through Instagram, looking for posts by hapless writers trying to flog their stories online. Any kind of attention can seem like a lifeline to a floundering author, so a direct message expressing interest in a writer’s work is certain to gain attention. The pitch typically goes like this:
Hey author! We just glanced at your amazing book, and if you work with us, we can get your work in front of THOUSANDS of readers. We provide bulk promotion and services on various platforms at an affordable price. We’d love to talk to you about collaboration . . .
Typically, scammers like these actually HAVE thousands of followers. However, Instagram followers can be bought, and I’ve experienced that many of these are actually bots, programmed to reply using key words. So when a writer pays for a book review, the “reviewer’s” account lights up with hundreds of positive responses, like, “Wow! Sounds great! I will definitely buy this book . . .”
Sounds incredible? See for yourself:
But these are not real people who actually intend to purchase or read anything. They’re algorithms — or inactive accounts — and the only money exchanged in these transactions occurs between the gullible writer and the scam reviewer. Some scammers don’t even bother to read the book, but simply re-word the back cover blurb and then post THAT as their review.
More sinister still, are the promoters who offer to post reviews on Amazon that the author has written. A reviewer who approached me about promoting my latest novel told me that she’d review my story if I’d post a review of another writer’s story that had been composed by the novel’s author. I’m not going to put my name on someone else’s writing, so I bought the book and forced my way through its pages.
The poorly written story featured an unlikable protagonist, a plot that made no sense, and a cast of confusing characters whose roles in the story seemed entirely aimless. Yet the reviews for this “five star” novel are glowing. They’re a scam intended to boost the writer’s ranking on Instagram and Amazon. The “reviewer” admitted to me that the author is composing these reviews for other people to post.
To writers who are desperate for attention, I counsel patience. There is no short cut to success. Paying for scam reviews will net no new audience, and writing reviews for yourself not only erodes your credibility, it also demonstrates that you lack the skill to interest actual readers.