Friday 1 September 2017

How far would you go to increase your sales and visibility?

There has been a lot of talk on various loops about authors who have used click-farms and become instantly a bestseller. I'm sure you all know how this works as there's been so much talk about it – but in case you don't – here is a potted version.
Author pays X amount of dollars/pounds to an intermediary. The book is then downloaded via the Kindle library system by the click farm and the book is flicked through as if it's been read. Multiply this by thousands and you get the idea. A title that nobody has heard of can suddenly be in the top ten on Amazon and the author making thousands of dollars.
It was said on one loop that it is possible for the author to have stumbled onto this and not realised they were doing something unethical. I investigated every lead I could find and didn't discover any black sites or any others where I could sign up for such a deal even if I wanted to. Therefore, I think it fair to say that any author who has used this scheme has done so deliberately.
I'm not sure if I had found such a deal whether I would have been tempted to do it. The book everyone was discussing wasn't very good and had made virtually no impression on anyone. My book, the one on the right, is selling around five hundred copies a month, so it's certainly being read and well received.
If a click farm could push it into the bestselling list and not only make me a lot of money but also find me lots of new fans would I do it?
 Doesn't a good book deserve to be read by thousands rather than hundreds?
Would it be so wrong to take a shortcut?
Isn't this just another way of promoting your book – albeit not a strictly moral one?
What about schemes that say they will get you dozens of reviews? It now seems that the Amazon algorithm only kicks in to promote your book when you have 50+ good reviews. Friends and family are not supposed to review your books but I know for a fact that some books with 50+ reviews, all five star, have done just that.  I've read the books and know them to be dire. All right, these aren't paid for reviews, but they are still breaking the rules.
How many of you have asked friends and family to put up a review? I used to, but now don't. I do ask those on my subscriber lists if they could find a few minutes to review my books, but don't get particularly good results. Amazon insists that if you send an ARC (advance review copy) to anyone you must ask them to say this. All reviews are supposed to be from  'a verified purchase' – I'm not sure if this counts if you have borrowed it through the Kindle library. Amazon used to insist that a review was at least three sentences, now a reviewer can put up three words as long as it's a verified purchase.
I read recently that someone spent thousands of dollars buying their own book at dozens of different retailers in order to push it into the New York Times bestselling list. This is breaking the rules too – but if someone is prepared to do it, and is so desperate  to be in the bestselling list, then it's going to continue to happen.
Maybe if I'd bought /bribed/begged for reviews this book, An Accommodating Husband, would have had the orange flag 'bestseller' that all the others got.
How far are you prepared to go to get noticed? If you were offered a deal that guaranteed you a bestselling ranking on Amazon would you take it? It's not illegal but  it is breaking the rules.
Until next time
Fenella J Miller


  1. You know what, Fenella..I wouldn't do any of these things. To me, any writer who goes down this road isn't a ''true'' writer ... . and for every 'fake' sale' there will be peoplegenuinely buying it who will be disappointed. Every one of my reviews (incl the one star oens) have been posted by people who've bought and read the books. And if I haven't made best seller status by illegal means, who cares! The satisfaction of just getting a book published and readers who enjoy it is enough!

    1. Thanks for the comment, cArol. The thing is it's not illegal it's just bending the rules. I wouldn't either but I would be tempted.

  2. It's a tricky one. If an author plays 'by the rules' and makes few sales yet another author (maybe with their publisher's blessing) can afford to give out many copies of their books to reviewers, it results in a very uneven playing field. They reach the magical 50+ reviews very quickly. I have four books under my belt and have worked hard to establish my presence in a crowded field, I value every review, even the 'stinkers', as the amazon robot only counts the clicks, not what's been said. So one star reviewers are inadvertently giving you a boost. To sell 500 copies of a single book in a month is well above the average most writers can hope to achieve. So good on ya, Fenella. The rest of us can only keep going and do the best by whatever means we have at our disposal.

  3. Thanks, Lizzie. If you could write two of your fabulous books a year I think you would get more traction. I hadn't thought of 1* as being positive - good to know.

  4. As a blogger I would never advise a writer to do that kind of thing. Let your work sell and speak for itself. I love supporting authors but would side step someone partaking in such activites to be honest. Well done on 500 a month, that is amazing. Welcome to book connectors.


  5. Thanks for commenting Lainy. 500 books is good, but it doesn't make me a best seller or rich. I'm not going to use a click farm but I can see why a writer might. If they've spent a year writing a good book book and are not making money why wouldn't they try? Ethics are not so compelling if you can't pay your bills. :)

  6. Hi Fenella, this is a new one on me. I suppose eventually it will be bots doing the reading. It doesn't appeal to me but I could understand why people might feel it gives them a competitive advantage.

    The elephant in the room is money. While we are all delighted to complete a book and see it out there, either online or on a bookshop shelf, we all harbour dreams of being able to write books for a living. That requires 'creating brand awareness' and all that other groovy stuff that takes time away from actual writing. Often it's not about a book's quality it's about how wide an audience we can reach. Given the global marketplace I'm going to go out on a limb and say 'most' authors could sustain a regular income writing books if they could find the readers. Ethics, art and money - there's a plot for a novel!

    To echo other comments, congratulations on your monthly figures, Fenella. JK Rowling and Dan Brown are the exceptions, and with huge marketing budgets behind them. You're doing brilliantly and will go from strength to strength.

  7. Derek, you are so right. I make a living wage but half what I was getting in the heady days when KU was new. I work hard - write 6/7 books a year - and by so doing can just about maintain a foothold. Those doing better than me are the ones with blogs/websites/snap- that and insta-other. I can't compete wiht that. Thanks for your comment.

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