There are growing concerns in the author-publishing community about the operation, activities and claims made by AuthorOffer.com over the past month. The website was registered and set-up in December 2013 and offers authors and small publishers the opportunity to “offer your Kindle Books to our 635,148 hungry readers, and get up to 24,350+ free downloads or 3390+ purchases for your book.” The offer comes with a fee of $119 to $ $599, depending on which category (genre) and promotional package is selected. So how does AuthorOffer.com help authors to promote and increase sales of their Kindle e-books?
“We’re a service providing opt-in subscribers with daily emails about free-for-a-limited-time and discounted Kindle books. All readers have to do is sign up for our daily emails, and they’ll get deals in the categories that interest them most. For publishers, authors, and agents, we offer the opportunity to reach an audience of thousands who really want to know about your Kindle books.”
That is impressive, considering AuthorOffer.com claim an opt-in audience of 635,148 ‘hungry readers’ to target for your e-book.
Where’s me credit card. Count me in!
Hold on, horsey! Not so quick. A half million subscribers is one hell of a big audience, but who are they, and more importantly, how did AuthorOffer.com accumulate such a coveted list many other companies in the same field would kill for? Mailing and subscriber lists are gold dust to any company. It gives them, and their paying clients, direct access to a connected and mined audience. But as with any marketing list, it’s only as good as its relevance to YOUR audience as an author. A list of one million recipients might be as useful to garner book sales as a list of one thousand if the recipients are not interested in your book, or even buying a book for that matter.
In a press release from March, AuthorOffer.com explains how it works for authors.
“The site works by sending daily emails to its members with recommendations for downloads. These members establish their favorite categories, and the AuthorOffer service sends them emails with suggestions on which books to download and read. For the readers, it is a streamlined process that gets them popular and relevant materials to read; and for the authors and publishers, it is an effective way to get the word out about their books.”
Author, editor and blogger, Julie Ann Dawson reported the response of one author who looked for more information from AuthorOffer.com and got the following email response on how the company had created such an impressive subscription list considering their website has only been in existence since last December.
“We’ve worked tirelessly for several years to collect our readers’ list. During this time, the project operated in stealth mode as we collaborated with authors and publishers privately. We were happy to put in these hours because we want to serve you as best we can. The company stayed private as we worked out potential bugs and problems – this way, our customers could experience a superior product. Because our active subscribers list grew exponentially, we can immediately offer our customers’ great and significant advertising results. We’ve been open to the public for fewer than six months – and we’re pleased with the results!”
I bet it’s pleased with the results! I love when companies talk dirty to me and go all military with talk of ‘stealth mode’ and secret set-up operations to help authors. The trouble is valuable and effective subscription and reader lists for marketing operations are built on public reputation and transparency—not black op projects certified by the US Pentagon! If AuthorOffer.com does have a email list of 635,148 of hungry readers baying to buy e-books from authors, then it bought that list from another company or is just telling porkies. Either way, any claimed list is no use if it cannot be affiliated with a company with an established brand offering author marketing services.
Now that you’ve set your credit card to one side for the moment—there’s more.
AuthorOffer.com list several testimonials on its website. Nothing wrong with that. Many companies point to happy customers as a way of strengthening their reputation to new customers. But it doesn’t help when testimonials purport to be legitimate when a bad smell comes off them. None of the gushing authors telling us how great AuthorOffer.com was for them can be verified because we are not provided with details of their books, the author’s surname, and worse, I’ve discovered the ‘posed’ author photographs are all images taken from sites like Shutterstock and Dreamstime (Example1 and Example 2). If I give a testimonial to a company I’ve paid money to, I’m damn sure I am going to make sure I give my full name, book title and want to plug the hell out of it!
|AuthorOffer Testimonials (click to enlarge)
Let’s take it a step further. Yes, you can put your credit card back in your wallet/purse now. You won’t need it.
A few weeks ago, authors using the Goodreads community started to notice a series of unsolicited messages on the network. Incidentally, if you are an author and not on Goodreads, you should got and sign up now, list your book there, and use it as a way of connecting with your readers. It will cost you nothing, unlike AuthorOffer.com!
Goodreads authors began receiving curious messages from ‘other’ authors in the community offering $30 coupons they had received but for various spurious reasons could not use—a case of one author receiving a gift, not being able to avail of it, and generously passing it on to another. A kind gesture from one author to another? Not quite.
The message sent to authors went something along the lines of:
“Hello [name redacted]. I thought I’d send you a quick message to see if you might want to take and use my AuthorOffer.com coupon. It’s for $30 off and valid until April 30. I can’t use it. I’m in a dispute with my writing partner about getting a publisher. So until that gets resolved we won’t be doing any new promotions. It’s a long and complicated story.
“Anyway, we did use Author Offer during the last month and the results were pretty good. We sold about 900 copies in just two days as a result and got quite a few ‘likes’ on our Facebook page. So I would use them again in a heartbeat and may well do so in the future if we don’t go with this publisher. The code is ‘Cxdc30u’ if you want it. If not, I hope you’ll pass it on. Thanks. Goodbye!”
A big thank you to Julie Ann Dawson who reproduced several versions of the above message received by Goodreads authors on her blog post. All the messages to authors have the same common themes; the $30 off voucher to use AuthorOffer.com promotional services, boastful recommendations to use the company’s services, and claims of how many books each author had managed to sell—consistently the same two figures used in the messages were 900 and 1050 copies, but from many different authors! They must be very magic or coincidental sales numbers for every author to achieve the same figure using AuthorOffer! All those unsolicited messages to Goodreads authors also advised the recipient to act quickly as the coupon offer expired at the end of April.
The Kindleboards community has also been following this for several weeks since mid-March and has revealed several authors less than happy with a service they signed up for. Author Claude Bouchard has also highlighted two authors unhappy with the services provided by AuthorOffer.com. But perhaps the most disturbing element of all this is where and how the company lists authors’ books in its marketing newsletter. Again, referring back to the KindleBoards and Julie Ann Dawson, AuthorOffer has clearly been lifting (or as we say scrapping) book promotion ads from competitor newsletters like Book Gorilla to bolster their newsletter offering. Authors on Kindleboards have reported their books include in the company’s newsletter despite having never paid for inclusion. A company with a claimed subscription of more than a half-million doesn’t need to do that if it’s worth its salt.
Is AuthorOffer.com a scam or a bad deal?
Either way, I don’t think this is good for authors or for self-publishing in general. At very best, this is a marketing company with a BOUGHT or transferred list of emails looking to make a quick killing, and at its worst, a very slick and clever scam from someone who knows the e-book market well and just how to cajole unwary authors. Authors can get this kind of promotion for free or for a fraction of the price from companies like Bookbub, Book Gorilla and ebooksoda who have at least taken the time to build their reputation and reach, however successful! So I don’t know why AuthorOffer would attract authors after carrying out even a cursory groundwork into what is on offer elsewhere.
TIPM has tried contacting AuthorOffer regarding our concerns. The person(s) behind this entity operate out of a Tampa, Florida address, used solely for the purpose of a virtual office, and the phone number listed on the above cited press release goes to an automated message service. According to the press release, the company’s Editorial Manager is Sally Anderson, and yet her name and the people behind AuthorOffice appear nowhere on the website despite the claims of expertise and experience in the industry.
AuthorOffer.com was created by people with experience in book retailing, book publishing and online media, so we know how to find the best book offers and present them to you. That’s how we’re rapidly becoming the leading daily-deal email service for digital books. In fact, we’re growing every day.
This is another grand claim to becoming ‘the leading daily-deal service for digital books’ in an industry that hadn’t heard of them until last month!
Author services are sometimes like book covers. Good or bad—you should never judge one by its cover until you delve into the detail and content. If you are an author looking into contracting e-book promotional services, then look for substance, transparency and a proven track record. Talk to real authors who have used the company’s services and can validate their experiences. Never take claims of a service at face-value, only backed up with testimonials posted by a company to their website.
It’s no shame to create a start-up company if it is out to genuinely help authors and small publishers with promotion. Companies like Bookbub, Book Gorilla and others take time to build reputation and customer loyalty. Some do it better than others. What you can’t do is manufacture reputation and market place in the space of weeks or transplant it from another brand.
Reputation in business is something earned through experience and customer loyalty. It’s bestowed upon you and your brand, not something to be claimed.
Chances are AuthorOffer.com will disappear as quickly as it appeared and that might not be a bad thing for all authors.
Mick Rooney – Publishing Consultant
If you found this review or article helpful, but you’re still looking for a suitable self-publishing provider to fit your needs as an author, then I’m sure I can help. As a publishing consultant and editor of this magazine, I’ve reviewed and examined in detail more than 150 providers throughout the world like the one above. As a self-published and traditionally published author of nine books, I understand your needs on the path to publication and beyond. So, before you spend hundreds or thousands, and a great deal of your time, why not book one of my personally tailored and affordable consultation sessions today? Click here for more details.
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