British historical fiction author Helen Hollick shares her negative experience of using one book marketing company.
I’m not sure if I’m disappointed, angry or red-faced embarrassed. Either way I owe all my friends and readers a profound apology.
Remember a few weeks ago I was asking nicely (well OK also threatening with a rather sharp cutlass) for votes for Sea Witch my pirate-based nautical adventure with a touch of fantasy? I often describe the Sea Witch Voyages as: “A cross between Hornblower and Pirates of the Caribbean, with a dash of Richard Sharpe (Bernard Cornwell’s Napoleonic novels) blended with James Bond and Indiana Jones.” I think that sums them up nicely.
I was thrilled when so many of you offered your support to me (and my pirate, Jesamiah Acorne). With well over a couple of hundred votes we won. I told Jes to put the cutlass away, which he did and promptly went off to celebrate with a keg or two of rum.
Unfortunately he has to get the cutlass out again and go in search of two who, it seems, are possibly real pirates.
The whole thing, the Bookbzz website, the offer to advertise books and running the competition it transpires, was very possibly all a scam. Or maybe the people running it, Conrad Murray and Paige Doyle didn’t make the money they had hoped for from eager punters and got fed up with it? Maybe the website is down because of computer problems – it’s possible, but many disgruntled authors who have been eagerly waiting to hear about our prize money since the beginning of March have not had emails responded to. No answers on Twitter or Facebook. No response from connections via Mr Murray’s other publishing ventures of Swan’s Nest Publishing Canada and Bookmarq. His contact e-mail on Linkedin bounces back as unknown. This from a man who has on his Linkedin profile summary:
Summary: Core involvement in a series of very successful web start-ups since the very birth of the Internet. Goals, results and profit-driven innovator who can conceive and deliver projects to meet real-world needs without over-stretching the limit of existing technology or breaking the budget. Driving force is always to deliver a massive return on investment. Fascinated by data marketing techniques and customer behaviour. A strong believer in the future of mobile but wants to sidestep the hype, rubbish and non-delivery that afflicted the early days of the internet. Primarily interested in innovating mass-penetration mobile products that offer a significant practical benefit to end users as well as a very significant business return for developers and service providers.
All very laudable – except he doesn’t have working e-mail connections, and for the one he does, he doesn’t answer anything.
He also has on Linkedin:
October 2014 – Present (6 months) London, Toronto, New York bookbzz.com enables readers to find good books and tell friends about them, and authors and publishers to reach readers who want to buy books.
We call it a tell-a-friend engine — but it can also generate reviews, manage relationships and news channels between publishers, authors and readers and act as a complete cost-effective viral marketing suite for books.
Fine, except as the website is closed no one can ‘find’ good books, and readers cannot be reached. Tell friends about them? Yes, that’s what I am doing – although I don’t think they meant for me to be telling: “The Bookbzz tell-a-friend engine seems to have run out of buzz, it can’t ‘generate reviews’ or ‘act as a complete cost-effective viral marketing suite for books.’”
In fact it can’t do anything except distress quite a few disgruntled authors because it is no longer there.
According to his CV, Conrad Murray has been a principal owner, chief marketing officer, partner, director, chairman, consultant, business development marketing director, development director, production director, senior producer, foreign correspondent + producer, freelance features writer, and correspondent all for different companies from 1982 to present day.
My, what a busy man. Can we add Possible Pirate and conman scammer to the list? At the very least he seems to enthusiastically start a project then lose interest after a few months and move on to something else.
For Swan’s Nest Publishing I have tried my best but I can only find two books by the same author published by the company.
Bookmarq is another book marketing company belonging to Mr Murray. It has a very impressive-looking website but doesn’t actually do much – except publicise Mr Murray’s own articles and attempt to entice authors to use the company for: ‘Boosting Your Sales and Saving You Time and Money’.
Hmm, not sure about that. I’m wasting a lot of time here, and I suspect there are more than a few enraged authors out there who have lost a good bit of money.
Beneath Mr Murray’s e-mails he advertises: (sent to me 19th February 2015)
Bookmarq.net is the destination meeting-place for readers and writers. Along with insightful reviews, regular author interviews, articles and competitions, we provide comprehensive details of events and services as well as vital advice and guidance for aspirant writers, and marketing tools for established authors and publishers. Joining the bookmarq.net community should be the first step on, and a continuing part of, your writing journey.
I tired joining the membership area. Nothing happened.
Not sure how Mr Murray can offer ‘vital advice and guidance’ when he doesn’t answer a single e-mail.
‘The first step’ – yes, the first one backwards if I were you – at a run.
And how much has he made from authors signing up for Bookmarq and Bookbzz? More than short-change I wouldn’t mind betting!
Here’s some of the advertising for Bookbzz and the competition;
(typing errors are theirs, not mine!)
If you haven’t already done so we strongly recommend you Become a Premium Member (from $7.50 a month) to increase your book’s visibility
Consider also the following promotions for the duration of the competition to secure more votes and as a means to generate lasting ongoing sales:
Socialbook Viral Book Marketing Campaign
Pop a banner to plug your entry. Your supporters can easily pop a banner and share it with all their followers. Announce and enable your readers to easily prommote your entry and encourage others to vote for your book. $25 onetime setup. Requires Premium Membership Subscription (from $7.50 a month). Click the link above to find out more.
PageTurner “Look Inside” Book Extract Reader
Elegant portable reader which works on our website, your website (and any other website) as well as social media. Enables potential readers to read a good opening chunk of your book. $25 onetime setup. Requires Premium Membership Subscription (from $7.50 a month). Click the link above to find out more.
Bookbzz.com Book Club Interview and Publicity promotion
Reach our dedicated readership when you announce a give-away or price-drop promotion to our book club members and we will organise a publicity promo and email blast plus featured pages on our website and in our newsletters. Typically these promotions run over a month for maximum reach and impact.
In week one our Senior Reviewer introduces the book.
In week two we release an interview conducted by our reviewers with the author.
In week three readers can ask questions and
In week three to four the author answers.
$100 onetime setup. Requires Premium Membership Subscription (from $7.50 a month). Click the link above to find out more information.
Add all that up: a nice little earner!
Fortunately, I am not financially out of pocket. I paid a fee of $25 to Bookbzz to enter the competition and I steadfastly ignored those repeated marketing emails to sign up for a Bookbzz marketing package. All the above I can do for myself for free.
Then there’s Mr Conrad’s partner, Paige Doyle.
I was approached by him some months ago when he was seeking authors to back the Bookbzz project. I was approached, I think, because of my capacity as Managing Editor of Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews, plus I am quite prominent on Facebook, Twitter (@HelenHollick ) etc in my capacity as an author.
I was happy to support the project in principal, anything to help Indie authors get noticed is (usually) a good thing. I was happy to put my books there as well, and yes, it was fun to be part of the competition. It would have been nice to have received the offered prize, but as I was only expecting a refund of the entry fee I’m not too bothered about that (although some of the other winning authors will probably be upset at losing out).
So who is Paige Doyle? He hasn’t replied to any e-mails either.
On the Bookmarq website there is this:
Paige Doyle is the Managing Editor at bookmarq.net and as such, decides what we publish. He previously worked in the music business where he managed an Irish diva and superstar until his nerves became too frayed. No not Dana, the other one… Read Full More posts by the Author »
No point clicking the read more links – they don’t go anywhere And I thought Conrad Murray was managing editor?
You know I get somewhat suspicious when e-mails are not answered, profile pages do not have a photo of a real person, and even the details on a website about the managing editor have a cartoon instead of a photo.
It makes you wonder if the person behind the name is real? Or is he maybe the same as someone else? Paige is a rather good alias for an editor isn’t it?
Should I have checked out how legitimate this was? Should all of us who entered have done so? Probably, but has anyone any suggestions of how we could have done that? Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I suppose the one big alert, had I looked, would be the fact that nowhere is there a telephone number. Surely companies that publish and/or market books should have a working contact phone number?
There was nothing specific to cause concern on-line before the competition and the website closed (and the emails stopped being answered) to suggest a “con”. Well there is now! I (and several other authors) intend to make a reclaim of entry fees from PayPal, and I shall be adding enough links and labels on this article to hopefully flag up that Conrad Murray and Paige Doyle, along with Bookbzz, Bookmarq and Swan’s Nest Publishing, may not be all they say they are. Please feel free to reblog, RT, share and all things like that to help bring attention to these two men (one man?).
Alternatively I might get a very cross response from some legal person saying I’m committing slander or libel (or whatever it is) by implying that this competition and the various marketing sites are not quite kosher. Bring It On… because I would dearly love to have to retract this article and for myself and the other winning authors to be contacted and awarded our rightful money prizes – or at the very least a truthful explanation and a public apology.
Somehow, though, I don’t think any of that is going to happen.
PLEASE NOTE !
Bookbzz – this shower of probable scammers – is NOT BookbUzz which is – as far as I can tell – a different and legit company.
(I will add here that most of these book marketing companies are used by authors not READERS so there is very little point in paying out to use them. I can highly recommend Indie B.R.A.G. below though!)
So all in all, my apologies to you all for this red-herring wasn’t real competition. I am gutted, I admit – the only competition/award Sea Witch has won (apart from a much cherished 100% genuine Indie B.R.A.G.medallion ) and it turns out to be what appears to be fake.
Still, you my supportive readers and friends are real and your votes were genuine, so I suppose that counts as something to be proud off. Just a shame that glow of pride has been somewhat tarnished by huge embarrassment on my part.
Well, tomorrow is another day. I don’t think I’ll enter any more awards though. The disappointment when you don’t win is awful and the disappointment when you do win is just as bad.
One final thought though.
Authors have a very good way of taking revenge…
(If you want to feel sorry for me and offer a consoling hug, you could do so by putting a really nice review of Sea Witch (or any of my books) on Amazon. Preferably 4 or 5 stars with “I voted for Sea Witch!” as the tag line…
…one can but try to gain something positive out of the negative.
[NOTE: This post first appeared on the author’s blog.]
Helen Hollick is a successful British author of historical fiction and pirate-based adventure fantasy. You can view a complete profile and find more information about Helen and her books by visiting her author website.