So when you’re a nobody writer like me (or Indie author, for short,) everyone wants a piece of you. It’s not exactly a Charles Lindburg thing where people kidnap your children and ransom them (although I did grow up within fifty miles of his MN home). But when you’re an Indie everyone is trying to jack you for money. It’s a good thing I became a writer because I wanted to make millions and be a celebrity who gets to party with rockstars. (This is why we need a universal sarcasm font.)
The only way Indie authors have a chance to get read/discovered (and all in the hopes of making a buck fifty each time for a book sale) is to have people see our titles… I tried a new ad venture recently. I thought, heck, email is great–even if ten percent of the recipients open a message I’ve gotten some exposure. Mailchimp lets me stay a free user so long as i keep my addressed subscribers at under 2,000. I’d take ten percent on that for targeted leads–especially since you can a list of buyers for book resellers for under $100 nowadays.
Wrong. Lesson learned.
I always knew personal contact was the best way to approach book sellers and ask about being carried on their shelves. I just wanted it to be easier than it was and be able to fire blindly into a flock and score a few random hits. This is my story.
I found this nifty website called listsyoucanafford.com while searching specifically for targeted lists of Christian bookstores in my state. They had lots of clergy lists, churches, etc. I suppose that blinds us marks to the fact that the operator is a scammer by gaining some positive association. For fifty bucks they claimed they would sell me a list of about a thousand emails of buyers and purchasing agents for Christian bookstores. After an initial email they said they’d give it to me for free if I bought a general bookstore list for an extra twenty bucks which would give me an additional two thousand addresses, so I bit on that. I’d seen the site around for a while when doing some fundraising and ministry promo in the past. Plus the site puts their phone number and address on their main page–that sort of thing breeds confidence, right?
So I get my list and don’t notice that the reciept lists some company called “a dramatic touch.” Come to think of it later, my wife did ask me about a charge I made when she saw it… in retrospect she probably thinks I visited an asian massage parlor or something. (I find out later that it’s listed as a karate dojo when I’m trying to file a complaint with the BBB and get my money back.)
It turns out the list can’t be used at all. I stated that their “list triggers an omnivore warning making it useless/unuseable. List was supposed to be 90% deliverable or better, but it’s 0%. I’d like my money back, please. I can verify the unuseability of it with a screenshot if necessary.”
I politely requested a refund. The response came from an Alan Marshall who admitted that he knew the list can’t be used by most people and they would not issue a refund. I’m sure they get a lot of that. His winner of a solution is to offer to sell me another service at a discounted rate. “What we can do is offer you a discount on our outgoing email service. The cost to send a message to 5,000 or fewer contacts normally costs $49. We can make that service available to you for $29.”
If this was a farmer’s crop transaction it would look like this:
Vendor: you need ten thousand bushels of corn. I will sell you what you need for a thousand dollars.
Me: perfect. here’s my money.
Vendor: here is ten thousand bushels of pebble sized rocks.
Me: I can’t use that! please give me my money back.
Vendor: no. it’s the same size as corn and these were taken from corn fields. For an additional five hundred dollars we will feed these rocks to your cattle for you.
I made a hard pass on the offer and told him I’d contact the BBB.I’m sure he laughed that off. Whois/ICANN lists them behind a security shield so you can’t actually find them. They aren’t registered and I can’t find anything about them, despite a supposed track record of positive transactions for 16+years. That address? It belongs to the “Taco Factory.” But hey, they’ve got 4.6 stars and specials on horchata.
I didn’t bother checking the phone number–it would probably ring to Google Voice if it worked at all. Instead I called my credit card company to dispute the charges. I use Chase Sapphire as a preferred member. I didn’t recognize the cool perks having good credit until now. The customer service line went straight to real human being. I almost crapped myself in surprise–but that also meant I had to explain to a few service reps that I was not actually purchasing cheap asian handjobs but had been scammed by some fake company operating out of a taco pit. Thank God they believed me.
Lesson learned. Be very careful with your marketing dollars. There’s a lot of shady people out there making empty promises and delivering unhappy endings.