Buyer: Beware!

Scams and Ineffective Advertising Opportunities:
A Report from the Field

As with any other business field, book publishing brings out many individuals and companies who try to take advantage of neophytes in the field. Also, there are many advertising or promotional opportunities in book publishing that simply have not paid off for the publishers I've talked to. Here are a few guidelines you should follow when considering any advertising opportunities or potential scams:

Never advertise in a magazine or other publication that you have not read.

Ask them to send you a complete media kit, with sample copy, so you can see who else advertises in their magazine. The same holds true for co-op mailings.

Call those advertisers and ask them what kind of results they got. Ask hard questions. Get specific numbers. Do not settle for vague answers.

Don't fall for pushy salespeople, no matter what they promise you.

Don't advertise in any magazine until after you have had some publicity in that same magazine. Wait for that publicity. Judge the results. Then, maybe, try advertising.

Don't fall for the line that says you should advertise in the same issue as your review. Hogwash! Nonsense. Stupid.

When someone asks for more than one review copy, get a reason. If it makes sense, send them multiple review copies. If their reason doesn't make sense, ask for more details.

In the original edition of this page, I listed specific instances. But as I got feedback from others, I found it was impossible to distinguish between the true scams and the legitimate, but sometimes ineffective advertising opportunities. So, instead of naming names, here are a few other guidelines that apply to specific instances that you should avoid:

Don't buy radio time to do a show unless it's from a local radio station you know and listen to and one that you know others respect and listen to. Otherwise, it makes little sense, even if a station promises you lots of reach. If you want to look into it more carefully, however, ask them for their Arbitron ratings. Having said that, I do know of one self-publisher who chose to pay for 12 weeks of radio time just so he could put the title of radio host after his name. He thought it might give him greater credibility with other radio hosts. I think it's too high a price to pay for credibility.

If you order mailing list labels from any company, require that accuracy be within 5% (that is, 95% of the addresses should be correct and deliverable). If you get back more than 5% in bad addresses, you should get your money back or make other arrangements for being compensated for a bad list. You do, however, need to make these conditions and requirements ahead of time. You won't have any success afterwards.

If you do co-op mailings, ask them if they will guarantee a minimum response rate. If not, then you might want to go elsewhere with your advertising dollars.

Whenever possible, get any promises in writing.

Watch out for anyone wanting to sell rights for you. Check out their references especially with anyone who wants to sell foreign rights. Foreign rights sales are hard enough to verify and collect without having an incompetent or unscrupulous agent on this side of the ocean.

With anyone who wants to act as an agent for you, you should have a written contract that specifies what they will do, what rights they can sell, how much you will pay them as an agent fee, and when they will pay you for any monies collected in rights fees.

If someone wants to represent you for premium sales, be sure to ask for their RESULTS. Get references and check them out thoroughly. What premium deals have they done before? What quantities? Etc.

With rights and premium sales agents, pay them on commission only. Do not pay anyone upfront. Wait for results, and compensate them for those results.

If any ad sales person from a book review magazine promises you a book review in that magazine and then tries to sell you ad space, run away as fast as you can. If the salesperson is rude or obnoxious, hang up.

Indeed, if anyone is ever rude or really abrupt with you, hang up. Even if they are a reviewer or talk show producer. Life is too short. You shouldn't have to deal with such treatment. You deserve better.

Suspect any reviewer who sends you requests for review copies on poorly photocopied sheets.

Suspect any advertising opportunity or reviewer who does not list a phone number.

If a reviewer calls or writes for a review copy, you have every right to ask them more questions if you don't know who they are.

If a reviewer cannot supply you with clips (copies of their printed reviews), don't send them review copies. Ask them where the reviews appear. If they say many newspapers, ask for the names of a few specific newspapers. Then check with those newspapers.

Weed out any reviewers from your mailing list who have not done a review for you in the past two years.

There are a number of scam reviewers out there who request review copies (often more than one) who do no reviews. We suspect they make a good living selling books to Strands or the Barnes & Noble Annex or street-side vendors.

Don't pay for bold or annotated listings in directories unless you can verify that they produce results. Otherwise, they are too expensive. Get listed in the directories (where listings are free). But don't pay for bolded listings unless others have found them to be successful.

Yellow pages ads rarely work for book publishers. Test carefully.

Don't pay a wholesaler money to be set up in their system. They should do it for free.

Don't let any wholesaler, directory, or media treat you differently because you are small. They should offer you the same terms or advertising rates that they offer larger publishers. The law requires that they treat you the same (within certain parameters). Don't let them shortchange you.

Check references. Never buy into any program without checking their references and/or calling current users or advertisers. Find out from users if the program works.

Don't fall for bad guarantees. If anyone says you have to wait a full year before you can get your money back from a guarantee, tell them you want it now. If you wait too long, especially if you paid via credit card, you will have lost all protection from the credit card companies. I believe most of them won't offer any protection after 90 days.

Copyright 2010 by Internet marketing expert John Kremer

Open Horizons, P O Box 2887, Taos NM 87571