This is an “Ethical” Way to Sell Your E-book? I Disagree [UPDATED]

27 Mar

***Last updated Saturday 31st March 2012 2pm GMT***

Yesterday evening I received an e-mail to info[at]catherineryanhoward.com from a person I didn’t know. I’m always suspicious when this happens because if a stranger is trying to get in contact with me, clearly the Contact page on this very site is the way to go. But if you want to send me a message from your e-mail account, that’s not going to work, so you either trawl the internet looking for mentions of my e-mail address or you put “info” in front of my domain and hope for the best. The suspicion arises because of the answer to the question why must you send me a message from your e-mail account? It’s usually because you want to send me an attachment and/or include me in a mass mailing. Both of those say “I’m selling things!which, when you do it in an e-mail to a person you’ve never communicated with before, is called spam.

So I was suspicious before I even opened the message. Then I read it.

“Subject: Loved your book

Just checked out your book on Smashwords, Catherine and you’re so so talented. Do you have any suggestions for a budding writer like me? What has worked and what hasn’t? Tried FB, Twitter, even book marks. I just don’t want to waste my time on things that don’t work. I just read a couple EXCELLENT books on it. One was recommended by my friend called “Effortless Marketing”:http://amzn.to/EFFORTLESS I got it cause Mark Coker the Smashwords guy endorsed it and cause it’s free for the next 24 hours anyway. And it was surprisingly really, really good. Do you have any other books you’d recommend?”

(That text was copied and pasted from the e-mail; all mistakes sender’s own.)

I clicked on the link, and ended up on a listing for an e-book called Effortless Marketing: How I Sold Thousands of E-books, Landed an Agent and a Book Deal in Just 10 Minutes a Day Using Message Boards by someone called Jeff Rivera.

Now maybe I’ve been reading too many crime novels recently, but nothing about this sat right with me. First of all, the message was sent to my e-mail address instead of via my Contact page. That alone suggested spam, or at least something suspicious. Then there was the subject line—”loved your book”—even though the message seemed to imply that the sender hadn’t read it, but merely “checked [it] out” on Smashwords. (And if they had read it, they’d know I generally don’t do anything to promote my books that a traditionally published author wouldn’t do AND I don’t believe in selling books to other self-published authors, and therefore I avoid message boards.) Then there was the total focus on selling books as opposed to creating them, the odd mention of book marks (?!) and the late-night infomercial line “I just don’t want to waste my time on things that don’t work.” (I can just see that guy from Amazing Discoveries in his terrible wooly sweater, consoling the actor playing the part of a frustrated audience member. “Well, now you don’t have to!”)

But it was the completely out of the blue book recommendation—complete with link!—that really set alarms ringing, especially since it just so happened that it was free to download for Kindle that very day. There were the capital letters (“EXCELLENT”), the forced casualness (“that Smashwords guy”) and the odd timeline—free for 24 hours, but the sender has already found it, downloaded it, read it and wrote to me to recommend it? Somebody’s been a busy bee, eh?

The sender’s name was Mogoli Angelberg. When I googled it there were only about five results returned and none of them were very illuminating. The top one, however, was this (click for larger image):

A profile page for Mogoli on something called The Gatekeeper’s Post, of which Jeff Rivera—author of Effortless Marketing— is both founder and editor in chief.

So.

This was my reply, in its entirety:

“What hasn’t worked is spamming people with e-mails in which I pretend (badly) to be seeking information when what I’m obviously doing is trying to get people to download the book my “friend” recommended. –Catherine”

The truth is, I often get e-mails of this type. I must look stupid or something. Regular blog readers will know that this is the first time I’ve called anyone out about it (although rest assured each one I receive does get filed in the “Don’t Do This” notes section of the new edition of Self-Printed). But this one was so blatant and presumed me to be so stupid that I just had to say something.

Right up top on the book’s Amazon listing is an endorsement from Smashwords founder, Mark Coker, that reads:

“Jeff Rivera provides honest, ethical advice for how authors can leverage message boards to attract readership and build platforms.”

I’m guessing there’s no mention of spam-disguised-as-praise-and-queries e-mail in Effortless Marketing; I’m certain Mr. Coker wouldn’t have endorsed it if there was. Perhaps Mr. Rivera is unaware of this e-mail campaign. But if he isn’t, he should be. And he should make sure that it’s stopped.

Because the very last thing this effort could be called is ethical.

What do you think? And have you ever received anything like this?

UPDATE #1 | 27.03.12: As I suspected, I’m not the only person to receive this e-mail. See Ashley’s comment below.

UPDATE #2 | 27.03.12: Julie Cohen has also received this e-mail. It seems to be coming from Smashwords—i.e. the people behind it are trawling through Smashwords looking for authors to send it to, presuming they’re self-published and interested in selling more books. Considering how many authors are on Smashwords and that only a few hours after posting this, at least 3 people who also received it have read this post, I think that points to potentially hundreds of recipients.

UPDATE #3 | 28.03.12. Oh boy. It’s now 10.30 a.m. GMT on Wednesday 28th March, or about twenty-four hours since I first posted this. In that time, between comments, tweets and e-mails, 19 other people have told me they’ve received this exact same “Loved your book” message. Considering that this group consists of people who received it and either knew me or took the time to Google the sender’s name, found me and were motivated to leave a comment, I think that points to a huge number of potential recipients. More than one recipient found the message in their Spam folder, which also points to a mass mailing.

I also received a very interesting message from a self-publisher who prefers to remain anonymous for personal reasons. (I know this self-publisher, believe he has no reason to lie and therefore am trusting that this is the truth. However I must of course concede that this did not happen to me; I’m merely repeating it.) Several weeks ago this self-publisher—let’s call him Bob—received a message from Jeff Rivera, the author of Effortless Marketing, entitled “Loved your book!”—the same title, of course, as our spammy message.

The message began with praise, just like the spam message does, but then went on to invite Bob to read an interview Rivera had done with a big-name author who had turned to self-publishing. Bob didn’t reply. Later Bob received another, similar message from Rivera. He didn’t reply to that either. A week after that, Rivera sends him another message saying (I’m paraphrasing): “Hey, I think I deleted your most recent message. Can you re-send?” Suspecting that Rivera is “just trying to sell” him something, yet again, Bob doesn’t reply.

Sending messages into the abyss doesn’t, apparently, deter Rivera, who sends Bob another message shortly thereafter. This one promises Bob a “top secret” list of agents and editors who are foaming at the mouth looking for self-published success stories (um, obviously I’m also paraphrasing there, but you get the idea)—in exchange for a review of his book. Needless to say, Bob didn’t respond to this either. But his curiosity was piqued, so he downloaded Effortless Marketing, which was free for Kindle at the time.

Now I have a personal rule about not revealing the content of books like this, but suffice to say that his “effortless marketing” method has a lot in common with the spammy messages we’ve all been receiving, according to Bob (it just moves it to a message board/private message setting), and among other terrifying advice, suggests using Fiverr.com to find an editor. I was also pointed in the direction of a thread on Kindle Boards where Rivera, back in August 2011, told his fellow authors that if they had had self-published success, he could help them get a traditional deal. In it he says “Ask Joe Konrath or Karen McQuestion if you have any questions” [about his or his offer's legitimacy]. What does that mean?! Presumably he wants you to think that Konrath and McQuestion, two of the world’s most successful and most visible self-published authors, will vouch for him. But that’s not what that line says.

Let me be clear here: this is not intended in any way to be an exposé, or an attack. I really don’t care what this guy is up to, whether or not his book is good or if this “Mogoli Angelberg” even exists. I think people should make their own buying decisions, I couldn’t give a crap either way, and, anyway, this isn’t that kind of blog. But as soon as I read that message, I knew something was wrong with it. I knew something wasn’t right. After Googling, I was positive something wasn’t. And because e-mail happens behind the scenes and spamming operations like this can go unnoticed, I decided not to let it go. I decided to blog about it. And I think that’s my right, considering that I was a recipient of the e-mail.

Regular readers of this blog will know what my stance is on selling books. This isn’t a game. This is a wonderful opportunity for writers who previously had no hope other than the magic “yes” from an agent or an editor. Now we have the world at our feet—or at our keyboards, anyway. We should never abuse it. (See my infamous guest post on Taleist, Why Self-Publishers Need to Start Minding Their Manners, for more info on that.) We should be honest, and work hard to find readers and convince them, through transparent methods, to buy our books. Organic growth is the only growth that works, the only growth that matters. Yes, you might manage to sell 100,000 or even 1,000,000 books by some form of Jedi mind trick, but what then? What happens when people read your crappy book? What happens when you release your next one? The only way to sell books is to write good ones, and then let people know—in a way that’s acceptable to everyone—that they exist.

It drives me ten kinds of cuckoo when people try to sell books by any other method, but the red mist descends when they try to sell them that way to me.

UPDATE #4 | 28.03.12

UPDATE #5 | 28.03.12 I’ve been informed that the Amazon.com listing for Effortless *cough cough* Marketing has received 3 one-star reviews from people who have received the same message, word-for-word—and I know this because I went to read the reviews, and two of them have the message pasted in. I read it about five minutes ago, and just now when I went back to copy and paste the URL, there was a new 5* star to add to the 20-odd 5* reviews already on it. This is amazing, considering the book was published six days ago, on March 22. What’s his secret? Apart from the spam, none of us are privy to what lengths exactly Mr. Rivera has gone to to promote this book, but I think we can all agree on one thing: he’s sure making a huge effort.

UPDATE #6 | 28.03.12 This saga now has its own thread on Kindle Boards! I would URGE anyone following this story and/or concerned about this issue to read through the posts on this thread. [*waves to everyone on that Kindle Boards thread*]

UPDATE #7 | 28.03.12 Jeff Rivera has posted an update on his site in which he responds to the “Mogoli Angelberg” spam debacle. I don’t want to keep dragging this on and on, but I’m afraid I have to take some issue with Mr. Rivera’s explanations.

He seems slighted that we, the recipients of the spam messages, didn’t immediately contact him about them and instead complained about them publicly – on blogs, Twitter, Amazon, etc. Of course, if something like this was happening in my name and I was unaware, I would wonder why, when I found out, that someone didn’t tell me sooner so I could have done something about it. I totally get that. But it was only by sharing that we’d received this weird message that it became clear it was not a one-off, but a spammy mass mailing.

Secondly, if you look at the Twitter screenshot above, when someone did approach him about it yesterday, his answer was “I’m not sure what you mean.” Yes, if he wasn’t sending the e-mails, he wouldn’t have known what the tweeter meant. But the tweeter specifically mentioned the name Mogoli Angelberg. If he is known to Mr. Rivera, as he statement claims, wouldn’t that have raised alarm bells with him then?

Moreover, in his statement Mr. Rivera says he found out about this because he saw the spam-related negative reviews on his Amazon listing. Such reviews on Amazon.com are all dated March 27th, yesterday. As you can see in the screenshot above, the tweet was sent to Mr. Rivera on March 26th, the day before that.

The endorsement from Smashwords founder Mark Coker has also been removed from the Amazon.com listing.

Finally, I was sent a link to this statement via e-mail. But when I went to Mr. Rivera’s home page, I could find no trace of it. I had to go back to the e-mail and copy and paste the link just to re-locate it.

(On a personal note, yes, I’m a girl. Yes, I’m relatively young. Yes, my blog is pink. But I’m not stupid.)

UPDATE #8 | 28.03.12  Jeff Rivera has also taken the time to comment on this post, below.

(The Final!) UPDATE #9 | 29.03.12 So, this turned into something, didn’t it? Wow. I hope you made enough coffee to get all the way down to this bit. The thing is, I’m so glad I posted about this and helped, in a little way, to expose shady practices of people who prey on my fellow writers and self-publishers, but Catherine, Caffeinated isn’t supposed to be an episode of 60 Minutes. Therefore, this will be my last word on the matter, although of course please feel free to comment, move onto Kindle Boards where this has got VERY interesting indeed, and spread this around so we can alert as many people as possible to this kind of crap.

Jeff Rivera posted a statement on his blog and has left comments below, but his explanation is that an employee of his sent these messages. He’s fired him, he apologizes, end of. But he completely ignores all the other things about his practices that have come to light during this and seemingly has no intention of addressing them.

For instance:

  • If you believe that Mogoli Angelberg exists, I have a time machine disguised as a remote control that I want to sell to you. He’s been on the internet since 1997, apparently, but has fewer Google search results than my stapler. The Kindle Board thread also has screenshots that, to me, look like evidence that Rivera and Angelberg are the same person. One is a posting on a message board where, signed in as Mogoli Angelberg, Jeff posts and signs his own name. If Mogoli was an employee working on Jeff’s behalf, wouldn’t it be the other way around?
  • The same thread highlights an e-mail Rivera sent offering a list of agents and editors supposedly looking for self-published authors IN EXCHANGE for a review of his book. Effortless Marketing, published on the 22nd of this month, already has more than 30 5* star reviews.
  • Some very clever person on the Kindle Boards thread has been examining how many times the link in the spam e-mail has been clicked. It points to a spam operation on a massive scale. Even if Rivera is telling the truth, (i) how could such a huge undertaking have been conceived of and executed without his knowledge? and (ii) why would anybody but the author be motivated to do such a thing? My conclusion is that it couldn’t have been and no one would.

So that’s it. I hope your cup of coffee lasted this far. I’m off to make another, and tomorrow this blog will return to its normal fare. If you have anything you’d like to add, I’d suggest you pay a visit to the Kindle Board thread listed above, or comment below. Tootles for now.

(This Time It’s Really the Final) UPDATE | 31.03.12 I really was done with this whole thing, but Jeff Rivera has pulled his book and posted another statement, and since (i) people are still coming here to read this post and I want those people to have all the information and (ii) the statement itself needs addressing, I’m afraid I posting another update…

You can read the statement in full here, but here are some highlights:

  • “I wanted to personally thank the thousands of writers who downloaded my eBook, Effortless Marketing this week and the over 34 four and five star reviews I received.” This week, potentially thousands of writers were spammed about Jeff’s book, and we know that he contacts people offering them things in exchange for reviews.
  • “And I want to thank those who helped make it the #1 Marketing Book on Kindle.” It was free.
  • “I also received interest from a traditional publisher about the book as well and what’s funny is that I didn’t approach that publisher at all. They approached me!” You’re right, that is funny.
  • “Unfortunately, due to the campaign of bizarre false accusations about me supposedly spamming people about the eBook even when I explained what happened, I’ve decided to pull it off the market for now.” I presume by “bizarre false accusations” he is referring to the majority of people not falling for his explanation that “Mogoli Angelberg” is an employee of his who conceived and executed this entire spamming operation without his knowledge, despite Mogoli having no independent internet presence or any online proof that he has ever existed at all, and e-mails from Jeff and Mogoli coming from the same source and being worded the same way. His explanation doesn’t explain anything, and he hasn’t even attempted to explain—or even address— why he approached writers offering lists of agents in exchange for reviews, or why he does things like advertising a query writing service that charges $450 upfront, and then another $450 when you get ten responses, which Jeff guarantees (see below). It is bizarre.

  • I pray that those who went out of their way to do so will not experience that type of negativity in their own lives.” You don’t need to, because I would never do something as stupid as this. And if he’s referring to me, I didn’t go out of my way to do anything. I received a suspicious e-mail that insulted my intelligence, and when Googling the information in that e-mail led me to believe that someone was conducting themselves in a manner that brings down all self-publishers, I decided to post about it to see if anyone else had got the same thing.
No, Really. This Time I Swear… Someone just sent me a link to a rather relevant “daily inspiration” post from Jeff’s blog, in which the image below appears. I know, it looks like it must have been doctored or interfered with since this whole spam saga began, but it’s not at all. This is actually on his blog. I’ve taken a screenshot in case it disappears.

The phrase “You said it, not me” comes to mind…

If you received a “Loved your book” message from the complimentary Mr. Angelberg, please let us know in the comments below.

130 Responses to “This is an “Ethical” Way to Sell Your E-book? I Disagree [UPDATED]”

  1. Christine Murray March 27, 2012 at 08:09 #

    I would be embarrassed to do this. Writers, whether self-published or traditionally published, are self-employed. We all need to sell units, but we don’t all do this.

    Really, is annoying somebody the way to get them to buy your book? Most likely it’ll stop them buying anything you write ever again.

    • catherineryanhoward March 27, 2012 at 08:41 #

      I think it must be like that spam that says some African prince has died leaving millions and if you’ll just send them a few hundred dollars via Western Union, they’ll send you back thousands. It seems utterly ridiculously, but if even 1% of people do it, they’ve made a profit. I’m guessing the same “if we just get one” thinking is behind this.

  2. Ashley McCook March 27, 2012 at 08:19 #

    Just received the exact same email this morning. Had started to reply but got suspicious of the wording and content, googled the name and came to the same conclusions!
    Ethical? Definitely not.
    Thanks for the post. Off for a coffee!

    • catherineryanhoward March 27, 2012 at 08:42 #

      I cannot believe you got it as well! Shameful. I wonder how many people in total received it? *shudders to think* Enjoy your caffeine!

    • T.A. Grey March 27, 2012 at 18:44 #

      I just got this same exact email today, too! I’m going to just add it to my spam. Thank you for the informative post! I really appreciate it.

  3. lindigab March 27, 2012 at 08:36 #

    Hey, how come I didn’t? There are some benefits being tucked away down under. Actually I may have but to be honest I simply delete anything I do not recognise unless it looks interesting and a comment like that from someone I do not know would be an alert as it was to you Catherine. To be fair I was going to try and find your personal email address Catherine as I wanted to invite you to our tropical paradise if you ever feel the urge. It is another world and being a bit of a globe trotter thought you might fancy it. We live on a semi rural property in between a rainforest and an avo plantation. After living in central London for a very long time not a day goes by without my being incredibly grateful. There you are I have done it but publicly! I have learnt so much from your wonderful blog. I have alway dreamt of writing that elusive book and lo and behold I shall have an enhanced eBook on the iTunes bookshelf soonly. So not what I intended but am really enjoying the process immensely. I have been waiting for the technology to catch up with my ideas for making available certain types of learning to EVERYONE not just those with an affinity to the written word. The opportunity is upon us so I am having great fun with it and a very creative little team. Remember the Catherine the middle of your summer is the same temperature as our winter…….. Have a fabulous day. AND the coffee is actually really good here!

    • catherineryanhoward March 27, 2012 at 08:43 #

      Well thanks for the invitation! :-D You can always contact me privately through the Contact page here; it sends me a message that no one else sees. I’m just suspicious when people I don’t know e-mail me directly (i.e. not via the contact page) because it’s usually because they want to send me something that comes close to spam, I’m afraid.

  4. Gary Chapman March 27, 2012 at 09:20 #

    Given his mantra ‘Effortless Marketing’ he has clearly gone to a lot of effort…. it makes one wonder about the content of the book!

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 10:12 #

      Well I have some info about that actually… going to post another update about it once I’ve responded to comments! :-)

  5. Debra Eve (@DebraEve) March 27, 2012 at 09:53 #

    And you’ve written more than one book, a big tip off. Just dastardly. It’s stuff like this that gives self-publishing a bad name. I can’t imagine where this guy got the nerve.

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 10:12 #

      Yep, that didn’t occur to me until afterwards. Um, WHICH book did you “love”, Mr. Angelberg? ;-D

  6. Averill Buchanan (@AverillB) March 27, 2012 at 09:59 #

    There’s a very fine line between clever marketing and “leverage”, aka manipulation in an underhand and unethical way. Mark Coker’s language is also quite revealing and sets alarm bells ringing.

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 10:14 #

      The whole thing stinks, in my opinion—at least looking at it from the point of the view of someone who is wondering whether or not this book is worth buying, and then goes and investigates the author to see what experience they have, etc. Mr. Rivera’s website is so hyperbolic and filled with so many name-drops that that alone would make me suspicious—even without the spam. But I know there is a huge group of self-publishers who fall for this sort of stuff every time, so what can you do?

  7. Kate Tenbeth March 27, 2012 at 12:12 #

    Hi – I’ve just received the same email and, like you, hesitated as I was reading it because something just didn’t sit right. I googled the name, found the gatekeeper’s post and also yourself. I won’t be replying – false flattery really doesn’t work, and neither does being devious and manipulative… Sharing information only works if it comes from integrity. Kate

  8. Rosa Steel March 27, 2012 at 13:07 #

    Chiming in – I’ve got this too. It is definitely spam, and I posted an angry Amazon review that will hopefully be added soon to the book page. Luckily I didn’t have to pay for the damn thing, because it was on one of those KDP free promos.

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 10:16 #

      If you downloaded the book just so your review would be verified, allowed, etc. I’d recommend you now return it. We don’t want to add to his numbers! :-)

      • Rosa Steel March 28, 2012 at 13:11 #

        Good point! Although, mysteriously, Amazon rejected it anyway :S I will definitely return it now.

  9. Sandra Ulbrich Almazan March 27, 2012 at 13:28 #

    Yep, got it this morning. I found your website by Googling his name and book title. Thanks for getting the word out there about this spam!

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 10:16 #

      Thanks for letting me know too—I’m counting how many recipients I find!

  10. Shah Wharton March 27, 2012 at 13:37 #

    Once I got someone ‘accidentally’ telling the recipient off (which was me, but was meant to be someone else? Can anyone ‘accidentally’ email someone?). I sent back a simple,

    “I do not know you, yet you use my email address to express your wrath over a matter I know nothing about?”

    She replied by offering me an apology and then, ‘oh by the way, I see you are a blogger. One of the regular link inserters has left and you can make a bomb if you sign up today. I’m letting you know as a favour – shouldn’t really. But as I messed up LOL!!” Blah blah!

    The next reply I sent was …not so nice and she now resides safely in my spam box.

    What is with these people?

  11. Rick Cooper March 27, 2012 at 14:11 #

    Just adding my comments to the mix. I received the same e-mail this morning and also did a Google search (for some strange reason I am always suspicious when someone praises my writing). Of the few results the search produced, I read your response first. Thanks for exposing this guy.

    • emerging writer March 27, 2012 at 20:24 #

      I think your writing is brilliant Rick (Do you want to buy my book?!)

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 10:17 #

      Well, I would try not to be suspicious whenever someone compliments your writing (!) but thanks for letting me know you got it too. Glad this is showing up on Google as well! :-)

  12. Rosemary J Kind March 27, 2012 at 14:56 #

    Just landed in my inbox. It’s a good job we’re internet savvy and not too gullible! What works for me? Hard work and not wasting my time with spammers!

  13. Refashionista March 27, 2012 at 15:23 #

    Spam like this is incredibly irritating, but at least you were alert and not suckered in. If there’s one rule in writing, as in life, it’s that there are no shortcuts, to marketing your book or anything else. It’s just hard graft, persistence and sometimes a lucky break or two as well….

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 10:19 #

      You are so right re: shortcuts. Even if some crap like this works, is the book even going to be worth it? Hardly if this is the kind of thing it promotes. So how is this an effective long-term strategy? Organic growth is always better. And spam never is..!

  14. Angela March 27, 2012 at 16:20 #

    Thank you for this post :)

    I got the exact same email, word-for-word, a few hours ago and was suspicious because nobody has bought my new ebook yet (admitting that kinda sucks, but I can handle it!).

    Needless to say I will not be reading any free books on spamming other authors.

  15. Christine DeMaio-Rice March 27, 2012 at 16:22 #

    I got it too, but deleted it so fast I forgot about it. Thanks for digging it out of your trash and exposing it to keep anyone else from getting caught in its net.

  16. tarawestauthor March 27, 2012 at 16:41 #

    Thanks, Catherine, for exposing this sneaky spamming. Disgusting.

  17. Lola Swain (@LolaSwainAuthor) March 27, 2012 at 19:08 #

    Received it too and I too was suspicious, Googled the link and came upon your post. Thank you for writing about this…I’m off to post this in my writer’s group.

  18. Greg Scowen March 27, 2012 at 19:43 #

    Seriously, this is the worst kind of Spam there is and makes all Indie authors look dodgy. Just go and view the book on Amazon. 23 reviews all within 3 days! Impossible. These reviews are paid for or arranged by some ‘dodgy author marketing cartel’. I have sold thousands of copies of my novel and have only had 11 Amazon reviews over a period of almost 1 year. The numbers just cannot add up here.

    Frankly, the supposed Mark Coker endorsement puts me off anyway. Still, I have downloaded it to my Kindle and will write a review for this spammer accordingly. I suggest that we all do this. Only through combating the good reviews with honest ones, can we combat this sort of spam and prove that this style of marketing is not the way to go. We might just be able to save a few other new Indie authors which could otherwise fall for this from some suffering.

    • emerging writer March 27, 2012 at 20:26 #

      Surely then it will be worthwhile. A book with no reviews will do worse than a book with some reviews

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 10:23 #

      I think most Amazon customers are automatically suspicious of new books that have lots of 5* reviews because they know that in order to get them, they’re must have been some sort of concerted effort behind the scenes.

      I wouldn’t really leave a review about this because I think reviews on Amazon should only be about the book. (Although perhaps after reading the book, you’ll have material to do just that.) There is a certain kind of person who buys books like this—people who have drunk the Kool Aid the particular author’s dispensing—and I can guarantee that they will be in no way swayed from purchasing by bad Amazon reviews.

      I would however be interested in finding out what his endorsers have to say after this spamming session.

      • Greg Scowen March 28, 2012 at 18:40 #

        I very much doubt any of these people endorse him. It is easy to drop names. His book constantly has lines like “James Patterson told me…”

        Well, if James Patterson wrote ‘An apple is green’ in one of his books, and I read that line, then I can say that James Patterson told me an apple is green. That wasn’t so hard.

        I have read about half of the book so far and it wasn’t as ridiculous as I had hoped but could so far be summarised in about 5 lines.
        I probably won’t bother leaving a review. I don’t want to taint my reviewing record.

  19. Christopher Hudson March 27, 2012 at 20:51 #

    Got it too … exact same content … I was doing a Google search and ended up here … looks like an interesting blog, so it wasn’t all bad.

  20. Keir March 27, 2012 at 22:41 #

    Same story. Got the email, googled, wound up here. Thanks for starting the discussion. Shady marketing will get found out!

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 10:25 #

      That’s exactly why I blogged about it—because it’s an e-mail and is happening behind the scenes, you’ve no idea if it was just you or hundreds. I think we can safely say by now it was more like hundreds…

  21. Cara Michaels March 27, 2012 at 23:09 #

    Just found this exact email in my spam folder. Google search on this so-called ‘budding writer’ landed me here. I’m going to LMAO if this book tells you all about crafting thoughtful spam to get your book looked at.

  22. Steam at Harper's Ferry March 28, 2012 at 02:43 #

    It got sent to my spam folder too! It started so innocently and then WHAM! the pitch and I figured out they have no idea who I am :-(

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 10:26 #

      So maybe lots more people have it, but in their spam folder. Spam folders usually only catch mass mailings too so that’s VERY interesting!

  23. Catherine March 28, 2012 at 07:39 #

    Sounded suss from the first words!

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 10:27 #

      Considering it was “loved your book” with no mention of a title and I have four books out at the moment, it certainly was!

  24. catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 11:35 #

    FYI if you’ve been following this spammy e-mail story, I’ve just posted some lengthy updates to the original post. Thanks!

  25. simonwhaley March 28, 2012 at 14:44 #

    Yes, I had the message too. I thought it was spam the moment it mentioned Smashwords and ‘loved your book’, because my gut reaction was ‘Which one?’

  26. Reginald Dipwipple March 28, 2012 at 15:00 #

    Greetings, Mrs. Ryan-Howard.

    My name is Reginald Dipwipple, Secret Agent Extraordinaire. And I am the self-published author of Tongue-Tied With Stomach Knots: An Enlightened Comedy. A newly revised edition has just been published on Amazon.com.

    Yes, just released — and yes, I too have received an identical message from the mysterious Mogoli Angelberg.

    Well, speaking as a Secret Agent Extraordinaire, I believe that your analysis cuts right to the point, stabbing right to the heart of the matter, with piercing insight. (Okay, I confess. Maybe that’s not my funniest comment, but I am just making this up as I go.) Indeed, this whole episode leaves me with just one unquenchable question…

    What is Mogoli? What kind of name is that? If the guy is a budding writer, my first piece of advice is — get a better pen-name. Like mine. Plus, Mongoli, your last name is Angelberg? Does that mean you’re a Mongolian-German? Well, that sounds like an exotic combination. Why not write a book about that? And if “Mogoli” is a female name, I might even date you. (I do suspect that “Mongoli” is unisex, like Terry or Leslie.)

    Anyway, I sympathize because I empathize. My hope is that the mysterious Mongoli Angelberg, having loved my book so much after a mere glimpse on Smashwords, would kindly write a kind book review. Alas, no such luck. Story of my life.

    Respectfully (because all my readers deserve respect),
    Reginald Dipwipple
    Secret Agent Extraordinaire
    Blog: http://www.SecretComedy.com

    • catherineryanhoward April 4, 2012 at 08:17 #

      Thanks for commenting Reginald—I too have been wondering about this mysterious Mogoli Angelberg and why, despite being an assistant to an author who seems to focus entirely on online marketing, he has never done anything on the internet himself. No website, no blog, no Facebook profile, no Twitter account—and no old school newsletter, mention in the local paper, etc. etc. It’s almost as if he doesn’t exist…

      Sorry it took so long for your comment to appear but for some reason, it got stuck in my spam folder.

      • Reginald Dipwipple April 17, 2012 at 13:40 #

        My message was in your spam folder? Hummm. Your computer is very perceptive.

  27. Debora Geary March 28, 2012 at 16:00 #

    Got the message. And my books aren’t ON Smashwords… Very, very unimpressed.

  28. smreine March 28, 2012 at 18:19 #

    I have minimal presence on Smashwords and got the email too. It was so vague that it was obviously spam, so I directed it to dwell with its brethren in my junk folder.

  29. catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 18:23 #

    If you’re still following this saga (am I the only one who needs a drink?!), Jeff Rivera has responded. See original post for all updates and thanks for your help with this.

  30. Judi Coltman March 28, 2012 at 18:31 #

    No, you are not stupid – at all. I received something from this guy earlier this year – an interview request and guess what he wanted from me? My most successful marketing techniques. I did not give the answer he was looking for so he probed further. Luckily, my marketing efforts border on lame so my interview was cut short.

    Thank you for sharing your experience!

  31. Jim Kukral March 28, 2012 at 18:40 #

    It’s technically not spam if it’s sent one-to-one. Spam is sent from an email list, to people who didn’t request to be on a list.

    But I understand your frustration. This happens all the time by HUGE top selling authors. It’s a tactic that works, but sometimes backfires.

    Those horrid Amazon reviews will hurt forever. I choose to believe him, but I understand why this is frustrating.

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 18:48 #

      Spam is any kind of mass mailing sent to people who never supplied their addresses, that sells something. This email went to many, many people, with only one single word changed in it: our names. That’s a mass mailing to me. I wouldn’t get distracted from what’s happened here by technical definitions.

      • Jim Kukral March 28, 2012 at 19:04 #

        I’m just saying, if it wasn’t sent from a “list”, it technically isn’t spam. Just wanted you to make sure you’re not accusing someone of something they aren’t doing.

        • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 19:13 #

          And I just wanted to make sure you haven’t missed the point of this whole thing, but I fear that you have.

          • Jim Kukral March 28, 2012 at 19:30 #

            I haven’t missed the point at all. I understand your frustration and I agree that what that guy was doing without Jeff’s approval was in fact, lame and no way to market your book. We agree. Just wanted to clarify the spam part.

            • Rex Jameson March 29, 2012 at 07:38 #

              http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,109075.msg1641826.html#msg1641826

              As I mentioned before, no, no, no. If you are currently using these tactics in the mistaken belief that Congress has somehow defined spam as only those advertisements involving a list, you are incorrect–though, I believe a list is being used in this case as well as we’ve detailed on the KB thread. No matter what definition you’re trying to enforce here, this is spam–legally, figuratively, hypothetically, or as Mitch Hedberg might say “all-encompasingly”.

              Regardless, you don’t appear to understand why the legislation was enacted in the first place. Congress wasn’t reacting to people upset about being included on lists. Congress was reacting to people being upset about misleading advertising AND being included on email lists that have no opt-out clauses to be removed from future advertisements by the marketer. The emails sent out from this Mogoli character meet both major criteria, and I believe at least 6 of the criteria set by Congress.

              For more information, consult the link you provided at http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business. If you think crafting this kind of pseudo-relationship message gives you an out, look at “Message B” under the question “Q. What if the message combines commercial content and transactional or relationship content?” along with the accompanying discussion about why this is considered a commercial message and not a transactional/relationship message.

              This is spam.

              • catherineryanhoward March 29, 2012 at 11:19 #

                Thanks for this info. Anyone clinging to the definition of “spam” in this whole debacle is only trying to distract from the issues.

  32. Jeff Delgado-Rivera March 28, 2012 at 18:55 #

    Hi Catherine,
    Thank you so much for posting this because it wasn’t until you did so and that I started seeing those amazon reviews and that tweet you referred to that I sat up and took notice of it. I didn’t know what was going on or what anyone was talking about until I found out what Mogoli had done. I’m sure that he didn’t do it maliciously. He was just trying to help but nevertheless, like I said in my post, he is no longer working with us.

    You can do a little research and you’ll find that I have a pretty good reputation. I like to think I’m a good guy has helped a lot of people in publishing with their careers with no strings attached though I normally do that without announcing it. I’m not a “spam bot” or whatever.

    I think a lot of people can relate to some of the things that have happened to me with this too. I had my twitter hacked last year and it was promoting some new credit card or something like that. I’ve had people tell agents that I referred them without my permission and all kinds of things.

    I take full responsibility for hiring Mogoli way back then and for him helping me from time to time on different projects but I had no idea he was doing things like that until now so thank you once again for posting this. It would have been nice if I had received an email about it before this post so that I could have investigated and stamped it out but I can understand. I’ve been ticked off before and vented on the Internet about bad customer service so I totally get it.

    Anyway, Catherine, all I can do is speak the truth of what happened and apologize. If someone is dead-set on believing that I did this and wants to pick apart every sentence of my blog post for “evidence” of how wrong I was, there’s nothing I can do. I just tell the truth, tell you so sorry I am about this may have affected someone by wasting their time with a spam mail they didn’t want. I hope that people believe me but I don’t have a lot of control over their reaction. I do appreciate your passion for this topic because this NOT the way I would recommend for someone to promote their book. In fact, that’s the exact opposite of what I talk about in the eBook. I’m going to be out of town tomorrow for about a week but I welcome any questions, etc directly at my email. I be more than happy to answer them when I get back in town or if I can while I’m traveling I’ll do so. I normally respond to everyone’s emails within 48 hours when I’m not out of town so I just ask for your patience.

    Wishing you the best.

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 19:10 #

      I really appreciate you taking the time to respond Jeff, and to do so here on this blog.

      But again, in your response, you make a dig at me (I’m “picking apart” every line of your statement) instead of just coming clean and unreservedly apologizing.

      We are not upset because you or someone connected to you wasted our time. If I was upset about that, it would be quite ironic that I have spent 48 hours continually updating this post, or blogging about it in the first place. We are upset because stunts like this insult our intelligence and give all self-publishers and authors who use social media to promote their books a bad name.

  33. Phoenix Sullivan March 28, 2012 at 19:09 #

    Well, it appears Jeff and Mogoli have been sharing accounts since back in ’98. In this instance, Jeff appears to be using, ahem, Mogoli’s account. See the second comment:

    http://moviebytes.com/messageboard.cfm?action=DisplayMessages&topic=234&ShowAll=True

    Really, sharing message board accounts? That seems to be a bit closer than an assistant. And poor Mogoli — aspiring/budding since 1998. Oh but wait. He seems to have dropped out of sight, according to Google, between ’98 and now. Hmmm…

    And if that comment goes missing, I have thoughtfully captured a screenshot.

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 19:59 #

      I really appreciate your thoughtfulness. :-D

      And to everyone else on the Kindle Boards thread: you’re awesome!

    • Sassy Bizzness March 29, 2012 at 10:44 #

      It certainly sounded like Jeff was too defensive about the issue and the language seems strangely similar. I don’t think anyone would promote someone else’s book that aggressively if they are in the field.

      It is not unusual for people trying to appear to be more established to fake an assistant either. I fired 3 before I could afford a real life one. ;p

  34. mikebove March 28, 2012 at 19:15 #

    I got this, too. Spam in my (figurative) book.
    Sent to Trash.
    I think this kind of thing is deplorable, disgusting and all of the other de- and dis- words.

  35. Jeff Delgado-Rivera March 28, 2012 at 19:22 #

    Hi Phoenix, I actually already addressed that in my blog post that he’s been working on projects for me from time to time since I think ’97.

    As far Catherine, again, I apologize if someone felt that his spam mail insulted their intelligence or gave the entire indie community a bad name. I don’t have a lot of control over that except to take responsibility for hiring him back in the day. But I’ve resolved it as of today, like I mentioned in the post and he is no longer working with us.

    Feel free to email me if you have any other questions, etc. And thank you to those who have given me the benefit of the doubt and for a chance to tell my side of the story.

  36. Greg Scowen March 28, 2012 at 19:45 #

    Oh Jeff, you fired him? I hope he doesn’t do you for unfair dismissal.

    Jim, 100% spam. Hell , my copy even had someone else’s name! To make matters worse, I don’t have any books in Smashwords so it is impossible for it to have been read there. Automatically scraping a site like Smashwords (though I wouldn’t be suprised if Mr Coker was selling our contact details as a big list) and sending messages to everyone without them requesting it, especially without including their full contact details including address is a direct breach of the CANSPAM Act and is not just spam, but illegal.

    I did previously have my book on Smashwords, but I took it down in December. That may be why the e-mail addressed as someone else.

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 19:54 #

      Just to say in Smashwords defense, I don’t think they had anything to do with this. “Mogoli” emailed me at the address connected to this blog and not the address I use for SWs, ie. public not private info.

      Also Mark Coker’s endorsement of Rivera’s book has been removed.

      • Greg Scowen April 4, 2012 at 09:30 #

        Yes, I see that Mark sent Jeff contact asking what was going on. Jeff did the only thing he could (it was public after all – http://www.smashwords.com/about/beta see March 28) and retracted his endorsement.

  37. Jeff Delgado-Rivera March 28, 2012 at 20:03 #

    Yes Catherine, I had the Smashwords endorsement removed on both Smashwords and Amazon because I didn’t think it was fair for Mark, who’s also an honorable guy, to be dragged into something a former employee did to me. Mark didn’t ask me to, I just volunteered to do so. Well, lesson learned — thank God most of the people that work for me are top-notch. I hope no one else has to go through what I went through today.

    And if you believe, which I hope that you do, and you have posted a negative review on Amazon, in light of what happened, I’d appreciate it if you removed it. I ask you to judge the book by its content not what someone else did to me. I’d appreciate it.

    • catherineryanhoward March 28, 2012 at 20:15 #

      Thanks for clarifying that point.

      Jeff I have not posted any negative reviews on Amazon, for you or for anyone else. As a self-published author myself I know how annoying it is, both as an author and as an Amazon customer, to read reviews that are not related directly to the content of the book itself. If you knew me better, you would know that doing things like that is not my style.

      Unfortunately I cannot say I believe your explanation. This is my personal opinion and I’d invite others to draw theirs; I hope you can see in this post that I’ve invited people to draw their own conclusions based on the evidence, as I have drawn mine. Some of the issues raised in this post have been completely ignored by you, and I am reading some very disturbing things on Kindle Boards. But my blog is normally a happy, fun place (or at least, I hope it is!) and although I am glad I drew attention to this, I don’t want to continue hounding you or being a conduit for all this, especially since I suspect that no further answers would be forthcoming anyway.

      We’ll just have to agree to disagree on what has happened here and if you have been wronged, then you have my sympathy.

      Best of luck with your book.

    • Debora Geary March 28, 2012 at 20:23 #

      Jeff, there are now documented screenshots of emails very similar to Mogoli’s, coming from the same hostgator account, sent from your personal email address on your personal domain. And emails from you, offering agent access in trade for reviews of your book. (See KB thread, linked at the end of Catherine’s post).

      I think we need more answers than an old intern run amok. I like to think the best of my fellow writers, but right now, I’m pretty disturbed.

      • Debora Geary March 28, 2012 at 20:24 #

        Feel free to reply on KB. Catherine has every right to avoid chaos on her blog :). (And Catherine, thank you for surfacing this issue).

  38. Jeff Delgado-Rivera March 28, 2012 at 20:30 #

    Yes, Debora. He had access to my hostgator software account and that’s what he used to spam them out. Like Catherine said, I don’t want to give any more energy to this. I’ve apologized. I’ve told the truth but there are so many more positive things happening in the world right now and in my life and I’m sure in the readers’ lives that I’d rather focus on those and just let this pass. Since we’re all writers, I’m guessing most of us would rather spend our time writing our next book then talking about someone who was wrongly spammed. Thanks to those who have given it their attention to this and those that believe me and I wish you all the best.

  39. Portia Da Costa March 28, 2012 at 21:41 #

    Yes, I got the message too. Deleted it as obvious spam. :)

  40. Ren March 28, 2012 at 21:50 #

    I didn’t receive this one, but that may be because “Jeff Rivera” has been a keyword for my spam catcher for many years. Let’s just say this isn’t his first email-harvesting spam endeavor.

  41. Gillian Colbert March 28, 2012 at 22:08 #

    yes, I received it today and googled the author because it just seemed so off. Glad I did.

  42. amyshojai March 28, 2012 at 22:38 #

    He’s also sending to literary agents and asking them to forward his message to clients. I got that one yesterday–and she’s no longer my agent but wanted to do me the favor of the “free book.”

    Sheesh.

  43. Sam T. March 29, 2012 at 07:15 #

    Talk about desperate. Jeff’s novel isn’t doing well so now he’s resorting to all these lowbrow marketing techniques. And when the techniques fail, he hides behind an invented and imagined assistant. That’s just sad. Maybe it’s time he quits the industry before he dirties the reputation of all indie authors and publishing professionals.

    • Greg Scowen March 29, 2012 at 07:58 #

      The solution here is simple:

      Ignore any authors that spam you.

      And in addition:

      Ignore all Internet marketing professionals who defend such Spam (saying it isn’t Spam). No credibility.

      I have just created a new shelf on Goodreads called ‘Author-Spammed-Me-Blacklist’. It will fill quickly. So unfortunate.

  44. tonileland March 29, 2012 at 12:20 #

    I also received the “loved your book” spam e-mail. That subject line is enough to grab any author in their right mind, so at least the guy did something correct. LOL

    I have spent many years mentoring writers and sharing my writing experience with others, so this sort of message from a budding writer is not uncommon in my mailbox, although most of them don’t recommend writing or marketing books to me.

    Anyway, after skimming the message, noting that the writer hadn’t actually read my book (and by the way, which one? I have seven), I focused on Mark Coker’s name and discovered his wonderful new book “Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success”. I immediately went to Smashwords and downloaded it to share with fellow writers, then returned to the phony email and deleted it.

    I don’t know who Jeff Riviera is, and I didn’t follow any of the links in the message, as this is a sure-fire way to get oneself into trouble. When I’m curious about a suggested link, I manually type it into a new browser window rather than making the connection directly from my e-mail program.

    The wonder of the Internet and today’s technology has more pro’s than con’s, but we must always remember that it also makes us vulnerable, especially those of us who hope for success with our writing.

  45. Rachel E. Fisher March 29, 2012 at 14:58 #

    This seems to be the Nigerian Prince approach to sales. No one would have missed the shift from loved your book to now, buy this one. Duh.

  46. Rex Jameson March 29, 2012 at 17:09 #

    So, the negative publicity from this advertising campaign has worked in Jeff’s favor. The book has moved from #2500 on the free list to #369 on the free list and now has 25 five star, 8 four star, 3 three star, and 11 one star reviews. This will seem like a legitimate book to most readers because of the distribution of review types, and he more than likely will see paid sales for this when it comes off the free promotion.

    If you were sent an email, and you don’t believe Jeff’s story, file a complaint with the FTC under the CAN-SPAM act. Point them to Debora Geary’s analysis of multiple types of these spam emails which she shows clearly originate from Jeff’s email and not some guy named Mogoli and forward them a copy of the email you got.

    Debora’s message which shows Jeff’s email address as the originator:

    http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,109075.msg1641465.html#msg1641465

    A layman’s guide to the CAN-SPAM Act which enforces a 19,000 fine per email for this kind of unsolicited, misleading spam:

    http://www.consumerfraudreporting.org/spamcanspam.php

    Email address to forward your copy of the spam:
    spam@uce.gov

    The official FTC complaint system. It reportedly takes 5 minutes or less to detail the infraction. If everyone who received this does this, it’s likely that this attempt at “effortless marketing” will be noticed by the people that monitor and levy fines for this kind of thing.

    https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

  47. Prattle On, Boyo March 30, 2012 at 22:52 #

    Rivera’s way of marketing is quite the perpetration of douchebaggery!

  48. Sherri March 30, 2012 at 23:01 #

    Wanted to add my name to the list of recipients. I googled his name, but I found no results whatsoever. Also on FB and Twitter. It all struck me as very odd. I went ahead and replied in the helpful way I would to any clueless noob, even though it seemed skeevy. He already had my email addy, after all, and it’s not like I was going to be drawn into a phishing scheme. I didn’t download the book, because I wasn’t interested. I did ask “Mogoli” where I could find his work online. He sent a short reply saying he didn’t have any yet, but he was planning to publish soon and would let me know. With all this, I find it strange that he replied at all. Sigh, I’m probably on some list somewhere now…

  49. C. March 31, 2012 at 18:48 #

    Wow! I didn’t receive any messages being that we’re not on smashwords, but this is a grade-A example on how to lose all credibility as an indie-author. We can see from this saga that if anyone hopes to maintain themselves as honest and true, this is NOT the way to do it.

    The only reason anyone should get anything in their e-mail is because they signed up to get it. Live by this rule, authors. It’s a very simple concept.

  50. Mark Williams international March 31, 2012 at 19:36 #

    Most interesting, Catherine.

    I’ve not been party to the Kindleboards exchanges, but would just add here that last year the self-same Jeff Riviera was posing on behalf of a large number of agents all apparently very keen to represent indie authors.

    Smelling a rat or two we went along with this just to see how bad it could get.

    It transpired the number of agents was in fact just one agent, Frank, who was so impressed with out sales figures (never having read the book) that he called us across the Atlantic to tell us al about what a great film it would make (Hollywood office, friends with de Niro), and about his wonderful contacts in the Big Six.

    It quickly became apparent that this little scam was being repeated en masse with countless indie authors receiving the same personal call from the agent who bizarrely seemed to think everyone’s book he had never read would make a great film.

    Needless to say when the contract arrived it was as predatory a piece as anything we’ve ever seen, and had nothing to offer in the way of film rights but a lot to show this agent who had never read our book would be earning off it in perpetuity were he to make a deal.

    Sure enough Jeff emailed occasionally to see how things were going – presumably to see if we’d signed up to so he get his commission. It seemed clear the scam was to get as many indies signed up as possible so that when one or two got successful Frank and Jeff had a finger in the pie.

    When we questioned some (most) of the offensive clauses in the contract the agent suddenly lost interest, as did Jeff Riviera. Neither were heard from again.

    We have the email exchanges on record should anyone be interested.

    • catherineryanhoward March 31, 2012 at 21:04 #

      That’s very disturbing to hear, but also not surprising in light of what we’ve learned so far. I know that there are concerned parties still investigating this whole debacle, and I’ll pass this information onto them. Thanks for letting us know.

    • Victoria Strauss April 1, 2012 at 21:00 #

      I’m interested (Writer Beware). Could you contact me, please? My email address is beware [at] sfwa.org. Thanks!

  51. Karin Kaufman March 31, 2012 at 23:26 #

    Yup. I got the email too, on March 26. As soon as I read it I knew something smelled, so I didn’t answer it. Then I decided to do a Google search on this “Mogoli Angelberg.” Thanks, Catherine, for your excellent research into this scam. Ever thought of being an investigative journalist? :)

  52. Bill Davis April 1, 2012 at 00:58 #

    It’s not ethical at all. I don’t think I would have even clicked on the links, for security’s sake.

  53. Steve Taylor April 1, 2012 at 02:53 #

    Yikes. Slimy marketers provide never ending cheap amusement – and white hot anger.

    A friend once had a private mailing list for friends who were interested in following his bike ride around Australia. Somehow some sleazoid who billed himself as a “life coach” got hold of the address and sent us all email about how we could all find greatness within ourselves etc. I spent a long night slaving over a hot search engine signing him up for every disreputable email I could find on the web.

    One objection though – if I had some reason to contact you (I don’t) I’d try to find your email address and then I’d send you an email – and I’m not marketing ebooks or miracle cancer cures. I’m not even selling magic quantum healing stick on patches.

    Web contact forms annoy me because they mean there’s a part of my conversation with the world which isn’t captured in my ‘sent email’ folder, and which I cannever search for – so that particular indicator of sleaziness may not always be reliable.

    • catherineryanhoward April 1, 2012 at 11:47 #

      I understand what you mean about the sent items issue, but I think first and foremost you have to respect what the person you’re trying to contact wants, and unless they have their e-mail prominently displayed somewhere or they’ve given it to you, I’d always stick with Contact forms in the first instance. It’s not that I ignore direct mailings because of course my e-mail is on my business card and who knows where they’ve ended up (!), it’s just I’m more wary of them when I’ve never had contact with the person before, because I ask myself why didn’t they do what I asked, i.e. the Contact form.

      And well done on your revenge—very fitting! :-)

  54. Linda Acaster April 1, 2012 at 07:56 #

    Having just read your blogpost I’ll add my name to the list of recipients of this spam email (28 March). I knew it wasn’t right from the off, worked out how it had arrived and went on to Amazon to see if I could find it – *never* click a suspect link – and there was the first of the one star reviews and the reason why. I was so incensed I added my two penn’th as well, but on the AmazonUK site to warn potential buyers. As to JR’s “removing” the book – well it is still up there for sale. Surprise, surprise.

    • catherineryanhoward April 1, 2012 at 11:49 #

      I had noticed that Jeff’s book is STILL on Amazon. I’m giving him a weekend’s worth of the benefit of the doubt because I’ve never deleted an e-book with KDP and perhaps it takes a few hours to come down. But I do suspect that it’ll still be there Monday morning…

      • catherineryanhoward April 2, 2012 at 00:31 #

        In fairness to Jeff, I just did a search on Amazon.com for Effortless Marketing and it looks like the book has been removed. (It’s just after midnight on Monday 2nd April, Irish time.)

  55. staciakane1 April 1, 2012 at 18:41 #

    Oh, Jeff Rivera. No matter how rude I am to him in emails or on my blog, he still keeps emailing me at my old email address, addressing me by my own pen name, promising he can find me an agent.

    This despite the fact that my email replies come from this pen name, and include review quotes from my NY-published novels, and he’s visited my site and blog, and I’ve told him several times already that not only do I think his “agent finding service” or whatever he calls it is unethical but I’ve had an agent for four years now.

    He emailed me to plug this book, promising that if I review it he could give me a list of agents who are waiting–yes, waiting!!–to hear from little ole ME and possibly even represent me. In fact, Jeff Rivera is just *dying* to give me that information (in exchange for a review).

    When I responded to remind him–yet again–that not only am I ably represented with deals in NY and all over the world, but I haven’t written under the pen name he insists on using for over five years, he replied to say that was good news and he sure hoped I’d read his free book just the same.

    (I blogged about him once before, here: http://www.staciakane.net/2009/11/12/yes-virginia-you-need-an-agent/#comments if anyone wants to see it.)

    • catherineryanhoward April 1, 2012 at 18:57 #

      Why am I not surprised?!

      Really enjoyed your blog post—although I wonder if the “unnamed published author” exists…? And the irony that it’s written by someone who is desperately trying to get all us self-publishers signed to agents (let alone traditionally published authors) is overwhelming…

      • staciakane1 April 1, 2012 at 20:10 #

        Ha, yes, I noticed that irony as well. So Mr. Rivera thinks agents are silly and unnecessary, but gee, if you want one he’ll help you! In fact, I’ve just checked through my old emails and I do still have the one where he offered to write my query letter for me–for money, of course, rather a lot of it–without having read the book itself.

        I doubt the “unnamed published author” exists, but it is possible. I’ve known of a couple of writers who say they have a friend with those complaints; I suspect it’s apocryphal or One Entitled Guy whining up a storm. :-)

  56. staciakane1 April 1, 2012 at 20:11 #

    Oh, and thanks! I enjoyed yours as well. :-)

  57. Linda April 2, 2012 at 11:45 #

    Thanks again for reminding me that I really should do something about those spam messages from the likes of Jeff Rivera instead of just deleting them which is what I do at present. I’ve been getting them for years, but because I get so many others too I just work my way down my inbox and click ‘delete’.

    I remember when affiliate marketing tactics like this first started (god help me I’m getting old!) so now is the time to remove my email address from all the marketing lists I seem to have added myself to over the years when I signed up to get that ‘free guide to the next big thing’ .. reminder to self – stop it Linda, it never is a free guide and it’s never the next big thing ;-)

  58. Vera April 3, 2012 at 09:40 #

    I’m so sick of spam promotion like this.

  59. Cheryl Kaye Tardif April 4, 2012 at 06:38 #

    I’m not here to rant. This situation is a sad one. I’m sorry but I don’t think Jeff and this Mogoli guy are the same person at all. I know Jeff Rivera. I’ve known him for a few years. He’s a wonderful person who has done so much for so many writers–including me.

    A few years ago I tried Jeff’s agent query service. Do you want to know the result? I had dozens of agents lined up wanting to sign me. I’d been trying to get an agent for DECADES with no success. I collected rejection letter after rejection letter. After trying Jeff’s service, I signed with the late and great Jack Scovil from Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency in New York.

    As for Mogoli and Jeff using the same account, that’s too easy to do. I have multiple accounts myself on Facebook and Twitter (and blogs) and have accidentally signed in under the wrong account and posted something, only to discover my error days later.

    I also have assistants. They do make mistakes. They do get over eager. They do make wrong choices at times. I had to let an assistant go myself because she made a wrong choice. It happens.

    I totally get why you blogged about all this. The spam emails were so NOT cool. That’s not the way to market a book. You’re right. I’m an international bestselling author and a publisher, so I have some experience in book marketing. You’re right that this Mogoli guy did something unethical and uncool. Jeff fired him. What else was he supposed to do. It takes a person of character to publicly apologize repeatedly online.

    I believe Jeff deserves the benefit of the doubt. We’re often too quick to jump to conclusions. We want to blame someone. I hear ya on that! Really! Getting spam like that would piss me off too. But blame Mogoli. Who cares if he doesn’t have an internet presence. Not everyone does. You can assume all you want, but you know what they say about assuming.

    Jeff is an educated man with a great heart. You don’t have to believe me, but that’s the truth. He doesn’t write emails in bad English. He probably tried to give Mogoli a break–because that’s the kind of guy Jeff is. He just chose the wrong person to trust.

    Regarding giving things in return for reviews: authors do that all the time. I see it everywhere in my industry. We give free copies of books. We give entries into contests. Whatever. The only thing that would be unethical about this is if he demanded 5 star reviews in exchange for his list. When I give something in return for a review (usually a contest entry) I ask for only honest reviews. And reviewers are always free to write that they received something–and they should–in exchange for writing a review. This is a more recent change in how reviewing is done.

    It’s easy to stir the fire of controversy online. I just think you should know that there are always two sides to a story. Jeff has told you his. I don’t get why you’re all so quick to disbelieve him. There are many people who support Jeff and believe he had no idea HOW his assistant was approaching people. Yes, you’re right. He should have screened all outgoing emails. But what if Mogoli did this on his own time, thinking he was helping? It’s possible. Yes, it was a huge inconvenience to everyone who received the spam. I get that. Yes, it looks hokey. I get that too. I’m the queen of skeptics, believe me. But where’s the PROOF that Jeff was actually involved and knew about this and endorsed this approach? There is none. No proof.

    Innocent until proven guilty…isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work?

    From Jeff’s replies, I can see he’s sorry for what Mogoli has done. He’s embarrassed and probably a bit depressed at how far this exploded. It saddens me to see him caught up in such controversy because he’s a genuinely good person.

    What if this happened to you? It’s easy to respond with, “This would never happen to me because I’d monitor every movement my assistant made.” But what if it did happen? How else could you fix it? You could only fire the guy, apologize to everyone affected and try to move on–learning from the experience to better monitor your assistants.

    I’m not here to rant. I just think you should hear from someone who knows Jeff. He’s not the guy you’re painting him out to be.

    Cheryl Kaye Tardif
    International bestselling author & publisher at Imajin Books

    http://www.cherylktardif.com

    http://www.imajinbooks.com

    P.S.: Feel free to google my name to see if I have an internet presence. I guarantee you I am NOT Jeff Rivera or his assistant. But I am his friend.

    • catherineryanhoward April 4, 2012 at 08:05 #

      Thanks for commenting Cheryl.

      Jeff himself has already responded to this post more than once and released two statements in relation to the incident (which I also linked to from the main post) so he has already been able to tell his side of the story. Unfortunately the majority of us just don’t believe him, based on the information we’ve been presented with and the information we’ve discovered since. It’s your right to believe otherwise, as it is my right to disagree with you.

      I would also take issue with your comments that I am an ass and that I am painting Jeff out to be someone he’s not. Firstly, I wouldn’t make a habit of insulting the people whose blog you’re taking time to comment on, and secondly, I’m not painting Jeff out to be anything. In fact, I have been careful not to. I have only presented the information, linked to places where other people have presented related information, drawn my own conclusions and invited others to do the same.

      Also please see my comment policy re: self-promotional links, abusive/insulting comments, and comment length for future reference.

  60. Cheryl Kaye Tardif April 4, 2012 at 08:08 #

    Sorry, I forgot to mention a few things. :-) I haven’t read Jeff’s marketing book so I have no idea what advice he’s recommending in it. But I suspect it’s not that much different from the advice J.A. Konrath or John Locke give. I could be wrong. Search online and you’ll find lots of book marketing advice. What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. I don’t agree with everything I’ve read or heard. I left a traditional publisher because of their unethical practices.

    BTW, I’m not the only one Jeff has helped to secure a literary agent. Check out the Kindleboards and you’ll find others.

    I’ve been traditionally published and self-published, and am no longer represented by an agent as I decided to go back to my roots of self-publishing, although I was recently approached by one of the big agencies in New York. I’m an advocate for self-publishing. But I won’t force someone to do it. It’s not for every writer.

    I’m also a publisher. For one simple reason: not everyone wants to be self-published. Many writers yearn for the publishing deal–for all kinds of reasons. I was lucky to be able to follow my dreams and write full time. And I’m honored to be able to help others achieve their dreams.

    That’s all Jeff wanted to do. Help others.

    Cheryl

  61. Cheryl Kaye Tardif April 4, 2012 at 20:07 #

    Catherine says: “I would also take issue with your comments that I am an ass…I wouldn’t make a habit of insulting the people whose blog you’re taking time to comment on”

    Catherine, please show me where I said you were an ass. I can’t find any mention of an ass in my comments above. And I certainly had no intentions of insulting you. I don’t know you. But if you felt insulted, my apologies.

    I was under the impression this was an open discussion and that comments were open to both sides of this discussion. If I was wrong, feel free to delete all my comments above.

    • catherineryanhoward April 4, 2012 at 23:51 #

      Re: your comment about “assuming.” Also, it is self-evident that this is a discussion open to all sides: recipients of the email, Jeff and my regular blog readers. I’m not sure where you come in.

      • Greg Scowen April 5, 2012 at 07:25 #

        Cheryl comes in as a long-established colleague of Jeff’s (they post together on Blogs and marketing groups and have praised each other a few times) and as a self-claimed shameless promoter (one of her Blogs).

        Cheryl, you clearly called Catherine an ‘ass’ with your comment about assuming.

        Assuming you have really known Jeff for so many years (which by your Blogs you do, by all accounts) it strikes me as odd that you never met Mogoli. But as you yourself have said, you have multiple Facebook and Twitter accounts (breach of terms of service) and sometimes accidentally log in with the wrong one. is it a habit of ‘shameless self promoters’ like you and Jeff to create these fake personas?
        Either way, thanks for confirming that you use multiple identities in your marketing, which just strengthens our suspicions that this is what Jeff has done.

  62. Cheryl Kaye Tardif April 5, 2012 at 17:30 #

    Um, Greg, why are you personally attacking me? I simply stated I’ve known Jeff. I don’t use secret personas. To say I do, borders on slander. All writers promote their books. “Shameless” means “without shame.” It has no underlying evil meaning than that. Every writer I know is a shameless promoter of their books. Yes, some go overboard with their marketing. People are people.

    I’ve known Jeff via social networks and the internet. We met once when my husband and I traveled to San Francisco. Why would you assume I would have met Mogoli? I find it odd that you would assume this. North America is huge. I’m from Canada; Jeff is from the US. He happened to be in the same US city, visiting as well.

    Anyways, you all can rant on. I came here for one purpose. To present the Jeff I know, not the one people are making him out to be, and to support my friend. Because that’s the kind of person I am. I support my friends.

    Wishing you all the best.

    • davidgaughran April 6, 2012 at 08:23 #

      Several points, Cheryl.

      1. “Mogoli Angelberg” was supposed to be working for Jeff Rivera on and off for the last 15 years. If this is true, Jeff Rivera can clear up the matter of his existence very quickly. There must be all sorts of documentation with regard to his employment, but the fact is that Jeff Rivera hasn’t provided one shred of evidence that Mongoli Angelberg exists. On the other hand, there is considerable evidence linked to above that suggests the opposite.

      2. Offering agent access in return for reviews is not only unethical, but it’s against Amazon KDP’s Terms of Service.

      3. I have actually read Jeff Rivera’s marketing book. The tactics he recommends are quite spammy and insincere. The book is filled with bad advice (and typos).

      4. “That’s all Jeff wanted to do. Help others.” Please. If that’s the case, then why does he charge $900 for his query writing service?

  63. Anton A. Hill May 24, 2012 at 22:35 #

    Hi Catherine,

    Jeff Rivera is a friend and so when I found out about all this, I was quite disturbed. I’ve since written him asking for the facts. Thanks for your diligent documenting. :)

    Best,

    Anton.

  64. EmilyRachelle February 1, 2013 at 23:28 #

    Wish I’d found this earlier… reading this right now for the first time and am blown away. I got a “Loved your blog, just wanted to say hi” email from Jeff at a hostgater account a while back, which I deleted because it seemed spammy. Then he sent a follow-up so I replied and just said hi. A little while later he asked me about what YA books I think are going to be bestsellers (I’m a YA book blogger mostly, so at least there’s that) and I replied. He seemed nice. I found him on Wikipedia. I liked him on Facebook. And then he came out with this odd kids’ book that became an Amazon bestseller and the whole thing seemed weird to me. Then he started talking about his upcoming book which was dealing a controversial subject I won’t mention but to say that I am not politically correct on it and he seems to be so; I just unliked his page and decided to put him out of mind.

    • catherineryanhoward February 2, 2013 at 02:17 #

      Hmm. Interesting! Will have to have a Google. Thanks for stopping by!

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