Tomorrow, my interview with The Book Designer goes live. Here’s the link to the article: Andrea Ring on Becoming a Bestselling Author (and Her Experience with Promoter Rebecca Hamilton)
Since I gave the interview, a great deal of controversy has come out about these box sets, how Rebecca conducts herself, and how she conducts business.
I first learned of the controversy on The Passive Voice. I read TPV daily, and on April 28, one of the headlines was “The Bestseller Box Set Gig.” The excerpt posted talked about the illegitimacy of 20 authors banding together to try to hit a bestseller list using black-hat marketing methods such as gifting thousands of copies. And PG (the Passive Guy), who I respect, commented that “when everybody is a bestselling author, the marketing benefits from such claims decline substantially in value.”
I happen to agree with PG. I didn’t join the set to make a list, but to push myself and learn about marketing. (But that’s irrelevant to the discussion.) I had just been through the grueling process of joining a box set effort and trying to market it and cooperating with 21 other authors, and I could personally attest that all of our marketing methods were above board. I could shrug off the commonly held notion that 20+ authors hitting a list is not the same thing as hitting a list on your own with a single title (it’s not, although it’s still legitimate), but many commenters were suggesting that I was unethical, that no one had ever benefited either monetarily nor career-wise from such participation, and that the whole thing is akin to vanity publishing and buying your way to success.
I was heartsick to learn that so many people felt this way. I wanted to comment, but by the time I had seen the article (I was out of town), comments had been closed. (I don’t think I ever recall PG closing comments, BTW.)
And my interview was still out there, processing.
So I sent an email to my contact at The Book Designer, alerting her to the post and saying that if they needed to pull the interview with all the controversy, I understood.
And in the mean time, I read the entire article referenced in The Passive Voice post. On one hand, I could refute a lot of the underhanded methods cited as occurring in every box set – they weren’t used in mine. We didn’t pay for reviews. We didn’t incentivize readers to buy books. We didn’t gift thousands of copies (although we did gift some – about 3% of our total sales, and many of those were not claimed – but Amazon’s Terms of Service allows for gifting).
On the other hand, some damning evidence was provided about these things going on in other sets or in other services offered by Rebecca’s business, GenreCrave. There was evidence of bullying authors into silence if they disagreed with Rebecca or asked for a refund.
I went from heartsick to feeling physically ill. I combed through every post online I could find about the situation. I re-read my contract and compared it to what people were saying. I admit, I became obsessed.
I consider myself an ethical person. I would never, ever bully someone nor condone the same from someone else. I’ve never paid for a review – I barely have any reviews on my books! Many of my books focus on ethics and philosophical debates, for crying out loud! How did I get mixed up in this? Especially when I’d truly had a positive experience and was proud of myself for doing something so against my nature?
So I took a deep breath. My career was not at stake. Not really. No one’s ever heard of me. 🙂
But my personal integrity IS at stake.
Our box set was scheduled to be taken down on May 2nd, and I could only sigh in relief. BUT…we got a message in our box set Facebook group that Amazon was offering to promote the set if we stayed in KDP Select for another 90 days.
And The Book Designer wanted to run my interview despite the controversy.
I agonized. I toiled. My husband and friends wanted to strangle me, I’m sure. I finally decided to pull my book from the set. And I agreed to let the interview run.
The other authors and I in our box set did nothing wrong. We worked hard, and that’s it. We don’t deserve to be painted as villains, as unethical, as black hatters. And that’s why I continued with the interview. While my career might not take a hit from the association with Rebecca, the careers of a lot of the other authors in my set might. I had an opportunity to set the record straight about the Dark Humanity box set, and I took it.
This interview is not an endorsement of every service Rebecca ever gave or will give – I only have this experience to relate. And it’s not meant to ignore or negate others’ experiences.
I will also say that the discussion online about the entire controversy has been continuing even up until this very moment, and I’ve been following as I’ve had the time. And to answer the questions I’m sure I will receive at some point…
Yes, my feelings have changed since I originally gave the interview.
Yes, I’m questioning everything that was done in our box set. The marketing methods were above board. Period. But other issues have been pointed out regarding Amazon’s ToS, and I’m considering those and if they apply to our set. At this point, I’m not sure what I could do about those things if I believe we were in violation, but I will absolutely own up to it.
To be continued…