Tales From the Sith Witch - The Official Blog of Julie Ann Dawson

Author Ethics Series

October 31, 2011

Author Ethics Wall of Shame: “How To Sell More Books On Amazon”

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Following is the review I posted to a book that was brought to my attention by an indie author who was extremely upset to buy it, only to discover it was full of some of the most unethical tripe possible.


One of the most overtly unethical and heinous examples of everything that is currently plaguing the self-publishing industry, How To Sell More Books On Amazon: 8 Clever Promotional Strategies using nothing else but the Amazon Marketplace deserves a special place in the Ninth Ring of Hell.  Most scam artists at least make an attempt to hide the contempt they have for the people they want to rip off.  But con artist Michael Jeffries doesn’t even bother.  No, in his book, he actively encourages authors to create fake accounts with which to write bogus reviews of their own books, to use those sock puppet accounts to vote down bad reviews from real customers, and to write reviews of popular books as a means of promoting your own book.  The fact is, I doubt this guy is even using his real name.  He probably is publishing under a fake name hoping people searching for the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch will think he is the same guy.  Seriously, the book is THAT HORRIFIC in terms of poor ethical behavior that I would not put it pass this guy.

I’ve requested that Amazon refund my money and reported this book for violations of the Amazon terms of service.  I suspect they will be looking into the five star reviews posted to this book soon enough.  After all, the author tells people to create fake accounts in order to leave positive reviews (he even explains how to get around the requirement to purchase something before leaving a review by using different credit cards).  I’m pretty sure all of his glowing reviews should be looked at with suspicion.


Just how bad is this?  In his Piggybacking section, he encourages abusing the review system to promote his own books.  He knows this is a violation of the Amazon policies, and so encourages the potential author to use sock puppet accounts:

“important note here is to NEVER insert your own book link into a review using the account to which you have your book linked to. It will be just a matter of time until the Amazon Police send you an email telling you to remove your link.”

Jeffries, Michael (2011-10-01). How To Sell More Books On Amazon: 8 Clever Promotional Strategies using nothing else but the Amazon Marketplace (Kindle Locations 73-74). Kindle Edition.

From that quote, we see that the author very, very clearly KNOWS what he is promoting is not just shady, but a direct violation of Amazon’s terms of service.

“Some may call these tactics I’m about to cover walking the fine line of ethics, but my goal is not to tell you what I think is morally right or wrong. My only purpose is to present to you a set of tools to help you promote your book using nothing else but the Amazon web site. These are not theories or ideas, but strategies that…”

Jeffries, Michael (2011-10-01). How To Sell More Books On Amazon: 8 Clever Promotional Strategies using nothing else but the Amazon Marketplace (Kindle Locations 134-136). Kindle Edition.

The above little disclaimer is sort of like a pimp giving advice to a hooker on how not to get caught by the police, while still claiming not to be a criminal.

“It’s time to build your very own “Promotional Team” of independent reviewers that you can use at your disposal to get your book noticed by your target market. One clever way to do this is to simply open multiple Amazon Accounts.”

Jeffries, Michael (2011-10-01). How To Sell More Books On Amazon: 8 Clever Promotional Strategies using nothing else but the Amazon Marketplace (Kindle Locations 146-148). Kindle Edition.

To every indie author out there that wonders why the Amazon forums have become a virtual war zone when trying to talk about your book…for every indie author who wonders why reviewers refuse to review indie books…for every indie author that wonders why so many people in the traditional industry refuse to take self-publishing seriously…THIS IS WHY.  People like this scumbag drag all of us down by flagrantly promoting such ridiculously unethical behavior.

What I would like to do now is make an example of this person in order to send a warning to every scumbag out there that plans to abuse the buying public and drag our collective names through the mud in the process.  What I would like to ask you all to do is to go to this book’s page, go to the bottom where it says “Report this content as inappropriate,” then select “Violates Amazon Kindle Terms of Service.”  And then let Amazon know that this book encourages people to violate the TOS.

DON’T leave a review (unless you are one of those unfortunates who bought this book thinking it was a legitimate book) and DON’T comment on the fake reviews! Don’t stoop to this scum’s level. But many people have bought this thing thinking it was a real marketing book, and therefore I personally feel an obligation to see to it this guy doesn’t earn a dime on this unethical digital toilet paper.

  1. Sharing this, thank you!

    Comment by CM — October 31, 2011 @ 8:34 pm
  2. Done. Though I freely admit it’s things like this that give me second thoughts when I think about putting together a collection of some of my short work and selling them online. I know there are plenty of people out there who aren’t engaging in unethical behavior, and there is quality work out there.

    Despite that, various stigma still remain, and I can’t help but ask myself if the couple dollars I’m likely to make is worth the hassle.

    Comment by Josh Benton (@ComicbookJosh) — October 31, 2011 @ 9:12 pm
  3. I think I just fell in love with a Sith Witch. Bravo, Julie for holding people to account. You rock!

    Comment by Jeanne Miller — October 31, 2011 @ 9:26 pm
  4. Josh, your concerns are exactly the reason why I am so aggressive on this issue. Good people (even those that send zombies after me) should not feel held back because of the actions of a few. And in truth, most indies ARE good folks who work very hard to do the right thing. The problem is that when a bad egg is revealed…it tends to be an obscenely bad one like this guy.

    Comment by Julie Dawson — October 31, 2011 @ 9:45 pm
  5. Thank you for saving me my time and money. Can you point us struggling indi authrs to some good, ethical resources on book promotion?

    Comment by lucinda — October 31, 2011 @ 10:24 pm
  6. Hey now, it was only zombie pictures, not actual zombies.

    Comment by Josh Benton (@ComicbookJosh) — November 1, 2011 @ 12:57 pm
  7. I see all the reviews have been removed except yours. :) I guess Amazon will take it seriously when people have a legitimate complaint. So good to know. Again, let me say…you rock!

    Comment by Jeanne Miller — November 1, 2011 @ 9:00 pm
  8. The book is now unavailable for sale. You rock!

    Comment by Janet — November 2, 2011 @ 2:23 am
  9. The entire page has gone. But the worse thing is, *I* think, is that some green authors will be following his words and getting a bad reputation.

    Comment by louise — November 2, 2011 @ 4:41 am
  10. My work is done here! lol
    But thank you all for doing your part to help clean up the industry.

    Comment by Julie Dawson — November 2, 2011 @ 9:29 am
  11. Wow! Talk about power to the people. The book has been completely pulled from the site. Rather ranked that son of a b***h right down there with the pedophile book. Nice to see that Amazon has ethics. Well done!

    Comment by Jesse V Coffey — November 5, 2011 @ 12:43 am
  12. I’m in utter shock. For years–heck, even when I was in highschool–professors and fellow fledgling writers have been warning me never to go the self-publish route. I always figured that this had to do with the poor editing quality plaguing most indie books(though I have read a few recently that have been superb) than any ethical problems. After all, I figured that since most authors I know are honest people there was no way that they could be guilty of all the things the Internet claims that they–as self-published authors–are guilty of. And the tragic part is that they aren’t. It’s people like this arse who give self-published authors(some of whom are my friends) a bad reputation.

    “Some may call these tactics I’m about to cover walking the fine line of ethics, but my goal is not to tell you what I think is morally right or wrong…”

    For starters, this man clearly does not know the difference between a moral code and an ethical code. For all I know, his moral code says that it is perfectly acceptable to scam would-be readers and break a company’s policies. Morals–while they can be fantastic things–shift depending upon the person who is defining them. Ethics however generally have a fixed nature. By deliberately breaking the rules of the company hosting your work and proceeding to inform others how to break that company’s rules, you are not “walking the fine line of ethics”. You are deliberating crossing over into the unethical(and I would argue that in this instance, the line of separating the ethical and unethical is not fine but VERY clearly defined).

    Comment by Luna — June 13, 2012 @ 8:06 pm

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