Thursday, January 9, 2014

How To Sell Your Integrity, $470 At A Time

Here are two new questions authors need to add to their vetting process when considering hiring out for costly author courses, services and how-to books:

Do you have an affiliate program for this product or service I'm considering, and if so, how much of the sales price will be paid to the affiliate advertiser?

Imagine that the answers to those questions are, "Yes, I do have an affiliate program, and half of the price you pay is sent back to the affiliate whose link you followed."

So far, so bad. Now imagine the price you're being asked to pay is $940, and $470 of that fee will be paid to the affiliate.

Pick your jaw up off the ground because I'm sorry to tell you, this is not some far-fetched scenario. Today I received this exact offer to become an affiliate advertiser for someone offering author and book marketing/publicity products and services.

I get affiliate requests pretty frequently but anyone who reads this blog or visits the Publetariat site regularly knows I don't say "yes" to many of them. Today's request is just about the best example I've seen to date for explaining why.

Here are the pertinent excerpts from the email invitation, with my comments below each. Note that any boldface emphasis in the quoted passages has been added by me.

I am writing today to suggest a partnership: make this course available simply by letting their existence be known. With my affiliate program, the seller earns a full 50% commission. Although the science exposed is worth hundreds of times more then what is being charged for this air-tight system, the Amazon course is priced at a disquieting rock-bottom $937! Each time a client purchases the course, $468.50 will be deposited into your PayPal account.

I wouldn't call $940 for a course in how to game Amazon a "rock-bottom" or "disquieting" price. Well, maybe disquieting, but not in the way this offer intends. Considering how many books and courses on that very topic are already available for a fraction of that price, and how many free resources are available on that topic as well, I'd say "highway robbery" is a more accurate descriptor to use here.

So why is the price so high, you wonder? That would be on account of the $470 this publicist pays the affiliate on each sale generated by the affiliate.

If I were to accept this offer and start promoting the program to my readers, and one of those readers who signed up were to later learn HALF the cost she paid for the program went to me as an affiliate advertiser fee, she would feel I'd been dishonest and greedy, and that the publicist had ripped her off. And she'd be right.

How could I possibly stand behind this program as a good value for the money, knowing HALF of that money is going to pay (maybe "bribe" is the more accurate term to use here) affiliates? How could this course possibly be worth $940 if the woman who created it is willing to give away half the purchase price on every sale to an affiliate?

Please let me know if it would be of interest to sample the course to ascertain this match made in heaven: a plethora of magical material tailor-made for the self-published author, coupled with exposure to a large population of our shared target market. A mere 20 sales a month garners a cool six figure side-income- not bad for mailbox money!

This is the passage that troubles me the most about the email because there are plenty of desperate and greedy people out there in the online bookish world who will immediately accept this invitation, start promoting the hell out of the program, and have no ethical qualms about it at all.

These are some tough economic times and as a single mom raising two kids, one of whom is heading off to culinary school this fall, I could definitely use the additional income. But I won't line my pockets by emptying the pockets of people who trust me. follow-up tradebook, [Title] ...This industry textbook is chock full of secrets about which PR firms never want their clients to know. In and of itself, [this book] is worth thousands of dollars. However, I also sell it independently for $295 because our goal is to help the self-published author achieve at an affordable price-point.

I wouldn't say $300 is "an affordable price-point" for a BOOK. At least, not unless there's a cashier's check for at least $250 bound into it. And given that elsewhere in the email she says she throws this book in for free when someone buys the $940 program, it's hard to believe it's really worth anything near $300.

So I'm going to reply to this woman with a fairly curt, "No," and invite her to read this blog post if she wants to know why I'm not taking her up on "this match made in heaven", and why I'm not anxious to start working on that six-figure side income.

My integrity is not for sale.


Bridget McKenna said...

Still picking up my jaw...

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you didn't take that $470. I've been made several "offers" to sell things on my blog. So in response, I've explained in my about me page that I don't sell things like webinars, seminars or books. Now, I don't get any more of those offers.

Mick Rooney said...

The reality is that self-publishing might be losing some of the old vanity stigma, but it's ripe for more sophisticated money making scams. I've seen everything over the past couple of years in this arena - the ponzi, pyramid and crap as gold. Unfortunately the online arena and any service associated with it has become the new breading ground for the old 'earn $$$$ by doing nothing'.

The Daring Novelist said...

Actually, it's more insidious than that....

The point of this kind of marketing isn't to get you to sell the product (though that's a bonus for them if you do). It's really a backdoor way to get you to buy a copy (perhaps at a "discounted" rate).

Affiliate marketing of this sort is really a multilevel marketing (i.e. chain mail) scam. The orginator makes a ton of money of the sucker affiliates, and the affiliates are left holding the bag.

April L. Hamilton said...

Daring Novelist: I don't think it's a pyramid scheme, because she's not asking me to sell her stuff directly to other people, and she's also not asking me to pay for anything myself. It's an affiliate program, where those who send customers to her are paid a (ridiculously inflated) fee. It's Payola, in the author services world.

The Daring Novelist said...

April, no it's not an illegal pyramid scheme -- but the way people make money on these is to sell to affiliates. It's a very well known method of finding suckers who will pay an outrageous price.

The thing to remember is that nobody thinks that $900 is a good price, but people who are looking for a get-rich-quick scheme are also the same people who will pay $400 for something they think is half price.

That is, affiliate marketers are the primary audience for courses like this.

Sign up for it and it won't be long before you, as an affiliate, will be offered a great price on the product. (And in some cases, they will use some surprise strong arm tactics. Some of these companies have an obfuscated clause in the long TOS you agree to when you become and affiliate, that says you agree to buy the product. Nobody reads the TOS thoroughly, so if you don't fall for the sales pitch, they try to get you via threatening letters. Not all do this, but it is a part of the scheme.)

I'm not kidding or speculating here. People sell books on how to do this (mostly at a high price to affiliate marketers, actually.)

High priced affiliate programs are based on the idea that anybody who would agree to be an affiliate is the most likely person to actually buy the product. If they happen to sell the product to others, great -- but the product isn't really designed to sell to any other demographic. And getting you to be an affiliate is the first step to selling you on buying the product yourself.

April L. Hamilton said...

Daring Novelist: I really don't think that's the case here, because this publicist has been featured in numerous, major media outlets. I'd think if it were such a transparent scam, she wouldn't be appearing on legitimate talk shows and the like.