How to Spot a Marketing Scam

Is This Worth It? XYZ Book of the Month Club

I received a letter today saying that a certain XYZ Book of the Month Club (not the original one, not the real one) wanted to feature my book in their book club - and all it would cost me was $2999! Wow.

They are nominating, they say, 200 titles and only the first 50 will be accepted. Gosh, I'd better act right away.

Here's what they are offering us:

1. Inclusion in a full-color glossy newspaper insert delivered to 200,000 subscribers [title listed only? book cover? description? more?].

2. A telemarketing program to bookstores selling special Book of the Month fixtures [not necessarily, though, selling my title].

3. A comprehensive book review by Bowker, the publishing industry's most authoritative source [you can buy this review yourself for much less].

4. An email campaign to 500,000 opt-in book club members [for my title alone, or with all 50 other titles, or for the book club in general? And where did they get 500,000 opt-in members? What kind of books are they interested in reading?].

5. A featured position on the home page of our book club website [50 titles on one page will make for a crowded featured position, and for how long?].

6. A featured position on the book club page of our bookselling website [ditto the above].

7. A featured position on the home page of our bookselling website [ditto, again].

8. Two 30-second commercials on a nationally syndicated AM radio show [for my title alone, or for the book club, or for all 50 titles, or what? Even if for my title alone, what is the real cost of such a buy?]

9. A twenty-four-hour toll-free number for book orders [gosh, what a bonus].

10. Book of the Month stickers for all books and postcards featuring your cover [cost: depends on how many?].

No guarantee. No mention of any sales other than the millions of dollars in book sales made every month by the book clubs sponsored by Oprah and The Today Show.

Hmm? Should I spend that $2999 for this incredible opportunity?

Well, I hope you know the answer to that one. NOPE.

But, gosh, if any of you are thinking about buying into this opportunity, I've got a bridge to sell you as well. This is not a good offer. It might be if the web sites were actually visited by millions of people. It might be if my title was the featured title for at least a week. It might be if there were some sort of real guarantee. But probably not.

My guess is that this letter I received went out to many thousands of publishers not just 200 as the letter said. Indeed, I received two copies of the letter (for two of my books so far). If they really want 50 participants in this program, they'll need to mail at least several thousand letters, given normal response rates, and probably as many as 10,000 letters, given the price of the program.

Note: I did not give the real name of this book club because I don't want to get sued. If you get such a letter, make your own decision about its value.

My point is that there are many such opportunities. I see them every day. Most are not worth the money. The keys are: Do you know the source? Do you trust them? Have you seen their work before? Do they offer a solid guarantee? Do they have satisfied customers from previous promotions? Do they know what they are doing? Most important, will it have a chance of paying off? What are the real risks versus the potential rewards?

John Kremer is author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books. For more information, see his main web site at

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