27 March 2015

Has Bookbzz Buzzed Off?

I’m not sure if I’m disappointed, angry or red-faced embarrassed. Either way I owe all my friends and readers a profound apology.



Remember a few weeks ago I was asking nicely (well OK also threatening with a rather sharp cutlass) for votes for Sea Witch my pirate-based nautical adventure with a touch of fantasy? I often describe the Sea Witch Voyages as: “A cross between Hornblower and Pirates of the Caribbean, with a dash of Richard Sharpe (Bernard Cornwell’s Napoleonic novels) blended with James Bond and Indiana Jones.” I think that sums them up nicely.


I was thrilled when so many of you offered your support to me (and my pirate, Jesamiah Acorne).  With well over a couple of hundred votes we won. I told Jes to put the cutlass away, which he did and promptly went off to celebrate with a keg or two of rum.
Unfortunately he has to get the cutlass out again and go in search of two who, it seems, are possibly real pirates.

The whole thing, the Bookbzz website, the offer to advertise books and running the competition it transpires, was very possibly all a scam. Or maybe the people running it, Conrad Murray and Paige Doyle didn’t make the money they had hoped for from eager punters and got fed up with it? Maybe the website is down because of computer problems – it’s possible, but many disgruntled authors who have been eagerly waiting to hear about our prize money since the beginning of March have not had emails responded to. No answers on Twitter or Facebook. No response from connections via Mr Murray’s other publishing ventures of Swan's Nest Publishing Canada and Bookmarq. His contact e-mail on Linkedin bounces back as unknown. This from a man who has on his Linkedin profile:

"Summary:
  Core involvement in a series of very successful web start-ups since the very birth of the Internet. Goals, results and profit-driven innovator who can conceive and deliver projects to meet real-world needs without over-stretching the limit of existing technology or breaking the budget. 
   Driving force is always to deliver a massive return on investment. Fascinated by data marketing techniques and customer behaviour. 
   A strong believer in the future of mobile but wants to sidestep the hype, rubbish and non-delivery that afflicted the early days of the internet.
   Primarily interested in innovating mass-penetration mobile products that offer a significant practical benefit to end users as well as a very significant business return for developers and service providers.

All very laudable – except he doesn’t have working e-mail connections, and for the one he does, he doesn’t answer anything.

He also has on Linkedin:


October 2014 – Present (6 months) London, Toronto, New York
bookbzz.com enables readers to find good books and tell friends about them, and authors and publishers to reach readers who want to buy books.
We call it a tell-a-friend engine -- but it can also generate reviews, manage relationships and news channels between publishers, authors and readers and act as a complete cost-effective viral marketing suite for books.”

Fine, except as the website is closed no one can ‘find' good books, and readers cannot be reached. Tell friends about them? Yes, that’s what I am doing – although I don’t think they meant for me to be telling: “The Bookbzz tell-a-friend engine seems to have run out of buzz, it can’t ‘generate reviews’ or ‘act as a complete cost-effective viral marketing suite for books.’”
In fact it can’t do anything except distress quite a few disgruntled authors because it is no longer there.

According to his CV, Conrad Murray has been a principal owner, chief marketing officer, partner, director, chairman, consultant, business development marketing director, development director, production director, senior producer, foreign correspondent + producer, freelance features writer, and correspondent all for different companies from 1982 to present day.

Conrad Murray as appearing on Linkedin
My, what a busy man. Can we add Possible Pirate and conman scammer to the list? At the very least he seems to enthusiastically start a project then lose interest after a few months and move on to something else.

For Swan's Nest Publishing I have tried my best but I can only find two books by the same author published by the company.

Bookmarq is another book marketing company belonging to Mr Murray. It has a very impressive-looking website but doesn’t actually do much – except publicise Mr Murray’s own articles and attempt to entice authors to use the company for: ‘Boosting Your Sales and Saving You Time and Money’.
Hmm, not sure about that. I’m wasting a lot of time here, and I suspect there are more than a few enraged authors out there who have lost a good bit of money.

Beneath Mr Murray’s e-mails he advertises: (sent to me 19th February 2015)

“bookmarq.net is the destination meeting-place for readers and writers. 
Along with insightful reviews, regular author interviews, articles and 
competitions, we provide comprehensive details of events and services as 
well as vital advice and guidance for aspirant writers, and marketing 
tools for established authors and publishers.
Joining the bookmarq.net community should be the first step on, and a 
continuing part of, your writing journey.”

I tired joining the membership area. Nothing happened.
Not sure how Mr Murray can offer ‘vital advice and guidance’ when he doesn’t answer a single e-mail.
The first step’ – yes, the first one backwards if I were you – at a run.

And how much has he made from authors signing up for Bookmarq and Bookbzz? More than short-change I wouldn’t mind betting!

Here’s some of the advertising for Bookbzz and the competition;
 (typing errors are theirs, not mine!)

“If you haven't already done so we strongly recommend you Become a Premium Member (from $7.50 a month) to increase your book's visibility
Consider also the following promotions for the duration of the competition to secure more votes and as a means to generate lasting ongoing sales:

Socialbook Viral Book Marketing Campaign
Pop a banner to plug your entry. Your supporters can easily pop a banner and share it with all their followers. Announce and enable your readers to easily prommote your entry and encourage others to vote for your book. $25 onetime setup. Requires Premium Membership Subscription (from $7.50 a month). Click the link above to find out more.

PageTurner "Look Inside" Book Extract Reader
Elegant portable reader which works on our website, your website (and any other website) as well as social media. Enables potential readers to read a good opening chunk of your book. $25 onetime setup. Requires Premium Membership Subscription (from $7.50 a month). Click the link above to find out more.

Bookbzz.com Book Club Interview and Publicity promotion
Reach our dedicated readership when you announce a give-away or price-drop promotion to our book club members and we will organise a publicity promo and email blast plus featured pages on our website and in our newsletters. Typically these promotions run over a month for maximum reach and impact.
In week one our Senior Reviewer introduces the book.
In week two we release an interview conducted by our reviewers with the author.
In week three readers can ask questions and
In week three to four the author answers.
$100 onetime setup. Requires Premium Membership Subscription (from $7.50 a month). Click the link above to find out more information.”

Add all that up: a nice little earner!

Fortunately, I am not financially out of pocket. I paid a fee of $25 to Bookbzz to enter the competition and I steadfastly ignored those repeated marketing emails to sign up for a Bookbzz marketing package. All the above I can do for myself for free.

Then there’s Mr Conrad’s partner, Paige Doyle.

I was approached by him some months ago when he was seeking authors to back the Bookbzz project. I was approached, I think, because of my capacity as Managing Editor of Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews, plus I am quite prominent on Facebook, Twitter ( @HelenHollick ) etc in my capacity as an author.

I was happy to support the project in principal, anything to help Indie authors get noticed is (usually) a good thing. I was happy to put my books there as well, and yes, it was fun to be part of the competition. It would have been nice to have received the offered prize, but as I was only expecting a refund of the entry fee I’m not too bothered about that (although some of the other winning authors will probably be upset at losing out).

So who is Paige Doyle? He hasn’t replied to any e-mails either.
On the Bookmarq website there is this:

Paige Doyle is the Managing Editor at bookmarq.net and as such, decides what we publish. He previously worked in the music business where he managed an Irish diva and superstar until his nerves became too frayed. No not Dana, the other one... Read Full
More posts by the Author »” No point clicking the read more links – they don’t go anywhere And I thought Conrad Murray was managing editor?

Paige Doyle as on Bookmarq
You know I get somewhat suspicious when e-mails are not answered, profile pages do not have a photo of a real person, and even the details on a website about the managing editor have a cartoon instead of a photo.

It makes you wonder if the person behind the name is real? Or is he maybe the same as someone else? Paige is a rather good alias for an editor isn’t it?

Should I have checked out how legitimate this was? Should all of us who entered have done so? Probably, but has anyone any suggestions of how we could have done that? Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I suppose the one big alert, had I looked, would be the fact that nowhere is there a telephone number. Surely companies that publish and/or market books should have a working contact phone number?

There was nothing specific to cause concern on-line before the competition and the website closed (and the emails stopped being answered) to suggest a “con”. Well there is now! I (and several other authors) intend to make a reclaim of entry fees from PayPal, and I shall be adding enough links and labels on this article to hopefully flag up that Conrad Murray and Paige Doyle, along with Bookbzz, Bookmarq and Swan's Nest Publishing, may not be all they say they are. Please feel free to reblog, RT, share and all things like that to help bring attention to these two men  (one man?).


Alternatively I might get a very cross response from some legal person saying I’m committing slander or libel (or whatever it is) by implying that this competition and the various marketing sites are not quite kosher. Bring It On… because I would dearly love to have to retract this article and for myself and the other winning authors to be contacted and awarded our rightful money prizes - or at the very least a truthful explanation and a public apology.
Somehow, though, I don’t think any of that is going to happen.


PLEASE NOTE !
Bookbzz - this shower of probable scammers -
 is NOT BookbUzz 
which is - as far as I can tell - 
a different and legit company.

(I will add here that most of these book marketing companies 
are used by authors not READERS 
so there is very little point in paying out to use them. 
I can highly recommend Indie B.R.A.G. below though!)

So all in all, my apologies to you all for this red-herring wasn’t real competition. I am gutted, I admit – the only competition/award Sea Witch has won (apart from a much cherished 100% genuine Indie B.R.A.G.medallion ) and it turns out to be what appears to be fake.

at least this one
was genuine!



Still, you my supportive readers and friends are real and your votes were genuine, so I suppose that counts as something to be proud off. Just a shame that glow of pride has been somewhat tarnished by huge embarrassment on my part.


well, tomorrow is another day. I don’t think I’ll enter any more awards though. The disappointment when you don’t win is awful and the disappointment when you do win is just as bad.

One final thought though.



Authors have a very good way of taking revenge…

(If you want to feel sorry for me and offer a consoling hug, you could do so by putting a really nice review of Sea Witch (or any of my books) on Amazon. Preferably 4 or 5 stars with “I voted for Sea Witch!” as the tag line...

...one can but try to gain something positive out of the negative. 


(as for the Winner logo at the top of the page and on my sidebar 
I'm keeping it - because the votes and the support were genuine. 
Also the people at  Bookbzz have made a delightful error - 
there is no mention of their company on the logo, 
nor an embedded link, so it is only advertising my win - not their fake website!)


34 comments:

  1. Hi Helen,

    I'm sorry to read your news about the competition scam. Why is it that there are so many dishonest people out there who want to make money from other people without giving anything in return. Before I took up writing I was in business. Believe me, the fraudsters aren't only in the book industry; they are everywhere. Sometime we have to pay to learn but it still stinks. I will share your Facebook post to spread the news and warn others.

    Regards

    Graham

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    1. Thank you Graham - I suppose easy money can be made fro trusting people. I haven't lost money but I bet some authors have with this particular nastiness - hence my wish to get it noticed. One thing t remember: what you give out comes back threefold I just hope the pair of them are getting some slurry in one form or another chucked at them!

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  2. Helen, you don't need to apologize for anything! We all offered our help willingly and were duped by these fraudsters right along with you! I hope your reclamation with PayPal works for you! Take care my friend!

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    1. It isn't the money its the disappointment and I don't like being dishonest with my friends and readers (LOL I'd make a useless pirate!) - even if it isn't my fault!

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  3. All credit to you for sharing this information when it would have been very easy not to say anything, Helen! And we all still think you deserve awards anyway, and it's what readers think that matters, not these, er, pirates!! ;)

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    1. Thanks Debbie - I wanted to share because word about these two )or one?) crook needs to get out there. I DID do a brief check but nothing turned up - now maybe it will.. Maybe ALLi could put something together to help authors with a few things to check for potential scammers? I'm kicking myself for not noticing contact phone numbers and the lack of up-to-date posts - plus no one had made complaints on Twitter or Facebook. Well, they have now! :-) I've heard back from several authors all of whom have lost money to this/these companies.

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  4. So sorry to read this Helen. What a pair of despicable bastards

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    1. Sadly there are lot like them out there. :(

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  5. Hi Helen- My book, South of Reason, was in the competition and I too was shafted by these sharks. I guess it's time to take the FINALIST banner off my website....grrrrr. What reputable sites do you recommend for a new indie author trying to run the gauntlet? ---Kendi Thompson

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    1. I'm keeping my winner banner because it doesn't actually have Bookbzz on it and there's no link. Email me Kendi - what genre do you write ... and I'll be happy to host you (for free!) as a Tuesday Talk guest here on this blog. my email is author AT helenhollick DOT net and unlike 'certain people' it's a live email address and I do try to always respond!

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  6. So sorry that this happened to you - those seem to be two seriously dodgy men. I think I would have been similarly taken in as it sounded like a very plausible and interesting venture - definitely no need to apologise! To take a positive from it though, you have seen just how many people support both you and your books. And at least you have exposed them :-)

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    1. Thanks Jules I'm kicking myself because I did keep thinking 'is this legit?' But yes it was lovely to have the support - it boosted my cofidence so much, though it's down the bottom again now as I didn't actually win anything... except the support of a lot of people, which I suppose means more than any silly prize or competition!

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  7. I must add ... I've already thought up the character who is going to be 'them' and he will get a very sticky end! Mwah ha ha ha!

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  8. So sorry to hear this, Helen. Don't blame yourself - it's impossible to navigate the treacherous seas of writers' services these days - seems everyone is trying to get their hands in our pockets. And they aren't very deep, so I can't imagine why. I did list my book on Bookbzzz but I did not pay for any of their extras and now I'm very glad I didn't.

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    1. I'm just cross that I am usually so careful - although had I been about to pay a larger amount of money I guess I would have looked deeper. I'm also annoyed because Sea Witch is a darn good book and my Jesamiah should be receiving more accolades!

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  9. Hi Helen!
    Thanks so much for blowing the whistle on what looks like a scam. It is reprehensible that frauds like to embroil honest people in their scams and I'm sorry you got caught. I am delighted you decided to expose the scammers. And I hate when people on the web won't put their real pictures up there. You've just given another reason for my feeling. It just doesn't make you seem serious as an author if you won't put up your picture. (Or as anything else!)
    All best. Still looking forward to seeing you in Denver. That HNS a conference is real!
    Elaine

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    1. There are some very good reasons why people don't use a real photo (although, even then, how do you know the photo is genuine?) For Facebook, for instance (or even blogger come to that!) If there's just one photo and nothing else I do wonder if its a genuine site. I mean I have loads of photos of me and my hats! LOL One reason I can accept is that people who have been victims of domestic violence would not want a photo put up in case they were in danger. That's fair enough..... but for business, either put something genuine or don't put anything at all.

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  10. Thanks for the heads up. I was considering signing on to BookBuzz and I'm glad I didn't.

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    1. Well if I've helped stop even one person getting scammed then all this was worth it! Thanks Wynn. If you'd like to 'advertise' instead by writing a guest post article for this blog (its FREE LOL) you are more than welcome. email me on author AT helenhollick DOT net.

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    2. Must add Wynn (and I have amended my post) that BookbUzz and BookbZZ are NOT the same company!

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  11. Well done Helen for a really great post and having the honesty, integrity and courage to come forward and expose publicly what many other people are probably feeling. Unfortunately, as other people have commented, there are some very dodgy people out there who have probably never written a book or article in their lives and who prey on writers, possibly because of their own insecurities and lack of ability to write anything worthwhile themselves. I know it must be really, really hard but don't let the "You know what's" grind you down and keep having faith in your own abilities. Keep calm and carry on writing! Melissa x

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    1. Thank you Melissa - my main aim was to alert authors to this scam, but yes I am also disappointed because I have faith in my Sea Witch Voyages and so want them to do well - but it is hard work marketing books when you are an Indie writer... which of course, these people know!

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  12. Oh, Helen! What deceiving buggers. I cried for you until I had to laugh - at Murray's picture. He looks like a boozer left on a deserted island with half a keg of rum. I do pity the dog, though and, of course, you.
    Reminds me when I fell for an "agent" in Los Angeles by the suspicious name of Royal Gillette. I'm sure he had a good lunch on my $500, never to be heard of again.
    The good thing is that you got to know how many of your friends and followers voted for you - and the next time you ask, we'll happily do it AGAIN. Don't you worry.
    Hugs, Inge

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    1. Yes I can see the funny side too Inge - but then I haven't lost more than $25 (which at a guess is about £17) What I find scary is that I am pretty hot on spotting scammers - especially email and phone calls, but this one looked so very genuine and they took a long time to set it up. I'm kicking myself because I DID have a gut feeling... which is why I didn't take up any more of their (expensive) package proposals. The other sad thing about these sort of things is that they damage the genuine sites because everyone thinks 'Hmm, is this a scam like the last one?'

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  13. Incidentally - as for the Winner logo at the top of the page and on my sidebar I'm keeping it - because the votes and the support was genuine. Also the people at Bookbzz have made a delightful error - there is no mention of their company on the logo, nor an embedded link, so it is only advertising my win - not their fake website!

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  14. Helen - congratulations, anyway, your book has to be a delight or it would not have won. I am trying to read all of the entrants books to give them all a review, but now can't even find the website or the list.

    Kendi Thompson - I had the best luck with Books Go Social (Dublin based, run by a well known Irish author who actually personally contacted me on a few issues he had suggestions I could improve my marketing) My book hit #1 in Amazon the week after they started their promotion and it was less than $200 total for a whole year of PR. I also had good luck with Awesome Indies Gang for feedback.

    LB Johnson

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    1. Thank you LBJ - I am extremely honoured to have so many supportive readers for my straight historical fiction and my Sea Witch Voyages - the Historical Fiction is mainstream in the US (I was dropped by Random House here in the UK several years ago when HF took a nose-dive in popularity and my ex-agent decided not to represent me any longer) I brought Sea Witch out as Indie because so many publishers said they didn't want it because it would be difficult to market as it was not one specific genre - what is it with Publishing Houses? Indie authors manage their marketing (on our limited scale of ability!) pretty well. I guess they only want square pegs for their square holes though. I don't want to be a 'big time' famous writer all I want is for my Sea Witch series to do well and be enjoyed by readers who like a good nautical adventure yarn. Primarily to prove my agent wrong (she said the book was rubbish) and because I am convinced that my Jesamiah Acorne will one day be a household name. I'd prefer that to happen sooner rather than later though as I'm now 62 LOL If you do manage to review Sea Witch I would be very grateful. Conrad Murray reviewed it, but I have deleted his review from my blog because I felt it was a fake.

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  15. These people appear to be untraceable. Apparently their names are aliases and they've probably already moved on to their next scam. I would definitely lodge a complaint with your equivalent of an Attorney General or Consumer Affairs Bureau about internet fraud and give over all the info you have such as (now defunct) website addresses and copies of emails and email addresses. Also, please forward a copy of this blog posting to "Preditors and Editors" so they can warn others about these perps. What chutzpa!

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    1. Thanks Rachel - I've already been told of several sites that give out warnings, but hadn't heard of the one you mention. I will contact them forthwith.

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  16. I'm very sorry to read all of that. It;'s tough enough being an author without having to put up with scammers too.

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    1. Exactly. And the sad thing is the scammers then make you wary so you don't trust the genuine people either!

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  17. AS this competition has now undoubtedly been shown to have been a scam I initiated a claim against bookbzz with PayPal over the phone this morning. The representative took it straight past the "dispute" stage and directly to a "claim," and a full refund of the $25 I paid was almost instantly issued – so I’ve got my money back. THAT ISN’T THE POINT – these two scammers must be stopped (as best we can)

    If enough authors follow suit, PayPal will launch a further investigation, and will block Conrad Murray / Paige Doyle from using Paypal – and this will also go against their credit rating and mark them as fraudsters.

    So PLEASE if you haven’t done so already go to your PayPal Account, find the date and amount you paid to Bookbzz and make a note of it, then go to CONTACT Paypal. You’ll need your log-in email and some security answers to hand (last 4 digits of your card, phone number etc)
    It takes about ten minutes – and is well worth it!

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  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Have already tried that address and phone number LBJ. Dead ends.

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