My Conversation With the Greatest Book Marketing Service of All Time (Part #2)
A Literal Literary Loser Asks Some Winning Questions
To read Part #1 of Is This the Greatest Book Promotion Offer of All Time, please click here. And now our conversation continues. As I promised last week, you ain’t heard nothing yet! (The comments in the italics are mine. Everything else is our actual Instagram conversation, edited briefly for length and clarity.)
srbofficial1: Our teams are ready to move forward with the project. (24 hours later) So we are good to proceed? (12 hours later) So are we good to proceed or do you have any questions? (6 hours later) We request your response.
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IamAlinaAdams: I do have some questions. Susanna Clarke's blurb on your website says you got her placement in NY Times and USA Today, but I can't seem to find those links. Could you send them? Also, I reached out to the author of the Martha Teichner NY Times piece and she says she's never heard of you.
srb: She opted for the print edition of The New York Times and The USA Today. We directly worked with Martha T. You should confirm from her.
AA: Great. Can you send me scans of those stories in the times and usa today? And so it was Martha who personally set up the NY Times story, it had nothing to do with you?
srb: We worked with Martha herself. You’re telling that you contacted the one who wrote the article for her in NY Times. Yes we sent the order for an article for Martha to be published in that. We serve over a hundred authors in a month. We don’t have a team dedicated to scan pictures of articles from newspaper everyday.
(I worked with public relations agencies for decades. All legitimate agencies keep clippings of the articles they placed. Also, I can’t help wondering why a service that works with hundreds of authors a month is spending so much time to convince one measly writer to sign with them. Seems like a strange allocation of resources.)
AA: What does 'you sent the order" mean? Who did you deal with if not the author of the piece? Also, you don't keep copies of all the articles your company gets published? Maybe Susanna would have a copy? After all, it's a major get. And you have scans of other articles on your website. Why not these, especially since you mention them in Susanna's endorsement?
srb: We already told you that due to privacy concerns we can’t share the names of all the authors who have worked with us. You can ask Susanna and Martha if you’ve any more doubts. Maybe they will clarify how they got our services.
(Susana wrote me in response to my asking whether she used the service and they did, in fact, get her a profile in the NY Times: Yes I used them for my book Piranesi like a few weeks ago. Everything was perfect. I was a bit nervous initially but things went as offered by them. I got a huge number of sales through them for my book.)
AA: Martha said you got her the interview, but the author claims you didn't. Susanna hasn't answered my question about the Times. What would you think if you were me?
srb: We would have tried the services if we were you. We’ve sent you everything we had.
AA: Oh, wait, I have an idea! Since you say you refund anyone who doesn't get results, how about connecting me with a client who you refunded? (My lawyer says the language in your contract for refunds doesn't pass muster and can't be enforced as written.)
srb: We can do the payment through Venmo and you don’t need a contract there to submit for a refund .
AA: Venmo states that they will only refund an unauthorized transaction if: The recipient gives explicit permission to refund the transaction. There are only three situations in which you’ll be able to get your money back: The recipient agrees to send the money back to you. You manage to “take back” a pending transaction. You successfully dispute the transaction with Venmo or your bank.
srb: Read the last two lines please with care. It’s says “You successfully dispute the transaction with Venmo” If you pay under “goods and services” you can dispute a transaction with ease.
AA: So I have your word, in writing here, that if I dispute the transaction with Venmo, you will refund it, no questions asked. I will use a screenshot of this conversation as evidence if there are any problems.
srb: Yes! You can screenshot it - We hereby declare that if you won’t get our services within three weeks from now and you open up a dispute on Venmo we will issue the refund without any questions or excuses.
AA: Great. So let's start with the very basic level, $175, see how it goes, and then progress from there.
srb: You initially said you want to go with the 3 packages combo and we sent you the agreement for the three packages. We recommend to go with our three packages combo as it includes almost all the available platforms wherever a book can be marketed and that drive sales as we’ll enlarge the sales. At least let us provide you our best services so that you work with us more.
AA: But your basic package also has a guaranteed sales amount. If you meet that, it will give me confidence that you can hit the other target, at the higher price point.
srb: We understand that. But if you opt for our three packages combo we can do a split payment system in which you can pay 75% payment now and the rest only after you get the sales and other services as offered by us. We’re offering you the split payment system as well as a secure way to pay with a money back policy and everything.
AA: I assumed that when you offered three different packages that I could choose, I didn't realize all three were required.
AA: Oh. So why have three different packages when, in the end, it's actually only one package? Why have it split into three, with three different prices and three different guarantees?
srb: We recommend what’s best for an author and we know how things work for them.
AA: Why do you not think tier one would be enough for me?
srb: It’s because tier one doesn’t have all the necessary platforms. You are not confident in working with us and we want to make sure that you get best of our services so that all your doubts get cleared. We believe in creating long term relationships with our clients.
AA: If you deliver what you promise for Tier One, then I will be more confident in your services moving forward. Are you saying you won't work with me unless I get the full package?
srb: What if we can only provide the first package services and we can’t provide the other services in future. Like getting $175 from you now, then providing the services and then you opt for our $1000 package and we won’t deliver? So it’s good if you check all of them.
AA: I don't understand what that means. I pay for $175 worth of services and I get $175 worth of services, but then I opt for the rest of the package and you fail to deliver as promised? You just spent three days telling me you always deliver as promised. So where is the risk for me or for you?
srb: We are saying to go with our three packages combo?
AA: So you won't just do the $175, it has to be $1K plus or nothing?
srb: We’re not saying for the $1K. We have above also offered you a payment split up system for the three packages combo. We can start with 70% payment now which is $700 and the rest 30% only after you get the sales and other services as offered by us.
AA: You are asking for $700 up front. I am offering $175, as indicated by your own posted price structure. I am not willing to risk more than that. If you deliver at the $175 price level, I will happily consider moving up in tiers, which could, eventually, be the full package. It could even be more than one full package, as I have 18 published titles, all of which I am looking to promote.
srb: Yes it’s 700 upfront with a money back guarantee and not just you’re sending us and you won’t get back. You’ll get everything you pay for. We are just trying to offer you our best package
AA: Let's reverse it, then. I will pay you $175 upfront, you give me the three tier treatment and if you deliver everything you promise, including a feature article in the NY Times and USA Today, I will sign a contract promising to pay you the remainder of the fee. I trust you and you trust me.
srb: No we can’t do three packages combo for $175. We’ve to book the slots in those newspapers and magazines etc.
AA: So you do pay for placement of your stories, then? Earlier you said you didn't, you said you just have lots of contacts.
srb: A contact can be used to book the slots. Everyone have to pay for the slots. We didn’t say we don’t pay for slots.
AA: Even in the NY Times???? You can buy stories in the NY Times???? Wow! I had no idea!
srb: Slots in them are chargeable. You can’t buy stories. You can only buy a slot.
AA: What's a slot then if it's not a story? Sorry, this is all so new and interesting for me.
srb: A slot is a place in a newspaper which needs to be booked for the article and review.
AA: So it's like buying an ad? And the ad is formatted to look like a story? I've seen those, I think.
AA: Oh, so you're buying ads and making them look like stories in the NY Times, USA Today, etc... They're not real stories, they're just supposed to trick readers into thinking they are?
srb: No. That’s not the way. We buy the slots there and post the reviews and articles in real
AA: But if you're buying the slots, then you don't have to run them by the editorial board or anything. They're yours to do with as you see fit?
AA: Oh. But in that case, couldn't I buy them myself?
srb: No you can’t as you don’t have those contacts that we have . We provide them regular orders. Every newspaper and magazine provide slots for advertising. The slots needs to be booked in advance and then we can share or print our articles and reviews in those slots.
AA: OK, I finally understand where the miscommunication was between us all this time. You kept saying that you "got placement" for your clients in the NYT and USA Today, and I thought you meant you were a legitimate PR agency who pitches clients and then publications do stories on them. Now I understand. You are just a middleman to buy various advertising across multiple platforms. Now I understand why you can guarantee an appearance in the NYT or USA Today, it's because you're buying advertising in those papers, not promising editorial coverage. Thanks for clarifying!
srb: Yes that’s the thing. Finally you’ve understood everything.
AA: I thought you had some special in at these papers, but what you meant is, you have ghostwriters on staff who write fake articles that then get popped into various advertising slots. The money goes to pay the writers and to pay for the advertising space.
srb: They are not fake articles. Our articles and reviews are genuine.
SS: But they're not from the editorial department, they are, at best, advertorials, and anyone who reads it can see that. You have real writers and reviewers write these, but then you pay to have them published. Basically, I give you $1000, you pay $100 to a writer for the profile, you pay another $500 for the advertising space, and then the rest is yours for facilitating the service. Or whatever the breakdown is.
srb: Yes that’s right.
AA: OK, thanks for clarifying. I didn't realize. I thought you were a PR agency. If I wanted to buy advertising, I would do it myself, and target it specifically to my demo. Sorry for wasting your time, but the language you used kept making me think you were something else.
srb: We’re a PR agency. We do have our contacts is those newspapers and magazines and that’s how we ensure the articles and reviews there.
AA: OK, you're back to using the words articles and reviews when you mean ads. That's why I was so confused for so long.
srb: No they are not ads. They are real reviews and articles.
AA: Here is a post about one of my NYT best-sellers. It is in Soap Opera Digest, the top magazine for the genre. Since the book is about soap operas, it makes sense to run an interview in Soap Opera Digest. I did not pay for this. Nobody paid for this. A PR person pitched the idea, and the magazine decided to write it up: https://www.soapoperadigest.com/content/book-oakdale-0/. That is what I was looking for. Here is a blog about my figure skating mystery, in a mystery magazine: https://www.mysteryscenemag.com/blog-article?start=2650. Again, I did not pay for it. I just pitched it to the editors.
arb: Our sales are guaranteed. We’ve mentioned that above many times. Our sales are not through NYTimes. We’ve a well established mechanism for providing the sales. We work with commission based agencies across the globe having a chain network of hundred thousands of readers. They broadcast your book and its description in their networking chain and thus we provide a guaranteed seller/buyer for your books.
AA: And I've mentioned that I am willing to do the $175 especially now that I am not interested in the NY Times, etc....
srb: Sure let’s do that then
AA: OK, please send me a new contract first. The contract, btw, does not include Venmo as one of the payment options. And please include the language above about not contesting the refund.
srb: The contract we’ve sent you will work for this package also. That’s not a problem for us. And it won’t be a problem for you either.
AA: No, the contract you sent me has only the 5000+ guaranteed number. It does not have the $175 amount specified or the number of books guaranteed to be sold, nor the language about not contesting a Venmo refund.
srb: Sure we will send you another one. Thanks! (12 hours later) Hey! We’ve sent you the new agreement for first package. So we are good to proceed? Here is our Venmo username, let us know once payment done.
AA: I read the contract. It does not state either the amount due, nor that Venmo is a payment option.
srb: You’ve the contract signed by us. That’s what we can send. Thanks! If you wish to continue you can pay in our Venmo.
AA: You want me to sign a contract promising to pay, but the amount I am promising to pay is not printed in the contract?
Stay tuned for what happens next!
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If you don't mind my asking, what's the name of this agency? ( If you don't want to post it here, you can email me at email@example.com). Thanks!