Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Victoria Strauss -- Wake Up and Pay: Yet Another Vanity Scheme

Most of us are familiar with inspirational series like Chicken Soup for the Soul, A Cup of Comfort, and Chocolate. Along with articles by celebrities and established writers, many of these series actively solicit articles and stories by unknowns.

Take, for instance, the Wake Up...Live the Life You Love series, compiled by Steven E. and Lee Beard. According to Amazon, there are currently eleven books in the series, the most recent of which came out this summer. They cover subjects like Giving Gratitude, Finding Personal Freedom, and A Search for Purpose, and include contributions from such luminaries as Dr. Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins, and Deepak Chopra. Unknown writers are also encouraged to submit and become "co-authors." Proclaims the website: "You have a story to tell and here is your chance to get your message to the world!"

There are a few jarring notes, however.

For one thing, many of the Wake Up books have Amazon sales rankings of 1 million and higher...not really what you'd expect for a series touted on its covers as "Best-Selling." For another, there's a peculiar proliferation of websites for the series. In addition to the one I've already mentioned, there's this one, this one, this one, and this one, all with similar URLs, and also this one, which appears to be an earlier version. These websites seem less oriented to finding readers than to soliciting writers, in language distressingly reminiscent of late-night infomercials. "For the first time ever you can get the Insider Secrets of How to Get Fame and Fortune as a Published Author!" one of the websites exclaims. According to another, "With Wake Up Live's Team Publishing Concept, you can achieve the ultimate credential that will propel your life and business to new heights by being a best selling co-author in this amazing program!" Enthuses yet another, "Wouldn’t it be great to get Instant Credibility™ with your clients and customers as a co-author?"

So what's the deal?

As most of our readers will have figured out, it involves money. You send in your 1,000-1,200 word story or article (don't worry if you can't write--"expert editors" are on hand to help you, for a fee, of course). Once your story is complete and submitted, the Wake Up Live team "does the publishing in record time" and "promotes your book to the best seller list making you a best-selling co-author." All you have to do is agree to buy 200 books for $2,697 ("When you sell your books," the website assures you, "you will receive $2,990.00 in sales, not to mention the benefit to your business or career"). That's the Gold Program. If you're feeling flush, you can spring for the VIP Platinum Program, and buy 500 books for $5,497 ($7,475.00 in sales). For the extra bucks, you get your name on the cover.

(This makes me think of those vanity anthology schemes where the anthology is customized for each purchaser by binding his or her poem or story into the front--often in different type or on different paper from the rest of the volume. For the amount the Wake Up people are getting, one hopes they do things a bit more professionally.)

The Wake Up folks don't just take writers' money--they also give them the chance to earn, via an Ambassador Affiliate Program. Affiliates invite their friends and acquaintances to submit to the series. For successful referrals, they get a commission--and it's a fat commission, too. Persuade up to four people to buy into the scheme, and you'll receive $250 or $500 per person (I'm guessing the amount depends on which plan the person chooses). Talk five or more people into laying down their cash, and you'll get $500 or $1,000 apiece.

This surely explains why the writer who alerted me to the Wake Up scheme got this out of the blue solicitation to submit to the series. He can probably expect to receive two more solicitations in short order. Affiliates are given three different email templates, which, "for best results," they're advised to send within a one-week period.

Oh, and the emails don't mention the commissions.

So now I guess we know how the Wake Up books became bestsellers. (Check out the weasel wording here, "Over 12 million stories in print," which overeager writers might misread or misremember as "Over 12 million books in print.") We've also learned a new euphemism for vanity publishing (as if we needed one): Team Publishing.

18 comments:

green_knight said...

How many co-authors per book? 40-50?

Ted said...

I never cease to be amazed? astounded? shocked? at the creative genius of the devious mind to take sucker money out of the pockets of the naive, careless and hopeful.

Shakes head in utter shock at this newest scheme you brought to the attention of readers.

thanks

Teddy

Steve S. said...

It's worse than you think. The people I got it from were, themselves, self-appointed gurus. If you take the "free" self-assessment quiz on thier site, you get a detailed result... e-mailed to you. (This detailed result, of course, directs you to buy thier book.) That also automatically puts you on thier e-mail list. Which they then used to get people to sign up for this scam... sigh.

Victoria Strauss said...

Thanks for commenting, Steve. I didn't want to say more than I did about where you got the solicitation, in case you were concerned about being identified.

As to the number of co-authors per book...here's my hypothesis. There's a basic book, which is what appears for sale at Amazon and other online vendors. But for people who buy into the scheme, the Wake Up people print special versions of the book, incorporating that person's story and/or putting the person's name on the cover. So it's a different book for each co-author.

I have to say that I think this is one of the sleazier vanity schemes I've run across--but it's also pretty clever. The books have a professional appearance, with famous people's names on the covers and a reasonable retail price--authentic-seeming enough that it probably never occurs to most people to guess that many of the "co-authors" had to buy in.

Anonymous said...

"Contact Steven E"?

WTF? E --just effing E?? No period even?

Is he one of those rappers with a funky name?


"You can call Steven E!
He'll take all your mon-ey!

Write some soppy chicken soup-
He'll put you in the loop!

Fame and fortune will come to you
With the impact of the flu--

NOT!

So don't do it!
(What you say?)
Don't do it!

You wanna feel bad--
You wanna be had--
Then follow this fad!

You just call Steven E!
He'll take all your mon-ey!
He'll take all your mon-ey!

He's baaaaaad!"



-- P. N. Elrod

Samuel Tinianow said...

As to the number of co-authors per book...here's my hypothesis. There's a basic book, which is what appears for sale at Amazon and other online vendors. But for people who buy into the scheme, the Wake Up people print special versions of the book, incorporating that person's story and/or putting the person's name on the cover. So it's a different book for each co-author.

So in other words, like most vanity schemes, it relies on both ignorance and lack of initiative on the part of the writers, i.e. the (probably correct) belief that none of the "co-authors" will ever be exposed to a copy of the book other than their personalized version.

What happens when one of these "co-authors" finagles a local bookstore into doing a reading? I imagine that would raise a few eyebrows when the bookstore orders a few copies for the event, then one of the staff pages through and realizes, "um... you're not in here."

Lori said...

That's just sleazy.

Lorra said...

Victoria - And here I thought I was the only one who experienced epiphanies during my workouts. Learning this is a common phenomena will, hopefully, keep me trudging to the gym on days where I try to convince myself I'm really just too busy.

I've also resolved numerous problems in the shower. I believe it's the equivalent of a sensory deprivation chamber - just me and the warm water. Or is it just taking a break?

Ideaguy said...

I was just solicited for this "opportunity" and have to say I had mixed feelings until I saw two things...

1. As you mention - the books on Amazon are ranked quite poorly. I had my own self-published books that sold a few copies each week on Amazon with a 5X better sales rank than most in this series.

2. There is a very rigorous affilaite network built around this.

In summary - this is a biz opportunity scam more than an author opportunity.

However, I can't help but wonder, could this model be used to really do some good?

Most of all, I have to say I am disappointed with the likes of Wayne Dyer who obviously are being payed gobbs of money to be part of the scam...wonder if he is at all concerned about his reputation?

What if someone used this approach (not money making model) to really produce a series of books that was useful and didn't hinge on authors paying double the cost they should have to to get their books?

If you could operate this sort of model where the author gets their books for cost and can order as few as 50 or 100,AND there is some decent group marketing around the subject of the book, this may be a good proposition?

Jeff

startingover said...

Dear Victoria,

I agree with your comment on the blog and I also feel that there is a deeper side the needs to be address.
The Key authors who came to us Co authors Came to be certified life coaches and must adhere to a code of ethics! Their authentic has come from a very fake dysfunctional place which I feel needs to be bought to the ICF attention. I am not sure how it needs to be handled.
I recently have victimized by the circumstance of the Wake women book series! Luckily to my benefit have not purchase the membership, due to my third level of listening! But a strongly feel that there is large degree lose in trust to the human connection after the interview process! Whereas the authentic human spirit is rape of its story, to only be left with the need to jump into the deep blue seas to have value at any cost! I have stuff lump in my chest for the victims who have fallen prey to these conditions Of the Wake series books! I included!

Liana

Talia said...

I can tell you how they become bestselling books.

Each of the authors that contribute a chapter is contracted to buy books as part of their contribution. If there are 50 authors and they each buy 1000 copies (I don't know the exact numbers but I've no doubt it's listed somewhere on the website), then all they have to do is book all those sales through on the same day. 50,000 books sold would make it a best-selling book on that particular day. Ergo they can legitimately describe it as a bestselling book.

Talia said...

Another point. This scheme isn't aimed at the struggling writer.

It's aimed at business people, coaches and subject experts wishing to bolster their credibility with a publication credit and a book they can sell at the back of the room after speaking engagements. In that respect it is probably an arrangement participants are happy with. I say this because I know someone who was in one of the first books and planned to participate in a second book as he was extremely happy with the kudos it gave him. To him it was a legitimate marketing expense.

Cutressa M Williams said...

Written words can always be twisted to one's advantage or disadvantage. I am a co-author in an upcoming Wake Up Live the Life you Love book and I am neither naive or careless, but I am hopeful. I am hopeful that my contribution to this work will help me IF I utilize the tool as it is meant to me. If I were self-publishing, I would have to investment just as much, if not more money up front to bring my dream alive. So in using the system of the WakeUp team was a good decision for me. I do not feel that I was swindled or beaten out of my money. I understood that I was to actively participate in the marketing and selling of my own work. I did not think that I simply submit my story, pay for my books and instant fame & fortune. Just like a business card, brochure or other marketing material, I have to utilize the book's value to assist me. I was NEVER pressure to recruiting other authors to participate. As a matter of a fact, I was not aware of the Affiliate program and I have searched the sites thoroughly. I will recommend this avenue for first time publishing to friends and colleagues because I believe it serves it's purpose IF the contributing author does as well.

I invite anyone who would like to contact me directly to find out how my experience has been is welcome: cutressawilliams@gmail.com

Warmly,

_cutressa :-)

NV said...

Hi, I got the soliciting info from Brian Tracey's newsletter, as he was pushing to sell that authorship program by Wake up and Live as an affiliate himself. I think it is a real pity to see that great authors such as Brian Tracey, also involve themselves in such scams.

Best, Niko

Anonymous said...

Fascinating Stuff!
I found an 'invitation' to attend a 'Wealth Creation' seminar in my snail mail box.
It looks like they're hustling vending machine opportunities, amoung other things.
The host claims to be...wait for it...a best selling author of the 'wake up...' series.
This is obviously alive and well 2 years after this blog was written.
Take Care.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info folks.

I've recently completed what I believe to be a very promising work on success & prosperity.

I approached first received some brilliant testimonials from such luminaries as Brian Tracy; Loral Langemeier; Dr. John F. Demartini; Bill Bartmann; Lance Hood and others who read the work and commented accordingly.

I'm having no end of trouble finding a mainstream publisher.

I guess it's a 'Catch 22' situation. One must have a profile to get published, but to get that, one must be published. Not rocket science, but a reality.

I received an email from Steve E. giving me details of an interview he did with Bill Bartmann. I emailed back and told him I had already received a brilliant foreword from Bill.

Steve Emailed me back and it read something like this: "Let me make you a best selling author'.

I emailed back (tedious I know but I had to satisfy my insatiable appetite for credible info) and asked the guru if he was a mainstream publishing house, as his website alludes to. I asked him the process.

He was evasive on all points but told me I had only to pay $1,997 (obviously a discount for good looks, personality and talent) and they (his incredibly successful company) would do the rest.

I asked the question - 'How much bang do I get for my buck and just how, as a stand alone author with a completed manuscript which has the support of some of the top international speakers/coaches, do I get on the Amazon.com best seller list'? Still waiting for a response.

Thanks to all those who have taken the time to post here. I need to keep my credibility intact as an emerging international speaker and coach. I don't want nor can I afford to risk it being the shortest and most colorless in history.

Thanks again everyone and to you Steve (not the 'E'' version). This is a great forum for venting and getting plausible advice and assistance.

Cheers K ('F') - (sic!)

Anonymous said...

That Stephen E (Stephen E Schmidt) is a total fraud. Nothing short of a con man, even pretending to be a reporter at real events just to get his photo taken with someone famous.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately this scam is ongoing. I was researching the book series because a local professional group I belong to has accepted a speaker for an upcoming meeting, a speaker who happens to be a "co-author" of the series "with Dr. Wayne Dyer and Dr. Deepak Chopra". The meeting invitation "BRING A FRIEND!" (yes, in capitals). Some of the wording reminded me of my short stint as a music biz publicity writer, and made me feel uneasy. Thank you for the information and integrity here on your blog.