Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Victoria Strauss -- Ding Dong, BookWise is Dead

Via Lee Goldberg--multi-level marketing scheme Bookwise, which I blogged about in 2006, is no more. BookWise applied the Amway principle to bookselling, encouraging its Associates not just to sell the books they bought from the company, but to sign up other Associates and receive a percentage of their income.

An announcement on the BookWise website says only that "BookWise & Company has merged with iLearningGlobal and is no longer in business." iLearningGlobal, according to its website (which doesn't mention BookWise or the merger), is a "mentoring community" that "has brought together the top trainers and speakers in all areas of self development, personal improvement, business training, life skills, tax and financial strategies, and much more."

If you're puzzled by exactly how iLearningGlobal, with its focus on audio, video, e-books, webcasts, and other aural and visual media, dovetails with BookWise, a MLM scheme focusing on printed books, don't fret--you just need to look a little deeper. Like BookWise, iLearningGlobal is an MLM scheme, founded by MLM guru Brian Tracy. Over August and September 2008, BookWise Associates have been transforming themselves into iLearningGlobal Marketers. For instance, this happy former BookWise Associate. And this one. And here's an example of the iLearningGlobal sales pitch from yet another one.

In my original post on BookWise, I got some flack from BookWise loyalists for saying this:

"Despite BookWise's noble mission statement (The Mission of BookWise & Company is to increase literacy, reading and access to great books through neighbor-to-neighbor book selling. We champion the spirit of the corner bookstore and embrace the values of the independent bookseller with a passion for great literature and the personal connection with friends who love to read), it's not hard to see that the main incentive for those who join the club won't be books, but the promise of cash. That's the lure of multilevel marketing schemes: not the product, but the scheme itself, and the opportunity to sell it to others."

Gee. Ya think?

Not all of BookWise is gone. In early 2008, it branched out into vanity publishing with WriteWise, an expensive ($6,995) publishing and "mentoring" program that paid fat commissions to BookWise Associates who got writers to sign up. WriteWise appears to have survived the merger.

Just for kicks, I took advantage of the free download offered on the WriteWise website: 5 Secrets Every Author Needs to Know. I mean, I've published a few books, right? But being an author is a lifetime learning experience, and I could always use a few pointers. There are indeed five secrets, each one of which includes the words "make millions" or "make money." (For instance, Secret #5: "Hire Someone to Write Your Information Product, so You Make Millions." Gosh, I wish I'd thought of that.) The article, authored by Richard G. Allen (a former BookWise board member) finishes with a pitch for WriteWise:

If YES is your final answer to these three simple questions, then you have pre-qualified yourself for accepting my offer and joining WriteWise--destined to be rewarded with:

- A bestselling book.
- Millions of dollars.
- Many friends and followers (those with whom you share your information).
- A life you love each and every day.
- A world made better because of you.

I am giving you the most effective way from just wanting to be an Information Millionaire to Being One!


Ugh. I've got to go take a shower now.

22 comments:

Frank Baron said...

So the leopard just rearranged its spots.

Wonder how long before Bobby Fletcher extends a new tentacle down that road?

Lehcarjt said...

Having been a writer (if not pubbed) for a number of years now, the *destiny* of a writer as seen by WriteWise is hilarious. Especially - A life you love each and every day.

I do love writing, but more often than than not the actual process is frustrating, a battle, and work! That and I have yet to see any of those millions.

How can people look at these programs and not immediately have all their personal red flags go up? I don't get it.

ALC said...

lehcarjt said: How can people look at these programs and not immediately have all their personal red flags go up? I don't get it.

It's because these people are selling false hope and pipe dreams. That's where a lot of 'dream' writers get into trouble.

As you said, real writing is work. It can be frustrating and difficult. Too many people romaniticize (sp) the life of the writer. In their fantasy world of writing success they can only see the Stephen Kings & J.K. Rowlings of the world. They don't realize that many "successful" writers are far from rich. They don't realize that these writers don't do it for fame & fortune (not that they'd turn it down if it came their way), they do it because they get some deeply personal satisfaction out of the process.

I believe there are many would be writers out there who only want the glory but don't get anything particularly satisfying from the process.

Kristi Holl said...

Thank you for being relentless in exposing these schemes. It's hard to believe that there are people out there who would really believe that hype, but there must be, or they couldn't stay in business.
Kristi Holl
Writer's First Aid blog

IceCreamEmpress said...

I'm shocked. Shocked! [/Claude Rains]

December/Stacia said...

Gee, where I can I hire someone to write my information products for me? That sounds GREAT!

nightsmusic said...

Long time lurker, first time poster...

I recently met someone who is self-pubbed, the book sells on Amazon (sort of) it got horrendous reviews and yet, she makes sure everyone she comes in contact with knows she's a 'published author'. Repeatedly. It makes her feel important and oh-so-much-higher-on-the-author-food-chain that the rest of us.

That's a good example of the kind of people who fall for scams like this. And it's really unfortunate because it's their gullibility and dream of being published that keeps companies like this in business...

*sigh*

Thank you for the ongoing education you give me. It is invaluable! :)

robertahill said...

Thank you for your checking up on these things. I have avoided MLM's successfully for all these years. Red flags aside, I confess I have joined iLearningGlobal because of the encouragement of a working colleague Tony Alessandra. I had no idea that they had purchased BookWise thus buying a set of members.

I like the materials a lot but the network marketing part is hard for me to get my arms around. I do think there is a place for these business models --- unfortunately most are a scam. I choose to believe that people like Brian Tracy are more honorable.

In respect to this blog - are you a writer or a business marketeer? Both require hard work and it is pretty difficult to try to accomplish both successfully.

ALC said...

Robertahill said:

In respect to this blog - are you a writer or a business marketeer? Both require hard work and it is pretty difficult to try to accomplish both successfully.

Said the scammer to the fly...

I believe the question is "are you involved in 'marketing'", although marketeer & racketeer do have a very similar ring, don't they? I believe the "point" you think you're trying to make is that VS is not qualified to assess the viability of this particular MLM scheme (a nicer way of saying scam since MLM's are all basically the same).

"I" happen to have worked in business and marketing for about a decade and a half and will readily assure anyone that VS is one sharp cookie. She's at least as knowledgeable as anyone I've ever met who works in the field professionally, probably more so.

Robertahill also said:

I have avoided MLM's successfully for all these years.

(Ahem, and why is that? Need anyone ask...)

Red flags aside, I confess I have joined iLearningGlobal

(Red flags aside????? You mean you are aware of all of these red flags & still got snookered into joining? And you're questioning VS's qualifications - oh, and before you argue that you weren't doing that -YES, you were, I'm not gullible, although, someone who ignores RED FLAGS most likely is.)

I do think there is a place for these business models --


Interesting that you say that you have managed to avoid MLM's all these years (a clear sign that you know that they are all basically the same scheme wearing different coats, colors & names), but at the behest of a co-worker you've joined this one. Oh, wait - it was a working colleague - oh, wait again, it was another success guru!

So, you're basically here to tout the honorability of various MLM success gurus (such as Brian Tracy), to defend MLM scheme iLearningGlobal (which just bought out MLM BookWise), and to question the qualifications of blogger VS in her very knowledgeable and very well investigated assessment of sed scheme.

I couldn't give a crap less about the so-called honorability of these success gurus. They could be the friendliest chaps in the world, they're still preying on the hopes & dreams of the masses.

MLM's are all the same animal.

We should be grateful to have someone as "knowledgeable", insightful and intelligent as VS (& her fellow scambusters) to search these things out, investigate them & then lay out the facts for the rest of us. And anyone daft enough to not realize what your post was really about is probably not smart enough to be a regular on this site anyway.

ALC said...

Oh, btw, I just checked out your site RH. If anyone else cares to take a look they'll notice that like all MLM's the big pitch to join up w/ this terrific business "opportunity" comes immediately. Notice that other businesses (businesses that are in the market of selling goods & services) put their wares up front to try to sell them. MLM's put their "business" up front to try to sell it. It's a classic pyramid scheme. Members make money by signing up other members, not by selling goods and services.

Oh, sure, they have goods & services for "sale", but that's not how they make their real money. That's why MLM's are to be avoided like the plague.

A Paperback Writer said...

I'm laughing.
Look, people, bookwise was founded in UTAH, the pyramid-scheme capital of the world.
For over two decades, pyramid schemes have been in Utah newspapers because Mormons are particularly vulnerable to them, having been thoroughly conditioned to trust authority figures.
I am not being religiously bigotted here. I am a Mormon from Utah. I've watched this happen since the 1980s.
I saw a bookwise ad on the back of a UTA bus a couple of years ago. I went to the website and noticed that it (at the time) listed NOT A SINGLE TITLE THAT THEY WERE SELLING. Hello. What kiind of book sales company doesn't tell you what they sell?
Then I had a look at the head guys running the thing. I can't recall every name now, and the website is defunct, but there were several rather well-known Mormom men on the list.
Every single red flag I have for pyramid scheme went off in my head.
About 6 weeks ago, I had a chat with a man who occasionally visits the school where I teach on district business. He told me he'd been doing bookwise on the side and that it had gone under. I laughed at him and asked him why he hadn't realized it was a pyramid scheme. He argued back -- even though he'd lost his money on it -- that it was an honest business.
True, it IS legal to run a pyramid scheme. But only idiots (most of them Utahns, as it's been oft said in the newspapers that Utah has more pyramid victims than any other state) buy into them. And I (casually) know dozens of these idiots -- they've tried to sell me shares in whatever scheme they're in.
Thanks for alerting people to this nasty way of cheating people. The founders and the first few sellers made money, I'm sure. They knew the company wouldn't last. It wasn't supposed to. Pyramid schemes don't.
Okay, I'll stop ranting now.

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

I frankly find this hilarious. Who'd have thunk that someone would try to apply the classic pyramid scheme to wannabe authors? Like Barnum said, "there's a sucker born every minute."

I firmly believe that all MLMs should be made illegal in this country. They just victimize too many people. I also say this because having travelled to the Far East (Hong Kong, Japan), where most governments out-and-out ban door-to-door selling and MLM schemes, you can find Amway, Avon, and Mary Kay products sold in regular retail stores at much lower prices than you would find them sold for by "independent consultants" (i.e., there's no need for the huge markup so they salespeople can make their commissions).

I actually LIKE Mary Kay products, I just don't like their high prices, so I buy it wholesale on Ebay (likely by "independent consultants" who failed in their Mary Kay businesses and are now getting rid of inventory). Their loss is my gain.

Unfortunately for those suckered into Bookwise, they can't exactly sell off their excess inventory on Ebay.

ALC said...

Hi "a paperback writer"!

I too am a Mormon, and, yes, I have had an encounter with ONE young (very young & very naive) couple who tried to hook me into their home-based "business". Of course it was nothing but a classic MLM scheme. I avoided them long enough for them to stop asking me to come and hear their pitch, but I just didn't have the heart to burst their 'bubble' of belief. I also think that they were at that 'brainwashed' stage where they wouldn't have believed me anyway.

I think that any member of the church who starts up one of these vulturous businesses should be ex-communicated. (I know that seems harsh, but the level of dishonesty & the very act of preying on others to fatten your own wallet seems to go against everything we believe.)

An LDS manager at my old office was troubled that his 21 yr old daughter was smitten by some loser (a member of the church, too) who was actually doing quite well for himself financially by starting up and running some sort of MLM of his own. This guy didn't care that the young man went to church, he didn't care that he was rolling in dough and could take good care of his daughter should they decide to marry, HE DID CARE that the guy's business preyed on the desperation and hopes of others and gave nothing but 'pipe dreams' and 'empty promises' in return. It just didn't set well with him.

Sorry, I guess this is off topic for everyone else.

I agree w/ JillElaineHughes, these things should be illegal!

Whether you're preying on the hopes and dreams of aspiring writers or anyone else, it's just plain wrong!!!!!

Victoria Strauss said...

robertahill said,

I had no idea that they had purchased BookWise thus buying a set of members.

I wonder what kind of compensation the owners of BookWise received for delivering so many committed MLMers into the iLearningGlobal fold? While, presumably, many BookWise Associates must have lost money on product they now can't unload.

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

It's really too bad these Mormons are using their positions in the church's authority culture to exploit other wannabe writers----especially when you consider the outstanding talent and success of Mormon authors like Orson Scott Card and Stephenie Meyer. These two authors are proof that not all LDS members are wacko MLM-loving kooks, as some in the media would like us to believe.

(For the record, I am a Buddhist.)

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

I wonder what kind of compensation the owners of BookWise received for delivering so many committed MLMers into the iLearningGlobal fold?

----I am sure that it was probably a HUGE sum of money in the form of a semi-legal "recruitment bonus." What other motivation would they have had to buy that business?

A Paperback Writer said...

alc,
I understand -- at least drag them in for a church court and rake them over the coals.

Jill,
Add Shannon Hale to your list of decent Mormon authors.

And I can't STAND The Christmas Box. Evans is so sappy. ick.

PatrickH said...

Hey All,

I was pulled into BookWise, because it seemed like an easy way to start up an online bookstore. I went inactive for a few months, when the promise of a bigger bookstore (I wanted to sell paranormal-related books, but only having 5 to choose from kind of put a damper on that) went unfulfilled.

When I came back, they had ditched the bookstore, and promised to deliver self-help products, of which (again) there were none.

When they switched to iLearnGlobal, I declined the invitation to join.

I'm glad they folded, because there was no way to cancel your membership.

I guess that makes me an idiot. Oh Well...

Anonymous said...

I work at a publishing company and just rejected a submission "represented" by BookWise.
The work was bad, their cover letter was smarmy, and they made the poor writer include her own SASE, so they're not even accepting rejection letters for their clients.
I see a lot of bad agents. Writers, beware! They're just awful for your work's chances.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 11:28, would you contact me please? beware@sfwa.org. All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence.

Anonymous said...

I've been a reader of this blog for months, since a friend of mine introduced me. Sadly the reason she introduced me was because I told her I was involved with a group called...wait for it...Writewise. When she sent me here, and elsewhere, I was shocked and appalled by the mass amount of knowledge that there was about WriteWise that I didn't even know about.

I had been pitched the program when it was first starting at the yearly 'BookWise Conference.' It promised one-on-one training with Richard Paul Evans and Robert Allen, introductions to publishers like Schoolastics (sp) and other big publishers, weekly and monthly marketing teleconference calls (which they actually did deliver) and much more.

At the time I was 19 and had just started writing an Urban Fantasy book and was stoked!!! I went right home to my parents (yea right I had $4,000 laying around) and pitched them the same thing I did. My parents being gook parents and knowing that it was my dream to be a writer forked over the money. Looking back I wish they hadn't.

As I got into the process I realized that what they had pitched to me wasn't anything like what they were really going to offer.

Richard and Robert as agents? They didn't do anything. There was no one-on-one training. The weekly teleconferences were helpful if you wrote non-fiction and were wanting to self-publish (which I wasn't.) But even all of that was dependent on your willingness to work their system and use their products.

I was so bummed when I got online and found out all the horrible things about WriteWise. I felt betrayed and hurt that I had gone into this thinking one thing and got a completely different thing.

One of the only good things that I got out of WriteWise was it pushed me to a.) finish my novel and b.) to start researching companies before I approached them.

" Anonymous said...
I work at a publishing company and just rejected a submission "represented" by BookWise.
The work was bad, their cover letter was smarmy, and they made the poor writer include her own SASE, so they're not even accepting rejection letters for their clients.
I see a lot of bad agents. Writers, beware! They're just awful for your work's chances."

It is true. They don't do anything to help you get a publisher. They don't teach you to write queries or cover letters. It's more like they give you just enough at the beginning to feel like you know what your getting into and then do a totall 180.

I am very sad that I joined them, mostly for my parent $4,000. They were a waist of time and money for me and a point of total aggrevation from the beginning.

Thank you so much for letting us newbie authors know about things like this. I will never enter a contract or give money to anyone before I have done my reseach!

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 3/24, I just want to say THANK YOU for such a candid, detailed comment. It confirms everything I suspected about WriteWise, but it's still heartbreaking. I'm so sorry you went through this. I hope that any author considering using WriteWise will Google and find your words.