Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Inspired Living Publishing: Another Vanity Anthology Scheme

Here's an email solicitation currently doing the rounds, from Linda Joy, President and Founder of Aspire Media Inc., and Publisher and Editor of Aspire Magazine:
Will 2010 be YOUR year to embrace your wisdom, step forward and claim your dream of being a published author?

If you answered YES then YOU may be one of the over 40 co-authors that I, along with my team of experts, will be working with this spring to bring your collective wisdom to the world!...

Now, in a personal project of mine I will bring the same passion and commitment that I've brought to Aspire, to bring YOUR story, wisdom and insights as a co-author in my upcoming anthology: A Juicy, Joyful Life: Inspiration from Women who have Found the Sweetness in Every Day

The email includes a link, the clicking of which takes you to Inspired Living Publishing, publisher of the above-referenced anthology, first in the Inspired Living series. Here, "inspired, engaged entrepreneur[s]" who are "ready to move forward with the vision for your business and your desire to be a published author" can sign up for "updates on this exciting new opportunity."

The update comes in the form of another email from Ms. Joy, with a link that whisks you to a different Inspired Living Publishing page--and here's where we get down to the nitty gritty.
"Imagine the words...Published Author

*...printed underneath YOUR name on YOUR business card.
*...being spoken as YOU are introduced as the key-note speaker in front of a full audience
*...as you introduce yourself to a potential client.

You’ve thought about it, envisioned it and NOW it’s time to ACT on it…

It’s no coincidence that you’ve attracted this opportunity! You have been waiting for the divine opportunity to become a published author – one that is in alignment with your vision and that is with a well-respected brand in women’s inspirational publishing.

Let's leave aside for the moment the question of whether Ms. Joy's Aspire Media--which consists of an online magazine with a claimed circulation of 42,000, and a series of conference events in the New England area--is indeed a "well-respected brand in women's inspirational publishing," and concentrate on the "divine opportunity." There isn't actually much writing involved--all you need to produce is a 1,200-word story. Ms. Joy and her "team of experts" will then create the book, and provide "a variety of information products" to help you promote and sell it. It's a tried and true business model, Ms. Joy claims, that has been used before with great success--in fact, it's "the same business model that Mark Victor Hansen used to create the Chicken Soup for the Soul series."

Well. Actually, not so much. Chicken Soup contributors receive $200 and 10 free books. For Inspired Living contributors, the money flows in the opposite direction. They can pay $5,497 for an "Ultimate Platform Building Package" (450 books, their name on the cover and a bio in the back, ebooks and CDs, plus a press release and assorted promotional items of dubious effectiveness) or $3,697 for a "Launch Your Brand Package" (300 books, a bio only, ebooks and CDs, and fewer promotional items than the more expensive package), or even $2,197 for an "Aspiring Author Package" (150 books, a bio, and nothing else).

Writers who want to get in on this not-so-amazing deal must sign up for a 30-minute phone conference with Ms. Joy. Ostensibly, this is to narrow down the field of aspiring writers (writers must first fill out a fairly detailed questionnaire, including such questions as "What would it mean to you, both personally and professionally to be part of a best selling anthology?"), but mostly, I'm guessing, it's to sell potential contributors on the idea of paying several thousand dollars for a slot in a vanity anthology.

I wonder if Ms. Joy is aware of another, nearly identical vanity anthology scheme that I did a writeup on a couple of years ago--the Wake Up...Live the Life You Love series. There, too, you can have your 1,200-word article included in an anthology, and pay from $2,700 to $5,500 for a few hundred books and some publicity materials. The come-ons for the Wake Up books tout them as "best-sellers," but this claim is not exactly supported by their Amazon sales rankings, which in most cases are 1 million and higher. Of course, with such books, the public is only an incidental consumer; the target audience is the books' authors.

Whereas the Wake Up books are a long-running franchise, the Inspired Living series seems to be Ms. Joy's first venture into vanity anthologizing. But the bottom line is the same: The real "opportunity" in such schemes is not for the contributors, who must hustle their own books and who receive little meaningful support in doing so, but for the publisher, whose profit is assured before the anthology is ever printed.

17 comments:

3women said...

When we write, and want to publish, we do so because we are interested in sharing. When people are passionate they can become easy targets for others. I think it is wonderful that you are offering aspiring writers some sage advice and warning. Hopefully more writers will find this site.

P. Bradley Robb said...

The number claimed by Ms. Joy, of a circulation of 42,000, sounded a bit high to me. So, I decided to do some digging.

Neither Aspiremag.net nor the location of the articles (aspiremag.presspublisher.us) are trafficked enough to be measured by Quantcast. And the actual location for the content, is not measured by any respected third party analytic system.

The primary domain, however is. The good news, for Ms. Joy, is that the site has increased in readership over 9% since last year. The bad news is that her total level of readers is still well within blog territory.

From Jan 1st, 2009 through Jan 31st 2010 - number of unique visitors varied wildly. The high was November with 5808 unique visitors. The low was August with only 360. The average for the past 13 months was 2122 unique visitors per month - the value by which circulation would be measured.

It is possible that the site has 42,000 subscribers, but in the actual content section, but that's highly unlikely. Standard rule of thumb is that less than 1% will actually take action - leave a comment, sign up for a newsletter, purchase a product - no matter how enticing the pitch.

Aren't numbers grand?

GalaktioNova said...

What amazes me is that the only successful moneymakers on the Web seem to make money by ripping off naive would-be moneymakers who pay them to learn how to make money on the Web! (I mean "platform-building packages", yeah right!)

Thank you very much!

Victoria Strauss said...

Goodness. By that analysis, this blog has better "circulation" than Ms. Joy's magazine--by a considerable margin.

Thanks for doing the numbers! And thanks for turning me on to Quantcast.

Bonnie Heather said...

Thanks so much for the information. You are very appreciated.

S.M. Carrière said...

To the rescue again! I think the work you do on the behalf of authors everywhere is incredibly important. I've posted a link to this site on my blog (in case any one happens to stumble across it).

You are a must-read source for authors everywhere.

Thanks again.

Marisa Birns said...

I agree with the others. You provide a great service to writers!

Thank you.

Mob Legend said...

"It’s no coincidence that you’ve attracted this opportunity!"

Note that this language is very "self help"--I'm thinking specifically of the collection of quotes passed off as a book of philosophy/religion, "The Secret"

Jenzarina said...

Hello, I'm new to this blog and already loving the scam-busting!
Really, you couldn't make half of this stuff up, could you? If you put it in a novel it would read like a Dan Brown.
Keep up the great work,
Jen

M.R.J. Le Blanc said...

I would bet good money that this lady probably fell for the 'Live the Life' scheme, realized how one really makes money from it, and set up her own. Those messages sound eerily like the 'Live the Life' scam, I thought they were one and the same.

Polenth said...

I'd have been dubious just from the fact YOU is in all-caps every time. It makes it sound so over-the-top hypeish. If something's a good deal, it'd speak for itself without having to make sure YOU know it's aimed at YOU.

Notanaturalmartyr said...

Great scam warnings. Hard to believe anyone would pay those amounts when, if you want to publish a few books that people will enjoy there are ways to do it for free (plus a little hard work and technological learning-curve pain).

marla miller said...

great posting---writers beware indeed.
marla miller
www.marketingthemuse.com

Lee Ee Leen said...

Beware of numbers that seem inflated and promises that are too exalted

LivelyClamor said...

Wow.
Listening to the saccharine, salespitch tone of the words with my inner ears...I have only one word that seems to fit:

*barf*

Maybe I'm just a cynic! (chuckle)

jchunter said...

Really a shame to see folks preying on the writing community like this...unfortunately, there will be people that fall for this trick just for the opportunity to say they got published. Who would have thought, Vanity Anthology...geeeesss, what da heck is this world coming to these days??? Is there anyone honest that will help out authors out there?

Do the co-authors get royalties?

christine tripp said...

>A Juicy, Joyful Life: Inspiration from Women who have Found the Sweetness in Every Day<

Well if her sickingly sacrin title didn't make an author ready to hurl then they may be the victi...uh, the co-author for her!