Melissa Foster Joins Hugh Howey in Buying Her Way Onto New York Times and USA Today Bestseller Lists

ResultSource is one of many companies offering to help authors buy their way onto New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists. ResultSource was outed by The Wall Street Journal in The Mystery of the Book Sales Spike,
How Are Some Authors Landing On Best-Seller Lists? They’re Buying Their Way
.

After you read The Wall Street Journal article google “authors buying their way onto bestseller lists” for an even more eye-opening experience. As also told by The Wall Street Journal, a growing number of author frauds are buying their way onto the New York Times Bestseler List and USA Today Bestseller List, including Hugh Howey and Melissa Foster.

Soren Kaplan purchased about 2,500 books through ResultSource, paying about $22 a book, including shipping, for a total of about $55,000, to buy his way onto the bestseller lists. He also paid a few of $20,000 to $30,000 to ResultSource for a total cost of $75,000 to $85,000.

Unlike Soren Kaplan, Joseph Michelli and other authors mentioned in the article, who aren’t wizards at gaming the system and easily got caught when their sales skyrocketed and then plunged, Melissa Foster and Hugh Howey know how to game the system and play every angle.

Hugh Howey was the first to play this game when he starting buying his way onto bestseller lists in 2009. Unlike Soren Kaplan who did a one-time $75,000 – $85,000 book buying campaign for his own $22 books, Hugh Howey priced his books at .99 and had his paid buyers buy them primarily through Amazon.com. This ensured Hugh Howey would quickly become a Kindle Superstar and an author Amazon was sure to start hyping.

As with all things Hugh Howey, there were multiple levels to his fraudulent scheme. He knew not to do a one-time buy or to use only one ResultSource-like company. Instead, he purchased the services of multiple “bestseller marketing service” companies and he used their services multiple times to create steady streams of sales. Meanwhile, he also created demand for his books by buying thousands of paid endorsements, mostly in the form of reviews.

Ultimately, Hugh Howey’s $50,000 buying spree translated into 500,000 sales for the first installment in his Wool series and a movie deal that is sure to make him a multi-millionaire.

In November 2013, Melissa Foster began following in Hugh Howey’s footsteps. Playing the game to not get caught she started buying the services of multiple “bestseller marketing service” companies. Like Hugh Howey, Melissa Foster also buys paid endorsements, mostly in the form of reviews, to help create demand.

By February 2014, Melissa Foster hit pay dirt when her schemes landed her on both the New York Times Bestseler List and USA Today Bestseller List.

How long will scammers like Hugh Howey and Melissa Foster keep at it? Until real readers get fed up and take action.

See also:

http://kindlereadersbeware.wordpress.com/

http://shame-on-you.webs.com/

http://freport.wix.com/tagged

http://five-report.blogspot.com/

Thumbs Down Author List

Below is a list of authors about which we have received the largest number of complaints regarding unethical practices or about whom, based on documentation, are the most unethical authors. Every author listed has been identified as using many of the following unethical practices:

1. Sockpuppets – including fake users and identities created by the author, friends of author, or associates of the author for the purpose of promoting the author through reviews, discussions, and other commentary.

2. Paid reviews – including reviews purchased from paid review companies, such as Fiverr.com, GettingBookReviews, Craigslist, and others.

3. Paid endorsements – including endorsements and celebrity endorsements bought from Buysellads.com and others.

4. Traded reviews – including reviews traded between authors whether as favors, kickbacks, referrals, or otherwise.

5. Swapped endorsements  – including endorsements swapped between authors whether as favors, kickbacks, referrals, or otherwise.

6. Compensated reviews – including reviews bought with promises of remuneration or gifts, such as gift cards given to readers for reviews or merchandise give to readers for reviews, including free kindles.

7. Fake fans or street teams – including paid promoters, friends, family and acquaintances who act as fans and are used to create fake buzz for the author.

8. Misrepresented associations – including authors who repeatedly and habitually misrepresent their associations with author friends they praise publicly.

As we update this list from time, be sure to check back periodically. The list begins with the most egregious offenders:

Hugh Howey – Hugh Howey is the only author, based on documentation, identified as using every unethical practice listed above. Hugh Howey is quite possibly the most notorious author fraud, having purchased thousands of reviews and having used paid promotion teams extensively to act as fake fans.

Melissa Foster – Melissa Foster has the dubious distinction of being the queen of fake writing awards and the only author for which we considered creating an all new category: fake awards.

David Dalglish – David Dalglish has the dubious distinction of quite possibly being the most hateful author alive as he regularly purchases reviews to trash other authors.

 

A M Hargrove
A Meredith Walters
Aaron Pogue
Alle Wells
Amanda Hocking
Ann Swann
B V Larson
Bella Forrest
Blake Crouch
C C Cole
Carolyn Arnold
Cassia Leo
Cege Smith
Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Cheryl Kaye Tardiff
Collette Scott
D A Graystone
D Ryan Leask
Daniel Arenson
David A Wells
Debora Geary
Dixie Goode
E L Lindley
Edie Claire
Emma Chase
Erica Stevens
Frederick Lee Brooke
Gail McHugh
H M Ward
Hugh Howey
J S Scott
Jasinda Wilder
Jay Allan
Jennifer Probst
Jessica Sorensen
Jillian Dodd
Joanna Lee Doster
John Locke
K Bromberg
K J Bennett
Karen Vaughan
Kenneth Hoss
Kerry Reis
L J Kentowski
Linda Hawley
Linda S Prather
Lorena Angell
M R Mathias
M Todd Gallowglas
Mallory Monroe
Marni Mann
Mary Campisi
Matthew Mather
Melinda Leigh
Michael G Manning
Pamela Fagan Hutchins
Rachel Dover
Rebecca Forster
Rick Bylina
Rick Soper
Robert Pruneda
Rosie Cochran
Ryk Brown
Sandy Wolters
Stephanie Lisa Tara
T R Harris
Tarryn Fisher

This list may not be reproduced without permission.

 

 

The Epic Fraud of Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey buys fake reviews from Fiverr.com and many other places. In reviewing Hugh Howey’s Amazon reviews, it was easy to spot the many thousands of fake reviews, even with the many deceptive practices reviewers were using to seem legitimate, such as supposed real names and verified purchases.   Because it’s cheaper to buy short reviews, most of Hugh Howey’s fake reviews are often short, about 50 words as this is one of the lowest price points for buying fake reviews. These short fake reviews don’t really say anything about the book. The fake reviews are there only as online endorsements to get people to buy a book.

Because it’s essential that five-star reviews line the first page, real reader reviews are pushed down as fast as possible. Hugh Howey does this by not only buying reviews but by using influencers to get others to write reviews. Hugh Howey relies as much on influencers as he does review-for-hire writers.

The Hugh Howey influencer scam works like this. Hugh Howey provides incentives for friends, family, and associates to promote Hugh Howey. Cash mostly but also mentions in his blog, write ins for discussion groups, promises to recommend to his publisher and agent, and on and on. The job of the influencers is not to talk about Hugh Howey but to get other people talking about and mentioning Hugh Howey.

“The Joneses” movie shows how scams like this work and Hugh Howey is a pro at this scam. If you’ve ever been on a discussion board, on Facebook, on Twitter or anywhere where someone out of the blue works Hugh Howey’s name or his books into the discussion you’ve encountered this scam. The mentions are designed to seem real but are anything but. The mentions are bought and paid for with cash, with promises, and with Hugh Howey being a few levels removed from the scam.

Influencers also are used to get people writing reviews of Hugh Howey books. As most of the influencers have established themselves at major discussion boards and sites like Goodreads and Amazon, it’s easy for them to work their scam to get discussions turned to Hugh Howey and his books. They also try to work Hugh Howey’s name into the discussion title so his name is seen even if you don’t get suckered into participating in the influenced discussion.

The massive fraud of Hugh Howey and how he was outed for fake reviews has been widely talked about. The fraud of Hugh Howey is so massive it doesn’t just involve a few fake review or even a few hundred, it involves thousands of fake reviews.

One of the places Hugh Howey bought fake reviews was from Gettingbookreviews.com, a company outed by the New York Times as a review-for-hire company. According to the New York Times, Gettingbookreviews.com was paid to write 4,531 reviews for authors.  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/business/book-reviewers-for-hire-meet-a-demand-for-online-raves.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

The massive number of fake reviews for Hugh Howey’s books is staggering and it would seem that a significant portion of his earnings go to buying fake reviews. Even more disturbing is the fact that buying fake reviews isn’t Hugh Howey’s only fraudulent tactic. Fake reviews are just the beginning.

 

The Crazed Antics of Cheating Authors

For several weeks, Zon Alert bloggers have tracked the crazed antics of the cheating authors we’ve identified as they attempted to deny any wrongdoing. If we didn’t have full understanding of how these authors operated before, we sure do now. These authors have been working overtime to cover their tracks, to try to discredit Zon Alert and The Fiverr Report.

We’ve seen and heard it all. Every excuse you can think of. These authors and their associates have tried it. The velocity, snark, and feigned outrage has Zon Alert bloggers imagining these authors and their associates as red-faced children telling their teachers the family dog ate their homework. Frequently though it’s more like some five-year-old girl saying “That’s right Johnny did it, Mom. It wasn’t me. I’m your little angel.”

There’s a simple litmus test to distinguish between real writing awards and fake writing awards. Real writing awards are highly selective and have few award recipients. Fake writing awards aren’t selective but hand out awards aplenty.

Real writing awards don’t hand out awards to 50, 100, 200, 500, or 1000 so-called winners. Fake writing awards do.

Real writing awards don’t let authors enter their books in as many years and categories as they can pay for.  Fake writing awards do.

Fake writing awards come from award factories. Award factories are cash cows for those who operate them.

One of the many illegitimate awards we’ve identified is the Beach Book award. Beach Book award is run by an outfit out of California that allows an author to enter as many books as they want for as many years as they want as long as they pay $50 for each book entered. The same company runs 17 identical award programs with different names:

Green Book award
Hollywood Book award
San Francisco Book award
Beach Book award
Paris Book award
New York Book award
New England Book award
DIY Book award
London Book award
Halloween Book award
Los Angeles Book award
Great Northwest Book award
Great Southwest Book award
Great Southeast Book award
Southern California Book award
Animals, Animals, Animals Book award
Great Midwest Book award

There’s even a multiple entry form that allows cheating authors like Melissa Foster to enter a book in all 17 award programs at the same time.

The worst fake award factory is Reader’s Favorite, an award cheating author Melissa Foster has numerous fake awards from. Reader’s Favorite has awards in 100 categories and gives out over 500 fake awards every year.

In each of the 100 categories, Reader’s Favorite has four winners each calendar year: Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Honorable mention. Reader’s Favorite also gives out awards to so-called finalists, so there’s a Finalist award as well. In our research of the award years 2009 to 2012 we couldn’t find any book that was entered that wasn’t a gold, silver, bronze, honorable mention, or finalist medal winner. Even if that meant there were 4 so-called finalists along with the 4 so-called winners in each category.

Talk about incentive to keep entering year after year. No wonder cheating authors like Melissa Foster keep entering books in this contest year after year.

One of the more laughable claims we’ve seen professing how fake awards like these are real is this one: “My award isn’t fake. My entry fee I paid was real. Real enough for you?” But of course the entry fee was real. Award factories are getting rich from authors who want to cheat.

Another more laughable claim we’ve seen professing how fake awards like these are real is this one: “The winner gets $1500 and a trip to Chicago. How’s that for fake? Look it’s a real award.” We’re sure a so-called winner gets a trip to Chicago and $1500.  The award factories try hard to seem legit. Giving out a few thousand in prize money is nothing after taking in $100,000.

The Melissa Foster Fake Email Correspondence Debacle

In an apparent attempt to discredit this blog, Melissa Foster and Hugh Howey fabricated the following email correspondence which is being circulated on various blogs by Melissa Foster and her author friends in an attempt to hide guilt and apparent attempt to defraud:

From: Fiverr Legal
To: K (Name removed to protect from future attacks)
Sent: Monday, September 23, 2013 6:56 AM
Subject: Re: Sharing Private Fiverr Correspondence OnlineDear K,Thank you for reporting this. This blog is a complete fake, including the “employee” who was never employed at Fiverr and the information provided in the blog, thus there is no breach of privacy since it is not real information…the users mentioned on the blog are not known to us. We do appreciate the fact that you took the time to alert us to this slanderous content.Best regards,Fiverr Legal Department
There are several variations of this fake email floating around, all of which are originated by Melissa Foster.  These fake emails invariable are followed by variations of requests to remove links to our blog so as to “keep from driving traffic to their site.”
     Clearly, the authors we’ve identified are desperate and trying to do anything they can to hide the truth instead of admitting their guilt. They clearly don’t want anyone to visit this blog and learn the truth.
     Here’s another variant of the same posted by Melissa Foster to Cheryl Tardiff’s blog (another author we outed for buying numerous reviews):
From Melissa Foster:Karma is a b*tch, and the owner of that website is about to find that out. A concerned citizen contacted Fiverr’s legal department and received the following verification of the false accusations. Please share this publicly and stop the hatred! I’ve removed her name to protect her from being attacked as we were.See, most people ARE good xoxFrom: Fiverr Legal
To: K (Name removed to protect from future attacks)
Sent: Monday, September 23, 2013 6:56 AM
Subject: Re: Sharing Private Fiverr Correspondence OnlineDear K,Thank you for reporting this. This blog is a complete fake, including the “employee” who was never employed at Fiverr and the information provided in the blog, thus there is no breach of privacy since it is not real information…the users mentioned on the blog are not known to us. We do appreciate the fact that you took the time to alert us to this slanderous content.

Best regards,

Fiverr Legal Department

On Mon, Sep 23, 2013 at 3:25 PM, K wrote:
Hello- I just wanted to alert you to the fact that this person is sharing private correspondence that he obtain while employed with your company on his blog. I believe this is against your privacy policy and may even be illegal.

(FULL ACTIVE LINK REMOVED TO KEEP FROM DRIVING TRAFFIC TO THEIR SITE) – See more at: http://cherylktardif.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-history-of-paid-book-reviews.html

The fact that Melissa Foster and Hugh Howey created and spread fake correspondence like this demonstrates not only their guilt but the lengths they’ll go to to try to bury truth. Shame on Foster and Howey!

The Hugh Howey Tirade

Excellent news. Two of our member bloggers have a preliminary publishing agreement for a book on our investigation of the publishing underworld. The book is tentatively titled “Team of Eight: Our 2-Year Investigation Into the Dark Side of Publishing.” They’ll be working for a few months to develop the first three chapters of the book for publication.

The acquisition editor writes in the acceptance letter: “I’m as appalled by this behavior as you are and I congratulate you on your dedication to revealing truth. Your photocopies of emails between authors and [the company you worked at], particularly the brazen nature of M. Foster’s emails, leaves no doubt they knew what they were doing was wrong.”

We’ve previously published extracts from Melissa Foster’s correspondence:

“Chasing Amanda got to #10 on Amazon’s Bestselling Kindle list. Thank reviewers for buying yesterday.”

“Wow, what a few weeks this has been! Can I get 50 more?”

“not all the reviews for Amazon … Goodreads reviewers should rate, add my other books”

“how great it felt to have over 2000 ratings for Goodreads”

“I’m gearing up for a blog tour. … I need more reviews.”

“Can reviewers vote in the Amazon breakthrough novel award?”

“Tremendous gratitude for the Chasing Amanda reviews … now on Amazon’s Top (100) Rated Fiction list!”

More on Foster’s fake writing awards and the official Fiverr Report from September 12.

We are pleased also to report we’ve acquired the complete client list and email archive of the defunct http://www.GettingBookReviews.com. As we begin to analyze the purchases and correspondence in the next few months, we hopefully will be able to identify and correlate more of the accounts used on various sites for paid promotion. What we know so far from a preliminary review of data is over 2100 different buyers bought what appears to be more than 30,000 reviews collectively.

In a rather odd turn, Hugh Howey, who was merely listed here as a review buyer in the official September 12 Fiverr Report on Melissa Foster but made no other mention of, has gone on a weeks’ long tirade professing his innocence. Bizarre behavior for someone who is supposedly innocent, especially as he’s using his ongoing tirade as a promotional vehicle to get family, friends, and other supporters to flood Amazon with favorable reviews.

In discussions on various sites, Howey and his author friends even claim Zon Alert members wrote fake reviews of his books on Amazon. Odder still is that there are no such reviews on Amazon. However, there is plenty of fakery:

Wool has 6084 glowing reviews out of 6251. A supposed 97.3% approval rating, which no real book has. Since his hundreds of posts and tweets/posts from friends about his innocence, the book has received 130 glowing reviews.

Shift has 722 glowing reviews out of 747. A supposed 96.6% approval rating. Since his hundreds of posts and tweets/posts from friends about his innocence, the book has received 42 glowing reviews.

Dust has 871 glowing reviews out of 879. A supposed 99.1% approval rating. Since his hundreds of posts and tweets/posts from friends about his innocence, the book has received 241 glowing reviews.

To view the mind-blowing audacity of Hugh Howey, go to Amazon and examine reviews from September 13 to present. You’ll find the 413 reviews we’re talking about. While at Amazon, look at reviews written before this avalanche because that’s where you’ll find the bulk of the abuse Hugh Howey is trying to bury.

Howey has even gone so far as to swear his innocence on the life of his dead dog. Could anyone be any more guilty?

As if using his dead dog to play on other’s sympathy wasn’t low enough, Howey tells his blog readers in the same entry about how he was bullied as a child in middle school and on on, leaving Zon Alert members to wonder how low he’ll go in an attempt to get sympathy and attention.

If you read the entry in Howey’s blog do be sure to examine who the commenters are. The comments coming from real people are often Howey’s author friends. There’s even a comment from none other than Melissa Foster.

Howey’s behavior and weeks’ long tirade is way over the top for someone was merely mentioned as a review buyer. As Shakespeare meant when he said “Me thinks he doth protest too much,” the guy’s guilty as hell. We suspect the reviews purchased from Fiverr are only the beginning and we’ll continue to look for the truth until we find it.

The Fiverr Report on Melissa Foster – Fake Reviews, Fake Awards, Fake Everything

From five-report.blogger.com Which is worse, a desperate self-published author named Melissa Foster buying reviews “as fast as you can provide them” or a professionally published author named JA Konrath trying to buy 10000-packs of ratings? Because while I worked undercover, I saw it all.

My job was to facilitate. Connect those wanting reviews with those writing reviews. As a former marketing executive, I was a natural for the role, as I facilitated I recorded every dirty detail for Zon Alert.

One of the worst offenders was Melissa Foster who purchased over 250 reviews, as determined by reviews received from for-pay review writers. But that alone doesn’t make Melissa Foster one of the worst. What made her the worst is that her 250 review purchases were only the beginning as many of Fiverr’s paid reviewers also worked for other paid review companies.

By connecting the other Melissa Foster reviews these reviewers wrote to the review writers and the companies they wrote reviews for, Zon Alert and I identified other companies offering paid review services. In total, 129 paid reviewers wrote 762 reviews for Melissa Foster, using 568 accounts.

From Melissa Foster’s correspondence:

“Chasing Amanda got to #10 on Amazon’s Bestselling Kindle list. Thank reviewers for buying yesterday.”

“Wow, what a few weeks this has been! Can I get 50 more?”

“not all the reviews for Amazon … Goodreads reviewers should rate, add my other books”

“how great it felt to have over 2000 ratings for Goodreads”

“I’m gearing up for a blog tour. … I need more reviews.”

“Can reviewers vote in the Amazon breakthrough novel award?”

“Tremendous gratitude for the Chasing Amanda reviews … now on Amazon’s Top (100) Rated Fiction list!”

With so many fake reviews, the bigger question becomes what should be done with the Melissa Fosters of the world? Amazon doesn’t seem to care about fake reviews.

In 2012, self-published author John Locke admitted to buying 300 fake reviews from http://www.GettingBookReviews.com and Amazon left every fake review in tact. What John Locke never admitted to, however, were reviews purchased elsewhere.

In all, John Locke purchased close to 1,000 reviews. These reviews were for Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and other sites. A worse offender than Melissa Foster? If you don’t include Melissa Foster’s many fake awards, perhaps.

Melissa Foster also had organized friends-family review writing schemes though. Schemes that account for the bulk of Foster’s remaining reviews and ratings. Some 2100 reviews and 3500 ratings in all.

What about all the other writers who bought reviews from GettingBookReviews.com and the many other paid-review companies? Tracking the paid-review accounts leads to some surprising names, like Ilona Andrews( fantasy author), R J Palacio (children’s author), J A Konrath (mystery writer), Brandon Sanderson (fantasy author), Erin Hunter (fantasy author), and James Dean (children’s author). Some predictable names too who purchased 500 or more reviews:

Debora Geary
Jasinda Wilder
Gail McHugh
Jessica Sorensen
Jillian Dodd
Rebecca Forster
Mary Campisi
Amanda Hocking
B V Larson
Blake Crouch
Aaron Pogue
Hugh Howey
Erica Stevens
Matthew Mather
Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Ryk Brown
Daniel Arenson
M R Mathias
David A Wells
T R Harris
Jay Allan
Mallory Monroe
Edie Claire
Stephanie Lisa Tara
K Bromberg
Tarryn Fisher
Cassia Leo
Michael G Manning
Emma Chase
H M Ward
J S Scott
A Meredith Walters
Bella Forrest

Predictable because reviews of these author’s books aren’t just a little too perfect, they are in some cases perfect for Amazon or Goodreads. John Locke was clever enough to ensure 1 and 2 star reviews were added. Some of the aforementioned authors have books with nearly perfect ratings. A dead giveaway for fakery.