Zon Alert – Call to Action

Zon Alert members have identified dozens of fraudsters at Amazon. The worst offenders are listed below on the Do Not Buy List.

Suggested Reading:

The Many Faces of Carolyn Arnold

When Authors Have No Shame: The Carmen DeSousa Story

When the Crime Author is a Criminal – The Carolyn Arnold Story

The Online World is Overrun with Fake Reviews

The Shameful Fake Writing Awards of Melissa Foster

A Con Artist at Work: Carolyn Arnold and Her Fakery

Tracking the Fraud of Melissa Foster

The Hugh Howey Tirade: Exposing Amazon’s Biggest Fraudster

Caught Red Handed: Melissa Foster and Hugh Howey

The Crazed Antics of Cheating Authors

The Epic Fraud of Hugh Howey

The Thumbs Down Author List: Fraudsters Identified

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

Writers Beware: Joining World Literary Café May Irreparably Damage Your Career

Amazon and Others Purge Thousands of Fake Hugh Howey Ratings and Reviews

Hugh Howey Attacks Serial Novelists

The Truth Behind the Rise of Wool and Hugh Howey

Melissa Foster Continues to Attack Other Authors

More Amazon Fraud Identified

The Crazed Racist Rants of Hugh Howey

Investigating Misconduct at Amazon

Where’s Zon Been?

Zon Alert has been on extended hiatus as our founding member was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and passed away September 25, 2015. Although Zon went quiet out of our deep respect for him and his struggle, it also is our respect for him that makes us want to continue his work. Though we no longer have access to the resources of his boards, the private member discussions or internal Amazon access for our deepest research, we will endeavor on to work toward revealing truth.

Another reason for our return is that another of our founding members, a retired DC PD detective, is working to get an attempted murder indictment against Melissa Foster for her role in paying someone to attack a writer she was at odds with. The vicious attack left the writer crippled and without a means to support herself or her family.

The Do Not Buy List

Authors on this list have been identified as having conducted extensive fraud.

A M Hargrove

A Meredith Walters

Aaron Pogue

Alle Wells

Amanda Hocking

Ann Mullen

Ann Swann

Ashley Fontainne

B V Larson

Bella Forrest

Betty Dravis

Blake Crouch

Brandon Sanderson

C C Cole

Carmen DeSousa

Carolyn Arnold

Cassia Leo

Cege Smith

Cheryl Kaye Tardiff

Christine Steendam

Collette Scott

D A Graystone

D Ryan Leask

Daniel Arenson

David A Wells

David Dalglish

Debora Geary

Dixie Goode

Dr. S Drecker

E L Lindley

Edie Claire

Elizabeth Reyes

Emma Chase

Erica Stevens

Erin Hunter

Frederick Lee Brooke

Gail McHugh

H M Ward

Hugh Howey

Ilona Andrews

J A Hunsinger

J A Konrath

J S Scott

Jaime Rush

James Dean

Jasinda Wilder

Jay Allan

Jennifer Chase

Jennifer Probst

Jessica Sorensen

Jillian Dodd

Joanna Lee Doster

John Locke

K Bromberg

Karen DeLabar

Karen Vaughan

Kenneth Hoss

Kerry Reis

Kirkus MacGowan

L J Kentowski

Linda Giron

Linda Hawley

Linda S Prather

Linda S Prather

Lorena Angell

M R Mathias

M Todd Gallowglas

Mallory Monroe

Marilou George

Marni Mann

Mary Campisi

Matthew Mather

Melinda Leigh

Melissa Foster

Michael G Manning

Orlando Ramos

Pamela Fagan Hutchins

R J Palacio

Rachel Dover

Rachel Jorgensen

Rebecca Forster

Rebecca Neilsen

Richard Hale

Rick Bylina

Rick Gillispie

Rick Soper

Robert Lee Carey Jr

Robert Pruneda

Rosie Cochran

Ruthie Derby

Ryk Brown

Sandy Wolters

Shaunna Rodriguez

Stacy Eaton

Stephanie Lisa Tara

T R Harris

Tarryn Fisher

Teresa Cypher

Todd Bush

Zach Fortier

 

Advertisements

Amazon and Others Purge Thousands of Fake Hugh Howey Ratings and Reviews

We’re pleased that Amazon and other sites have taken action, purging thousands of fake ratings and reviews from Hugh Howey’s books over the past few months. These purges do not go far enough, however. Hugh Howey has perpetrated a massive fraud. A fraud that is likely the largest in the history of publishing. A fraud is so massive and elaborate Hugh Howey makes “A Million Little Pieces” author James Frey look like a beloved saint.

As our reporting of Howey’s fraud grew traction, we noticed many of these early fake accounts began to quietly disappear. 387 disappeared over a two-month period in fact, largely we suspect due to Hugh Howey himself deleting the fake accounts to cover his tracks. To date, nearly a thousand such accounts have quietly disappeared in all. The more recent purges seem to be due to sites like Amazon identifying the fraud we’ve pointed out and taking action. Google Hugh Howey Fraud Zon Alert to see others who have joined our efforts to expose this fraudster.

The fact is Hugh Howey defrauded people the world over. His multilevel scams and schemes go back to his earliest works of Zombie fiction, most of which have been pulled from Amazon and other stores in recent months. Fortunately, Zon Alert researched, analyzed and catalogued every review of those works before Hugh Howey was able to completely cover his tracks.

Based on our analysis, every review of those early works was created using fake accounts. Fake accounts set up for the sole purpose of promoting Hugh Howey. Not only did the fake accounts write multiple reviews of Hugh Howey’s self-published works, they also mentioned Hugh Howey in other reviews they wrote, in Listmania lists, in So You’d Like to guides and on customer discussion forums.

It was from those reviews that we, along with the Amazon insider on our team, were able to track and identify hundreds of similar fake accounts used by Hugh Howey to promote his self-published works and act as his own fan club.

During a period of time from early 2009 to mid 2012, Hugh Howey created fake accounts daily until he had amassed thousands of accounts. To date, Zon Alert has identified over 3,500 accounts created during this time period and used to promote Hugh Howey. Not just at Amazon or Goodreads but at sites across the net. If there is a site where people talk about books Hugh Howey and his fake accounts were there to talk up his books.

These accounts numbering in the thousands pre-date any actual or legitimate following of Wool and yet they were all talking up and promoting Hugh Howey. Point of fact:
Wool 1 was published July 30, 2011
Wool 2 was published Nov 30, 2011
Wool 3 was published Dec 4, 2011
Wool 4 was published Dec 25, 2011
Wool 5 was published Jan 14, 2012
Wool Omnibus was published Jan 25, 2012

And yet fake accounts were talking up Hugh Howey from early 2011 on and the numbers grew until they encompassed nearly all of the fake accounts Hugh Howey set up by December 2011.

The scale of the fraud suggests Hugh Howey didn’t act alone and likely enlisted his wife and others in the scheme. In analyzing the writing styles used, there seems to be a few regular tropes like the teen who doesn’t use proper grammar, the soccer mom whose kids loved it too, the bibliophile who supposedly reads a hundred books a year but has never read anything so great. Underneath the standard tropes though what’s being said is clearly orchestrated, organized and planned. Often it’s the same message, just with slightly different wording, even when what are supposedly a few different people are espousing the virtues of Howey.

Something else we encountered but didn’t understand until recently was how Howey’s fake accounts were used to attack other authors. At first we thought this was just something that happened randomly but as we tracked the accounts and the attacks a larger pattern emerged.

A pattern of reinforcing his self-manufactured negativity was the most involving. Certain accounts were used to write bad reviews of the authors’ books. Others were used to reinforce the negativity. They added negative comments or discussions that were in turn voted up or reinforced by yet more Hugh Howey accounts.

A standard treatment was to use his multiple accounts to write reviews complaining about bad grammar, spelling mistakes and such about how poorly written a book was. Next, he’d use other accounts to make comments or discussions thanking the unhappy reviewers for saving them from buying the book.

Essentially, it was open season on any author who could possibly be considered a Howey competitor and just as often any author Howey seemed to dislike for whatever reason.

It’s time this fraud ended. Google Hugh Howey Fraud Zon Alert and send the results to sites where Hugh Howey continues to operative his scams and schemes.

Writers Beware: Joining World Literary Café May Irreparably Damage Your Career

It’s widely known author Melissa Foster is not a nice person. We’ve alerted readers to her numerous fraudulent practices from fake awards to fake reviews to buying her way onto bestseller lists. Readers of this blog know she is a cheat and a liar who will do and say anything to con others into buying her awful books.

As if the endless flood of tweets and posts about love, helping others and caring from such a truly despicable person weren’t enough, we’ve received disturbing reports about Melissa Foster’s World Literary Café. Apparently a number of authors who joined World Literary Café found themselves suddenly on the receiving end of floods of animosity that could only have one source: Melissa Foster herself.

These authors had one thing in common: They wrote in genres where Foster or Friends of Foster also wrote.

What happened? The authors started receiving odd, hateful reviews. Mostly the reviews were 1 or 2 star reviews filled with vitriol. Largely, these vitriol-filled reviews attacked any of the books strength and lied about the books supposedly needing editing, having bad formatting, blank pages or such. Sometimes the reviews were 3 or 4 stars but were written in such a way as to make readers not want to buy the books. These odd reviews continued and spread until sales of the books were damaged enough to fall out of competition with Foster or Friend of Foster books.

Sound like our least favorite hustler Melissa Foster? Blowing sunshine while secretly lashing out? You know it.

How many authors wrote in? 32 so far. The odd, hateful reviews were the least of it. Melissa Foster and Friends of Foster used their contacts at sites like Amazon and Goodreads to make false claims against the authors that resulted in all sorts of nastiness.

One of the authors who knew a Goodreads employee investigated and was forwarded 4 emails sent to Goodreads by Melissa Foster herself. In the emails, Foster made false claims about how the named authors writing their own reviews, having friends and family write their reviews or such.
Sound familiar? It should. Those fraudulent practices are employed by Melissa Foster and Friends of Foster to ensure their books are continually flooded with favorable reviews.

Does the finger pointing work? Apparently it does. More than half of the authors who were attacked in such ways by Foster and Friends of Foster eventually gave up writing. Others were forced to remove their books from sale.

The authors who wrote in had some words of advice for anyone who might be enticed by the eternal sunshine gushing out of Melissa Foster’s backside. The overwhelming sentiment? Don’t walk away, run. Avoid Foster and Friends of Foster at all costs.

Sickened by this? Take action. Make sure others know about the fraud of Melissa Foster and other cheating authors we’ve exposed here.

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 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.

The Shameful Fake Writing Awards of Melissa Foster

Of the authors at the center of “review” schemes, Melissa Foster was one of the most egregious. Melissa Foster’s scams revolved around questionable awards, questionable reviews, and questionable promotion tactics involving friends, family, and other authors.

Melissa Foster is the poster child for fake writing awards. Legitimate awards are highly selective and recognized throughout the publishing industry. Legitimate awards have strict rules and careful oversight. At the least, authors must be nominated by their publishers, bookstores, library staff. Books are only eligible for the year they were published and only in a specific category/genre. Legitimate awards launch careers and establish author leaders in the industry.

Illegitimate awards come from companies that are neither highly selective nor recognized throughout the publishing industry. Illegitimate awards don’t have strict rules or careful oversight. Illegitimate awards allow anyone willing to pay their entry fees to enter. They allow authors to enter a book in many categories and as many times as they like and for as many years as they like. If an author enters books over and over for as many years and in many categories as Foster did, a win is almost assured. In fact, entering the same books over and over in multiple categories over many years assured Melissa Foster of multiple wins.

Awards she couldn’t win through this method? Melissa Foster appears to have recruited author friends and others to volunteer as judges. When Melissa Foster won, Melissa Foster then acted as a judge in a different year to return the favor. She became so adept at the scheme she even tried to start her own awards program in 2011.

One of the many illegitimate awards Melissa Foster has won 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 this multiple entry form that allowed Melissa Foster to enter her book in all 17 award programs at the same time

Other illegitimate awards of Melissa Foster allowed her to enter as many books as she wanted for as many years as she wanted in as many categories as she could afford to pay for each time. One book entered in 7 categories? Sure. One book entered each year until it was a winner? Sure. Didn’t win, get a friend to volunteer judge to win next time. Sure.

How many illegitimate awards does Melissa Foster have? 12 at last count – and the aforementioned company isn’t even the worst of the fake awards.

fs

The worst fake awards? That honor goes to Reader’s Favorite an award Melissa Foster has 5 – YES FIVE – medals from.

Reader’s Favorite allows authors to enter as many books for as many years as they want. Each entered book can be registered in up to four categories. The fee for entering one book in four categories: $284.

Reader’s Favorite has awards in 100 categories:

Children – Animals
Children – Concept
Children – Educational
Children – Fable
Children – Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Children – General
Children – Grade K-3rd
Children – Grade 4th-6th
Children – Non Fiction
Children – Picture/Pop up
Children – Preschool
Children – Preteen

Young Adult – Coming of Age
Young Adult – Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Young Adult – General
Young Adult – Horror
Young Adult – Mystery
Young Adult – Non Fiction

Christian – Amish
Christian – Biblical Counseling
Christian – Devotion/Study
Christian – Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Christian – Fiction
Christian – General
Christian – Historical Fiction
Christian – Living
Christian – Non Fiction

Fiction – Action
Fiction – Adventure
Fiction – Animals
Fiction – Anthology
Fiction – Chick Lit
Fiction – Cultural
Fiction – Drama
Fiction – Fantasy
Fiction – General
Fiction – Historical
Fiction – Horror
Fiction – Humor
Fiction – Intrigue
Fiction – Mystery – General
Fiction – Mystery – Historical
Fiction – Mystery – Sleuth
Fiction – Paranormal
Fiction – Realistic
Fiction – Science Fiction
Fiction – Southern
Fiction – Sports
Fiction – Supernatural
Fiction – Suspense
Fiction – Tall Tale
Fiction – Thriller – General
Fiction – Thriller – Terrorist
Fiction – Urban
Fiction – Western
Fiction – Womens

Non Fiction – Animals
Non Fiction – Autobiography
Non Fiction – Biography
Non Fiction – Business/Finance
Non Fiction – Cook Book
Non Fiction – Cultural
Non Fiction – Drama
Non Fiction – Education
Non Fiction – Genealogy
Non Fiction – General
Non Fiction – Gov/Politics
Non Fiction – Grief
Non Fiction – Health – Fitness
Non Fiction – Health – Medical
Non Fiction – Historical
Non Fiction – Hobby
Non Fiction – Home/Crafts
Non Fiction – Humor
Non Fiction – Inspirational
Non Fiction – Memoir
Non Fiction – Military
Non Fiction – Motivational
Non Fiction – Music/Ent.
Non Fiction – Occupational
Non Fiction – Parenting
Non Fiction – Relationships
Non Fiction – Religion/Phil.
Non Fiction – Retirement
Non Fiction – Self Help
Non Fiction – Sports
Non Fiction – True Crime

Romance – Christian
Romance – Contemporary
Romance – Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Romance – General
Romance – Historical
Romance – Suspense

Short Story – Fiction
Short Story – Non Fiction

Poetry – General
Poetry – Inspirational
Poetry – Love/Romance

Audio Books
Graphic Novel/Comic

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.

Based on the number of winners and finalists in award years 2009 to 2012 it was easy to determine how many books were entered in most categories.

If a category had two entries. There were two finalists and eventually two so-called winners: a gold and a silver.

If a category had three entries. There were three finalists and eventually three so-called winners: a gold, a silver, and a bronze.

If a category had four entries. There were four finalists and eventually four so-called winners: a gold, a silver, a bronze, and a honorable mention.

If a category had five entries. There were five finalists and eventually five so-called winners: a gold, a silver, a bronze, a honorable mention, and a finalist medal winner.

If a category had six entries. There were six finalists and eventually six so-called winners: a gold, a silver, a bronze, a honorable mention, and two finalist medal winners.

If a category had seven entries. There were seven finalists and eventually seven so-called winners: a gold, a silver, a bronze, a honorable mention, and three finalist medal winners.

If a category had eight entries. There were eight finalists and eventually eight so-called winners: a gold, a silver, a bronze, a honorable mention, and four finalist medal winners.

Awards seemed to top out with 8 so-called winners. In fact, 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.

Talk about incentive to keep entering year after year. No wonder Melissa Foster kept entering her books in this contest year after year.

The blogging team at Zon Alert has a real award for Melissa Foster. It’s the only real award she’s earned and deserved. It’s the 2013 Biggest Fake Gold Award.