I recently wrote a post asking if we were weird, now I’m asking if we’re idiots. A lot of companies seem to think so, the latest being Lulu, the book publishers. They’re giving away free money.

Read on to find out how you can get free money. In fact, not even free money: FREE MONEY!

Except like all offers of this kind it’s isn’t really free. They’ll give you their money if you give them a larger amount of yours. The deal is spend £30 on books and they’ll give you £10 back, free. But to make things simple, instead of handing you the cash, they’ll knock it off your bill for the books, you know like a . . . well, like a discount, I suppose.

This morning I got a letter from Wyevale Garden Centres. Once upon a time their rewards scheme amassed points until you had, say, £5 or £10. And then you’d spend the money on a pot plant or bag of manure or something. But the scheme has changed.

Now the reward is £5 if you spend over £25 or some such temptation. Again, give us your money and we’ll give you something for free in return.

Companies do this because they know we look at these schemes and think ‘hey, I’m getting something free and it’ll only cost me. . . .’ If I’m looking to buy £25 worth of manure then the Wyevale offer comes at an opportune moment. Lucky me. But everything else is an illusion. And we often fall for it.

The best ruse, and possibly borderline psychopathic in its sadistic genius, is the internet phenomenon where authors are invited to pay good money to advertise books being given away for free. So instead of a garden centre or Lulu pretending to be giving money away for free, authors are paying money to really give something away for free.

How did it come to this? This inability to spot when you’re being taken for a very long ride. I suppose because the ‘pay to give away your book’ scam is new we haven’t yet cottoned on to what’s really taking place here. We read the disclaimers: treat it like publicity/a loss leader/exposure/discoverability. What we don’t read is ‘millions of authors are doing this and making us incredibly wealthy; unlike you lot. Ha ha!’

It’s one thing to give something away, it’s quite another to pay someone else to tell people you’re giving something away. Lulu didn’t pay anyone to tell me they’re giving away a ten pound note in exchange for thirty pounds in used fivers. It didn’t cost them anything to let me know.

And it won’t cost me anything to say I’ll think about it.

Chris Harrison is the pseudonym of Bernie Chancer, Investment Adviser for Bob Wallet Financial Services. “Give me a £1 packet of seeds and I’ll grow you a multi-million pound money tree.”

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15 thoughts on “Are We Idiots?

  1. I agree completely, Chris… the scams are downright depressing. Any advertising spend is a risk, but spending in order to give away something for free defies logic. The notion of getting valuable exposure is a myth now – but at least this has become a hot topic – did you see the Revolva Vs Oprah story?
    The problem is that as soon as we’ve heard of a gimmicky promotion, it’s already outdated and redundant. I try to always remember the guru who said – when asked how to make money out of blogging – said “it’s really simple. Just get a time machine, go back to 2008 and start then.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just looked at the Revolva/Oprah story. . . Speechless! Utterly contemptible, and I believe there’s a rumpus brewing over authors appearing at literary festivals and being paid nothing. (I think someone just resigned from the Bath Festival or something similar.)

      People have to be very careful with the old freebie routine and understand the whens and whys. Paying money to do it, or being asked by the superwealthy to do it, rarely makes sense, if at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, that was Philip Pullman – resigned as patron from the Oxford Literary Festival over it, God bless his cotton socks. His argument (and everybody’s) was, if festivals are paying their printers, their cleaners and their events staff, why the hell aren’t they paying the authors at the centre of it? Bit of a revolution starting, and not too soon neither. Authors need to start calling bullshit whenever anyone tries to tell them that they should be glad of the exposure.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This reminds me of a couple of things: 1. Gold rushes, in which those selling supplies to the would-be prospectors made more money than most of the prospectors. 2. The fervid declarations by some indie authors that they will never give their writing away for free. And yet I’ll bet some of them buy advertising that does not pay for itself.
    There is a large grey area between legitimate and illegitimate enterprises that preys on naivete, desperation, starry-eyed hope and (sadly) ignorance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The music industry cottoned onto this a few years ago, preying on all the new songwriters with Logic Pro and amateur singers with their own microphone and home stduio. Introductions: offering to get your music heard by A&R people. (For a fee, of course.)

      So many indie authors talk about the freedoms offered to them by self-publishing and the higher royalty rates. But a) nobody sells any books so the higher royalty rates are meaningless, and b) they spend their own money on marketing which they don’t understand, but take advice from people who’ve never sold a f***ing book in their life.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Writer wannabees have become a huge market for all kinds of things. Years ago it was those fat books printed on greyish pulp paper with lists of agents and publishers. Then came writers’ conferences where one might meet an agent. Now it’s a whole spectrum of services. In the end it comes down to expectations. As long as they’re realistic, and one doesn’t go into debt to feed one’s writing/publishing habit, it can be a life-enriching activity. (Of course, the situation is different for those who write full-time as a livelihood).

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Probably human society’s version of ‘survival of the fittest’? I’ve seen those all over the place and figure they have to snag somebody or they wouldn’t exist. Maybe it gets only certain groups like old people who don’t understand technology, youngsters without common sense, or people are simply idiots. There’s one type of scam where you only get money if you pull more people into it, which someone I know attempted to get me into. Isn’t there that quote ‘a sucker is born every minute’? Might be more true than we realize.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s Scam City out there in Cyberworld. I’m bombarded every day by writing courses to go on, dodgy competitions to enter, and books to buy that guarantee I’ll sell a million copies, de-dah, de-dah, de-dah. All these people have one thing in mind; to winkle all your money out of you in any way they can.

    Liked by 1 person

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