[audio] #51 Our Favorite Authors Use Blackhat Marketing

January 8, 2014

“Doveryai No Proveryai”
“Trust, But Verify”

– Russian Proverb

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(this post updated to include how authors pay pr firms to get on nytimes bestseller lists, pay for amazon reviews & other sneaky tactics. scroll to bottom)

Get your phat ass up and:

do some dishes, laundry, change bedsheets, do pushups, drink fish oil or whatever you gotta do. I’ll do my best to distract your brain for 59minutes.

Let’s go!

Or it’s also ok not to do anything. It doesn’t matter.

What we’re talking about this time:

How I tweaked this podcast ep:
– vocal warmups to sound good
– warm liquid to warm up voice
– room temperature water to stop dry mouth
– turned off heater, humidifier to avoid sound
– unplugged fridge to avoid humming noise
– tilted mic down to avoid lip smacking/breathing noises
– ate green apple, for energy & fun
– moved mic away from computer, to avoid laptop fan noise

I talk about my business heroes:
newest one is Gabe Newell (founder of Valve, Steam & overall badass, hero to the masses)

I talk about my new passion project:
I read a lot of books. I listen to a lot of audiobooks & podcasts. I listen to a lot of success stuff.

Most books suck. They’re too wordy. Annoying. The page numbers at the bottom of the page – annoying. I hate introductions, prefaces, dedications. I hate 400 page books. Even 265 pages is too long.

I talk about one of my other business heroes: David Ogilvy. His books are the easiest & most pleasant to read. Most are 192 pages or shorter. No bullshit included. Just straight pithy truth.

I have no reason to write a book. I’m not rich. I’m not successful. I didn’t create a tech startup and sell it for billions. You don’t even know who I am.

And you shouldn’t know me. I’m no one. Just a regular indian guy trying to lose weight & live a happy life.

The great experiment is, can an unknown guy like me make it?

Is it true when they say “If you build it, they will come”?

We’ll find out.

I’m going to write a book. Or not if I’m too lazy. But if I do, it’ll be about the 1st act of my life. Our hero’s journey will have three acts.

My first act is full of mistakes & being dumb.

Can I turn bitter lemons into lemonade?

Our favorite authors use blackhat marketing!

I just found this out in the past couple months.

All top selling authors:
Tim Ferriss
Robert Greene (48 laws of power)
Neil Strauss
James Altucher (Choose Yourself)
Tucker Max

Update: I should clarify that I don’t know if authors 100% used black hat marketing. I know all but Neil Strauss have hired Ryan’s pr firm (source: his site has author testimonials). Neil is friends with him and I’m assuming has used his services.

There are many more authors who use blackhat that remain in the shadows.

They all have used the services of one smart prodigy:

“Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator” – Ryan Holiday

He doesn’t hide his blackhat marketing techniques.
Planting fake news reports
Creating fake user profiles and spamming positive reviews
Spamming message boards
Creating fake hype to sell books

Aka astroturfing:
“Sometimes one individual operates over many personas to give the impression of widespread support for their client’s agenda.”

Ryan explains exactly how he does this in the video:

Update 2: I’m a fan of Ryan Holiday as a human, writer & love his book reading list. Just not his blackhat marketing techniques.

This is unfair. Why do we allow this to happen? Why have our favorite authors gone to the dark side to sell their books?

Would Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, Ben Franklin or Socrates have gone blackhat?? No.

Can I sell a book without using any of these techniques?
99.999999% no.

But I’m willing to experiment.

And I’d rather be dead and/or working as a walmart greeter at age 90 than go blackhat like this.

Thanks man for listening & your support. I will need your help if I can pull this off. Stay tuned…

UPDATE 1/27/14:

1. http://www.muleradio.net/thebigwebshow/106/
In this awesome podcast, one of my business heroes Jason Fried (founder 37signals, author of Rework) talks about the dark side of new york times bestseller lists. Authors are using black hat marketing companies to get on the bestseller list, for the cost of $100,000. These companies send their reps to all different bookstores in different cities to buy up the books, making it look like there is large demand for the author. This gets the author on the nytimes bestseller list, which gives them credibility for their next book. They can say, “hey, i’m a newyork times bestselling author”

2. http://www.forbes.com/sites/suwcharmananderson/2012/08/28/fake-reviews-amazons-rotten-core/
This article talks about how authors hire professional marketing firms who write positive reviews for their books. For example, spending $6000 gets the author 300 reviews.

3. http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/10/29/241372607/top-reviewers-on-amazon-get-tons-of-free-stuff
This npr episode speaks with Michael Erb, known as the #1 customer reviewer on amazon. They try to figure out why he writes so many reviews.

I’m not saying I’m a saint. Back in my early days of marketing, I thought seo marketing & link building were the only way to operate niche affiliate sites. Things like content spinning, link exchanges, link wheels etc were the only way to get to page 1 of google.

I don’t do any of those things anymore, not because i’m holy, because its too tedious and im too lazy. Plus I have nothing to sell, so its easy for me to stand on my soap box.

I’m just surprised so many authors are using these tactics but are not being transparent about them. It’s a shame because positive reviews make or break book sales. So authors are at the whim of this methodology.