Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Monday News and Deals: Paypal Obscenity Crackdown, Fake Amazon Reviews, &...


An author by the name of Mainak Dhar has several self published books for sale and many of his books have an average of 4 stars with over 200+ reviews.  The number of high ranking reviews is propelling sales.  Alice in Deadland, one title, had been lingering on the #1 Kindle sci fi spot for a long time.  Dhar claims to be making $1000 a day on the sale of his books.  Good on him, right? Well, not exactly.  The large number of reviews are actually the result of a dedicated effort by Dhar to create hundreds of accounts used to post favorable reviews on his own books.  A reader caught the author’s act after the author accidentally outed himself by posting as his author name but signing the post with his fake reader name.  (The author went back and revised the posting but not before Amazon had sent the automatic update to those who had subscribed to the topic).    Dhar is perpetrating this, ah, questionable activity on Goodreads.

For most readers, sussing out this type of behavior is difficult, particularly for a book that has a ton of reviews. Some of the ways you can tell is if the reviewer giving 5 stars has only one or two reviews in the review history.  Another way to suss on false reviews is if the reviewer only gives 5 stars.  The problem is, of course, there is always an exception to the rules but the next time you come across an unknown book with a ton of reviews you might want to check a few of those five star reviews out.

Jenny Bent gives a pro/con summary of recent publishing changes. The bad surround how the author is getting paid (broken up into more chunks and more rights for less money) whereas the good includes better education authors and more flexibility for those authors.  It’s definitely an agent oriented list.

Romance readers and authors might be interested in an auction with a number of signed books and arcs as well as lunches with authors and agents at RWA in Anaheim, July 2012. The auction is to assist the 12U Unleeshed girl’s softball team and their bid to play in the 2012 World Series of Softball in Panama City Beach, Florida this July. You can check out a complete list of items being offered at or check out the team website at to get to know the girls your bids will support! Auctions will begin March 1 and end on March 3. Unleeshed is a 501 c organization and all donations are tax deductible.

Round up of last quarter’s results for the Big 6:

  • Simon & Schuster: Sales are down 1% but profit is up because of “increased sales of e-books, which parent company CBS noted, are more profitable than the sale of print books, which fell in the year.” Source: PW
  • HarperCollins is doing well enough to garner a mention in the NewsCorp quarterly earnings call. Harper UK is doing well but Harper US not so well. “Harper says print product during the quarter (which ended December 31) comprised a big 90 percent of revenues worldwide, leaving only 10 percent for digital and audio.” Source: PublishersMarketplace.
  • Lagardere, parent of Hachette, did the opposite. US sales were up, likely due to the Steve Jobs book but UK sales were down 4.5%. Digital sales were under 10% for the company although last quarter, the US digital sales were 20%. It is unlikely that number has declined. Source: Paid Content
  • Random House: German media company Bertelsmann AG said Thursday operating earnings before interest and taxes, or EBIT, fell to EUR1.7 billion in 2011 from EUR1.8 billion in 2010, due to start-up losses for new platforms and a weak business performance of some printing operations, as well as declines in the replication and direct-marketing businesses. 2011 Annual report will be released at the end of March. Source: Fox Business
  • Penguin: 2011 year end is due February 27 however, “Overall, Pearson’s digital activities generated approximately £2bn. Penguin Books will report “solid results” despite “tough conditions in physical book retail,” it added.” Source: Telegraph
  • Macmillan: Waiting…
  • Harlequin: Waiting…

In what may be the most important rights dispute of recent memory, Open Road responds to HarperCollins lawsuit. Open Road repeatedly made references to the lack of investment or intention of HarperCollins in the production of a digital book. I am curious about this argument as copyright isn’t a “use it or lose it” type of right like trademark rights. My take on the suit so far is that HarperCollins is asserting that it has a contractual right to produce digital books and Open Road is arguing that HarperCollins contract rights don’t include rights that it has not exploited and had no intention of exploiting. There is almost an unjust enrichment argument being made here as OpenRoad argues in on Paragraph 9 that the advance had already earned out years ago. I’m not terribly comfortable with either defense argument.

Via Paid Content

Samhain is running an ad on the Jumbotron in New York City. One internet forum suggets that an ad costs about $10,000 per hour.

Source: Romantic Times.

Publishers might hate Amazon but Amazon is fighting bigger demons (and I’m not referring to states trying to collect sales tax). Instead, Amazon is competing with the richest company in the world with a profit margin of greater than 40%.

Apple’s strength in iPhone and iPad sales are negatively affecting by accelerating the company’s transition from physical to digital media sales (which has effects on sales, margins and ROIC) as well as impacting Electronics & General Merchandise (“EGM”) growth.

Source: Business Insider

Paypal has long had a policy of not accepting payments from companies that sell obscene work. See commenter Anne Douglas back in 2009.

There is a reason for this and it stems back to good old pornography and adult content…and that PayPal refuses to service either of those.

Was there not an ePublisher that had it all go to hell in a handbasket with paypal over that?


Decided to go look it up, to check it was still prohibited. As per my payapl Acceptable use page:

Prohibited Activities:
You may not use the PayPal service for activities that:

1. violate any law, statute, ordinance or regulation

2. relate to sales of (a) narcotics, steroids, certain controlled substances or other products that present a risk to consumer safety, (b) drug paraphernalia, (c) items that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity, (d) items that promote hate, violence, racial intolerance, or the financial exploitation of a crime, (e) items that are considered obscene, (f) items that infringe or violate any copyright, trademark, right of publicity or privacy or any other proprietary right under the laws of any jurisdiction, (g) certain sexually oriented materials or services, or (h) certain firearms, firearm parts or accessories, ammunition, weapons or knives

For some reason, publishers have slid by but Paypal is now enforcing its policy against self published authors and publishers, one of whom is purported to be Siren, who publish books with “incest, pseudo incest, rape, and bestiality.” So if you go shopping and the Paypal option has been removed, that’s probably the reason why.


Don’t forget that I keep a running list of deals and coupons here.  This page has the $4.99 Penguin deals as well. Several of the Dukes on Sale have gone up but there are new Darcy fan fiction for $1.99.

Samhain is having a $5 any $15 order or more.  Use coupon code PRES12 at the Samhain Store. Deal ends tonight at midnight EST.

Sony has a 35% off coupon for one book today. Use coupon code 35OFFPD0217.

Kobo has 20% off coupon which ends today.  Use coupon code feb17us20 at the Kobo Store.

  • My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up by Russell Brand * $0.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Once Upon a Wicked Night by Jennifer Haymore * $0.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Jenna’s Cowboy by Sharon Gillenwater * $1.99 * A | BN | K | S (inspirational)
  • Deep in the Heart by Sharon Sala * $1.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Truest Heart by Samantha James * $1.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Untie My Heart by Judith Ivory * $1.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • The Red Heart of Jade by Marjorie M. Liu * $1.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Too Hot for TV by Cheris Hodges * $1.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Touch of a Thief by Mia Marlowe * $1.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Deadly Desires by Ann Christopher * $1.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • That’s Amore by Wendy Markham * $1.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Welcome to Last Chance by Hope Ramsey * $1.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Highlander’s Heart by Amanda Forester * $1.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Taste Me by Tamara Hogan * $1.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • I’ll Be Slaying You by Cynthia Eden * $2.69 * A | BN | K | S
  • Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell * $2.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • The Duchess and the Dragon by Jamie Carie * $2.99 * A | BN | K | S (inspirational)
  • Love’s First Light by Jamie Carie * $2.99 * A | BN | K | S (inspirational)
  • Lord Lightning by Jenny Brown * $2.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • His And Hers by Dawn Calvert * $3.03 * A | BN | K | S
A bunch of $3.99-$4.99 Pocket books.
  • The Secrets of the Heart by Kasey Michaels * $3.59 * A | BN | K | S
  • The Year of Living Scandalously by Julia London * $3.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Highland Scandal by Julia London * $3.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs by Molly Harper * $3.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Seen and Not Heard by Anne Stuart * $3.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Days of Gold by Jude Deveraux * $4.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • The Truth About Lord Stoneville by Sabrina Jeffries * $4.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • A Lady Never Tells by Candace Camp * $4.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Devil Wears Plaid by Teresa Medeiros * $4.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Scandalous by Karen Robards * $4.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • One Night in Scotland by Karen Hawkins * $4.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Rushed to the Altar by Jane Feather * $4.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • When Passion Rules by Johanna Lindsey * $4.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Defiant by Kris Kennedy * $4.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran * $4.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Flawless by Carrie Lofty * $4.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • The Truth About Lord Stoneville by Sabrina Jeffries * $4.99 * A | BN | K | S

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Brian
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 11:14:44

    Some more Kobo 20% off codes ending today (each can be used once per customer)…


  2. Danielle D
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 11:36:27

    Thank you once again for all the Deals.

  3. BarkLesssWagmore
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 11:40:46

    So sad that an author has to resort to cheating, lying and making crap up in order to get their book noticed. I despise author’s who try to game the system and am off to Goodreads to make certain one of Dhar’s many aliases are not residing on my friend list.

    And Samhain? Wow, that’s some crazy expensive ad! I sure hope it pays off.

  4. Brian
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 11:50:47

    Carina Press has Dangerous Race by Dee J. Adams on sale for $1.99 (67% off) to promote the release of the 2nd book in her Adrenaline Highs miniseries Danger Zone (no idea if it’s any good).

  5. katieM
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 11:52:28

    I always look at the 1 and 3 star reviews on Amazon. If a book only has 5 star reviews, I am really reluctant to purchase it unless I see it recommended elsewhere. One and three star reviews usually tell the real story. Those are the reviews that point out plot issues, writing issues, and inconsistencies. There are also those one star reviews that complain about Amazon service or other non-book related items, but the comments usually clear that up.

  6. Roslyn Holcomb
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 11:53:22

    Well, the sock puppetry scam certainly explains something I dealt with last year. I bought a lot more books than usual because I was pregnant and on bedrest for our months. I decided to try some new authors. One book had dozens of five star reviews. It was a DNF for me. The spelling and grammar was appalling, to the point that I thought I had downloaded the wrong book! I don’t know if the reviews were fake, but I suspect many of them were.

    I’m puzzled by the hue and cry over Paypal. Hasn’t this been a long established practice. When I first started reading ebooks I used to use them when I bought books at epub sites because I wasn’t sure if they were safe. Then the epubs stopped accepting Paypal for this very reason. I don’t understand the cries of censorship, some of this stuff is a pretty blatant violation of the TOS. ARe had better watch out some of the stuff they have on their front page is pretty questionable, too. Which is funny because when I uploaded my book there they specifically asked about nudity and such on the cover. And further said they didn’t like to have snything blatant on tjeir front page. Not sure what that’s all about.

  7. Ridley
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 12:23:28

    12U Unleeshed girl’s softball team

    The adults in charge of that team should be ashamed of themselves for that name. Spell the damned word correctly. What is this? The 90s? Were two Es more “Xtreme?”

    Samhain is running an ad on the Jumbotron in New York City. One internet forum suggets that an ad costs about $10,000 per hour.

    That money would’ve been better spent making their website less shitty. $10k could go a long way towards making it more usable and less hideous. Maybe they could even hire a real development shop this time, instead of one that has to take the Samhain site offline for a week while they bring the new one up.

    /get off my damn lawn

  8. MaryK
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 12:28:09

    So HarperCollins’ worldwide revenue is 90% print and 10% digital/audio. Aren’t they one of the publishers who is big on geographical restrictions and so doesn’t really sell digital worldwide? That quote makes it sound like people are buying print over digital but that’s not true if they don’t have a choice of formats. I can’t keep track of the Big 6 antics so that’s just the impression I have based on my vague knowledge.

  9. Brian
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 12:48:06

    One more deal. The Italian’s Inexperienced Mistress by Lynne Graham (Harlequin Presents) is free on both B&N and eHarlequin, for how long I don’t know.

  10. Maya Banks
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 12:59:00

    Ridley, the adults in “charge” aren’t ashamed of naming a team in honor of a teenage softball player named Leesha Roy who was killed in a car accident a few years ago.

  11. Ridley
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 13:07:57

    @Maya Banks: Noted.

    Still an ugly looking word, though.

  12. Fiona Shin
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 13:17:19

    Ugh. I am saddened to hear about Mainak’s deception, as I’ve seen him quite often around on the Kindleboards, and everyone was so positive about his progress. Sadness.

  13. Maili
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 13:28:31

    Shallow alert: I’m not that keen on Samhain’s revamped corporate identity.

  14. Tabs
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 13:55:08

    Samhain just took less than 24 hours to respond to an email I sent regarding formatting issues with a barnes and noble purchase and sent me a new working copy. I love Samhain today.

  15. Lucy Francis
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 14:19:55

    The sock puppetry really upsets me. A book should stand or fall on its own merits, and yes, sometimes that takes a long time to gain momentum with enough reviews and word of mouth to equal good sales. I’m not altogether comfortable with the idea of an author paying for a review–at Kirkus, for example–even though there’s no guarantee the review will be positive. For an author to go to such extremes to pad his/her book with fake glowing reviews is so blatantly unethical, I don’t know how someone could possibly justify it to themselves. I’d rather a book remain unsold than to gain market share through deceit.

  16. Brian
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 15:00:23

    @Tabs: Looks like maybe their CS has improved then. I emailed them about problems with a book bought through Kobo over a year ago and never got a response.

  17. library addict
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 18:02:20

    Really stupid question, but what is the image between items above? Is it a knife, a rocket?

  18. Ros
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 18:17:48

    @Brian: That’s been a freebie for a long time. There are several Harlequin/M&B titles that they have available for people to try. One from each of the main lines, I think. See here and here.

  19. Jane
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 18:18:13

    @library addict: It’s an elongated pen nib. I don’t think it is working. I am trying to experiment with nicer paragraph dividers.

  20. sarah mayberry
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 18:18:31

    @library addict: It’s a pen nib, isn’t it?

  21. Ros
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 18:19:40

    @library addict: I was going for pen.

  22. Brian
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 19:02:59

    @Ros: Sorry, I knew about the freebie sites, but didn’t realize that one was one of the titles.

  23. library addict
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 20:28:01

    @Jane: @sarah mayberry: @Ros: Okay, I just couldn’t tell what it was. Seems obvious now that you’ve said it.

  24. Jane
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 21:21:21

    @library addict I’ve changed it because it looked terrible. Now it’s a tiny DA stamp, courtesy of Maili.

  25. Merrian
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 01:54:41

    The Passive Guy’s blog – passive voice has had a bit to say about the Open Road/Harper Collins court case over the last while, this most recently:

  26. DS
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 09:22:36

    About the Alice in Deadland review situation. I was reading the thread “Alice in Deadland and Fake Reviews” and at some point in the middle– about page 12, a poster appeared and admitted that he/she had been a client of the author of that book when trying to make money by writing fake reviews– $5 a pop but the site who lined the poster up with authors took a cut and the poster had to buy the book out of the money received. The reviewer however was sent the actual review to post by the author. The poster said she/he felt guilty and during the course of the thread supposedly contacted Amazon about the scheme.

    I thought it was an interesting look at why it’s so hard to pin down fake reviews. Verified purchase plus different locations. Someone put some thought into this. Is this where all the golf ball spammers went next?

  27. Daisy Harris
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 13:59:51

    Siren Publishing DOES NOT publish works involving incest, pseudo-incest, rape as titillation, beastiality or hero/heroine aged 18 being glorified as “barely legal”.

    These content restrictions are stated clearly in their Submissions Guidelines, and said restrictions are one of the many reasons I’m happy to be published with Siren.

  28. Anne
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 14:26:30

    It’s not about using Paypal – it’s about Bookstrands censoring to comply with Paypal and closing down self-published author accounts. That is the censorship people are complaining about:

    Dear Indie Author,

    We have made a decision to no longer maintain most indie author accounts at Therefore, we are deactivating all titles associated with your account and no new uploads will be accepted. Your final distribution payment will be disbursed to you within 30 days and your account will be closed. During this time you will still be able to access your sales report from your account.

    BookStrand will focus on its core business by servicing accounts of publishers with clear submission and publishing guidelines that best serve our targeted audience. Our customer base was successfully built on this premise, and it’s time to go back to our roots.

    While we understand you may be disappointed in losing a distribution outlet for your work, there are still several outlets that currently accept self-published titles. We wish you the best in your endeavors.

    Howie M.

  29. Estara
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 14:28:00

    I’ve found it effective on GoodReads to trust books with real reviews added. So if there’s just lots of no review five stars, I don’t bother. I may change my mind if there’s at least one real review (and of course if there’s an excerpt or I have heard of the author before).

  30. Lisa
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 23:01:45

    Thanks for the mention of Dhar and “Alice in Deadland.” I’ve been watching its reviews since I’m a big fan of another indie author in the same genre (who actually deserves five-star reviews). I read the sample of “Alice” and then just sat there with my mouth open.

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