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Independent Author Cheats and Gets Book Deal

July 18, 2016
Snowman needs a bigger carrot.

Sigh!  Some snowmen will do anything for attention.

There are a lot of ways to cheat when you’re trying to sell a book.  You can put cleavage (or a hot shirtless guy) on the cover.  You can put profanity in the book title.  You can put a humorous vulgar image on the cover.  You can give yourself a gimmick pen name, or you can even pretend to be the opposite gender.

I’m not saying that cheating is wrong when it comes to selling a book.  New authors have to do what it takes to grab readers’ attention, so I don’t have a problem with an independent author cheating to sell books.  I call it cheating because these gimmicks often have nothing to do with the quality of the book, but the cheating isn’t necessarily bad.

The book Diary of an Oxygen Thief  by some guy named Anonymous took a few years to sell enough books to attract a major publishing company.  You can read more details here , including some strategies that are NOT cheating.   Remember, I’m not reviewing the content of the book.  I’m reviewing the process the author went through to sell enough copies of his book to get noticed.

First, the author called himself Anonymous.  This was before Anonymous the hacker (I think), but there have been earlier versions of Anonymous authors.  Anonymous wrote a controversial diary(?) called Go Ask Alice back in the 1970s.  Another Anonymous back in the 1990s (who turned out to be a journalist named Joe Klein) wrote the book Primary Colors about a presidential campaign that mirrored the Clintons.   Anonymous is the pen name authors sometimes use when they write stuff so controversial that they don’t want to attach a name to it.  It’s a gimmick because the stories usually aren’t true but the author wants to pretend they’re true.

Next, the cover of Diary of an Oxygen Thief  has a snowman with a carrot in a provocative place.  Some people would say that it’s the perfect place for a carrot.  It depends on one’s perspective, I guess.

The cover ticks me off, not because it’s vulgar, but because I came up with that idea back in 1973, and I’m sure somebody else came up with it before me as well.  Anyway, I was eight, and we’d just gone through a blizzard, and some friends and I had just built a snowman.  We put a baseball cap on it, and used buttons for eyes and a carrot for a nose.  In a moment of genius, I moved the carrot to a lower spot and pointed it out to everybody.

Nobody seemed offended, so I went inside and brought my older brother out.  He nodded his approval, went inside the house, and came back out with a bigger carrot.  If I’d had foresight, I would have photographed the snowman and used it for one of my ebook covers decades later.

Getting back to the book, Anonymous made about 1,000 copies and got a few of them inside a local book store.  Once copies of his book were distributed in small bookstores, the anonymous author supposedly pretended to be a publishing company to get his book into Barnes & Noble.  Lying is really cheating.  I don’t like lying.  But book publishers can be unethical too, so maybe it’s okay for an author to lie by pretending to be a publisher whom everybody assumes would be unethical anyway.

Anonymous also pretended to be a hot chick in an online dating service and mentioned the book in “her” profile as a book that she loved.  Yeah, it’s clever, but it’s also dishonest, and I feel bad for all the lonely guys who bought his book thinking they had a chance with a hot chick who liked books.

I’ve never been a lonely guy, but I’m a writer, so I’m empathetic and would never intentionally put a lonely guy through that experience.  I guess Anonymous is NOT empathetic.  I too thought of posing as a hot chick to get people to read my blog and buy my books.  I could have done it and chose not to.

Over time, Diary of an Oxygen Thief sold enough copies to get a publishing company’s attention, and now Anonymous has a book deal.    It’s great that Anonymous no longer has to pretend to be a publishing company and a hot chick.  On the other hand, I don’t think he ever got punished for pretending to be a publishing company or a hot chick.

As an aspiring author, I’m torn about this Anonymous.  I like to read success stories, but I don’t like to see bad behavior rewarded.  His success teaches writers bad lessons, like lying to Barnes & Noble and giving lonely guys false hope is justified.  I’m a little uncomfortable with that.

At least the lesson my older brother taught me decades ago was harmless:  When you’re building a snowman, use the biggest carrot.


What do you think?  What’s worse, pretending to be a publishing company or pretending to be a hot chick?  How unethical are you willing to get in order to sell your books?  What other examples of Anonymous authors are out there?


These books might not be sold at B&M Booksellers, but at least I didn’t cheat!

Now available on the Amazon Kindle!                  Now available on Amazon!

Now only 99 cents each on the Amazon Kindle!

  1. shrug. Personally, I don’t lie. It makes it easy for me to sleep at night.
    But I also don’t feel I have the right to tell other people what to do. That said, I won’t be reading Anonymous’s book.

    • I admit, I’ve told some fibs, but I’ve never told anybody I was publishing company. I may try it some time (but probably not on this blog).

  2. Is it actually illegal for him to claim he’s from a publishing company? Isn’t that fraud? Am I taking this too seriously?
    Pretending to be a hot chick just to get some poor guy to buy a copy of the novel? That’s just plain weird.
    Or maybe I have it wrong? I know there’s an ‘adult’ film actress who shares my name (though mine’s real and I suspect her’s isn’t) She has a good following on Twitter and other social media sites – should I pretend to be her, turned to writing books, hoping her followers want to read about teen time travellers rather than her erotic journey of self discovery?
    It’s what Anonymous would do.

    • ” I know there’s an ‘adult’ film actress who shares my name (though mine’s real and I suspect her’s isn’t) She has a good following on Twitter and other social media sites”-

      Is the porn star (with the probable fake name) verified yet on Twitter?

      I’d be ticked if a porn star used my name and got verified before me.

      • I’m sure she will be verified – years before me, I’m guessing. As long as Twitter thinks being a porn star can be classed ‘in the public interest’.

  3. Everyone is wrong here. Anonymous is wrong, the publishing house that took him on regardless of his sneaky ways is wrong, and the men who thought they could get a hot girl by reading the same book as her – completely wrong.

    • “…and the men who thought they could get a hot girl by reading the same book as her – completely wrong.”

      Well… I’ve read a book just to get on woman’s good side before, but I knew her ahead of time, so I guess it’s a little different.

      Ha! A woman even broke up with me once because I didn’t like a book she loved (but there were other issues too, I think).

  4. I enjoyed your piece, DL. And as if from a fleeting feeling of righteousness, of rightly publicising my book unlike Anonymous, let me put here for you the link to my Amazon E-book:

  5. Jorge Jaramillo Villarruel permalink

    I don’t like. I’m really a hot chick and I love my books. I’m a very hot chick with huge boobs trapped in the body of a very cold guy with huge muscles (of course belly is muscle! You’re jealous is all).

    But I used to pretend to be a nihilist punk chick back in the 90s and all my letters were published in a music magazine I read; all my letters were critical of the content, but when I used my real name they were never published; only when I lied, I got all my letters published.

    Also, I lied when I submitted something to a poetry journal. I lied twice: I said that I was a poet and that I was submitting a poem. The truth is, I am not a poet and that piece was not a poem, just a buch of crap I wrote the way an elephant takes a brush with it trunk and splashes some painting on a canvas; it looks like art but it’s nothing but some stains. The same with that “poem”. But they ate it and my stained piece of paper was published. I did this to demonstrate that about 90% of the modern Mexican poets are just a bunch of liars that don’t write poetry at all, and what critics call New Mexican Poetry is a big useless stain in a piece of paper.

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