Matt Johnson on ‘Getting noticed’, the seedy side of social media

As an indie author, getting noticed amongst the huge pool of talent that exists in the social media world is an incredible challenge. If there were an easy way, we would all be doing it.

Only yesterday, I read a tweet from a fellow independent author asking to people to do an ‘exchange review’ with him. What he was offering was a ‘quid pro quo’, ‘you scratch my back…’ type arrangement.  I’ve had a few similar requests myself, normally by DM, and I always decline. It was the first time I had seen an author being so public about courting such a favour.

I was so tempted to contact him and tell him not to get into that ball-game, but then decided that it was, really, none of my business. If he wants to, that’s up to him, but it’s not an avenue I would ever go down.

My personal feeling is that any means to secure reviews other than through genuine readers is fraught with danger. Sure, you may get a few lovely things said about your book, but it’s not genuine feedback is it? It’s not going to give you any idea as to whether your writing actually appeals to book readers and, surely, that is the purpose of a review.

Some authors argue that reviews are a way of getting noticed, an aid to securing that elusive book deal.  I guess that the argument is that publishing editors, on seeing a large number of excellent reviews on a book will then be tempted to take a look at it. That assumes, of course, that editors don’t know how the review system can be manipulated, that they don’t hear that companies are selling 5* reviews and that authors do review exchanges to boost their ratings. The truth is, of course, that they do, and they look at reviews with a very sceptical eye.

What happens after the initial rush of 5* reviews? What happens when genuine reviewers start posting what they think of your work? You can be very sure that if they feel they have been conned that they will say so. So, if your bought or exchange reviews create a false impression of the standard of your work, then you’d best be prepared for the backlash.

The same applies to followers on twitter and ‘likes’ on facebook. I have a healthy ‘followship, not outstanding, but each and every one of my followers is a genuine person, I think! I tend to followback and also follow readers to see what books they are talking about. It also enables me to talk to readers, secure feedback and see if my own work is heading in the right direction.

Like many, I have had my share of unwanted messages offering me opportunities to buy new followers. I can understand why a struggling author might be tempted, it can create an artificial appearance of status which may encourage genuine twitter users to take an interest in you. I was looking at the followship of a well-known author recently who is one of the top in my chosen genre. I saw that most of his original followers were ‘bots’, so he too had fallen for the offer.  Given that this same author has a name for creating fake profiles to promote his own work and attack others, I had to ask myself, is he right? Is this vanity, or is it good marketing? Not an easy question to answer. Books are a business after all.

Sometimes, I look at the twitter pages of fellow authors, newly established indies like me, who have yet to break into mainstream. I see that some of them have tens of thousands of followers and I ask myself, how? How is it that someone with that large a fanbase has not been snapped up by an agent and publisher?

Just yesterday I received this unsolicited email…

Hello xxxx

I am called  Harry. I also specialise in  Facebook and Twitter management helping to generate more customers  and also give your Twitter page  the wow factor.

 Our daily newsletter consists  of nearly  500,000 people whom have all completed a lifestyle survey , so we have a ideal  indication of what interests our customers . When someone submits an order through us unlike most of our competitors, We then submit your link through our newsletter  and in turn people then like your page. We do not use robots or fake likes.

 Prices from :-

£50 for 2,000 Facebook Likes

£50 for 6,000 Instagram followers

£45 for 7,000 Twitter followers

£50 for 30,000 YouTube Views

If a new visitor  logs on to your Facebook page  and can see that you have 7000 likes compared to your competition with just 350 likes, they tend to side with you even without considering price differences, as they are added  with confidence. This will also increase your position  through Facebook and start to drive organic  traffic through your page and through google.

We always have special offers, currently we have buy 20,000 Facebook likes for £170 get 5,000 Free Twitter followers Samples are available for serious buyers.

Many Thanks,


Well, Harry. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but the answer is a very definite, no.

It did answer my question, though.

2 thoughts on “Matt Johnson on ‘Getting noticed’, the seedy side of social media

  1. Hi Matt,
    Your tweet prompted me to go back to your blog, and I was very interested to read this post. You should try marketing a book fromAustralia! We have 23 million people here, and Amazon has “kindly” now given us our own “store”, which means that we are no longer part of the 317 million pool of potential US readers.
    Any reviews we might receive from local readers are not visible to Amazon US or UK, unless we specifically hound our reviewers to copy and paste their reviews across each regional “store”.
    I have joined up with a group of other authors, mainly in the US and Canada, to do a mutual back-scratching review thing. However, I’m now regretting it, because the first book I read was absolutely dreadful, yet other “team members” have all given it a 5-star rating. How can I preserve the tiny amount of credibility I currently have as a writer if I compromise my values in this way? Therefore, I am going to pull out and miss out on a raft of potential 5-star reviews for my own book…. 🙂
    Lastly, I now have two separate Twitter lists: one for more than 1K followers, which I hope will widen my reach; and the other for less than 1K, for whom I might be able to widen their reach! Delusions of grandeur setting in…
    Best wishes for 2014 from the blisteringly hot Melbourne summer!


    • Good decision to pull out. When genuine readers buy the book after reading what they think are genuine reviews they will feel very let down if they realise that they have been tricked. The resulting back lash can often be seen on the review pages of books, which, I think, does more harm to the author than the initial ‘reviews’ did good.


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