Take the Money and Run: Kerry Jacobson, "Book Publicist"

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Starting in the summer of last year, self-published authors whose books made it onto Amazon's Movers and Shakers list began to receive solicitations from a publicist named Kerry Jacobson (here's an example).

Jacobson, who claimed more than eight years of experience boosting authors onto bestseller lists, promised a marketing push that would vault the authors' books onto the New York Times and USA Today lists, or propel them into Amazon's top ten. He also promised guidance and mentoring to help them make the most of the opportunity.

Jacobson's fees were enormous--a retainer of $2,500, $4,500, even $6,500--with, in some cases, a $10,000 "bonus" due after authors made the lists. Authors who tried to research him to verify his background and claims of success found little beyond a few social media profiles--and, somewhat worryingly, a number of defunct businesses.* But he was dynamic and persuasive--especially on the phone--and, in support of his services, offered a strong testimonial from one author who really had made the NYT list.** He also provided a money-back guarantee.

Many authors looked at Jacobson's fees and said "no thanks." But others bit. They signed contracts, sent funds, provided requested publicity materials, and waited for the promised mentoring and guidance to begin.

And waited.

Authors discovered that, after the initial setup, getting in touch with Jacobson was like pulling teeth. Basically, except for sending invoices, he never contacted them unless they contacted him first. To their questions and concerns, he offered excuses--he'd been sick, he'd been crazy busy--or promises that everything was good on his end. He also pushed back agreed-upon marketing dates--sometimes repeatedly--with vague but important-sounding explanations like "several big titles are being released that week, and I don't want your campaign to suffer from the sales competition."

As their designated campaign dates approached, authors began to be seriously concerned. But, as is often the case in such situations, they hung on to hope--plus, having already invested thousands of dollars, many felt that they had no choice but to stick. So they promoted the marketing push to readers and fans, paid for advertising, and prepared to lower their books' prices to 99 cents as demanded in Jacobson's contracts. When their launch weeks arrived, they held their breath and waited for their sales ranks to rise.

And waited.

Some authors told me that they did see a sales boost, which they attributed entirely to their own promotional efforts. But others' sales ranks barely budged--and either way, they got nothing even close to the mega-sales that Jacobson had led them to expect. As for Jacobson himself, he was MIA--no sign of any action at all on his end. Authors who contacted him to demand what the hell was going on got the same vague answers and promises as before: big sales would come "tomorrow." It was taking a while for the numbers to build. He was focusing on the end of the push week rather than the start, because that was the way to get sales to rise organically.

It was all B.S., of course. And when angry authors attempted to hold Jacobson to his money-back guarantee--either after their failed promos or after watching their friends crash and burn--I'm sure you can guess what happened.

The mess went public in early March of this year, when one furious author posted a webpage (since removed) about her experience. She sent me a link, I put out a call for contact, and a number of other Jacobson victims responded. They paid a variety of fees and were promised a variety of results, but otherwise their experiences are remarkably similar.

Jacobson seems to have gone to ground. He's removed his Twitter profile and I've had no word of any author solicitations past February. But his AuthorBub website (which promises promotion to a claimed 2.4 million email list for the low, low price of $2,800), is still online--and people who get started in the author-fleecing business have a tendency to come back for more. So I wouldn't be surprised if he reappears at some point.

* Jacobson is or has been the officer or the registered agent for a number of other Florida-based businesses, including Venture Direct Worldwide, Generation Health, Tank Top Media, KnowSomebody.com, Ovid Consulting, Collaborative Push, Mile High Swap, Pernax, and Invitation Only.

** I've corresponded with the author, who told me that Jacobson was not responsible for her book's appearance on the NYT list, and that her testimonial was presented out of context.

Jacobson also claimed to have been the "project manager" for the marketing campaign for Jordan S. Rubin's The Maker's Diet, which he said spent 47 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. The book and its bestseller status are real (although not necessarily its science; the same year the book was published, Rubin's company, Garden of Life Inc., was ordered by the FDA to stop making unsubstantiated claims about some of its products and supplements) but I could find nothing to verify that Jacobson was involved.

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