MLM for Writers: The Best Authors Lounge

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Writers: Forget about that boring day job. Forget about tedious book promotion. Heck, forget about writing books! There’s another way to make money–and it was created with authors in mind.

I received a spam a couple of weeks ago from an outfit called The Best Authors Lounge for a query letter webinar. Intrigued by the sizeable signup fee ($74.99, rising to $99.99 after November 15), as well as the presenter’s apparent lack of any professional experience that would qualify her to teach query letter-writing, I decided to investigate further.

From The Best Authors Lounge’s opening page:

In order to be “the best author” you can be, join TBA Lounge, an interactive social network that puts the writer, freelance journalist, the author, the songwriter, the poet, and the speaker in a positive atmosphere in which you can be supported and therefore become more successful doing what you love to do, creating a world out of words.

So far, so groovy. There’s a catch, though: to join this social network, you have to pay–and it isn’t cheap. Fees range from $100 to $200 per month, depending on the level of networking you desire. There are also courses you can take (for more fees, natch) from something called TBA University. You can even self-publish your book, via a variety of packages ranging from $698 to over $1,200.

If you think this all sounds really cool (if so, I’m guessing that you’ve been living under a rock for a number of years and aren’t aware that most social networking is free), but feel you’re too cash-strapped to afford it–don’t fret. The helpful folks at TBA Lounge have made it possible for you to recoup your investment and then some–by luring other authors to TBA Lounge, and pocketing 50% of their signup fee. (In fact, you can’t sign up for TBA Lounge at all unless you have a referral.)

Oh, the money you’ll make!

Assume that you refer 20 people to TBA who come in at the Gold Level. You have just created an extra $2,000/mo which is $120,000 per year.

Assume that you refer 10 people at the Bronze Level, 10 people at the Silver Level and 10 people at the Gold Level. You are now earning an extra $2250/mo.

And that’s not all! You can earn not just on your referrals, but on your referrals’ referrals!

Assume that you referred 5 people to TBA Lounge and those 5 people did the exact same thing down to 5 Generations.

Referral Level 1: 5
Referral Level 2: 25
Referral Level 3: 125
Referral Level 4: 625
Referral Level 5: 3125
Total Referrals: 390

Also assume that the people above purchased a bronze package. Of course, you will earn $50/mo from each of the 5 people that you referred, which is Referral Level 1.

You will then earn $12.5/mo for each person that those people refer down to your 5th Referral Level. If you do the multiplication, you will see that you’re now earning an extra $49,000/mo.

TBA Lounge, in other words, is a multi-level marketing scheme.

Actually, it’s just one part of an MLM scheme–its parent is Team FAM, an MLM organization that claims to “combine THREE of the World’s Largest Industries into ONE: Real Estate, Personal Development, and Network Marketing!”, but whose real business is selling would-be entrepreneurs a system for establishing an income-producing referral network.

This is the second MLM scheme I’ve encountered that involves books–the now-defunct BookWise program was the other–but it is the first that specifically targets writers. Bottom line: despite the literary trimmings, TBA Lounge is far less about authors and writing, than it is about the recruitment of participants to sell the service to others.

For much more information on MLM schemes, and their misleading promises of easy money, see MLM Watch and The Truth About MLM.