I am writing this open letter in part to commend you for realizing that end consumers, whether or not they may have received free samples that they later chose to review online, are not the big problem. Apparently you are devoted to nabbing the false advertisers that either attempt to bribe reviewers or those who put blatantly false information on their products in an attempt to deceive the consumer/reader. This is an important task, but doubtless while you are busy try to get a grip on Smilin' Bob and his cohorts, you might need some assistance to look at other corners, where the deceptive (or at the very least, misleading) advertising seems to be irritating quite a few.
One such example, from an author who apparently has inflated his numbers more than any number of monk...err, former webmasters of a now-defunct Terry Goodkind site could do, is displayed in the picture below:
I present to you, any FTC members that might be reading this, the claims presented by one Robert Stanek. Note the cover and its claim of "bestselling author" status. The author is published on a vanity press, Reagent Press, that only publishes his works. He has been accused several times, apparently with some justification for writing virtually every single positive review of a book that is available on Amazon. None of the claims cited in the blurb for the book listed above can be verified. Below is the full text listed on the 2002 edition of the book pictured above:
Readers everywhere are discovering the works of Robert Stanek, and overwhelmingly they agree on one thing: The books are some of the best, most entertaining works of fiction they've ever read. Stanek's blockbuster debut book sold over 150,000 copies and worldwide sales of his books are quickly approaching two million copies.Since there is no evidence anywhere of his books being translated into any other language, not to mention questioning any distribution deals that most vanity presses lack, one might wonder if there is a case of misrepresentation at best and outright deceptive advertising at worse. Then there is evidence that the author has claimed to have participated in book signings where only a heavily doctored photo (sans legs) has been provided as "proof."
So, FTC members who may read this, please be sure to read the comments in the link above. Investigate the trade practices of this Reagent Press if there are more complaints. But whatever you do, don't waste your time with people such as myself. I do turn down review requests from vanity press people, usually without even bothering to reply to their emails. But if my complaint may prove to be a honest mistake (perhaps Stanek really has sold millions of copies without ever cracking the top 100K on Amazon, or without appearing in any bookstore chain in the US that I've frequented), please forgive me. I just am still shuddering at the thought of having to write a disclaimer in case I ever decide to read/review one of his books noting that I bought the damn thing used for $2 as a gag gift for a friend and that my review, if it were ever to be written, might be colored by the knowledge that I have of the complaints regarding Stanek's rather suspicious self-marketing practices.
On second thought, if investigating this author might lead to you having to read one of his works, don't bother. I would feel rather bad and I wouldn't want to be the cause of a poor soul's descent into madness.