Amazon’s Self-Publishing Scam Artists


Amazon’s self-publishing tools mean its never been easier to publish a book—and scammers have figured out how to churn out low-quality content to earn large amounts of money. The Washington Post (a company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos) takes the time to explore one such entrepreneur who has “written” more than eighty books. Turns out that globe-trotting polyglot Dagny Taggart is more likely an Argentine man named Alexis Pablo Marrocco. The scheme relies on low-cost labor, fake reviews, and little oversight from Amazon. If all this sounds like a serious threat to publishing, intellectualism, and career writing, don’t be too alarmed:

Jane Friedman, a professor of digital publishing at the University of Virginia, describes catfish as an ongoing but “not that significant” threat. (“It increases the noise for everyone, sure,” she wrote by e-mail, “but for any author building a long-term career, it’s not hard to distinguish yourself from low-quality opportunists.”) Amazon, meanwhile, promises that it is weeding out deceptive accounts and their products.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →