The Ethics of Whoring Your Storytelling

The Ethics of Whoring Your Storytelling

Stories are powerful.

Stories have the power to break hearts and break homes. They can start wars – or stop them. They can free prisoners or free nations. They turn water to wine and rags to riches. They’ve saved lives, spared hands and started revolutions.

Oh, and stories can sell.

With a single poignant story that breaks readers’ hearts, you can make thousands overnight. You can talk about your broken washing machine, your sick child, your kitten that was hit by a car, your impending homelessness, your family death… everything becomes a story to profit from.

Go ahead. Write a painful story, tack on a pitch for your product or services, and send it out. Watch the sympathy – and the dollars – pour in.

It’s disgusting.

Now, I get that my personal beliefs, ethics and morals aren’t everyone’s law. I know other people have different sets of beliefs and no qualms about doing what I’d never, ever do. What’s immoral to one is not to another.

What’s too far for me is someone else’s just getting started.

So while I’ll never talk about my personal hardships to make money, I see people marketing through stories every day. They pitch sales wth stories of their dying kitten, their broken washing machine, their sick child, their girlfriend’s birthday game tickets, their ailing car, and more.

They call this “good marketing”, or even its new buzzword, storyselling. It isn’t a good thing. It isn’t businesslike. It certainly isn’t professional.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I highly approve of storyselling and good marketing. In fact, much of my personal career as a copywriter and blogging includes storyselling. However, this paragraph above can be confusing to some people, so allow me to rewrite it:

They call pitching personal hardships ‘good marketing’ or ‘storyselling’. But having to pitch sales with dramatic personal stories isn’t a good thing. It isn’t businesslike. It certainly isn’t professional.

And it’s not necessary, either – I’ve never had to tell a heartwrenching, personal story to sell my products or services.

I’m also seeing this storysellling getting out of hand. Nothing’s sacred anymore. There are no limits. A tragedy, a devastating event, a heartbreaking pain… it’s all good fodder. Let’s sell!

Where does it stop? I see people storyselling so hard they can’t sell any other way. They tell one moving story after another, adding a little more drama to each one until finally, they’re pulling out all the stops.

These people seem to have lost all sense of boundaries. Of privacy. They think every story is fair game. They’re homeless. They’re broke. They can’t feed themselves. Their mother just passed away.

The perfect opportunity to throw a sale and make some cash, n’est pas?

Worse, their readers buy. They pull out their wallet and give this pleading person money. They don’t buy because the product sounded valuable or because they’d been saving up for this consult.

They buy because they heard that someone’s dog died or his washer broke or his father passed away or he can’t pay rent. They buy because an emotional, personal story manipulated their feelings.

They’re being storysold by people who can’t market without having to fall back on their most painful, heart-wrenching tale to make a buck.

It’s disgusting.

I read a newsletter this week that mentioned the author’s family was homeless, he was flat broke, and his father had died three days earlier. But he felt good – excited, even. And then he pitched his products and consulting with this call to action:

“Take advantage of me right now, while I’m vulnerable!”

I’ve seen a lot in my days on the internet, but this was flat-out disturbing.

When did this type of marketing become normal, acceptable and even desirable? Where are the boundaries of privacy, dignity and integrity? Where are the ethics about making a profit? When does this casual use of highly personal stories to earn a buck cross the line?

That’s a good question. The answer? It’s all up to you.

You decide where to draw the line. You decide what’s acceptable and what its. And being mature adults, you’d think no one needs to talk about the ethics of storytelling. But when we start to stoop to these lengths to sell… Well, I think it does need to be discussed.

You see, I believe that when we have storytelling skills and the power to influence others, we have an unspoken obligation to use this power carefully. I believe we need to have respect for others and consider the potential consequences of telling our stories and using them to pitch sales.

I don’t believe every story should be told – or sold.

I know others don’t believe the same. They sit down, grab a story, and pull the ‘publish’ trigger without a care for self-respect or respect for their readers. They only care about their wallet.

And a good story makes sales. It’s a twisted use of a marvellous gift.

If you’re a storyteller, a writer, a marketer, or a businessperson, there’ll come a day when you’ll need to decide just how far you’ll go to make money. You’ll need to decide where you stand in regards to dignity, respect and decency. You’ll need to decide which stories are personal and private, and which should be shared with strangers around the world.

You decide that. You make that choice.

I made mine. And to those of you who whore personal stories for money without conscience, I guess we just stand on different sides of the line.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. People marketing this way makes us think badly of marketers. Also, my conscience would be disgusted with myself for taking advantage of people this way. I would rather make a living professionally, with people buying my products because they want to, not because they feel sorry for me.

    Other people do not resort to these tactics to make a good living for themselves, so it is really necessary? I don’t think so.

  2. Wow James, sounds like something got you pretty angry.

  3. Interesting post.

    My view is that this kind of story telling only really works on suckers who lack *perspective*. Why? Because even moderately-enlightened people have the presence of mind to know that no matter how miserable the story is, there are plenty of people out there a whole lot worse off.

    Why would I buy something because the seller had to sell their house and live in their car to get their business started? Meanwhile, millions of people have never been NEAR a car… let alone had something so comfy to sleep in.

    I’ll only buy stuff if it’s valuable – stories be damned. Perspective people!

    Let’s keep it real…

  4. This? This is why I have an internet crush on you.

  5. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a big city, or maybe it’s because I’m just a suspicious SOB — but as soon as someone starts telling me about their dead puppy or the way the aliens swooped down on their pickup — the “SUCKER” alarm goes off and I start backing up.

    I’m more than willing to give you sympathy, but at least one hand is on my wallet at all times. And the more you pile it on, the faster I start to walk away.

    I do agree all this current noise about “storytelling” is getting some people a little confused. Of course, if you write, you tell stories. But with with great power comes great responsibility.

  6. Susan Allport says:

    Did you ever stop to think that the chance to read about someone else’s experience, may ease the pain of person in that same circumstance?

    There is quite a difference between your example of a man who was pitching his product and unnecessarily mentioned his hardship (deplorable) and a person who sits down and writes a true story about a difficult experience.

    There is nothing wrong with sharing a story simply to share – some of the most touching novels ever written were based on personal experience. You are making the assumption that all people who write such stories do so with a thirst for money – how can you truly know their motive?

    While I agree that a ‘sob story’ shouldn’t be used as a tool to sell something ELSE, you said: “I don’t believe every story should be told – or sold.” This attitude would see a huge number of topics become somewhat taboo, when in fact, someone choosing to speak out and describe their experience can shed light on topics which are often ignored or stigmatised.

    • I agree, Susan. Sometimes personal stories have great, great value and should be shared. I think there’s a time and place for everything.

      • I think it gets really mucky when someone tells stories such as those used as examples (washing machine, kitten, etc) without the pitch at the end of THAT story. However, they pile these sorts of stories on to get people to connect and love them – only to later have their sales pitch separate fromt he stories but the ‘connection’ is still there. I can’t help but feel it’s all calculated most of the time.

    • I agree with you Susan.
      I think it is a matter of integrity and intent. If the story is true and the intent is to gain perspective, wisdom, support, educate oneself and others, share, explore, understand, grow …. then it is essential for all of humanity to have this freedom. Without it our culture would be superficial and our existence disconnected.
      If the intent is to manipulate, take advantage of, sucker, exploit, steal … it is despicable.
      I also think what is private and personal depends on the openness of the person and perhaps men are a little less expressive about personal emotions than women, stereotypically. So men with pens may have a different perspective on this than women with virtues (which clearly doesn’t work nearly as well as menwithpens, which is brilliant).
      our society has evolved from the “we don’t talk about that dear” to a healthier model, for the benefit of many, unfortunately there is always a dark side to progress.

      I think your story brings up a really important point (or points). Thanks for putting it out there. The discussion is interesting and benefits us all.

      • ML,

        The trick is that we can’t know the writer’s intent, we can only make our best guess based on our individual interpretation. As is clear from some of the comments, it can be hard to tell the difference between an intentionally manipulative story and a story told by Honest Hal.

    • I have to say I second what Susan said. While I can see the point of the article–using a personal story solely for getting money (which I also think is not a good reason to tell a personal story), I think that telling a personal story in your marketing materials doesn’t always mean you are exploiting a personal story for monetary gain. As a holistic health coach who works with women with painful emotional eating disorders and who have punished themselves their entire lives b/c of their weight and dieting obsessions, I find that when I share my personal struggles which led me to do this work with my clients and with people who visit my website, I do it because I want them to know they are not alone and that there is a way to work through their struggle and find something better. sometimes a client of mine during a coaching call will express anguish and feel like they “failed” if they ate too much etc.. and letting them know that is a human behavior, and that I have done that too, helps them not be so hard on themselves, and helps them realize it’s only human and that it’s a process that must be honored.

      I tell my personal story to reach out to others who are going through or have gone through something similar, to let them know they are not alone and that there is a community of women/people out there that can support them through their struggles.

      I also can’t even tell you how many thank you letters and ‘aha” moments I get from my newsletter subscribers when I write a newsletter with a quick personal story.
      I personally like to get newsletters with people’s personal stories–it makes me feel connected to the person who is sending it to me and I love seeing that they are human too and have imperfect lives, just like mine. That’s the beauty of life no?

      There is also an exploitation of “not” telling your personal story that goes on as well.
      Too often I feel people don’t tell their personal stories on purpose as well. By making themselves appear “flawless” or trying to position themselves like gurus and like they have it all figured out, it also creates an unhealthy marketing dynamic. These people who try to make themselves appear as gods who have conquered everything in their lives, make money off of people feeling inferior to them and therefore looking at them to solve all of their problems. These types of marketers feed off of others insecurities and try to build communities of people who worship their infallibility. So as you see–there can be a bad side to the other side of the coin as well. That’s also, in my opinion, not a good way to make money.

      So I agree with others that intention is everything. If your intention is to reach out to people, to connect with them, to let them know they are not alone, to give people hope and to inspire them, then I think a personal story is wonderful to use in marketing materials. I myself love personal stories and love reading them. Very rarely do I feel I’m being told this so someone can scam me out of money.

      However if your intention is to either make people insecure so they buy stuff from you, or make people feel sorry for you to buy stuff from you. Then I agree that is despicable.

      But not all people who tell personal stories have bad intentions. I have to say more often than not, I’ve come across the people who tell personal stories with wonderful intentions.

      Thanks for a thought provoking article and discussion!

  7. I don’t want to add to what people have already said about sob stories but I did want to touch upon the question of whether we should use material from our lives for our work – whether that’s blogging, selling or journalism.
    I have certainly been guilty of telling stories about my husband in my blog – for comic effect!(He doesn’t mind).
    However,when it comes to my kids I do think twice.
    There was a celebrated case here in the UK where a female journalist wrote a frank weekly column about her teenage family. It was strong stuff and included drug taking and swearing. Then her family found out and she had to stop the column but not before the whole thing got into the papers and well out of hand. There was a very lively national discusion about the rights and wrongs of what she had done in the name of work.
    As James says, it’s all about where you draw the line.

    • As a longtime reader here at MwP, Lucy, you’ll know that my kids rarely feature in my posts or comments. I think I count two posts out of over a thousand.

  8. Got to tell you, my husband looked over my shoulder at your title and I had to do a whole other kind of storyselling:)

    There are some stories that repeat on the web almost like the cycles of the moon. The young 20 year old who was eating on a TV tray in his parent’s basement and voila–6 months later he’ a millionaire marketing genius. The hard luck story you described above. The young (usually male) who dropped out of school and now wants to sell you his secret to success with keywords, or new apps, or copywriting, or marketing tips. It all seems like spam.

    Seems to me this is a great example of how to kill your credibility and your list. I feel sorry for the writers but you are right, it is like seeing prostitutes on street corners.

  9. Sharing stories…no problem.

    Asking for money because we have a story…bad, very bad.

    Story with a donation cup…very, very, very bad.

    It is not ‘stand up’, it is does not build trust.

    When I see this kind of thing I click away, move on, and rarely go back.

    Thank you for coming out and saying it.

  10. I got the same email. I didn’t buy. But not because of the story. My ‘rules’ are pretty simple (but feel free to go ahead and break ’em as you see fit):

    1) don’t cause undue pain for yourself or anyone else
    2) speak your truth if it helps, keep it to yourself if it’s for grandstanding
    3) treat others the way you want to be treated (or the way you hope they’d treat your grandmother if she managed to delve into this world of social zines and media); and
    4) unsubscribe from anyone that makes me feel bad about myself.

    Godin’s recent post about using fear or guilt to sell is exactly the point — why are we putting up with people making us feel “less than”. Different story of course — I don’t think this person was trying to make me feel “less than” maybe “guilty”? or not.

    It gave me some insight of course, that even “big deal peeps” have crappy days and weeks and not so much money in the bank. perspective.

    Enjoyed the post and am enjoying the comment discussion too!

  11. OUCH!

    I don’t know if I was among those you were thinking of when you wrote this or if my paranoia/guilt complex is just kicking in. The fact is that I have for many years written about my life experiences and drawn from personal encounters with both trouble and blessing. In most cases my intent was to educate, encourage, or possibly just to entertain. Never have I been so blatant as to try to use an experience to hawk a product. However, my blogs and articles are “monetized”, so in a fashion when I tell of the mistakes I made in the garden this year or explain medical and psychological maladies and ways to get through them I may be guilty of whoring. Of course, selling a book on these topics would be just as bad.

    Maybe I’m just being overly sensitive. I never have (and never will) do anything like the “I’m so pitiful – please buy my product/program/book” story you talk about. But as a writer I find third person journalism (just the facts ma’am) far less effective and engaging than telling a story through the eyes of a participant. Some of the articles I found to be most painful to write have also been the ones that generated the most comments from grateful readers who appreciated the encouragement they found in my words.

    I have, however, come to view those heartbreaking e-mails describing some cancer riddled child of a poor couple who desperately needs medication with the same suspicion as the ones from the leader of some African state who wants to give me millions of dollars because I seem like a good guy.

  12. Where did the other comments go? I had two, Naomi had one… ???

    • Sorry – server move this morning and I lost a bunch of comments. I’ve emailed everyone copies.

      Don’t worry, peeps, nothing’s been deleted!

  13. Hmm, that may work on some, but definitely not on me. As soon as I feel like someone is trying to pull my pity strings, I run away. I don’t buy things out of pity. I buy them when they’re useful for ME.

  14. Steven Howe says:

    Like Naomi Niles above I don’t get suckered in to this kind of marketing. The minute I see “my dead this” and “my broke that” I hit delete.

    I’ve got plenty of crises in my own life without having to patch-up everybody else’s with *my* rainy day fund.

    Sorry, having a bit of a mean-streak-Monday.

  15. It’s interesting that you use the word “whore”. It refers to selling something sacred and intimate for money. But there are times when that something sacred and intimate can be correctly shared. (Granted, the analogy stops there for what I’m about to say since sharing sex with multiple people makes you a player or a participant in orgies.)

    I do think there is a time and place for storytelling, even of a personal nature. I even think it is acceptable if they are sold for money (we all have to eat). Stories that are told in earnest and with transparent motives do not bother me at all. Creativity for the sake of sharing something to help someone else can be a good thing.

    But I do think storytelling can be done distastefully and with a lack of respect for me as a reader and as a human. If someone tells me to buy from them because they are homeless or have a dead (fill in the blank), they aren’t storytelling…they are manipulating me. It’s not creative, it’s disgusting (to use your words).

    I feel that this type of storytelling is only different from much of advertising in that it is so blatant. We’ve all heard that “sex sells”. We forget that the sex is selling us a story too: buy this product and YOU can have sex (or it’s twin message: buy this product or you WON’T have sex.) To me, that message is just as disgusting. It’s playing on human emotions in an attempt to manipulate us using something that has NOTHING to do with the product. (Seriously, does sex have anything to do with buying green beans? Maybe I’m missing something here.)

    I think the point that storytelling as a manipulative tool is foul. But I would think you’d admit that not all storytelling serves that purpose. I’m curious where YOU draw the line and what criteria you use. (Honest question, not an accusation.) 🙂

  16. Actually James, now that I’ve returned to my pc after five hours, and the comment subscription notifier has left my inbox bulging at the seams, I’ve gone and read the article again.

    Pretty advanced stuff, actually, and many layers in it. I recommend a re-read to everyone. Thanks James.

  17. I agree that manipulating for nefarious motives is bad.

    I also think that, like “everything you do it marketing”, it’s also true that “everything you write tells a story.”

    I started reading this blog because James wears woman’s underwear. That’s a pretty good story of a somewhat personal nature.

    I don’t agree that personal stories are always wrong or that trying to sell something is always wrong. I don’t think it’s possible to communicate without trying to manipulate.

    The only difference is degree and motive.

    • Thanks for reading about my undies, and I’m glad to have you as a reader, Conrad.

      I think you’ve also brought up an interesting point… I would never have told that story had I not had a need. Sure, it would’ve sold a ton. There just wasn’t a need, and I didn’t want any of my products or services to require that crutch to sell.

  18. I agree.

    Until I don’t.

    Big fat sympathy stories smack of ick. They smack of the maiming beggars thing Nora mentioned. But those honesty and authenticity and transparency things we’re always talking about? It’s pretty fucking hard to be authentic and honest and transparent without telling stories.

    “And to those of you who whore personal stories for money without conscience, I guess we just stand on different sides of the line.”

    Yeah. “Without conscience.”

    The example you gave was… well, we talked about it when it happened and it was fairly incredible, certainly. But I’ve had a sale to buy game tickets for my husband. I’ve had some people hate on me for it and HELL NO I’m not going to stop.

    There is a VERY big difference between whoring with stories and telling them. Did you see Navarro’s thing? About his mother being murdered? That was an absolutely VITAL story that had to be told, and I’ve been begging him to talk about it for years. He handled it with grace and class and direction and purpose and honor. (I was talking to someone at BlogWorld and she said it was the only post on his blog that she liked.) I couldn’t have been more proud of him for doing it. That’s more class than you’ll see on my blog or yours.

    In my very unsolicited opinion, the rule should be that when you’re telling stories at the same time as you’re selling things, be very fucking careful. We also have to be careful when we’re driving a car. Or when, as will undoubtedly happen, people will come onto this post and make blanket statements they can’t back up on topics — like marketing — about which they know nothing.

    Also, I agree with everything Susan said.

    • Thanks for chiming in, Naomi, and I agree that there’s a time and place for stories. They have to add purpose or give reason – and sometimes, those heavy-hitting stories do just that.

      But I think that takes some careful thought and consideration. You do it right. Johnny Truant does it right as well. Even when you two use stories to get tickets, for example.

      There are others that just use it worng.

      • And I in turn am glad you added this, James. Because I’m a huge fan of both Naomi and Johnny and would have no problem buying from either of them if they used story to sell to me. In fact, I have bought from Johnny in one such instance.

        Part of the difference for me is that, to my mind, neither of these guys ever present themselves as victims. They can both, in their individual ways, be a little crazy sometimes (that’s a compliment!!) but they’re fundamentally OK. So their storyselling comes across as something that’s clever and fun; something you want to take part in. There ain’t no rescue involved because that’s not what they set up.

        But when it comes from a whinging “rescue me” place, I jump off the page. Emotional- hence financial – blackmail I can live without.

      • James, could it be because Naomi and Johnny tell stories that illustrate the reason that you should trust them, the reason that they’re competent (even if only human)? They use stories to connect. They use stories to justify, illustrate, and explain. But they never go all “woe is me, I need your money, please give it to me or STARE AT SAD-EYED HOMELESS ORPHANS FOREVER!”

        They’re not trying to pull in a Sympathy Buck. (Little pun there. Say it outloud. If you’ve ever hung around college kids…)

        • Naomi and Johnny have never (as far as I’ve seen) never ask for my sympathy or my pity. Ever. And they’ve always made sure that IF I choose to buy, that it’s worth it for me – they give value, and they convey it haaaaard.

      • I have little to say except that I agree.

        Stories are incredibly powerful. And as writers, I believe we have the responsibility to use our words for good: to tell powerful, moving stories which help others to be their best selves.

        (Darren, Sonia and Brian did this brilliantly in their Blogworld keynote, not sure how many people will have seen that though.)

        Though I guess I’ve been lucky online: I haven’t seen the negative sob-story-pushing that you’re talking about in the post, James. And as others have pointed out, some stories do need to be told. Just not as part of a launch campaign or sale. It cheapens the story and it cheapens the product.

    • I agree with Naomi here. It’s a great post, and thought-provoking. The problem is when other people take the real stories and accuse their writers of telling those stories to make a buck.

      One night, I was feeling really frustrated with this whole “Internet business” thing. I slammed out a post and hit Publish without even sleeping on it. I was just so annoyed that it felt good to say how I really felt for once instead of being all rainbows and fuzzy unicorns and shit.

      That post became the most popular post on my blog. Most people were extremely supportive. However, there was one annoying commenter who insisted on replying to all the supportive comments saying “Don’t you see! She’s manipulating everyone! Don’t you see that she’s just trying to get you to not refund the next product she sells…” and on and on. I deleted most of the replies (seriously, she must have spent an hour+ typing out like 20 comments.) Left a couple of her more coherent ones up.

      The problem I have with this post is that it feeds into those people. Kind of like the hate blogs make everyone more cautious about buying anything from anyone who has ever once called him/herself a “marketer” or who sells info products. This kind of post plants that seed of doubt into people’s minds, so that next time someone writes a story, those people think “Is this for real, or is this person manipulating me?”

      And for this reason, I’m concerned.


  19. Let the record show that while I originally took this post personally since I’m “the Storyselling guy,” James has actually confirmed via DM that she wasn’t pointing at me and that I am not, in fact, a shitbag. 🙂

    • No, you’re still a shitbag. Just not about this. 😀

      • Seriously, best two comments evaar!

        • Not as great as the fact that Naomi’s latest blog post is apparently MY post on MY blog. That’s just extra win.

          • Yep. That definitely trumps the whole “shitbag” exchange!

            (Thinks to self: Hmm…how do I get MY posts to appear under her name?)

            • all you shitbags, get back to telling some stories! To much seriousness here and not enough fun.

              Just kidding! I think its a post that makes you think. The reality? People will continue to do shit like this to get in our wallets. We just need to get good at grabbing onto our wallets.

              I respect the people that know how to do it with class. Not the ones that will come into my home while I’m sleeping and take my wallet and my penny jar, and take a dump in my bathroom–that’s just rude.

  20. First of all, I appreciate people talking about this topic, because I do think it’s worth a pretty in depth discussion, so thanks for giving us a forum to talk about it.

    That said, I think it’s a little disingenuous to preach about authenticity while running an internet business while putting limits on how authentic you feel people should be. I’m a marketer, and I don’t respond to that stuff either, nor use it to sell my products/services. But with all of the storyselling products out there, and the calls to be authentic on blogs and on Twitter, this isn’t an unexpected side effect. Judging people for following the accepted advice, even if it seems extreme to you, seems a little hypocritical. Yes, everyone has the right to their own opinion, but you can express that by taking one simple action: if you don’t like their marketing, don’t buy their stuff. It’s pretty easy. Using ‘whore’ in the title isn’t the most mature thing I’ve seen on the internet either.

    “I know others don’t believe the same. They sit down, grab a story, and pull the ‘publish’ trigger without a care for self-respect or respect for their readers. They only care about their wallet. ”

    I also think (despite not using this form of marketing) that this is a pretty unfair characterization of things. Some people really are working their butts off to make things work, and everyone has stuff that happens. Yes, some people choose not to talk about it, and that’s their choice. But characterizing anyone who makes a different one as a money-grubbing whore with no self-respect or respect for their readers goes beyond your personal choice, and into the realm of hurtful and uncalled for.

    Maybe I’m biased: I am 24 years old, I run a fantastic business, and before I started it I was making $500 a month at a job that I hated. I now make much more than that, and it’s been less than a year. I love my clients, and I’m grateful for all the opportunities the internet community has given me to transform my life.

    To some people, that might be an emotionally manipulative “storyselling” approach, but for me it’s my real life. And if that makes me a money-grubbing whore, I’m okay with that, thanks.

  21. I think I have another comment or two in the queue that I know James is sorting out right now (not sure), but I figured I’d drop this in just for the hell of it.

    I did a promo once to buy a new washer and dryer.

    I did it shortly after doing another promo to buy expensive Kathy Griffin tickets.

    But here is part of the email I sent for the second promo. Man, I don’t think anyone could accuse me of trying to gain sympathy with this one.

    NOTE: Sorry in advance for how stupidly long this is going to be. Just trying to make a point.

    I need to explain, about this washer/dryer
    thing, before we get started.

    See, after that earlier promo I did for the Kathy Griffin tickets,
    I had people tell me that they “wished they could help me out,” or
    they indicated that they were tight on funds or they “would have

    Um, no.

    Let’s get this straight: Sales like these are a MARKETING STRATEGY.
    I’m using some of the tricks in my toolbox to entice you to buy
    things. And you can’t just have sales all the time or it looks
    stupid, so you pick an event and you have a sale around it. I’ve
    heard people advocating having a sale on your cat’s birthday. Why
    not? The cat gets a birthday, but you get the presents. Everyone

    Let’s do some Q&A, to make sure everyone sees what I’m saying here:

    Q: Johnny, can’t you afford your own washing machine and dryer without
    this promotion?

    A: Of course I can. I’m just using this event as an excuse to have
    a sale. Sales are good. Everyone wins – the people who get stuff
    cheap, and the smooth and sexy course creator who sells the stuff.

    Q: Johnny, is this the best you could do for a sale — this
    washer/dryer thing?

    A: Why not? I don’t know when my cats’ birthdays are. And also, it
    creates a nice, defined scope for the sale. Appliances cost a fixed

    Q: Johnny, I wish I could help you out, but I’m tight on funds.
    A: Dude, have you been paying ANY attention? And didn’t you read
    the question at the top of this list?

    Q: Johnny, how can you refer to “the question at the top of this
    list” when I’m just some person asking you a question and the list
    doesn’t exist as of the time I’m writing this? And also, why does
    everyone start their questions with “Johnny”? Doesn’t that seem a
    bit artificial and contrived, and maybe even a little condescending?

    A: My favorite color is ham.

    So there you go. If you want to help someone purchase a washer and
    dryer who can’t afford one, donate to the Foundation for Washers
    and Dryers for the Washer- and Dryerless.

    But if you want to get my Zero to Business course for $100 off (for
    a total of $197), then talk to me. I’m pretty much the only guy
    currently in the market for a washer and dryer who is offering a
    deal on Zero to Business.

    • I remember that one – and see? That’s the perfect example of using storyselling… without going too far or being stupid about it. You KNOW the diff.

      THAT is what makes you great at it, and what makes me admire your skills.

    • I remember that too, it was brilliant! Loved it, however was a bit peeved because I was in the middle of buying my own new washing machine and wished I’d thought to have a sale.

    • That’s just fun to buy from people from Johnny, isn’t that part of selling? Making people laugh

  22. I will never ever ever ever forget when one well-known marketer used an
    Amber Alert to try and pitch their products. Instant unsubscribe and I
    haven’t looked back since.

    ‘course, this is the same person who pitches oxygen too.

    Anywhos, I’m just getting into giving myself permission to incorporate
    storytelling in my sales copy…but never in a billion years (methinks)
    would I use a personal tragedy to sway people to buy.

    That being said, I have never been in such a position…so who knows,
    perhaps I’d feel differently if I was staring utter devastation in the eyes.

    Sometimes, you never really do know what you’d do until you’re forced to
    confront it….

    • I was on a non-profit board and we were looking for ways to build a community at our annual convention. We came up with the idea of a comedy hour–and it was a smash hit. People who wouldn’t talk to each other now had a shared experience to talk about. The mega stars got to shine…. Everyone won.

      I am reading these examples of sleeze and thinking this would make an amazing “comedy hour” at BlogWorld or one of the other Marketing Conventions. I bet Hubspot or MwPs or JBT or Itty could also create some dandy videos that would rock the marketing world and show the difference between slimy and slick.

      These examples are just too funnnny and outrageous! What great material.

  23. Great post. There’s a local artist who is a cancer survivor, and has been using that angle to promote her artwork for going on a decade now. I guess in a way it’s a savvy form of marketing (every October, I see a story or magazine article about her heroic battle) but it’s starting to disgust me. The story has become a crutch. Shouldn’t the work stand on its own merit?

  24. I agree that selling based on a sob story is disgusting.

    I also think it’s important to make a distinction, as some of the commenters have, about sharing stories of challenge and strength with your community and selling a product based on your personal woes (separately from sales pages and promo posts).

    It’s just as disheartening and gross to read constant self-aggrandizing and “my life is perfect” crap from people who don’t have the records to support it. And reading a post about someone else’s story of struggling and overcoming through personal strength can be motivational and life changing.

    I’m not going to apologize for sharing with my market that I struggle and that sometimes those struggles are more painful (and common) than some are willing to admit. I wish MORE people in my field would say “yeah, it’s a good job, but before you decide it’s a castle on a cloud, here’s the real freaking deal”. But I’m also not attaching a “buy now” button at the end of posts about life being hard and I’m not going to write a sales page with the compelling argument that my life stinks so give me cash.

    I will, without any sense of shame attach a buy now button to a sales page that represents the actual deliverables about a product that I know will provide value to someone’s business. The two posts existing on the same blog or website do not necessarily equate to internet panhandling. How they are (or are not) connected makes that distinction.

    • Asolutely, Shayna. I’ve written stories about some of my own struggles as well, to help show why I created a certain product for example, or to build a bond with a reader. I’m not perfect, my life isn’t perfect, and I’ve been through hard times.

      But I pick and choose which hard times to talk about, and why, and how they fit in.

  25. Then there are those that kick it up a notch by preying on the stories of others or simply make the whole thing up.

  26. As usual James, you’ve made a great point. Storyselling isn’t anything new, but the degree to which it’s being used – or rather, abused – is.

    When I come across this stuff it smacks of the slimy, dirty snake-oil salesmen, or even much of the direct mail that companies churn out.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with including a personal story in a blog, with or without a business tie-in (sometimes it’s just a fun story). But this form of storytelling is closer to preying on and taking advantage of others than ‘selling’, and if they were truly good or great marketers, they wouldn’t have to stoop to the level of bottom-of-shoe-goo.

    I want people to buy from me because they want my stuff. I’d like notoriety because I’m “that good”. Not because they feel sorry for me.

  27. James,

    I have a question for you. It’s an honest question and I don’t intend to imply judgment or criticism; I’m just sincerely interested in the reason behind your decision.

    Why do you choose to make these storysellers anonymous? For those of your readers who share your values, I’m sure they’d appreciate a targeted heads-up of who in particular to be extra careful of, you know?

    • That’s a very, very good question. I’m glad you asked it.

      Were the situation happening with one person only, I’d take it up with that person directly. I feel that there are some things best discussed in private.

      I also feel that pointing fingers to people and saying, “You did wrong, motherfo!” on my blog is unclassy and is a simple power dominance thing that I don’t want to do.

      I wouldn’t want it done to me; hence, I don’t do it to others.

      I feel as well that there are many people out there who could relate to what I’m speaking about in this post. While my reaction may have been triggered by one person’s actions, I’ve seen other people do the same, so I’d rather pass a message than point a finger.

      I try too to make my posts… thought provoking. To get people to think for themselves versus influencing people to look at one person with my opinion in their mind.

      “James mentioned so and so used creepy tactics. HMMM, let’s examine all of this person’s stuff with a critical eye now!” That would be… wrong, in my mind. People need to learn to think for themselves and say, “Hm. Does this story have purpose and value? Is it worthy of my money? Does it give good reason to buy at this time?”

      Lastly, whether I like what people are doing or not with their stories is one thing. Casting a public eye their way is incredibly detrimonial to them and unfair of me. I’d rather they read the post and say, “Hm. That may be me. I should think about what I did to make sure I’ve done right by myself and others.” I’d feel bad indeed if suddenly I wrecked their world, their reputation and their business by pointing eyes their way.

      Again, I won’t do unto others what I wouldn’t want done to myself.

      Does that help explain? Feel free to ask more questions or discuss if you’d like, Pace.

      • James,

        I see where you’re coming from. It makes a lot of sense to me. You’re trying to be respectful, and you’re encouraging others to critically examine the stories being told instead of telling them to believe *your* story. I respect you and I respect your choice. We’re cool.

        I am now digressing from talking about this particular issue of storyselling and these particular people. What follows is about a more general topic that concerns me greatly.

        I take issue with the fact that society considers it uncool and unclassy to openly and specifically talk about people who do harm. Take, for example, rape. Many rape victims are afraid to speak out openly and specifically about their abusers, and I believe it’s because of this same societal attitude — the attitude that it’s uncool and unclassy to say negative things about others publicly and by name. It’s easy to imagine the rapist’s next victim saying, “But I had heard such nice things about him; he had such a good reputation!”

        Encouraging people to use their own best judgment is certainly something I can get behind. It just rubs me the wrong way that if we see or experience something that we believe may be harmful to others, it’s taboo to give others a specific warning about it in advance.

        • You’ve brought up a topic that’s a tough one, Pace, and I can’t say what’s the right or wrong answer. But I can say where I stand on such things.

          It’s very, very hard to walk the high road and not point out something that someone else has done wrong. And there are times when people should feel they can speak up and speak out.

          That said, there are thousands of situations and each one is individual. There may be as many reasons as staying private as there are to speaking up. I think these reasons are up to the individual, and the choice is ultimately theirs.

          It’s important, always, to make sure we’re not imposing our beliefs on others. It may be MY belief that speaking up is crucial – it may be someone else’s belief that maintaining personal privacy is more important.

          It’s also important, I feel, to separate fear of speaking up from integrity of staying silent. Many rape victims are *afraid* to speak up. And I consider that very different from a situation where someone *chooses* not to speak up – but has no fear of doing so.

          And I know that’s all a tough area – when you start getting into personal beliefs and toss in moralities, the situation becomes very complex. VERY complex.

          I like to think as well that some people just do stupid things. They did the best they could at the time with the resources they had – who am I to pass judgement? (Which is, I’ll note, a belief that’s had a few people in my life do some *serious* wrong and get away with no consequences but their own concience to live with.)

          And, I like to think that there are always two sides to a coin. Not always forgettable, the actions on that side of the coin, but usually very understandable and sometimes forgiveable.

  28. The only thing that surprises me is that storyselling works. I guess in a world where Jerry Springer has no shortage of volunteer guests or viewers, I shouldn’t be. I can see it now: Internet marketing gurus raking in the bucks teaching “Now It Can Be Revealed: Rake in Riches While You Sleep, 7 Secrets to Wealthy Victimhood!”

    And by the way, for anyone who wants to explore the high road of storytelling, check out Jim Loehr’s book, The Power of Story: Teaching Through Storytelling. (Amazon link, not an affiliate.)

    • Using stories as an explanation, a persuasive means and a way to help readers relate is an age-old and respected way of delivering a message. Martin Luther King used storyselling.

      You’ll find stories in all sorts of copy. Articles. Blog posts. Web copy. Sales copy. Television ads. Etc.

      I respect it, it works and done well, it’s perfectly ethical and useful marketing. Kind of the difference between hunting to feed your family and poaching just to get the antlers.

      Now Jerry Spring is a whole ‘nother realm of use.

    • Molly,

      Did you mean Jim Roehr’s book: The Power Of Story, Change Your Story, Change Your Destiny In Business And In Life. Or did you mean The Power of Story: Teaching Through Storytelling by Rives Collins and Pamela J Cooper.

      Or did you mean both 😉


    • I too am surprised. I don’t get it, and quite frankly, I’m not sure I’d want those folks as my customer.

  29. It most instances, it does seem graceless to pull out a hundred-handkerchief story right next to a “Buy Now!” button. Though, as some have pointed out here, some stories—sans commercial taint—of personal mayhem and grief can offer much to readers.

    Might be helpful to make some of those plaintive cries into memoirs or novels (though be sure to distinguish which is which, unless you want Oprah to go all James Frey on you).

  30. It’s probably also worthwhile to point out that what you’re talking about as being bad isn’t really “selling through stories” or (I prefer this) “Storyselling(TM)” but rather “telling an emotionally loaded story and then saying, “okay, now feel sorry for me and buy this.” Apples and oranges, IMO.

    One other thing… I know a bit more about the email you mention — even though I didn’t write it or know about it until it showed up in my inbox — and I should share it. The point of that email was supposed to be to announce a new recording about the stuff he mentioned in the story (“things are tough, but I’m having faith”). So without the sale bit at the end (if it had ended with intro-ing the recording), I actually don’t think it crosses a line at all.

    I don’t love the sale at the end either, but I just wanted to add that bit of clarification in the guy’s defense. It wasn’t a totally out-of-the-blue “life sucks; buy my stuff” email.

    • Yeah, I hear you. I think that it could’ve been better written or delivered, and I think that the point is even if that emotionally-loaded section was removed… well, it still would’ve worked, you know? The details of why things are tough wasn’t an added-value story. “Things are real hard” suffices.

      Like a few people have mentioned, we shouldn’t have to load stories into pitches. Products and services should be worthy of their own merits.

      • Haha, I’m resisting the urge to go on and on here… I actually think the use of a story in a pitch serves to capture attention, to get someone thinking along a different tack than before. I guess the best way to say it is that a story alone probably shouldn’t form the reason to buy, but I do think it can have a place in the pitch. There’s virtually nothing I’ve ever sold that didn’t in some way involve the use of story. 🙂

  31. It’s been done since Ancient civilization… beggers in India… maiming children for a better story… Don’t get mad, write a fantastic story instead – win based on intelligence, ingenuity and heart. That has more lasting appeal anyway.

    Five cheers for story tellers.

  32. Oh God, PLEASE folks, stop using the word “Storyselling” to refer to the schlock jobs unless you actually think ANY use of stories in marketing is unethical.

    As far as I know, I coined the term “Storyselling” and offer a course (soon to be two) under that name… and I do NOT teach the sleazy shit. This is a brand-killer.

    • James, you might consider tweaking the line “They call this “good marketing”, or even its new buzzword, storyselling.”

      I know now (from reading the comments) that you didn’t mean it the way that I (and probably others) read it … but it came across to me as:

      “They call this ‘good marketing’, or even its [sleazy-bad-storytelling-for-sales] new buzzword, storyselling.”

      The “its” is ambiguous. Also, since the ONLY person I’ve ever come across using “storyselling” is Johnny (I’m guessing he has bandwagoners who’re doing it wrong now) — you want to be totally clear that you’re not saying that *storyselling* is bad.

      You see what I’m getting at? Drop me a DM or email if you want me to unpack it more; my brain is currently at bit jet-lagged, so I have maybe explained it badly.

      • Hugely corrected, and thanks very much for that, Ali. I’m glad you’d spotted that what I meant to say wasn’t getting across because of that ambiguous paragraph, and I cleared it up.

  33. To note:

    Storyselling does NOT mean “sleaze”. Storyselling is a hugely respectable, ethical and credible word for using stories in persuasive ways, and I would absolutely be VERY disappointed if negative associates were attached to it.

    Storyselling, as a term, deserves respect.

    Also, Johnny writes good shit. Buy it.

    • I don’t understand. How was this part..

      They pitch sales wth stories of their dying kitten, their broken washing machine, their sick child, their girlfriend’s birthday game tickets, their ailing car, and more.

      They call this “good marketing”, or even its new buzzword, storyselling. It isn’t a good thing. It isn’t businesslike. It certainly isn’t professional.

      …NOT directed at Johnny? I immediately thought of him when I read that. Specifically the washer machine story and the term “StorySelling”, discussed above.

      Since you also quoted a specific phrase in a specific email, that seems to call out that specific person, in public. Now you say that you are just giving us good advice.

      I’m confused.

      • Yeah, it’s a fine line to walk, Conrad. I do want to point out what *I* consider unclassy and too much, but at the same time, I don’t want to single someone out because I see it often.

        Also, I’ve seen the washing machine, tickets, car, kitten, child and more done by several people. As mentioned in the comments, some people know how to work a story the right way and what to say.

        Some don’t, quite simply.

        • I thought the exact thing as Conrad. I’m glad it’s been clarified. This is just sleaze: “Take advantage of me right now, while I’m vulnerable!”

          But I found Naomi’s campaign to surprise her husband on his birthday quite charming and I think I pitched in. The way I see it — I work in a cubicle (hopefully not forever), get a fixed paycheck and buy tickets or a washing machine. My employer doesn’t know and certainly doesn’t care.

          But for people without a fixed income whom I like and trust? It’s kinda cool to know where the money’s going. (Yeah, I know the money’s probably sitting in their bank, but I can’t resist a great deal coupled with a great story.)

  34. Don’t whore your stories…but by all means, use Whore or Whoring in your blog posts as often as decorum allows. 😉 #JamesIsABad-Ass

  35. The most interesting part of this post, for me, is not necessarily knowing where James draws the line (though I’m glad to know), but that it caused me to question where *I* draw my own line.

    I certainly have a sense of what I will and will not do for money, but reading this post has caused me to ask myself more specifically how I might (or might not) use stories in marketing.

    Thanks for getting the wheels turning, James.

  36. I agree with many of the other comments here. That type of marketing completely turns off many people and makes them leave forever.

    And another point: sellers need credibility. If they are broke and homeless, I almost certainly don’t want their advice about anything having to do with making money, running a business, or personal development.

  37. James —

    Spot on article. While I acknowledge the opposing points made by other commenters, it seems like the BS meter is constantly pegged. And because the practice is so out of control, good personal stories get drowned out by the self-serving or as Cathy Miller suggests, the out-right fabricators.


  38. Interesting post, James. I do agree with a lot of what you’ve written and I doubt I’d be buying anything from someone who uses a personal sob story to sell me their product.

    However, as you’ve said in response to other comments, there’s a time and place for everything. I blog about writing and publishing, so for example, if a published novelist were to say, “Hey, I was once a single mother with 17 children, living in the back of my van, working for $5 an hour, and now I’m published and here’s how I did it,” well, I’d be interested to hear how she did it. I might even buy her book if it promised to show me how to do the same.

    But, that example shows someone who is well past the hardship stage and has discovered a solution to a problem that affects a number of other people.

    I interviewed debut author Sarah Pekkanen (“The Opposite of Me”) a while back, and she mentioned how before she got published, her house burnt down and she, her husband, and their three kids were living in a motel. I found that inspiring, because it was in her past.

    But, I don’t agree with using present, personal struggles to sell products, because the pain seems too immediate.


  39. I got that email newsletter you are writing about too. I saw your Twitter comment too. I thought it went over the line and I lost a lot of respect for this guy and his business because of that.

    It also made me think, if this dude can’t run a business well enough to keep a roof over his family’s head, then why should I buy from him? He might be gone tomorrow. I mean it’s not the first time this guy has written or talked about this kind of thing. Is he running from the law or something? It just put a bad taste in my mouth and did not illicit any empathy in me at all. I just thought he’s making himself out to be a loser and I don’t want to learn from losers, sorry.

    James, I’m glad you’ve written about this. Took a lot of courage. Bravo!

  40. James,

    I’m so glad you are drawing the line. It’s time for a return to basic human values. Bravo!

  41. Hmmmmm… The comments here make for mighty juicy reading indeed. Just as juicy as the original post, and (no offense James) perhaps even more so, with all these varied, heated opinions.

    I also got the email in question, and honestly my reaction was to make a mental note not to use pity to try and make sales, if for no other reason than is just turns people off.

    Like when you bring your sick cat home from the vet, and the other cats hiss and pounce on it — that kind of turn-off.

    People want to associate with *success*, not with hard times.

    Or, to be more precise, success achieved *out* of hard times. Pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps kind of thing. (“If they can do it, I can do it!”)

    People love that “hard times overcome” shit (I know I do!). But “my life sucks, so please help me” is the same as the guy on the street corner begging for my change, and from what I can tell, he’s not getting a lot of anybody’s attention (or money).


    In fact, fate’s been throwing some curve balls my way lately, and I’ve been writing a lot about it on my (intentionally personal) blog. I’d hate to think it came across as whoring my writing though… You can bet I’m going to be thinking about this a lot going forward!

    Good food for thought…

  42. The Internet fragments storytelling; mass production without heart.

    We need to slay the monster, reestablishing influence through our pen’s seeping ink.

    It’s not the idea of the story, it’s how you express it.

  43. An interesting dialogue to say the least. Thanks for stewing the pot James!

    I think we’re confusing two things. The old paradigm of marketing is designed to identify an audience’s sense of lack or insecurity and directly speak to that deficiency. That’s much of the trouble these days, as lots of people talk “conversation”, “trust”, “social media”, but just throw around buzz words to sound cool as they sell people more shit, in the same old business as usual way.

    Now, Storytelling, happens to be our most basic human technology for making sense, meaning. Through stories we find the invisible lines of connection that bond and endear us to one another. Sure, its sacred stuff. And, there’s a reason “storytelling” is experiencing such a modern cultural revival. Our world is turned upside down, and we’re each trying to make sense and meaning of it. Trying to figure out who and what to trust, especially across a million and one new story streams/channels of content.

    I’m a huge proponent of storytelling, quite the evangelist in fact (I spend my time teaching the world how to think in narrative, and applying the concepts to the change-making and creative process). It’s inevitable that some people are going to use and abuse the power of storytelling. But that’s a really, really old story. So no surprises there. Shouldn’t stop us from teaching the power of storytelling and its relevance in blogging, social media, marketing, innovation, etc…

    Still, it is rather ironic when storytelling is used for storyselling. On one hand, when used with authentic intent, it can make people smile, feel good, and contribute meaning to their day. However in the wrong hands or with the wrong motives, storyselling can quickly turn to manipulation and psychological coercion, speaking to that part in us that feels incomplete and unfulfilled.

    The beauty is, as a storyteller – we’re forever at the mercy of our audience. So as a recipient of a saccharine or heavy-handed story, I’ve got the power to judge, interpret, and reject that story as I see fit. So in the end, I just keep the faith…we’re all getting better and better at discerning the truth.

    We also only choose to believe and accept stories that we already believe. In other words, nobody ever convinced you of something you don’t already think is true.

  44. James, I enjoyed the post and the comments that followed. Language is a technology. Oralcy (e.g., storytelling) and literacy (e.g, writing) are delivery systems that affect emotion as well as thought. As many have already mentioned, it can be used in ethical and unethical ways.

  45. Johnny wasn’t the first to use “storyselling” – there’s a book on Amazon from 2000 with that term as part of it’s title and that guy probably wasn’t first either, but I’ll agree that I thought this post was targeted to him at first and was confused because I had always thought the stories he told and the sales he made afterwards were interesting and respectful. I’m glad there was clarification in the comments.

    Since the related email that was mentioned went to a specific list to people that purchased a specific product (at least that was how I got it) I didn’t think of it as a sob story. I thought of it as a reasonable progression from the person’s experiences he’d shared during that product. It was awkward and I winced a bit, but because of the “relationship” from the previous disclosures I cut some slack and took it as value for money and not a sob story.

    The blog post was probably better because you took the extreme stance without qualification, but it’s frustrating to navigate the grey areas of the concept. Sob stories used to sell suck. But personal appeal are sometimes helpful and needed. Sob stories that set the stage for how value was created have a purpose.

    And I can’t even say I like a specific type of story. I’ve groaned and deleted things that are talking about rags to riches and I’ve read other ones with the same them riveted. Stories that provide context have shown me how valuable a product can be and given me more motivation to actually put it to use after I purchased it. Yes, I was out money I wouldn’t have spent, but I got a lot more out because I USED the info because of the story that helped sell it to me.

    Thanks for the thought provoking. I have to stay firmly on the fence of a case by case it depends. But that’s part of why I have trouble writing great posts. 🙂

  46. Pondering over this while working this morning, I suddenly remembered “All marketers are liars” by Seth Godin. If I understood correctly, his point was that all marketing is based on stories in some form or others.

    The question lies indeed in personal ethics. For some people nothing is sacred, while others have near and dear ethical standards. It’s a theme I’m struggling with at the moment. What is and what is not ‘right’ for me? I remember cringing a while back when I wrote a sales letter for a client, including the line: “I’m a work-from-home-mom”. I’m not a mom, and unless science moves fast I won’t be in this lifetime.

    But I do work from home, and the rest of the letter was all true, just not exactly from the I-perspective. I felt dirty afterwards, though the product I wrote for was good and the copy was ethical, by my personal standards.

    I can see how you would get upset or offended, James, if someone did what you describe. It’s just that even if you omit personal ethics as a guideline, it’s really hard to draw a line anywhere. You just know when it’s been crossed.

  47. I think you’re missing the point that people are emotional buyers and that is why all marketing campaigns target people’s emotions first, before the intellect. What I hate about these marketing ploys is the insincerity of doing business online and in this flat world, karma is so… digital. I guess, we must remember this when we post stuff online: What you leave at Vegas… stays on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and many more. Cheers!

    • Well, I kind of already knew that point, Issa – my job is basically to apply emotional persuasion through words 🙂

  48. You know, after reading through the comments as well – and seeing those that commented with a conscience immediately writes them out as someone who is ‘guilty’ of this.

    I love stories, and I can’t think of a better way to get to ‘Know, Like and Trust’ someone without them. But there’s so many stories that can be told that don’t include the need to make someone feel sorry for you. I feel Johnny is an expert at telling stories that make us like him just because they’re funny.

    Just gotta say – Johnny and Naomi I respect that you came on here to talk about it.

    James, I love that you brought a discussion of this nature to the surface. And even those of us attempting to do this as ethically as possible will likely think extra hard about how we’re doing it thanks to the topic being much more in the open than it was before.

    • It’s true that some people will relate more to this post topic than others and wonder if it refers to them. (In fact, I got a LOT of emails asking, “Are you talking about me?!”)

      I think it’s important to note that while I used examples, I was talking about EVERYONE, myself included. We all need to decide where we draw our lines, and I think discussing the black hate/white hat areas of storyselling is important.

  49. Thank you for starting a great discussion on the appropriateness of storytelling. If someone is telling a genuine story, for a genuine reason, then . . . why add the sales pitch at the end? Truly if someone is down and out, I don’t see a reason for that person to add, “And now, buy my product!” at the end. That type of gimmick sets alarm bells ringing in my head, especially if that person is doing it via internet sales.

    Part of the reason it sets off those alarm bells for me, is that I’ve seen it done in real life both as a sales pitch and as a manipulative way of justifying bad behavior. “Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it. You have to understand, I’ve been under a lot of pressure lately,” or “I’m so sorry, but if you hadn’t done ______, I wouldn’t have _____.” These kinds of “justification” sales are just as bad as the “Please feel sorry for me, (sob, sob), and give me money” sales.

    Sharing a personal story is ok, until it crosses the line and becomes a sob-story sales pitch and the seller walks away planning to do it again and again.

  50. Jeez, let’s kick a guy when he’s down, why don’t we?

    I received the email mentioned in the original post and was fine with it. I even saw his last comment about being vulnerable as tongue-in-cheek. This wasn’t an out-of-the-blue story, the story was true, it was a deal. At the end of the day, we’re in control, we’re in charge of our delete button.

    This discussion reminds me of the frenzied one over the summer concerning launch fatigue. I think we’re suffering the same again and at the same time need to get over our virtual post-BlogWorld hangovers and show a bit of kindness.

    And lastly, I’m sorry, but there were way too many details in the post for the person/people being talked about not to be identified. And if James thought the marketing tactic was disgusting, I don’t think identifying the person is any better.

    • Good opinion, Alison, and thanks for chiming in. Just wanted to mention I didn’t go to BlogWorld and very rarely have hangovers, so the post wasn’t about that.

      Just to clarify what my post was about, I wanted to send a message that we need to think about where we draw the lines on boundaries in storytelling – and I’m curious on your views about that, if you want to share them.

    • I have no clue who the person is (I’m not on this email list, clearly, or I just deleted it without reading!)

      I don’t think James revealed anything (see the original post and in particular the comment thread between Pace and James); it’s commenters who’ve pushed for that and added details.

      Even if one particular example prompted James to write this, it’s a general post with general applicability, and I appreciated it. Although I hope I’ve never done this sort of sales myself, I’m slowly releasing more products, and it makes me think about what tactics I might (and might NOT) use in future.

  51. But– but — can I still write stories about being a whore and sell it? It’s not unethical if my publisher sets the price, right? (My novel+memoir = novoir is funny-funny-hot-hot.)

    Favorite exchange award goes to: Naomi/Johnny for “shitbag!”

    Favorite screen kiss award goes to: Pace for “integrity swoon!”

    Such fun to read the comments, thanks for stiring the pot, James.

    (Sorry, JBT, “storyselling” has been used informally in my industry since at least ’86, but you’re in a brave new world, you run with it baby!)

    • I’d buy a book about a whore’s experience. I bet that’d be both interesting and intriguing!

      • Susan Allport says:

        Try Belle du Jour James, it’s brilliant!

        • LOL, I just went to Google without realizing which comment this related to, and I was blinking. “Hey. This is a call girl’s site… did I get this right?” 😉

          *Adds book to list* Thank you!

          • Susan Allport says:

            No problem, it’s a great read, clever, true, witty, sexy, the list goes on.

            The author revealed her true identity to the public recently as the pressure of being discovered became too much for her.

  52. James – Totally agree with you. Not everything should be for sale. Some things should not carry a price tag! I have to be especially careful of this because I write an inspirational blog. No ads. No things to buy. If I recommend something it’s because I really like it. I don’t make money that way.

    I don’t want to make money out of people’s trust, there are other ways to pay the bills. Thanks for putting your head above the wall and calling it.

    Have a good day 🙂


  53. I suppose I don’t have much new or different. The comments spawned here are pretty amazing! I think that if you use stories to sell something, there does need to be a line. Personally, if I’m reading about tragedy at at the end there’s a ‘buy now’ button, I’m going to question the validity of the story and it’s sleazy. However, if I’m a reader of a blog and I know their story, and they then do a pitch, I’ll buy. It’s when I feel like I’m being played for a sucker or their using their hardships to get my money. Stories absolutely sell. Stories are absolutely the best way to connect with others. But don’t be a sleazeball about it. Lots of people earn a living selling without resorting to the icky side.

  54. you raise some great points, as do the commenters – i have enjoyed reading through all of this. i just wanted to say that i got that same newsletter that you reference in your post and i did not find it offensive at all. perhaps because that same person has been very open all along with what is going on in his life: on twitter, on facebook, on all of his email newsletters, on the video and audio he shares on all of his blogs.

    if a person is very private about their personal life and then suddenly pipes up to tell you a sob story to get you to buy something than, yah, that is icky. if a person shares all this personal stuff with everyone all the time and then sends out a newsletter with more of the same, then that feels a little different.

    either way, this post has given me a very good reminder to look at what i write with a critical eye. yes i have a story to tell, but the reader has their own story and they bring their own context as they read. you aren’t going to get very far if you make your readers feel ‘icky’. =)

  55. An interesting thread here.

    I’m pretty open on iBard about my own personal stories. But I don’t sell stuff there. (At least, I haven’t before now. I guess that could change.) The whole point of that blog is nothing but me telling my stories.

    If I spent an entire post talking about my husband’s infidelity, and dropped an affiliate link to a “Fix Your Marriage!” book… yeah, that would be icky. Not the least of which because my opinion towards “DIY marriage counseling” via self-help books has moved into “like brain surgery, marriage counseling is best left to trained professionals” territory. But I digress.

    Ditto if I spent post after post talking about my mom’s cancer death and every one had a link to some herbal anti-cancer concoction. Just… yuck.

    On the other hand, I actually interviewed a guy who was extremely proud of coming up with a completely fictional sob story that he attached to sales page, with which he supposedly made a lot of money.

    I felt like saying “You get that you just told me you’re a liar right before asking me to believe you’ve made a fortune online, right?” But I did restrain myself.

    Which is not, I think, exactly what you’re talking about here, but it’s close. It’s still about using your power to craft a compelling story for good and not evil.

  56. Wow, Pace Smith & I were talking about where to draw the line on a topic exactly like this.

    Personally, I love reading stories like those Naomi & Johnny write. I think it takes guts to be so honest.

    I don’t know about the the other story you’re referring to, but that sounds very much over the top. Especially the part where he supposedly feels great & is having a sale while he’s vulnerable. What the hell? That just smacks of fakeness.

    Thank you for writing about this and airing some of this “dirty laundry” so to speak.

  57. I’m Lee Stranahan — the person James is calling out here when she talks about the ‘homless, flat broke, dead Dad’ person. I just found out about this post.

    Hi, nice to meet you.

    First a little factual background — about 10 days ago, Johnny B. Truant and I recorded a phone interview for our “Question The Rules” product. It was a bonus follow-up to a module we include in QTR about Faith & Belief. I’m going through an interesting period right now; we had to move out of our house suddenly, my business teaching film classes hit a rough patch, some diabetes-related problems I have had gotten a little worse — and this all happened after I’d made a conscious decision to focus on my writing. Johnny knew about it and suggested we do a call about it.

    Now, this next part is important — NONE of this was meant to induce pity or guilt. Keep that in mind. In fact, if you listen to the phone call, there is ZERO call to pity. Totally the opposite, actually…as I say in the phone call, I feel like the ‘problems’ I have aren’t really problem but solutions — a way of moving me into the ‘writing phase’ of my life.

    We recorded the call and then afterwards, Johnny and I decided to give it out to our QTR subscribers as a free bonus. I was planning to tell our subscribers about this free bonus in an email and as part of that, I was going mention my consulting and some new products — basically, so as not to spam them and send two different emails.

    So — got that? Free bonus going to our lists and I was going mention my services in it. Normal marketing stuff. Zero pity. Factual statement of my situation, totally positive take on it.

    Then, a couple of days later, my Dad died.

    He was 80 and had been in a nursing home for about a year and a half. It was unexpected but not unexpected, if that makes sense. We were in the middle of moving, my brother called and a few hours later, that was that. The timing — right as all these other big changes were happening — was, I thought, interesting. My wife thought the same thing. I wrote to Johnny about it that afternoon and said the same thing; weird timing.

    So when James quotes me as saying “Take advantage of me while I’m vulnerable!” in that email — yep, I said that. That’s what I’d refer to technically as a JOKE…showing that I’m doing exactly the OPPOSITE of what James is accusing me of here. That’s me saying, do NOT pity me because I don’t pity myself.

    Those are specifics. I think James completely misrepresented what I’m doing. If you go to my blog at there’s a post from weeks back called ‘Confession’ where I talk a little about having pulled my punches as a writer and not being as honest as I think I should. And I started a non-commercial blog called where I journal about life stuff in script format.

    No pity. No tin cup. Just trying to be honest — and getting crucified for it. Lovely.

    So — here’s a Meta-Question for you; isn’t James exploiting me and my situation? Hmmmmm…

    • Hey Lee,

      Thanks for your comments, and I’m sorry to hear about your personal situation.

      If you’ll notice in both the post and the comments, though, I made it clear I wouldn’t crucify anyone or name names. I’m not sure why you took it upon yourself to do so and turn the post into a personal issue.

      My thoughts and opinions were regarding using personal stories in general, and the boundaries of sharing information. Period. I wasn’t calling you out – had I wanted to, I would’ve named you. But again, I specifically stated several times in the comment section that naming names does no one any good and simply diverts attention away from a point we should all think about:

      When is too much information too much, and when is sharing personal situations right or wrong for business? That’s for every person to decide for themselves.

      However, I think decisions about where each of us draw lines around privacy and our personal boundaries with stories require foresight, thought and respectful attention to all involved, in a way that maintains professionalism and that cultivates best practices in business.

      This doesn’t mean I can’t disagree with what I consider oversharing, and it doesn’t mean I can’t write a post for discussion purposes.

      It also doesn’t mean that disagreeing with the action you chose means I dislike you as a person. And opting not to name names, and writing a general post about several situations I’ve seen, not all from your actions, should convey that well.

      Again, I am sorry for your personal situations and hard times. I hope they ease up soon for you, and I wish you the best.

      • James,

        Under the assumption that you are really surprised and not feigning shock, let me put it this way — imagine if I’d written a post about someone who I didn’t name but I wrote about how this unnamed person who blogged under a pen name and URL that implied that they were a different gender than they actually were and then I quoted a snippet of something you’d written. That’s personal, even if I don’t use your name. It’s personal, even if I’m talking about other subjects in addition to talking about you.

        You didn’t name my name but you clearly, specifically were writing about me. Yes, you were making a more general point but you were using me as an example and a lot of people on here knew it. Some of them emailed me, too.

        Now — let’s talk professionalism. You’re part of the Question The Rules product, since Johnny interviewed you. You got the email that bugged you so much from me because you are part of it — that email ONLY went out to people who are member of QTR. It wasn’t intended for the general public and that’s why I felt the freedom to write 1) informally and 2) assuming that people knew a little about my background and who I was.

        You left all this context out and created a little ‘mystery’ about who I was. And I’m very sure some people did a little emailing to solve the mystery and it wasn’t hard to figure out the a-hole you were referring to is me.

        Which is fine, if it were true.

        So, I don’t actually consider this real professional behavior on your part, James. Yes, you are free to write about whatever you want to but you aren’t free to your own set of facts. And the way you described what I did and the context I did it in is WRONG. Wrong as in factually inaccurate and therefore wrong as in unfair to me and potentially damaging to me and my family financially. You’re a much bigger blogging name than me and look how you described me.

        I’ll quote what you wrote right after you described — inaccurately and without context — what I wrote

        “I’ve seen a lot in my days on the internet, but this was flat-out disturbing.

        When did this type of marketing become normal, acceptable and even desirable? Where are the boundaries of privacy, dignity and integrity? Where are the ethics about making a profit? When does this casual use of highly personal stories to earn a buck cross the line?”

        You see what you’re accusing ME of there, right? No — you didn’t say “Lee Stranahan has no boundaries of privacy, dignity or integrity and casually will say anything to earn a buck”…except, you know…you DID.

        Yeah, why would I take that personally?

        Did you even bother to listen to the audio bonus that that email was telling people about?

        Because if you had, it’s not a sales pitch. It’s Johnny and I talking about real stuff in a real way and trying to do the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you’re implying — give them a positive perspective on the problems that life sometimes hands us every now and then. That was the point of the email — to tell people about the bonus.

        And the audio actually answers your questions and the comments of a few people. For instance, James, you act like it’s weird that I said I was ‘excited’ — but if you’d listened to the audio, that’s not confusing at all. Even your statement that you’re sorry for my ‘personal situation and hard times’ shows you have no idea that we talk about in that audio bonus….

        I NEVER ASKED YOU TO BE SORRY. I used all caps to make sure it’s ultra-effing-clear. I never asked ANYONE to be sorry. Condolences for my Dad are one thing but not at all relevant to the heart of the story I was telling. I wasn’t telling a sad story. I’m telling a story about following your dreams and making sense of problems. Instead, you’re making me out to be that cigar smoking money dude you use to illustrate the blog post with.

        But why should I take that personally, either? Right?

        • Marek Zee says:

          Hey Lee,
          I am so glad you defended yourself here and I am sorry that you had to. I am a “Question the Rules” customer and never once thought that you were using your story to “whore” yourself out. Yes, you mentioned that you were having a “consulting special again” (just like you did a few months earlier) and made a joke about taking advantage of you while you were “vulnerable.” At worst it was a bad joke or maybe inappropriate in an otherwise serious e-mail.

          It was 10 freakin words so I am not sure why the author of this post (or others commenting) made such a big deal about it and resorted to personal attacks. Have they never e-mailed or posted something that may have been inappropriate in hindsight? I know I have — plenty of times. And, yes, I agree with you that mentioning specific details from your e-mail and posting your exact quote is essentially the same as posting your name (and it is a personal attack). In fact, I think it may have been better to just post your name and not hide behind a facade of “helping the community.” I think that maybe James needs to grow some balls.

          I also agree that things were taken out of context. You did not send the e-mail to 20,000 people that signed up for some crappy free report. You sent it to your customers of a program called “Question the Rules.” A program which contains like 30+ hours of very personal and often moving stories. I wonder if James or others that commented above actually listened to the program. I have — at least twice — and I can tell you that the e-mail was totally in line with your honest style and sometimes odd sense of humor. It was meant to get me to listen to your free bonus program, which I did. Yes, your honesty and candor are a bit shocking at times, but that’s what I signed up for. The audio never once suggested to feel sorry for you or to feel pity (or to buy anything). In fact, the message was exactly the opposite and you (and Johnny) made sure to mention that like five times. If I ever get sick or your stories or weird sense of humor I’ll be sure to unsubscribe, I don’t need to be protected.

          One thing that James got right is that stories are very powerful. This story about you was very effective at generating 100+ comments. Am I the only one who sees the sweet irony?


        • Lee, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion and perception of this post. I don’t feel the comment section is a good place to discuss your personal situation – again, that wasn’t the point of the post. If you’d like to discuss it with me further, please feel free to contact me via email and we’ll talk.

          • James — you should really read Marek’s comment, right above yours. He nails it — you used me and my words as an example of something, castigated me for it and you were were wrong to do so because you took it all out of context.

            Again — did you ever listen to the audio?

            I’ll make it easy on anyone who doesn’t know any better; I’m posting the audio, free. Anyone listening will see that you got this 180 degrees wrong.


    • Lee — To answer your question, no — James is not exploiting you and your situation. It’s quite clear that you’re the dude who revealed yourself. I’m sure you think the whole world is aware of you, but sadly many of us have never even heard of you.

      And the questions that James was raising were general in nature — based on an experience that sparked them — and the replies up to this point were all very interesting and useful. I enjoyed seeing the back and forth between people who could agree or disagree in good faith, talking about how they saw the issue.

      As a writer who often uses storytelling I struggle with the people who strangle kittens and drag out grandma to try to twang my heartstrings. For me, it’s a sure sign that they don’t have the writing chops to make a good argument or they don’t have the facts to sway me. “Buy my Sham-Wow or we’ll club these baby seals to death!” is never a sign of great writing.

      I’d suggest that metric should be added to Strunk and White.

      • If it’s so clear that Lee is the one who revealed himself, why did so many people say, “I know who you are referring to” or “I got that same email” before he showed up? When I saw the blog, I recognized the Stranahan quote immediately, without any help from Stranahan.

  58. I also received the email in question and I was not offended. The man in question tells a lot of stories, and this was another one.

    However, I recently attended a program called “Become an Inspiring Speaker” and one of the lessons they pounded into us was this: Stories are important. But never tell a story in your presentation (blog/sales page/etc.) while you’re still bleeding from it.

    This is a pretty good example.

  59. I’m a pretty wellknown marketer (been doing this stuff now since 1997) and I will admit – I had not a clue as to whom the posting referenced (until the person outed themselves).

    That being said, I find the rebuttal fascinating. This part:

    “I’ll quote what you wrote right after you described – inaccurately and without context – what I wrote

    “I’ve seen a lot in my days on the internet, but this was flat-out disturbing.

    When did this type of marketing become normal, acceptable and even desirable? Where are the boundaries of privacy, dignity and integrity? Where are the ethics about making a profit? When does this casual use of highly personal stories to earn a buck cross the line?”

    You see what you’re accusing ME of there, right? No – you didn’t say “Lee Stranahan has no boundaries of privacy, dignity or integrity and casually will say anything to earn a buck”except, you know….you DID. ”

    To me, that wasn’t obvious at all, as I didn’t read the original email. And if I did…it still wouldn’t be a direct *personal* accusation, because quite frankly, there are some emails out there (witness the oxygen seller’s Amber Alert) that really DO cross … MY personal boundaries.

    MINE. Mine mine MINE.

    And while I would love to believe that I am the dynamically brilliant center around which the entire Internet revolves, I’m pretty darned certain that others have the unique ability to form their OWN judgments as well. And guess what – if they dare to think…DIFFERENTLY than me…that’s to be expected.

    After all, they’re adults.

    With free choice.

    And free will.

    And ideally…the mental abilities to come up with their own definitions of what’s acceptable and what’s not.

    If names had been mentioned in the article, that would be one thing…but they weren’t.

    My take.

    And much condolences on the loss of your father, Lee. That’s a really difficult thing to deal with.

    • I don’t assume most people know who I am — that’s the problem. This is an example of big blogger like James their weight around against a small one like me. James doesn’t seem to care that what she wrote pretty much ruined my night last night. James doesn’t seem to be bothered that her mischaracterization of me and my work are causing me and my family emotional distress –or even that she got the facts totally wrong.To the larger world, it’s really bad way to be introduced to me. “Hey, it’s that unethical guy!” And to the few hundred people on the QTR list, it was totally OBVIOUS who James was trashing here.

      And yes, people can make up their own minds — except James gave you the wrong information. I’m here to correct the record. Marek’s comments above help fill in a lot of facts.

      • What James wrote didn’t ruin your night.

        How you chose to react to the writing – that DID ruin your night. I’m big on taking ownership of feelings.

        Things will cause you emotional distress only if you CHOOSE to let them. And in the grand scheme of things, you should give that power only to the people you love. Nobody else whatsoever is deserving of that gift.

        What James or Darren or Naomi or Jeff or Mel or Brad or Ulla or Dan or Deb or Khan or Grif or (am I name-dropping enough?) ANYONE says about anyone…it’s immaterial. It’s THEIR opinions. The readers should make up their own minds. And remember too, no names were named in this post. I, for one, had no clue.

        I would say, everyone should value their own personal greatness to the point that they can listen to naysayers, take what is said and then turn that to their own advantage, whatever it might be.

        And I would also say, always take ownership of how/why/when/where you choose to allow yourself to get hurt. And then fix that. It’s tough (really tough, took me over a decade) but it makes life far easier and far more enjoyable to endure. And yes, that IS the voice of experience speaking.

        Lots of empathy on the hurt feelings too – been there, done that and bought the entire apparel store. It’s hell to deal with; I hope it gets better soon.

        • This isn’t about ‘owning my feelings’.

          What Jame wrote was inaccurate — that’s according to people like Marek and others who know the context of what I wrote about and who I sent it to. The ethical, professional thing for James to do would be to issue a retraction or clarification — as she’s already been forced to do once on this post. (And that should tell you something right there about this post; not an example of James’s best work.)

          And when I say ‘ruined my evening’ let expand on that — Jame’s inaccurate post here caused people to email me. It caused me to spend time reading and writing.

          I’m using the word ’cause’ in a valid sense here. I’m not using it to me ‘literally forced me’ but instead another perfectly normal way to use the word — were it not for James’s post, I would have had nothing to read or comment on. So please don’t retort, ‘well, she didn’t CAUSE you…’ because yes, she did in the sense that I’m using the word. And in that exact same sense — she ruined my night. I’d think that that meaning is pretty darn clear to any reader.

  60. Dudes. Is this going anywhere good, for anyone?

    James, you made your point and it was a good one. Lee, you’ve given some background info and it’s relevant. I refuse to take sides here, so seriously, is there really such a big gap between you two? Honestly?

    • Marin — fair question. Apparently, I missed two days of people talking about this and to a large extent, talking about me based on incorrect information provided by James.

      Frankly, I’m pretty shocked that she hasn’t issued any sort of retraction or clarification at all — pretty much all she’s done is told me to take my complaints to private email. So I feel that there’s a huge gap between us based on our sense of journalistic ethics. James castigates me in this post and what she accuses me of is the polar opposite of what actually happened.

    • Good question, Martin. I’m sorry that you and other readers have view this sort of discussion, as I really don’t feel it has a place in the comment section, nor does it contribute to overall discussion.

      To answer, there’s a big gap in our beliefs in certain areas, such as engaging in public, personal fights and trying to draw blood; there’s just no need, and it doesn’t add value. I won’t participate in that kind of thing, and while I don’t want to do so, I may have to start moderating comments.

      In regards to the gap about our views on what our boundaries are in relation to storytelling in general, there’s probably some differences, sure. And that’s okay. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. I may not *agree* with Lee’s, but that doesn’t make me any more right than he. We’re all equals.

      I do want to enjoy discussion with everyone in regards to the overarching theme, of course – where should we, as a general society on the web, set boundaries?

      • OMG James — YOU’RE the victim here?

        You literally quoted me in your post and called me unethical without naming me and now I’M the one . We’re here on YOUR blog. With YOUR readers. For two+ days people have been chiming in. But then when I show up, suddenly you’re going to moderate comments.

        So I ask again…have you LISTENED to the audio — — that the email from me that you quoted was promoting?

        • Lee, this is getting out of hand, so I really do ask that you try to have a cool head. A few points:

          1. Read the post again. It isn’t about YOU. “I believe,” and “I feel,” is all over the place, and the post is a general discussion about the ethics of storytelling.
          2. Yes, I used part of your newsletter as an example. I also used some examples from other people’s newsletters as well. I didn’t name you or them. I didn’t make it personal. You did.
          3. The discussion up to about comment 95 was mostly in relation to people’s thoughts and views about storyselling. Everyone was being pretty cool and sharing thoughts. People were chiming in and for the most part, in a very general way about their views on storytelling.
          4. I’m not out to get you. Chill. I’ve enjoyed conversations with you before and I’m not here to fight with you personally.
          5. I’m not a victim, never said I was and kind of giggled you thought I might take that angle. That isn’t the kind of person I am.
          6. I never called YOU unethical, nor did I say in the post that XYZ behaviour is unethical. I did ask, “Where are the ethics,” as a general question. Why didn’t you just come in and say, “Hm. Good question. Here are my thoughts and views.”?

          So to wrap, I won’t brawl on my blog, and I really would prefer we all get back to mature discussions about storytelling in general. I’m also going to go back to work now, because I have other priorities and obligations.

          As a general note, I’d appreciate if everyone keeps the peace like grownups and plays nice while I’m gone. Thanks!

          • James and I are talking in email, so I’ll keep this really short.

            I don’t think Jame is out to get me. I think she wants to make her ‘overarching point’ and whether her characterization of me and what I wrote is true or not, whether it damages me or not, whether it hurts me or family — that’s not relevant to her. She is content saying ‘well, I never used your name’.

            Again — I urge people to listen to the audio and decide whether I was using pity to sell. It’s very clear that I was not doing that in any way, shape or form.

            • I was pretty shocked to read this and realize slowly that I’d gotten the email she was talking about, and had had a totally different reaction.

              Was the email a brilliant piece of story marketing? Maybe not. Was it actually trying to sell much? No again. It was giving away free shit. Unexpected free shit. To a group of people who’d shown direct interest in such by paying money for similar things.

              In addition, the consulting Lee was selling had actually been given away free the week before to anyone on the list who wanted it.

              In that context, mentioning in a “here’s some free stuff” email that he’s offering a sale on something that he’d given away for free the week earlier doesn’t seem so sinister.

              I think it’s easy as writers to take inspiration from situations that come up without really analyzing whether the person we’re targeting really deserves the emotional anguish of being targeted by a popular blogger in a fairly obvious way.

              Maybe the topic of storyselling in a bad way needed to be brought up, but to target someone out of context when they’re actually being pretty generous, and writing to a private list of buyers of a specific program, is really kind of low. I really feel very disgusted by this post.

              • This pretty well sums up exactly what I was going to post after reading all this vitriolic hoopla coming from every which way.

              • Marek Zee says:

                I was disgusted too. That’s why I posted my initial comment in defense of Lee. The hypocrisy of this post is just amazing. To be completely authentic, the author should have said this: “I am going to tell everyone what is ethical and call out specific people for “whoring” out their storytelling, all while I am whoring out his story for comments and traffic to my blog. All of which, I hope, will allow me to sell more crap.”

                What made me even more disgusted were some of the mean-spirited comments that followed. It’s like all of the “Ms. Chartrand fans” jumped on the bandwagon to beat up on Lee (without knowing all the background story). Seemed like an easy target, I guess. It’s always easier to agree with the big blogger, especially on her blog. This so brought back memories of high school. When most of the kids wanted to be like the cool kid and would agree with everything he or she said. I guess what made me unpopular then (and now) is that I never wanted to be like the cool kids and always called them out on their crap. Oh, they really hated that…


  61. Great article, I agree completely with James

  62. Totally agree. I see a lot of people using emotions to sell…. something that has little worth or merit of its own. I was appalled to see a blogger bet readers for money so they could attend BWE. Today’s snake oil is the ebook. The world of bloggers has become a bit of a nasty place. At first intriguing but after a short but of time you see it’s a sham. The good bloggers are a minority. It rapidly became a big turnout off to me.

    • Wow. I feel like I just read an internet version of Mean Girls, only without a coked up Lilo. So many things I could say, but why regurgitate… well maybe a little.

      See the thing about Internet Marketing is, it’s really quite the little family reunion. Kind of like the way Wayne Newton is a relative of Pocahontas. True Story. There are big guys and there are little guys, and some people know the big guys and some people know the little guys, but at the end of the day, alot of people know both (and most know each other otherwise what the hell kind of marketer are you?) and in their circles it just ends up being this incestuous little party where you can’t pretend you don’t know when someone says something about so and so simply because they don’t name a name. Do you know why I can’t pretend I don’t know who this is? Well, because to do so would imply I’m slow. And you’re not implying that right?

      So here’s the deal. Me chiming in when really, there are so many other, BETTER, things to do, but why the hell not right? Everyone else has, so why not me? Who am I? I’m nobody. I am absolutely nobody in the Internet Marketing World (although a VIP in my Mother’s, FWIW), a status I’m actually quite fine and even at peace with. I have stories galore, just no wish to sell them. More power to those who choose said vocation, it’s just not for everyone. That being said, there are things to be learned from Internet marketers no? I have this theory about Internet Marketers and Politicians. Same cloth, different patterns perhaps, but still the same cloth. They’re both peddling something and they both have fancy campaign speeches. Politicians are honest enough to issue apologies when they say dumb stuff though.

      Yeah I said it. Not sure if anyone else did really, so here I am. FWIW.

      Here’s the thing. This article was generalized in parts, and WAY f-cking specific in others. At the point where you quote parts of a newsletter sent to specific subscribers VERBATIM, there’s really no way to not pick up on who you’re referring to (way to miss the joke btw). And again, considering what an incestuous little group Internet Marketers are, it doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out who you’re referring to if you’re not sure. Honestly, you’d have to be pretty slow to not spend a couple minutes pondering it and not figure it out.

      The irony of how much attention this post has drawn is, I’m sure, not lost on many. Personally, I’ve never read your blog. Read it today. Honestly? Good stuff. Can’t say it’s original, but then what is on the interwebs these days? Still, well done. Took me a while to figure out why James is referred to as a She. The irony about reading an article by someone wagging their finger at people “whoring out their storytelling” when she metaphorically strapped on a penis to get the job done is kind of hilarious. Somewhere there’s a pot screaming black.

      Still though, what’s the lesson here? There are a few, I suppose. I’m a QTR member. I actually don’t buy much stuff, marketing wise, but they found a good angle. Still, only bought the first round of their stuff, at the discounted early bird price, and have enjoyed it. Not likely to buy anymore, mostly because the few spare pennies I have, I spend saving stray puppies. So I got the VERY CLEARLY REFERENCED newsletter in my inbox a few days ago. And I read it and thought, whoa. Heavy! and he’s dealing with the upheaval in a humorous and far better way than I would be. Did it seem like a bit too much information? FOR SURE! Was this shocking to anyone who had purchased his (and Johnny’s) products, HELLS NO! This dude is a kind of blunt and generous that’s embarrassing and humbling all at once. He shares with you, what you would never share yourself because it is just that, embarrassing and humbling. He’s got a totally inappropriate sense of humour and blithely disregards that filter that holds the average joe back because the average joe just doesn’t have what it takes to put himself out there and inspire others. And anyone who’s listened to his work (which means they’ve bought his and Johnny’s course) is well aware of this. So getting an email like the one you mentioned (yeah you did, stop pretending like you didn’t call him out specifically) isn’t a huge shocker.

      Was I a little uncomfortable by it? Well, I had to go back and reread it, because honestly, it didn’t phase me that much the first time around. My Granny died earlier this year, and if you want to deal with inappropriate and uncomfortable, I suggest you experience a funeral in South America. So I reread it, and then I reread your article.

      For the record, I still haven’t listened to the freebie recording that’s mentioned in the email. It’s on my To Do list which was laid to waste by the opportunity to go vineyard hopping here in Chile, where I currently reside. What? Don’t pretend like going wine tasting isn’t way more fun. For the record, again, the bottle of wine and Treme are the only things that have made wasting part of my life on this bloody post and commentary worth it, but I digress…

      After rereading both this post and the newsletter you referenced (yeah you did, own it), I gotta say it again. Somewhere there’s a pot screaming black. Moreover, you referenced something that you apparently missed the point on. And used it to make a point with your readers which, WHILE VALID, drew blood from the wrong source. You referenced something meant for select readers who should know enough to take things with a grain of salt, and turned it into someone who peddles snake bite potion.

      Poor choice and poor response to this. And that, more than anything, is the least cool.

      So yes, I’m nobody important. But I’m Nobody Important who still knows how to read between the lines and knows when someone posts something that could also use some editing. FWIW.

      So what have I learned today?
      1. People will throw other people under the bus if they misconstrue something but think they can make a great (and valid) point out of it. And get some readers attention while they’re at it.

      2. Said point (while still valid) gets lost when misconstrued factors erupt in drama as a result of poor wording and quoting..

      3. Storyselling as a buzzword, has now been abused worse than a Hooker during Fleetweek. And has about the same reputation, I’m thinking. Time to think of a new one, sorry Johnny.

      4. Not unlike the handyman mantra of measure twice, cut once, the THINK TWICE, TYPE ONCE approach should be applied by all, not just some. Except by me, of course, because I’m nobody. But then this is the interwebs. Where, at the end of the day and true human contact is concerned, we’re all nobodies and superstars all at once.

      P.S. To the people hating on the Shamwow… WTF? Dudes, I live in South America where people treat animals like kleenex and we rescue puppies thrown out car windows all the time. And let me tell you, when you have stray dogs peeing on your floor frequently, nothing sounds better than some rubber gloves and a sham-f-cking-wow. Everything has it’s place in this world. You’re not happy with your purchase? Send it my way.

  63. For one thing, I love the idea of community. I love this idea of a group of people who are somewhat familiar with one another, that we may interact with, whose goods and services we can buy from one another. In this community, we should be able to contact one another with honesty and say “I’m on hard times … is anyone interested in what I have to offer?” Sure there’s room for being exploited, but those cases are almost *always* brought to light. I don’t want to be contacted by some random stranger (the boy scouts outside walmart, for example), but if someone in my “community” contacts me, I think that’s great.

    Second, if there’s no expectation of receiving something without giving back, I don’t see a problem. Had the person in question emailed and said “I’m on hard times, give me your money!” that would feel a little icky. But when people are simply offering what they have and asking if anyone is interested in buying that … that’s community. That’s life.

    • Marek Zee says:

      So well put, Sarah. This is the point I forgot to make above. I see nothing wrong with someone saying TO HIS CUSTOMERS “I am in a bad situation right now, if you want to hire me this would be the perfect time.” I think it’s completely honest and appropriate. In smearing Lee, has James or a few of the other commentators above ever thought this? What is wrong with offering your services in a time of need (as long as you’re not asking for a handout)?

      I think what prompted this post and some of the mean-spirited comments above is that people are just very uncomfortable with someone completely honest and vulnerable. It reminds them of their own vulnerabilities and AT THE SAME TIME makes them feel guilty about their blessings and possessions. So all the articles we read daily about “being authentic” are kind of BS (or at least misleading). They should have a caveat that warns to be authentic but only about things which do not make others uncomfortable in any way.

      It’s funny to me that people are perfectly okay with giving $2000 to Frank Kern for his latest set of DVDs so he can buy another Ferrari (which he tells you he will do), but turn on someone for offering $100 conuslting sessions in a time of need. I guess both individuals are authentic (to a degree), but people will always run towards the person who is authentic but also perceived to be more successful then they are. Human psychology never ceases to amuse me.


      • Here’s the bottom line for me on this…

        This post was making the point that disgusting, sleazy marketers use sob stories to sell and that they are unprofessional and prey on suckers.

        I was used as an example of this. In fact, I was the only specific example given.

        And it’s not true.

        I’m not a disgusting, sleazy marketer and wasn’t using a sob story to sell anything. I never asked anyone to buy anything based on pity, including in that email.

        My greatest sin seems to have been making a joke that some people didn’t get. On that count, guilty as charged. But that error doesn’t in any way warrant what I’ve been accused of here.

        Meanwhile, the fallout from an A-List blogger with 33k followers using me as an example of a scumbag preying on the stupid through manipulation has already had a tremendous impact on both my personal life and business. I’ve lost friends, clients and business associates – people who don’t want to be associated with the controversy, right or wrong.

        Worse still, attempting to clear my name and save my reputation in this regard seems to have hurt more than it helped. This is the danger of going against a top, well read blogger — they can win.

        Is it a sob story to say that I’m a human being with a wife, kids and cats to feed? While this may be entertaining for some of you — one podcaster said he had ‘pulled out the popcorn’ — it’s totally and completely sucked for me.

        I had products set to launch in the next week or two and they were solid, helpful, useful products. Now my launch plan for them has been scuttled because some of the key affiliates I was counting on aren’t returning my emails. I’m having to scramble and the pressure is immense. I believe it will all work out (because that’s how I think) but it’s pretty brutal.

        I don’t think James did any of this on purpose. I think my email bugged her, she misread my intent and then did a blog post about the general subject. But when she decided to write this post and use me as her sole specific, detailed example, she didn’t consider the impact it might have. She didn’t take the time to make extra sure she had the facts right before lodging a very serious accusation against me in a way that was transparent to my customers. If there was even a shadow of doubt in her mind as to whether I was actually a disgusting, disturbing manipulator then I think she had the responsibility to me — and to YOU , her readers — to make sure her example was valid.

        She made a serious charge against me in the course of writing this and at this moment, it still remains on this post — uncorrected, unretracted but still untrue and still causing me problems.

        Some of my customers have done a good job of pointing out all the reasons that using me as an example in this post of sleazy marketing was dead wrong and I thank them for telling the simple truth — I did not deserve this injustice.

        This is my final word on the subject here on this comment thread although probably not my final public statement on it. If anyone has questions, please contact me.

        • I made a glib stupid comment below because I make glib stupid comments and it was my way of saying , chill dudes it will calm down.

          When I got the e-mail I have to be honest and say I too was uncomfortable because I just didn’t realize it was a joke.

          Then a day or two later my nephew contracted viral AND bacterial meningitis and that has a mortality rate of 25%. Fairly recently we have been hammered by medical and vet bills which we are still paying off and my first thought was “Shit how the hell am I going to afford to shell out almost $1k on the flight home and lose a weeks income should the worst happen?”

          Do I ask people to buy more copies of my book? Do I put ads on my site (something I don’t do) and try and raise money that way, or do I cave in the project to giveaway 1,000,000 of How To Be Rich and Happy and take the offer on the table to sell the intellectual into the US and look like a big fact fraud?

          Fortunately he’s out of the woods and it’s a decision I didn’t have to make, but I sure never came to a conclusion and in dire needs I can understand why people may do that. After all most of us would consider asking friends for help and I consider many of my readers friends.

          I know Johnny well, he was a client of mine for some time and I love him to bits in a very manly way. Yes he’s a marketer, but in my opinion he’s a genuine guy trying to sell good stuff that will add value to people. Therefore, I’m fairly sure JBT wouldn’t partner up with anybody that is less than genuine.

          I also think James is totally genuine and was making a valid point that some people will agree with and some wont, and that’s the great thing about blogging, it’s just opinions people. There is no right or wrong with this people no matter how much we like to pretend otherwise and we are the ones with the handle on the truth.

          I’ll tell you who I don’t think are genuine though. Any clients that leave you because of this Lee! If you have people bailing and wont communicate with you then I suspect they are using this as an excuse not a reason. And even though it’ll hurt you in the short-term and I’m fairly sure you’ll think I’m an idiot for saying this, in the long term you’re probably better off without them.

  64. This post came at just the right time for me, I think I’m going to print it off and nail it to the dog.

  65. One of the great things about the internet is that people are all entitled to their opinion. On my site, I’ll publish my opinions. This is James’ site, she can publish hers. James didn’t name you, you did that. She didn’t hurt your business, you did that.

    Lee, you said the email went to only those people who bought QTR. That’s what? 50? 100? James has over 33,000 readers. So very roughly 99.9% of her readers didn’t know who it referred to. Until you outed yourself.

    I didn’t receive the email originally, however I’ve since asked a friend who did to send it to me so I could see what all this is about. Having read the email, this post, your post, and all the comments here, I can see both sides of this.

    I agree with James that the email is playing on sympathy and the joke is not obviously a joke. Even to people who know you such as James and Tim. You telling them to listen to the audio is beside the point, it’s a sales email, people shouldn’t have to listen to an audio in order to understand the context of the email.

    I can see where you’re coming from too. From what you’ve said and having read the email, I suspect the email didn’t convey what you intended. The juxtaposition of all the crap going on for you right now, followed immediately by “But — I feel good. Excited, even.” is really badly done. It looks manipulative, even if you didn’t intend it that way.

    As someone else said, if you’re in the middle of the story, don’t write about it. Lee, you’ve got enough going on now to drive a normal person nuts (not that any of us entrepreneurs are normal). Apart from anything else, your dad just died. No matter how much you expect this, it’s still a shock, it still hurts and it still rocks your foundations.

    It’s time to back off and get some distance. Take time out to grieve and focus on your family.

    Personally, I’d love to see James remove all the comments back to before you outed yourself. I don’t think this discussion is doing you any favours and is doing you way more harm than the original post ever could have, even if she’d named you. That however, would have to be done with your consent.

    • Thanks for your comments, Melinda, and I agree with you.

      I also agree that removing some comments might be beneficial. It’s up to Lee, though the offer is there.

      • Okay, I was done but since James asked — no, of course I don’t want my comments removed. I haven’t said anything wrong.

        And Melinda; for someone who’d never heard of me, you sure seem to want to tell me what to you.

        For example, you tell me that I have so much going on and have a grieving process to deal with — and so I should back off. Melinda, did it ever occur to you that with all that going on that maybe it was a really bad time for James to write a post that slammed me?

        And you also seem to know that the line I wrote as a joke actually WASN’T a joke. Here’s a question, Melinda — what was it, then? I wrote “Take advantage of me while I’m vulrnerable!” with an exclamation point and everything — and that was…what? An order? A call to action? You said it’s obviously NOT a joke…what was it?

        This is what you do all over your comment, Melina — you tell me what I was really thinking. The email was intro’d an audio piece….well, it should stand on it’s own, even through it says “there’s a lot more to the story”, which MIGHT indicate that it doesn’t stand on it’s own.

        And so on and so on.

        I think that James and Melinda and a few others suffer from a weird judgmental narcissism that allows them to feel perfectly okay telling other people what they actually think and what they actually mean and what they should do, as long as they throw in “well, and that’s just my opinion!” So, of COURSE James didn’t contact me before writing this….she didn’t have to since she’d already read my mind!

        People have tried to explain to James what was going on (read the comments from Johnny, Marek, Gen, Allison, and many others) but nope — James ignores of all them. Fingers in ears, nah-nah I can’t hear you! James has a point to make and facts be damned. And all the while, she hides behind a pen name.

        It’s disgusting.

        • Hmmmm.

          You tell Melinda “you tell me what I was really thinking.”

          From the tone of your writing, that’s NOT a good thing. ( ‘course, it’s her opinion and she’s entitled to it.).

          At the same time, you tell James what the original post was *really* about (ie, your declaration on what James was really thinking).

          Pot. Kettle. Black.

          Just sayin’.

          • Barbara,

            Melinda said this…

            “I agree with James that the email is playing on sympathy and the joke is not obviously a joke. Even to people who know you such as James and Tim. You telling them to listen to the audio is beside the point, it’s a sales email, people shouldn’t have to listen to an audio in order to understand the context of the email.”

            So Melinda is telling me the joke wasn’t a joke…but I wrote it. Here’s thing about jokes — not everyone gets them. That’s the risk. But Melinda use of the word ‘obviously’ there is the indication of holier-than-thou narcissism

            And even if you’re right, Barbara — even if I’m a huge hypocrite, two wrongs don’t make a right. So if it’s wrong for people to tell other people what they REALLY think, then it’s wrong no matter who does it.

            But I’ve never acted like a mind-reader with James — she said the post was making a general point. She told me it was my letter that sparked it, but I’m not the sole example. Yep — I agree with all that. I’ve said clearly that I know she wasn’t trying to write a hit piece on me.

            However, using me as her sole detailed example of a sleazy marketer preying on the emotions of suckers to make a sale was wrong. That email didn’t use a sob story to sell — she entirely missed the point of my talking about my ‘problems’ because she ignored the audio that the story led into — and that audio is pure content, not sales. And people who actually LISTENED to the audio have said that here in comments repeatedly.

            Tangential point — this whole post ended up working out well for me, so in that sense I’ll thank James. If you listen to the audio, I talk about the idea that your ‘problems’ are actually an answer to your prayers and the intentions you put out into the universe. That turned out to be 100% true in this case; what seemed to be a huge problem turned out to be a huge solution to a number of things I was facing. And in addition to that, I’ve gotten literally dozens and dozens of emails from people who have shown their friendship and support.

            So, Barbara — please take the gift I’m offering and go listen to the audio that I linked above. Then decide for yourself why I said I was excited by the problems I faced and make up your own mind as to whether it’s sleazy sales marketing.

        • Lee, she said “not OBVIOUSLY” joke.. as in, Why did the chicken cross the road is obv a joke.. “Take advantage of my while I’m vulnerable” isn’t obv.

          • LeeStranahan says:

            I stand corrected on that point…

            It’s a weird thing to say because i never claimed it was obvious.

            If all James had said was “be careful making jokes” she would be fine using me as an example but she went way way beyonf that and still refuses to retract it.

  66. I may have missed it, but has anyone made the point that this is a marketing ploy that thousands of multi national & global companies use every day, from McDonalds to the X Factor? When we are deluged with magazines selling celebrities sob stories to endorse their new false eyelash line, or Maccy’s touting it’s humanitarian side (ha – what a JOKE) by pretending to be ethical so we buy more burgers, storyselling is everywhere, from vague to overt. If the Big Boys are playing the game and we fall for it EVERYDAY, why shouldn’t little people do it? Note – I don’t support it, whether it’s Heat magazine selling the story of a miscarriage along an upcoming biography, or like mentioned above, the sob story tied in with that “take advantage while I’m vulnerable” sales pitch, I feel it’s wrong, a little degrading and ultimately pathetic – but where is the mention of the market forces we deal with every day as consumers doing this? Remember, we have a Western Culture where a massive whack of the magazine & newspaper industry is basically ALL storyselling – some human interest alongside thousands of celeb articles of human “interest” which prevent a magazine being entirely print advertising..

    • oh sorry Lee – my comment wasn’t meant to be derogatory to you. I haven’t received your email or audio and only had the blogpost above to go from. Now I feel like a should apologise – but it should be a lesson learned in careful wording!

  67. Alright. This whole thing has gone way, way overboard and gotten seriously out of hand. It doesn’t look like it’s going to stop, either, so I’m at a loss of what to do, beyond maybe shutting down the comments of this post. To me, that doesn’t seem right, but if that’s what it takes, so be it.

    A couple of clarifications I’d like to make:

    Lee, the newsletter that broke the straw of my camel’s back wasn’t just encouraging people to listen to free audio, so let’s be clear about that. It promoted an upcoming product, so you were priming the audience. It mentioned another product as well, encouraging people to get in on the list. It had a consulting client testimonial and offered a discount on consult sessions.

    Now that’s all fine and good. Go for it! Sell, and sell well, dammit! I have no issues with that. But anyone who pairs sales and promotions with deeply personal stories of troubles and difficulties chooses a marketing strategy I wouldn’t use and don’t agree with. I have the right to that opinion and to encourage discussion about it.

    As for quoting and misquoting, let’s take a closer look at that. Here’s what I wrote:

    I read a newsletter this week that mentioned the author’s family was homeless, he was flat broke, and his father had died three days earlier. But he felt good – excited, even. And then he pitched his products and consulting with this call to action: “Take advantage of me right now, while I’m vulnerable! I’ve seen a lot in my days on the internet, but this was flat-out disturbing.

    Lee, I have the absolute right to say that I found this disturbing, which is why I can’t give you whatever closure you feel you need here. This is what you wrote in your newsletter, and I can’t take blame for something I didn’t write. Yes, the implication within context of the article is that I don’t agree with this strategy, think it’s too much information and too personal and consider it unethical marketing – and these are my beliefs. I am entitled to them, just as you are entitled to yours. If you think it was fine and see nothing wrong, then so be it – we agree to disagree and it’s case closed.

    I’ve agreed with you in private that the perceived marketing strategy may not have been intentional on your part. I’ll happily say that I can see that possible explanation. While writing, you may have had other intentions in adding the personal stories and just didn’t realize how it would come off.

    I’ve also mentioned to you in private that when writing with intent, we need to be damned clear to readers who aren’t aware of our intentions and could possibly misconstrue the situation. No one’s fault but our own, and I won’t accept blame for misconstruing your intention.

    I’m glad the situation turned out well for you. I’ve been seriously concerned about both your personal situation, because I feel you should spend time in that area instead of over here flaming fires, and because I know very well how much damage making heated comments on a major blog can cause.

    I’ll stress again that there were different ways to handle the situation and until you named yourself, everything was going along nicely. Sure, a few people recognized you – but 1% is something I’m sure you can handle and respond to without my assistance. Firing up thousands of people in a public rage? That’s a whole ‘nother story and there’s not much I can help with there.

    As I’m sure you can tell, I’m getting a little annoyed with the situation. I dislike being dragged into heated brawl, as it’s not my style, and I’ve really said all I want to say on the matter. We all have better things to do and work/families to get back to, which is what I’m going to do now.

    Let’s move on, people. Enough is enough.


  1. […] Heck, maybe if you tell a decent story, people will be so immersed in what you’re saying that they won’t feel like scanning at all. Just don’t get excited on sharing the information and pass into the TMI (too much info) or unethical zone. […]

  2. Controversy says:

    […] get in controversies sometimes because I don’t shy away from getting into controversies. Here’s a new one — it’s a blog post that doesn’t name me but it’s about me and I show up […]

  3. […] The Ethics of Whoring Your Storytelling – by James, […]

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  5. […] was only darkness before. In doing this, we bring a little bit of heaven to earth.Further Reading: The Ethics of StorytellingHow have you entered into someone else’s story? Share in the comments.*Photo credit: Ralph […]

  6. […] Heck, maybe if you tell a decent story, people will be so immersed in what you’re saying that they won’t feel like scanning at all. Just don’t get excited on sharing the information and pass into the TMI (too much info) or unethical zone. […]

  7. […] The Ethics of Whoring Your Storytelling […]

  8. […] there are quite a few people still ignorant (willfully or otherwise) of this distinct and consistent pattern from Flea Scammypants. (Anyone wishing to be fully informed should read all […]

  9. […] Many blogs do this, including Copyblogger and Men with Pens. […]

  10. […] the contention and warning of James Chartland in a blog article with the arresting title, The Ethics of Whoring Your Storytelling. Consider the […]