Friday, August 10, 2012

The Takedown of LendInk: Who Won?

This week marks the demise of LendInk and the end of owner Dale Porter’s American Dream. It’s a sad, yet fascinating, case of ethical business practices. (Disclaimer: Content has been changed to correct erroneous information.)
LendInk: (Previously stated that LendInk did not have a FAQs page, which was incorrect.) LendInk did have a FAQ page asserting the validity and legality of their site.  Although the site is no longer live, you can read some of that content at Indie Author. LendInk appears to have done everything right, so why did they become the target of an indie author outrage mob? Read: What Happened to LendInk? The owner responds.

Authors: Aside from not doing their due diligence to understand the site, they failed to resolve their conflict (real or perceived) in an ethical manner. I’m sure LendInk did get numerous contacts from confused authors but those concerns should have been easy to arbitrate considering that LendInk was legally and ethically in the right. Instead, authors waged a very public campaign complete with virtual pitchforks and fueled by ignorance. Regardless of whether the authors were in the right or the wrong, they made a sizeable mistake: Reaction instead of Ethical Action. Which has led to some ugly backlash and retaliation against certain indie authors. Read: LendInk taken down by A**hole Indie Authors.

It’s a bit ironic that many self-published authors call themselves indie to break away from the ignorant, vanity press stigma and, subsequently, the term indie has grown in negative connotations. Which begs the question, is “Indie” the new “Self-Published?” (Please Lord, I hope not. I hope we are aspiring to do better!)

The point for me is not to lay blame, but to ask: Is there anything worth learning from The Tragic Tale of LendInk that will make me a better human being and a better business person?

No matter what you call your author-self, the basic principles of business ethics are important.  Let’s look to the US Better Business Bureau, whose motto is Start With Trust, for guidance:

What complaints do we handle?

Disagreements between businesses and their customers. However, we reserve the right to reject complaints that use abusive or foul language.

 How do we handle your complaint?
Everything you submit will be forwarded to the business within two business days. The business will be asked to respond within 14 days, and if a response is not received, a second request will be made. You will be notified of the business’s response when we receive it (or notified that we received no response). Complaints are usually closed within 30 business days.

It’s useful to note that the first thing the BBB does is to facilitate communication between the customer and the business to rectify the perceived wrong. How can we as self-published authors/small business owners reapply this best-in-class practice?

Do your research. Reach out privately, business to business. Ask for a response within 14 days. If you do not get satisfaction within the requested period, escalate privately using MUSO or legal representation.

Before you wage (or join) a public crusade, ask yourself:

·        Do I know what I’m talking about—have I done my research?

·         What if I were the person on the opposite end? How would I want to be treated?

·        Have I tried to arbitrate privately?

·        Could this damage my reputation?

·        Is this something I want on the internet FOREVER?

·        And finally: What would I advise my child or a relative’s child to do? Is this responsible advice?

Always keep top of mind: A few books sales lost to piracy are not worth the loss of your professional reputation.

(Who may, or may not, work in the Marketing & Sales division of a global, publicly traded Fortune 500 company which happens to be the largest consumer packaged goods company in the world.)


Lynda Bailey said...


Thanks so much for posting this. I must admit ignorance when it comes to LendInk. I just became aware of the situation through my various *indie* loops.

Both sides were at fault. Here's to everyone learning from the mistakes made.

Anonymous said...

Both sides? Legally wise, not. Sorry you're so uninformed.

CareyCorp said...

Hi Lynda-You are so right. Mistakes were made on both sides. In an act of sheer bravery, one of the anti-LendInk authors publicly apologized to the owner in the comment section of the owner response post. She was subsequently crucified in the comment section. The anti-author hate remarks became a mob of their own. *sighs*

CareyCorp said...

Hi Anonymous. Perhaps I should clarify in case there are any ambiguities. I am not suggesting that LendInk did anything wrong from a legal standpoint, but suggesting a mistake from a small business standpoint.

My focus is on the learning opportunities not in placing blame.

Nina Pierce said...

It's so sad all the way around. I do think LendInk would have calmed the fears of many authors if they had indeed posted FAQ's.

And authors jumped on board before doing their due diligence.

But what is happening now with the negativity flying on both sides is just sad. (I blogged about it myself today as well.)

Really ... who is winning? Great post

April L. Hamilton said...

You are incorrect, there WAS an FAQ page. I quoted from it in my own blog post, "Congratulations, you killed LendInk..."

If the issue is that is was not author-centric, IMO it's a non-issue because the site was for *readers*, NOT *authors*. Nevertheless, it very clearly explained the business model and legality of what LendInk was doing. Any author who bothered to read it would've seen what LendInk was all about in less than two minutes.

Chris said...

You kinda missed out the fact that all the authors who posted blogs/tweeted/wrote on facebook - and especially contacted the hosting company could probably sued under at least 2 causes of action by the owner of LendInk

CareyCorp said...

@ April I have corrected my post and linked to your post with LendInk FAQs. Thanks!!!

You make great points. Hopefully it's a given that *readers* share in the responsibility to ensure they are using legal sites. It sounds like LendInk had clear explanations for potential users asserting their legality. But is that enough? Do sites need to specifically address authors or face becoming the next LendInk? (Really want to hear your thoughts.)

CareyCorp said...

@Chris - Thank you for stopping by. Hopefully my choice to focus on the behavior leading up to the demise of LendInk doesn't suggest that I am missing the serious outcomes. This is one of those sad instances in which there are no winners. Unfortunately, I think we'll be hearing about the fallout of this for some time.

CareyCorp said...

@Nina so well said. The negativity flying both ways feels so toxic. Very sad.