Writers Are Faking Their Success

These are five techniques they use to mislead readers.

Benya Clark


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Last month, I wrote an article called Writers Are Lying To You About Their Earnings. It’s about all of the hoops that writers jump through to give a misleading representation of how much they’re earning — from hiding behind claims of “satire” to outright lying.

That article did unexpectedly well, so — God forgive me — I’ve decided to be a hack and write this follow-up. Since the first article already covers the main rhetorical devices that writers use to exaggerate earnings, in this article I’m going to shift the focus to the technical ways that writers use to provide fake “proof” that they are successful.

Photoshopping Screenshots

One of the oldest tricks in the book is to photoshop screenshots so that they display different numbers than they originally did. For example, a writer might receive an email stating that they’ve earned $500, but then edit in an extra zero so it looks like they earned $5,000.

Sloppy photoshops are easy to spot, but when they’re done well, they’re virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. No matter how many screenshots an author provides, they haven’t proven anything.

Altering HTML

There are two major limitations to photoshop: The first is that it’s hard to do well and the second is that it doesn’t work in videos (at least not as easily.) To get around both of these problems, unscrupulous writers are now changing their earnings display by altering the local copies of HTML on websites.

This is a pretty simple process even for those with little technological know-how, and it can be done through most modern browsers without any special tools. Basically, writers just change the numbers displayed on the site so that it says whatever they want it to say. (This only changes the numbers in their browser, but that’s good enough for their purposes.)

Trading Views

Faking success isn’t just about creating fake screenshots. Many writers take things a step further by creating fake engagement. One of the most popular ways to do this is trading views (and other engagement like comments) with other…



Benya Clark

I’m a lawyer turned writer from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, and more. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter at exploringsobriety.com.