The last three notifications from the ‘Writer Beware’ blog, by Victoria Strauss, left me shaken, like so many others she provided us with. I normally try to spread word about scam, fraud, and other warnings as good as I can, but I refuse to drown ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest’ readers in negativity.
However, I think, it’s important that, in particular new Indie Authors know what dangers they might face when putting their books and their work ‘out there’. I therefore decided to publish one post with links to all three of Victoria Strauss’ warnings. Thank you for your great work, Victoria!
I’ve been doing the Writer Beware thing for quite some time, and I Have Seen Some Shit. But this solicitation from a Philippines-based publishing and marketing scammer calling itself Right Choice Multimedia (among other names) is one of the most disgusting things that has come across my desk in a while…and that’s saying something.
Here it is in its entirety. Read it and boggle. You can also scroll down directly to my (far more grammatical) debunking. Be sure to read all the way to the end, because I have some things to say about why Big 5 publishers should care that their trademarks and reputations are being co-opted in this way.
This is an updated version of a post I published a couple of years ago.
It’s not all that common, but I do see it from time to time in small press publishing contracts that I review: a publisher claiming ownership of the editing and copy editing it provides, or making the claim implicitly by reverting rights only to the original manuscript submitted by the author.
Are there legal grounds for such a claim? One would think that by printing a copyright notice inside a published book, and encouraging the author to register copyright or registering on the author’s behalf, publishers are acknowledging that there is not. It’s hard to know, though, because the issue doesn’t seem to have been tested in the courts. There’s not even much discussion.
Once upon a time, there was a publishing and marketing scammer called Chapters Media and Advertising, owned by one Mark Joseph Rosario. Chapters pretended to be a US company–it even had dual business registrations in Wyoming and Florida, as well as a purported address in Nevada–but in reality, it operated out of the Philippines (much like its many brethren).
Like many other ladies nowadays, occasionally, I met a man online. I admit, so far, I haven’t been fortunate with online acquaintances. But you never know there might be one who is different than ‘all the others’, right? I decided to give it a chance instead of blocking the try before he can barely say more than a few words.
Number 1 – decided he’d rather play golf and watch movies than talking to me.
Number 2 – an excellent converser, highly intelligent, funny, humorous – and picky. He took me out on a date – outside dining right by the ocean on Santa Monica beach – we had a wonderful dinner, great conversation – and I got the worst flu I had in the past 28 years – and never heard from him again.
Number 3 – Jackpot!! That was probably the sweetest guy I ever ‘met.’ Handsome too! Of course, there was the occasional flaw (like the same first name my ex-boyfriend had and a couple of other little things ), but I thought there was nothing intolerable. We were unable to meet right away since he had a big project going on and needed to go to Europe on a business trip – he had to prepare different things. And I got sick. Even though he wanted to ‘meet’ in a video call, I refused to do so. I want to meet a man for the first time when I’m fit, healthy, and styled… hair and makeup done – and so on… and not sitting home, sniffing with a stuffy nose and in my pj’s… We therefore texted, talked on the phone, and emailed. What a sweet man… We were talking about meeting after his return, seeing how it works out, things like that. There was nothing suspicious. I usually am immediately alarmed if a guy I never saw before talks about love, but he did nothing like that!
One day, about a week before Easter, he went on his business trip. I said I would miss the calls since his phone roaming would cost him so much, but he assured me he had the perfect international phone plan. I suggested connecting on Messenger or WhatsApp, which would make calls for free. However, he still insisted, everything was ok, and it wouldn’t cost him anything more to call me, nor would I have to pay. (Interesting. I know about the roaming costs in Europe with U.S. phones… international plan, or not, it sure as hell ain’t for free) Well, I figured, if he insists, fine. I still told a friend of mine, when it comes to me, he could sit somewhere around the corner – I can’t check that. He insisted he was in Eastern Europe somewhere in the forest – and still sounded like standing next to me.
Shortly before he was supposed to come back, something in his project went wrong. There was a machine failing; one of the workers got injured, he worked like a maniac and still couldn’t get things fixed. He had not calculated his budget with the last resort’s assets, and he needed big bucks to get his project going. Otherwise, he could lose everything. A while later, he tells me, his phone got damaged when he tried to make that machine work, and he can barely do much. He’s happy he still can text, but then, after a while, the call function worked too. He talked to a friend and a business associate, and they both are going to help him out financially.
I had never offered any help, and I was thinking by myself over and over again, “please, don’t ask me for money – please don’t ask me for money…”
In the last call, he tells me he couldn’t bring the price down any further. He was desperate – and he was still $5,500 short. Could I please…?
My answer was short and clear: “No.”
He was almost crying… “But you know how much that project means to me. And I’ll give it back to you as soon as I return.” I’m a bit firmer: “I cannot help you.” He is desperate now. “Can you not, or do you not want to…?” And I replied: “It doesn’t matter. I wish you had never asked.” He tells me. “I’ll keep you updated.” And I replied. “Sure… sure.” Convinced I’ll never hear from him again. Shortly after, his profile was gone from my list.
And that was that…
Now, am I surprised this happened? To my astonishment, no. If something seems to be too good to be true, it mostly is.
I was even asked once ‘…but sometimes things aren’t going as planned; what if he sits there, in Eastern Europe and does have a problem? And I had to answer: “Sorry… then it’s not my problem. It’s his project. I worked as a project manager. Your budget is supposed to entail a percentage for emergencies. Calling me ‘sweetheart’ does not give anyone access to my bank account. – And if he took the risk and it didn’t work out – find a way to solve the problem without my money.”
That doesn’t mean I cannot do my research. Apparently, the pictures the man sent me seemed accurate; at least they didn’t show up anywhere else. The phone number he gave me was connected to a company website that appeared to be his, but: There was no address, just a contact form, which seems weird to me, considering that it’s supposed to be a trading company. That only means that I might have heard half-truths and that this ‘company’ was only ‘founded’ for particular that purpose – for scams.
Also, the IP address was located about 18 miles Northwest of where he said his house and office were located. However, that doesn’t say much; after all, I’m using a proxy server too.
I did a little digging and found an article about Romance Scams on the ‘Better Business Bureau’ website. When I was done reading, I laughed. My case couldn’t have been more ‘typical.’ It was almost point-by-point following the original scheme. The article I relate to can be found here: BBB Tip: Romance Scams.
Now, please, don’t feel sorry for me! That isn’t a case where I need people to pity me. He tried and lost. I’m not heartbroken! I published this post for two reasons: Number 1 – as a warning!
Ladies – watch out there! This guy isn’t the only one to try.
Always keep in mind: if it seems to be too good to be true – it probably is!
Listen to your gut feeling. The slightest doubt – and you go digging. Please do it! It can save you from possibly making a bad mistake.
And number 2: to the scammers out there:
Yes, I would love to be in a relationship and have someone by my side but make no mistake: I’m not desperate.
Apparently not even traditionally published authors are safe from crooks. Victoria Strauss on her ‘Writer’s Beware’ blog describes one particular case on her blog. Please read it and be careful. Thank you.
Earlier this month, the book industry website Publishers Marketplace announced that Little, Brown would be publishing “Re-Entry,” a novel by James Hannaham about a transgender woman paroled from a men’s prison. The book would be edited by Ben George.
Two days later, Mr. Hannaham got an email from Mr. George, asking him to send the latest draft of his manuscript. The email came to an address on Mr. Hannaham’s website that he rarely uses, so he opened up his usual account, attached the document, typed in Mr. George’s email address and a little note, and hit send.
“Then Ben called me,” Mr. Hannaham said, “to say, ‘That wasn’t me.’”
Mr. Hannaham was just one of countless targets in a mysterious international phishing scam that has been tricking writers, editors, agents and anyone in their orbit into sharing unpublished book manuscripts. It isn’t clear who the thief or thieves are, or even how they might profit from the scheme. High-profile authors like Margaret Atwood and Ian McEwan have been targeted, along with celebrities like Ethan Hawke. But short story collections and works by little-known debut writers have been attacked as well, even though they would have no obvious value on the black market.
I’ve written several posts about a fairly new phenomenon in the world of writing scams: scammers that falsely use the names of reputable publishing professionals, including literary agents and publishers, to lure writers into paying large amounts of money for worthless, substandard, and/or never-delivered services.
This time, I’m breaking down a very similar scam that, capitalizing on the pandemic-fueled popularity of Netflix and other streaming services (as well as the eternal writerly dream of having one’s book translated into film), is appropriating the name of Clare Richardson, Senior Scout for film and TV at the New York office of Maria B. Campbell Associates, to hoodwink writers in an unusually complicated–and expensive–scheme.
Victoria Strauss, who provides us on the ‘Writer’s Beware Blog’ with information of all kinds, warns us on October 16 and October 19 about two more ‘bad eggs’ that I would like to share with as many writers as possible. Thank you so much, Victoria Strauss, for all your efforts and work to help us!
OCTOBER 16, 2020
BAD CONTRACT ALERT: EMP ENTERTAINMENT AND A&D ENTERTAINMENT
Lately, I’ve been hearing from writers who’ve been solicited by one or another of two companies offering to distribute their books to Webnovel, a Wattpad-like platform based in Asia: EMP Entertainment and A&D Entertainment. (Note: there are many companies with similar names focused on concert invites, event schedule, and DJ services.)
EMP and A&D are both based in Singapore, and both are just 11 months old (which raises interesting questions about whether they’re really different companies, though their contracts differ enough to suggest that they are). They present themselves as Webnovel partners, authorized to offer non-exclusive contracts that allow authors to continue to publish on other platforms (such as Wattpad, where both companies are actively approaching writers) if they choose.
Stories must be 750 words or fewer, and the contest is accepting submissions through Friday, October 23. Three winners will receive prize packages consisting of books, games, swag, and/or gift cards.
The catch? You guessed it. It’s in the fine print of the contest guidelines. (I wasn’t able to provide a direct link to these, but if you scroll down to the bottom of the contest post, there’s a link you can click to see them.)
On the ‘Writer’s Beware’ blog I found the article below, written by Victoria Strauss. I think, it really is important we all are aware of the scams and we share the information to help many others keeping their eyes open. Thank you, Victoria.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about scammers impersonating reputable literary agents. These are not isolated incidents: I have a growing file of reports and complaints about this growing phenomenon–including from writers who’ve lost large amounts of money.
Now publishers are being impersonated as well. Here are a couple of examples of the kind of thing I’m seeing.
Here’s the pitch one author received from “Michael Smith” of “HarperCollins” (see the email address):
To pass the “1st stage of the acquisition” of their book, and move on to “an exclusive contract,” the author had already been persuaded (by “agent” Arial Brown, who is as fake as this offer) to hand over more than $8,000 for a new website and YouTube video. Now, in order to proceed to the next stage, they must shell out still more cash for “Developmental Editing and Content Editing.” But not to worry–all that spending is in aid of big rewards down the line:
I found this very interesting and informative blog post on the ‘Writer’s Beware Blog’, written by Victoria Strauss. Thank you so much for your tireless efforts to warn us about scams, Victoria. We really appreciate your hard work!
How do scammers entrap unwary writers? The other day, an especially egregious example came across my desk, in the form of this “proposal” shared with me by an author who really, really wanted to believe it was real (I’ve redacted the author’s name and book title to protect their privacy).
Not to beat a horse, dead or otherwise, but if you’ll glance at the sidebar, you’ll see that Alpha Books United is on Writer Beware’s big list of Philippines-based Author Solutions copycat publishing and marketing scams. (When I got hold of this proposal, on September 26, Alpha Books’ website was working fine, but when I checked it today it refused to load. “Mr. Ken Davis”, however, has not stopped emailing and calling the author who contacted me.)
Also on ‘Writer’s Beware’ I found the latest blog post about scamming emails from the Philippines. Victoria Strauss worked hard to provide us with an entire list of senders we should be aware of. Thank you very much, Victoria!
I’ve been expending a lot of words and time lately warning about the latest scam phenomenon to hit the writing world: fake publishing and marketing companies that, through outrageous prices and worthless services, extract enormous amounts of money from unwary writers.
Based in the Philippines (despite their apparent US addresses, phone numbers, and telemarketer names) and focusing primarily on small press and self-published authors (particularly authors who’ve published with one of the Author Solutions imprints), these companies recruit writers with relentless–and highly deceptive–phone and email solicitations. Some do provide the services authors pay for, albeit at seriously inflated prices and often of poor quality. Others just take the money and run. I’m hearing from a growing number of writers who’ve paid five figures in fees to one–or, in some cases, more than one–of these scams, with next to nothing to show for it.
Floridaborne published an interesting ‘must-read’ on her blog. As an Indie author I have to say I was and still am shocked to read it. Thank you very much for sharing this information to us, Floridaborne!
Now, on a serious note.
I happened upon a writer on Twitter and Facebook:
Her Twitter introduction: “Amazon Int’l Bestselling Romance Author | Survived my 1st publishing with coffee & wine | Music Lover | Star Wars Geek Since Birth.”
She explains how non-writers are scamming the system at Amazon
graciously allowed me to reprint (aka copy/paste) her post.
I need to tell a story – it’s going to be a long one, so settle in if you’re interested in hearing it.
I began writing my first book in 2013. I self-published it on December 27, 2015. I was new to the business and I literally knew nothing. I made my own cover, which I’m embarrassed of now. But hey – I was brand spanking new and was learning as I went. And yes, there were typos galore in this first book. My January 2016 sales raked in a whopping $1500. I was shocked! After all, I was a nobody – a brand new author who nobody had heard of and I made $1500 in my first month!
I charged $5.99 per ebook for my debut title (Heart of Stone) and it was enrolled in KU. Looking at the sales, I thought I really had something going. My husband convinced me to quit my day job and do the author gig full time. Please note…I didn’t say “writing” full-time. Being an author comes with a ton of administrative tasks – setting up and maintaining a website, managing social media, searching for advertising opportunities, sending out newsletters, and every other possible thing to help keep you relevant in this business. Only a fraction of time is spent actually writing.