This is another in my series of blog posts about serial reading/writing app contracts (you can see all of them here).
This time the subject is Stary (official name: Stary Pte Ltd, based in Singapore), one of the largest and most well-established of such companies. At least sixteen apps operate under the Stary umbrella, of which Dreame is probably the best-known. Most cater to English-language readers, but there are several for readers of other languages, including Spanish, Russian, and Portuguese, and one specifically for Filipino writers.
Procedurally, the Stary apps are much like the others I’ve written about. You must sign up for the app and publish at least three chapters, with a minimum of 3,000 words, before you can apply for a contract. (You could also be invited to apply–like other serial reading/writing apps, Stary aggressively solicits for content.)
If offered, the contract may be exclusive or non-exclusive. “Writer benefits” for authors with exclusive contracts include signing bonuses, completion bonuses–both paid once per story–and a Daily Update Bonus, which can be received monthly but requires authors to adhere to punishing schedules and word counts, and after three months is only available if the work is pay-to-read (no guarantees on that–see below) and earnings are more than $20 during the month.
Writers also receive an advance (the amount wasn’t specified in the contract I obtained, but based on what I’ve seen from other apps, I would guess it’s few hundred dollars), and additional revenue may be available based on reader activity and rights exploitation or licensing (see below). Also promised are “upgraded promotions”–social media features, advertising, and more–although only selected writers to receive these extra perks.
Hi, everyone. My name is Michael Capobianco, and although I’ve been an adjunct member of Writer Beware for some time now, this is my first official blog post.
I’m also the Chair of SFWA’s Contracts Committee, which means I see a lot of bad contracts, both for book-length and short fiction. I’ve gotten used to much of the unfortunate and often contradictory clauses in these contracts, but last week I ran into something that caught my attention: a virtually identical terrible clause in two separate small publishers’ book contracts, a clause that I had never seen before.
Both contracts were for original fiction, but aside from the fact that neither paid an advance, they looked fairly different from one another until they came to this clause. To save you any further suspense, here it is:
The Publisher reserves all copyright, trademark and other intellectual property rights in and to the titles (including series title, if any), logotypes, trademarks, trade dress, formats and other features of the Work as published and promoted by Publisher (collectively, “Publisher’s Marks”), and any and all content that may be added to the Work by Publisher (collectively, “Publisher’s Content”). The Publisher shall have the sole right to develop sequels or prequels, new or additional titles in a series, or related works using any and all such elements, and shall be free to commission or contract with any other person(s) for the preparation of such sequels, series, or related works.
Now, I’m used to encountering incomprehensible wording in bad contracts. It was only when I saw the same clause again in another contract so close together that it seemed like a good idea to issue a warning about it.
My first response with something like this is to try to figure out what the publisher was actually trying to say and if there was any legitimate justification for it. Needless to say, I couldn’t think of any. On the face of it, this seems like an egregious rights grab.
Ms. Schwartz, who describes herself as a bestselling author, is also an entrepreneur: in addition to GenZ/Zenith, she’s the founder of Dr. Rissy’s Writing & Marketing, which offers various PR services along with copywriting, editing, and consulting; and, according to her Reedsy bio, of a ghostwriting company called AmWriting. She was recently elected to the IBPA Board.
I got the news this week that the ‘Writer Beware’ blog, which I keep re-posting here, on ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest’, moved to WordPress.
Victoria Strauss, who does so much for us writers by warning us from scams, foul play, screw-overs, phonies, and more, took the Writer’s Beware blog from Blogspot to WordPress, which is going to make re-blogging a lot easier. I’m sure, she’ll feel home here quite quickly!
Good Luck to Victoria, and we’re looking forward to her very helpful posts! Way to go!
Welcome to the new home of the Writer Beware blog!
After many years on the Blogger platform, we have finally transitioned to WordPress, which offers much greater flexibility in terms of design, control, and ease of use.
I’ve been dissatisfied with Blogger for a while now. I’m not a web developer, but I’m not helpless, either; I maintain the Writer Beware website on the SFWA site, and I built and maintain two additional websites, my own and another for an organization my husband is part of. But every time I thought about moving to a new platform, the size of the challenge just seemed too daunting. How would I transfer hundreds of posts, not to mention the thousands of comments and images that go with them? What about all the non-working inbound links the move would create? Links wouldn’t be a problem if I just started fresh on a brand-new WordPress site–but then the blog would exist on two platforms, with two different web addresses. And what about WB’s thousands of followers and subscribers?
For quite a while now I kept re-blogging warnings of scams and fraud in the literary world, most of them written by Victoria Strauss in the ‘Writer Beware’ blog. I thought it a great idea that she posted a review of 2021, and I decided to share that post too. It might help some of us to escape a trap or two.
Ah, 2021. The year that was supposed to deliver us from the pandemic, and instead delivered…well. You know.
At least one expectation didn’t change: scammers gonna scam. Writer Beware was ready. Below are highlights of a busy year of scam hunting, scheme exposing, contract analyzing, and just plain crazy stuff. IT CAME FROM OVERSEASI know I’m kind of a broken record here, because I’ve written so many posts about them…but the tsunami of publishing/marketing/fake literary agency scams out of the Philippines really is one of the realest and most present dangers for self- and small press-published writers, who are almost exclusively these scammers’ target.
I’ve recently gotten several reports of phone solicitations from a New Jersey-based bookstore called The Reading Glass Books.
Why would a bookstore be calling authors out of the blue? Well in this case, to sell shelf space: $350 for six months. Authors can direct the store to sell the books at whatever price they like, and will get “100% of the royalties” (which of course makes no sense, since direct sales proceeds are not royalties). And if you’re thinking that the store will order the books…no, no, no, don’t be silly. Authors must provide their own copies.
Paid shelf space for self-published authors isn’t a new idea. Here’s one entrepreneur who set up a bookstore entirely on that model (the store closed in 2019). And a few years ago there was some media coverage of independent bookstores that were renting shelf space to self-pubbed and small press writers–in some cases for a good deal more than $350.
Whatever you may think of paying for shelf space, these were all real brick-and-mortar stores in the business of selling books to the public–not exploitative schemes aimed primarily at extracting money from writers. Based on its solicitation phone calls, sketchy website, and array of other paid services, my guess was that The Reading Glass Books fell into the latter category. I wanted to be sure, though, so I did some research.
Reading Glass claims a physical address–7 Wrightstown Cookstown Road (aka County Road 616) in Cookstown, New Jersey. To my surprise, there actually is a storefront. It’s located in a small strip mall on a relatively empty stretch of road. Here’s an image,, courtesy of Google (note the prime location, between Air Transport International and Domino’s Pizza):
Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®I first heard about editor and author coach Christina Kaye (aka Christina Broaddus) last year, via a writer who later posted this public complaint on Facebook. The allegations: misrepresentation of services (editing by a trainee rather than Christina herself), inadequate performance (the complainant paid for content editing, and got something more like copy editing), and refusal by Christina to either re-do the edit or provide a refund.
In addition to the allegations, the complainant provided supporting documentation…including Christina’s furious emails and lawsuit threats when the complainant refused to back off.
Other entrepreneurial ventures include Bon Chance Press, which started up in early 2017 and contracted several books before closing that same year; a registered business called Book Boss Boutique, LLC; and an Etsy storefront that sells writing-related planners and gifts. Christina also has a substantial presence on various social media platforms, hosts her own podcast, and has amassed a large following on TikTok.
The WYBB website displays testimonials from satisfied clients (of which there are apparently 300, or maybe it’s 150?). And a single bad review, even one as convincingly documented as the Facebook complaint, doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem business. Anyone can fly off the handle and say unwise things in response to pressure. Maybe this was an isolated incident? Maybe there was something else that explained Christina’s over-the-top response?
Over the past year, however, several writers who’ve used Christina’s services have contacted me to report similar experiences: editing that didn’t fulfill what they were led to expect or the terms of the contracts they signed (such as copy editing presented as content editing, or editing by a trainee); hostile, threatening, insulting, and generally unprofessional responses by Christina to concerns and complaints (not just in email or texts but on social media); and refusal of refund requests, including in one case where services weren’t just unsatisfactory, but mostly weren’t delivered.
This week I became aware that Scribd is engaging in a major push to acquire audiobook and ebook rights for already-published books, thanks to this post from Isobel Starling.
Starling’s email exchange with a Scribd representative raised some concerns:
There are definitely some questions here. Fortunately, I was able to get hold of several copies of the contract Scribd is offering for these deals. You can see it here. (I’ve redacted the author’s name and other identifying information, and omitted the signature page. The contracts I saw were identical.)
– It’s explicitly a reprint contract. Scribd is looking for backlist books.
– Per Clause 3, the grant of rights is exclusive, and includes worldwide rights in all languages for audiobooks and ebooks distributed on the Scribd platform. For distribution outside the Scribd platform, English-language rights are excluded for ebooks only (this appears to be intended to allow authors to keep any current ebook editions in publication–but it’s complicated. See below).
– The grant term is 7 years (Clause 7), and includes distribution and marketing on the Scribd platform (Scribd is an all-you-can-eat subscription service) and outside the Scribd platform via retail channels (Clause 3. Again, though, see below).
– Per Clause 5, payment for distribution on Scribd is a flat fee (between $500 and $1,000 per book in the contracts I saw; the contracts were for multiple books). Unlike some other subscription services, or reading/writing platforms like Webnovel and Radish, Scribd doesn’t pay for reader/listener interaction, so for your ebook and audiobook presence on the Scribd platform, the flat fee is all you get.
– Also per Clause 5, payment for distribution outside the Scribd platform is 25% of “Scribd’s net proceeds” (not defined) once production costs have been recouped by such proceeds. This kind of back-end payment arrangement would be inappropriate for previously unpublished work, but it isn’t unusual for reprint publishers that acquire backlist books; Open Road Media does something similar, for instance.
Things to consider if you’re offered one of these contracts:
The past few weeks, I got emails from ‘MainCrest Media,’ telling me that they have the greatest respect for my talent and summoning me to participate in their ‘Awards Program.’ They promise recognition and increase of sales. Their website is quite well designed, a professional invitation to step right into that well-created trap.
The moment I saw their submission fee of $99/per entry, reduced from $149, I got goosebumps, and I knew something didn’t seem right. I started my search about their practice and found several websites and articles warning from so-called ‘Award Profiteers.’
On the reedsyblog, I found a long article, warning of Author Scams and Publishing Companies to Avoid. In the middle of the page, you will find the following paragraph:
Writing Contests and Awards
Writing contests are a great way to reach an audience, solidify your writing credentials, and even make a little money in the form of prizes. There are, however, competitions that are little more than money-spinning enterprises. And you can usually sniff them out by the fact that their prizes are not really prizes.
Some contests will publish winning entries in a magazine or an anthology — which is great. But sometimes, ‘winning’ authors will be obliged to pay an ‘editing fee’ for that privilege — which is not great.
There are also some competitions in which the prize might be a trophy. The catch here is that the author will be expected to pay for the cost of the physical prize. This isn’t necessarily bad — unless you mind paying $80 for a slab of acrylic that dozens more have also ‘won’ that month.
According to John Doppler, the ‘watchdog’ criteria for contests and awards are the following:
Author Awards and Contests Rated and Reviewed: Guiding Principles
1. The event exists to recognize talent, not to enrich the organizers. Avoid events that are driven by excessive entry fees, marketing services to entrants, or selling merchandise like stickers and certificates.
2. Receiving an award is a significant achievement. An event that hands out awards like Halloween candy dilutes the value of those awards, rendering them meaningless. Beware of events that offer awards in dozens of categories. These are often schemes to maximize the number of winners in order to sell them stickers and other merchandise.
3. The judging process is transparent and clear. Watch out for contests whose judging criteria and personnel are vague or undisclosed.
4. Prizes are appropriate and commensurate with the entry fees collected. If a cash prize is offered, it should align with the size of the entry fee. “Exposure” is not an appropriate prize. Representation or publication are acceptable prizes, but only if offered by a reputable company without hidden fees.
5. Entrants are not required to forfeit key rights to their work. Avoid contests with onerous terms, especially those which require the forfeiture of publishing rights without a termination clause. When in doubt, have an independent professional review the terms.
Another clear warning I found on one of my favorite blogs: Victoria Strauss’ Writer Beware blog. She published her article about ‘Award Profiteers’ in 2015 already but re-blogged it in 2019. MainCrest Media was not specifically mentioned. But she tells us clearly where to keep our eyes open:
– Solicitation. To maximize entries, profiteering awards and contests often solicit entries. An out-of-the-blue email or an ad on Facebook urging you to enter a contest or awards program should always be treated with caution.
– High entry fees. Profiteers charge $60, $75, $100, or even more. There may be “early-bird specials” and multiple-entry discounts to tempt authors with the illusion of a bargain. And that’s not counting the books you’ll have to send for award consideration–a considerable expense if the profiteer only accepts print.
– Dozens of scores of entry categories.To maximize income, profiteers create as many entry categories as possible and encourage multiple entries.
– Anonymous judging. Profiteers promise expert judging by people with standing in the writing and publishing field but don’t reveal the identities of these purported experts. In fact, the judging may be done by the profiteer’s staff, who may simply pick winners out of a hat. One of the things that lend credibility to a contest or award is the prestige of its judges…which is why you always want to know who they are and should always be suspicious if that information is not provided.
– Non-prize prizes. To avoid cutting into their profits, profiteers offer prizes that cost them little or nothing: press releases, media announcements, database and website listings, features on satellite websites, or in self-owned publications. Some offer little more than the supposed honor of winning the award.
– Opportunities to spend more money. Profiteers’ profits don’t just come from entry fees. They also hawk stickers, certificates, critiques, and more.
Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware® A quick warning about a new impersonation scam. I’m getting reports from writers who’ve received email solicitations from what appear to be real film companies. Here are a couple of examples:
Note the identical language. Roth/Kirshenbaum and Bluegrass Films are real enterprises, with real track records. So if the writer–who may be a bit dubious because of the out-of-the-blue contact and the poorly-written text–does a websearch, they’ll learn that these companies actually do exist. There are some odd discrepancies: there’s no “&” in Roth/Kirshenbaum, and Scott Stuber left Bluegrass for Netflix in 2017. Still, the realness of the companies themselves makes it easier for hopeful writers to dismiss any niggling doubts.