In which the on-the-ball folks at Writer Beware bring you reports from the fringes of the writing world.
An email being sent out to writers' organizations under the heading "invitation to aspiring novelists" announces a "new project called 'Ophir' [that] involves getting unknown aspiring novelists published by royalty-paying publishers, and it involves helping badly wounded war heroes who gave so much fighting for America in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam."
(I wish I could post links to what follows, but there doesn't appear to be anything about this project online. I do have the email, though, provided to me by one of Writer Beware's reliable undercover informants. All grammatical tics and errors have been faithfully reproduced.)
Aspiring novelists who want to qualify for the project must "...never [have] had a novel published under that author-name, have no agent, no famous name, and have completed a novel manuscript that has won an award by a genre group or by a geographic writer-group." (Awards for unpublished novel manuscripts are thin on the ground, but never mind.) Novelists who meet these criteria "will be asked to donate the royalties from this, their first, novel to help grievously wounded veterans...As recompense for donating those royalties, we will do our level best to make that novel a best seller."
How will this be attempted? The project plans to work with "large membership groups with many millions of members, such as veterans' groups, social/fraternal/civic groups, churches, unions and others," which will urge members to go out and buy the novels in bookstores, and in exchange give them coupons as well as a listing in "all books' Good Guys Directory." (Shades of Scientology, which is rumored to make L. Ron Hubbard's SF novels into bestsellers through similar means.) The project hopes "to sell, in hardcover only, 50,000 copies of each title we handle---which will put that book on most best-seller lists." (Actually, I think the bestseller threshhold is higher than that, but let's not pick nits.)
But wait--the project seeks unpublished novelists. So how will those award-winning manuscripts get into bookstores? Well, the twenty best mss. submitted to the project will be selected for the "Gold of Ophir National Award," and award winners will then be "invited" to have their mss. published by "a legitimate royalty-paying publisher...Our award winners may contract with any publisher of their choice, or they may use the royalty-paying publishers we will recommend and who have said they will accept our recommendations." (Holy kickbacks, Batman!)
Oh, and just one more thing: there's a $50 reading fee.
So is this a reading fee scam, or maybe a vanity publishing scam? Possibly. But I'm more inclined to think that it's a crackpot scheme concocted by, well, a crackpot. Contact info for the Dr. Rick Gelinas of the email is the same as for the Dr. Rick Gelinas of highroadusa.com ("Travel Into The Future On The HighRoad"), which "holds patents on a new kind of elevated rail system" that will "move you and your car safely at airline speed," creating "a way to travel fast in our own cars without having to drive them."