Friday, May 05, 2006

Victoria Strauss -- Someone Out There Doesn't Like Us (And We Don't Care)

In Ann's and my line of business (the scam-busting business, that is), we inevitably create some resentment (to put it mildly) among the people we warn about. Here's one typical example. Here's another.

An alert Writer Beware reader recently let me know that someone calling himself J.G. Goodman has posted some unflattering comments about me and fellow scam-buster Dave Kuzminski in the forums at SFReader.com, a speculative fiction-oriented website. Searching on a few key phrases quickly located a practically identical screed from a John Goodman on Written Road, a publishing-and-writing-oriented blog. By chance, I'd also seen an earlier negative comment about me from one Dave King on the Rumor Mill, a message board for writers sponsored by the ezine Speculations (you have to scroll down a bit; it's Message 483801). I might have assumed that it was unrelated to Mr. Goodman's rantings, had not ol' Dave written me the following "neener, neener" email:

Vicky,

Have you seen this thread?

http://www.speculations.com/index.html?t=69948

Now you can see how difficult it is to remove anonymous postings of this kind.

J.R.


I knew it was Dave because of the "daveking@..." email address, but note the signature. Another J.

So who is J.G. Goodman/John Goodman/Dave King? Which disgruntled agent or publisher does he represent? I have a theory.

There's this vanity publisher--let's call it American Book Publishing--run by a shady character--let's call her C. Lee Nunn. ABP charges a "setup fee" and appears to derive most of its income from persuading its authors to buy huge quantities of their own books. Over the years we've gotten nearly 40 complaints about it--a lot, considering that Ms. Nunn imposes gag orders on writers who break their contracts, and at one point threatened writers with a $10,000 fine if they "disparaged" the company. ABP is the subject of a warning on Writer Beware.

The warning really chaps Ms. Nunn's hide. Periodically, she emails Writer Beware, or gets others to email us, trying to find out exactly what we know (or possibly to tempt us into making actionable statements). The emails usually purport to be from anxious writers researching the company--but certain key details and questions (such as a request for the case numbers of the police investigations of which ABP has been a target) tip us off to who's really responsible.

Toward the end of April, I was contacted by an individual who claimed to be investigating ABP for "a book publishing industry trade organization." He had some questions for me. Not entirely to my surprise, these were the very same questions Ms. Nunn and her shills always ask.

Deciding to string him along for a while, I wrote to ask which publishing industry trade organization it was. This produced a blustery and not entirely straightforward response. He was "not allowed to disclose that during an open investigation." I, on the other hand, should hold myself to a different set of ethics: "Since you report this information, please follow the industry standard of reporters in providing these types of background details upon request."

I replied that it was also standard for people writing official reports to reveal their affiliations to those whom they wished to question. Mr. Wentworth was not amused. "It should not matter which organization I've been asked to get this information for," he huffed. "I'm beginning to also conclude that perhaps what the company stated in their defense to me is much more true and likely. That you made a phone call to a police department and then falsely reported it as a 'police investigation of the company' to shock and scare their authors into contacting you with their worries and attracted their most inexperienced authors." And why would I do such a thing? Mr. Wentworth claimed to know the truth: "I asked the company the same questions I asked you, and they stated that you had tried to get on their payroll as contract administrator and when they refused you, you followed up on your threat to post this false report."

(This is a fairy tale, by the way, though Ms. Nunn appears to have convinced herself that it's true. It was alleged in the lawsuit she tried to file against Writer Beware in 2003 [which miraculously vanished once her attorney discovered that Writer Beware had full documentation for its warnings], and she claimed it again last year when she contacted SFWA's legal counsel to demand that I be disciplined. He challenged her to provide evidence, and didn't hear from her again.)

By this time I was bored with the exchange, and wrote to tell Mr. Wentworth that I knew what was up and wasn't going to play anymore. He fired back a final salvo. Since I'd refused to be "forthcoming or cooperative," dire consequences were in store for me. "I have no choice but to report that you are intentionally deceiving the writers community and public with this false information...Unfortunately once the report does become published, it will become public information as I have stated and will be talked about in the writers community that you represent yourself as being a trustworthy expert. The news of this report will have a negative effect and impact on your career and your credibility...Victoria this is probably the most decisive day in your career."

Ooooh. I'm shakin' here.

I didn't reply, and that was the last I heard from Mr. Wentworth. Or...was it?

Obviously there's no "industry trade organization," and no report. It's just Ms. Nunn again, fishing for info with the same old stinky bait. But since I didn't bite, maybe she (or Mr. Wentworth, if he's a shill and not an alias) sallied forth onto the Internet and posted the pseudonymous comments linked in at the beginning of this entry--trying, in the only way available to her (or him), to have "a negative effect and impact" on my credibility.

So what do you think, boys and girls? Is it working?

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

It undoubtedly will be talked about in the "writers community" - with our gratitude. Thanks for looking out for us. One has to wonder, however: Do the bad guys always sound so smug, pompous and self-satisfied? Just reading his comments makes me feel slimed.

srchamberlain said...

This is so damn simple. Who has the incentive to lie, here? A writer who donates her time to fellow writers, or a shady publisher who makes writers pay to print their books?

Because it seems so likely that the former would suddenly turn vindictive and vent undeserved rage on the latter. It could have been anyone, of course. Random House. Knopf. Or American Book Publishing. Isn't it obvious to everyone that Ann and Victoria have obvious financial incentives to skewer well-meaning people like C. Lee Nunn? Well, isn't it?

Oh, wait.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you haven't been slimed until you read what Martha Ivery used to write about anyone who challenged her. She gave a whole new meaning to the word "ugly."

Brian said...

Is it working? Don't think so.

You would think some of these folks would have a hard time living with out scruples or ethics. I am just glad there are folks out there like you ladies that will help warn and educate us creative types to the cruel games scammers play.

Keep up the good work.

Julie said...

I think it's great how you can see the effect you're having. Commenters are popping up to defend you, or to ask for proof -- just like you taught them! You rock!

mythago said...

Indeed, the impact is negative--that is, less than zero.

Diana Peterfreund said...

What I don't get is how they keep talking about how you (And Dave K) do this for you own profit. What benefit do they think you are personally getting? Less competition from other writers?

Makes no sense at all...

Dave Kuzminski said...

Personally, I'd like to see Goodman's explanation of why Underwriter's Labs are not to be trusted since no one appointed them, either. Doubtless, there are other organizations that do fact checking and product testing that they weren't appointed to perform.

Furthermore, isn't it strange that the independent watchdogs are more effective than some of those created by the government, that is when the government bothers to create one. So far, the government hasn't created one to watch over the publishing industry for the purpose of protecting writers from scams.

Bernita said...

Their style is so obvious

Matt D. said...

My personal favorite is the "They must have been rejected and they're jealous" approach. It makes me giggle.

Jim C. Hines said...

"Now you can see how difficult it is to remove anonymous postings of this kind."

Hm ... three people on that board tagged you as a troll, and the posting has been blocked. Total difficulty rating: 0.4 / 10, right below tying one's own shoes.

Heather Waters said...

I personally find it ironic that they're claiming this is a form of advertising for you, and yet they are mentioning your site, thus sending people here out of curiosity. Don't they realize that slamming you is the best possible way to get people to your site LOL

www.heatherwaters.net

James Goodman said...

I sure wish this scamming @#$% would have used another name. This one gave me a double take when I first began reading the post. :D

Anonymous said...

I find Goodman's commnets interesting but contradictory. He says: "Yet since they (referring to Strauss and Dave K.)are accurate about 9 times out of 10, few writers ever become aware of their false statements, and most believe their propaganda."

Does this say what it reads: The two indivduals are right the vast majority of the time? Golly, where's Mr. Goodman coming from?

Anonymous said...

I was doing a quick search about the American Book Publishing company after my daughter received a contract to do some copy editing work for them. At first glance, the contract looked shady. After reading the consistent complaints about the company and C. Lee Nunn (aka Nathan Fitzgearl) online with various groups and reviewing the contract with an attorney; I believe my daughter has been "saved" from what could have been a costly mistake of working for this company. She learned a valuable lesson - always research before signing the dotted line. Thanks for the information.

Anonymous said...

I'm still trying to figure out what's going on here. The company The company looks shady on the writers' side, yet they have information posted on the BBB website:

http://www.bbb.org/utah/business-reviews/book-and-magazine-publishing-companies/american-book-publishing-in-salt-lake-city-ut-8000038

The whole incident seems to have exploded around 2004, yet the company was established several years prior in 1990, as recorded on the BBB listing. I just don't know what to make of it. Does anyone have any thoughts?

Ashley said...

I want to thank you for doing what you do. I was offered a job with APB, and after researching it obviously turned the position down. You've saved me, and others time, money, and heartache. Thanks again!