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:
Have you seen this thread?
Now you can see how difficult it is to remove anonymous postings of this kind.
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?