In a previous post, I highlighted Aultbea Publishing, a (sometimes) vanity press that appears to have a penchant for publishing very young writers.
Aultbea isn't alone in targeting youngsters. Now there's Operation Teen Author.
"From now until May 10th," the OTA website breathlessly announces, "you have the opportunity to apply for one of the 50 places to become a best-selling author this year! Yes, while you are still a teenager!!"
All teens have to do to apply is write a 150-300 word essay explaining such important things as why they should be chosen and what they've done in life so far to demonstrate their creativity (they are advised to "be convincing"). If they're accepted into the seven-month program, they will be assigned a Team Leader who will mentor them through a series of webinars, teleseminars, e-mail exchanges, and online forums. At the end of the process, each teen will have created a 1,500-2,000 word chapter, to be included in a printed anthology called Just Let Me Be Me.
But wait, there's more. Not only will teens become published authors (although how they will become "bestselling" authors isn't exactly explained), they will learn "skills that you can apply throughout your entire life!" These include writing and editing, personal appearance ("This is far more important than you might think!"), personal promotion, how to build and maintain a website, financial responsibility (quite ironic--see below), and publishing and marketing.
You know what I'm going to say next, right? There's a catch.
Way, way down in the fine print at the bottom of the OTA website's index page (and also in the FAQ section), we discover that teens need to consult their parents before applying. Why? Because there's a "one time investment of $2495 for those chosen to participate."
Don't be alarmed, though. That big fat chunk of change is actually a bargain. As the FAQ explains, "This first 2008 OTA will be under priced. Programs with similar attention and length are double in price." Uh, really? Teens will also have the opportunity to earn the money back by selling the 100 books they'll receive once the anthology is published (I imagine them going door to door, like Girl Scouts), and by becoming affiliates of Operation Teen Author, which will offer "a possibility for additional income and earning money beyond the initial investment." What possibility, exactly? That isn't said. But OTA is careful to cover its butt by posting an earnings disclaimer statement--the equivalent of those little "Results Not Typical" messages that appear for microseconds at the bottom of your TV screen during diet supplement commercials.
Operation Teen Author is not just weird, it's also kinda creepy. One of the questions teens must answer in their little application essay is "How can you show your willingness to do as your Team Leader instructs you?" Are we talking about a writing course here, or a cult? Well...OTA is the brainchild of Don-Allen Renkow, who has invented something called "COnCEPT Q, a philosophy of life and a Model of Faith [which] was conceived and developed over...2 decades as a result of an inspiration received in 1986." Hmmm.
Renkow is also the founder of SabER Mountain Publishers, which according to the About Us page of the OTA website "was created to publish and promote the literary works of Don-Alan Rekow after having been turned down by various publishers." Mr. Renkow also reveals that the publisher went bust in 2005 due to "under-funding, nervous investors, uncooperative and deceptive banks, poor equipment purchased from shady salesmen, an inexperienced team and finally the unexpected death of a key person," causing one of the investors and a couple of court-appointed officials to show up with a moving team and repossess all the equipment.
Are these the qualifications and business background you want to see in someone to whom you will be entrusting your teenager, never mind more than two thousand dollars of your hard-earned cash?
Parents, don't let your children grow up to be vanity-published authors.
(Thanks to the anonymous commenter in a previous post who alerted me to this bizarre scheme.)