I know I've been a bit scarce lately, and I'd like to thank Victoria for doing such a great job of maintaining the blog. The reason I've been scarce was one I wasn't free to discuss until now, and it's Big News for us and for writers everywhere.
Over the past ten years, Writer Beware and other publishing industry watchdogs like Preditors and Editors have worked hard to increase public awareness of writing scams and the toll they take on aspiring and even experienced writers. It's been an uphill job, but gradually, both law enforcement and civil authorities have begun to realize that writing scams are something they should and will fight. And now there is a new Administration, so a new wind is blowing.
It's for that reason that the Federal Bureau of Investigation decided to create a special task force to help agents in their field offices recognize and deal with writing scams, since most can be prosecuted under Federal jurisdiction due to the fact that they are internet based, and payments cross State lines.
And to us, the Writer Beware team of Rich White, Victoria Strauss and myself, the most exciting part of this special task force is that we've been asked to be part of it!
We'll be touring the country, going to FBI field offices and meeting the agents and research teams, helping them learn how the real publishing industry works, and how to spot all the different kinds of writing scams. We'll actually be sworn in so we can view evidence and help with the analysis. It's possible we may even be able to go along when the FBI raids a scammer's home and/or office looking for manuscripts and other evidence! (One of our duties will be to work with Victim Witness Coordinators to help authors recover their work that has been seized as evidence.)
It's the Bureau's intention to expand this work beyond simply book publishing to include bogus script agents and people posing as producers to bilk unsuspecting aspiring screenwriters out of their money -- which, believe me, can add up to some high dollar scams, in the tens of thousands of dollars, and sometimes even more.
So...this blog will remain inactive for the next eight weeks, because Rich, Victoria and I will be reporting to Quantico for special training next Monday. At the end of our training, we'll be issued our badges and guns, and begin our tour of the country. We'll be traveling on and off for the rest of this year, both singly and as a team. We'll maintain the blog as best we can, and we know we can count on your understanding and support, because much of our work won't be something we can discuss publicly.
Our first stop after completing our training will be Los Angeles, where we'll be meeting with WGA scriptwriters to learn about the ways that scriptwriting and "movie production" scams differ from book-related scams.
The official announcement about the formation of the Special Council on Agents and Media won't be made by the Justice Department until next week, but we were given permission to tell our loyal readers about this today. And...you're not going to believe this, but --!! Apparently enough word about this project has leaked to the media to spark some interest in making a movie! Both Victoria's and my agents reported getting calls yesterday!
Do you suppose they'd let us play ourselves???
-Ann C. Crispin
Chair, Writer Beware