Reported in the UK newspaper the Mirror, and subsequently picked up as a news item by PW, GalleyCat, the Bookseller, and the Times of India, among others:
A boy of six has won a book deal worth thousands.There's just one problem. Although the deal probably is worth thousands, the money isn't flowing in the direction the news coverage assumes--from publisher to author. In fact, it's going the other way. Because little Leo's publisher, Strategic Book Publishing, charges fees.
Leo Hunter was awarded a 23-story contract with an American company after they read his first tale, Me and My Best Friend.
Leo started the book - about a little boy called Liam and his make-believe adventures with his dog Henry - when he was five.
It is now hitting bookshelves in America and is available online in the UK.
A minimal amount of research would have revealed this fact, had the various news outlets thought to fact-check a story that is improbable on its face (when was the last time you heard about anyone getting a 23-book deal, let alone a six-year-old child?). Do a websearch on Strategic, and the second listing is a link to Writer Beware's Alert on the company (which includes not just a publishing operation, but an editing service, a marketing service, and a complex of fee-charging literary agencies), about which we've been collecting complaints since 2001and which is currently being sued by the Florida Attorney General for deceptive business practices.
Strategic charges $995 for its "joint venture" contracts. Often further fees are due for editing (done by the associated editing service), and the author is later given the opportunity to purchase marketing from the associated marketing service. If, as often happens, the author is referred to Strategic by one of the associated literary agencies, they've already paid $70 to $90 for a critique, and, in some cases, even more for editing (again, courtesy of the associated editing service) and/or for submissions to unrelated publishers. According to the Mirror, Leo's books were given by his mother to her own literary agency, which passed the books on to Strategic--the agency isn't named, but since reputable agencies don't work with fee-charging publishers, I don't think it's a stretch to assume that Leo's mother's agency is part of the Strategic complex.
Leo's book (published under a pseudonym with a photo of a woman whom I'm guessing is his mother) can be seen here. It's likely that the illustrations had to be paid for, too.
This is a sad story of inexperience, ignorance, false hopes, and, probably in the end, dashed dreams. It's also a story (much like this one, a couple of years ago) of how the media can be led astray by the lure of a tasty headline. If a story sounds too good to be true, there's a fair chance it is.