Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Solicitation Alerts: JustFiction! Edition and DIP Publishing House

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

When Writer Beware was founded in 1998, it was vanishingly rare for publishers (or agents) to contact aspiring writers to express interest in their work--so rare, in fact, that any sort of unsolicited publisher or agent contact was almost certain to be a scam or a pay-to-play arrangement. For instance, Dorrance Publishing Company--a venerable vanity publisher--regularly solicited writers using copyright registration information (a practice it still follows).

The march of technology has changed things to some degree. With blogs and online writing venues and social media, it's no longer so unlikely that a reputable editor or agent might get a glimpse of an aspiring writer's work and contact them directly. However, while you can no longer automatically dismiss such a contact, it's still not the norm--and there are still plenty of not-necessarily-desirable enterprises that rely on spam-style solicitation to maintain their businesses. Direct contact from a publisher or agent should always be treated with caution, until research can determine whether the company or individual is reputable.

Two cases in point have come across my desk over the past few weeks.

JustFiction! Edition

A couple of weeks ago I started getting a rash of questions from writers who'd received out-of-the-blue emails from a company called JustFiction! Edition, offering to publish their books.
Dear [writer's name redacted],

I am writing on behalf of a brand new international publishing house, JustFiction! Edition. In the course of a web-research I came across a reference of your manuscript [ms. name redacted] and it has caught my attention.

We are a publisher recognized worldwide, whose aim it is to help talented but international yet unknown authors to publish their manuscripts supported by our experience of publishing and to make their writing available to a wider audience.

JustFiction! Edition would be especially interested in publishing your manuscript as an e-book and in the form of a printed book and all this at no cost to you, of course.

If you are interested in a co-operation I would be glad to send you an e-mail with further information in an attachment.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Evelyn Davis
Acquisition Editor

Just Fiction! Edition is a trademark of:
LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing GmbH & Co. KG
Dudweiler Landstr. 99
66123 Saarbr├╝cken, Germany
In this case, you don't have to look far for the tipoff: it's right in the sig line. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing also does business as VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller, a.k.a. VDM Publishing and a number of others. I blogged about these companies a couple of years ago. They are author mills that acquire enormous numbers of books without editorial oversight, make them available via POD, and distribute them on the Internet with no meaningful marketing or promotional support.

There are no publishing fees, but the VDM contracts I saw had nonstandard terms (including a life-of-copyright rights grant with no provision for rights reversion) and an unfavorable payment policy (with royalties paid just once a year and vouchers in lieu of payments if royalties average 10 euros or less per month); and the books' cover prices are head-spinningly high. All the VDM-related companies are notorious for their prolific cold-call solicitations.

Till now, the VDM-related companies have concentrated on students and academics. With JustFiction! Edition, they seem to be branching out into general fiction and nonfiction (and also jumping on the epublishing bandwagon). There's no reason to suppose, however, that JustFiction! Edition's acquisition, marketing, or payment policies will be significantly different from its parent company's (according to its FAQ, JustFiction! Edition pays just 10% of the publisher's net for both print and ebook--not a terrific print royalty, but a truly awful ebook royalty).

If you're looking for traditional publishing, this definitely isn't it--and if you want to self-publish, you can likely get a better deal elsewhere.

DIP Publishing House

I've also been hearing from from writers and writers' forum moderators who report unsolicited spam-style messages from DIP Publishing House:
Greetings to you,

My name is Sophia and I represent DIP Publishing House. I would like to discuss a potential publishing opportunity with you. This opportunity is not for Self-Publishing, although our company currently offers those services.

We are in search of a select group of Authors for a newly approved project called P.O.W.E.R... DIP Publishing has recently introduced a new and innovated way to publish called “Partnership-Publishing.” This traditional style of publishing was designed to give Authors with “potential” the opportunity to publish traditionally and receive the full backing of a publisher.

Authors selected are to complete a list of PBRs (Pre-Block Requirements) and shall be published over the next 3 to 6 months. Marketing and promotions will be handled under a budget set specifically for this program. For more information, feel free to respond to my email here or email my boss Argus at: argus@dippub.com

I hope to hear back from you soon!

Best,
Sophia
DIP Publishing House
Administrative Assistant
To make a long story short, writers who respond receive a "Partnership Guide" laying out a complicated and bizarre "partnership-publishing" procedure, a.k.a. the P.O.W.E.R. project ("Partnering - Organizing - Writing - Expanding - Resourcing"):
Partners are published in blocks of (5) to (20) Authors. Each block is assigned a budget for use of marketing, promotions, registrations, and other related expenses approved under the P.O.W.E.R. project. Blocks are run by Block Coordinators (Agents) whose primary objective is to develop Authors and obtain books sales. Coordinators work closely with Sales and Marketing to establish the most relevant approach to the market in order to obtain optimal results.

At the conclusion of quarter (1) – (6 months following publishing) Authors are reevaluated according to book sales and current momentum of project(s). Authors deemed as high-potential shall receive their own budget for the following quarter, independent of block budget. On the other hand, Authors not considered high-potential by the end of quarter (1) shall once again share a promotional budget with block.
Despite the Partnership Guide's assurance that "the P.O.W.E.R. program falls within the Traditional Publishing category," authors must commit to providing nearly $200 in funding, either from others' pockets or their own (with reimbursement possible for authors who achieve "exceptional sales"--whatever that means--within the first publishing quarter):
In support of assigned Block and project requirements, Authors must identify (10) supporters and complete (10) exchanges (Authors may also satisfy Pre-Block exchanges on their own). Exchange funds are used in conjunction with overall block budget to offset miscellaneous setup fees and reduce risks ($19.99 *USD per exchange – this cost does not represent the actual book price).
I've also seen DIP's contract, which, among other things, pays royalties on net profit (the publisher's net less printing costs), includes an editing clause enabling the publisher to edit at will without the author's consent, and employs vague and confusing grant-of-rights language.

DIP is owned by businessman Argus Milton, whose resume does not appear to include any prior professional publishing or book authoring experience (apart from the titles he has published wth DIP, Mr. Milton has self-published one book through AuthorHouse). DIP has published a small number of books through its self-publishing programs, but self-publishing and publishing are two very different things, and expertise in the former doesn't necessarily qualify you to undertake the latter.

I have no reason to doubt that DIP's P.O.W.E.R. program is entirely well-intentioned--but its owner's lack of relevant experience, the company's strange and complicated publishing plan, the ill-advised solicitation policy, the contractual issues, and the financial commitment required of authors all combine to make this one a "beware."

38 comments:

Paul Salvette said...

The FAQ on the Just Fiction website is hilarious.

"Why can’t I reach you by phone?

Being available by phone is actually one of the largest expense factors in a company."

Um, okay.

Rogue Mutt said...

That DIP one sounds like some kind of pyramid scheme.

GalaktioNova said...

Yeah, right :-)

It might also be of interest to you that Lambert Academic Publishing is currently very active in Russia approaching unknown Russian writers -- apparently, also using copyright information. Well, whatever turns them on :-)

Robin Weeks said...

The first red flag for me was the language of the email:

"In the course of a web-research I came across a reference of your manuscript...."

You mean a reference TO my manuscript?

"We are a publisher recognized worldwide, whose aim it is to help talented but international yet unknown authors...."

Maybe "internationally unknown" authors?

I'm not sure how a publishing house can help me if their solicitation email is full of the kinds of errors I'm trying to avoid in my writing.

Just sayin.

Jamie Lee Scott said...

I feel bad for the writers wanting to be published so bad that they are sucked in by these sharks. I see the same thing in the screenwriting business. So sad.

Jamie Lee Scott
www.jamieleescott.com

Josin L. McQuein said...

I feel sorry for people taken in by these sorts of things, but always wonder why they don't check out the companies before they respond. (Thankfully, someone realized enough to send these pitches to Writers Beware, though.)

This is why you have to Google anyone who approaches you via your blog, and it's so easy, there's no reason not to. I had 4 or 5 agents and an editor approach me that way a while back, and not one of them sounded anything like those messages.

Real ones are short, to the point, and more in the vein of "Send me this when it's ready and put "requested" in the subject line."

Honest interest doesn't need the fancy language or details (which is the first indication of a lie / scam. Human behavior tends to overcompensate for falsehood by trying to bury it in "solid" details).

And the real ones are very clear about who they are and where they're from, usually with contact information attached as a footer (and often an agency footer, at that) beneath their communications. It's a simple matter to find them on-line and check their reputations.

JS said...

Robin Weeks, those are pretty standard English errors for someone whose first language is German.

Which does raise the question, what value is this publishing venture going to add for people who are native speakers of English writing in English? "None" would be my guess, but I would have guessed that anyway based on my knowledge of Verlag Dr. Mueller.

Lehcarjt said...

I don't get the P.O.W.E.R. Plan.

What exactly does it mean that 'Authors must identify (10) supporters and complete (10) exchanges (Authors may also satisfy Pre-Block exchanges on their own)'?

JS said...

Lehcarjit, it sounds like some kind of multi-level marketing plan.

If it isn't some kind of multi-level marketing plan, they are doing a crappy job of representing what it actually is.

Doug Brunell said...

You do good work, and I thank you.

A. C. Crispin said...

For some reason every time I read the term "publishing opportunity" in Victoria's post, what I actually SAW was "phishing opportunity."

Strange, eh?

-Ann C. Crispin
Chair, Writer Beware
www.writerbeware.com

Warren Caterson said...

I think you all are too hard on these companies. Why, when I see how well- written these solicitation are, I can't understand how no one would signed up in either of them. In fact, I'm sent my manuscript in right now, if not sooner. (PS. Keep up the great work Victoria!)

A Valentine Joseph said...

Thanks for all the hard work you do to inform us about the leaches who targets writers

kikyohatake said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I just got one of those letters from Just Fiction and it was shady to me and if I hadn't have seen this first I would've probably been still in the dark. Besides, they wouldn't answer my question about the royalty fee and pricing anyway. They just avoided the questions and said send in your manuscript as soon as you can.

Shawn James said...

I feel bad for writers who get taken in by this kind of scam.

Publishing is changing so much, I would think new authors would explore all the new self-publishing opportunities to reach the market before going along with something like this.
With CreateSpace and Lulu, Smashwords, Kindle and pubit! an author can easily publish something for no cost and keep all their rights.

Anonymous said...

talented but international yet unknown authors

Ouch. I'm not sure that even means anything.

Anonymous said...

JLM, they don't google because they don't want to believe there's anything wrong with this great offer.

I've met people-- I'm sure we all have-- who are pretty uneducable about this stuff. They don't want to hear that it might be a scam and that they should check Writer Beware and that nothing in publishing happens this way.

They like saying "my publisher" and "my agent" (who sometimes has the same address as their publisher) at writers' group meetings. And apparently their life's savings is a small price to pay for that.

If I try to warn them, they think I'm jealous 'cause I want to be the only published writer in the group. If an unpublished writer warns them, they think that person is jealous because she hasn't gotten a fabulous offer from a publisher.

So we do what we can.

Mad Scientist Matt said...

I wonder how many authors here got published as the result of unsolicited contact from a publisher or agent? I did, although this was just a few years ago. Actually, I've had two such contacts - one was from an upstart that I declined, a second from a Penguin imprint. In both cases, it was a result of existing writing on the Internet.

Kaoru Wada said...

I was solicited by Sophia on Webook.com I was told by another writer friend to tell you because you keep track? It was from DIP Publishing...

I was a little excited but also wary...and thanks to your site...which I will now be following....I was forewarned...

But one has to think there must be something to this business if they are still making money and such?

Maybe not...
But here is another report for you.
Thanks!

jerry_evans said...

Thanks for your help. I got a DIP Pub. email on my AUTHONOMY site, as many aspiring authors are, and fortunately checked your site for information on it. It definately appears to be a form of pyramid book-self publising site.
Keep warning people of these scams.

Anonymous said...

I got one of these this morning. Since I've never been terribly popular with what I've posted online, it sorta threw up red flags--also the fact that the manuscript in question isn't even finished, online OR on my hard drive, wasn't exactly sounding like a great deal.

After a little digging--I have a lot of email accounts, and they're all loaded onto my iPod--I finally figured out which one they sent it to. The one they sent the message to wasn't even my email address associated with my writing accounts! It was one listed a few websites away for an unrelated-to-me-only LJ account. :P Clearly, these people didn't particularly care about privacy.

Anyway, thanks for this! I have no plans for publishing anything, anyway, but it's nice to know about the company that "wants my manuscript."

Julianna Helms said...

Thank goodness for this blog! I got an e-mail from JustFiction, and throughout its entire email I was pondering, hmm, how did they find my story? Because I'm pretty sure a sincere, non-scam request for my MS would tell me where they found it. And Writers Beware proves just further that this company should not be trusted. Thank you so much!

Hidden Brooder said...

As Rogue Mutt said, this complicated language about exchanges and such seems to add a pyramid scheme element to the normal dubious up-front fee of a sketchy publisher.

ScarletAndSanguine said...

JustFiction! Edition told me where they found my writing after I asked them. They are a genuine company, with good intentions, and a good opportunity if you just want the novelty of being published versus wanting money. :)

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I got this same email from the same person - today. I thought perhaps they liked my book series because the hero was German and the book dealt with modern day war crimes. Guess not.
:-)

E. S. Lark said...

Thank you for the post. I just received this email this morning for a piece I have been promoting online. I have a sample chapter on sites such as Wattpad, Scribd and Inkpop, which is probably where they find most of their "authors."

The email threw up a handful of red flags, the first being the fact that most publishers won't offer a contract for work they haven't read, especially by way of email. That and they got my name wrong ;)

Still, I was curious, but after a simple Google search, my suspicions were confirmed. Silly publishing scams.

Anonymous said...

thanks for clarifying the DIP thing. The mail really is a poor attempt at promoting self-publishing by flattering authors with the possibility of real publishing :-)

Joyce Lansky said...

I just received my message from Dip. Thanks for clarifying some of this. I'm hungry, but I think I'll pass for now.

Joyce
http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I too got the exact e-mail from this Sophia from DIP today on WeBook! This s why I Googled it and found this blog . . . thank you!

Jackals said...

Thank you so much for this! I Just recently got a message from JF!E end I wasn't too sure what to make of it. It's rather disappointing that this is more of a sham than anything else, but now, at least, I know that unsolicited contact from most any agent will be fishy as risky business.

Thanks again!

Cg Brumby said...

I might be doubling up here - forgive me...

I have been burnt by such hacks, but can't name them for legal reasons. You all have done a great job and covered it nicely ;)

I would simply like to add this; don't get mad - get even. These bogas companies are nothing more than glorified plagiarists who try and con you out of your rights. I pulled out of such a dodgy contract with one of the named companies. If they ever claim they own anything of mine (or publish anything of mine, circulate or try to sell my work)- then they have stolen it under false pretenses.

No contract is legally binding unless there has been a fair exchange of money! You can't 'sell' your rights to your work if they don't pay for them. All my work is protected by copyright and digital fingerprints, labeling them MY work.

If you sell those rights, then you have every right to be compensated fairly for the sale. It's just like selling a house that you built and own. You wouldn't let the new buyer walk in without: a) Contacts being signed - and the cooling off period has passed b) Money paid in full for the sale at the time the contract cooling off period has ended.

Contracts without a cooling off period are ILLEGAL and any company trying to enforce such contracts are dodgy. Plagiarism is a crime and so is poaching, so why are such 'publishing companies' still allowed to operate?

This is a great blog to both name and shame such poachers. I applaud you for shining the light on a very dark corner of the literary industry.

GalaktioNova said...

To add to this old discussion, Lambert Academic Publishing has created a new... er, firm? branch? in Russia. The name is YAM (Young Authors' Masterpieces) Publishing and they are now busy approaching Russian writers through spamming and this site:

https://www.yam-publishing.ru/catalog/index?locale=ru

The email they send is identical, word by word, to the one from JustFiction! quoted in this post, only this time it's in Russian.

vangogh57 said...

I'm sorry to say I was taken in by Dip. They contacted me after i posted a section of my book on page to fame. They had an editor read my manuscript and then sent me a letter. It sort of explained P.OW.E.R. but led me to believe that they really liked my manuscript. I even spoke to Argus. Now I'm at a loss. I don't know whether I was scammed or just educated in the world of publishing. Another website said they were a new startup company. What do i believe? Michelle Santos

C.A. said...

Look, I'm no fool. I'm actually a former journalist/editor...but now I'm retired with a substantial income. I've never been ambitious, but I do like having readers. I had a website at one time with all my fiction (20 novels, numerous short stories, etc)...and loved the feedback. I finally lost interest in having a website but would like my fiction out there. However, I don't want to pay anything for my past work to be published; ISBNs are NOT free. And the entire self-publishing industry is like a maze to master.

As an experiment, I submitted one of my novel manuscripts to JustFiction, and of course it was accepted. As I said, not interested in sales/income, just readers.

I see no harm in using their service IF you are not interested in money from sales and really don't want to pay upfront for costs.

veena said...

I've just received a mail from Just Fiction! Edition.
Although I have asked for details, the very next thing I did was to come to 'Writer Beware' and I'm so glad I did

Anonymous said...

Published 2 books on sinology with Yam and Lap publishing. I'm happy as there is no publishing house in Russia which will publish my books, because i ve graduated 2 years ago and almost unknown in scientific world as sinologist. This books fill my empty resume and i am perfectly happy with it.

Anonymous said...

I was just contacted by DIP the other day. They wanted me to send in a manuscript. The way it was written, it sounded legit, but when I checked out their website, I thought that it was really odd that half of their author links didn't work. I emailed them back, asking for more information and they have yet to contact me again. Through some googling, I found this site and I'm grateful I didn't fall for the scam. I contacted the site they they used to contact me and had them banned. Revenge is sweet. >:D

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this blog! It's been really helpful. DIP publishing house just contacted me about a week ago, and I've been emailing this "Ron" back and forth. These are our emails:
------------
1) me:
Would you mind answering some questions so that I can make sure that you're a legitimate person and not an automated machine created to scam people?

1) What is your favorite color?
2) What was your mother's first name?
3) What car do you drive?
4) If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? (There is actually an answer to this, so you can look it up if you want.)
5) What nationalities are commonly stereotyped?
6) Why should I believe that you are a legitimate person?
*I'm adding another question:*
7) Why should I trust you?

Thank you, and if you reply within a week/2 weeks, I shall give you a try.

2) Ron:
Hi ____, 
 
I can assure you that we are not a scam. As for the questions you asked I would rather not answer them as they are personal and not within my zone of comfort to answer. If you have a phone number we will call you. 
 
Thank you and I hope I have not offended you. Hope to hear back from you soon. 
 
Thanks, 
-Ron 
 
3) Me:
Hi,

Thanks for the reply. This is definitely good news. And not answering those questions is quite alright. I just wanted to make sure that I wouldn't be scammed by a fake organization. I'd rather have no answer than all answers. No offense taken. 

I think I would prefer continuing communication over over email. It's more efficient for me and I would be able to guarantee a reply. 

So what is this proposal you're talking about? I'm interested in what this will be. 

4) Ron:

Hi _____- Thank you for your message.   
 
As far as publishing goes, DIP is interested in a variety of non-fiction, fiction, this includes short stories and some poetry.  We are currently recruiting for a larger than usual summer and fall schedules, due to a larger than usual budget. And please note that DIP's 2013 goal is to aggressively expand its Reader and Author bases, by investing more resources into attracting new Authors and Readers. 
Submissions for summer releases must be in by June 31st, and for the fall, by August 28th.
 
Chosen Authors will be welcomed aboard, and immediately begin pre-promotional activities (strategy development) and production (book cover, editing, formatting, registration, Author profile, etc.) - followed by publishing and post-promotional activities. 
 
To submit your work please send your manuscript and brief synopsis of your book to the editor (Jason Fisher) at:  booksubmissions@usa.com
 
I hope this answers your questions, however, feel free to ask any additional questions that may pop into your head!
 
Thanks, 
-Ron

5) me:

So this includes short stories? Not just novel-length works? Also, this sounds like a competition, kind of like the Scholastioc competition every year. Is this an accurate description or is it something else?

6) Ron:
Yes, we also publish short-stories as well. And no, this is not a Scholastic competition. 
 
-Ron 
 
------------
So obviously I was thinking this guy was pretty legit - he talked like a normal person would. Although, some of those questions i asked him were not personal at all (which i again regrettably overlooked). He first contacted me via FictionPress, even though I have no prominent stories at all, but my ignorance got the best of me. I'm thinking of cutting this communication off, but what do others think?