Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers and industry news and commentary. Writer Beware is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.

January 13, 2016

Freelance Mills, Cyberbullying, and Plagiarism, Oh My!

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

If you're a regular reader here, you'll know that I love the strange and twisted stuff that happens (mostly) at the outer fringes of the publishing and writing worlds. Today, three head-shaking examples.

International Association of Professional Writers and Editors

Gosh, isn't that an impressive name for an organization? It certainly impressed the person who wrote to me to ask about the IAPWE's reputation.

Of course, professional is as professional does, and the person wouldn't have contacted me if they didn't feel at least a little uneasy. And red flags do fly at the IAPWE's website, from the cheesy-looking logo to the lack of substantive information about the organization and its members, to the dime-a-dozen advice blog posts. The organization also seems to be very new--its domain was registered only in September 2015 (which makes it a little odd that its first blog post is dated May 2015).

Another question: is IAPWE an organization "dedicated to bringing the most updated, legitimate and vetted writing and editing job opportunities to its members", as its About page claims, or is it a writing and editing services provider, as this Craigslist ad suggests?



And then there's this: a scam alert from an outfit called Translator-Scammers.com, a purported watchdog group that claims IAPWE is "One more monumental scam from the same operators behind the infamous Real Translator Jobs / Real Writing Jobs scamming ring." Whoa, that sounds bad! But wait--here's an entire blog devoted to alleging that Translator-Scammers is itself running a scam, contacting freelancers and demanding a fee of $50 to "verify" them and, if they don't pay up, listing them in a "scammers directory."

Whatever. Scam or no scam, there are enough red flags just on IAPWE's website to prompt serious caution.

Authors Behaving Badly--Again

Writers behave badly all the time--trashing-talking rivals, whining in public, savaging colleagues with pseudonymous reviews, even suing reviewers. But this is one of the most convoluted tales of authorial malfeasance that I've ever heard.

Last week, authors Steve Mosby and Jeremy Duns alleged in blog posts that fellow novelist Stephen Leather--a bestselling crime and thriller writer--cyberstalked them via blogs and websites set up to disparage them and tarnish their reputations, after they voiced criticism of Leather's admitted practice of using fake identities to promote his books. Mosby's post is here. Duns's much longer article, replete with links and screenshots, is here.

Mosby's and Duns's stories have garnered quite a bit of media coverage. As of this writing, Leather hasn't responded, but his publisher, Hachette, has issued a statement condemning "harassment and intimidation of any kind."

This story has particular resonance for me, since I've been the target of similar cyberbullying campaigns. Here's just one example (fake books with scurrilous versions of my own book titles). What the hell, here's another.

ParaDon Books, Spammer and Plagiarizer

A long post today from author and blogger David Gaughran details how ParaDon--via its satellite website, IndieWriterSupport.com--plagiarized text from one of his books in order to hawk a product and get a commission through affiliate links.

ParaDon is a prolific spammer--I should know, it's on my block list. It's been the focus of an expose at Indies Unlimited (essentially, it's a 419 scam), and is the subject of a long discussion thread at Absolute Write, which details, among other things, how it attempted to impersonate Amazon.

UPDATE: Here's another, extremely detailed expose of ParaDon Books Publishing, which charts the shenanigans of ParaDon's owner, Korede Abayomi, from 2011 to the present.

15 comments :

widdershins said...

Another day, another bunch of scam artists. Sad.

Julia Atkinson said...

Abayomi's response to being named by Victoria:

https://mobile.twitter.com/IndieWriterSupp/status/687446682154344449

Victoria Strauss said...

Adding linkage to Abayomi's charming response. I guess words kind of failed him.

Julia Atkinson said...

It wouldn't be the first time...

Anonymous said...

You and your friends have done this type of bullying many, many times. Remember the "googlebomb" with Jin Hines? I;'d even venture to opine that some of it was criminal, although no one was ever arrested or charged. Free speech, remember your stellar defense??? Just "opinion." "Freedom of the press" "chilling effects" or are those rights just for yourselves, not the other guy?

Katharine Swan said...

Thanks for the post on IAPWE. You highlighted all the things that bothered me the most, too -- the fact that they couldn't seem to decide whether they were providing space for clients to advertise, or hiring themselves, and also the newness of the site (although I didn't catch the date discrepancy).

Out of curiosity I started the registration process, and found it suspicious that you had to place an order through PayPal for your free month, but the only way to cancel your subscription is to email IAPWE. I can see them pulling a stunt like Freelance Work Exchange back in the day, where they just never respond or cancel your subscription.

Maggie Keane said...

I am a member of the IAPWE and found this when Googling to find out more about them (I probably should have Googled first, right?) BUT from what I can tell they do not appear to be a scam.

Katharine, can I ask you what is suspicious about signing up through PayPal? On their signup page it says that the first month is a free trial and then they charge one dollar per month thereafter. Just for kicks, I tried submitting the cancelation form on their website and they instruct you on how to cancel your membership by logging into your PayPal account and canceling the IAPWE subscription. This would seem like a really terrible model for a scam since they are offering a membership for free for 30 days while letting you cancel at any time during the free membership or any time after, which makes me really confused as to why Katharine appears to be leaving this information out. Signing up through PayPal actually gives YOU control over the subscription and not them.

Katharine and Victoria, I'm also confused why you both think an organization offering work from other third parties and clients while also hiring people themselves has to be mutually exclusive? I find it odd that you're reporting on them as if you have first hand information when you didn't actually sign up? If you logged in you would see that they have posted hundreds of new actual writing jobs along with a lot of other resources, but this information is conveniently being left out in your "report." That is what seems suspicious to me if I'm being honest. So far the only people claiming that it looks suspicious or scammy are the people who haven't actually joined?

I'm sure someone will post and call me a shill for their organization but at a certain point, being a member and then seeing blatant misinformation being spewed about (whether intentional or unintentional) makes me feel some responsibility to share an actual experience. I also put that I'm an IAPWE member on my resume, so seeing people go out of their way to spread inaccurate information that causes people to question their rep kind of rubs me the wrong way and affects me too.

Victoria, Katharine, anyone else reading this can actually join and can see for themselves that there's no scam. Unfortunately, it's easy for anyone to point and yell "scam" and get others believing they have some credibility, yet still nobody has been able to say what the actual scam is... hmm...

Victoria, I'm not looking to add fuel to your fire (it doesn't appear to take much) but having what you feel are "dime-a-dozen" advice blog posts and what - in your opinion - is a "cheesy" logo while being new doesn't really scream "scam" which makes me curious why you're so quick to jump to that conclusion; again, without having actually signed up or seen what they are about yourself. It's kind of weird, because this "person" who you speak of that notified you about all of their suspicious "red flags" listed the same red flags in the exact same language you are using on another forum ;)

I am starting to agree with some of the other members in another thread who were saying that some person or group of people may actually be going out of their way to tarnish their reputation because the degree to which some of the misinformation is so off-base makes it almost seem intentional. Acting like you're "warning" others of these "red flags" of cheesy logos and dime-a-dozen blog posts just really sounds like someone going out of their way to reach for things when they have nothing actually negative to say.

Anyone who goes to their site and signs up (again, for free) can see for themselves that there is no scam. If anyone has any other questions about the IAPWE feel free to post here. If anyone doesn't want to take my word for it, go to their site, join if you want and see there's no scam.

Victoria Strauss said...

Hi, Maggie,

Thanks for your comments.

I don't have any particular opinion as to whether IAPWE is a scam. In my blog post, I've simply pointed out some things that I think should prompt caution: the generic writing and editing articles, the backdated blog posts, the discrepancy between the Craigslist advertising, which suggests that IAPWE is a direct employer, and what info there is on the IAPWE website, which indicates that IAPWE is a freelance jobs site. Are those two things mutually exclusive? Of course not. But whether you do one or the other or both, your website should make it absolutely clear.

Also, as a membership organization, what benefits does IAPWE provide other than hiring for or posting jobs? If IAPWE is really just a jobs site, what does it offer that distinguishes it from other reputable sites that do the same thing? None of this is clear from the website, either.

Of most concern to me, however, is the lack of any substantive information about the organization itself. IAPWE claims to post job opportunities that "have been determined to be legitimate" but without knowing anything about who's running the organization or even how it's structured, how can you be sure that's really the case? Real professional organizations provide a lot more info about themselves and their staff--compare IAPWE's sketchy "about" page, for instance, to that of the Editorial Freelancers' Association, which not only provides structural information but posts bios of board members.

Perhaps IAPWE will decide to be more transparent about who it is and what it does. That would be great. Until then, though--and especially given all the other reputable jobs sites on the web--I think writers should be careful.

Katharine Swan said...

Hi Maggie, when I was on the site the only information on canceling your subscription said to email the organization directly to do so. There was no information whatsoever about canceling through PayPal. I agree, if you can cancel through PayPal that would be better, as you'd have control over it. A way to cancel through the website system would also be good. But when I visited the site the only way they stated, at least that I found, was to email them directly -- which would put you at their mercy.

Adam An-tAthair-Síoraí said...

I was interested to see that you call having a blog post published before the official registration date of a domain name a Red Flag.

There are several reasons why this may well be not so much a Red Flag, and more of a normal method of working:

Designing a web site prior to launching it officially, without the expense of buying a domain name, on a subdomain to another site,

Moving a web site from one domain name which might not have matched the aims of the business to a new domain name,

Changing the domain name for legal, trademark or copyright reasons.

When creating web sites I tend to make the first efforts as part of a subdomain which can be seen but costs nothing extra. When I, or my client, am happy with the results a suitable domain name will be sought out and purchased, and a complete, running web site transferred and published. This is not a Red Flag, it is a sensible working method. Perhaps you could ask the designer of the site why there is a discrepancy between first post and domain registration; it's called research.

Rachel said...

I am also a member of the IAPWE and Victoria, I'm sorry but I have to agree with others that it seems like you're really reaching here. First, you're saying that the articles on the IAPWE site are generic and then saying that this is sketchy? I am sorry if you think their articles are generic but that is your opinion, not necessarily how we all feel about them (I've found some of them to be quite helpful).

To then make the leap by saying that they are generic articles, as if this is an objective fact, and then saying that they are sketchy because you feel they are generic is a bit of a stretch?

Same with you calling their about page "sketchy?" I can't count how many legitimate websites I've visited that don't list their board members or owners. Sometimes it's not necessary when the website is providing a self-serve service. Also, it makes no sense that an organization has to specify if it hires people or posts jobs if it does both; it simply does both. You're saying that they need to make this clear really sounds again like you're reaching for things here. You also conveniently didn't address the points other people made pointing out the lack of basis with some of your other "red flags."

You write very eloquently, which can create the appearance that you're informed or that you're discussing things intelligently, but I agree with Adam, that you don't seem to have any interest in doing any actual research and you're overall negative outlook is more of a guilty until proven innocent (in your eyes) which is dangerous when you're positioning yourself as some sort of reliable resource for others to trust.

Based on how many things you've tried to come up with that are not based on anything but your own speculation, it really seems like you're going out of your way to create what you call "red flags." This all fits with the personality of someone who would create a blog to warn others of scams (which is a great thing in and of itself) but you should really be a bit more mature about this and at least do a little bit of research if you're going to be potentially ruining peoples' reputations. I hate to say it but based on some of the sarcasm and immature "bashing" you do towards other people in this blog post and others, one can't help but get the sense that you get some sort of personal satisfaction from denigrating others, being so sardonic while justifying it as doing your duty "warning others."

I also put that I am a member on my resume and even had a recommendation letter written from them. I've had a very good experience with them so far and they provide many services and resources in addition to their jobs board, and all of this is outlined on their signup page, which it sounds like you never even explored yourself or you would have seen this, which again makes it troubling that you're positioning yourself as some type of trusted resource when you seem to be just going off of what another person says; more like gossip? Based on my experience, the IAPWE is providing more resources than some other sites claim to that charge pricey annual membership dues but I haven't joined some of those sites because the cost has been prohibitive for me.

Chel Marotta said...

I have to disagree with Victoria. I have been a member for a few months and have found the resources that they provide to be helpful.

Like some of the other commenters here, I feel it would be beneficial for Victoria to get first hand experience with something before writing about it, given that she operates this blog as a reliable source that writers trust. It seems several people have established that someone has potentially been going out of their way to spread misinformation to negatively affect this organization's reputation and based on my positive experience with the IAPWE and not having any issues with them, this appears to be the case.

Annabelle Diaz said...

I joined the IAPWE in May and like Chel and Rachel, I've also had a positive experience. They offer helpful resources and they have a jobs board with several hundred writing/editing jobs that is updated weekly. I find it sad someone would go out of their way to spread misinformation about them. As a member who has found this organization to be professional and helpful, I wanted to share my experience in case it helps anyone else.

Julie G said...

I've been writing on and off for the IAPWE and never had any issues. They have been a great paying gig when there's work, however I don't think anyone should expect to make a full time income or anything close to that working for them. Of course everyone has their own definition of what constitutes full time income...

Anonymous said...

Could you please give more details about the benefits you gained after becoming a member? Have you got access to online jobs whether with them or third parties? Is the payment smooth?

 
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