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April 15, 2006

Victoria Strauss -- News of the Weird

In which the on-the-ball folks at Writer Beware bring you reports from the fringes of the writing world.

An email being sent out to writers' organizations under the heading "invitation to aspiring novelists" announces a "new project called 'Ophir' [that] involves getting unknown aspiring novelists published by royalty-paying publishers, and it involves helping badly wounded war heroes who gave so much fighting for America in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam."

(I wish I could post links to what follows, but there doesn't appear to be anything about this project online. I do have the email, though, provided to me by one of Writer Beware's reliable undercover informants. All grammatical tics and errors have been faithfully reproduced.)

Aspiring novelists who want to qualify for the project must "...never [have] had a novel published under that author-name, have no agent, no famous name, and have completed a novel manuscript that has won an award by a genre group or by a geographic writer-group." (Awards for unpublished novel manuscripts are thin on the ground, but never mind.) Novelists who meet these criteria "will be asked to donate the royalties from this, their first, novel to help grievously wounded veterans...As recompense for donating those royalties, we will do our level best to make that novel a best seller."

How will this be attempted? The project plans to work with "large membership groups with many millions of members, such as veterans' groups, social/fraternal/civic groups, churches, unions and others," which will urge members to go out and buy the novels in bookstores, and in exchange give them coupons as well as a listing in "all books' Good Guys Directory." (Shades of Scientology, which is rumored to make L. Ron Hubbard's SF novels into bestsellers through similar means.) The project hopes "to sell, in hardcover only, 50,000 copies of each title we handle---which will put that book on most best-seller lists." (Actually, I think the bestseller threshhold is higher than that, but let's not pick nits.)

But wait--the project seeks unpublished novelists. So how will those award-winning manuscripts get into bookstores? Well, the twenty best mss. submitted to the project will be selected for the "Gold of Ophir National Award," and award winners will then be "invited" to have their mss. published by "a legitimate royalty-paying publisher...Our award winners may contract with any publisher of their choice, or they may use the royalty-paying publishers we will recommend and who have said they will accept our recommendations." (Holy kickbacks, Batman!)

Oh, and just one more thing: there's a $50 reading fee.

So is this a reading fee scam, or maybe a vanity publishing scam? Possibly. But I'm more inclined to think that it's a crackpot scheme concocted by, well, a crackpot. Contact info for the Dr. Rick Gelinas of the email is the same as for the Dr. Rick Gelinas of ("Travel Into The Future On The HighRoad"), which "holds patents on a new kind of elevated rail system" that will "move you and your car safely at airline speed," creating "a way to travel fast in our own cars without having to drive them."


Anonymous said...

I think it would be a whole lot better for those wounded vets if 50,000 readers / writers simply cut a 50.00 check to an already existing aid organization. 2.5 million would do a lot more good for them than this--well, as they said in Star Wars, "I got a bad feeling about this."

CEP said...

As an aside, a search of USPTO records does not diclose any railway-related patent held by Highroad, or held or invented by Gelinas.

Dama Negra said...

Sounds like a scam to me. The way they 'casually' mention the reading fee at the end is the giveaway.

Sam said...

Preying on feeble-minded writers is really low...

I can't imagine too many writers will be eager to submit their finished, non-award winning manuscripts along with a fifty dollar reading fee to these clowns. On the other hand, there's a sucker born every minute. (now, who said that? lol)

Bernita said...

I'm with Dama.

Anonymous said...

" sell, in hardcover only, 50,000 copies of each title we handle...(Actually, I think the bestseller threshhold is higher than that..."

-->Some weeks it is, some weeks it isn't. Depends on what else is out there, and what the guys at the NYT had for lunch that day.

Publishers track when the next Grisham, King, Rowling, etc. book is coming out, and avoid releasing their "might hit the list, might not" books into the same pool. I've seen first printings (hardcover) of 50K hit the NYT top ten in a quiet week.

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Anonymous said...

My name is Rick Gelinas. I think it's rather shabby of you, Crispin & Strauss, to engage in character assassination. I wish you had taken the time to contact me. My email address is rickgelinas@ Yes, I did launch an idea once about an elevated roadway for safer long distance travel by car, and the idea came to nothing. I never claimed to hold any patent concerning this idea, so that was an outright lie and slander on your part, Strauss and Crispin. And, yes, I did launch another idea for a project to help families visit their loved one in a VA poly-trauma center. And that idea, too, may come to nothing. But I am working on it. And the concept is undergoing revision. Many details have changed; such as the award-winning ms concept---scrapped, along with the reader fee. It's a new idea for me, so forgive me if I get some parts of it wrong and have to change them. I'm working this VA program through a non-profit that my wife and I created in 1984 to help kids who were high risk for drugs. We worked on that for 20 years and won awards. In case anyone's interested, our EIN is 1836063. Look it up. What are you doing to make the world a better place, Strauss & Crispin? I mean besides writing undying novels. Anyone interested in helping families visit their wounded war hero in a VA hospital is invited to contact me. If you're a novelist, I will try to get you published. And there is no fee. If you just want to make a contribution, it may be tax deductible under IRS rules because we do operate a 501(c)(3). Look it up, Crispin & Strauss. Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

What's the matter, you two? Did my last comment hit too hard with the obvious truth about you to be posted? Not surprised.

Anonymous said...

The truth about the "helping wounded veterans program" is that Rick Gelinas came up with the idea as a marketing tool, just as many companies donate or support a certain cause and then launch an advertising campaign to let the world know of their goodwill, this is a way of marketing an advertising, whether it is actually helping the veterans, I do not know, but it an advertising tool. Why is it better to do this rather than ask novelists to cut $50 and donate directly to the veterans. Because then Rick's and his book would not gain popularity and therefore no potential of reaping personal profits from his future publising ventures. Voula, there you go, truth be told.

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