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January 25, 2018

Army of Clones: Author Solutions Spawns a Legion of Copycats


Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I don't think there's much dispute that the many "imprints" under the Author Solutions umbrella are among the most negatively regarded of all the author services companies.

From the predatory business practices that gave rise to two class action lawsuits, to the huge number of customer complaints, to the relentless sales calls and deceptive recruitment methods, to the dubious and overpriced "marketing" services that are one of the company's main profit sources, AS's poor reputation is widely known. Along with other factors, such as the competition from free and low-cost self-publishing platforms, this has pushed AS in recent years into steady decline.

Unfortunately, whatever gap AS's contraction has created has been filled by a slew of imitators. Why not, when hoodwinking authors is as easy as setting up a website and opening an account with Ingram? In some cases, the imitators have first-hand experience: they've been founded and/or staffed by former employees of AS's call centers in the Philippines (as well as ex-employees of other disreputable companies with operations in the Philippines, such as Tate Publishing and BookWhirl.)

Like AS, the clones rely on misleading hype, hard-sell sales tactics, and a lucrative catalog of junk marketing services. Even if authors actually receive the services they've paid for (and judging by the complaints I've gotten, there's no guarantee of that), they are getting stiffed. These are not businesses operating in good faith, but greedy opportunists seeking to profit from writers' inexperience, ignorance, and hunger for recognition. They are exploitative, dishonest, and predatory.

CLONESIGN: HOW TO SUSS THEM OUT 

On the surface, the clones don't look that different from other, not necessarily disreputable author services companies offering publishing packages and marketing add-ons. However, they share a distinctive cluster of characteristics that can help you identify them.

1. Solicitation. Like the Author Solutions imprints, the clones are big on out-of-the-blue phone calls and emails hawking their services. Often they'll claim your book has been recommended to them, or discovered by one of their book scouts. The phone solicitors frequently have foreign accents (many are based in the Philippines). The email solicitors use a recurring set of job titles: book scout, literary agent, Senior Marketing & Publishing Consultant (or Senior Publishing & Marketing Consultant), Executive Marketing Consultant.

2. Offers to re-publish authors' books. A big focus for the clones is poaching authors who are already published or self-published (often with Author Solutions imprints). They claim they can do a better job, or provide greater credibility, or even get authors in front of traditional publishers.

3. Elaborate claims of skills and experience that don't check out. A clone may say it's been in business since 2006 or 2008, even though its domain name was registered only last year. It may claim to be staffed by publishing and marketing experts with years or even decades of "combined experience", but provide no names or bios to enable you to verify this. A hallmark of the clones' "About Us" pages is a serious lack of "about."

4. Poor or tortured English. The clones have US addresses, and purport to be US-based companies. Many have US business registrations. Yet their emails and websites frequently contain numerous (and sometimes laughable) grammar and syntax errors (see below for examples). Their phone solicitors appear to be calling from US numbers, but commonly have foreign accents, and may get authors' names or book titles wrong.

5. Junk marketing.  Press releases. Paid book review packages. Book fair exhibits. Ingram catalog listings. Hollywood book-to-screen packages. These and more are junk marketing--PR services of dubious value and effectiveness that are cheap to provide but can be sold at a huge profit. It's an insanely lucrative aspect of the author-fleecing biz, not just because of the enormous markup, but because while you can only sell a publishing package once, you can sell marketing multiple times.

This is a page right out of the Author Solutions playbook. AS basically invented junk book marketing, and most of the marketing services offered by the clones were pioneered by AS. If you follow the links below, you'll see the same ones over and over, and if you hop on over to an AS imprint marketing section, you'll see them there, too.

Authors are often serially targeted by the clones. For instance, I heard from an iUniverse-published author who bought an expensive re-publication package from Book-Art Press Solutions, and shortly afterward was solicited for marketing services by Stratton Press (fortunately she contacted me before she wrote a check). Another author bought a publishing package from BookVenture, plus extra marketing from Window Press Club--both as a result of solicitation phone calls.

CLONE CLUB

Below are the clones I've identified to date (several of which I found in the process of researching this post--I actually had to stop following links or I'd never have gotten this written). The list includes a few that, based on their websites and other public information, I suspect are clones but haven't yet been able to document with complaints or solicitation materials.

One thing you'll notice if you follow the links is how similar the clones' websites are. It's not just the characteristics mentioned above: the same terminology, menus, and products appear over and over again, as do distinctive English-language errors (many of the clones urge authors to "avail" of services, for instance). Also, of  the 13 companies I looked at, ten are less than two years old, and seven started up in the past year. It really made me wonder, especially after I discovered that two apparently separate clones are in fact the same outfit, and two others appear to be connected.

I have no doubt there are many more clones out there. If you've encountered any I haven't listed below--or if you've had an experience with the ones featured in this post--please post a comment.
  • LitFire Publishing
  • Legaia Books
  • Stratton Press
  • ReadersMagnet
  • Toplink Publishing
  • Book-Art Press Solutions
  • Window Press Club
  • Westwood Books Publishing (formerly Greenberry Publishing), also d.b.a. Authors Press
  • BookVenture Publishing
  • Okir Publishing / ADbook Press / Coffee Press
  • Zeta Publishing
  • Everlastale Publishing 

LitFire Publishing is the first Author Solutions clone I ever encountered, and the one that alerted me to the phenomenon. My 2014 blog post takes a detailed look at its false or unverifiable claims, its illiterate solicitation emails, its plagiarism (it's still doing that), and its Philippine/Author Solutions origins (its phone solicitors sometimes claim AS imprints are "sister companies"). See the comments for many reports of solicitation phone calls.

LitFire is a good deal more sophisticated now than it was in 2014, with a flashy website from which the English-language errors that marred it in the beginning have largely (though not entirely; its blog posts could use some help) been culled. But it's still a solicitation monster, and its Author Solutions-style publishing and marketing services are still a major ripoff. Take a look at its insanely marked-up Kirkus Indie review package (you can buy reviews directly from Kirkus for less than half the price).

LitFire claims it's headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, and it is actually registered with the Georgia Corporations Division. Possibly to get ahead of negative discussion, it has admitted--partially--its Philippine connections. It's also aware of my warnings about it, and has responded with some fairly incompetent trolling.

*****

Legaia Books is also a solicitation monster. It heavily targeted authors of Tate Publishing right after that disgraced vanity publisher collapsed.

Legaia offers publishing packages, but its main schtick is Paperclips Magazine, an online rag that consists primarily of ads, reviews, and interviews sold to authors at gobsmackingly enormous prices, interspersed with plagiarized general interest articles and illiterate feature pieces written by Legaia's English-challenged staff. Legaia's website is full of howlingly funny (or cringingly awful, depending on your perspective) English-language mistakes. Keeping to its penchant for plagiarism, and incidentally acknowledging its roots, it has copied much of its FAQ from Author Solutions.

My blog post on Legaia goes into much more detail.

Like other members of clone club, Legaia claims to be headquartered in the USA, with a street address in Raleigh, North Carolina. But there's no trace of any North Carolina business registration. When the Better Business Bureau attempted to contact it by paper mail, the mail was returned by the post office.

*****

Stratton Press claims to offer "an experience that is one of a kind for both novice and veteran authors". Oddly, it doesn't display its publishing packages on its website; you have to go to its Facebook page to see them. Named after famous writers, they start at $1,800 and go all the way up to $10,500.

The website is replete with vague claims ("our team's eight-year experience in the publishing industry), shaky English ("Since every book is unique and every story is special, it is just but right to have a team of experts behind your back."), and plagiarism (here's "How to Write a Novel" by Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest. Here's "How to Write a Novel" by "Chuck Subchino" of Stratton).

Stratton is the one of the only clones I found that doesn't actively try to conceal its Philippine/Author Solutions roots. A Cebu City address also appears on its Contact page; and per his LinkedIn page, Stratton's co-owner, Aaron Dancel, worked for three years as a Sales Supervisor for Author Solutions' Cebu call center.

Stratton claims to be located in Wyoming, where it does have a business registration. However, despite its A- rating at the BBB, there's also this:


*****

ReadersMagnet describes itself as "a team of self-publishing and digital marketing experts with more than 10 years of combined experience". Its motto: "Your Success is Our Delight!" So is your money.

You can pay as much as $29,999 for a Premium Color Adult Book publishing package. On the junk marketing side, you can shell out $6,299 for an Online Brand Publicity campaign, or $2,799 for a Premium Dynamic Website, or $4,999 for a 90-second Cinematic Deluxe video book trailer.

In true clone style, ReadersMagnet is a tireless and prolific phone solicitor (hence the many complaints that can be found about it online). I've heard from many authors who have been repeatedly called and/or emailed by this outfit; one author told me that she got so annoyed that she blocked the caller's New York number, only to be contacted a couple of days later by another ReadersMagnet solicitor, this time with a California number.

Writers have also told me that callers have foreign accents and Spanish surnames. A search on LinkedIn turns up two Philippines-based ReadersMagnet staffers. Oh, and ReadersMagnet apparently had a lovely Christmas party last year...in Cebu.

ReadersMagnet's current website reads okay, with occasional lapses. But its original website, which came online in mid-2016, was full of howlers. Compare this early version of its About Us page (courtesy of the Internet Archive) with the current iteration, which isn't high literature but at least is more or less grammatical.

The company hasn't worked as hard to clean up its correspondence. Here's a snippet from a recent solicitation email--it's really kind of a masterpiece.



ReadersMagnet originally claimed a New York address. Now it says it's located in California. As far as I can tell, it has no business registration in either state.

*****

Toplink Publishing bills itself as "the global leader in accessible and strategic publishing and marketing solutions". It boasts every one of the warning signs identified above: SolicitationRe-publishing offersUnverifiable claims about staff and experienceTortured English. Lots and lots of marketing.

Toplink's publishing packages are categorized a la Author Solutions (black and white, full color, children's book, etc.), and neither they nor the marketing packages provide any prices; you have to call to find out. Hard-sell sales tactics work better on the phone.

Also, no prices on an author services company's website is nearly always a giant clue that they're super-expensive. Here's the marketing proposal one author received--note how Toplink wants the author to believe that the ridiculous amount of money he's being asked to pay for his "compensation share" is more than matched by Toplink's "investment" (a classic vanity publisher ploy).



Toplink claims addresses in North Carolina and Nevada, but there are no business registrations for it in either state. A number of complaints about it can be found online, including at its Facebook page. It also has an F rating from the BBB, based on its failure to respond to consumer complaints.

*****

Book-Art Press Solutions (not to be confused with the graphic design company of the same name, or with Book Arts Press) and Window Press Club present as different companies, but in fact they're two faces of the same ripoff.

My recent blog post about this two-headed beast goes into more detail, including the identical website content that gives them away.

Book-Art Press employs an exceptionally deceptive approach to authors, portraying itself not as a self-publishing provider but as a group of "literary agents" who want to re-publish authors' books in order to give them the "credibility" needed to "endorse" them to traditional publishers. The cost? Only $3,500! Authors are encouraged to believe is all they'll have to pay. In fact, as with all the clones, the initial fee is just a way to open the door to more selling.

BAP/WPC is a pretty recent venture, with domain names registered just last year. BAP claims it's in New York City, although its business registration is in Delaware. WPC doesn't provide a mailing address, but its domain is registered to Paul Jorge Ponce in Cebu, Philippines.

Here's one of BAP's solicitation emails, reproduced in its entirety. It really tells you everything you need to know.


*****

Westwood Books Publishing, which claims a Los Angeles location, registered its domain name in March 2018.

If you're wondering how I could predict an event in March while writing this post in January, that's because I've updated this section to reflect the fact Westwood Books Publishing is a brand-new name; the company, which started up last August, was originally called Greenberry Publishing. (Hmm. Could they have seen this post? Or maybe they just wanted to ditch their F BBB rating.)

To confuse matters further, Westwood/Greenberry also appears to have recently started doing business as Authors Press. A few examples of the links between these three entities: a book listed as both Greenberry and Westwood; a book listed with all three companies; also, as of this writing, nearly every book listed at Authors Press shows on Amazon as published by Greenberry.


Greenberry/Westwood/Authors Press's M.O. is clone-standard. Out-of-the-blue solicitations (also see the comments, below). No names, vague claims (and check out Westwood's hilarious, unlinked About Us page). Shaky English ("ideal for manuscripts that needs more work on sentences structure and grammar"). Re-publishing offers (see the Greenberry solicitation below, which I'm reproducing because I think it's so funny; what genius, looking for an enticing photo of a published book, thought it was a good idea to pick one in Cyrillic?). Budget-busting junk marketing.


Greenberry's business registration shows a Pittsburg CA address, and lists its owners as Maribelle Birao and Aaron Gochuico; Birao and Gochuico now appear to reside in California but are originally from Cebu. Westwood's business registration, filed in April 2018, claims a Los Angeles address and does not list owners' names. Authors Press doesn't appear to have filed a registration yet, but according to its website is located in--surprise!--Pittsburg CA.

*****

BookVenture started up around the same time as LitFire, in 2014. It's got all the identifying characteristics of a clone: phone solicitations, no meaningful information about the company or its staff, a range of Author Solutions-style publishing packages with goofy names, a dizzying array of marketing, publicity, and add-on services.

Equally predictably, these are seriously overpriced: $2,399 for a Kirkus Indie review, which would cost a mere $575 if you bought it from Kirkus; $199 for US copyright registration ($35 if you DIY); $4,199 for a half-page magazine ad that actually costs $1,400. See also this angry blog post from Self-Publishing Review, which discovered in 2016 that BookVenture was offering its review services without permission and at steeply inflated prices.

BV's website doesn't display the same level of English-language lapses that are a giveaway for other clones--but someone should have done a better job of vetting its Publishing Guide.


Or this editorial services pitch:

Like other clones, BV claims a US location--Michigan, to be precise--but a search on LinkedIn turns up a lot of Philippines-based staff (who in some cases are Author Solutions alumni/ae). Although BV doesn't acknowledge its parentage, I've gathered enough breadcrumbs to be certain that it is owned by eFox Solutions Inc. (formerly Yen Chen Support Corporation), which is registered in Wisconsin (where it's listed as "delinquent), but is actually based in Mandaue City, Philippines.

eFox also owns notorious book marketing spammer BookWhirl, which in terms of hard-sell solicitation tactics and overpriced junk marketing services has been giving Author Solutions a run for its money since at least 2008.

BV has racked up quite a number of complaints about quality, timeliness, and customer service. The one complaint I've received about this company is very similar. I've also received reports of telephone solicitations (BookWhirl is infamous for phone soliciting).

Check out BV's referral program--you can earn $150! Also its Author Solutions-style shill sites, which pretend to be independent but are actually author recruiting tools.

If you're a glutton for punishment, you can read one of BookVenture's extremely deceptive (not to mention wordy) sales pitches here.

*****

Okir Publishing says it started out as "a marketing services provider" in 2006, and transitioned to book publishing later--but according to its Wyoming incorporation data, its initial filing was just last September, and its domain was registered in October 2017 (to add to the confusion, its Terms of Service are governed by California laws).

Okir has overhauled its website since I started researching this post, and has scrubbed it of most of the English-language lapses, but clonesign still abounds: phone solicitation by "literary scouts" with re-publishing offers, an About Us page with, basically, no "about", a large number of junk marketing services (check out the eye-poppingly costly BookExpo programs). As with so many clones, there are verifiable Philippine connections. There's also this, from the BBB:


"Are your [sic] ready to publish your book?" asks ADbook Press. "Grab this once in a lifetime oppurtunity [sic] and get yourself started by availing of the package and service that is a bang for your buck." Registered in Nevada but claiming to be based in California, ADbook sports all the clone signs and signals. Its publishing packages carry no prices (and you know what that means). It offers a full complement of junk marketing, including the Author Solutions favorite, the Hollywood Book to Screen package. In fact, ADbook's Hollywood package is an exact duplicate of Author Solutions'. (UPDATE 10/25/18: ADbook Press's URL appears to be dead, and it hasn't published anything since September.)

"Let's Get Brewing Today" says Coffee Press. Purportedly located in New York, Coffee Press has its English pretty much under control, but other clonesigns tell the story: solicitation, unverifiable experience claims ("visionaries with over a decade of publishing expertise"), and the usual menu of junk marketing "starting at $2,499."

Coffee Press's Terms of Service are identical to those of Okir Publishing. Both companies are using a generic template that appears on many other websites, so that's not really a smoking gun. What is: a telltale typo reproduced on both sites:



And that's not all to suggest that Okir Publishing and Coffee Press--and ADbook Press as well--are good buddies. Check out the logos in the background of the photo below. I strongly suspect that many other clones are similarly interrelated.


*****

In the course of researching this article, I ran across several companies about which I haven't received any complaints or other documentation, but whose websites and other publicly available material strongly suggest they are clones.

Zeta Publishing is incorporated in Florida. English-language errors are apparent throughout its website, and the About Us page includes the usual non-information. There's a full raft of Author Solutions-style marketing and add-on services, all insanely marked up. You can get your copyright registered for $189 (or do it yourself online for $35). You can pay $4,150 for a half-page ad in Bookmarks Magazine (or you can contact Bookmarks yourself and buy the ad for $1,400). You can also buy a 10-minute radio interview with internet radio personality Stu Taylor, who just happens to be Author Solutions' favorite radio talk show host.

Clonesign is there as well at Everlastale Publishing: no concrete info about the company or staff, whimsically-named Author Solutions-style publishing packages, the familiar range of overpriced junk marketing services. Everlastale's President, Don Harold, is an alumnus of BookVenture/BookWhirl, and Everlastale's publishing agreement has been substantially copied from BookVenture's.

It's a revealing demonstration of how these predatory companies seed imitators. (UPDATE 6/14/18: Everlastale is now defunct.)

UPDATE 1/26/18: As noted above, LitFire Publishing is miffed at what I've written about it, and has been persistently (if infrequently and not very competently) trolling me. Here's its latest English-challenged salvo, posted today in the comments section of my original article about it. Bad blogs, bad blogs, whatcha gonna do...


66 comments :

Brad Leonard said...

One way to tell if someone is from the Philippines, try to have the person say the words journey, journal, or country. If the pronunciation is "joor-ney, joor-nal or cowntry", your suspicions are confirmed.

Desertphile said...

The writers I meet are overwhelmingly intelligent--- more than average, from my perspective. That reduces to being more easily scammed: intelligent people tend to believe, falsely, that they are too intelligent to be defrauded; scammed; robbed. The best defense against being defrauded is to know you most likely can be.

Victoria Strauss said...

Agreed--being forewarned is good defense. But companies like this do primarily prey on ignorance and inexperience, and everything they do is geared to that, including their apparent assumption that broken English on a publisher's website or in its emails won't be a tipoff.

Ernie J. Zelinski said...

I met with an author in Vancouver who is using Friesen Press (which I used many years ago just for printing purposes) that now has a self-publishing division. I asked my Canadian book distributor about Friesen's self-publishing division. This was her reply:


Re: Freisen Press – they’re essentially a production house for self published books, but, like Trafford and Tellwell and the myriad of others who sprang up to get on the self pub money wagon – they also put their ISBN and Freisen Press imprint on the book to make it look like it’s been published by a commercial publisher. I have to give Freisen’s more credit for their quality and knowing what they’re doing, but it still is nothing more than a production house, or worse, a vanity press like the others. After all, the publisher is paying for everything, but someone else is claiming ownership by putting an imprint and an ISBN not the author’s on the book. I always feel it’s as though you are building a house on a piece of land, hire an architect, pay all the subtrades etc, but when the house is finished, the architect’s name shows up on the Land Title and Deed.

Megan Wildhood said...

I've been solicited to submit twice now by Z Publishing House. I asked how they found out about me and the recruiter said she saw a story I got published in Belletrist Literary Magazine last year. I did indeed get a short story published in Belletrist last year, but there was something shady about this interaction, especially the pressure to submit (it was to their "Best of Washington Writers" anthology). I still can't tell if they're legit or not but some of the descriptions might fit Z Publishing (I found one of the people who contacted me on LinkedIn, I think, and she is based in the Philippines).

Has anyone else had experience with them?

https://www.zpublishinghouse.com/

Victoria Strauss said...

I've gotten a couple of questions about Z Publishing House. I did look at it for this article, but it doesn't quite fit the template (though that's interesting about the Philippine phone solicitor). It seems more like one of the old vanity anthology publishers like the International Library of Poetry, where people either pay to be included in the anthology or are pressured to buy it. According to the small print on their submission form, Z Publishing has an "optional author affiliate program" that is "commission based"--authors can shill the anthologies and get a percentage of sales. Likely the only people who ever buy the anthologies are the authors and whoever else they can personally persuade to make a purchase.

I agree that Z is a seriously dodgy outfit, but I don't think it's a clone.

Desertphile said...

Just looking at the web page for "Z Publishing House" it appears to be a vanity press where writers are the commodity and not books. The "business" states they have no actual office space, and they "accept" what they call "almost anything." They also target poets, claiming they will "accept" poetry even though that market has been dead for decades (which is likely why they target poets). I would avoid that person ("two dozen employees) for the same reason I avoid street gangs.

Unknown said...

Has anyone heard of 'Author Bridge?' I was recently advised to seek their assistance for my online magazine, but they seem to work with books not magazines. I thought it was slightly suspicious because the person who advised me to use their services (she told me twice in two separate messages) is someone I approached as a potential subject for an article for the magazine. The website and reviews sounded 'too good to be true' and had a hint of the hard sell tactics I've encountered when dealing with Author Solutions. I probably won't use this service because it doesn't appear to be applicable to me, but I want to check it out in the event they try to solicit me on their own. Thanks in advance.

SpannSR said...

My apologies: I didn't have the profile set up when I posted that last message for 'unknown' at 8:09 pm on 1/26/18.

This should indicate (now) that I am SpannSR and am in California.

Thank you.

Desertphile said...

I looked at the "Author Bridge" web site, and it set off "all of the usual alarms." When the very first sentence one sees is "Raise your credibility with a book" one knows the web site is not for writers. In fact they appear to sell manuscripts to "want to be" writers who cannot and/or will not write--- the site is for stroking the ego and vanity of lazy people. The web site praises Sarah Palin: that's all one needs to know about the "services" being sold.

SpannSR said...

I suspected as much. I was suspicious when someone I wanted to interview for an article tried to push me into contacting the site. It felt as though I won't get the article if I don't subscribe to the services. That's OK, too. I have enough other resources for articles. Thank you, 'Desertphile.' (P.S. I am writing a book, but I won't go through the vanity publishing companies.)

Desertphile said...

The saddest part is that these people appear to be supplying a demand; I would love to see every writer educated on the subject of fraud directed at them, and see these "businesses" shut down. Damn shame there are people who believe spending US$6,000+ on "services" for a manuscript that might sell two or three copies in ten years.

Victoria Strauss said...

I checked out Author Bridge, and I agree it has a scammy vibe. Also, even the most reputable-seeming service of this type deserves a deep dive into research, and may not be worth the money even if everything checks out. Plus, if such services work at all, they work best for non-fiction and business books by people who use the books as adjuncts to an existing business. Standalone nonfiction titles and fiction, not so much.

However, Author Bridge names its staff and lists the books it has worked on--not something you find on scam sites (and the testimonials match the titles, also something you may not find on a scam site). The staff have real credentials (I checked them out).

Again, whether buying these kinds of services is a good idea is an open question and probably, in most cases, the answer will be no. But I don't see obvious scamsign or clonesign at Author Bridge.

SpannSR said...

Thank you for the feedback. I appreciate everyone taking the time to look into this.

I think, considering the fact that I am currently writing a magazine and not a book, this would not be an option for me. As with many things, it may be better to take this on a case-by-case standing.

Rachel said...

It seems the fake presses are monitoring the federal copyright register. The last two copyrights I filed were followed a few weeks later by unsolicited phone calls from vanity presses. It is the new trick, I guess. I'm about to file another copyright so it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the sharks to smell fresh blood.

Victoria Strauss said...

Mining copyright registration lists is a classic vanity publisher ploy. Dorrance Publishing was notorious for this, back when it was still a print-only vanity (and it's still doing it). Subscription lists for writers' magazines are also a target.

James Gibson said...

Just was called by someone from OKIR publishing. After years of having Indian recruiters trying to get my Linked-in group list with fake job postings, whenever someone with a pigeon english accent calls out of the blue I rarely let them even talk. I wouldn't have been surprised if she thought the book was a novel: my book was US History so I wasn't expecting a large number of buyers.

Cordelia said...

A family member has been trying to publish a book of letters with commentary. He had a bad experience with Xlibris, cut his losses and now I hear his book is being published again, this time by Okir and he with be traveling to New York to go to Book Expo. This all sounds familiar from his first experience so I started digging and eventually found this blog. Thank you for being here. Family member is now in the process of trying to cut his connection with Okir.

In my digging, I found that the same publicity company, Lavidge, is used by Xlibris and Okir. There are connections. I am not sure how my family member became involved with Okir, he says he contacted them, but I have my doubts. Xlibris is owned or a clone of Author Solutions. Ahhhh, I fear all these scam publishing companies are related to each other. I’m sure this could be a plot for some dystopian sci fi thriller.

Victoria Strauss said...

Cordelia,

I am very interested in the Lavidge connection. Would you please share how you connected it with Okir? My email is beware [at] sfwa.org. All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence. Thank you!

Mallory Oconnor said...

Does anyone know anything about Westwood Publishing in California/ I think they may have been called GreenberryPublishing, but changed their name.

Victoria Strauss said...

Mallory,

There are at least two publishers called Westwood; I'm not sure which one you mean, but neither seems to be connected to Greenberry.

Anonymous said...

I (unfortunately) published through iUniverse when I was 19. Today, *19 years later* a "Westwood Publishing" in Hawthorne California called my mother's house to ask about my short story collection. I don't know how they got that number, and it seems INCREDIBLY shady.

Jaqueline Greeno said...

I am trying to get an email address or phone number for Neilson Book Scanning, and hope somebody can help me. I need to get the information on how many books were sold of A Desperate Journey by D.H.Clark. I have one month of documentation from Neilson's but it is from 2010. I would appreciate any information.
Thanking you
Jacqueline Greeno
jaqueline.green@gmail.com

Victoria Strauss said...

Jacqueline,

Nielsen BookScan is subscription-only, and won't provide sales numbers on request. If you've self-pubbed via Amazon, they have a feature that reports BookScan numbers (you can access it with your Author Central account), but other than that, individual authors really don't have access. Also, BookScan tracks print sales only.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 4/17,

When I responded to Mallory Oconnor's comment above, I did a websearch for Westwood Publishing, which turned up just the two publishers I mentioned in my response. But the actual name of the enterprise is Westwood Books Publishing, and I've confirmed that it is indeed the new name of Greenberry Publishing, which I've profiled above. Definitely shady. I appreciate your comment; I'm going to update my post to reflect the name change.

Anonymous said...

DO NOT WORK WITH OKIR! THAT IS A SCAM COMPANY!

Tom said...

4/30/2018

Made the first of three payments, after research, I cancelled the contract. In cancelling the contract, I followed the contract to the letter, but they are refusing to return my first payment.

I have published before, but decided to try someone else. Man was I mistaken. BEWARE OF OKIR PUBLISHING!!!!!!!

Desertphile said...

"BEWARE OF OKIR PUBLISHING!"

Looking over their facebook page's positive "reviews" it looks to me like the same person posted most of them under different names.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this very helpful blog. I self-published a book with "1st Books Library" back in 2002. It was a fairly straightforward self-publishing deal with only modest hard sell of marketing services which I declined, but it's clear that my contact information has been sold many times since. About once or twice a year I get calls from publishers who claim to be very excited about republishing my novel (I get this from their voice mail messages; I never actually take the call). The latest one was Okir, so I thought I would see who they are, just for fun. Now I know, thanks to you and those who wrote in comments. Thanks again, you provide a very good and useful service.

Anonymous said...

BEWARE OF " BOOKWHIP ". Dont fall into their traps giving you free publishing. There was a fraudulent charge in my card for $3599 and showed Bookwhip

Mark Sprague said...

I publish a book in 2013 using iuniverse which I know now was a mistake. A year later I cancelled everything without universe and self publish my book. I have not marketed my book for at least 2 years, but in the past three months I've been contacted by 4 of the companies you have listed in your blog post. I actually took the time to listen to one of them and they offered exactly what you said. Because they had a book fair comming up soon, they wanted me to make a payment that day without even seeing a contract. The price started at $3,500 but then they came down to $1,000. I never took the bait. These types of scams are ruining the publishing industry.

Peter weisz said...

I am having problems with a company called AUTHORS PRESS who claim to have taken over from GREENBERRY PUBLISHING . I paid $899 for a publishing package and now Greenberrys email addresses have been disabled. AUTHORS PRESS are now selling my book without any contract in place. They do not reply to my requests or demands to remove my book from online sites.WESTWOOD BOOKS are pestering me to continue with them. Is there anyone who can suggest how I can get legal help.

Evans and Rogers said...

I'm so glad to read this thread and know what's going on with these clones. Just FYI, moments ago I had a lovely chat with someone at Okir Publishing. Her name is Astrid and she was the one to mention Author House when I asked how she got my phone number and email. After my experience with Author House (I did get my money back) I'm wary of any of the "pay to play" publishing houses and I'm not even tempted, but I do my best to warn others. I prefer to do everything myself and self-publish through Create space for next to nothing. If I can't tempt a real publisher with what I write, I'll just keep on publishing it myself. I may not have a lot of readers for my work, but I know it's good and my audience wants more. That's all I need.

Iola Goulton said...

I've just looked up a random Stratton Press book, and the author thanks iUniverse for their work in publishing her book.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BY7V79Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1522883481&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Seven+Secrets+of+Successful+Parents

Iccowspots said...

I wrote and illustrated a children’s book and had it published with Author House. Friends and family have loved the book but I had to buy copies in bulk to get the price down to remotely affordable. I have sold them all and thankfully broke even but I would love to re-publish that book and a few others somewhere else so friends, family, and I can afford them. Any suggestions?

Dragonflower said...

Just got a call from out of the blue from ADpress stating what a good job they could do for my important book. The woman who called (Indian/Pakistani accent) sent me an email that said for only $799, I could keep all rights to my book and all proceeds from any sales. I was already scammed by America Star/Publish America. Do they think I'm stupid?

Anonymous said...

include Stonewall Press and Sherlock Press, too

they are located in JDN building mandaue city cebu phils under rucket-up international which is not registered at all

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 8/23,

I'm gathering material for a followup post in which I'll name a bunch more of these scams. I'd already come across Stonewall Press (formerly Uirtus Solutions), but Sherlock Press was a new one for me. Thanks!

Dad K said...

With so many scam companies out there, is the a comparable list of valid companies?

Dad K said...

Any comments about Urlink print and Media?

Victoria Strauss said...

Dad K,

URLink is another clone. I'm planning a followup post that will list it, along with the many additional clones I've identified.

A bad company or service is bad for all writers, while a good one is only good for some writers (since needs and goals, as well as the company's focus and offerings, vary so widely). That's why Writer Beware focuses on the bad guys, and doesn't provide "best" or "recommended" lists. However, if you're shopping for assisted self-publishing services, the Alliance of Independent Authors' reviews and ratings are a good place to start: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/allis-self-publishing-service-directory/self-publishing-service-reviews/.

Denise Alicea said...

I got an email from WestWood and the person working for them has also worked for Greenberry.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/remy-rodriguez-715b36158/

Desertphile said...

On one writer's Facebook group someone asked about "iuniverse," so of course I warned the person to stay away fr4om that "business." I looked over the terms of service, and the expenses, "iuniverse" posted on their web site, and I was horrified. For US$1,000 they will do for a writer what it costs about $125 via SMASHWORDS and one of hundreds of on-line cover designers. I am fundamentally at a loss to understand why someone would pay thousands of dollars for about 30 minutes of work.

Monika Müller said...

In 2009 I accepted the offer of AuthorHouse in the USA to self-publish my book. Their offer was a paperback and hardcover published at the same moment for a better price. I made the lay-out (with many illustrations) for both the 5x8 and 6x9 version. When getting the results, it turned out that they had just taken the lay-out of 5x8 for both versions, that way having had even a tremendous profit - what they had called a special offer. The hardcover 6x9 version looked of course strange.
Living in another country, I did not have any clue how dishonest such companies can be and got my book with AuthorHouse to two Book fair exhibits for quite a high amount of money compared what the service is. When 3rd time offered to me the agent had phrased so clearly that authors should think to get their hands into the pockets of people I woke up and understood that this is what that agent from AuthorHouse wants to do with me.
A few years later when AuthorHouse seemed somehow changed I followed their marketing service. Again I felt cheated finding out the way they had made the book trailer and the reviews, that they were completely unable to have a clue about my book.
The trailers shown as samples to me beforehand were 3 to 4 minutes of length, but my trailer ended up with 1 minute and even also published one only with 1/2 minute.
If I wouldn't have been abroad without the possibility to enter the USA (due to having once at the border Ecchinecea seeds in my bag what for they sent me immediately back to where I came from, and what for next time at the border being put into prison for getting me next day back to the country I came from) I would have fought this situation.

Captain Kevin Smith said...

Thank you for the great information, and for keeping it updated. We are still trying to republish our books since Tate Publishing went out of business, where we spent big $$$. Not sure where they fit into the scheme of things??? We have seen contracts from 3 of the companies you list, and thankfully declined to sign. Thanks for the link for where to go to seek reputable help.

Desertphile said...

Here is some spam I received. I am utterly baffled how I can be a "best-selling author" by paying a complete stranger to write a book. I would require a complete satisfaction guarantee before paying. Sheeeish. Worse yet, people fall for this abuse. :-(


--- quote ---


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Anonymous said...

I recently been contacted by a new publishing company, URLink Print and Media, who aggressively have been trying to get me to sign up for their publishing services. They meet almost every criteria as mentioned in your article to classify them as a scam services, calling every single day, free republishing of my book, expensive advertising campaign, etc. Their address, taken from their website, is identical to the address for Stratton Press that is listed on this page. Also, the phone calls are coming from a number in San Diego, CA when the business is suppose to be in Cheyenne, Wy. As I haven't actually agreed to anything with them, nor am I likely, I cannot prove one way or the other that it is a scam company, but there are enough red flags to definitely make me wary.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonyous 9/25,

URLink is definitely another clone--I've gotten a number of reports, and have done some work to try and trace its connection to other clones (the fact that authors are solicited by multiple clones in sequence strongly suggests that they are interconnected; I've been able to prove this in some cases by by no means in all). My guess is that the phone calls are coming from the Philippines, and are being spoofed to look like US numbers.

Anonymous said...

Agreed that ADbook Press is a scam. My writer friend paid over a thousand dollars to get two titles published, the staff there were not contactable once the money was transferred, a few weeks back. A good lesson but the loss could've been easily prevented had he checked here first.

Desertphile said...

"My writer friend paid over a thousand dollars to get two titles published...."

I look at their web site, and I am wondering how anyone can do so and not see they are a scam. If one does not wish to do the simple tasks listed on that "business," one can hire a twelve-year-old to perform the tasks that "business" does, for $200 or less.

Anonymous said...

After mistakenly publishing my book through Abbott Press (which I suspect is another clone), I republished the book via CreateSpace a couple of years ago, and actually *just* published my second book. However, lately I have been contacted (either by phone or email), by 3 of the companies I see listed here: Okir (they pestered me for days), TopLink, and, most recently, Westwood. The email Westwood sent says they noticed I don't have a literary agent (which is true), and suggested I pick a time for them to call me so they can discuss what literary agent would work for me. I seriously don't know who to trust these days.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 9/28,

Abbott is an actual Author Solurions imprint, not a clone— but that probably explains how the clones got your contact info. Clearly the people who run the clones either took customer lists with them when they left Author Solutions, or are being fed info by current employees.

As a good rule of thumb, be wary of anyone who contacts you, unless you contacted them first.

Anita Everett said...

Anita Everett, B.C., Canada - I have published ten children's books which are not selling as they are price too high with Amazon and Barnes and Noble so three months ago I signed with Westwood republishing for $800.00 CDN. I am getting no info, etc. and smell a rat. Please say I have not been taken... but.....I am a senior and can ill afford this to say nothing of a damaged ego. Is there any action I can take?

Victoria Strauss said...

Anita, I'm sorry to tell you that Westwood is a scam (as described in my blog post above). At best, their services are overpriced and of dubious value. At worst, they won't fulfill the services you paid them for.

I'd first counsel you not to give them any more money. I'd also suggest, if you paid by credit card, that you file a dispute with your credit card company--they will take it seriously and investigate. Last but not least, if you want to get out of your agreement with Westwood, go through the agreement and see if there's a provision for termination by the author. Many (though not all) agreements from companies like Westwood do contain them.

Also feel free to contact me by email if you'd like to talk further: beware@sfwa.org

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post - I found it because I received an “unexpected” email from Westwood Books - I decided to Google the name and came across your excellent article. I had originally self-published with Trafford after having zero success at submitting to mainstream publishers (honestly, what a waste of time and money that was - do the big boys at Bantam-Dell and Random House actually realize how much it costs to send a three chapter sample - of which you never ever get any sort of acknowledgement of them having recieved said package?).Anyhoo- thought I would copy and paste the actual email I recieved for your readers benefit. Be advised that it does not even contain the title of my book that they are so excited about. Here is the email:
Good Day!
 
Hope this email reaches you at a perfect time. My name is Chris Cole a Senior Consultant from Westwood Books. We wanted to let you know that we have received a recommendation from one of our partners Ingram. We’d like to know if you’re interested in having a better opportunity for your book and have a Professional Book Agent to work closely with you.
 “If you think your story has the capacity to inspire someone, go ahead and publish it! The world needs more of that.”
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY OF INFLUENTIAL AUTHORS:
Westwood Books Publishing offers all of the professional services you would expect from a traditional publishing house: editorial, design, distribution, and marketing. Our foundation of excellence starts with the industry veterans who develop and manage our services.
Book Agents have a wide network of contacts and relationships with different Publishing Firms and Hollywood Producers. They also work directly with Bookstore owners.
Advantage of Securing a Publishing Package: (we do not set any deadlines on submitting your Manuscript)
1.We can provide you a professional illustrator who can make your dreams to reality. Our illustrator can provide a better Book Cover to catch the attention of the book readers.
2.You can make necessary changes on the content of your book  if you think it would help polish your Book.
3.You will have a team of professionals who will be guiding you and provide best recommendations on what to do.
4.Your Professional Book Agent will also function as your adviser and provide you Professional Help.
5.You will have 100% royalties for all Book Sales for a better opportunity to have the return of investment
6.You will have the Authority to change your own price for your Book.
7.It would be easier for your Professional Book Agent to represent your Book to Big Publishing firms if your Book would reach its highest potential.
8. It would be easier for your Professional Book Agent to endorse your Book to Book Store owners if your book is published under Westwood Books.
9. Your Book would reach a bigger market for Book Orders since we do extensive marketing.
10.Your Book Agent will dedicate his time to work closely with you and your Book, The Book Agent will answer inquiries about authors book in behalf of the Author.
Let me know your thoughts on above. For any questions and clarifications, please do not hesitate to reach out by replying to this email or you may phone me at 424 209 4118 or toll free number, 888 420 8640 Ext 6719. I am available from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Pacific Time, Mondays to Friday
Thank you very much!
Best Regards,
 
Chris Cole
Publishing and Marketing Consultant
 
Westwood Books Publishing
Phone Number: 1-424-209-4418 Ext: 6720
Email: chriscole@westwoodbookspublishing.com
Website: www.westwoodbookspublishing.com
10389 Almayo Ave, Suite 103
Los Angeles, CA 90064



Hal Ballew, Bible Teacher said...

I received a phone solicitation from Zeta. At my request they emailed me a statement. It was so poorly written that I knew they were not legitimate. Beware.

Victoria Strauss said...

Hal Ballew, would you please forward me the email statement you received? beware@sfwa.org . Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

I received a call from AuthorCentrix, what do you think of this company? Thank you.

Victoria Strauss said...

AuthorCentrix (which used to be called BookBlastPro) is another clone; it's got all the markers. It's on my growing list, which I will post at some point in a followup article.

Anonymous said...

Do you know of any complaints or anything dishonest about Dorrance? Thank You, Shelia

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 10/26,

Dorrance is a long-time print vanity publisher that has re-tooled itself to look more like a digital self-publishing operation. However, its prices are still extremely high, and it's notorious for soliciting authors from copyright registration lists. You can see a sample solicitation here.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why the owner of this blog, Victoria Strauss would ask these indigent authors to contact her by email. Something just smells fishy. Could it be that she will recommend authors to transfer from their current publishing company to hers? From what she is doing, defaming other self-publishing companies, won't other authors think that she's just slandering these companies? instead of minding her own business? or maybe she's trying the hardest way to become the next Joanne Rowling? Piece of advise, V. Focus on what you have now instead of maligning others.


I bet this comment will not be approved by the Admin. Of course it can damage Victoria's infamous conduct.

Victoria Strauss said...

I always know I'm doing something right when I get comments such as the one above. (I also don't think this commenter knows what "indigent" means.)

Desertphile said...

"I wonder why the owner of this blog, Victoria Strauss would ask these indigent authors to contact her by email."

That's right, all of you indigent authors! Stop writing to Ms. Strauss! An anonymous clown on the Internet objects when you do that, so gosh, stop it immediately!

Oy vey.

Dad K said...

What have you heard about Page Turner? They want to rebrand my book and present to 7 Traditional Publishers who have shown interest in the book. In addition they say they will advertise my book in the NY Times Magazine.
New York Times Media Marketing includes:
A single slot advertisement – features your book cover, book details and a 30-word description
One free print copy of the NYT issue in which your book’s listing appears.
One free digital proof
Press Release ( 250 premium media outlets)

all for only $6k! Sounds like a scam to me.

Victoria Strauss said...

Dad K,

Page Turner is another of the Philippine copycat scams. I've gotten a number of reports of "rebranding" offers like this one. Avoid!

 
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