December 27, 2018

Army of Clones, Part 2: Twenty-One (More) Publishing and Marketing "Services" to Beware Of


Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Last January, I wrote a post about a new and rapidly-growing scam: Philippines-based publishing and "marketing" companies that have copied the Author Solutions business model, and are using it to rip off writers. In many cases, these enterprises are run and/or staffed by former AS call center employees.
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.
The clones share a distinctive cluster of characteristics that makes them relatively easy for an alert writer to identify.

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 was discovered by one of their book scouts. Sometimes they'll claim to be literary agents looking to transition you to a traditional publishing contract. Their phone solicitors frequently have foreign accents (most are based in the Philippines). 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, Marketing Professional, Marketing Supervisor.

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--it's pretty clear that clone staff either maintain contacts with Author Solutions workers who feed them information, or, if they themselves formerly worked for AS, took customer information with them when they departed). They claim they can do a better job, or provide greater credibility, or boost sales, or get authors in front of traditional publishers. Not all the clones offer publishing services, but most do.

3. Elaborate claims of skills and experience that can't be verified or 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. Not all the clones offer publishing services, but they all offer "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 markup. It's an insanely lucrative aspect of the author-fleecing biz, not just because of its enormous profitability, but because while you can only sell a publishing package once, you can sell marketing multiple times. The clones' marketing services are 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.

********

In my January 2018 post, I named and shamed the twelve clones I'd discovered up to that point. In this followup post, I name and shame the 21 additional clones I've identified since then. See below for detail on each (sorry, you have to scroll down; Blogger doesn't give me the option of inserting anchors). Also see the sidebar of this blog for the full list.
  • Ascribed LLC (very probably also d.b.a. Outstrip LLC)
  • AuthorCentrix (formerly BookBlastPro)
  • AuthorLair
  • Black Lacquer Press & Marketing
  • Book Agency Plus
  • Book Magnets
  • Book Reads Publishing
  • Book Vine Press (possibly a d.b.a. of Westwood Books Publishing/Authors Press)
  • BookWhip / Carter Press
  • Capstone Media Services
  • Global Summit House
  • Goldman Agency
  • Maple Leaf Publishing
  • Matchstick Literary
  • Outstrip LLC (very probably also d.b.a. as Ascribed LLC)
  • PageTurner Press and Media
  • Paramount Books Media
  • Sherlock Press
  • Stonewall Press (formerly Uirtus Solutions)
  • URLink Print and Media
  • The Writer Central / IdeoPage Press Solutions
To give you a sense of how fast these scams are proliferating: of the 21 companies above, 13 are less than twelve months old. The rest are less than two years old. Though they (mostly) appear separate from one another, I suspect that many are in fact run by the same people; there are a number of similarities that, while not conclusive, are extremely suggestive. For instance, there's considerable data to suggest that Outstrip LLC and Ascribed LLC are in fact the same operation. And both Outstrip and Ascribed share language, services, or both with Sherlock Press and Stonewall Press.

There also appears to be a relationship between the clones and a pay-to-play book review service that operates under two names: Hollywood Book Reviews and Pacific Book Review. A large number of clones include reviews from this service in their marketing packages (as, in fact, does Author Solutions). Some apparently do such volume business that they have their own payment pages.

The clones do compete with one another. Here's Book Reads Publishing trying to do down The Writer Central (at this poor author's expense):


And here's what AuthorLair sent to a writer who mentioned being solicited by another clone, Westwood Books Publishing (nice to know my watchdog activities are benefiting the scammers):


********


There are no publishing services at Ascribed LLC (though it's early days: Ascribed only registered its domain in August 2018)--just a full suite of junk marketing services right out of the Author Solutions playbook. English-language lapses are evident throughout the website ("We are a group of people whose passion for books influenced us to be staunch of literature and literacy"). Ascribed also appears to be unequal to the challenge of correctly matching author names and book titles with cover photos.

Although I'm listing them separately here, I believe there's a strong probability that Ascribed LLC and Outstrip LLC (see below) are the same operation. The similarities:


A number of other clones use more than one name (with no hint or acknowledgment of the connection): LitFire Publishing d.b.a. Amelia Book Company and Amelia Publishing; Westwood Books Publishing d.b.a. Authors Press; Book Art Press d.b.a. Window Press Club; Okir Publishing d.b.a. ADbook Press and Coffee Press.

********



AuthorCentrix used to call itself BookBlastPRO. Both businesses were incorporated in California in February 2017 by Daniel Fernandez. Further (inadvertent) evidence of the connection is here. Note the fake founding date:


I've gotten a number of reports of solicitation by AuthorCentrix, and more can be found online. AuthorCentrix has also started to accumulate complaints--as, previously, did BookBlastPRO (shedding some light on the name change, and possibly hinting at another in the future).

AuthorCentrix's menu of Author Solutions-style publishing and marketing services conveniently omits pricing, but per documentation sent to me by a solicited author, the "exclusive" book fair marketing package--a complete and total waste of money--costs $1,899. There's even a brand new AuthorCentrix Magazine, full of ads and features for which authors no doubt had to pay a fortune (AuthorCentrix isn't the only clone that promotes these undistributed pay-to-play magazines: Outstrip and Stonewall Press have GoldCrest Magazine--see below--and Legaia Books, which I discussed in a previous post, has Paperclips Magazine).

UPDATE 7/19/19: AuthorCentrix now has an "F" rating from the BBB, due to multiple complaints filed against it, and its failure to respond or resolve.

********

AuthorLair was born in February 2018. Its English is shaky but better than some other clones'; on a quick read, it might pass muster. Staffed by the usual anonymous "team of industry experts," AuthorLair currently offers only marketing services (including ever-popular book fair exhibition packages), but it's early days.

I've gotten reports of solicitation. In one case, an AuthorLair "Senior Book Publicist" attempted to steer a writer away from fellow clone Westwood Books Publishing...by citing one of my blog posts:


Among the array of logos on AuthorLair's website footer is one for Pacific Book Review, a pay-to-play review service that, along with its "parent" company Hollywood Book Reviews, is often used by the clones.

AuthorLair claims a Florida location, but has no Florida business registration.

********


Black Lacquer Press & Marketing incorporated in mid-2017 (via Anderson Registered Agents, a company frequently used by the clones), but its domain wasn't registered until just last February.

Black Lacquer ticks all the boxes: solicitation, Author Solutions-style junk marketing (with no listed prices--as with many scams of this kind, they want to get authors on the phone, where it's easier to get the hooks in), shaky English, and unverifiable claims about staff:


You can sample its truly awful--and probably horrifyingly expensive--book trailer videos (if you dare) here.

********


Book Agency Plus ("Empowering Authors is our source of Empowerment") doesn't provide publishing services--just "marketing platforms." It has a rudimentary and mostly nonfunctional website, but its social media is active and I got a report of solicitation in mid-September (an offer of a "podcast interview" for $600)--so unlike some of the clones, which pop into existence and vanish in a matter of months, it does seem to be operating, at least for now (its domain was registered in September 2017).

On display is the typical nonsensical English ("We go by our ultimate vision to give authors the so-called, 'collaboration'"), as well as the usual windy and unverifiable claims of expertise. Most of the website links for the "featured authors" don't work, and for those that do, all are published either by one of the other clones or an Author Solutions imprint.

Book Agency Plus (along with fellow clone Okir Publishing) caught the eye of ALLi watchdog John Doppler earlier this year.

********


BookMagnets Publishing and Marketing (not to be confused with Readers Magnet, a different clone that I discussed in a previous post) claims that it was "founded by two [conveniently un-named] literary publicists in 2010"--which is a neat trick, since its domain was only created in July 2018. It has a business registration in Wyoming, where it claims to be located.

Despite its name, BookMagnets doesn't appear to currently offer publishing services, just a familiar menu of Author Solutions-style junk marketing. As often with the clones, there's no pricing (but see below: it ain't cheap). BookMagnets' website is relatively free of the English-language errors that afflict so many of the clones--but not so its correspondence. Here's the solicitation one author received:


BookMagnets provided the same author with a link to one of its marketing campaigns. Apart from the fact that there's no way the campaign is worth nearly $1,400, the book being promoted was published by PublishAmerica, which went out of business last fall without bothering to return rights. PublishAmerica books are still for sale on Kindle--but if anyone buys them, the author will never get any of the royalties due, because there's nowhere to send the sales income. The author who paid for this campaign got zero return from from his large financial investment, even in the unlikely event that the campaign produced results.

********

Like many of the clones, Books Reads Publishing was established just in the past year: its domain was registered in June 2018. In addition to a full complement of clone characteristics, it is also the promulgator of a particularly deceptive marketing pitch that involves posing as Penguin Random House.


The price for this "cinematic book trailer?" Just a few thousand dollars (note the pretense that the author's share is only half the cost):
I've gotten several complaints about unauthorized credit card charges by some of the clones, so the assurance about "no Automatic Charges" rings a bit hollow.

Like all the clones, Book Reads Publishing has Philippine connections--for instance, its web designer.

********


Like Book Reads Publishing, Book Vine Press registered its domain in June 2018. Supposedly based in Chicago, and registered as a domestic corporation in Illinois, it checks all the familiar boxes: re-publishing offers, unverifiable experience claims, junk marketing (note the presence of the clones' favorite pay-to-play review services, Pacific Book Review and Hollywood Book Reviews).

Here's one of its solicitations, complete with fractured English. I've heard from several authors who received this identical email--just their name and book title switched out:


Like many clones, Book Vine Press doesn't include any prices on its website, but here's the offer associated with the solicitation above:


Note the claim of "our own physical bookstore in Chicago." There's no evidence any such store exists.

Two testimonials on Book Vine's website extol the wonderfulness of the authors' publishing experiences. However, both authors are published not by Book Vine, but by fellow clone Greenberry Publishing, which last year changed its name to Westwood Books Publishing and also does business as Authors Press. Also, Book Vine's book fair promotion offers are identical to those from Authors Press. I think there's a pretty strong possibility that Book Vine is running under the same roof.

********


Like many clones, Bookwhip is of recent origin: its domain was registered in November 2017--though you'd never know that (or anything else) based on its detail-free About Us page.

Here's the solicitation pitch BookWhip sends in email, shared with me by an author who received it (re-publishing! Plus a book agent! For just $1,250 per book!). BookWhip's basic publishing package is low-priced for a clone, but that's only because its real aim is to ensnare authors so they can be persuaded to buy costly marketing services, including book fair promos and "indie movie production" (it's no accident that these services are non-refundable).

Despite its youth, BookWhip has already gathered some complaints, including about an unauthorized credit card charge (not the only complaint of this type I've seen regarding the clones).

Unusually, BookWhip voluntarily reveals its connection with fellow clone Carter Press, which provides very similar services. From a recently-received solicitation, in which the clones' typical shaky English is on full display:

Bookwhip has a California business registration. Interestingly, its street address on that registration is an exact match for the address of something called Creativity Books California LLC. Creativity Books does business as Authors Press, a clone that is a d.b.a. of yet another clone, Westwood Books Publishing (are you confused yet?):


There actually is a Creative Books store at the Buchanan Road address, and a 30-day display there is part of some of the book fair "marketing" packages offered by Authors Press. As you can see from these photos, it's mostly a school and parties supply store in a strip mall, but there is a rack of books.

Is BookWhip run by the same people who are running Westwood Books Publishing and Authors Press? Wouldn't surprise me. Regardless, it's the same kind of scam.

********

Some of the clones have their faulty English under decent control, and exhibit only occasional lapses. Not so Capstone Media Services. Its self-description sounds like it was written by Gollum: "We are an Illustrations and Marketing Service Provider that designs custom illustrations and logos that transform your imaginations into life. We also specializes in helping exceptional authors publish their literary creations."

About the (whoppingly expensive) Book Translations service, Capstone has this to say: "Your book will be translated in different languages...This will make your book as one of the 'purple cow' as we call it. Stands out among others." Well, who wouldn't want that? Then there's the Audiobook service: "Here in Capstone Media, we offer you one price for the three voice talents – Australian, British and American Voice Talents. This refers to accents." Thanks for clarifying that.

Author and anti-scam activist David Gaughran reports a recent rash of solicitations by Capstone:
Capstone, which registered its domain in August 2018, claims a prestigious address: 14 Wall Street, Manhattan. It has no business registration in New York State, however, and per this exhibitor list from the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair, it is actually located in...surprise! the Philippines.


********

Global Summit House boasts a typical array of clone identifiers, including plenty of fractured English, and unpriced and largely undescribed publishing and marketing services (for a glimpse at the kind of quality authors can expect, check out its absurdly awful book trailer videos).

And that's not all! Global Summit House wants to be your literary agent! I've seen several email solicitations with "representation offers", which include a literary agent contract that's just official-looking enough to possibly fool someone who doesn't have much experience (though not someone who knows that reputable literary agents don't charge upfront fees). There's also a "marketing and advertising proposal" that "includes a Literary Agent" and claims a "partnership" with Publishers Weekly. A slightly different proposal touts an "Undervalued Self-Published Books Campaign" (which tells you all you need to know about Global Summit House's target demographic):


Global Summit House registered its domain in May 2018, but has no business registration in New York State, where it claims it's located. Unlike some of the clones, it hasn't fully anonymized its Philippine origins:


Global Summit House maintains two other websites, GlobalSummitHouse.org and The Maze Readers, along with a Goodreads account and a Twitter account, Dusk Till Dawn Reading. All feature the same books, and post the same reviews under different names (here's a review by "Elaine Robyn" on The Maze Readers; here's the identical review from "Anna Reid" on Goodreads). This is a classic closed-loop promotional scam, where all the "promotion" happens on websites and accounts owned by the promoter.

********


Goldman Agency is one of the older clones: its domain was registered in February 2017. It claims a New York city location, but does not appear to have a New York State business registration.

From its name, you might think it wants to be your literary agent, just like Global Summit House--an impression also produced by its Google listing:


Really, though, it's just a regular old marketing scam, staffed by the usual anonymous "dedicated professionals" and displaying the usual imperfect command of English (actually considerably cleaned up from earlier versions of the website). Its "blog posts" are PLR (Private Label Rights) articles (for instance, here's Goldman's post on book publicity, and here it is in the PLR database; even the typo in the title has been reproduced). Of its "portfolio" of books, not one appears to actually exist.

This complaint provides a good snapshot of Goldman's M.O.--and its prices.


Note: The Goldman Agency I'm talking about here is not to be confused with The David Goldman Agency, which represents illustrators.

********

The supposedly Canadian Maple Leaf Publishing is the only clone I've found that doesn't claim a US location. It's also one of the babies of the bunch, with a domain registered in September 2018.

Maple Leaf offers a familiar roster of Author Solutions-style publishing and junk marketing services, with the emphasis on the marketing. Also familiar: its specifics-free About Us page, which, like the entire website, has a definite ESL vibe. The folks at Maple Leaf did call in quality control, though, because here's how that page read when I researched Maple Leaf a few weeks ago:

Live long and prosperous!

********

"Come and spark with us!" invites MatchStick Literary's bizarre (and illiterate) Facebook intro page.

For authors who accept this dubious invitation, an array of clone-standard, Author Solutions-style publishing and marketing services await (you can judge the quality of MatchStick's video trailers, if you dare, here). As with many of the clones, there are no prices (it's easier to hook your victims if you can get them on the phone). Other telltale signs of clonage include no verifiable information about history or staff, and seriously fractured English ("Setting up an absolute campaign that bank majorly on a specific factor might deem crucial.").

Here's what MatchStick claims as its "Track Records" (also note the false claim of 3 years in business). Most of the books exist, but just about everything else is a lie (and I checked every single claim).

Like so many clones, Matchstick is of recent origin: its domain was registered in September 2018. It uses a New Jersey address, but as of this writing, has no business registration in that state.
It also seems to be suffering from some name confusion, at least based on this job listing recently posted to its Facebook page:


Job location? Mandaue City, Philippines.


UPDATE: Matchstick is aware of this post, and it isn't happy. Here's how it is attempting to defend itself to authors who mention Writer Beware (LOL):



*******


Outstrip LLC is just under a year old, with a domain name registered in January 2018. It offers offers a full menu of Author Solutions-style publishing and marketing services, complete with more-than-usually stupid names (my fave is the "Sempiternal", aptly titled for the sempiternal hole it will put in your bank account). And holy crap, are they expensive. The Eclipse marketing package, which consists basically of garbage, will set you back over $17,000.

Bad English is on prominent display on Outstrip's website--check out, for instance, this illiterate blog post--and in its Twitter feed. On Medium, a profile called Felicia Stone is the purported author of a series of equally badly-written articles, in which all the links point to Outstrip.

Although I'm listing them separately here, I believe there's a strong probability that Outstrip and Ascribed LLC (see above) are the same operation. The similarities:


Outstrip also appears to be connected to at least two other clones: Sherlock Press and Stonewall Press (see below). Entire paragraphs of Outstrip's Terms of Service, as well as its refunds policy, are reproduced in Sherlock Press's Terms of Service and refunds policy. And both Outstrip and Stonewall Press sell ad space in Goldcrest Magazine, which has no independent existence apart from these two companies.

********

I've gotten a number of reports from authors who have been solicited out of the blue by PageTurner Press and Media. Like many clones, PageTurner actively attempts to poach authors from their current publishers or self-pub platforms, claiming that its "agents" or "scouts" have discovered the author's book and that it can offer a better deal than the author's current situation. Here's PageTurner's re-publication pitch, included with the email solicitation it sent to one AuthorHouse-published author. Fortunately, the author smelled a rat and contacted me. Note the characteristically poor English:


Price tag for this PUBLISHING GRANT? Just $10,000.

In addition to publishing packages, PageTurner's array of "Powerhouse Services" (a.k.a junk marketing) reads like it was ripped from the website of an Author Solutions imprint (which of course is no accident). Its About Us page exhibits the usual windy and unverifiable claims of experience ("PageTurner, Press and Media is a rebranding of an institution that used to operate in the shadows of other publishing firms as a trusted provider of vendible [sic] titles"), including a claim to have "officially opened its doors" in the summer of 2016, a whole year before it registered its web domain. There's even a bogus award.

That domain registration was updated in 2018 to match PageTurner's supposed California address, but here's the original registration, from August 2017 and rather farther away:


********


In its logo, Twitter feed, and various videos, including a cutesy whiteboard video and a seriously cheesy pretend newscast, Paramount Books Media sells writers' most fevered dream: making their books into movies (Paramount. Get it?)

Book-to-screen is also a scammer's dream, because such packages--one of Author Solutions' signature junk marketing offerings--can be provided cheaply and sold at an enormous markup. In Paramount's case, though, its book to screen pitch seems mostly designed to get authors to spring for really bad book trailers.

Paramount doesn't appear to offer publishing packages, just marketing services. As usual, there is zero verifiable information about the company or its staff. Two complaints on Ripoff Report, one alleging unauthorized credit card charges, the other claiming an unfulfilled sales guarantee, suggest how the company operates.

Paramount doesn't provide a street address, but it is registered in California as an LLC. Its domain was registered in August 2017.

********

Like so many of its brethren, Sherlock Press is of recent origin: its domain was registered in June 2018. It claims a Baltimore, Maryland location, and is registered in Maryland as an LLC.

Sherlock Press offers the familiar array of clone characteristics: unverifiable claims about itself, English-language lapses ("Sherlock Press is made of people"), and Author Solutions-style publishing and marketing packages (including the ever-popular Book to Screen).

There are also what look like connections to other clones. There are substantial similarities in the wording of Sherlock's Terms of Service and Payment and Refund Policy to similar documents on the websites of Outstrip and Ascribed LLC (both of which I've covered above). They even talk to each other on Twitter:


********

Stonewall Press originally called itself Uirtus Solutions (Uirtus's website is dead, but here's its corpse, courtesy of the Wayback Machine). The connection is confirmed by this complaint at the Better Business Bureau, and also by identical origin stories (Uirtus supposedly "started out in 2007 as a Movie & Gaming Animation Company", while Stonewall was "established in 2007" with a "specialty...in animated media – movie, gaming, and marketing animation").

In fact, Uirtus Solutions didn't file articles of organization until September 2017, in South Carolina. It terminated itself on November 13, just two months later--and just a few days after Stonewall Press filed a trade name application in Maryland. Based on the different personal names involved (Richzer Villamor for Uirtus and Ivan Bacayo Verallo for Stonewall), it may be that the business did change hands--but clearly Stonewall is a continuation of Uirtus.

I've received several reports from authors who received email solicitations for re-publishing or marketing by Stonewall Press, and more complaints about solicitation can be found at PissedConsumer, many of them describing out-of-the-blue phone calls by heavily-accented telemarketers. Stonewall's Twitter account was recently suspended.

Stonewall's website includes the usual uncertain English, along with the clones' typical publishing, marketing, editorial, and add-on services. If you shell out for Stonewall's book fair packages, for instance, here's what you get:


You also get an ad in GoldCrest Magazine, which has no independent existence apart from Stonewall and another clone, Outstrip, which also sells GoldCrest ads as part of some of its packages.

********

URLink Print and Media purports to be located in Wyoming, and it is indeed registered there, with a filing dated March 7, 2018. Its domain was created just a month prior, in February 2018. These two dates would seem to belie the (unverifiable, as usual) self-description on its website, which claims that URLink has been in business for "years".

I've heard from a number of writers who have been solicited by URLink. Here's a typical approach--the pretense of a recommendation from "book scouts" is a common clone ploy:


And here's Megan. Guess where she's located?


URLink's website offers the typical range of Author Solutions-style publishing and marketing services, couched in the typical fractured English ("Authoring a book could be a facile activity to the most passionate writers"). There's even a gallery section, where you can view the (ahem) high-quality product you can expect to get for your money.

URLink's Agreement forms are a testament to its Author Solutions roots, as well as to the way the clones cross-pollinate: they swipe a lot of language from similar documents from WestBow Press, BookWhirl, and fellow clone BookVenture.

********

On its About Us page, The Writer Central claims that it "started out as a ghostwriter service provider that helps aspiring writers and authors bring their stories and ideas into published materials since 2008." How odd, then, that its web domain was created only in February 2018, and that it has no business registration in New York State, where it claims to be located. (One also might hope for better English from an English-language ghostwriting service--just saying.)

Like some other clones, The Writer Central does business under more than one name. Its alter-ego, Ideopage Press Solutions, makes similar vague "about us" claims in similarly bad English, purporting to have "started out as a service provider that helps aspiring writers and authors bring their stories into actual vivid manuscripts ready for publication". (How do I know that TWC and IPS are the same outfit? IPS's phone number defaults to TWC's voicemail. I've confirmed this myself, and it's also confirmed in comments below). Like TWC, IPS claims 10 years in the business--despite the fact that its web domain was only registered in April 2018--and has no business registration in its supposed home state of New York.

I've heard from several writers who were solicited by The Writer Central or Ideopage Press Solutions with "representation" offers. Similar reports can be found online. Like several of the other clones, TWC claims that it can help authors transition to traditional publishing by re-publishing and "circulating" their books.


This wonderful offer includes production of "500 copies of your book for circulation in more than 25,000 bookstores worldwide" and pitches to traditional publishers:


Who could resist? But there's a catch:

The pretense of a co-investment is a classic vanity publisher ploy.

For authors looking for some idea of what their re-published book might look like, there are cover images on TWC's home page, along with touching testimonials from the authors. Just one problem: not one of these books--or authors--actually exists (I checked).

TWC's Services page (which is not currently linked into its website menu) touts a range of familiar publishing and marketing packages. There are no details or prices; the only option is to click a button to "reserve your spot now". This delivers you to a scheduling page, which includes this revealing information:


Oops.

37 comments:

  1. For there to be this kind of escalation there has to be a market to support, if not all of them, then a goodly number. That's a sad indictment on authors educating themselves before they sign any sort of contract.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Agreed. And I often hear from people only _after_ they've sent money to these predators.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I work for a reputable, high integrity publisher, and we have had to stop using the term "hybrid publisher" because of these scammers tarnishing the industry. We heard from two writers last week who handed over their manuscripts and never heard back from their "publisher" until they sent a finished book...which was nothing like the authors intended, and they hated them. I didn't talk to these authors directly, but I am guessing they got scammed by the growing trend to take the book to CreateSpace and try pass it off as a published book. Remember...this is YOUR work. There are 800+ tasks in the publishing process--ask lots of questions to find out where and how you will be involved in the production, how ownership rights and royalties are negotiated and handled, what to expect with distribution channels and discounts, and what marketing efforts are expected by the publisher and author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hugely useful - thank you so much for the research needed to create this blog. I’ve been approached by a company called Black Sun and can’t find any reviews about them. Has anyone had dealings?

    ReplyDelete
  5. There are several publishers with the name Black Sun or a permutation of it. Do you have a link you can share?

    ReplyDelete
  6. As widdershins said, it's quite alarming there is a huge surge in these scams. It's also quite concerning that aspiring authors don't seem to bother with checking whether the publisher is legit or not. Good work on compiling this list, Ms. Strauss!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Victoria

    I've just forwarded the Black Sun info to you by email (beware@...). With thanks for your interest, Richard

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you. I assumed Blacksun was a publisher, but it's a review and promotions service--purportedly. Looks super-dodgy to me, and you aren't the only person to be solicited. I will blog about it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Victoria! This is a link to a post I wrote about Black Sun - https://www.stephenbentley.info/?s=black+sun

    ReplyDelete
  10. Sorry - bad link. I'll try again: https://www.stephenbentley.info/how-rude-who-the-fck-are-you-would-you-use-this-book-review-service/

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi Victoria:

    Five years ago I published my memoirs about struggling with depression all my life through Iuniverse and it went ok although my book sales never materialized. Now I am being solicited by publishers/agents who want to republish my book (for a fee.) Several are on your list so thank you for the warnings. One is TopLink Publishers. Do you know anything about them or are they just a money grab as well?

    Thanks

    Bruce Ross
    From Dawn to Dusk to Daylight
    A Journey through Depression's Solitude

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi, Bruce,

    Yes, I'm afraid that TopLink is a clone. I covered it in my previous clone post (there's a link to it in this post).

    Reputable agents and publishers don't charge upfront fees. That is one easy way of distinguishing the good from the bad.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Paid carter press $$$$$ promise me the moon but later i found out it was a scam. Do not fall for their trap giving you free publishing, they will offer a Hollywood movie and said a Hollywood production manager is going to help you invest on the project and you just need to pay $10,000 or less,ITS A LIE!!!!. I paid book whip and carter press. They never called me again.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm curious of if there is anything else being done to shut these people down? I think one of these AS clones got me before I saw this blog, they call themselves Zeta publishing. And so far I have paid them to edit and print 2 books. At first it looked promising, I got a front and back cover from them and a file of some edited material and then everything stopped. No more calls, updates or anything, so I left a message saying I have more money for them. Boom, I got a call from this Andy Diaz guy ready to go ahead with a marketing package for $1500.00. I told him I want results on the two books that are supposed to be printed and on their way to me for review. They (Andy and Wendy) assured me that things are moving forward and that Wendy will email me the tracking number by friday. That was two fridays ago and again they have given me the silent treatment.
    How come FBI or someone doesn't hunt these A. Holes down and put a stop to their thieving, lying ways?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Unknown 2/07,

    Yup, Zeta is a clone (discussed in my first clone post). I'm sorry they got their hooks in you.

    As far as I know, no one but me is paying attention to these scams.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I just want to say thank you for help authors like me sus out the fakes.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Traditional publishers historically bought book projects from authors and the author received small royalties--with the publisher absorbing the production costs and retaining the majority of the profits. Our industry is changing and evolving from traditional publishing models. Lucid Books and a few other reputable publishers do charge authors production costs for their publishing projects, and in turn the author retains 100% ownership of the book as well as the majority of the royalties generated. It is a win/win partnership that allows authors to retain control of their work and still produce a professionally-published book. So there ARE solutions between traditional publishers and self publishing that aren't scams. Thank you for highlighting the rip-offs tainting our industry and shedding light on how important it is for authors to do their homework! At the same time, I hope that authors aren't scared away from exploring different options within the publishing industry. Some of us are good guys who really want to help yo and your work shine!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. How can we be certain of the credibility of a publishing house? Is there any database available for authors to explore potential publishers for their books? I've already had a bad experience which has made me very cautious to the point of not publishing my books.

      Delete
  18. Thanks for your comment, Shannon.

    Just to clarify: unless they enter into a work-for-hire arrangement, or otherwise surrender their copyrights, authors always retain "100% ownership" of their books. They just license rights to the publisher for a defined period of time. This is the difference between rights and copyright.

    There are genuine hybrid publishers that charge fees yet provide authors with advantages that they can't get from vanity publishers or assisted self-publishing services--such as higher royalties, rigorous selectivity, and/or industry standard editing, marketing, and distribution. But they are relatively rare (and for the most part very costly). I'm not picking on Lucid Books in particular--but most companies that describe themselves as "hybrid" are either vanities in disguise or self-publishing services with a fancy label.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm having a hard time shaking off these rip off hybrid publisher, and finding a genuine publisher who does not want an arm and leg.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Anonymous 3/13,

    There's no database like what you're asking about, and any lists you find on the internet should be regarded with caution--there are reliable ones but in general they're too likely to be poorly-vetted or out of date. Your best defense is understanding how reputable publishers work--the more knowledge you have, the better you'll be able to spot the scams and amateurs when you encounter them.

    You also need to decide whether you're interested in self-publishing or traditional publishing, as these are two very different paths with different challenges and benefits.

    There's plenty of information to help at the Writer Beware website, where you'll find resources on publishers, self-publishing, literary agents, and more.

    You can also contact me if you're wondering about the reputation of a publisher: beware@sfwa.org.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi Victoria,

    Can you do a review about Youronlinepublicist? I heard that this is a company based in the Philippines and being handled by Portia Peterson who used to work with Xlibris, Readers Magnet and Litfire Publishing. Their services are too expensive and authors are being scammed. SHe is using the name "Victoria Martin" and she is claiming that she is from London. They are fooling Authors by claiming that they are based in Miami. Check their websites and you can see a lot of authors who are fooled.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hey, Victoria! I hope with your blog, you don't generalize all publishing companies based in the Philippines are scamming, targetting indie authors. It would be unfair if you do that. Make sure your list of the publishing and marketing companies found at the right side of your home page are really scammers, I mean, who commits fraud or participates in a dishonest scheme.

    I hope you don't quickly judge the company as negative once you receive a complaint from an author. Remember, all companies have a share of negative comments from their customers but it doesn't mean, these companies are bad. You have to verify if the complaints are true and valid. At the end of the day, you can't please everyone.

    You must be aware that some companies, if not most, there are really employees who do bad things. But this doesn't mean the whole company is bad. It's the function of management and HR to fire those kind of employees.

    I also hope you don't get used by some companies out there in order to destroy their competitors.

    What I truly know, there are publishing companies who really fulfill and deliver what authors pay for.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hey, clone employee! Thank you for your concern about fairness and verification. Please do set your mind at rest--Writer Beware always verifies the complaints we receive, to make sure they're "true and valid". It's why we're so tedious about asking for documentation! It's also why we're still doing our thing after 20 years.

    I'm touched by your worry that I'm being "used", but really, you don't need to be concerned. It's true that some companies like yours have tried to poach writers from competitors by quoting from or linking to my writings about the competitor--but that's okay, because if the writers dig deeper, they'll probably find the name of the poacher on my scam list, too. I'm definitely cool with that!

    Kudos, also, for the relatively civil trolling. It's quite a nice change.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Anonymous 4/24,

    You'll notice that YourOnlinePublicist is included in my scammers list in the sidebar. I'm planning a Clones 3 post that will review all the additional clones I've discovered since Clones 2 (it's exhausting).

    Portia Peterson--now there's a familiar name. It's probably fake, though, as is whatever name she's using now. These companies encourage their salespeople to use aliases.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thanks for this post! I’ve been calls and emails from URLink about my book but I haven’t even published yet! They definitely used the same words as above in your article about “in house book scouts”! I just wanted to check them out and I found your post so THANK YOU :D

    ReplyDelete
  26. Dennis Roger Torii, Jr.5/23/2019 10:03 AM

    Having self-published a children's book through Archway Publishing, I was contacted by phone by Pamela Cooper from The Writer Central to represent me to attain a traditional publisher. I was charged approximately a total of $4500 and was promised that the book would get a new cover (more appealing than previous one), that I would get 10 copies, 500 would be placed for sale worldwide and they would market the book to traditional publishers from whom they would get 10% of any upfront money awarded. I saw the book re-published online with new cover by a company (apparently the same company because when you dial Ideopage Press Solution's number, The Writer Central answering machine comes on). The Writer Central then offered to digitize and illustrate the second and third book of the trilogy for $7000 to include the full trilogy in the marketing. They also had someone named Maggie Peterson offer to do a cartoon trailer for $1500 of which I paid half so far. Apparently this is a scam run out of the Philippines possibly and is preying upon aspiring writers, financially ruining people like me. I have not received a dime for any book sales and need them to pay me back and cease and desist selling my book without paying me.

    The company Ideopage Press Solutions and The Writer Central appear to be the same people. When you dial the number for Ideopage, the answering machine states you have reached The Writer Central. I went into debt to try and further my children's trilogy. The first book, The Green Horse was self published by Archway Publishing and I was contacted by Pamela Cooper to assist me with finding a traditional publisher and promote my book. I then completed the two following books to complete the trilogy, which they were to illustrate and digitize to be able to market the books as a trilogy. They put The Green Horse online with a new cover and dialogue I had added and it can be seen for sale online by Ideopage, but I have been paid nothing and can reach no one by phone as well as getting no response by e-mail. The last e-mail response from Pamela Cooper was to tell me to ask my bank for my money back if I feel I was scammed, which is ludicrous. I was the highest paid banker for Chase in the state of Florida, so I know. My family is devastated and I have three small children who suffer as well from this due to the financial loss, which is huge for me at this point. I feel my book is held hostage by Ideopage while they are possibly profiting from it and I get nothing.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thank you for your comment, Dennis. Yes, The Writer Central and Ideopage Press Solutions are the same--I've confirmed it myself as have several other people who've contacted me.

    I'm so sorry for your experience. I know it's no comfort, but you are by no means alone in being ripped off by this predatory bunch of scammers, or by the many similar scams that are currently flourishing online. It's truly outrageous.

    I'd urge you not to give any more money to these people, no matter what they tell you or promise you (or even if they threaten you, which sometimes happens). Have you considered filing a dispute with your credit card company? I've heard from authors who've been successful in getting their money back that way, even after a good deal of time has elapsed.

    If you want to discuss this further, please feel free to email me: beware@sfwa.org.

    ReplyDelete
  28. My name is Elizabeth Abel and I have emailed you concerning OWS Ink LLC. In November 2016, I published a short story in their Anthology, Tales From Our Write Side. The CEO and CFO at the time sent out contracts via email. A year passed, and then another, and with being sick and unable to concentrate on anything another year had come. In March 2019, I was tagged in OWS Ink Published Authors Group due to a few authors complaining about not receiving royalties for Anthologies for the past three years. I voiced my concerns and consulted a lawyer immediately who pointed out that OWS Ink did not have a legal and binding contract and they were, in fact, infringing upon my copyright. I sent OWS Ink a cease and desist letter, first in the group chat and then to their email. I received no response. I have been speaking out to authors in other groups and trying to get the word out. The other authors who spoke up will not go public. I stand behind my accusations and have screenshots to prove every word. Even after I was reassured that Tales from Our Write Side Anthology was taken down I kept checking. Currently, the Anthology is still available on Amazon and Heidi Angell and Amanda Lynn Hester (A.K.A. Amanda Mabry), along with people employed under them continue to infringe on my copyright and bad name me in groups on facebook. I would like to warn the authors, but I need help. Soon it will appear as if I am acting as a 'troll' a 'psycho'.

    Here is the Amazon link.

    https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Our-Write-Side-Anthology/dp/1946382000/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_3?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=YR167VP82CFH63H5E1RS

    Who's author page it comes from = https://www.amazon.com/A.-L.-Mabry/e/B010FLI6X6?ref=dbs_p_pbk_r00_abau_000000

    Here is the link in a group where I was being attacked by one of their employees.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/474324559254393/permalink/2445793318774164/ (This is also the same link I added as a guest to the writer Beware page.)

    Please add this publisher to your list. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Details
    i paid stonewall for a display of my book , this coming book expo, but when I check with book expo stonewall is not there, so I think no stonewall during book expo, I plan to be there , I think wasted my money,

    ReplyDelete
  30. Elizabeth Abel, I've gotten your posts and will respond to you elsewhere (since OWS, whatever its sins, is not a clone).

    Anonymous 5/24, I just checked the BEA website, and Stonewall Press is listed as an exhibitor: https://www.bookexpoamerica.com/en/Exhibitors/5760309/Stonewall-Press. Among the "services" these scams are careful to fulfill are their book fair packages, partly because they're so lucrative and partly because the fairs are high-profile events that the scammers can use to convince their victims that they are doing everything else they promised (which they are not). That doesn't mean you didn't waste your money, though. Book fair displays by companies like Stonewall are completely ineffective for book promotion (book fairs are not for authors, but for publishers and industry professionals), and are a major ripoff. I'm sorry to be harsh, but that's the reality.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Anonymous

    Page Turner Press and Media is owned by:
    Winelyn (Winn) Dinoy (aka Gwen)
    Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/ixiaxeth (last name on FB account is an alias)
    Address: Cogon Cordova, Lapu Lapu, Cebu City Philippines

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thank you very much for the listing of iffy marketers; I came across it at just the right time to help us decide NOT to get involved with a group that contacted us quite persistently about writing our newly published book into a screenplay!

    ReplyDelete
  33. I published my first book " It's all about
    Something" last Dec. 2017 via Xlibris. I paid a substantial amount for the company's multiple marketing programs but so far they have not been very productive.

    Because of this I latched on to proposals by companies that I now realize is similar to the ones you wrote about....scammers all.

    I'm still getting a lot of calls from these companies and when I tell them about my bad experience... they start bloviating about the quality of their services.So disgusting.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I have been contacted recently by a company called "parchment global publishing" and I'm not sure if they are legit or not. Here's their website: https://parchmentglobalpublishing.com/, it looks convincing but I still have doubts. Can anyone give me some advise?

    ReplyDelete
  35. "Publishing is a journey that Parchment Global will take you to a different new level of expertise. We will guide you to your own travel of publishing and markteting destination."

    Check out all the errors in those two sentences. A professional service would never put out something like this.

    Parchment Global Publishing is a clone. It's got all the markers: solicitation, Author Solutions-style publishing packages, bad English on display everywhere, plenty junk marketing, and absolutely no verifiable information about the company or its staff. Despite its claim of helping writers "for years", its web domain was only registered last October.

    Guess I have another one to add to my list!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Thanks for the thorough and helpful info. I receive several calls and emails per week from varied agencies, which I had concluded were scams, but you filled in all the missing puzzle pieces. Again, thank you!

    ReplyDelete