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

August 23, 2019

Universal Book Solutions: Anatomy of a Book-to-Screen Scam


Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®

Selling film rights to Hollywood is among writers' most fevered dreams. And where there is something that writers want or need, there are always sharks waiting to take advantage.

The Hollywood book-to-screen "marketing" package was pioneered by Author Solutions, way back in the early 2000s. All the Author Solutions imprints offer it, including the imprints AS runs for publishers. Here's what the package looks like, from AS imprint Xlibris:
  • Hollywood Ticket: coverage by a "professional reader." Cost: $999.00.
  • Hollywood First Act: a synopsis, "critical analysis", and "45- 60-second teaser Book Video" for "catching film executives' attention". Cost: $2,999.00.
  • Hollywood Director's Cut: an 8-10 page treatment by a "professional screenwriter", plus "consideration" by Author Solutions' "first-look Hollywood partner". Cost: $3,899.00
  • Hollywood Producer's Pick: this is the big kahuna, a full screenplay written by a screenwriter, plus consideration by AS's first-look partner. Cost: $16,299.00. Note that the screenplay is based on "your approved Hollywood Treatment", which you must previously have purchased--so the real cost of this option is $20,198.00.
Although a handful of other assisted self-publishing companies have offered similar packages over the years (here's the one from Bookstand Publishing, for instance; Outskirts Press also had one for a time, though it seems to have been discontinued), Author Solutions hasn't faced a lot of competition in the high-priced Hollywood dream exploitation business--primarily, I'm guessing, because of the cost and coordination involved in providing the coverage, critiques, treatments, and screenplays to the authors who buy them.

That's changed recently, though.

An explosion of book-to-screen "services" has hit the internet, courtesy of the Author Solutions copycat scams that I've been writing about so much lately (there's a complete list in the sidebar). Author Reputation Press, Coffee Press, Dream Books Distribution, Media City Publishers, Paramount Books Media, Book Art Press, New Reader Media, BookVenture, Pearson Media Groups, MatchStick Literary, and more all offer some version of the Author Solutions book-to-screen package, either on their websites or in their (extremely aggressive) phone and email solicitations.

The value of any book-to-screen package is highly debatable, regardless of who provides it. Vendors of such "services" play on authors' dreams of making it big, while failing to provide any kind of realistic information about the extreme unlikelihood of success. Most books never sell or option film rights (they're among the subsidiary rights least likely to be exploited, even for successful authors with top-flight agents), and it's far harder to sell a screenplay than it is a book manuscript. For most authors, the most probable result of buying a book-to-screen package is a smaller bank account.

And that's assuming that the vendor actually provides the advertised services, and doesn't just take the money and run. Author Solutions, at least, does seem to produce the coverage, etc., it sells, in a reasonably literate manner (you'll see some examples if you read on)--though of course, like paid reviews, the critiques and coverage are likely to be customer-friendly--that is, unrealistically positive.

The copycats, on the other hand...they don't exactly have the greatest track records for quality, reliability, or service. Or honesty.

An example: Universal Book Solutions, which styles itself "a Book-to-Screen Marketing Professional, with years of experience in working for motion picture projects for producers, agents, directors, and major studios in Hollywood." As usual with the Author Solutions copycat scams, there's no information that would allow you to verify any of these claims--no list of owners or staff, no company history, no examples of successful projects. That's no accident, of course.

A sensible person might also wonder about the quality of written materials produced by a "Book-to-Screen Marketing Professional" that puts out website text like this (English-language lapses are one of the markers for the copycat scams):


Here's how UBS's slightly more literate email pitch begins (I've seen two of these now, and they're identical):

The email goes on to detail the services on offer--news release, coverage, treatment, and screenplay--in language that has been lifted directly from the Xlibris (and other Author Solutions imprints) book-to-screen package. As further inducement, a bunch of glowing--and conveniently unverifiable--quotes are appended at the end. Turns out that these too have been lifted, though from a different (and, in its way, equally questionable) source.


Anonymous testimonials are the best kind, right?

Last but not least, UBS includes several attachments--supposedly, examples of its work:


"Sample coverage" is this. Looks surprisingly literate and detailed, doesn't it? But wait. Here it is again...on the iUniverse website (the book was published by another Author Solutions imprint). Ditto for UBS's "sample treatment:" here's what UBS sent. Here it is at iUniverse (which also published the book in question).

(As for The Little Prince screenplay, I can't find any evidence of it online, but given all the other borrowing, it's sure to have been snitched from somewhere.)

So...a plagiarized book-to-screen package, promoted with plagiarized text, further promoted with plagiarized testimonials, and finished with sample documents produced by others and falsely presented as UBS's work. If you hand over your money to these folks (neither of the authors I heard from went far enough into the process to get a price), what do you think the odds are of getting any of the promised products?

Universal Book Solutions claims a Florida address (per a Google search, it's a private residence in what looks like a condo community), but has no business registration in that state. Its web domain was registered just last February. As for Allen Gardner, Project Manager, guess where he's located.
UBS is an especially egregious example of this increasingly common scam. But as noted above, there are many others, and they are aggressively soliciting authors, especially those who have published with Author Solutions imprints, small presses, and pay-to-play companies like Christian Faith Publishing and Page Publishing. Be on your guard, and if you hear from a company that wants to take you to Hollywood--for a price--remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

For a much more realistic discussion of the book-to-screen process, see Jane Friedman's excellent article, How a Book Becomes a Movie. Scroll down to the final comments to see one from a writer who was solicited by Universal Book Solutions.

August 16, 2019

From the Philippines, Not With Love: A Plague of Publishing and Marketing Scams


Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®

I've been expending a lot of words and time lately warning about the latest scam phenomenon to hit the writing world: fake publishing and marketing companies that, through outrageous prices and worthless services, extract enormous amounts of money from unwary writers.

Based in the Philippines (despite their apparent US addresses, phone numbers, and telemarketer names) and preying primarily on the elderly and on writers who've self-published (particularly with one of the Author Solutions imprints), these companies recruit authors with relentless--and highly deceptive--phone and email solicitations. Thanks to the pandemic and the popularity of streaming, one of the most common solicitations at the moment is an "offer" to pitch books to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and others for film or series adaptation.

Some of the scams do provide at least some of the services authors pay for, albeit at seriously inflated prices, often of poor quality. Others just take the money and run. I'm hearing from a growing number of writers who've paid five figures in fees to one--or, in some cases, more than one--of these scams, with next to nothing to show for it. 

The scams share a cluster of characteristics that make them reasonably easy to identify.

- Cold-call solicitations by phone and email (always be wary of these, no matter what they're for)
- Re-publishing offers (since most of their targets are self-published authors)
- Claims of expertise that can't be verified (or can be easily refuted, for instance if they claim years of experience but their web domain was only registered a few months ago)
- English-language errors on websites and in emails and telemarketers with foreign accents (since the scams are owned and staffed by people for whom English is a second language)
- A catalog of junk marketing services (services of dubious value that are cheap to provide and can be sold at a huge markup, including press releases, email blasts, book trailers, social media posts, paid reviews and radio interviews, and the like).

A selection of my posts about the scams--where they come from, how they work, and how to recognize them:

- Army of Clones: Author Solutions Spawns a Legion of Copycats
- Army of Clones Part 2: Twenty-One (More) Publishing and Marketing "Services" to Beware Of
- Vanity Radio: Why You Should Think Twice Before Paying For an Interview

Below is a list of the scams themselves--at least, the more than 125 I've identified so far (the list is also posted in the sidebar of this blog). You'll note that a number of them operate under more than one name--I suspect the interconnection is much greater than this, but I've only indicated additional names where I've been able to reliably document them.

Some have perished since I began the list--I've noted this, but left their names for the sake of authors who may have been scammed while they were operational.

- Access Media Group (aka Quill Space Media) (Quill Space Media is defunct)
- Ace Media Creative Publication / Ace Media International / APM Media Production (aka Pearson Media Group) (defunct under the Ace name, still doing business as Pearson Media)
- Adaptations Tide
- ADBooks Press (aka Coffee Press / Okir Publishing) (all three names are defunct)
- Adverters, The (aka Sherlock Press)
- Alpha Books Solutions
- Alpha Books United
- Amelia Publishing / Amelia Book Company (aka LitFire Publishing / GoToPublish)
- AnalytIQ (defunct)
- Ascribed LLC (defunct)
- Author Aide
- Author Codex (aka BookSpine Press) (BookSpine Press is defunct)
- Author Media Express (aka Book Art Press Solutions / Booktimes / Bookwhip / Carter Press / PR Media Solutions / Pearson Media Groups / Stephenson and Queen / Window Press Club) (Carter Press, PR Media Solutions, and Window Press Club are defunct)
- Author Pro Creatives and Marketing (aka Matchstick Literary) (Author Pro Creatives is defunct)
- Author Reputation Press
- Author Shack (defunct)
- Author University
- AuthorCentrix (formerly BookBlastPro) (defunct)
- AuthorLair
- Authors Avenue Media Group
- Authors Legacy (defunct)
- Authors Note 360 (website still online, but mostly nonfunctional)
- Authors Press (aka Westwood Books Publishing [formerly Greenberry] / Creative Books)
- Authors' Tranquility Press
- Beacon Books Agency (aka Fact & Fiction Entertainment and Literary Agency)
- Black Lacquer Press & Marketing
- Blue Ink Scribble
- BooConn Marketing
- Book Agency Plus (aka BookTrail Agency)
- Book Art Press Solutions (aka Author Media Express / Booktimes / Bookwhip / Carter Press / PR Media Solutions / Pearson Media Groups / Stephenson and Queen / Window Press Club) (Carter Press, PR Media Solutions, and Window Press Club are defunct)
- Book Avenue Publishing (aka Nivra Press) (both are defunct)
- Book Chambers, The
- Book Magnets
- Book Masters, The
- Book Reads Publishing (defunct)
- Book Vine Press
- BookSpine Press (aka Author Codex) (defunct, but still doing business as Author Codex)
- Booktimes (aka Book Art Press Solutions / Book Art Press Solutions / Bookwhip / Carter Press / PR Media Solutions / Pearson Media Group / Stephenson and Queen / Window Press Club) (Carter Press, PR Media Solutions, and Window Press Club are defunct)
- BookTrail Agency (aka Book Agency Plus)
- Books Scribe
- BookVenture Publishing
- BookWhip (aka Author Media Express / Book Art Press Solutions / Booktimes / Carter Press / PR Media Solutions / Pearson Media Group / Stephenson and Queen / Window Press Club) (Carter Press, PR Media Solutions, and Window Press Club are defunct)
- Box Office Media Creatives (aka Buzz Media Creatives) (Buzz Media Creatives is defunct)
- BrandingNemo
- Bright Lights Distribution
- Buzz Media Creatives (aka Box Office Media Creatives) (defunct under the Buzz name, still doing business as Box Office Media Creatives)
- Capstone Media Services (aka Stampa / Stampa Global) (defunct under the Capstone name, still doing business as Stampa)
- Carter Press (aka Author Media Express / Book Art Press Solutions / Booktimes / BookWhip / PR Media Solutions / Pearson Media Groups / Stephenson and Queen / Window Press Club) (defunct, but still doing business as Author Media Express, Book Art Press Solutions, Booktimes, BookWhip, and Pearson Media Group)
- Chapters Media & Advertising (defunct) (aka Techbooks Media (defunct) / Fresh Pages Media and Advertising (defunct) / Editor's Press and Media / Editor's Creative Media (website dead) / Silver Ink Literary Agency) 
- Coffee Press (aka Okir Publishing / ADBooks Press) (all three names are defunct)
- ConquerPress
- Creative Books (aka Westwood Books Publishing / Authors Press)
- Creative Titles Media  (aka TrueMedia Creatives) (both defunct)
- Crest Media Distribution (defunct)
- DC Media Creative
- Diamond Media Press
- Dream Books Distribution (website is dead)
- EC Publishing
- Editor's Creative Media (aka Editor's Press and Media) (website is dead, but still dba under the second name)
- Editor's Press and Media (aka Editor's Creative Media (website is dead) / Silver Ink Literary Agency / Chapters Media & Advertising (defunct)  / TechBooks Media (defunct)
- Fact & Fiction Entertainment and Literary Agency (aka Beacon Books Agency)
- FilmHatch Media Productions
- Filmways Pictures Media
- Folio Avenue Publishing
- Fox Media (aka Silver Fox Media)
- Fresh Pages Media and Advertising (defunct) (see Chapters Media & Advertising)
- Glasslink Solutions
- Global Summit House
- Gold Touch Press
- Golden Ink Media Services (website has a "dangerous page" warning) (aka Pen Culture Solutions   / Green Sage Agency)
- Goldman Agency
- GoToPublish (aka LitFire Publishing / Amelia Publishing / Amelia Book Company)
- Great Writers Media
- Green Sage Agency (aka Pen Culture Solutions)
- Happy Media Consulting (website is dead)
- Haynes Marketing + Media
- Haystack Creatives (aka Rustik Haws) 
- IdeoPage Press Solutions (aka The Writer Central) (defunct under both names)
- Ingress Advertising
- Innocentrix (aka PageTurner Press and Media)
- Jurnal Press
- Kilmer Press Solutions
- Legaia Books (apparently defunct)
- Lettra Press (aka Pen House LLC)
- Lime Press
- LitFire Publishing (aka Amelia Publishing / Amelia Book Company / GoToPublish)
- LitPrime Publishing / LitPrime Solutions
- Mainspring Books
- Maple Leaf Publishing
- Martin and Bowman
- MatchStick Literary (aka Author Pro Creatives and Marketing) 
- McNaughton Books / McNaughton Publishing (website is currently dead)
- The Mulberry Books
- Netsfilm & Media Press (defunct)
- New Leaf Media (not to be confused with New Leaf Literary, a reputable agency)
- New Reader Media
- Nivra Press (aka Book Avenue Publishing) (both are defunct) 
- Odyssey Media Press
- Okir Publishing (aka ADbooks Press / Coffee Press) (all three names are defunct)
- Optage Publishing (defunct)
- Orions Media Agency
- Outstrip (defunct)
- PR Media Solutions LLC (aka Author Media Express / Book Art Press Solutions / Booktimes / Bookwhip / Carter Press / Pearson Media Group / Stephenson and Queen / Window Press Club) (defunct, but still doing business as Author Media Express, Book Art Press Solutions, Booktimes, BookWhip, and Pearson Media Group)
- Pacific Books Publishing (defunct)
- PageClapp Media
- PageTurner, Press and Media (aka Innocentrix)
- Paper Bytes Marketing Solutions (aka Editors Press and Media / Editors Creative Media / Silver Ink Literary Agency) (formerly Chapters Media)
- PaperChase Solution
- Parchment Global Publishing (aka Word Dominion International)
- Paradigm Print
- Paramount Books Media (website is dead)
- Pearson Media Group (aka Ace Media Creative Publication / Ace Media International / Book Art Press Solutions / Booktimes / Bookwhip / Carter Press / Window Press Club) (Carter Press, PR Media Solutions, and Window Press Club are defunct)
- Pearson's Media and Consultancy
- Pen Culture Solutions
- Pen House (aka Lettra Press)
- Picador Media Works
- Pioneer Productions
- Polaris Interstellar
- Press To Impress Publishing (defunct)
- Primeway Media Services
- Pubkits.com
- Quill Space Media (aka Access Media Group) (defunct, but still doing business as Access Media Group)
- Rainbow Experts
- Readers Magnet
- Right Choice Multimedia (aka West Literary Agency)
- Royale House (defunct)
- Rushmore Press
- Rustik Haws (aka Haystack Creatives) (Rustik Haws website is dead; Haystack Creatives still in business)
- Sherlock Press (aka The Adverters) (Sherlock is defunct, Adverters still in business)
- Silver Fox Media (aka Fox Media Studios)
- Silver Ink Literary Agency (aka Editors Press and Media / Editor's Creative Media / Paper Bytes Marketing Solutions) (also see Chapters Media)
- SPARK Literary and Marketing
- Stampa / Stampa Global (formerly Capstone Media Services)
- Stellar Literary Press and Media
- Stephenson and Queen (aka BookWhip / Author Media Express / Book Art Press Solutions / Booktimes / Carter Press / PR Media Solutions / Pearson Media Group / Window Press Club) (Carter Press, PR Media Solutions, and Window Press Club are defunct)
- Stonewall Press (aka Uirtus Solutions) (both defunct)
- Storium Press
- Stratton Press
- Supreme Media Corp (aka Editor's Press and Media and Editor's Creative Media)
- Techbooks Media (defunct) (aka Chapters Media & Advertising (defunct) / Editor's Press and Media / Editor's Creative Media / Paper Bytes Marketing Solutions / Silver Ink Literary Agency)
- Toplink Publishing
- TrueMedia Creatives (aka Creative Titles Media) (both defunct)
- Uirtus Solutions (aka Stonewall Press) (both defunct)
- Universal Book Solutions
- Universal Breakthrough, The (aka The Universal Pages)
- Universal Pages, The (aka The Universal Breakthrough)
- URLink Print and Media
- VHawk Solutions
- Vivlio (a.k.a. Vivlio Hill, Vivlio Hill Publishing, Vivlio Solutions, Vivlio Marketing Solutions)
- West Literary Agency (aka Right Choice Multimedia)
- WestPoint Print and Media
- Westwood Books Publishing (formerly Greenberry) (aka Authors Press / Creative Books)
- Window Press Club (aka Author Media Express / Book Art Press Solutions, Booktimes, Bookwhip / Carter Press, PR Media Solutions / Pearson Media Group / Stephenson and Queen) (defunct, but still doing business as Author Media Express, Book Art Press Solutions, Booktimes, and BookWhip)
- Word Dominion International (aka Parchment Global Publishing)
- Word Art Publishing
- WorkBook Press
- The Writer Central (aka IdeoPage Press Solutions) (defunct under both names)
- Writers Apex
- Writers Book Publishing House (aka Writers Desks LLC)
- Writers' Branding
- Writers Desks LLC (aka Writers Book Publishing House)
- The Writers Gallery
- YourOnlinePublicist
- Zeta Publishing

(I'm continuously updating this list--adding new companies as I discover them, noting the ones that disappear.)

I know my warnings are having an effect, not just because I'm hearing from writers who've found my posts or my list and have been able to avoid being ripped off, but because some of the scams are getting...a little defensive. Book-Art Press now includes this in its solicitation emails:
The links are to anti-Writer Beware screeds from people WB has exposed.

The grievance is definitely on display in this one, from MatchStick Literary (it also showcases the scams' trademark fractured English):

See ya at Writer Beware, scammers!

UPDATE 12/10/19: I want to highlight this recent comment, which illustrates how ubiquitous and persistent these scams are. Bottom line: if you self-publish, you can pretty much count on being solicited. Be on your guard. (By "GoTo", I'm assuming the commenter means GoToPublish.)

UPDATE 11/13/20: The latest scammer love note, left as a comment here. Good to know I'm still hitting a nerve!


UPDATE 12/30/20: They still love me! I didn't let these comments through, but I did memorialize them.

August 9, 2019

KISS Library: Pirate Site Alert

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®

KISS Library has been shut down. Scroll down for updates.

I've gotten several alerts over the past week about a pirate site that's new to me (though not new: this warning was first published in September 2017): KISS Library, where many authors are finding unauthorized electronic versions of their books.

KISS Library differs from the typical pirate site in a couple of ways. Unlike, say, Ebook Bike, run by serial copyright thief and "information wants to be free" ideologue Travis McCrea, it doesn't simply offer pirated books for free download, but appears actually to be selling them. Also unlike Ebook Bike and other pirate sites, it seems to promptly respond to DMCA notices.

I found two of my own books listed.


I filled out the form on KISS's DMCA page, and within minutes my books vanished from the site. I also received this email:

Awwww. How nice. They're contrite! It's not their fault! They'll pay back the illicit profits! They are so transparent about the whole thing!

Except...it's bullshit. They send the exact same response to everyone. Here's someone who got it in July:


A friend of mine got it in March. Someone else got it in 2018. KISS seems to have concluded that it's better to lose a few listings (which can always be reinstated later) than to make waves by ignoring authors or telling them to f*ck off. It's a different strategy from the "fight everything" stance of many pirates, or those that send takedown notices into oblivion--and it's probably why KISS, with its huge, monetized catalog of pirated books, hasn't sparked the uproar other pirate sites have.

It's been suggested that KISS doesn't actually take down disputed books: it simply blocks the IP addresses of anyone who sends a DMCA request so they can't see that the books are still on offer. I've no idea if this is true.

Also, there's the question of whether KISS really offers the books at all--whether it's nothing more than an elaborate phishing scheme that uses books as bait. I followed purchase links all the way to the point of providing credit card info, but I didn't dare do more. This anti-piracy service, however, did:
So if you visit the site, be careful. Send the DMCA if you find your books, but don't try to test the system by buying anything.

KISS's About page features a photo of smiling millennials and a Canada address. KISS originally had a .com domain, registered in 2017 by a Gibraltar-based registrar that was shut down by ICANN this past March. Its current .net domain, which is just 6 months old, is registered to Legato LLC, a Russian company. Make of that what you will.

UPDATE: An update from the anti-piracy service:
So maybe there's no content on the site--just book covers--and all they're doing is taking the money and running.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Per this Facebook post from Tamara Thorne, the Authors Guild is aware of KISS Library and is preparing a statement on the status of the matter and steps they are taking. I'll link to or post it here when it's released.

UPDATE 8/10/19: Well, that didn't take long. Thanks to an alert commenter, I visited KISS Library this evening and found this:


Not only have they reinstated the two books I DMCA'd (with different covers; they're both backlist books that I re-published with Open Road Media), they've added my two other Open Road backlist books, and a pair of fake books put up by a Writer Beware-hating troll a few years ago as part of a harassment campaign. Think the KISS Library folks know about this post?

UPDATE 8/11/19: Oops, gone again (except for the two fake books that use my name). Someone is following Writer Beware!

UPDATE 7/9/20: Big-name Authors Guild members have joined with Amazon Publishing and Penguin Random House in a lawsuit against KISS Library, identifying KISS as a pirate site and demanding that it "be enjoined from illegally copying, distributing, and selling works written or published by the plaintiffs". This article from Publishing Perspectives provides detail, including statements from Amazon and PRH:
In a statement issued by an Amazon spokesperson to Publishing Perspectives, we read, “Combating piracy requires collaboration across the industry and Amazon Publishing is glad to join together with Penguin Random House and members of the Authors Guild in this suit against book piracy entity KISS Library. We are committed to holding bad actors accountable.”

And Carolyn Foley, Penguin Random House vice president, associate general counsel, tells Publishing Perspectives, “Pirate sites like KISS Library harm authors and publishers and threaten the quality and vitality of the authorship so fundamental to free and healthy democracy; we are proud to stand with our authors, the Authors Guild and Amazon against the scourge of piracy.”

UPDATE 9/1/20: KISS Library has been shut down by order of a federal judge, due to its failure to respond to the lawsuit.

The sweeping order effectively shuts down the operation in its current iteration, and seeks to block the defendants and any of their service providers—including payment processors, banks, ISPs, back-end service providers, and search engine or ad-word providers—from collaborating to distribute the plaintiff’s copyrighted works in the future.
 
Design by The Blog Decorator