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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 focusing primarily on small press and self-published authors (particularly authors who've published with one of the Author Solutions imprints), these companies recruit writers with relentless--and highly deceptive--phone and email solicitations. Some do provide the services authors pay for, albeit at seriously inflated prices and 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.

Given how fast the scams are proliferating (I learn about a new one every few weeks), I thought it would be helpful to gather all the information I've put together about them in one place.

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
- Solicitation Alert: LitFire Publishing
- Amelia Publishing and Amelia Book Company: Sons of LitFire Publishing
- Solicitation Alert: Book-Art Press Solutions and Window Press Club
- Solicitation (and Plagiarism) Alert: Legaia Books / Paperclips Magazine

A list of the scams themselves--at least, the more than 50 I've identified so far (the list is also posted in the sidebar). You'll note that a number of them operate under more than one name:

- Access Media Group / Quill Space Media
- Ace Media Creative Publication / Ace Media International / APM Media Production
- Alpha Books Solutions
- Alpha Books United
- Ascribed LLC
- AuthorAide
- AuthorCentrix (formerly BookBlastPro)
- AuthorLair
- Author University
- Black Lacquer Press & Marketing
- Book Art Press Solutions / Window Press Club
- Book Avenue Publishing / Nivra Press
- Book Magnets
- Book Reads Publishing
- BookTrail Agency / Book Agency Plus
- Book Vine Press
- BookVenture Publishing
- BookWhip / Carter Press
- Box Office Media Creatives / Buzz Media Creatives
- Capstone Media Services
- Creative Titles Media / TrueMedia Creatives
- Diamond Media Press
- Dream Books Distribution
- EC Publishing
- Global Summit House
- Gold Touch Press
- Goldman Agency
- Legaia Books
- Lettra Press
- LitFire Publishing / Amelia Publishing / Amelia Book Company / GoToPublish
- Maple Leaf Publishing
- MatchStick Literary / AuthorPro Creatives and Marketing
- McNaughton Books / McNaughton Publishing
- Media City Publishers
- Netsfilm & Media Press
- New Leaf Media
- New Reader Media
- Okir Publishing /ADbook Press / Coffee Press
- Outstrip
- PageTurner Press
- Parchment Global Publishing
- Paramount Books Media
- Press To Impress Publishing
- Readers Magnet
- Royale House
- Rushmore Press
- Sherlock Press
- Stonewall Press / Uirtus Solutions
- Stratton Press
- Toplink Publishing
- Universal Books Solutions
- URLink Print and Media
- Vivlio (Vivlio Hill, Vivlio Hill Publishing, Vivlio Solutions, Vivlio Marketing Solutions)
- Westwood Books Publishing / Authors Press / Creative Books
- The Writer Central / IdeoPage Press Solutions
- Writers Republic
- YourOnlinePublicist
- Zeta Publishing

(I'm continuously updating this list--adding new companies as I discover them, deleting 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!

30 comments :

Kanoy said...

This isn't foolproof, but if you want to find out if a person is Filipino, have them say "I want to take a journey to your country". If they pronounce journey as joorney and country as count (like Dracula) - ree, ask if they're on Luzon or Cebu, because they've just confirmed their nationality.

I live in Southern Leyte and go to Cebu every month or so. Being a call center worker (especially receiving and not making calls) is actually a high paying and rather prestigious job here.

Allen F said...

And we'll see replies telling of how good some of these scammers really are in 3 2 1 ... ;-)

Keep up the good work. When they whine you know you're impacting their bottom line.

Stephen Bentley said...

Like Kanoy, I too live in the Philippines. I would suggest a surefire way of telling if Filipinos are writing their scam emails is the wrong use of singular and plurals. Note the use of "feedbacks" instead of feedback. It's a dead giveaway every time.

Of course, I am not saying they are all scammers here but there is a scam cottage industry not just in the publishing world but also in the online dating world.

You do a great job, Victoria. So much so, I have started Tweeting your blog posts using your RSS Feed. I am @StephenBentley8 on Twitter.

Christine Tripp said...

The absolute easiest way to tell if a solicitation phone call or email is a scam.... is that they Contacted you in the first place! Publishers, Agents, just DON'T! The only time you'll be contacted is if you have submitted to them! So simple.

But I want to scream when I see the broken, beaten and bruised english used and scratch my head in wonder, that someone who prides themselves on writing doesn't see a problem when they get an email or call from a "Publisher" that can't construct a simple paragraph or even a sentence!

"our legal AUTHORITIES HAD taken necessary THINGS INTO ACTION to put these OPPOSING PEOPLE IN THEIR RIGHT PLACES" huh?

(where are the laugh emoji's when you need them?)

Wordrefiner said...

I am posting your blog links on my website and I am sharing your blog on my Twitter, Facebook accounts and LinkedIn. I greatly appreciate the service and information you provide. My website is https://www.wordrefiner.com

PT Dilloway said...

Doesn't the Philippines have any libel laws? Hopefully people are smart enough to realize what they say about Writer Beware is pure bull.

Viv Sang said...

Thank you for all your warnings. they are most helpful. And as Christine Tripp says, if the contact you, it'll be a scam.

Anonymous said...

Back when I was a newbie at this writing game, Writer Beware was my go-to to stay out of trouble. Thanks so much. BTW, my first and best lesson was: if they ask for money, fuhgeddaboudit!

Victoria Strauss said...

Thank you, Anonymous 9/03! Glad to have been of help.

Anonymous said...

I get the calls. I tell them to send it in writing and they hang up.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much, Victoria. I was about to fall for one of the Philippines companies you list - they said they wanted to republish my book that had already been published by another Philippines company! I was about to be caught twice!!
- Anonymous, 9/18/19.

Craig N Willis said...

Thank you, Victoria. I had been, as a newbie author, engaged in preliminary discussions with Dream Books Distribution, when a couple of incongruities raised some questions in my mind.
You will have saved me some considerable trouble. I am very grateful
So, the resulting question is: do you have a resource of REPUTABLE publicity experts for a self published author, whose publisher is not particularly focused on the publicity part of the business?
Again, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Can't just blame it to the Philippines
The employees are still cheaply paid regardless of the very expensive packages being offered.
And guess what, they are backed by foreigners.. Americans mostly, there's Canadian.
They are the ones who trained the pinoy and makes the pinoy lie about stuff.. You should know that also, Americans/Canadians are the ones hiring the people in the Philippines to do the scamming.. your own people

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 9/19,

You're absolutely right--these scams are rooted in the business practices of companies like Author Solutions and Tate Publishing, which outsourced so much of their business overseas because it was cheaper, and trained hundreds of Filipino employees in the deceptive, hard-sell tactics that are these companies' hallmarks.

That's not the employees' fault, and it's no wonder that poorly-paid people, seeing how easily writers are deceived and how much money can be extracted from them, decided to grab a piece of the pie by setting up their own publishing and marketing services.

Problem is, they're not just running Author Solutions imitation businesses (which would be bad enough, considering how AS takes advantage of writers). They are ruthlessly scamming people, with lies, insane prices, and non-delivery of services.

So...yeah. These scams arise directly from the business practices of American companies (as I've made clear in my posts). But it's Filipinos doing the scamming, and the Filipino origin of these companies is one of their unique shared characteristics. So I'll continue to warn about them by pointing out, among other things, where they are located.

Laura K. Curtis said...

They're also getting better at faking their names. "New Leaf Media" is clearly a ripoff of "New Leaf Literary & Media," which is a completely legitimate agency. The closer they can make their names to legitimate publishing houses and agencies, the more confusion they'll engender.

Anonymous said...

You said it! I was almost fooled by that, and thank goodness I took a closer look at the link address!

Anonymous said...

I think you can add Folio Avenue Publishing to the list as well. Also sounded Filipino, cold call, marketing scam.

Anonymous said...

I just received an email from Ralph Louis of Parchment Global Publishing encouraging me to interview with Al Cole on the CBS Radio program, People of Distinction. Thanks to your Web site, I now know that this is a scam. For others out there, beware of Ralph Louis from Parchment Global Publishing, phone number 1-610-686-3222

Laura K. Curtis said...

Got a letter today from EC. Good grief. I wish I could remember the name of the one who actually had the nerve to call me on the phone,.

Jacquelyn N'Jai said...

WOW after all these years Poetry.com is still able to defraud people. ZIt put my poetry on calendars, cups, etc., and was selling them without my consent. I tried getting info to sue them, but they kept changing their names. Why do federal and state agencies allow them to get away with this?

Laura K. Curtis said...

McNaughton Books just called a friend of mine with this scam. They might have been the same one who called me. I think they get your phone number from your copyright application, because I am not listed under the name I publish under.

Victoria Strauss said...

Laura,

Did you use one of the Author Solutions imprints? That's how the scams get hold of a lot of people: they have access to AS customer information.

I've heard from three people now (including you) about McNaughton Books. I found its website, and it's classic clone: solicitations, bad English, fake "about" info (they claim to have been in business since 2010 but their domain was only registered last April), re-publishing offers, Author Solutions-style publishing packages, junk marketing.

So: McNaughton Books is another scam. I've added it to the ever-growing list.

Anonymous said...

I don't think parchment global publishing is a scam, i just did an interview with Al Cole sponsored by parchment

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 10/21,

How much were you asked to pay for your interview with Mr. Cole?

Anonymous said...

Is Folio Avenue Publishing and Marketing on the scam list? Do you have any info on this company? They are out of San Francisco, California. They contacted me today by cold call and gave me a pitch on physical book store placement of my self published children's book. They want $600.00 per store to place one book in each store for a 3 month campaign. Any info would be most helpful. Thanks.

Unknown said...

I am being contacted by Brimingstone Press. I am skeptical. Do you know if they are legit?

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 10/21,

I've gotten a number of questions about Folio Avenue, which has many of the markers of a Philippines-based publishing and marketing scam (including solicitation and junk services)--but I haven't added it to my list because it is actually US-based and its owner is identifiable and traceable, neither of which is typical of the Philippines scams.

What you're being offered is still a ripoff, though. You may well be able to get some shelf placement for your book yourself, for free, by approaching store managers individually as a local author.

Unknown 10/25,

Like Folio Avenue, Brimingstone Writer Services (not Brimingstone Press) has lots of scam markers: solicitation, no info on the company or staff, typos on the website, and all the usual suspects in terms of worthless ripoff marketing (press releases, book fairs, even a "book to screen" package). No prices on the website, which is almost always a marker for big bucks.

However, it too is US-based. I was able pretty quickly to trace it to this guy, Lemuel Sapian, who is based in Texas and owns or administers several businesses under the "Brimingstone" label, including an IT company and a landscaping service. He's an "aspiring minister", so apparently persuading unwary writers to buy overpriced, bogus "services" doesn't disturb his Christian conscience.

So Brimingstone isn't a Philippines scam, but based on what's on offer (and the quality of the two Brimingstone-built author websites I found), it's still a ripoff. Writer Beware says AVOID.

Anonymous said...

Add "Pearson Media Groups" and "Pearson Media Agency" to this prestigious list!

Lemuel Sapian said...

Hi Victoria,

I appreciate your candor and the service you do for your fellow authors. At first the temptation is to cringe at the negativity, but it's understandable, especially in this day and age of dishonest schemes and scams. I too, have been victim of several in my time. It would be disingenuous to suggest a business owner isn't out to make money, but in our capitalist society I'm cognizant that poor service means dwindling business.

So, I'm happy to provide the services we advertise, to the satisfaction of each of our clients. That has been my personal pledge from the beginning. As to my conscience in "persuading unwary writers to buy overpriced, bogus 'services'", what I will say is this; before entering this industry I invested time, money and effort learning online marketing. That's how I know it's not easy or cheap (if you want quality).

The price of our services covers a little profit and the overhead just like any product or service advertised and offered out there. There may be those who may balk at the price. That is fine; they are welcome to put their own time, labor and money to accomplish what they want. But if anyone does purchase our services, I will personally pledge to see to their satisfaction.

While I understand the hesitancy and suspicion given all the scams out there, I'd like to prove there are honest and decent business owners that will lose sleep to make sure they give what they say they will in exchange for the trust their consumers place on them.

Again, thank you for the work you do. It keeps us business owners honest and aware that while making money is nice, good service is better.

Kind regards,

Lemuel V. Sapian
Chief Executive Officer
Brimingstone Writer Services

support@brimingstonewriters.com

Victoria Strauss said...

Thanks for your comment, Lemuel.

Regardless of your intentions, the services you're offering--notably, press releases, book fair display, and book trailers--are largely worthless for book promotion, and a waste of money no matter how much authors are asked to pay. The book-to-screen package is, frankly, exploitative--selling screenplays to production houses is far harder than selling books to traditional publishers, and mostly done through agents, not "pitches."

If you'd like to appear more reputable and transparent, I suggest you provide prices on your website, rather than requiring writers to contact you to find out. I'd suggest you provide a full list of staff, with bios--not just for the company in general, but also those who provide the services you offer, so that writers can assess their (and your) bona fides. Finally, I suggest you provide examples (sample websites, book trailers) and success stories (book to screen, marketing successes), to illustrate the effectiveness of your products. Without those, potential clients have no way to judge the quality of your offerings, or to know whether they are producing results.

 
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