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 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

Here's 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 of this blog). You'll note that a number of them operate under more than one name. 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 / Quill Space Media
- Ace Media Creative Publication / Ace Media International / APM Media Production / Pearson Media Groups
- Alpha Books Solutions
- Alpha Books United
- Ascribed LLC (defunct)
- AuthorAide
- AuthorCentrix (formerly BookBlastPro)
- AuthorLair
- Author Reputation Press
- Author University
- Beacon Books Agency
- Black Lacquer Press & Marketing
- Book Art Press Solutions / Window Press Club
- Book Avenue Publishing / Nivra Press
- Book Magnets
- Book Reads Publishing (defunct)
- BookTrail Agency / Book Agency Plus
- Book Vine Press
- Books Scribe
- BookVenture Publishing
- BookWhip / Carter Press
- Box Office Media Creatives / Buzz Media Creatives\
- Capstone Media Services (defunct)
- 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 (defunct) / ADbook Press / Coffee Press
- Outstrip (defunct)
- PageTurner Press
- Parchment Global Publishing
- Paradigm Print
- Paramount Books Media
- Press To Impress Publishing
- Pubkits.com
- Readers Magnet
- Royale House (defunct)
- Rushmore Press
- Sherlock Press (defunct)
- Stampa / Stampa Global (formerly Capstone Media Services)
- Stonewall Press / Uirtus Solutions (defunct)
- Stratton Press
- Toplink Publishing
- Universal Books Solutions
- URLink Print and Media
- Vivlio (Vivlio Hill, Vivlio Hill Publishing, Vivlio Solutions, Vivlio Marketing Solutions)
- WestPoint Print and Media
- 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!

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 count on being solicited. Be on your guard. (By "GoTo", I'm assuming the commenter means GoToPublish.)


40 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.

Lemuel Sapian said...

Fair enough. As for the marketing strategies, we are conducting ongoing research and implementing the best digital age ways of book promotion. With all due respect, not every author will arrive at the same success you have by utilizing the same methods you implemented. In any case, we work closely with authors, and work to competitively stay on top of the marketing industry by observing trends and apply several strategies.

We are a startup and are still rounding out our permanent staff, but I'll gladly put my info out there to take responsibility for the work my company does. Also, not everything is completely transparent in business but it's not necessarily out of a practice to deceive potential and current clients; often times it's a matter of keeping the competition at bay. Ever since we have had the work to show for it, we've gladly provided samples of our work in our service proposals, offer disclaimers where necessary, and I intend to keep that practice up, even if it takes a little more work and investment to accomplish because I believe in honest business.

I've ordered our web team to create a portfolio of our work to put up on our website. We will continue to add to it as the list of our accomplished work grows. Readers can check it out soon at: brimingstonewriters.com

Thank you for the response by the way! I do wish you and the staff of Writers Beware the best in all your endeavors.

Sincerely,

Lemuel V. Sapian
Brimingstone Writer Services

Cheryl Eckl said...

I was contacted by Parchment Global with an invitation to be interviewed by Al Cole. The cost for "air time" was going to be around $2000, depending on the time slot. I noticed a posting on this thread from Anonymous, who said they just did an interview with Al Cole. Will Anonymous please provide more information--Who are you, how much you paid, did Parchment Global then solicit you to use their self-publishing services? The person who contact me was from Parchment, not from Al Cole's show. All seemed very suspicious. I declined the offer.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your great service and wish I had known about it earlier on, when I had and have invested some monies into two of the above companies. I now put it down to experience, and wish I did not come from the believe in trust and honesty. I can see I have been hoodwinked, in one case two of the books have been published but the prices they charge are so prohibitive that no one will purchase them. The other, you guessed it a book fair. You have the names up above, so I will not add to the list but a third one approached me the other day, and now yesterday, another one, with offers. Having just started to investigate these offers, and yes they all had accents, and I know the ring in the background noise of it being overseas, so fortunately, I could see that , common sense is most useful in life and rather than just take people at their word, to investigate more fully their backgrounds. I just wanted to add what I have experienced, but it has taken many years out of my life, and the sad part is the legitimate publisher that I was to have first dealt with suffered a heart attack, and thus the firm dissolved, so I know the value of my books. This was my downfall. Nevermind, I will keep trying and I thank you for the work you do, and for waking me up to 'real life,' and the schemes that are out there to make a quick dollar. I blame the companies I dealth, one very large, and myself for being gullible.

Victoria Strauss said...

Cheryl,

Reputable radio interview hosts don't charge for interviews. This is what's known as vanity radio--pay to play, just like with book publishing. Basically what you'll get is an advertising clip that you can place on your website, but other than that, what kind of exposure you may get is unknown, since Mr. Cole's various website provide no audience statistics (and I suspect the numbers aren't large; despite the impressive-sounding credits on his resume, Mr. Cole doesn't have much of an online profile--just 115 subscribers on YouTube, for instance).

Also, since Mr. Cole's services would be sold to you through an intermediary, you can be certain there's a markup (probably a substantial one).

Nicole said...

Thankyou so much for your info. I was emailed by Word Art Press (which you already have) and also a scammer "Camry Valentine" from Pubkits.com. It had "CBS Radio Talk Show" in the subject heading. The email was very long, selling me a slot with Al Cole on his talk show which would air to 20 stations plus. It was orignally valued at $8000 but they were giving it to me for $2000. 😂 It was a very long email, with a track message at the bottom of it so the sender could see when and how many times I opened it. I want to warn all authors about it but are not sure how to. Could you add these guys to your list? I would really appreciate it. Thanks Nicole

Victoria Strauss said...

Hi, Nicole,

I'll definitely look into Pubkits.com. In the meantime, would you please forward me the long email you received? My address is beware@sfwa.org. All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence.

These Al Cole interview offers show how interconnected these scams are. They've been hawking vanity radio spots all along, from Ric Bratton and Kate Delaney (both of whom were also featured in offers from the various Author Solutions imprints)--but Al Cole is a new addition, and the different scams are adding him to their menu of junk marketing services at a rapid rate.

Victoria Strauss said...

Just an update: I've added Pubkits.com to the list. It ticks all the boxes: solicitation, unverifiable claims of expertise, bad English, junk marketing. Other clues include a design service named after a common Filipino street food (revealed when you go to pay for one of the sample covers on the site via PayPal).

Anonymous said...

Can you do a little bit more research before you post something like this? I have worked with Stampa in the past before they even ventured into self-publishing. What I do know though is that the same people who started CAPSTONE MEDIA SERVICES are the same people behind CREST MEDIA DISTRIBUTION SERVICES. Check Crest Media and tell me if I'm wrong. :)

Their website is https://crestmediadistribution.com/.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 12/03,

I always do my research before posting something. (As you should know--otherwise why would you be here, trying to do down a competitor?)

Stampa Global's website was only registered last August. I can't find any indication that any company called Stampa or Stampa Global existed before that time. So your claim to have worked with Stampa "before they even ventured into self-publishing" isn't really credible.

As to why I've linked it to Capstone Media Services: on various retailers' websites, Capstone Media books have magically transformed into Stampa Global books. Here's another example. There are many more. The internet does often make it hard to hide your tracks.

I do appreciate the mention of Crest Media--I hadn't encountered that one before. I'm not credulous enough to take your attempt at re-direction at face value, but I will check into it.

Anonymous said...

I self-published in 2013 with the help of a layout person who uploads directly to Lightening Source under an imprint he created -- no connection to Author Solutions or Tate. I started getting calls from Maple Leaf, GoTo, LitFire, Page Turner, and Writer Central last year. What's irritating is that they're now calling my landline (I still have one at home...I know, I know), AND my unlisted cellphone, AND my work phone. I've sometimes had them leave messages at all three locations in the same day.

GoTo just called me about five minutes ago. I know they're a scam, but I'm scared for all of those hopeful writers out there who don't realize that.

 
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