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.

December 11, 2019

Vanity Radio: Why You Should Think Twice Before Paying For an Interview


Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®

In a super-crowded, hyper-competitive marketplace, one of the main challenges for book authors is to stand out. And where there's a need, there are always unscrupulous operators waiting to take advantage. The internet is awash in worthless schemes and outright scams designed to profit from authors' hunger for publicity and exposure.

I've written about a number of these--Hollywood book-to-screen packages, the hugely marked-up PR options offered by Author Solutions, the plague of marketing scams originating in the Philippines. Others to watch out for include book fair display packages (publishing industry expert Jane Friedman has a good article on why these are not worth your money), pay-to-play book review services, and what I'm going to talk about in this post: vanity radio.

What's vanity radio? In the "writer beware" context, it's radio air time that you, the program guest, have to pay for. Such schemes have been around forever in various forms, aimed at experts and creatives of all kinds, from services that explicitly sell pay-to-play interviews, to show hosts that charge interview fees to defray the fees they themselves have to pay their platforms.

The main selling point is the promise that your interview will be heard by a large and eager audience, giving wide exposure to you and your book (see the pitches that I've pasted in below). But vanity radio is primarily online radio, delivered via platforms like Blog Talk Radio and Spreaker, and streaming services like iTunes, iHeart Radio, and SoundCloud. Online radio listenership is steadily rising, but unless there are subscriber lists (as on YouTube, for instance), there's usually no way to determine the audience for any given host or show--or to authenticate any listenership claims the show may make. Lots of people may be tuning in...or no one at all.

As a result, the only verifiable benefit authors may receive for their money is an audio or audio-and-video clip that they can post to their websites and social media accounts. Whether that's worth it when it costs $99 or $150 or $200 is debatable enough. But when the price tag is four figures?

As always in the realm of junk marketing aimed at writers, Author Solutions has been both the pioneer and the primary practitioner. All its imprints sell vanity radio in some form: here's AuthorHouse's offering, for instance (just $1,099!). iUniverse's is identical. Xlibris and Trafford currently sell teasers rather than interviews (for significantly more money), but through 2017 they too hawked interviews.

Recently, however, AS's leadership in the realm of predatory marketing services has been challenged by a flood of scammy imitators. These copycat ripoff factories have adopted vanity radio in a big way, and they aggressively hawk it to authors, both on its own and as part of costly publishing and marketing packages. Here, for instance, is an offer from Book Vine Press (cost: $1,500):

From Author Reputation Press (cost: £1,500):


From Parchment Global Publishing (cost: $1,499):


The copycats re-sell the services of a number of show hosts (there's a list below), but the three personalities noted above--Kate Delaney with America Tonight Radio, Ric Bratton with This Week in America, and Al Cole with People of Distinction--make the most frequent appearances on the copycats' websites and in their email solicitations. Delaney and Bratton have substantial, legit resumes in TV and radio; Cole is a bit harder to research, but he too seems to have a sizeable track record as a talk show host.

What, if anything, do they know of the reputation and tactics of the copycats that are re-selling their services? I contacted all three for comment last week. Cole's assistant responded in email that "Al Cole knew nothing about this....Our office will certainly look into this." As of this writing, I haven't heard back from Delaney or Bratton.

Given that the copycats routinely charge an enormous markup on products they re-sell (see, for instance, this warning from the Combined Book Exhibit, whose book fair exhibit packages many of the copycats re-sell for hugely inflated prices; the copycats also seriously jack up the fees for paid book reviews such as Kirkus Indie and BlueInk Reviews), it seems a fair bet that the interviews' hefty price tags are substantially inflated as well.

Apart from the question of such interviews' value for book promotion, that seems like reason enough to avoid them.

******

Author Solutions copycats that sell interviews from the individuals mentioned above:

BookVenture, ReadersMagnet, Maple Leaf Publishing, Parchment Global Publishing, Rustic Haws, Branding Nemo, Creative Titles Media, Paradigm Print, Stampa Global, Books Scribe, Matchstick Literary, PageTurner Press, Optage Publishing, EC Publishing, WestPoint Print and Media: Ric Bratton

LitFire Publishing, Author Reputation Press, ReadersMagnet, BookTrail Agency, Book-Art Press, Box Office Media Creatives, IdeoPage Press, Book Agency Plus, Optage Publishing: Kate Delaney


ReadersMagnetAuthor Reputation Press, Rustik Haws, URLink Print & Media, Workbook PressParchment Global Publishing, Optage Publishing, BookWhip: Al Cole


BookTrail Agency: David Serero

BookTrail Agency, Book Agency Plus: Angela Chester


UPDATE 1/9/19: Parchment Global has added the disclaimer in red to its solicitations for Al Cole interviews (it might want to do some proofreading):


I don't know if this was at Mr. Cole's behest (remember, he's the only vanity radio host who responded--if not very expansively--to my request for comment) or is just CYA by Parchment Global itself, but hey--it lets me know that the scammers are still reading my blog.

Do I believe Parchment Global has stopped taking a cut? What do you think?

UPDATE 3/9/21: This post seems to have struck a particular nerve with the scamsters; I get more insult comments on it than on most of my other posts about these scams. Mostly I delete them, but this one was so delightful I let it through:


At least it's a change from accusing me of running my own publishing company. 

31 comments :

PT Dilloway said...

Good thing I have a terrible voice for radio.

Allen F said...

So many ways to be conned - a good thing I don't have the money for them! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I'm probably being dense but I don't understand how the "reselling" of interviews with known radio personalities actually works.

Do these interviewers sell interviews at a much lower price and the company is functioning as a middleman without the interviewers permission? Does the company have a recording of set questions the interviewer asked a different writer/writers that they plug the answers into to piece an interview together? Is there a different person being paid by the company to impersonate the named interviewer during the recording? Do the companies just take the money and run? What's the deal?

However it works, it sounds awful for the interviewers since this could potentially damage their professional reputations if this is done in a really amateur way or being paid for but not delivered.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 12/15,

You're not dense. The whole enterprise is cloaked in mystery. There's no cost information on the shows' websites--or, indeed, anything on any of the websites to indicate that interviews are for sale. I contacted each host to ask what they charge, and received no response. I also--still--haven't gotten any response from Bratton or Delaney to my question about their relationship with the scam companies mentioned in my post.

My guess about how it works--and keep in mind that I don't know for sure, because none of the hosts responded to questions about their fees--is that the scams negotiate some kind of fee-per-interview deal with the hosts, and then re-sell those services at a markup. The hosts may not realize how big the markup is, but I can't imagine they don't know that their services are being sold on--in fact I've seen an email from Kate Delaney (responding to a skeptical writer) confirming that she is "contracted by publishing houses for Author interview campaigns". Even at a lower rate than the scams charge, the interviews have to be pretty lucrative for the hosts.

I've listened to some of the interviews, and they are real interviews by the hosts themselves, and are at least somewhat tailored to each writer's book--though I doubt the hosts do more than skim the book, if that, and the questions are the kind that can be asked just on the basis of reading a synopsis or back cover blurb. Delaney seems to do some pre-interview prep; I don't know about the others.

So writers who buy these interviews do get real interviews--but since the shows' audiences are unverifiable, the only tangible benefit (as indicated in my post) is the audio or audio/visual clip they get at the end. Whether that's worth four figures is seriously debatable.

Jeff Hecht said...

I've been getting telemarketing calls for Kate Delaney interviews, a live person asking about a specific book of mine -- "Beam Weapons," originally published in 1984, which I slightly revised and self republished a few years ago. The telemarketer got me on the phone once, and I quickly figured out what they were up to. I just got another one a day or two ago.

Victoria Strauss said...

Jeff, can you let me know which companies contacted you? I'm trying to keep track. Thanks.

ナガミツ said...

Rustik Haws wants me to authorize them to print my book. They say they will publisize it in coming BookExpo in New york. Were they there last year?

Victoria Strauss said...

Rustik Haws is a scam. The publication offer is a way to get you in the door so they can pressure you to buy overpriced, worthless, and substandard "marketing" services.

Like other scammers who offer book fair display, they will either have their own booth at the fair or place your book in the Combined Book Exhibit at the entrance to the fair. But this is not meaningful book promotion, regardless of what's claimed, and the scammers make a ton of money by displaying dozens or scores of books for which they've received hundreds or even thousands of dollars per book.

Unknown said...

Just got contacted from Access Media for an interview with Ric Bratton for $1600.00. They wanted a decision by the end of the week....I thought it was kinda pushy for that much money.

Anonymous said...

Is this company genuine? I paid for services...I am unable to contact them.

Victoria Strauss said...

Which company, Anonymous?

Howard Dando said...

Thanks for publishing this as a warning to others. The scammers never stop calling and every few months it's a new scammer with the same come-on about book fairs, radio interviews. Sad that people are so corrupt they to cheat others out of their money.

CarouselKisses said...

Are you saying that these radio hosts charge for interviews? If I deal directly with Bratton or Delaney, they charge for interviews? I was contacted by EC Publishing for an interview with Ric Bratton. $1899. They will shoulder the first $1000. I would have to pay $899. I said NO. I also contacted Bratton. He said he is legit and they work with several publishers/publicists.

Victoria Strauss said...

CarouselKisses,

I don't know what or if the hosts charge directly--for Kate Delaney and Ric Bratton, at least, I couldn't find any way for writers to inquire directly about interviews, and my emails asking about this were not answered. But they all sell interview services via a variety of scam companies. My guess is that either the companies give them a percentage of the author's fee, or else that they charge a flat fee per interview and then the company that's selling the interview tacks on their own profit margin. The one thing that's for certain is that the companies are making a profit, and the radio hosts aren't doing it for free.

Anonymous said...

Access Media also contacted me for an interview with Ric Bratton at $1,600.

Victoria Strauss thank you for publishing this information on your blog.

Anonymous said...

Book Trail Agency contacted me today with the same Kate Delaney offer.

Unknown said...

These scammers never end.

Anonymous said...

I have been contacted by the Ric Bratton folk twice and a couple of days ago by EC Publishing LLC for a London Book Fair in 2021.

Victoria Strauss said...

Given that BookExpo in New York has not just been canceled for 2021, but discontinued altogether, I think that other major book fairs may follow suit. Even if they end up not doing so, there's enough uncertainty to make it extremely unwise to pay for anything relating to book fairs right now (even if the offer isn't a scam, as EC Publishing is.)

Eileen Kopsaftis said...

I was recently contacted by Ingress Advertising to do an interview with Ric Bratton for my book, Pain Culprits!, which was recently published. They state my only commitment is to do the interview. They will be covering the cost of the airtime; HOWEVER, the cost of the people assisting me on my interview and the marketing support that they will be doing before, during, and after the interview will b my qualifier in getting the free airtime. They stated normally, radio air time delivered costs around $500-$1,000 per minute but since they are calling me out of a recommendation, I won't be spending that much. All I need to cover is the marketing support. I am so glad I came across this information. Thank you for your efforts to protect authors from scams.

Unknown said...

Worth noting here that there is nothing on earth stopping you from writing your own brief pitch letter and sending it around to radio stations all over the country. These shows (especially the artsy ones) are always looking for content to fill their hours of airtime. I worked with a publicist once several books ago and that was basically all they did. It was a pretty good arrangement, as they guaranteed me 20 radio interviews for a one-time fixed fee. All they were doing was sending around that same pitch letter. You'd be surprised how many you can drum up on your own without paying anyone!

Anonymous said...

Have you had any dealings with Ingress Advertising? I got a call from them regarding my recently published book Lonely is the Night asking for $2,200 for a 20 min interview with Ric Bratton. That seemed extraordinary cost for a 20 min interview and none of the contact information I could find for the Ric Bratton show worked making me very suspicious. I turned it down but considering how tempted I was to say yes until I read this post, I am glad that you did the research on this.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 1/29,

Thanks for your comment. Ingress Advertising is a new one for me, but it's got the markers of an overseas publishing/marketing scam: solicitation, poor written English, unverifiable claims of expertise, and an array of junk marketing services, including vanity radio. I'll add it to my list.

Anonymous said...

Guys, Victoria wants you to pay her for a radio interview service. What a bitter woman! Her unhappy married life should not reflect in her words. Why would you listen to Victoria. Is she a reputable journalist? Is she an emmy-winner? The truth is, Victoria wants these publishers to have a besmirched reputation so that they will be pay for her registration of her alleged legit publishers or service providers. For publishers who paid them as a registration or membership, they will never get bad news or reporting. You see, it's all about her business and personal interest. As an author, I'd rather pay these hosts and talk about my book rather than entertain Victoria's low self-esteem.

Victoria Strauss said...

Trolls gotta troll.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Lady:
They keep contacting me to Kate Delaney and Al Cole and a lot of them stating they have 26 million viewers. Writers beware I was on a radio talk show in Boston and the host has his own show for years and he never charged me. I would call in if he was talking about a subject or person I knew and give the correct tea about the person. I have 6 Facebook pages and over 30,000 Twitter followers and Advertisers are offering to pay me just to tweet their product. Image if I have 26 million followers or viewers advertisers would be breaking down the door to get to me and throwing products and money at my feet just to Tweet it. Kim Kardashian got $10,000 a tweet so if they had the viewers they say even if they didn't pay you they would be giving you the interview for free because they need content for their viewers. That is a good idea to send a pitch out yourself to talk radio stations even if you don't get an interview they will know who you are but you have to be consistent with it every time you get a book you have to send it out. One book they won't take you seriously two or three books now you are an author in their eyes because you are on the market to stay. There is no such thing as an old book you can keep promoting it forever that is why I like self-publishing. Traditional publishing they have a certain amount of time for your book and a certain amount of copies to sell then it may be out of print or considerate old or used copies. It's a win-lose or draws with traditional publishers. If you can get one that is going to make your book a hit or try to go for it. But these scammers are attacking self-publishers on the basis you have a dream and you are desperate and willing to pay anything for it without checking the details or learning how the business works. Thanks, Victoria I hope all self-published authors google you I know I did. I also blocked their emails because after I say I am not paying I am a professional they contact me again with a rebuttal like if you wish to make you have to pay them for a dream that is never going to happen the only one that gets ripped off and hurt is the self-published author. Ligament Literary Agents don't do solicitation nor do Traditional Publisher or radio or TV host show.

Daniel Lance-Blunk said...

They just got a hold of my for a T.V interview for my new book The Shadow of the Nephilim
They were super sketchy
Bad english, weird emails, unsolicited phone calls at all hours of the night and they were demanding an exuberant amount of money.
Thankfully I knew better than to just start sending them money and did some quick Googling then found this blog. Im glad this blog exist and you saved me from being taken advantage of. I even found some good tips on how to properly publicize myself through the radio and other means of media. Thank you

MER said...

I am so glad I ran across this very informative and insightful site. I have written five books. My first book was completely self-published. My second book was print on demand which I gained nothing. My third book was also print on demand but the publisher went out of business and I never recovered my files, nor do I have any idea of the royalties owed to me. My fourth book (2017), "Chameleon: Understanding the Five Faces of a Super Deceiver" and my fifth book (2020), "Leadership and Management BIAS: How your Behavior, Integrity, Authority, and Standards impact those around you" has the attention of a lot of these companies in which you speak about. I will not classify them as scams, but I am skeptical of their prices and services. One such company want me to pay $2500 for a marketing package which includes a Kate Delaney interview. Others have suggested I pay $999 - $1,800 for book fairs, websites, etc. A couple of years ago, I bite the apple an paid $1,000 for a video trailer for Chameleon, which resulted in zero sales. At this point, I am resigned to get do my own thing through word-of-mouth, occasional Facebook ads, etc. Heretofore, the only one that has been losing money is me---- not Amazon, not the POD publisher, etc. --- but Me.

Anonymous said...

My mother has written a book and used a vanity press to get it publised; now she has her phone ringing off the hook with other unscrupulous companies all hoping to get some of her money. She had a stroke last year, which has made her an easy victim. They are literally stealing tens of tousands of dollars from her and doing nothing to even try to look like they are earning the money. She has been promised trips to to the London Book Fair, radio interviews, and world-wide fame..She has seen them start with an offer to do a simple podcast for 1,400 turn to themtaking money from her credit card because they say they are trying to sell her book to "Hollywood" for a movie...one unscrupulous company helped themselves to her money to the tune of 5,500 just last month. She put a stop on that transaction, but she keeps having this issue, and is even afraid to call them out on it. This is her retirement/rest home money they are taking. Is there anything I can do to help stop the scammers?

Capricornpoet said...

Poor Kate Delayne being used by scam artists trying to sell fake interviews. I caught the scam at first sight asking the phone caller to describe my book, and that was that. Authors beware.

Unknown said...

Book Trail also promised me.the Kate Delaney interview. Said it would cost me nothing. Then I was to have a 'practice Run Then they said they had 'forgotten to tell me that there was $1000 US charge. I told them exactly what I thought, and am now taking steps to remove my book from them! I am so sick.of scams!!

 
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