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August 28, 2020

Alert: Scammers Impersonating Major Publishing Houses


Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about scammers impersonating reputable literary agents. These are not isolated incidents: I have a growing file of reports and complaints about this growing phenomenon--including from writers who've lost large amounts of money.

Now publishers are being impersonated as well. Here are a couple of examples of the kind of thing I'm seeing.

Here's the pitch one author received from "Michael Smith" of "HarperCollins" (see the email address):


To pass the "1st stage of the acquisition" of their book, and move on to "an exclusive contract," the author had already been persuaded (by "agent" Arial Brown, who is as fake as this offer) to hand over more than $8,000 for a new website and YouTube video. Now, in order to proceed to the next stage, they must shell out still more cash for "Developmental Editing and Content Editing." But not to worry--all that spending is in aid of big rewards down the line:

Who wouldn't want a HUGE of money? There is, however, plenty wrong with this picture. First, HarperCollins doesn't use gmail (here is its email format). Second, it doesn't demand that authors pay for services as a pre-condition of a contract offer. Third, anyone can make a typo, but someone working for a major English-language trade publisher can reasonably be expected to write proper English--which is definitely not the case in the excerpts above. Fourth, major publishing houses, which are rigorously selective, are unlikely to consider manuscripts with multiple grammar errors and poor word use. 

Finally, the author received these payment instructions:

That's right--it's another Philippines-based publishing and marketing scam. Due to the tangled web of purported agents, web designers, and publisher representatives (as well as the author's understandable confusion), I wasn't able to determine which one. But the provenance is clear.

Here's a second HarperCollins impersonator. This one has taken more trouble to fake things up:


Editor's Press and Media is (surprise!) another Philippines-based scam (see the list in the sidebar). This is clearly a setup to enable it to soak the author for large amounts of money to re-publish and edit their book, after which the supposed offer from HarperCollins will mysteriously evaporate. 

Even if one didn't know all that, though, there's enough wrong here to ring warning bells (though many authors, dazzled by what appears to be an offer from a major publisher, will not hear them). Publishers prefer manuscripts that haven't been published before--but if they do consider taking on an already-published book, they won't demand that it be re-published so that they can then publish it a third time (this makes absolutely zero sense). 

Additionally, offers of publication aren't typically relayed by contract assistants, and smaller lapses (it's HarperCollins Publishers--as in the logo "Joseph" has appropriated in his signature--not HarperCollins Publisher--as in the email heading) also give the game away. Not to mention: would a staffer for HarperCollins, with its New York City address, really have a Detroit phone number? (Yes, I know that people work remotely--especially these days--but still.)


(Curious, I called the number, and got an American-accented voicemail message from "Joseph Adams with HarperCollins" inviting me to leave a message--an unusual degree of base-covering for these scams, which heavily rely on their victims not checking up on them.)

Penguin Random House is also a target for the scammers, and doubtless so are other publishers I haven't heard about yet. Bottom line: an offer from a reputable publisher should not be contingent on you spending money, plus it will most often come via a reputable literary agent who hasn't charged you any fees either.

If it seems too good to be true, it often is.

As always, if you have questions about any offer you receive, or any service you're offered, contact Writer Beware

UPDATE 9/14/20: Here's another fake HarperCollins offer from Editor's Press and Media, for a different author and book.


UPDATE 2/24/21: Picador (an imprint of Pan Macmillan) is the newest impersonation target.


UPDATE 2/27/21: Writers are getting solicitations from Jade Freeman of Stephenson and Queen, which claims to be "under" Thomas Nelson (of course, there's no such imprint). Offered is re-publication and "endorsement to traditional publishers", at a cost of around $6,000. The offers I've seen are identical in parts to similar republication-and-endorsement offers from other scammers, including Book Art Press, Bookwhip, and BookTimes.


UPDATE 3/20/21: More impersonation:

- Offers for "bookstore placement" in several Asian countries (cost: $1,500), using the name of HarperCollins editor Mary Gaule and the it-should-be-obvious-it's-fake email address editorharpercollins@gmail.com (if real, the email address would be @harpercollins.com)

- Scammer Tranquility Press is also using Mary Gaule's name, to offer "HarperCollins contracts"--with a catch: writers have to pay $7,500 for "editing"

- Scammer Silver Ink Literary Agency is using the name of a HarperCollins contracts specialist on bogus offers--from Penguin. The claim is that Penguin "is now accepting book titles in exchange for an upfront pay [for editing] and continuous royalties." Here are the supposed new guidelines--note the use of PRH logos and the PRH "watermark":

21 comments :

Nathaniel Hoffelder said...

That's not even a good fraud attempt. The English is almost coherent, which is simply unbelievable these days.

Anonymous said...

Here's another red flag. If anyone wants to sign you as a writer because your photos look "so beautiful," run. Creepy!

Allen F said...

One thing to remember about all these scammers is that most are looking for very easy marks - the low hanging fruit. They don't want to waste any of their time on someone who might actually check up on them before giving them money.

So if you notice the errors and question them - you aren't the low enough hanging fruit they're after. They want/need the smarter ones to ignore them so they have more time to work on those that don't know any better.

Keep up the warnings, but there will always be those that think they can 'pay' to get their book published and become rich and infamous ...

Sonya Heaney said...

It goes without saying, but HarperCollins editors not use Gmail accounts!

jake cosmos aller said...

it is interesting that so many of these scams come out of the PI. Apparently, the Nigerians have not caught on yet, nor have the Jamaicans. In the world of fraud, Nigeria, Jamaica, and the PI are numbers 1 2, and 3 and India is number 4. China is number 5. I spend five years of my career with State as a visa fraud investigator but fraud is fraud no matter what.

thanks

jake cosmosaller

Anonymous said...

Hello ,

I trust all is well with you.

Your book “Blank” was forwarded to my office with high recommendation. I'd like to invite you for an interview and ask you some questions to see if this would be a good fit for our company to offer partnership with or invest in.

Kindly provide me with the best number, time, and date I can contact you. Thank you.

Sincerely yours,



Case Walker

Literary Agent

AuthorLine Media

Direct Line: (239) 268-8662 | ext 2281

244 Madison Avenue #1164
New York, NY 10016

Anonymous said...

Hi Victoria, please check https://stellarliterary.com. They said that HarperCollins contacted them about me and is interested to pick up my book for traditional publication, but before that happens, Stellar Literary Press and Media needs to republish my book first with a fee. It does not make any sense and I have a good feeling that this is another predator.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 11/5,

I've gotten some questions about Stellar Literary (which from its ungrammatical and error-ridden website is clearly another scam) but this is the first I've heard about supposed Harper offers. I am certain this is another scam, but so I can be sure, would you please send me whatever they sent you? beware@sfwa.org. All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Victoria, I just emailed a fresh solicitation email offer from Stellar Literary which should help you scout them out.

Anonymous said...

Just received another "publishing" offer of "partnership" to help boost sales of my book from a company not listed from what I can see on your site. They promised 80% royalties on my already self-published book. Name of the company is Author Reputation Press. Any information on these ones?

Victoria Strauss said...

Check the sidebar, Anonymous 11/30--Author Reputation Press is listed. Another overseas scam.

Joanna Penn said...

Lots of these going around.
I just got one from someone posing as Picador from PanMacmillan, actually quoting Winner of Imprint of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards.
The email address is from picadormediaworks.com which gets an error.

****

Good day! I am Norah, from Picador Media Works. Our research team endorsed your books, "A Stone Of Fire: Arkane, Crypt Of Bone, Day Of The Viking, etc." to us which fits with our criteria of being a Picador book. We would like to learn more about your work and how we can help and provide a wider audience. If you can make time, we would be glad to have a phone conversation with you.

We look forward to being able to work with you as we at Picador truly recognize the potential of it becoming mainstream.

Best Regards,

Norah Gray
Publishing Consultant

Picador Media Works

Winner of Imprint of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards.

Picador is an internationally established publishing business that dates back circa 1967. We at Picador empower the author’s works to research trends, themes, and technological advances through social media platforms. We publish from up oncoming to seasoned writers from different parts of the globe bringing their imagination and voices to the world.

Our Book-Catalogue includes contemporary poetry; literary fiction, new and relevant; narrative non-fiction; cultural non-fiction, as well as other uncategorized books that would surely find its audience.

We also provide services that would translate the author’s ideas and imagination and create an eloquent design value through illustrations and high value production that will truly inspire both the author and its readers.

Mission

Our mission is to provide the highest and exceptional service to our clients to add value to their works and businesses with emphasis on client satisfaction while creating a lasting relationship with them.

Victoria Strauss said...

Joanna, would you forward that email to me? Thanks! beware@sfwa.org

Matt Watters said...

I received the one from Norah Gray from Picador today. I went straight to the Picador website and checked the date they were founded, 1972. The scammers state 1967...couldn't even get that right!

Unknown said...

aww man, got excited when i had an email from Norah Grey from Picador, although suspicious so I decided to research, glad I did but disappointed either way

C. Soto said...

I just received same email

Amanda for Pat Garwood said...

I had an exchange of mails and an hour-long phone conversation with 'Astrid Wheaton' from Picador - only when she sent the proposal did I smell a rat! Then found this post and my suspicions were confirmed! What a detailed scam - I generously put the slightly strange turn of phrase "Good Day" etc. as a second language quirk. Looking back now without the hope of interest in my books it's pretty obvious!
I must say the phone call was really impressive though!

Victoria Strauss said...

Amanda,

Would you please forward me the email exchanges you had with the Picador scammer for my files? beware@sfwa.org. Thanks so much!

wisdom said...

Who has dealt with an Alexa Johnson from Silver Ink Literary agency or a Blake Anderson from ""Penguin Random House"". its crazy out there!!!

Victoria Strauss said...

Wisdom,

I'm getting lots of complaints about Silver Ink, which appears to be one of the most active scammers at the moment. Would you share with me any correspondence you've received? All info shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence. beware@sfwa.org Thanks!

T Potter said...

I have been scammed by a Blake Anderson at Silver Ink Literary Agency/ Editor's Press/ Global Review Press. It started last year when I was contacted by Silver Ink telling me how they were supposedly contacted by HarperCollins to acquire my self-published book and that they'd represent me in negotiations. That immediately sent up red flags. Why would a traditional publisher contact someone I was unaffiliated with? They said that in order for HarperCollins to acquire my book, they required me to get it professionally edited by someone else. That was another red flag. Why would a major publisher require me to get a book that they were supposedly already interested in, edited by an outside party to then acquire? Don't they have in-house editors? That didn't make sense. Silver Ink was clever because they offered to have me choose my own editor but offered the service through Editor's Press & Media just in case I couldn't find one in time. It cost thousands of dollars, of course. How convenient!

Despite my instincts telling me this wasn't legit, I went along with it. They promised to developmentally edit my book, but only copyedited it. Then, when it was time for the "negotiations" with HarperCollins to begin, they ghosted me for months. Only recently have I been contacted again by Blake Anderson, giving me some excuse about how he was on maternity leave and forgot to put his email on vacation. A man being on "maternity" leave for 6 months? Now, Silver Ink is trying to say that Global Press is affiliated with them and will represent me in negotiations with HarperCollins. I just need to pay $6000 for a lawyer. Guess what? That's not happening.

 
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