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March 12, 2021

Scam Alert: Paper Bytes Marketing Solutions, Blueprint Press, and Their Stable of Imaginary Literary Agents


Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®

Once upon a time, there was a publishing and marketing scammer called Chapters Media and Advertising, owned by one Mark Joseph Rosario. Chapters pretended to be a US company--it even had dual business registrations in Wyoming and Florida, as well as a purported address in Nevada--but in reality, it operated out of the Philippines (much like its many brethren).

Chapters was an unusually devious little scammer. In addition to offering the usual substandard publishing services and junk marketing ripoffs, it had a sideline in impersonating literary professionals, including agent Jennifer Jackson of the Donald Maass Agency and literary scout Clare Richardson of Maria B. Campbell Associates. I've written about both of these impersonation scams (as well as the issue more generally; Chapters was not the only one doing this).

I don't know if it was my posts that did it, but Rosario apparently felt that Chapters had received too much exposure--because sometime in the past couple of months, he abandoned the old Chapters website (along with the website of an associated scam, TechBooks Media) and rebooted as a pair of new companies: Paper Bytes Marketing Solutions and Blueprint Press.

Here's the "paper" trail tying Chapters to Paper Bytes; note the officer names and identical Florida "head office" addresses (that address, by the way, is a vacant lot).




And here's the trail tying Rosario to Blueprint Press (which purportedly is based in Oregon):


(Also see the Update toward the bottom of this post for more evidence pointing to Mark Rosario.)

To go with his brand new companies, Rosario has initiated a brand new scam: a stable of imaginary literary agents. It's an unusually detailed endeavor, with actual websites for many of the agents (albeit not very good ones) that include photos--some stock, some stolen--as well as made-up bios and false claims about who/what they represent. All share the email address @bookliteraryagent.com, which no doubt is convenient for the interchangeable roster of Paper Bytes/Blueprint marketers who inhabit these agent personas, but also makes them easier to track and expose.

I'll list them all below. But first, How It All Works!

Targeted writers (who, as with all the Philippines-based scams, are primarily self-pubbed or small press) receive a solicitation like this one:


Too good to be true? You bet. If the writer responds, they're told that, while the agent is Commission Only! No Fees Ever! they will still have to tap into their bank accounts. For instance, Imaginary Agent may excitedly relay this news:
Amazing! Fantastic! Once in a lifetime! All the author has to do is provide the requested treatment. Now, they could write it themselves--although that would be awfully difficult to accomplish because, naturally, there's a deadline. Not to worry: Imaginary Agent has a "trusted" company that can do the job.


Writers who decline to pay receive a succession of additional fake treatment requests, from Netflix, HBO, and more, with pressure to capitulate each time. One writer told me that their Imaginary Agent claimed they'd be blacklisted in the film industry if they continued to refuse.

Here's a different solicitation, from another Imaginary Agent. Note the @bookliteraryagent.com email address:


This one is a re-publication scam. The writer is offered "licensing" so that their book can be re-published, supposedly to improve its prospects of a "mainstream" contract (even though re-publishing an already-published book so it can be published a third time makes absolutely no sense, and is not how it works in any case), plus "book returnability insurance" that's as imaginary as the agent is. Services will be provided courtesy of a totally unrelated company, Paper Bytes, which doesn't usually deal with lowly self-pubbed writers but is willing to make an exception, thanks to the efforts of trusty Imaginary Agent:


Alternatively, the "services" recommended come from Blueprint.

Plenty of writers who receive these emails will smell a rat: from the out-of-the-blue solicitations to the laughably rudimentary websites (see below) to the poor written English, there are a ton of scam markers here. But like the Nigerian email scammers, Mark Rosario and scammers like him just need a tiny number of potential victims to buy in in order to make a profit. 

Those who do pay up will be pressured to spend more money for more bogus services; eventually, when they start asking too many questions or the scammers judge that they are tapped out, they will simply be abandoned, their emails unreturned, their phone calls blocked, and their bank accounts considerably smaller.

******

Here are the imaginary agents I've identified so far.

Alexander Sy
Email: alexander.sy@bookliteraryagent.com
Alexander boasts an impressive-sounding but strategically vague bio ("His success in the independent publishing industry helped him become the youngest Senior Traditional Marketing Executive, in partnership with some of the largest Traditional Houses in the world") and a new and notable page that encourages potential victims to believe that he reps Robin Cook and Andrew Mayne, among others. His is the one photo I couldn't confirm was stolen or a downloaded freebie--but it sure looks fake. 

Lola Moira Ventura
Email: lola.ventura@bookliteraryagent.com
According to her bio, Lola is "a Mexican American literary book expert, author's adviser. In 2012, she founded Ravenous Romance Books, an e-book publishing company" (this might surprise actual Ravenous Romance founder Lori Perkins). The accompanying photo has been stolen from an article about author Maaza Mengiste. Imaginary Lola wants unwary writers to be wowed by her imaginary track record, which includes James Comey and Rick Gates.

John Morris
Email: john.morris@bookliteraryagent.com
"I started as a jr. literary agent at Writers House and Trident Media before I decided to venture as an independent literary agent." Impressive! John's I'm-too-sexy-for-my-shades photo has been borrowed from free image website Unsplash. Chuck Pahlaniuk and N.K. Jemisin might be startled to discover themselves on John's Books page.

Mia Sanders
Email: mia.sanders@bookliteraryagent.com
Mia claims to be "a frequent speaker at writer’s conferences and conventions from romance to kink and attends approximately 13 conferences a year." Her photo is from Unsplash, the free image website, where it's alt-tagged "woman in pink crew-neck shirt in closeup photography". Mia is the only imaginary agent who doesn't claim to have repped Big 5-published books from major authors: the covers on her Books page--which, oddly, have all been stripped of authors' names--all come from an Author Solutions imprint or another Philippines-based scammer.

Jessica Myers
Email: jessica.myers@bookliteraryagent.com
Jessica has a terrific work background! "I started as a jr. literary agent at Writers House and Trident Media before I decided to venture as an independent literary agent." Her Book Gallery encourages writers to believe that she reps Jennifer Armentrout and Susan Sallis, among a grab bag of other authors. Like her buddy "Lola Ventura," Jessica hasn't bothered with free images; she has appropriated the image of Juliana Martins, a cosmetics expert.

Harry Taylor
Email: harry.taylor@bookliteraryagent.com
Harry is one handsome, happy dude! Just one problem: he's been downloaded from free image site Unsplash, where his photo is alt-tagged "smiling man standing between brown concrete buildings at daytime". Harry too "cut his teeth in publishing" at a prestigious agency--Writers House--and according to his Books page, he reps Chuck Palahniuk, putting him in direct competition with his imaginary colleague John Morris, who claims to rep the very same book by that author. I guess it gets boring copying book cover images to paste into your imaginary agents' websites.

Lloyd Perkins
Email: lloyd.perkins@bookliteraryagent.com
I'm getting a 403 notice today when I try to access Lloyd's website, which was extant a couple of weeks ago when I began researching this post. You can still see a cached version, though, and here's Lloyd's About page, where he claims to have "worked with" real writers such as Lisa Jewell and A.S.A. Harrison, whose books supposedly are "now being considered by one of the Top 5 traditional publishers in the US". Except...oh dear...looks like those books were actually published years ago.



As with two of his imaginary brethren, Lloyd's photo is stolen: it's been purloined from a business photographer's website.

Chris Archer
Email: chris.archer@bookliteraryagent.com
Website: Chris is one of several members of the Imaginary Agent squad who doesn't have a website, but he uses the same email address and solicitation style as the rest.


Bryan Archer
Email: bryan.archer@bookliteraryagent.com
Bryan is Chris's (imaginary) twin brother. He uses the same signature block (just with "Bryan" instead of "Chris"), and also has no website--but, no slouch at the impersonation game, has concocted an elaborate, four-page, laughably fake resume that he provides to authors who are savvy enough to ask about his bona fides. Here's page 1 (you can see the whole thing here):


Johnny Saints
Email: johnny.saints@bookliteraryagent.com
Like his buddies Chris and Bryan, Johnny has no website, but his 7-page resume is equally fake, from boasts of professional success to claims of famous clients (surprise, Kazuo Ishiguro and Ernest Cline: meet your REAL agent!) His photo looks a bit more convincing than some of the others, but no doubt it's stolen too.


Casey Howard
Email: casey.howard@bookliteraryagent.com
Casey is another Imaginary Agent who doesn't have a fake website, but his email solicitations are identical to those of his imaginary brethren (see this comment below).

UPDATE: I'm kicking myself for dropping the ball, but the one thing I didn't do in researching this post was to check the domain registration info for the fake agent websites (partly because I had so much other evidence of fakery, but also because scammers are good about anonymizing). If I had, I would have discovered that all but one of them look like this:



Amazingly, Mark Rosario has been careless enough to allow his name (not to mention his Cebu address) to appear on these registrations (see the first image in this post). Oops.

Thanks to the anonymous commenter who drew my attention to this.

******
How to protect yourself?

1. Know how things work in the publishing world. Real literary agents don't sell services to potential clients, or refer them to companies that do. Real agents don't commonly contact writers out of the blue. The warnings at the Writer Beware website can help you recognize non-standard or predatory practices.

2. Proceed from a point of skepticism. An unsolicited contact from a literary agent isn't automatically suspect--as commenters have pointed out on a number of my other posts, it does sometimes happen. But it is not common. With the volume of scams currently in operation, out-of-the-blue contacts are far more likely to be illegitimate than on the level. Caution is always in order--especially if it sounds too good to be true.

3. Mistrust--and verify. Do a websearch...and do it BEFORE you respond. A real agent, with real sales, will have at least some web presence; be suspicious if you find nothing, or almost nothing (strategically, Paper Bytes' imaginary agents have common names or names that are similar to celebrities', making them harder to research). Vet the agent's website: my recent blog post unmasking a fake agency provides some tips for that. If the agent claims to rep authors or books, or to have worked at a particular agency or publisher, see if you can verify whether this is true (often you can find out who agents an author with a simple websearch, or by visiting the author's website).

4. Use your common sense. Out of the blue, too good to be true? Extra-careful research is in order. Also...anyone can make an occasional typo. But agents selling rights in English-language markets are capable of speaking and writing grammatical English. No reputable agent would send out language-challenged emails like the ones above.

5. Contact me at Writer Beware. Always a good default. I may have heard something, or received complaints. If I have, I'll let you know.

UPDATE 4/12/21: Five days ago (as of this writing), Mark Rosario resuscitated Chapters Media & Advertising with a new domain name (chaptersmediaad.net) and a new website. The address: that vacant lot in Defuniak Springs, Florida.

10 comments :

Anonymous said...

Looking up the domains for the "agents," one has a "REDACTED FOR PRIVACY" entry, one belongs to wix.com and the others all list the Registrant Organization as Mark Joseph Rosario in the Philippines. Why am I not surprised?
I also like how the twitter account lists the location as "New York, NY 1000" with a 4 digit zip code.

Disperser said...

Having already resigned to anonymity, I'm comforted in the knowledge no one is going to approach me with any offers. But, in the unlikely event they do, I plan to have a little fun with them and waste as much of their time as I can.

. . . of course, if they're a real agent, I'll just blame Writers Beware for making me cynical about agents in general.

I kid, of course. Thank you for the information and continued vigilance.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 3/13,

Thank you for checking! Looking up the fake agent domains is the one thing I didn't do--mainly because these scams are pretty good about anonymizing domain registration. But not in this case I guess--definitely a whoopsie for Mark Rosario, since his name is also on the Chapters Media business registration.

Disperser,

If you've self-published, you can pretty much count on being solicited at some point. Have at it!

Roger Keeling said...

Victoria, thank you for all the effort and "street smarts" you pour into exposing these scams. I've never been approached by any of these sociopaths, but I suppose it's only a matter of time.

You mention one tip-off that -- to me -- just screams "scam." That's the piss-poor writing coming from these "literary agents." To cite but one example, the letter from "Alexander Sy" fairly drips with awkward syntax, defective grammar, bizarre punctuation, and weird capitalization. You encounter that long before you hear the first argument for sending them money; it's often evident in the very first sentence. Mia Sanders, meanwhile, just loves loves LOVES run-on sentences.

Disperser, up above, says that when something like this happens to him, he plans to waste as much of the scammer's time as possible. Good idea! There are a few folks on the intertubes (particularly over at YouTube) who've raised screwing with the minds of scam-artists into a full-blown art form.

Disperser said...

Here's an example:

https://dispersertracks.com/2019/11/14/fun-with-scams/

Unknown said...

A similar impersonation story just shared with me by a writing client(I'm a freelance medical ghostwriter) for a friend:
Louise is a psychotherapist in the eating disorder field who just wrote her first book and self-published with Balboa Press. Here’s what she says happened next:
"I was approached by Mandy Vickers [in 2019 she was listed as a publishing consultant at Balboa; in this case, it might be her or possibly someone impersonating her] of Tranquility Press to have my book republished with them. Included in the package I was offered was a product which included further content editing to be pitched to the big five publishing companies. I was told that the editor Mary Gaule of HarperCollins had already read my book and she was very interested in it and most likely would want me to publish with them. I did check out the HarperCollins website and Mary Gaule in fact is on it with her picture along with other editors for HarperCollins.
Mandy Vickers assured me, “HarperCollins was extremely interested.”
I was all set to pay Tranquility Press when I received a call from Mandy stating she was not going to stay with Tranquility Press, she was very disappointed with them and that I could get my money back because it was within seven days. I knew this was in my contract. She called to say that she had direct contact with Mary Gaule and they wanted my book and we did not have to go through what was originally stated. She said she was now the agent, Mary was the editor.
A few hours later Mary called me and stated HarperCollins did want my book but that they needed to do a full content evaluation editing that would be somewhat of a cost. They were offering me a $40,000 contract for three years with 50% royalties and they would do all the marketing. I said yes. The price would be $7,500 and, in my foolish perhaps grandiose thinking I couldn’t believe that they wanted me— I’m such a new author, but I went with it.
The next day I found out this was all a scam. I spoke to HarperCollins. Their security department told me that they had been victims of this and Mary Gaule’s name has been dragged through this whole process when in fact she is a wonderful honest editor for HarperCollins. Their security personnel informed me that this is part of a large international crime fraud. The people I was dealing with were from the Philippines but they are from other countries including Canada as well.
That morning I also received a call from the head of Tranquility Press. He did not know that I already made this purchase but informed me that Mandy Vickers and two other people were let go that morning due to fraudulent interactions. This information came a few hours too late for me.
I had to contact the police here, have a report made, and a number would be generated to the FBI. I had to begin to contact the two credit card companies I used for the $7500. Due to the amount, I decided to split the fee. To make a long story short, half of it has been returned through American Express. The other half which is through Bank of America has been put in as a claim. They will be contacting the FBI. I have given them all the information including this Mandy Vickers telephone number.
Mandy has had the nerve to contact me two times to insist that the impersonator who I spoke to was the real Mary Gaule and she was honest, professional etc.
Regarding the original money with Tranquility Press, they assure me that they have approved the refund of two of the three packages I purchased.

Victoria Strauss said...

Unknown 3/22,

Would you please pass my contact info on to your client? beware@sfwa.org . I'd like to hear from them and, hopefully, see the correspondence, contracts, etc. from the scammers. All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have just been scammed by John Morris. I am glad I found this since I was feeling skeptical yet I still sent $ to them. I feel like an idiot and seeing if the bank will refund me and file as a fraud.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for you site. Below is experience. I also was sent a text message suggesting I pay $899 to Paper Bytes and $999 to Blue print to obtain a ISBN. I found Bowker in my research regarding ISBN. The "agent" pretended not to know about them. One more call and they stopped calling. Thanks again. I edited my last name.



Casey Howard
Mar 19, 2021, 3:15 PM
to me

Hi Charles,



This is Casey Howard and I represent books to various traditional and mainstream publishers, movie film directors, and producers across the globe.



As a literary agent, I do not ask for any upfront fees, I only get my cut when I get a negotiation contract. I get about 10-15% for contracts within the country and 25-30% for international deals. I'd like to discuss with you more so I can gauge whether we share the same plans and goals for your books.



My ultimate goal is to get my commission and get you a deal that is why I'd like to make sure you have all the things traditional publishers and film directors are looking for so we won't waste both of our time getting turned down from time to time.



I also want to know if you are still working on any current projects.



Let me know your best time and phone number for us to talk.



I hope to hear from you soon.



Best Regards.


Casey Howard
Independent Literary Agent
541-809-1338 | casey.howard@bookliteraryagent.com

Charles
Apr 1, 2021, 2:47 PM (8 days ago)
Yes, I am interested. I sent an e-mail to Westbow Press regarding publishing rights this afternoon. May hear from them tomorrow.

Casey Howard
Apr 1, 2021, 3:17 PM (8 days ago)
to me

Great! I will wait to hear from you. Now, You may or may not cancel your book with Xlibris. You are under a non-exclusive contract so you can withdraw your project anytime. I would, however, recommend that you withdraw the contract with them to avoid any confusion and issues once the book will be acquired by mainstream publishers.

In order for me to proceed with validly representing your book to major publishers and filmmakers, I need you to get the publishing rights back under your name. I just want to reiterate that without the Publishing Rights, we'll be getting tons of rejection letters. This requirement will also allow you to have full control over your book pricing and you will get 100% royalty. Most importantly publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Authors need to hire a literary agent to represent them. Without a literary agent, they will not hear from anybody.

Cancelling your contract with Xlibris will nullify the ISBN. That means, in order for you to substantiate the publishing rights, you need to re-register it under your name. That way, I can validly proceed in representing your book to traditional publishers.

Bypassing re-registration of the publishing rights will disqualify us to major publishers.

I need you to do that as soon as possible because we could possibly earn between $150,000-$200,000 for the Publishing and Book rights. That's why I need you to work on it as soon as you can.

We will need to hire a licensing agency to help you with this. Not unless you already have one in mind? if not, I can contact a few licensing agencies within my network and send you the quotations tomorrow. How's that sound?


Best regards,

Casey Howard
Independent Literary Agent
541-809-1338 | casey.howard@bookliteraryagent.com


Charles
Apr 2, 2021, 12:29 PM (7 days ago)
to Casey

I sent the cancellation notice form the Westbow. They will take up to 39 days. The book that Xlibris list is an older edition than the Westbow. I don't understand what you are saying about the ISBN number.

Charles

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 4/09,

Would you please contact me (beware@sfwa.org) and forward your entire correspondence (plus any other materials sent to you) from "Casey"? Thanks so much, and thanks for your comment.

 
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