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.

March 26, 2021

Scammers Taking Big 5 Publishers' Names in Vain: A Growing Trend


I've been doing the Writer Beware thing for quite some time, and I Have Seen Some Shit. 

But this solicitation from a Philippines-based publishing and marketing scammer calling itself Right Choice Multimedia (among other names) is one of the most disgusting things that has come across my desk in a while...and that's saying something. 

Here it is in its entirety. Read it and boggle. You can also scroll down directly to my (far more grammatical) debunking. Be sure to read all the way to the end, because I have some things to say about why Big 5 publishers should care that their trademarks and reputations are being co-opted in this way.


 


Right Choice Multimedia may not be able to produce a grammatical email, but it has a keen grasp of author psychology. Not only are writers being offered a shortcut to the glorious goal of traditional publication, they're specially invited (You're Exceptional!), and success is virtually guaranteed (Money Well Spent!) 

Of course, this is not how things work in the real world. Consortiums of major publishers don't "sponsor" vast collective slush piles, or solicit random authors to submit to them. Literary agents don't create "endorsement letters" at the behest of nameless committees, or acquire clients by assignment. There is no such thing as The Literary Review of Books Magazine. (There is a  Top Ten Magazine, but I'm guessing it would be surprised to find itself included here.)

The whole point of the scam is to get writers to buy a "ticket"--from which nothing will result, other than, perhaps, demands for more money for more worthless "services":


Check that "VIP Suite"! Accompanying the tickets is a series of obviously fabricated testimonials, to which the names of real authors have been attached:




As is often the case with this type of scam, it is operating under more than one name. Account Executive Sam Deeds of scammer Right Choice Multimedia touts his "Official Hollywood Profile", but if you click on the link, it delivers you to the IMDb page of Victor Ross, also of Right Choice Multimedia, but doing double duty as a "literary agent" for scammer West Literary Agency (I've written about West Literary Agency here). All four of the "in development" projects claimed by "Sam" show up on "Victor's" profile; all four have been published by an Author Solutions imprint (Author Solutions authors are overseas scammers' favorite targets), and all four show West Literary Agency as the production company. 



Needless to say, these projects are as fake as the testimonials--although the authors who have paid a bundle for their books to be turned into screenplays or films or whatever "service" was pitched to them may not yet know it.

As regular readers of this blog are aware, I've written extensively about the class of scams of which Right Choice Multimedia/West Literary Agency is a part, and collected reams of documentation, including solicitation emails, contracts, and other materials. In 2014, when I first identified them, the scams focused primarily on selling overpriced publishing packages and junk marketing, especially book fair "representation" and display. 

As time has passed, however, increasing competition (there are now more than 125 of these companies, and I'm certain that's an undercount), efforts to expose them (primarily my own), and more recently, the pandemic-fueled shutdown of book fairs and other in-person events, have pushed them to employ different techniques (book-to-screen packages and vanity radio) and more baroque schemes: impersonating real agents and literary scouts; creating a stable of fake agents complete with websites and biographies; and the solicitation that's the subject of this post, in which Big 5 publishers are presented as sponsors of an elaborate pay-to-play submission scheme.

The scams--virtually all of which are based in the Philippines, despite their apparent US addresses and phone numbers--largely fly below the radar of the traditional publishing industry. In part, this is because their targets--writers who've self-published with exploitative companies like Author Solutions, small press authors, and vulnerable groups such as the elderly and disabled--are not really that industry's constituency (unless, of course, they're being recruited to a Big 5 pay-to-play division), and the scammers' activities have little to no impact on the business of traditional publishing. There's not a lot of incentive, therefore, for publishers to take action or push back--or even, really, to take notice of what's going on. (One writer who contacted PRH about a scam solicitation using the PRH name received a response from someone in administration who assumed the writer was referring to phishing scams on Upwork. Several others who tried to alert other Big 5 houses told me they received no response at all.)

The scammers rely on this, and their overseas location, to protect them. And they are getting bolder. It used to be rare for them to purport to be in "partnership" or "created by" or otherwise connected with or acting with the approval of Big 5 houses, but in the last year it's become common. I've seen faked-up emails from HarperCollins, solicitations claiming to be from Picador (an imprint of Macmillan), contract offers from an outfit called Stephenson and Queen that pretends to be an "imprint" of Thomas Nelson (it has registered a domain but as yet has no website). 

Scammers are using the names of real Big 5 editors and other staff to pitch their "services". Just the other day a writer told me that they received a phone solicitation from someone claiming to represent Penguin, who then referred them to scammer SPARK Literary and Marketing "for the details on securing a contract." And check out these "new submission guidelines", also supposedly from Penguin, but really created by Silver Ink Literary Agency to convince writers to pay for editing so their books can be "endorsed": 


As poorly put-together and obviously false as many of these efforts are, people do fall for them. A lot.

The authors whose names have been attached to the fake testimonials above would surely object to their identities and reputations being used to defraud unsuspecting writers. Shouldn't the Big 5 houses also be concerned about the blatant misuse of their names and trademarks, even if the scams don't affect their bottom line? I'm not suggesting that PRH and Harper and the rest rush out and file lawsuits in the Philippines. But it would be nice if they focused a fraction of the attention on these scams that they've devoted to a different solicitation-and-impersonation scam that targets trad-pubbed authors. 

Public warnings would be a good place to start--ideally on publishers' home pages, but at least on submission pages and on the websites of targeted imprints like Picador and Thomas Nelson. If the Combined Book Exhibit could post a scam warning when it discovered that Filipino scammers were misappropriating its name and services, surely PRH et al. can do so too. And how about outreach to an organization like the Alliance of Independent Authors, which advocates for self-publishers--or even to Author Solutions, from which the scammers draw their largest victim pool--and with which three of the Big 5 already have or have had a relationship?

Contact me. I'll be glad to assist in any way I can.

UPDATE 4/11/21: I'm thrilled to announce that all five publishers have contacted me to express their eagerness to do all they can to warn authors about the scammers that are misusing their names and logos!

Just kidding. I haven't heard from a single one.

In other news, Right Choice Multimedia has torn another leaf from the Author Solutions playbook, and established its own fake publisher/agency matching site


19 comments :

Anna Castle said...

Writers' best defense is to join writers' groups, like the Alliance of Independent Authors, or genre-specific ones like MWA, RWA, SFWA. Get into their online groups and be involved, at least a little. Then when one of these really exciting offers comes your way, you'll have colleagues to give you a reality check. Lots of other benefits to a good association, but protecting yourself from tempting scams has to be one of the most important.
Thanks for all you do, Writer Bewarians!

Blue Coffee said...

I keep reading your updates in my emails and marveling. This is the first time I'm commenting.
My guess would be that one of the reasons why the big five (or maybe big four) aren't doing anything is their passive-aggressive way of dealing with indie publishers who dare to dream to be traditionally published. They probably see daring as an act of insolence. I see it as a foolish and outdated choice.
The official reasons are probably because, just like piracy, it's a costly and probably fruitless fight.
Just my guesses. Maybe I'm wrong or too cynical. I'm not cynical enough not to be outraged of the audacity of the scammers.

Unknown said...

Thank you for what you do! I've worked years to complete my first novel. Now as I struggle to find my way through the labyrinthine underworld of publishing it, you are my guardian angels and guides. Keep up the outstanding work you do exposing these low-lifes.

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for another great expose. Glad someone besides wolves is watching the hen house. Scammers are clearly upping their game because it's such a lucrative business. And even when you try to warn people, some get defensive because they don't want to believe it; denial is often a happier place to live than reality. It's infuriating how many scammers are out there squelching people's dreams with some making six figure incomes doing it. Once again, BUYER BEWARE. And yes I'd sure like to see the publishers taking action to warn aspiring writers and to go after the scammers! If it's a felony to impersonate a celebrity, politician or police officer in many states, why isn't it a felony to misrepresent yourself as a publisher or employee???

Marie said...

That is a shocker Victoria, so well done Ms Sherlock!
When I read the name I actually read Scam Deeds, which is fitting!
Keep up the astonishingly valuable work.
How can authors actually ever thank you enough!

Marie

Monika Regina said...

The question that remains, my dear Ms. Sherlock, 'what will they think of next?'
The article caught my eye because I have been getting emails offering book reviews and marketing solicitations in my email. I'm not sure where they are getting my email address, but I need to investigate and change some passwords.

I received several of these now, and my first instinct was this is weird. I am on a Goodreads forum for authors looking for reviewers, so the finger points there. What is uncanny is that they use very common English names, but they sent me emails without any links to their website. When I googled those names, nothing came up related to what they were suggesting, which is weird because I can google myself and come up with something.
Thanks for sharing, and it was very informative.

Anonymous said...

Hello,
Thank you for the excellent information.
I have received a few telephone calls from Literary Agents offering me great deals to have the represent my books.

NEW AGE LITERARY AGENCY and Mark Slater is the representative name.
Neither New Age or Mark Slater exists in any Social Media source.
Not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, You Tube.
Nothing!!!
No media presence that I can find!!!

I tracked his website. It is registered in Singapore from Jan. 24, 2020 to Jan. 24, 2022. The ownership is redacted and is an agent in Singapore.

Any ideas???

Your assistance is appreciated.

Chris
damiangarciathebook@yahoo.com

Unknown said...

Hi FROM NOEL
DO NOT GO NEAR BOOKMAGNETS OR READAPPLE OR SILVER INK LITERARY AGENTS
SPECIFICALLY BASTE GOMEZ
AAlso part of the scam were patricia bush. john baldwin and Klay Anderson who used fake emails of a legitimate compay called BOOK TO FILMS CO.
These are clever con artists so BEWARW

Anonymous said...

Thank you Victoria for your help. I just received today a similar "proposal" via email from Right Choice Multimedia:"This is Aleister Lee, thank you for taking my call earlier. As promised, I’m sending you this invitation to the Top Ten 2021 Literary Book Review. Being the main reference of the publishing industry, this event is an invite-only to some shortlisted titles done by major literary agencies in North America. The program showcases the rise of some of the most influential authors, books, and poetry in the industry." Similar to all life's domains, the Literary domain, too, is invaded by 'rats' that are attacking us, the struggling authors, not with their teeth, but with the most modern devices.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for saving me from the scammers. I was so flattered to see that someone was "eager" to publish my book. I called and talked with a person with a heavy accent that was working so hard to get me to sign up for their services. I am hardened enough not to give them anything they could use. But I got the name of their service and immediately went online, and first thing that came up was your post. I am so thankful for people like you that see a wrong and go forward to protect other people that might fall for their pitch. Thank you again.

Lydia said...

Thank you for your blog. I come by about once a quarter to see what is new.

I just got 2 phone calls and email from Chloe Martin, reportedly a literary agent with New Age Literary Agency, newageliteraryagency.com. Of course I cannot find Chloe Martin in any listing of agents. The web site does exist, but feels like the typical scam.

I see another person has also written about the same "agency." ICANN started 2020-01-24. all info is private- so no idea where this originates.

I just wanted to report the typical phone call and email as the name is generic enough to fool people. I run a micro publishing co. just to aid our colleagues to get over the technical hurdles of self publishing. We started it to self-publish our >20 books. We don't look for authors.

Unknown said...

I was also approached by a literary agent from New Age Literary Agency. Mason Gardner. Is this also a scam?

Thanks!

Douglas Hoff
Honoring Anna

Victoria Strauss said...

Yes, New Age Literary Agency is a scam--not a literary agency at all but a front for roping writers into high-priced, worthless "services".

Unknown said...

I too was sent an email from Right Choice Agency. The contact person was Megan Heart. Initially, I was excited, until I started researching and your website came up. Reading all the tactics they employ just to scam someone is beneath the scum they portray. In this day and time, evilness is running rampant, so hat's off to you for exposing them for who they are; just scum!!

Janice M. Fair-Salters
Voices From Beyond

5/18/2021 9:42 pm

Anonymous said...

Opps lost my last comment. I was looking for Orions Media Agency with June Michaels as agent and it sent me here. Seems that one of my short story books made Universal Pictures!!!It looks like the same kind of scam.

Quahog Press said...

Just received this one:


Get Started
To:
manrikigusara@yahoo.com

Wed, Jul 21 at 9:38 PM

Hi Christopher,

I love what you’ve done so far with your book Tremulous Prism.

Your modest approach enhanced the clarity of your message and, quoting my reviewing team’s comments, “line by line, the book feels like a journey I’d redo again and again – it was so much fun.” I’m glad I stumbled upon Tremulous Prism while checking Texas Book Festival.

Christopher, I’m an acquisition officer from Get Started. We are a specialized marketplace for independent authors looking for a literary spotlight for their books. This marketplace is a platform where authors can easily set up a bookshop to sell their books directly to book readers and maintain an author-reader relationship. This platform exists because we understand that you would need to present market data to convince traditional publishers like Penguin or Hay House.
Yes, it is necessary to have a good book (which you currently have right now), but it is as essential to have a social proof for traditional publishers to see that people are interested in what you have and why with their help, you’ll be able to grow that market further. Here at Get Started, you’ll have the capability to build that social proof through our list builder. This list-builder automatically stores book reader’s email after buying a copy of your book and maintain communication with them.

Having enough people registered on this list can be used to present Traditional Publishers the marketability of your book. I want to invite you and give me a call to help you take a shot at your book and do this the right way. You are very talented, and I want to help you win a publishing deal. After we build your readership, we can tap these Literary Agencies:

Writers House
Donald Maass Literary Agency
BookEnds Literary Agency

They are currently accepting submissions, and prepping you and the book before submitting it could mean a contract for you. Our list of available agencies could change since we don’t have control over their acquisition quotas. Call me as soon as you get this so we may start working together, my name is Rod Taylors and my number is (307) 227-4913. You may also email me at rod@getstartedbooks.com.

Thank you!

Get Started - A Marketplace for Authors
+1 (800) 419-0551




There is a related blog: https://bookendsliterary.com/2006/06/15/writer-beware-2/
I assume this is another scam, dressed up like something real.

Victoria Strauss said...

You're right: it is another scam. Get Started Books is the new face of Legaia Books, which has abandoned that name (along with another name it used, West Literary Agency), possibly due to warnings on this blog. It's currently still functioning as Right Choice Multimedia (which I've also written about) and Lemon Creatives LLC. It's also still using the Rod Taylors name, which was used in many Legaia solicitations.

Get Started has the veneer of a new approach, but the email reveals it's the same old scam, with the pitch for approaching traditional publishers and literary agencies (not mentioned: the probably very large fee this will require).

BookEnds is a real, reputable agency, and that's it's real blog. No relationship whatever with Get Started Books, under any name.

Could you forward that email to my email address, beware@sfwa.org? Thanks!

Terry the Wombat said...

I wished I had come across this site 2years ago. I was scammed by a Literary agent in Virginia and they promised to promote my book to all the leading publishers such as Harper and Collins who would pay me tens of thousands of dollars for my book to be republished. The Lit. Agent said I would only have to pay a figure and then there would be no other payments. Well that didnt happen. I had to keep paying out until the book was ready to go to Harper and Collins then never heard from them again. I lost $7000.00 Australian Dollars and will never be recovered unless someone out there knows a good Lawyer in the States. Her name was Samantha Browne of Editors Press Media and are also associated with Silver Ink Literary Agency. I am so depressed about the whole situation. Dont trust Editors Press Media or Samantha Browne. Thats if thats her real name. Thought I would let any new authors out there before they are trapped. Terry

Victoria Strauss said...

Terry the Wombat,

I'm so sorry to hear about your experience with Editor's Press and Media. You aren't the only one who has reported losing money to this pernicious scam, via fake offers from HarperCollins (in fact I wrote a blog post about this).

Can you tell me more about Editor's Press's association with Silver Ink Literary Agency? I'm looking for evidence tying these two scams together. Please email me: beware@sfwa.org. Thank you.

 
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