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 13, 2021

Scam Alert: TransMedia Agency

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®

A quick warning about a new impersonation scam. 

I'm getting reports from writers who've received email solicitations from what appear to be real film companies. Here are a couple of examples:

Note the identical language. 

Roth/Kirshenbaum and Bluegrass Films are real enterprises, with real track records. So if the writer--who may be a bit dubious because of the out-of-the-blue contact and the poorly-written text--does a websearch, they'll learn that these companies actually do exist. There are some odd discrepancies: there's no "&" in Roth/Kirshenbaum, and Scott Stuber left Bluegrass for Netflix in 2017. Still, the realness of the companies themselves makes it easier for hopeful writers to dismiss any niggling doubts.

Of course, the whole thing is a bait and switch. The clue is the "trusted literary firm" that can "furnish" the screenplay that the writer undoubtedly doesn't have. After some back and forth, the writer receives this: 

"Trusted literary firm" TransMedia Agency*--aka the scammer that's running the whole scheme--has what's essentially a placeholder website, providing just enough web presence to deflect the suspicion that might arise if it had no website, but containing virtually no meaningful content. The ungrammatical text and generic, unverifiable "about us" information are both major warning signs.

The writer also receives a "Screenplay Agreement Form" with a lot of legalistic mumbo jumbo about warranties, security, limitation of liability, blah blah blah. It's all window dressing for this:

So TransMedia is guaranteed to get at least $5,000 for a screenplay it will never deliver, even if the writer smells a rat and doesn't hand over the installment payments. Not a bad payday for sending out a few emails and a fake contract.

As is the case for many scammers, TransMedia's Illinois address is a virtual office. Its LLC is registered in the name of Colin Carroll of 1063 Inverness Drive in Antioch, IL; most likely Mr. Carroll is just a beard, and TransMedia is really operating out of the Philippines. I would also guess that Roth/Kirshenbaum and Bluegrass Films aren't the only real companies that TransMedia is impersonating.

Remember, writers: REPUTABLE FILM COMPANIES DO NOT OPERATE THIS WAY. They don't contact you out of the blue. They don't refer you for paid services. You're safest if you treat ANY unasked-for solicitation as a potential scam.

* Not to be confused with this Transmedia Agency.

UPDATE 9/6/21: TransMedia is also soliciting in the name of Todd Phillips Productions. Some of the language is identical to the two solicitations above; note the addition of some fulsome flattery.

August 6, 2021

Scam Alert: Silver Ink Literary Agency / Editors Press and Media / Global Review Press

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®

Last week, the Authors Guild sent out this warning:

Writer Beware has been getting complaints about Silver Ink Literary Agency for some time. It's included on our list of more than 100 similar Philippines-based publishing/marketing/fake literary agency scams. 

The Authors Guild isn't the only group whose name Silver Ink has taken in vain. It has also faked emails from Penguin Random House... order to share an equally fake memorandum about PRH's supposed new submission guidelines... aid of lending false credibility to the editing and other overpriced and substandard services Silver Ink pushes on its victims. 

Here's what else Writer Beware has found out about Silver Ink Literary Agency.

Silver Ink also does business as Editors Press and Media. The evidence: identical website content (compare the content on their marketing pages), identical (and seriously ungrammatical) language in contracts and other documents, and the use of Heather Allen's name in faked-up emails from both scams. (Ms. Allen, who now works for Abrams, has posted an alert on her LinkedIn profile.) I've also had confirmation of the connection from a couple of the snitches who occasionally contact me to blow a whistle or rat out their competitors. 

Editor's Press is actually the original scam; its domain was registered in October 2019, while Silver Ink's came to life a year later, in October 2020. Whoever ported Editor's Press content over to Silver Ink's website slipped up in the proofing department: 
Like its mini-me, Editor's Press plays the impersonation game to bamboozle writers into paying for editing. Its chosen target for fakery is HarperCollins:

You can read more about Editor's Press's impersonation scheme here

Silver Ink also does business as Global Review PressGlobal Review is the baby of the bunch; its domain was only registered in April 2021. 

Again, there's identical content on the marketing page--including, amazingly, the same uncorrected proofing error noted above. Silver Ink and Global Review both have business registrations in Nevada, and share the same principal and registered agent, Sandra L. Herrera of 3996 Kettle Rock Ct in Reno. (Editor's Press is registered in Virginia, also to what appears to be a private individual.)

The owner of these ventures is Gary Serdeña, aka Shawn Serdeña, aka Shawn Gatewood. According to his Facebook profile, Shawn (the name he apparently prefers) is from Tacloban City in the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines, and enjoys posting photos of himself conspicuously consuming the income generated by his author-fleecing ventures.

Shawn's personal FB feed includes many references to Editor's Press, such as this one on the occasion of the company's one-year anniversary, and this one from a couple of months ago celebrating a brand-new business location. There's even a ribbon-cutting video. Ripping off authors is lucrative! 

(UPDATE: Scammers like Shawn are among my most faithful followers. Shortly after I published this, Shawn deleted all the posts and video I've linked to in this article. He also appears to have deleted the original Facebook page for Editor's Press and Media [unfortunately not archived by the Wayback Machine], and created a new one [currently with almost no content]. Additionally, he has changed his name on Facebook and Instagram: he's now going by Denzel Agaton, and claiming to live in California [a claim somewhat contradicted by his many posts and check-ins referencing Cebu]. The URLs of his FB and Insta presence memorialize his real name, however, and you can still see him posing in front of the Editors Press and Media logo.)

Shawn is an interesting example of how these publishing/marketing/fake agency scams evolve and spawn. He has posted photos of various awards he has won; in addition to documenting the several names he uses, they show that he worked for Author Solutions (the progenitor of the scam phenomenon of which Silver Ink and its siblings are a part) and then for Innocentrix--the name under which scammer Page Turner Press and Media does business in the Philippines--before starting Editor's Press in 2019. 

Shawn can also be found on Instagram. He has two TikTok accounts.

Silver Ink currently has an F rating at the Better Business Bureau, due to unanswered complaints
Editor's Press fares slightly better, with a C-, but only because there have been fewer complaints for it to fail to answer. Global Review has no BBB listing, likely because it's new enough that complaints haven't yet started stacking up. 

Last but not least...I know I'm a bit of a broken record here. But the number one way to protect yourself against scammers like Silver Ink is to assume that ANY out-of-the-blue solicitation is a scam. 

Sound extreme? It's not. Reputable publishers and literary agents rarely reach out to authors directly. For scammers, on the other hand, it's their primary recruitment method. With Silver Ink and the more than 100 outfits like it aggressively trolling for victims, you are safest if you treat all solicitations as non-legit, at least until you've investigated (you can search this blog, or email me). 

Mistrust, and verify.

August 3, 2021

An Important Message for Writer Beware Email Subscribers

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®

As of mid-August, the service that handles Writer Beware email subscriptions and RSS feeds, Feedburner, is terminating its email service.

Blogger, the platform I've been using for the blog, is very limited in functionality, and there doesn't seem to be any alternative to Feedburner that will work with Blogger and won't cost me an arm and a leg.

I'm working on a solution--as well as an overhaul and facelift for the Writer Beware blog. But this will take several weeks, and that unfortunately means you'll stop receiving Writer Beware emails sometime this month. Rest assured, however: a fix is underway and it's only a temporary interruption.

There won't be any interruption to the blog itself: I will continue posting all the latest news about the schemes, scams, and pitfalls that infest the writing and publishing worlds. 

Feedburner has disabled new subscription signups, so if you're not on the email list and would like to be added, please contact me. If you're already a subscriber, you don't need to do anything: you'll be automatically opted in to our new subscription service (whatever that turns out to be). 

In the meantime, our RSS feed still works, and you can always visit us on the web

Any questions, please let me know, and thank you so much for your support!

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