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 and New Leaf Media LLC

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 even if it never actually delivers the screenplay, and 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. Much of the language is identical to the two solicitations above; note the addition of some fulsome flattery.

UPDATE 10/26/21: This fake production company solicitation was sent out by New Leaf Media LLC, posing as producer David Ellison. It's word for word identical to the Todd Phillips one above, sent out by TransMedia Agency. The writer was referred back to New Leaf Media to get their screenplay written, to the tune of several thousand dollars.

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. (UPDATE 10/28/21: Silver Ink is currently soliciting from a "" email address.)

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. (Note: Silver Ink has changed its website since I published this post, so some of the links below will be to archived pages.)

Interesting parallels exist between Silver Ink and another self-styled publisher/agency, Editors Press and Media, aka Editors Creative Media. There's identical website content (compare the content on their marketing pages), identical (and seriously ungrammatical) language in contracts and other documents, and both have used Heather Allen's name in faked-up emails. (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 earlier scam; its business registration was filed in November 2019, while Silver Ink's was filed 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 Silver Ink, 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 has a sibling, Global Review Press. Both are registered to the same individual, Sandra Herrera of Reno, NV. 

Global Review is the youngest of the three; its business registration was only filed in April 2021. Again, there's identical content on Global Review's marketing page--including, amazingly, the same uncorrected proofing error noted above: 

One person claiming to be the CEO 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 companies.

Shawn's personal FB feed includes many references to Editor's Press, such as this pose in front of the Editor's Press logo, and this post from a couple of months ago celebrating a brand-new business location. There's even a first anniversary party video! Ripping off authors is lucrative! 

Shawn is not an island: he acknowledges the help of two others in lifting his business into the stratosphere. Here's the text of a recent speech, which he delivered on the second annivarsary of Editor's Press and Media (the event also generated this awesome video). You don't have to read it all--just this snippet:

"He", in context, is God. Editor's Creative Media appears to be the name under which Shawn does business in the Philippines (actually Editor's Creative Media OPC). But who are "BM" and "SH"?

Well, as noted above, Editor's Press and Media was registered in Virginia in 2019 to one Bobby Morrison (Shawn has thanked Morrison by name in at least one other video speech). Approximately a year later, in 2020, Silver Ink filed its Nevada business registration, with Sandra Herrera designated as registered agent (she is also the registered agent for Global Review Press). Under the circumstances, it's not a huge stretch to guess that the "SH" Shawn thanks so fulsomely is Sandra Herrera.

I confess I don't understand the exact nature of the relationship between Shawn and BM/SH. Are they donors? Investors? Beachheads for US operations? Just figureheads? Regardless, it's pretty clear that both BM and SH, whoever they are, are key components of Shawn's business empire.

(In a letter from her attorney, Sandra Herrera claimed to be the sole owner of Silver Ink and Global Review.)

(UPDATE: Scammers like Shawn are among my most faithful followers. Shortly after I published this, Shawn deleted all the posts and video I initially linked to in this article [lucky I have backups!]. 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 is the subject of complaints at the Better Business Bureau. More complaints have also popped up on 

Editor's Press has a C- BBB rating, due to one unanswered complaint; it has also acquired a number of complaints on its Bizapedia listing. No online complaints currently exist for Global Review...likely because it's new enough that they 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.

UPDATE 9/21/21: Somewhere a tiny violin is playing.

UPDATE 10/12/21: Gee, the name change didn't last long. On his Facebook page, Shawn is Shawn again, sharing inspirational thoughts and evidence of conspicuous consumption.

UPDATE 10/29/21: The impersonation game revolving around Silver Ink Literary Agency is alive and well. Check out this bogus "letter of intent", supposedly from Penguin Random House (bonus bogosity: the "certified true copy" stamp at the bottom). The carrot: a supposed $30,000 "initial author royalty". The stick: in the contract attached to the letter, the author was required to pay a $2,000 "rights and licenses" fee (there's no such thing). 

(In a letter from her attorney, Ms. Herrera denied that the Letter of Intent was sent by Silver Ink. She provided no information on who she believed did send it, stating only that its origin was "unclear". You'd think, if someone out there were sending out fake letters with your business name on them, you'd be a bit more more concerned. But that's just me.)

UPDATE 12/1/21: Silver Ink has updated its website. Among other things, it has re-worded some of the text on its Advertising Services page so that it's not quite so obviously a carbon copy of the text on the equivalent pages of the Editor's Press and Media and Global Review Press websites...and also to correct the embarrassing proofing error noted above (which as of this writing still survives on the Global Review Press website).

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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