On My Guard

True story: Back in the mid 2000s, well before I ever wrote a novel draft, I frequented the Absolute Write Water Cooler forums. I paid particular attention to the Bewares, Recommendations and Background Check forum. I had no publication credits and no stories that were anywhere close to submittable, but something inside me knew I was going to get back to writing and submitting fiction some day, and I’d need to be ready when the time came. 

There are people who see authors as nothing but walking wallets to be turned upside down and shaken until every last coin, dollar bill, and credit card has fallen out. Part of the glamorous life of an author (*snerk*) is identifying these lowlifes and avoiding them. They do not care about your book, not one bit. They want your money. They feel entitled to your money. They sometimes get quite angry if anyone suggests that maybe they should stop bilking authors and get an honest job.

Once Tidepool went up for preorder on Amazon and other sites, the shady emails started arriving in my inbox. Most of them were so obviously bogus I just laughed before hitting the delete button. Nice try, but I’m not spending money to promote Tidepool on a blog I’ve never heard of that gets zero engagement on its posts. I was born on a Tuesday, but it wasn’t last Tuesday. 

But one that came in last week almost got me. It was titled “Largest Book Event Worldwide Invitation.” Sounds neato, yeah? 

If a writing friend forwarded this to me and asked “Nicole, do you think this is on the level?”, I’d have looked it over and said “No way” without a second thought. But just for a minute, these guys nearly had me. It’s different when it’s your book and you want to believe—and these folks know it.

Writers get snared by this kind of thing all the time, and I thought maybe it would be helpful for others if I went through this email and pointed out all the fishy stuff. 

Ready? Here we go. I edited the sender’s name because I doubt that’s their real name, and I don’t want anyone with that name to get slimed by this mess. 

I am Rxxxxx Sxxxxxx, a senior marketing consultant from Authors Press. A short background for our company. We are major exhibitors in all book events, a marketing firm, and a physical bookstore owner called Creative Books located in the heart of Pittsburg, California. AUTHORS PRESS CREDIBILITY

My thoughts:

– That’s a weirdly unfocused company. A marketing firm, an exhibitor, and a bookstore? Huh. The store really does exist, but its sign promises “Book, School, and Party Supplies,” and it looks more like a Party City than like any kind of major book company. 

– The AUTHORS PRESS CREDIBILITY was a hyperlink that took me to a photo of the physical bookstore. Are you wondering how that establishes their credibility? It doesn’t. Also not establishing their credibility: My MacBook warned me the link had been flagged as suspicious when I went back to check it a second time. Nice. 

I want to let you know that we have received a go signal from our Senior Literary Critics Team who evaluated your book titled Tidepool: A Lovecraftian Gothic Novel.

– So on top of all the other things this company does, they have a Senior Literary Critics Team that goes around doing unsolicited evaluations of books this company didn’t even publish? Dang. Whatever they get paid, it’s not enough.  

– My book is not called Tidepool: A Lovecraftian Gothic Novel. Someone ganked that off Amazon without looking closely at the book cover. 

Look for yourself: There’s my book cover right in the email, in case I didn’t remember what it looked like or something. I mean, it did come out almost a month ago. So thoughtful of them!

Hence, we are looking into the option of co-investing and working with you. We would like to feature you and your book world’s largest book fair and trade fair for books which is the Frankfurt Book Fair.

–  “Frankfurt Book Fair” was in big red letters in the email, but another magic word jumped out at me on the second reading: “Co-Investing.” In other words, they want my money. 

– That second sentence (and a good bit of the email) is a hot mess. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d expect a company that’s a publisher, exhibitor, marketer, bookstore, and probably a floor wax and a dessert topping (#oldpeoplehumor) to proof their correspondence before sending it out. If they don’t present themselves well, I can’t be confident they’ll present my work well. 

Shall this be something that interests you, kindly reply to this email at your earliest convenience so that we can further discuss the matter or click the link below to schedule a short call.

– They enclosed a slide presentation about the Frankfurt Book Fair that took a lot of bandwidth to establish very little. 

Seriously, WTF does any of this even mean?

– They also enclosed a snapshot of their registration as an exhibitor at the fair. I checked the Frankfurt Book Fair website and discovered this much, at least, was true. 

As I said, for about 15 seconds I was excited. My eyes scanned over the other stuff and saw FRANKFURT BOOK FAIR (which they put in big red letters for exactly that reason, I’m sure) and I pictured throngs of international industry professionals checking out Tidepool. Again, these people are counting on authors having this reaction. They play to our egos (OMG a Senior Literary Critics Team likes my book!) and our desire to get our books in front of as many people as possible, especially if those people could be movers and shakers in the industry.

But then my common sense kicked in and I Googled them. Oof. It was not pretty. 

The Better Business Bureau complaints told me all I needed to know: People had given this company thousands of dollars and gotten very little—if anything—for it.

https://www.bbb.org/us/ca/pittsburg/profile/publishers/authors-press-1116-896738/customer-reviews#0

And wait, there’s more: https://www.complaintsboard.com/authors-press-new-york-times-newspaper-ad-publication-c1250754

And I should have known that the wonderful Victoria Strauss had already covered book fairs and the companies that try to get authors to shell out a lot of money for what’s likely to be little return. Indeed, Victoria had already written about the lowlifes who tried to scam me. (You gotta scroll way down to find the stuff about Authors Press and Creative Books. There are SO many of these dirtbags operating now.)

I also looked at their website. To be fair, the site does not hide that they charge you a lot of money to publish your book. I cross-checked some of their titles on Amazon, and it looks like they have put out some actual physical books. But even so, there’s no guarantee you’ll get what you paid for:

https://www.complaintsboard.com/authors-press-book-publishing-c1094756

The connection between the press and the bookstore is unclear, but it doesn’t matter. I wanted no part of any of this. 

Some will claim that no reputable company will solicit you out of the blue. However, I have gotten unsolicited email from people who had honest offers. But there were significant differences between those and the offer from Authors Press: 

1. The honest people were very specific about who they were, what they wanted from me, and what they could do for me in return;

2. They linked me to well-designed websites and showed me specific examples of what they’d done for other writers. Specifics! Love ’em;

3. They didn’t ask me for money or promise me the moon; and 

4. In one case, I’d already heard of them because they do such excellent work.

If you’re an author, do yourself and your career a favor and make Writer Beware: The Blog a regular read, and follow Victoria Strauss on Twitter. Forewarned is forearmed.

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