Writers beware

As I shared with ShadowDancer and through Twitter and Facebook, I was pretty excited about the possibility of my first short novel being published in the english language through an enterprise called, among several things, Strategic Book Marketing. My skepticism said: “Not so fast, Duff!”. I asked Romi Moondi, a fantastic writer/blogger and overall positive soul, if she could shed more light on an email I received from SBM. I share with you some of her insights regarding the “joint venture” they were proposing. Hope this serves as a proper cautionary tale:

You mentioned this literary agency/publisher. Are they one in the same? They should be separate and distinct, otherwise it is a conflict of interest (i.e. a literary agent will target the publishers that work with them, so that they all make money except you). The truth is, you should not have to pay a dime to publish your book, unless you specifically take the route of self-publishing and doing all the work yourself. But if a publisher is working with you, you should not be paying, otherwise it is a vanity publisher (i.e. fees, but they won’t actually sell a lot of your book).

And I noticed that they mentioned if your book sells 1,000 copies with them, they will “almost certainly” publish your next book at no cost..well what does “almost certainly” mean?

Anyway, to confirm my fears, I went to my go-to-writing forum, where I generally interact with other writers looking for agents/publishers…it’s a great site full of information. In that site, they have a whole section called “Bewares and Background Checks”, and in it, there was a thread on a book publishing company/agency that is a scammer, and that goes by many names (two of the names were Strategic Book Marketing and AEG, and one of the most recent points of contact was a “Tania”, the same person mentioned in your email—also, only using first names? Sketchy). Here are some links and a summary of one person’s experience. I’m sorry that I’m the bearer of bad news, but hopefully it’s a positive thing, since you can save your money now and continue the search for an agent/publisher. And when in doubt if knowing whether someone is legit, just remember: you shouldn’t be paying for anything, aside from a max. of $50 for photocopies etc, which is stated in the contract, and which you should not have to pay until your agent sells your book and your earn an advance!

Okay! Good luck my friend, and let me know if you ever have any other questions!

First, check out this thread, in post #9 is much of the same email you received, they are not legit! http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=120333&highlight=Author%27s+Edge

And check out this one, below I copied a post: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=101448

Someone’s post, on page 14 of this thread: “I have been with Writer’s Literary Agency since 2006(it was The New York Literary agency then) and I was excited since they seemed so impressed with my work. Of course I worked a full time job with overtime and I’m the mother of 2 children so a small income from my hobby would be ideal. When I was informed by my agressive agent manager Beth Stormes about Strategic Publishing, I seized the opportunity to have my work published after three years of nothing but promises. This company has nickled and dimed me for the past three years (and three manuscripts) and now since I have published with Eloquent Books last year, I have received more and more emails demanding money for “marketing services”, which I am not able to afford since we are scraping by on one income right now.

I reluctantly paid the joint-venture fee, but I have to admit, the cover I had requested is a beautiful work of art and I was pleased with it, although the ‘editing’ left a lot to be desired. I sold 17 copies the first day “Wolf’s Blood” was released and I was estatic. But then after a few months the sales dwindled and I found myself constantly on the message boards in Amazon to drive the sales through self-promotion. I began to grow angry, since this was supposed to be the ‘marketing team’s’ job, but I was the one driving whatever sales I could.(Its hard to market yourself when you’re a full time mom and have 1 car).

I became suspicious of them a few weeks ago when I noticed my book sales through Amazon and the AEG Royalty page didn’t quite match up. For example, during the months of November/December I hadn’t sold any, but on Amazon, I had sold 3 copies, 1 in November and 2 in December. I have had a previous run-around and had to send a forceful email to claim the measly royalty payment owed to me. The company promises 50% royalties, but only if the customer buys directly from AEG’s website. Books that were sold by Amazon or any other means were charged an additional $8.55 per book for ‘printing fees’ so AEG takes their 50%, plus another $8.55 for their printing fees. Its a far cry from 50% royalties like they promised. Plus, these printing fees were never mentioned in the contract.

I stumbled on the “Writer’s Beware” blog on sfwa.org and my heart immediately plunged into my stomach when I read everything posted. I do have to say good work to Victoria and Ann for exposing this scumbag. I’ve pretty much kissed the money good-bye, but now I’m really upset since I am now back to sqare one, trying to find a reputable agent and publishing the rest of my work, not to mention the self doubt of my writing ability. I hope the state of Florida nails him and shuts him down, because others don’t need to be drawn into his web of deceit, like I was by careful flattery and a positive reply.”

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3 thoughts on “Writers beware

  1. I am on several writers/illustrators groups and these people turn up on all of them. They prey on new writers who want to make their break in publishing, writers who are full of selfdoubt and hope and therefore easy to lead on.

    Generally, if you have to pay anything at all, it’s vanity publishing. In this case it doesn’t matter if you’re a good writer or not, they’ll tell you it’s good and they invest as little time as possible in you and your book, once you’ve signed up and paid, as they can.

    However, I think every writer has some such experience where he or she is drawn into such a scam and it is depressing and frustrating, but it shouldn’t deter you from trying to submit your manuscript to lots of ‘real’ publishers. BUT, do your research. Get the Writers Handbook or have a look for it in your local library. Check out any suitable publishers and read up on their current list on the web. Go to bookshops and check out books that are in the same genre as yours and check out which publishers have brought them out. Check out how to contact them. Some will want a letter outlining the plot of your book and three chapters, others may want a letter of enquiry first, and a few may want the whole book (especially if it’s a short one like a picture book). Unless you are a ‘professional’ illustrator, don’t submit images and don’t pay anyone to do your illustrations. A professional illustrator will always team you up with a suitable illustrator.

    Most of all though, edit your book. Make sure it’s the best it can be. If you can afford to, get a reputable editor to edit it for you, or at least join a writer’s group and find other writers who are prepared to edit your book for you (although you’ll have to do the same for them). Editing other people’s books teaches you loads because you’ll have some distance from the writing and will be able to see where it goes wrong, the same is true for other writers editing your book. The more you edit and read other people’s writing the better yours will get, so it’s time well spent.

    Good luck! 🙂

    • Thank you for your comment, it’s very rewarding to know that more authors are aware of this shady’s group existence (since I didn’t reply to their last email, I just got one with a “publishing Joint venture offer with finance plan exhibits at book expo in New York and Frankfurt” to entice me).

      A positive thing I can take from this experience is the actual translation and editing of my work. In that sense, up to this point, it was a blessing in disguise. Have a great day, MagpiesMagic!

  2. Pingback: Strategic what? « A blogger formerly known as Duff Boy

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