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Tuesday, December 05, 2006


See? It's illegal.


... and if you click on the above link, you will see that a fake agent has just been sent to prison for defrauding over 300 people of nearly a quarter of a million dollars.

Buffysquirrel posted an interesting story yesterday, which (by your leave, buffysquirrel?) I'm pasting here as a useful cautionary tale:

A friend sent me to a startup small press's site recently, and I cited all the reasons I thought they were dodgy--addressed authors rather than bookbuyers, talked vanity-press-ese, etc, and he goes, "Okay, I'll tell them, so they can change it." Umm, no, that wasn't the idea."I thought you wanted to help!" he said.I didn't want to help them lure in authors, that's for sure. I thought I was helping my friend avoid them...

As I said on the thread, the amount of faith people seem to place in any old crook who prints an ad saying 'I'm a publisher' is amazing, and also worrying. Her friend was doubtless a perfectly intelligent person, but the first assumption when being warned about dodgy publishers was not that these people were crooks, but that they were honest folks who'd accidentally made themselves sound like crooks. There's something about the word 'publisher' or 'agent' that seems to make most people lower their guards.

However, the jailing of Martha Ivery should stand as a warning: some people are not innocently incompetent, doing their best but floundering in a difficult world - they're deliberately setting out to defraud people. They're criminals, and the law takes what they do seriously enough to imprison them.

There's a story I mentioned in my FAQ, which is also worth repeating: a family friend was duped by a scam publisher, and when a relation went to retrieve his manuscript after the crooks had fled the country, she found a 'graveyard of dreams' in the warehouse - tottering piles of manuscripts stacked every which way and forgotten about by people who had only ever been after money. There's another fact about this story that I'd forgotten when I mentioned it in the FAQ: the founder of this sham company had set it up from prison. This wasn't somebody who ever had the honest intention of getting involved in publishing and was led astray: he was a criminal long before he ever started the 'publisher' shtick. He may never have read a book in his life, for all I know, because he wasn't interested in publishing. He was interested in profitable frauds. To him, it was just a good hustle. There had been many criminal schemes in his life, and this was just another one.

A scammer who starts a fake publishing house is no more interested in books than a bootlegger is interested in fine wines or a Nigerian mail scammer is interested in international politics. They're simply opportunities to make money.

That's the thing to tell people who are tempted by fake publishers. If they're lying about anything, they could just as easily be lying about everything. Don't believe a word of it.

Thank God for the people at Writer Beware. Their service to writers is immeasurable.

That's a definite feather in their caps. It's good to see the law recognise just how serious scamming inexperienced writers is. Let's hope lots of people get to hear of this and get a bit more cautious.
No problem :). My friend has plenty of smarts, but this got past him somehow. I suppose we all want to believe in the bona fides of strangers.
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