The Mail I Get – Scammers Edition

Even in this age of easy self-publishing, the scammers are still out there… and there are still plenty of suckers. I recently ran into an author who not only “published” his book through Authorhouse, he also paid them extra to buy positive reviews for him in the worthless “self-published books” versions of Publishers Weekly and Kirkus. Not only that, he was seriously considering a sleazy marketeer’s $25,000 campaign to “get his book on bestseller lists” by paying people to buy copies and leave positive reviews on digital platforms. He firmly believed that this is how Stephen King, John Grisham, Janet Evanovich and others get their books reviewed and on the bestseller lists. I, of course, told him was wrong and that he’d been swindled. Afterwards, he emailed me this plea:

Okay, so I’m ready with open ears to figure out how to get my book marketed, put on best seller lists, then get it made into a movie. I asked you last week if I could send you a copy to take a look at, cause it’s pretty damn dynamic. I know you have your own writings to take care of, but If there’s anything at all you can do to help me, I would be more than happy cut a nice juicy percent of gross profits…of everything. Please, please, please guide me in the right direction and if possible, drive the damn car for me.

The first thing you need to know is that Authorhouse is a notorious scam that operates under several names (Author Solutions, iUniverse, xlibris, etc.). They prey on the desperation of aspiring authors and squeeze them for every last penny they can get. Don’t pay them another dime for anything. You’ve been swindled out of enough money by these crooks as it is. Here’s just one of many posts out there about the Author Solutions/Authorhouse scam. The good news is that people have finally gotten wise to their con and the company is in a downward spiral.

But before they crash and burn, you should demand that Authorhouse revert the rights to the book back to you, along with the PDF and Kindle files that you’ve paid for, and pull the book from sale. Your book is ranked at 2 million on Amazon, which frankly means you aren’t selling any books anyway, so you aren’t risking anything by yanking it. Nobody knows the book exists.

I’m sorry, but I don’t have the time to help you untangle yourself from Authorhouse or to walk you through self-publishing your book. But before you consider self-publishing again, or marketing your book to real publishers, you should really go back and rewrite the manuscript. I read the Amazon sample and, I mean no offense, but it needs substantial editing by a professional. It’s bloated with endless, dull exposition…and isn’t ready to sell to anybody. Rewriting the book under the guidance of an experienced freelance editor, or a knowledgeable creative writing instructor (perhaps through UCLA Extension), is really the best use of your resources now rather than investing time, effort, and money self-publishing a book that is unlikely to find an audience in its present form.

The Warrant For My Arrest Scam

scam-alert2I had great fun today talking with “Lt. David O’Neal” of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who left a message on my voicemail to let me know that a warrant had been issued for my arrest. He told me I had to call him back today at 213-334-6708. I did…knowing full well it was a scam. He answered the phone.
CONMAN: Los Angeles County Sheriff Department.
ME: I’m looking for Lt. David O’Neal.
CONMAN: This is the operator. I will connect you. Please hold.
<hold for two minutes, then same guy gets back on the line>
CONMAN: This is Lt. O’Neal. How may I help you?
ME: This is Lee Goldberg, you called me today. You said there’s a warrant for my arrest. What’s going on?
CONMAN: Let me check the database.
<hold for two minutes>
CONMAN: Is this Lee Goldberg, who lives at XYZ? (Mispronounces name of my street and the city)
ME:  Yes.
CONMAN: This is in regards to a sums sent to you on October 3 for a court appearance on November 8.
ME: A sums?
CONMAN: Yes, it was sent to your house.
ME: What is a sums?
CONMAN: Excuse me for a moment.
<short hold>
CONMAN: This is in regards to a summons.
ME: Oh, a summons. You didn’t say that.
CONMAN: Yes, I did. Sorry if I wasn’t clear. You have been placed by the court on a D & R. Are you claiming this was a postal failure to deliver and that you are not evading the court.
ME: Yes.
CONMAN: Okay. Do you have a pen and paper?
ME: Yes.
CONMAN: The honorable Judge Virginia Phillips, located in courthouse C, has issued two class C warrants, STA, for failure to appear, docket number 205-20-16, and COC, for contempt of court, docket #205-31-93
ME: Gee, that sounds serious. What did I do?
CONMAN: I do not have access to that information. The court documents are sealed. I am only advising you about the court’s action.
ME: Is this about the attempted murder charge?
CONMAN: Probably, sir.
ME: I thought the statute of limitations had run out.
CONMAN: The statute is still in force. 
ME: Maybe it’s the kidnapping thing.
CONMAN:  I don’t know. Do you have a pen and paper? Write this down. I am Lt. David O’Neal — N-E-A-L, badge # 3193, I am located at 226 Temple Street, LA , 90012 You will have to come down here today to sign an affidavit to appear.
ME: Now?
CONMAN: Not yet. This is a courtesy call to advise you what is going on and to alleviate the situation at hand. I need to advise you that your name is going into the NCIC database. This is standard procedure in cases like this, but don’t be alarmed.
ME: I’m very alarmed. I thought the attempted murder allegations were behind me. 
CONMAN: Before you come down, you need to provide a bond for the STA, which is a failure to appear, and one for the COC, contempt of court. The amount of each bond is $990. The money will be refunded when you appear. These bonds are required to guarantee your appearance. Do you own a mobile device?
ME: Yes.
CONMAN: Good. I need you to stay on the line throughout this procedure. It’s very tedious, but necessary, and will show your good faith to the court.
ME: I don’t have time for a tedious procedure. This has been tedious enough. Why don’t you just come out to the lobby?
CONMAN: What do you mean?
ME: I’m at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station right now.
CONMAN: SHIT!
<Hangs up>
I wasn’t at the Sheriff’s station, of course. I imagine there are some morons who fall for this…but it’s hard to believe considering that the perpetrators are so lame. Here’s the Sheriff’s alert about the scam

Fake TV Writer James Strauss and his Advisors

Fake TV writer James Straus s
Fake TV writer James Strauss of Antares Research and Development

Just when you thought the story of fake TV writer and convicted conman James Strauss aka James R. Straus couldn’t get any stranger or sleazier…it does. My relentless and intrepid Facebook friends, including Barbara Early and a few who wish to remain anonymous, have uncovered more disturbing stuff about Strauss. Follow along. Strauss has a company called “Antares Research and Development” that is, according to its webpage, involved in:

“Silver Mining, Indian Jewelry, Fabrication & Sales, Computer Hardware Assembly, Documentary Film Production, Literary Works for Hollywood & New York, Consulting for the United States Government in the areas of Diplomacy, Finance, & Cultural Accommodation Abroad.”

Strauss has a board of “Advisory Directors” for his company. They are:

Advisory Directors

USA, EUROPE, ASIA, AMERICAS, & OTHER AREAS

1. James Strauss, Author

Antares Productions, Inc.

2. Frank Samuelson, Washington State

Antares Productions, Inc.

3. MR. X [Name Redacted]*, California

Ask, Seek, Knock, Inc.

4. Jeremy Rosetta, New Mexico

Raincloud Silver

5. MOVIE PRODUCER [Name Redacted] *, California

Movie Production Company [Name Redacted]*

6. Chuck Bartok, California

Focus Society Mastermind, Inc.

7. Barry Johnson, Texas

Colonel, United States Army

Here’s where it gets really interesting

MR. X [Name Redacted] was convicted in the late 90s for conspiracy, money laundering, and a host of other charges. On Mr. X’s resume on IMdB, he claims a close association with “Movie Producer’s Movie Production Company” [Name Redacted]. A Mr. X was imprisoned in the same Federal pen as Strauss at the same time. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Speaking of coincidences, let’s talk about Jeremy Rosetta, another one of Strauss’ top advisors. He’s based in New Mexico, where Strauss once lived and was arrested back in the 1990s for fraud. There’s a picture of him here. On his website, Rosetta says “I create my work in a jeweler’s shop on the Santo Domingo Indian Reservation.” Oddly enough, that’s also where convicted sex offender Jeremy James Rosetta lives. He was arrested for “Criminal Sexual Penetration” and “Aggravated Sexual Abuse.” You can see a picture of him here. Same guy? You tell me. Maybe it’s just a coincidence.

So if you’re a world leader or an aspiring author who needs to negotiate an international trade agreement, or get a movie made, or have your printer set up, or you’d just like some really cool jewelry, you’ll want to go to Antares Research & Development and their crack team of convicted conmen and registered sex offenders will be glad to take care of you.*

(*hat-tip to Kelley Elder for letting me steal some of his lines)

*I’ve redacted the name of the movie producer and his production company at the producer’s request. He fears that associating his name with Strauss will damage his reputation and I certainly can’t argue with that.

*I’ve redacted the name of Mr. X, at the request of the movie producer mentioned above, who claims they’ve lost “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in financing as a result of being associated with Strauss, who included their names in his other scam business ventures without their knowledge or consent. Since Mr. X and the producer have cut all their ties with Strauss, I agreed to their request. 11/3/16

UPDATE JAN 28. 2015
Fake TV writer and convicted conman James Strauss is back…this time expressing on Facebook his happiness that his author page is finally creeping up to top of Google search results for his name as opposed to all the posts on the web about his swindles. What amuses me about this bizarre post is how he casts himself as a victim…as opposed to the many people that he deceived and defrauded.
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Is James Strauss a Fake Anthropology Professor, too?

James-R-Straus_mugshot.400x800The fake TV writer and convicted conman James Strauss aka James R. Straus claims in his biography that he’s also a professor of anthropology. So far, I haven’t been able to find any evidence to support that claim. However, I have found this interesting nugget, published on his blog… a chapter from his novel-in-progress, in which the hero pretends to be an anthropology professor but gains confidence from the fact that suckers have paid thousands of dollars to hear him speak. Perhaps James is following that old adage: write what you know.

The Lido deck was filled with passengers lounging. Most took note of me when I walked by, but no one said anything. I behaved as I imagined a real anthropology lecturer and guide would. I wandered casually over to the bar. My corner spot was open, so I took it. Wedged in, I waited. A few moments later, Marlys rounded the corner from the storeroom behind the bar, carrying some liquor bottles. As always, she was stunning. White blouse, tied above the top of her black trousers. Her midriff was bare. It was a wonderful midriff. I checked the mirror, and found her reflection. I was unaccountably relieved. She poured a cup of coffee, and then came over to the corner where I sat. The cup was not a cup. It was one of those tall glass things. The way I glanced at it caused her to comment.

“You don’t like it?” she said in her dusky mysterious voice. The tinge of Dutch (or was it Surinamese?) was not irritating. It was alluring. I didn’t answer her, not wanting to say something stupid.

We have others cups,” she volunteered, seeming to know that the tall, vaguely feminine glass bothered me. “What do you normally drink your coffee from?” I searched for something profound to say. Anything.

“Ah, I drink my coffee from thick ceramic bowls, usually, when I can find them. It’s an old Navy thing.” I blushed. I could not believe what had come out of my mouth. She stood square and straight, and then looked directly into my face.

“Were you in the Navy?’ she inquired, waiting.

“Ah, no,” I answered, truthfully…. and stupidly. She just continued standing there, looking at the biggest idiot aboard the ship.

“I want to talk to you,” she stated, after a moment of silent staring.

“Yes, I know,” I began, reaching into my pocket for the anklet.

“No,” she said, her voice nearly a soft hiss. She extended one hand out toward me. “I’ll come to you.”

“But your anklet,” I tried again. She stopped me.

“The anklet is to hold you,” she explained, offhandedly, like it was something I might be expected to hear anywhere or anytime from anyone. She moved back toward the storeroom, while I admired the departing curve of her backside, the material covering it not tight, just warmly snug. Such quality, I thought, as I was left to consider what she might have meant by her comment. Maybe it was a language thing, I guessed. I fingered the anklet inside my pocket. Marlys reappeared, briskly walked the length of the bar, and grabbed my coffee glass. She poured its contents into a cream colored ceramic bowl. She walked away with neither look nor word. I stared into my swirling coffee.

“Great,” I chastised myself. I was doomed to spend the remainder of my time aboard drinking coffee like “Cochon,” the Navy veteran from the Golden Nugget in Nome. I was a Marine. There was some kind of reverse violation of code there, but I was not going to invest any more time thinking about it.

Don joined me at the bar. His great bulk was a comfort to have next to me.

“What are you going to say to the passengers?” he asked, innocently. I shrugged. We hadn’t seen anybody that entire day. Outside of the Russian fishermen, that is. We never did catch sight of any Russian Commandos. We weren’t even dead certain they’d been there. What could I report on since no anthropology had occurred? Other staff crew members gathered near the bar. Benito soon appeared, set up the pedestal microphone, and then lined up a row of chairs in a semi-circle behind the device. She motioned for all of us staff, sitting around, to occupy the chairs.

I left my bowl of coffee on the bar. My place was at the end of the row, with Don beside me. I looked behind him. High up on the bulkhead I spotted something that hadn’t been there before. I peered at the small insignia with squinted eyes. My eyebrows shot up, as I recognized the small drawing. It was the head of Mickey Mouse. I prodded Don. I motioned toward the small effigy, but he would not turn to look. He just chortled quietly.

“Your Mouseketeers are here,” he whispered. My stomach felt strange, looking again at Mickey, high up on the wall. The mission was still way up ahead of me, but the whole world around me was spinning out of control. It wasn’t just loss of control, I realized. It was worse than that. I had also lost the ability to comprehend what was spinning.

Everyone took his or her turn at the microphone. I was last. Benito introduced me. I got up and walked to stand behind the raised instrument. Benito passed behind me. She flagrantly moved her hand across my butt as she passed. To my credit, I did not jump, but I did look behind me into Don’s eyes. His face was screwed up and contorted, but he hadn’t let out a sound. The crowd of almost a hundred people had all had paid over twenty thousand dollars each to spend ten days with us. Somehow that reassured me.

“I’m Professor…” I began, but that was it. They applauded. Then they rose up and clapped some more. I was dumbfounded. I just stood there, like a mummy, until the din eventually quieted. I turned to Don, beseeching him for help. He leaned forward.

“Just tell them, you know, the story of what happened on the island,” Don suggested. “After all, it’s the big adventure of their cruise,” he finished. I thought for a brief moment, inhaled deeply, and then began to lie.

 

James Strauss, The Fake TV Writer, Revealed as Convicted Swindler

James-R-Straus_mugshot.400x800My public outing of fake TV writer James Strauss aka James R. Straus on my blog yesterday prompted several of my enterprising Facebook followers, especially John Hendricks, Barbara Early and Mary Batchellor, to dig into him… and discover his sleazy, criminal past as a conman who was sent to prison for his swindles in the late 90s.

Strauss plead guilty in 1998 to defrauding a teachers’ retirement fund out of $400,000 in an international swindle…but even before stepping into federal prison to serve his two year term for that crime, he was charged with another con, embezzeling $20,000 from a Santa Fe company.

You can see his mugshot and booking info here.

UPDATE JAN 28. 2015
Fake TV writer and convicted conman James Strauss is back…this time expressing on Facebook his happiness that his author page is finally creeping up to top of Google search results for his name as opposed to all the posts on the web about his swindles. What amuses me about this bizarre post is how he casts himself as a victim…as opposed to the many people that he deceived and defrauded.

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James Strauss and his Fake Writing Credits

A year ago, I published a blog post here titled “Easily Fooled” about being on a TV writing panel at a mystery conference with a guy whose writing credits were all fake.  I omitted his name to save him embarrassment. I was being too kind, because the guy is still hoodwinking conferences and the paying attendees with the same scam. So here’s the post again… with his name included this time.

James Strauss

James gets gigs teaching screenwriting courses based on his experience writing episodes on the TV shows HOUSE, DEADWOOD, SAVING GRACE and ENTOURAGE. The problem is, according to the Writers Guild of America and writer/producers on those shows, James Strauss never worked as a writer on any of those series. So beware. If you run across any conference or seminar programs where he’s fraudulently claiming those credits in his biography, please alert the organizers and have them contact Lesley McCambridge in the WGA West credits department. Okay, so here’s the April 2013 post that tells how I first encountered this fake, James Strauss:

James Srauss claims to have written episodes of HOUSE. He didn't.
James Strauss claims to have written episodes of HOUSE. He didn’t.

The First Clue: Strauss Didn’t Know What He Was Talking About

Recently, I was a guest at a Love is Murder Conference in Chicago and one of my fellow speakers/panelists was James Strauss, who claimed to have written for scores of acclaimed network TV shows, like House, Deadwood, and Entourage, and a big upcoming movie, The Equalizer. Based on his experience, he’d been invited to speak at writer’s conferences, seminars, and libraries from coast to coast, including some nice paid gigs in Hawaii and Mexico. I’d never heard of him…and the instant I met him, I knew something was off.

For one thing, I knew one of the writers of the big, upcoming movie he claimed to have worked on…and I knew writer/producers on most of the shows he said he wrote for…and when I mentioned their names to James, he was evasive or said he came on the various projects before or after my friends were there. I might have bought that, screenwriting is a pretty nomadic business, but everything he said on his panels and in his talks about writing scripts and working on episodic series wasn’t just wrong, it was inane. Even in our personal conversations, he said some pretty stupid stuff about the business.

The Second Clue: Strauss Had No Credits. Anywhere. For Anything.

So I looked James Strauss up on IMDb. No credits. I googled his name, with the titles of the series he said he worked on, to see what came up… and the results I got all came from his website and the conferences he’d spoken at. Now my B.S. meter was in the red zone.

So I contacted my friends on the shows that he said he worked on. Not one of them had ever heard of him.

So I called the Writers Guild of America’s credits department and asked for his credits. They told me he wasn’t a member and had no writing credits.

Clearly, James Strauss was fraud. And not a very sophisticated one either if a mere google search could unmask him.

Now that the Guild was alerted to the guy, they investigated the issue in more depth, and sent him a strong cease-and-desist letter.

James Strauss claims to have written episodes of DEADWOOD. He didn't.
James Strauss claims to have written episodes of DEADWOOD. He didn’t.

Conferences Should Check Credentials of So-Called “Experts”

What I don’t get is how so many conferences, libraries, and seminars could have invited this guy to speak, and paid his way to tropical locales, without doing even the most basic check of his credentials. In this day and age, if a guy says he wrote for some of the most acclaimed shows on TV, you should be able to easily confirm it with a simple Google search.  And if you can’t, that should be a big, fat, red freaking flag.

I alerted the conference organizers about this guy’s fraud, and they said they’d always suspected something was off about him, but he seemed very knowledgeable and was so likeable that they let it go. They won’t make that mistake again.

UPDATE 4-22-2014: They actually did! Love is Murder invited James Strauss back again this year to talk about TV writing …even after being alerted by me and the WGA that he was a fraud. But James wisely was a last-minute no-show. The WGA sent him another cease-and-desist letter, and copied the conference. There’s nothing wrong with him teaching screenwriting. What is wrong is claiming credits and experience that he doesn’t have.

IncrediblyJames Strauss is still at it, claiming credits he doesn’t have. Yesterday, I discovered another conference that he was scheduled to speak at in May as an expert in TV writing. His bio listed the usual falsehoods. So I alerted the organizers about his fake credits and put them in touch with the WGA. The conference immediately disinvited Strauss. It’s discovering his continued fraud that prompted me to rewrite and repost this blog today.

When he’s asked to validate his writing credits, he claims he can’t because he wrote his scripts “under the table” and “off the books” so David Shore, David Milch, and the other producers he worked for could avoid paying WGA rates for writers. Uh-huh. That tells you how little James Strauss knows about the TV biz…or about the people he claims to have worked with. HOUSE creator/EP David Shore is on the Board of the Writers Guild of America and chairs the New Members committee.

James Strauss is not a clever fake. The problem is that the conference organizers he meets are so well-meaning, gullible and desperate for impressive guest speakers.

Here’s what James Strauss is saying today on his Facebook page about me outing his fakery:

“Ah, this day closes. I am under attack. For being what I am not supposed to be. For saying what I am not supposed to say. For attempting to live through the mythology of our phenomenal existence with little or no respect into a reality of hard truth and unacceptable demonstration of how things are. Just another day. Not so. A tough day and one not necessarily supported by those living in comfort and removed from the harshness of cold real world delivery. And so I bid you all a good night. I hope your day was better than mine but mine, even such as it was, wasn’t so bad as others have it. For them….I wish them love and acceptance. I wish them belief and tolerance. I wish them everything….”

UPDATE 4-24-2014 – James Strauss is a convicted conman.

James-R-Straus_mugshot.400x800
UPDATE JAN 28. 2015
Fake TV writer and convicted conman James Strauss is back…this time expressing on Facebook his happiness that his author page is finally creeping up to top of Google search results for his name as opposed to all the posts on the web about his swindles. What amuses me about this bizarre post is how he casts himself as a victim…as opposed to the many people that he deceived and defrauded.
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A Horror in Horror

Open Casket Press

Book Editing Terror!

Author Stant Litore is warning horror writers to be wary of publisher/editor Anthony Giangregorio and his much-maligned Open Casket Press. Litore alleges that Griangregorio goes far beyond traditional book editing, massively rewriting manuscripts and then publishing the altered works without the consent of the authors. Griangregorio has been known to change the gender of characters and add rape scenes. This outrageously over-the-top editing and rewriting amounts to what Litore calls “a crime against intellectual property.” I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it’s certainly unprofessional, unethical and inept. Another blogger, Cussedness Corner, warns authors away from Giangregorio as well by offering a horrifying, line-by-line analysis of Open Casket’s terrible author contract.

A Ballsy Scam

I stumbled on this post from Writer Beware very late…but wow, what a ballsy and inept scam. A fake PR firm, the Albee Agency, advertised itself with fake endorsements from non-existent novelists and even a few real authors…and actually thought they could get away with it. Victoria Strauss caught'em. 

Now, these are all authors I'd never heard of before. Maybe their books never got published, or went out of print, or something. Maybe my Google-fu was just not up to par. But wait–here's an author I do know: Chuck Wendig (if you're not familiar with his blog, you should get to know it). Wow, Chuck really had a great experience with Albee, didn't he?

However, I have a suspicious mind. So I dropped Chuck a line, asking if he'd indeed hired The Albee Agency to do PR for him. His response:

WTF? Who is the Albee Agency? They have a testimonial from me on their main page that I never made. thealbeeagency.com (@victoriastrauss)

[…]So….fake testimonials. Nonexistent authors; authors quoted without permission. There are no gray areas here: The Albee Agency is engaging in fraudulent behavior. This just emphasizes–as if y'all didn't already know–that writers need to watch out for scams.

The bigger point, though, is that even without the fake testimonials, there is plenty to beware of here. If Albee were absolutely, scrupulously honest about the authors it has worked with, it would still be offering services of dubious value for too much money, with no assurance of professional expertise.

And that, my friends, is a much bigger danger these days than an outright, bona-fide scam.

Unethical Scumbags

Remember the good old days when ethical behavior mattered? Now we have guys like Todd Rutherford, who take pride in unethical and dishonest conduct…in his case, being paid thousands of dollars to write fake, positive Amazon reviews for authors… and scores of talentless authors so desperate for acclaim they will pay to delude themselves and swindle readers. The New York Times wrote about Rutherford’s lucrative scam today. Here’s an excerpt:

Suddenly it hit him. Instead of trying to cajole others to review a client’s work, why not cut out the middleman and write the review himself? Then it would say exactly what the client wanted — that it was a terrific book. A shattering novel. A classic memoir. Will change your life. Lyrical and gripping, Stunning and compelling. Or words to that effect.

In the fall of 2010, Mr. Rutherford started a Web site,GettingBookReviews.com. At first, he advertised that he would review a book for $99. But some clients wanted a chorus proclaiming their excellence. So, for $499, Mr. Rutherford would do 20 online reviews. A few people needed a whole orchestra. For $999, he would do 50.

There were immediate complaints in online forums that the service was violating the sacred arm’s-length relationship between reviewer and author. But there were also orders, a lot of them. Before he knew it, he was taking in $28,000 a month.

A polite fellow with a rakish goatee and an entrepreneurial bent, Mr. Rutherford has been on the edges of publishing for most of his career. Before working for the self-publishing house, he owned a distributor of inspirational books. Before that, he was sales manager for a religious publishing house. Nothing ever quite worked out as well as he hoped. With the reviews business, though, “it was like I hit the mother lode.”

I think Amazon and Barnes & Noble should remove all the reader reviews for any author who has paid Rutherford, or any scumbags like him, for purchased praise.

In the article, author Roland Hughes, who is eager to become a “recognized author,” admits to paying for the positive reviews of his novel INFINITE EXPOSURE. So I left him this review on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for free:

I have not read this book which, according to an interview with Hughes in today’s New York Times, means I have a lot in common with the reviewers here… at least the ones who’ve praised the book. Hughes admits to buying positive reviews in his quest to become “a recognized author.” Here’s some advice. Actually write a good book. You do not gain readers, or recognition, by swindling readers into buying your books with fake praise. It’s unethical and shows a startling lack of respect for your reader…not to mention yourself. You can have this review for free.

But the big shocker is that “bestselling” author John Locke admits to buying as many as 300 fake reviews to bolster the popularity of his 99 cent detective novels.

Mr. Locke is unwilling to say that paying for reviews made a big difference. “Reviews are the smallest piece of being successful,” he said. “But it’s a lot easier to buy them than cultivating an audience.”

Apparently, it worked for him. He’s sold a million books on Amazon and scored a publishing deal with Simon & Schuster. It should be interesting to see if he suffers any blowback for his highly unethical conduct. At the minimum, Amazon should delete all of his favorable reviews, since so many of them are now suspect.

Outing Outskirts Press

The “Hollywood” package marketed by the vanity press Outskirts Press to naive, aspiring writers is such a blatantly outrageous and predatory rip-off that I am posting Victoria Strauss’ excellent Writer Beware blog post about the shameful scheme in full to make sure the word gets out to anyone foolish enough to be considering it (or the equally worthless one offered by Author Solutions) . 

Self-publishing service Outskirts Press–home of some of the sillier “book marketing” services–is taking advantage of one of writers’ most fevered pipe dreams with its new Book Your Trip to Hollywood service. Of course, the press release doesn’t put it that way: 

These services solve a real problem for many authors who dream of making it big in Hollywood. In fact, just getting Hollywood’s attention is nearly impossible, but with the Book Your Trip to Hollywood suite of services from Outskirts Press, authors receive turn-key, full-service assistance with the push of a button. And with each option, authors receive the feedback and/or participation of a real Hollywood producer and production company; the final results are added to a Hollywood database that is perused by industry professionals for new projects; and exclusive efforts to option the author’s book are immediately set into motion. The author doesn’t have to lift a finger.

Except to pull out his or her credit card.

The first of the “suite of services,” the Hollywood Book-to-Movie Treatment, costs a cool $3,299. For that, you get a 7-10 page “creative adaptation” of your book written by a screenwriter. Which screenwriter? What are his/her credits? Sorry, that info is not available.

You also get an evaluation and a 3-year optioning effort from a Hollywood production company. Which company? What films has it produced? What further compensation might be due if it does manage to get someone to option your treatment? Oh dear–Outskirts isn’t telling you that, either. (The disclaimer that authors have to sign in order to buy the service mentions a “partner production company” with the initials “VM”; that’s too little information even for Writer Beware’s sleuthing superpowers.) 

The second service, the Complete Hollywood Screenplay, has a sticker price of $1,999. Hmmm, you might be thinking; why does an entire screenplay cost less than a 7-10 page treatment? Because the $1,999 is only a downpayment, you big silly! It puts you in touch with a screenwriter (once again, no info on identities or credits) to “discuss additional details”; if you want to proceed, you’ll owe an extra $9,940. (What happens if you don’t want to proceed? Can you get your downpayment back? No word on that from Outskirts.)

Since buying the treatment service is a pre-requisite to buying the screenplay service, the total bill for your Hollywood pipe dream comes to $15,239. Outskirts can even claim that this is a bargain: the very similar services offered by Author Solutions will set you back over $18,000. 

It hurts my heart, and my brain, to think that authors might actually shell out this kind of money for services that would likely net them zero results even if performed by skilled professionals at reasonable prices. Selling a book to Hollywood is one of the most fervent writerly ambitions; it’s also one of the most unattainable. And as much as you may roll your eyes and think, “Surely no one would fall for a scheme like this,” the fact is that people do–or the schemes wouldn’t exist.

 

Lee here again…
Remember, Outskirts Press is not a publisher. They are a printer. They aren’t making dreams come true…they are taking advantage of the gullibility and desperation of aspiring writers. And they have ZERO credibility and influence with the studios and networks in Hollywood. Give your $15,000 to the first homeless person you see instead… not only would it be a better use of your money, you would also have exactly the same chance of making a movie sale as you would giving it to Outskirts.