Scammer Sent to Slammer

Writers’ Beware is reporting that Martha Ivery, the vanity press scammer and fake literary agent, was sentenced today to nearly six years in Federal prison for bilking aspiring writers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars with her many swindles under various aliases (Kelly O’Donnell Literary Agency, Craig Roussan, PressTige Publishing, New Millenium Publishing House, etc.).

Martha’s lawyer had argued for probation rather than jail time,
pleading serious mental illness, but the prosecution’s psychiatrist,
while acknowledging that Martha is one majorly fucked-up lady, did not
agree that this prevented her from distinguishing right from wrong. The
judge, fortunately, saw it the prosecution’s way.

Martha is
required to pay restitution to her victims (or, if they die, their
heirs), starting immediately, at the rate of 10% of everything she
earns or $100 per month, whichever is greater. Since the total
restitution amount is $728,248.10 (representing her "take" from nearly
300 victims), this is really more symbolic than anything else.

You can find a copy of her indictment here. Let’s hope this serves as a warning to all the other vanity press scammers out there (not that they are that hard to spot if you have an iota of common sense).

(Thanks to William Simon for the heads-up!)

You’d Think Anybody Who Has Read This Blog Would Know Better Than to Send Me This Shit…

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of junkmail solicitations from con artists who prey on aspiring authors.  Here are two of the latest. One is from a guy who is offering to interview me on his radio show… for a price.

ATTN: Lee G – Want to be a radio Star? I can make you a  bestseller by advertising on my radio show Call me 781/860-9548. My name is Stu Taylor. I provide a unique service for publicly traded and private companies.  I am the host of two nationally syndicated, weekly radio shows, both entitled Equity Strategies that are broadcast on Radio America Network and the Business Talk Radio Network. For a modest fee, I will serve as a host and  interview a member of your management team to achieve whichever goals matter to you. Stu Taylor will also assist your company with public relations and media relations. Your success in business is Stu Taylor’s success.

That’s because your money will be going into his pocket. Don’t you just love people who refer to themselves in the third person? Well, let me tell you, Lee Goldberg won’t be calling Stu Taylor any time soon. Lee Goldberg urges you not to, either. If your book is any good, and if have any promotional skills at all, you should be able to score some free radio interviews on your own.

The next piece of junk mail was posted here as a comment (which I deleted because my blog isn’t a bulletin board for Internet scam artists).  It came from Randy Gilbert & Peggy McColl, who run a "get rich quick" scheme for writers called the "Zero Cost Bestseller Formula" (which they are also selling as "The Bestseller Mentoring Program")

Authors & Publishers – Tired of
  fighting for bookstore distribution? Even if you’re a complete computer
  novice and have no marketing expertise, we’ll coach you to follow our
  proven formula
and . . .
We’ll Help You Make Your  Book An Bestseller  in Just 48 Hours … Guaranteed!

They say it’s the same formula that’s turned folks like Robin Sharma, George McKenzie, Rick Frishman, and Andre Lara into household names. What? You’ve never heard of them? How can that be?  The gist of their scheme, which they are offering for "a $385 discount" from their usual price (whatever the hell it is), is:

In short, the formula involves  getting people with big email lists to send out an announcement asking  people to buy your book on a given day at Amazon. This method isn’t “spamming” because only “opt-in” email lists are used.   To motivate people to purchase  the book, you promise them a lot of  digitally-downloadable “bonus gifts” for  when they submitted their Amazon email receipt.  For instance, buy a $20  book and you could get $500 of more of extra bonuses – a tremendous   incentive to buy the book. Even better, because the formula uses email,  it  costs nothing to promote the book!

Their scheme is directed, of course, at self-published authors desperate for a short-cut to becoming the next John Grisham. ..and all too ready to hand their  credit cards  over to people like Randy & Peggy, whose come-on is:

Just think…for the rest of your life, people will hear the phrase “bestselling author” whenever you’re being introduced.

Randy & Peggy have several self-published books to their credit, including the  "Proactive Success – The Amazing New Science of Personal Achievement," "On Being a Dog With A Bone," "Success Bound: Breaking Free of Mediocrity" and "The Eight Proven Secrets to Smart Success." They also have a company called "Bargain Publishing Inc." Hmm.

Randy, who likes to call himself  "Dr. Proactive," also hosts  "The Inside Success Show" Internet radio program and, get this, he actually managed to score an interview with  Peggy! Wow.  On his website, he says he was "priviledged" to interview her and he offers you this fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity:

Gold  Member Mania!  Click here and learn how to become a Gold Member  so you can hear all our shows, plus
download convenient MP3’s,  plus get discounts on other products,  and  get much much more.  (All shows are now valued at over   $2,000, plus  you get two other Gold Memberships and Mega-Bonuses.)

Such a deal! But I’ve got to wonder…  how good can their advice be if their idea of a brilliant promotional move is  to post their get-rich-quick come-ons on my blog? Here’s my key to success and I’ll give it to you absolutely free (you don’t even have to be a Gold Member) — stay away from get-rich-quick schemers and Internet scammers who say they’ll make you a bestselling author.  Spend your money instead on some good creative writing courses from established authors (like my brother Tod). Work on making your writing better and learning your craft.  You become a bestselling author by writing great books — not by writing checks.

Scammer of the Month Reponds

A while back, I criticized as a scam for offering to review books for a fee. Heather Froeschl, associate editor of the service, has responded and thinks I was way out-of-line (I wonder if she’s also a member of the Colonial Fan Force, "the power brokers of the new Babylon"?)

Every writer providing a review deserves to be paid for the service. This does not mean paying for a rave, it means paying for the reviewer’s time and written word.

Sure, a reviewer should be paid. By her editor, not by the person whose work she is reviewing.

My goal is to give authors what they ask for…a review of their work. Sometimes I have to give bad news, sometimes I do give a rave, but in the end, authors respect what I have said about their book. Can you buy MY respect? Nope. But you can get a review from us within 14 business days. And that’s no scam.

Heather argues that the reviewers, despite being paid by the author or publisher for their comments, can maintain their objectivity and journalistic integrity. Paying for a review, she says, doesn’t guarantee a rave or that the reviewer will tread gently.

Okay, for the sake of argument, I’ll take her word for that.

How could anybody respect a book review that’s paid for by the author or publisher? How could anybody trust a critic who takes cash from the subjects of her reviews?

Of course the assumption is that a review that’s bought and paid for will be positive. If a  book gets a negative review from her,  I’d have to figure the author’s check bounced…or he wouldn’t kick in the extra $50 for a rave.

She doesn’t seem to get why anyone would question the validity of a review that’s paid for… or a critic who is in the pocket of the author or publisher. Heather also doesn’t seem to get the ethical problems, either…or how the practice creates a glaring conflict of interest.

Would you respect a movie review from a critic hired by the studio? Would you trust Consumer Reports on their review of a car, appliance, or other product if they were paid for the review by the manufacturers? Would you respect a restaurant review from a critic who was paid by the chef?

Apparently, Heather would.

Scam of the Month

Tom Schantz , well known in book circles for running the RUe Morgue bookshop in Boulder for many years, unearthed this scam from

Get your book listed on!

Here at
we often find ourselves digging out of an avalanche of newbooks. After much consideration, we have decided to offer two new [paid] services to help you get your book listed and/or reviewed on quickly and easily.

Our New Author Listing will allow you to post a description of your book in our New Author database. Your listing will include the title, author name, isbn number, category, publisher, web address, and a description of your book. It will automatically link to so that visitors to the site can purchase your book. While the listing is not a review and therefore can not be used in your promotional materials, it is still a great opportunity for publicity. Your book will be searchable by author or title in our advanced search section. Each New Author Listing costs $20, which can be paid with MasterCard or Visa on our secure server, or with a check via snail mail.

Our Express Review Service guarantees that your book is placed at the top of the reviewers’ pile. At a cost of $125 per book, this service guarantees that one of our professional reviewers will read and review your book within 15 business days of receiving it. The review will be posted on as well as and will be eligible to become a Book of the Month.

Once the review is completed, you are free to use any part of it in your promotional materials as long as is credited.

Paying for a review… now there’s a good idea. I wonder if they will even let you write it yourself…or do they charge extra for that?

Obviously, there’s no limit how far some people will go to take advantage of authors desperate for publication and recognition. I wonder how many iUniverse/Publish America authors, who’ve already paid plenty to get their unpublished books published, will shell out for this scam?