Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers, industry news, and commentary. Writer Beware is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.

March 21, 2018

Two Solicitation Bewares: Aimee Ann / Red Headed Book Lover Blog; Book Writing Inc.

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I've gotten a number of reports of solicitation by the individuals/outfits below. Both are services you might want to avoid.


Back in December, I posted a warning about this blogger on Writer Beware's Facebook page. But she appears to be soliciting again, so I'm doing a wider warning here.

A woman calling herself Aimee Ann has been emailing authors, offering reviews on her blog, The Red Headed Book Lover Blog. Here's a sample email, with the recipient's information redacted:

If you've ever pitched book bloggers in hopes of a review, you know how much competition there is. It can be hard even to get a response. So you might find it refreshing for a book blogger to approach you. Note, however, how Aimee doesn't mention the title of the author's book, or indeed any specifics at all. That's because this isn't a personal approach from someone who is genuinely interested in the author's work, but a form letter that's being blasted out, spamlike, to large numbers of people.

Why is Aimee spreading such a wide net? Because she is running a pay-to-play scheme. Authors who respond to her solicitation discover that they must pay $75 for a review. (One author told me that when they protested, Aimee told them that she just forgot to mention it.) The existence of the fee (though not the amount) is revealed in the Terms and Conditions section of Aimee's blog--but how many authors are going to read the Terms and Conditions?

It's debatable whether paid reviews are worth the money--even when provided by professional venues like Kirkus--let alone whether it's worth paying a fee to some random amateur. And Aimee is definitely an amateur. Her rambling reviews are poorly written and mostly chronicle her personal reactions (with lots of exclamation points). Some are so generic that you wonder if Aimee actually read the book (shades of Harriet Klausner). Don't be impressed by the hundreds of comments sported by some of Aimee's reviews--she quadruples or quintuples the actual count by responding multiple times to each outside comment.

Aimee's latest enterprise is Book Editing. What qualifies her to do this, you might ask? According to Aimee, "I have experience with working with numerous publishers both in England and America, as well as this I have a degree in Classical Studies and Psychology which I like to think gives me a certain literary flair!" Note, again, the lack of specifics. Aside from how hard these claims are to believe if you've actually read Aimee's reviews, it's easy to sound impressive when you don't name any names.

Authors, don't pay for book reviews. Even if the reviewer is competent.


In February, a local chapter of Sisters in Crime received this solicitation:

SinC isn't alone; individual writers are being targeted also. (Here's what you can expect if you respond.)

Apart from the spam solicitation (reputable firms don't do this), the most obvious clue that Book Writing Inc. might not be the best investment is the mangled English that's apparent everywhere on its website--on this page, for instance:

Or this one:

Looks like these "top ghostwriters" need to invest in their own services. Another warning sign: the Terms and Conditions, which make it clear that getting a refund for late or substandard work will be an uphill battle.

But wait, there's more! A bit of digging reveals that Book Writing Inc. is just one head of a writer-fleecing hydra. Heads 2, 3, and 4: My Book in 28 Days, Ghostwriting LLC, and Ghost Writing. These sister sites--all of which are at least as English-challenged as Book Writing Inc.--look different, and promise somewhat different things, but they offer the same kinds of services, and--whoops!--their Terms and Conditions include identicaldistinctively-written content. They've also made a few goofs in the proofing process. From My Book in 28 Days:

And from Ghostwriting LLC:

Although there's some similarity here to the predatory Philippines-based Author Solutions spinoffs I wrote about in January, I don't think that Book Writing Inc and its brethren are Author Solutions copycats.

Domain registration information leads to a number of other websites that are not writing- and publishing-related, but hawk unrelated services: logo design, website building, tax and accounting, video animation, and Wikipedia page creation. Altogether, there are at least 30 websites in this complex, linked not just by domain registration info, but by the English-language errors that are present on almost all of them, and by shared content and design. Whoever is running this scheme is casting a wide net, and not just for writers.

ALWAYS be wary of out-of-the-blue solicitations.

March 9, 2018

Scam Down Under: Love of Books Brisbane / Julie "Jules" McGregor

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

It's a familiar story.

Entrepreneur sets up publishing company. Publishing company charges fees, but it's not a vanity publisher--certainly not! Authors are just investing in their own success.

But...oh dear. Authors receive proofs riddled with errors and finished books so badly produced they are unsalable. Some receive no books at all. Refunds, if promised, never show up; court judgments, if levied, are never paid. The entrepreneur gets aggressive with authors who complain, or simply doesn't respond to emails and phone calls. Finally the business collapses and disappears, or the owner sells it or transfers it to a third party who refuses responsibility for previous mistakes. Authors are left high and dry.

How often have I written about this?

Well, here's another example: Julie McGregor's Australia-based publishing services company, Love of Books Brisbane, a.k.a. Books Publishing Services Australia. According to this article in the The Sydney Morning Herald, McGregor has reportedly defrauded multiple clients to the tune of four and even five figures. From the article:
Disaffected clients claim they handed over sums ranging from $2000 to $12,000 since 2013 and as recently as late 2016 to entities including Love of Books Brisbane and Books Publishing Services Australia. The projects have ranged from historical research and commercial fiction to travel guides.

Another complainant is a Queensland debut novelist who unsuccessfully claimed a partial refund when the deadline for her fantasy fiction "was exceeded, my manuscript edited with no permission or tracking to show where the edits took place, no finished product and then I had to pay someone else to edit it again from scratch".

The writer says she is still owed $4000 and has not heard a word from McGregor since she was promised the refund in August 2016. At that time, she was not advised that McGregor was a bankrupt.
And that's not all.
McGregor...dealt exclusively with a Melbourne high school whose parents spent $10,000 to produce a cookbook as a Christmas fundraiser in 2016.

The school, which does not want to be named, paid a $4000 deposit raised from local sponsors plus a further $6000 to McGregor's business, Love of Books Brisbane, to print 1000 copies of recipe favourites.

To date the fundraisers say they have not received a single copy of the book, which was to have been delivered four weeks after the supply of artwork and content in September 2016.
Several of McGregor's authors have won judgments from the Queensland Civil Claims Tribunal, although only one author appears to have been paid (and only partially).

Publishing isn't McGregor's only fraud. In November 2017, she was convicted of an elaborate scheme to extract money from local businesses.
[A] Southport magistrates court convicted [McGregor] of three counts of dishonestly gaining thousands of dollars from three restaurants using fraudulent credit cards. She was handed a nine-month suspended sentence for what the prosecution said was a "calculated, fraudulent activity, not once but three times".

Acting magistrate Gary Finger described McGregor as "certainly naive to say the least" for her role in the complex fraud, in which she booked restaurant functions on fraudulent credit cards and then persuaded the restaurant owners to pay for non-existent florists and limousine services. A sobbing McGregor was told she would face jail time if she came before the courts again.
In 2016, McGregor transferred the Love of Books website and client list to Ian Lewis, who is currently operating the business under his own business number and a slightly different name: Love of Books Australia-Wide. According to McGregor, this change was spurred not by thousands of dollars owed to multiple authors, but by "high continuous bullying in many forms...lasting over 3 years by a sacked employee and his associates, along with the take over of the businesses clients and personal details by a greedy commercial operator in conjunction." (You can read a much longer and even more self-serving version of this screed here.) According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Lewis has disclaimed responsibility for reimbursing McGregor's clients.

Although Writer Beware never received complaints or reports about McGregor's company, I did have my own encounter with her. In 2015, she sent me an email with the angry (and mis-spelled) subject line: URGETN ATTENTION REQUESTED.

I always give attention when asked, especially when it is URGETN.

McGregor responded:

Well, that wasn't super-helpful, but I did what she suggested, and typed her name and URL into Google to see what I could see. Turns out that she was indeed mentioned on my blog...but not because anyone had defamed her. I thought it would be good to let her know what I'd discovered.

I wasn't surprised when I didn't get a reply.

Here's McGregor's comment that produced the websearch result:

UPDATE 3/11/18: Wow, that was fast. I got home last night from an event to find two emails threatening me with legal action: one from McGregor, and the other from Ian Lewis--purportedly, at least. Verbal clues suggest that both emails were written by the same person responsible for the posts on this blog devoted to extending McGregor's claims that she, in fact, is the victim.

February 22, 2018

How the Internet Archive Infringed My Copyrights and Then (Kind Of) Blew Me Off

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Last month, I wrote about the Internet Archive's Open Library project, which has been scanning donated print books, creating PDFs and EPUBs from the scans, and placing the scans and the digitized versions online for public borrowing--all without seeking permission from authors.

Although the IA describes these books as being "mostly from the 20th century" and "largely not available either physically or digitally", numerous books in the Open Library collection are recently published, in-copyright, and commercially available. SFWA is among several writers' groups that considers the Open Library project to be not library lending, but direct infringement of authors' copyrights.

On hearing about Open Library, I of course checked it out to see if any of my books were included. I found four, each in multiple formats: a scan of the print book, a PDF (the photographic scan rendered page by page), an EPUB (an OCR conversion full of errors--weird characters, garbled words, headers included in the text, and the like), and a DAISY (an encrypted format for the visually impaired that requires a special key to de-crypt). All of these books are currently "in print" and available for sale.

Here's how my books appeared on Open Library, with the blue "Borrow" buttons indicating their availability for borrowing.

Passion Blue has a yellow "Join Waitlist" button because I borrowed and downloaded it to Adobe Digital Editions, to see what the digitizations looked like and also to check whether the borrows expired after 14 days, as promised. (They did.)

One of the questions that has concerned SFWA and other writers' groups is how the IA responds to DMCA notices. So on January 1, I sent one for Passion Blue.

No response. On January 9, I sent another.

Still nothing. On January 25, I sent a third DMCA notice.


Well, this was annoying, especially since, in a January 24 post to the Internet Archive blog, IA founder Brewster Kahle promised "prompt action" on DMCA requests. But hey, maybe the IA folks were just swamped with takedown notices and were working through a big backlog. I resolved to be patient.

Then, on January 27, author Virginia Anderson alerted me to her blog post about her experience with Open Library and the IA. Like me, she'd found one of her books available, had sent DMCA notices, and had heard nothing back. Frustrated, she posted a comment on the IA blog, indicating that she'd be seeking legal advice if she didn't get a reply (the IA blog is moderated, and Ms. Anderson's comment never appeared publicly). Within 36 hours, the IA responded in email, and the digitized versions of her book were taken down.

Well, I thought, I can do that. So on January 28, I hopped on over to the IA blog and posted this comment:

I made a screenshot because I was pretty sure it wouldn't be let through, and I was right. However, within 24 hours I got an email identical to the one Virginia Anderson received, ostensibly in response to my third DMCA notice.

On checking Open Library, I found not just that Passion Blue was gone, but the other three books had been taken down as well. (The encrypted DAISY versions are still available, but I have no quarrel with that; many publishing contracts allow publishers to grant rights to non-profit organizations that serve the visually impaired, without compensation to the author).

So why do I feel like I've been blown off? After all, I got what I wanted: withdrawal from public lending of unauthorized scans and digitizations of my books. Shouldn't that be enough?

Well, no. Look, I get that people have different views of copyright. My interest in retaining tight control of my intellectual property conflicts with others' vision of universal libraries and unfettered access to information. I'm fine with that. There are laws that enable me to take action if I feel my rights have been infringed, and I have no problem using them.

What pisses me off is how unprofessionally the IA handled this (and Virginia Anderson's experience makes it clear that I'm not alone). Over the space of nearly a month, I sent three DMCA notices, none of which got a response; but when I left a snippy blog comment, the IA got back to me within 24 hours. Clearly the IA is not too busy to take quick action when it wants to. It also irks me that, when the IA did respond, it didn't acknowledge my DMCA notices (other than the subject line), or any obligation to act on them. Instead, it provided a paragraph of exposition about DAISY, informed me that there's "no other access available" to Passion Blue as if that had been the case all along, and finished with a plug for its philanthropic mission. Basically, "no issue here, move right along"--while tacitly acknowledging that there is an issue by hastily removing public access not just to Passion Blue but to the three books I didn't ask them to take down.

Really, it's almost childish. The IA does important work that's worth supporting. It may not agree with me and others that Open Library is an overreach--but in my opinion, the way it has dealt with me and with Virginia Anderson is not worthy of its mission.

Has anyone had a similar experience? Or gotten a more prompt and professional response? I'd be interested to know.


One question that often comes up when discussing this kind of infringement: Brick-and-mortar libraries lend out books for free. How is Open Library different? A few reasons.

- Brick-and-mortar libraries buy the books they lend, a separate purchase for each format (hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook, etc.). The author gets a royalty on these purchases. The IA seeks donations, and lends those. Authors get nothing.

- Brick-and-mortar libraries lend only the books they purchase. They don't use those books to create new, un-permissioned lending formats. That's exactly what the IA does; moreover, one of its additional lending formats is riddled with OCR errors that make it a chore to read. Apart from permission issues, this is not how I want my books to be represented to the public.

- People who advocate for looser copyright laws often paint copyright defenders as greedy or mercenary, as if defending copyright were only about money. It's worth remembering another important principle of copyright: control. Copyright gives authors not just the right to profit from their intellectual property, but to control its use. That, as much as or even more than money, is the principle the IA is violating with its Open Library project.

February 9, 2018

The New Face of Vanity Anthologies: Z Publishing House and Appelley Publishing

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Like everything else, the schemes and scams that prey on writers have changed over time. Literary agent scams, for example--including fee-charging and kickback referral schemes--used to be the number one danger for authors, but these have become much less common in recent years, thanks to the growth of small presses and self-publishing options.

Another scheme that's largely fallen out of favor is the vanity anthology. It worked like this: writers were recruited via a free contest to submit a poem, essay, or story, with winners promised prizes and finalists and semi-finalists eligible for publication in an anthology of supposedly carefully chosen entries. Publication was presented as a prestigious literary credit, a worthy addition to a writing resume.

It was all B.S., of course. There was no careful choosing; everyone who entered received a publication offer, with no fee or purchase requirement but heavy pressure to buy the anthology and persuade friends and family to do so. A closed loop, in other words: contributors doubling as customers, and the anthologies never seeing the inside of a bookstore or library or even a listing with an online retailer.

Years ago, there were dozens of these anthology schemes. Most are gone now, including the granddaddy of them all, the International Library of Poetry, a.k.a. But some remain, such as Eber & Wein--which, maybe to get ahead of all the negative reviews at PissedConsumer, not to mention an F rating at the BBB, is now calling itself Poetry Nation (for anyone who remembers the old, this website will look very familiar).

And just recently, I discovered two new ventures that add twists of their own.


Appelley Publishing, which started up just last year, offers a free-to-enter Student Poetry Contest (or a National Student Poetry Contest, depending on whether you're looking at its home page or one of its cheesy print-your-own certificates) for students in grades 3 through 12, with "over $4,000 in prizes" plus publication in an anthology of student work. The school with the "highest participation" wins a new computer.

According to the Appelley website, contest winners will be posted on April 6. But there are already multiple announcements of students who've been chosen for publication in the anthology. This is so that parents have plenty of time to come up with money, because, as Appelley's publication authorization form makes clear, ordering at least one copy of the anthology ($34.99 plus $5 shipping and handling, an amazing discount from the supposed "publisher's list" of $69.99) is strongly recommended. And what parent whose child has been honored by inclusion in a national anthology of student poetry wouldn't want to buy?

So far, it's a fairly standard vanity anthology scheme. But here's the twist: teachers can earn cash prizes too!
Participating teachers who submit their students [sic] work are eligible for one of three “Teacher’s Bonus” awards worth $500.00 apiece! Ballots are earned by the number of submissions made, so the chances of winning keeps [sic] going up!
Each "ballot" represents 10 student entries, and teachers can submit up to 19 ballots. How to get lots of kids to enter your vanity anthology contest? Give adults an incentive to steer students your way.

Parents and teachers probably assume that Appelley has some kind of vetting process in place, and that being selected for publication is an indication of merit. But to make money, Appelley needs customers, and since its customers are the young poets and their parents, it needs as many poems as it can get. Which is not a great recipe for selectivity.

Usually people don't discover this until they actually get the anthologies, which typically are cheaply produced books crammed with poor-quality poems in tiny print. This time, though, the internet got an advance peek when a student took to Twitter to describe how she dashed off a joke ditty in praise of Popeyes Chicken as part of a class project to enter Appelley's contest (you can see those teacher-focused incentives working here). Next thing the student knew, she'd been selected for publication. "As much as we would like to," Appelley wrote, "we simply can’t publish every student who writes to us, but in your case, we have decided that we would like to include your poem, ‘Popeyes’ in the Appelley Publishing 2017 Rising Stars Collection."

Boom. Quality.


Z Publishing (a.k.a. Z Publishing House) publishes a whole range of anthologies, with titles like California's Best Emerging Poets and Wisconsin's Best Emerging Poets and All At Once I Saw My Colors.

The company has submission calls on its website, but its primary mode of recruitment appears to be a heavy program of email solicitation, with writers' names harvested from such sources as school and college literary magazines and personal blogs. There are no submission or publishing fees, and also no payment for contributors, as Z's submission form makes clear. Z has pumped out 33 anthologies in the past year or so, with another six in the pipeline.

This is fairly standard vanity anthology fare: wide recruitment, no-fee submission, and books that probably will only be bought by the authors' friends and family and the authors themselves (and they do have to buy if they want print copies; contributors only get a PDF). Z maximizes whatever profit can be wrung from this business model by using CreateSpace to publish the books for free.

But here's the twist: an affiliate program that transforms authors not just into customers, but salespeople. From Z's publishing agreement:
12. Payment. Artist acknowledges that Company does not itself provide royalty payment. However, if accepted to one or more book, Artist will have the option to join Company's affiliate program, which is administered and run completely through the third-party site Refersion.
According to the Affiliate Program FAQ, affiliates earn "approximately 25% of each sale you make (this includes 25% of the shipping fee as well)." Z suggests posting affiliate links on social media, websites, etc. (you can see a bunch of these pitches on Z's Facebook Community page), but it wants prospective affiliates to know that the best method is spam:

Other initiatives also appear to be fodder for affiliate marketing, such as this Lifetime Membership offer for readers.

Z Publishing's domain is registered to a Zach Zimmerman in Wisconsin, but like the Author Solutions clones I highlighted in my previous post, its work appears to be largely outsourced overseas, with multiple "Author Research" and "Author Communications" staffers based in the Philippines.

Z has some grandiose plans--expanded hiring! A new headquarters! Exponential growth!--but my bet is that a year from now, a lot of the links in this post will have stopped working. As much as vanity anthologizing may seem like a lucrative scheme, with its built-in customer base and all the marketing on the front end, leveraging vanity into sales is not as easy as it appears--as scores of defunct vanity anthologizers and vanity publishers now know.

January 25, 2018

Army of Clones: Author Solutions Spawns a Legion of Copycats

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I don't think there's much dispute that the many "imprints" under the Author Solutions umbrella are among the most negatively regarded of all the author services companies.

From the predatory business practices that gave rise to two class action lawsuits, to the huge number of customer complaints, to the relentless sales calls and deceptive recruitment methods, to the dubious and overpriced "marketing" services that are one of the company's main profit sources, AS's poor reputation is widely known. Along with other factors, such as the competition from free and low-cost self-publishing platforms, this has pushed AS in recent years into steady decline.

Unfortunately, whatever gap AS's contraction has created has been filled by a slew of imitators. Why not, when hoodwinking authors is as easy as setting up a website and opening an account with Ingram? In some cases, the imitators have first-hand experience: they've been founded and/or staffed by former employees of AS's call centers in the Philippines.

Like AS, the clones rely on misleading hype, hard-sell sales tactics, and a lucrative catalog of junk marketing services. Even if authors actually receive the services they've paid for (and judging by the complaints I've gotten, there's no guarantee of that), they are getting stiffed. These are not businesses operating in good faith, but greedy opportunists seeking to profit from writers' inexperience, ignorance, and hunger for recognition. They are exploitative, dishonest, and predatory.


On the surface, the clones don't look that different from other, not necessarily disreputable author services companies offering publishing packages and marketing add-ons. However, they share a distinctive cluster of characteristics that can help you identify them.

1. Solicitation. Like the Author Solutions imprints, the clones are big on out-of-the-blue phone calls and emails hawking their services. Often they'll claim your book has been recommended to them, or discovered by one of their book scouts. The phone solicitors frequently have foreign accents (many are based in the Philippines). The email solicitors use a recurring set of job titles: book scout, literary agent, Senior Marketing & Publishing Consultant (or Senior Publishing & Marketing Consultant), Executive Marketing Consultant.

2. Offers to re-publish authors' books. A big focus for the clones is poaching authors who are already published or self-published (often with Author Solutions imprints). They claim they can do a better job, or provide greater credibility, or even get authors in front of traditional publishers.

3. Elaborate claims of skills and experience that don't check out. A clone may say it's been in business since 2006 or 2008, even though its domain name was registered only last year. It may claim to be staffed by publishing and marketing experts with years or even decades of "combined experience", but provide no names or bios to enable you to verify this. A hallmark of the clones' "About Us" pages is a serious lack of "about."

4. Poor or tortured English. The clones have US addresses, and purport to be US-based companies. Many have US business registrations. Yet their emails and websites frequently contain numerous (and sometimes laughable) grammar and syntax errors (see below for examples). Their phone solicitors appear to be calling from US numbers, but commonly have foreign accents, and may get authors' names or book titles wrong.

5. Junk marketing.  Press releases. Paid book review packages. Book fair exhibits. Ingram catalog listings. Hollywood book-to-screen packages. These and more are junk marketing--PR services of dubious value and effectiveness that are cheap to provide but can be sold at a huge profit. It's an insanely lucrative aspect of the author-fleecing biz, not just because of the enormous markup, but because while you can only sell a publishing package once, you can sell marketing multiple times.

This is a page right out of the Author Solutions playbook. AS basically invented junk book marketing, and most of the marketing services offered by the clones were pioneered by AS. If you follow the links below, you'll see the same ones over and over, and if you hop on over to an AS imprint marketing section, you'll see them there, too.

Authors are often serially targeted by the clones. For instance, I heard from an iUniverse-published author who bought an expensive re-publication package from Book-Art Press Solutions, and shortly afterward was solicited for marketing services by Stratton Press (fortunately she contacted me before she wrote a check). Another author bought a publishing package from BookVenture, plus extra marketing from Window Press Club--both as a result of solicitation phone calls.


Below are the clones I've identified to date (several of which I found in the process of researching this post--I actually had to stop following links or I'd never have gotten this written). The list includes a few that, based on their websites and other public information, I suspect are clones but haven't yet been able to document with complaints or solicitation materials.

One thing you'll notice if you follow the links is how similar the clones' websites are. It's not just the characteristics mentioned above: the same terminology, menus, and products appear over and over again. Also, of  the 12 companies I looked at, nine are less than two years old, and six started up in the past year. It really made me wonder, especially after I discovered that two apparently separate clones were in fact the same outfit.

I have no doubt there are many more clones out there. If you've encountered any I haven't listed below--or if you've had an experience with the ones featured in this post--please post a comment.
  • LitFire Publishing
  • Legaia Books
  • Stratton Press
  • ReadersMagnet
  • Toplink Publishing
  • Book-Art Press Solutions
  • Window Press Club
  • Greenberry Publishing
  • BookVenture Publishing
  • Okir Publishing
  • Zeta Publishing
  • Everlastale Publishing

LitFire Publishing is the first Author Solutions clone I ever encountered, and the one that alerted me to the phenomenon. My 2014 blog post takes a detailed look at its false or unverifiable claims, its illiterate solicitation emails, its plagiarism (it's still doing that), and its Philippine/Author Solutions origins (its phone solicitors sometimes claim AS imprints are "sister companies"). See the comments for many reports of solicitation phone calls.

LitFire is a good deal more sophisticated now than it was in 2014, with a flashy website from which the English-language errors that marred it in the beginning have largely (though not entirely; its blog posts could use some help) been culled. But it's still a solicitation monster, and its Author Solutions-style publishing and marketing services are still a major ripoff. Take a look at its insanely marked-up Kirkus Indie review package (you can buy reviews directly from Kirkus for less than half the price).

LitFire claims it's headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, and it is actually registered with the Georgia Corporations Division. Possibly to get ahead of negative discussion, it has admitted--partially--its Philippine connections. It's also aware of my warnings about it, and has responded with some fairly incompetent trolling.


Legaia Books is also a solicitation monster. It heavily targeted authors of Tate Publishing right after that disgraced vanity publisher collapsed.

Legaia offers publishing packages, but its main schtick is Paperclips Magazine, an online rag that consists primarily of ads, reviews, and interviews sold to authors at gobsmackingly enormous prices, interspersed with plagiarized general interest articles and illiterate feature pieces written by Legaia's English-challenged staff. Legaia's website is full of howlingly funny (or cringingly awful, depending on your perspective) English-language mistakes. Keeping to its penchant for plagiarism, and incidentally acknowledging its roots, it has copied much of its FAQ from Author Solutions.

My blog post on Legaia goes into much more detail.

Like other members of clone club, Legaia claims to be headquartered in the USA, with a street address in Raleigh, North Carolina. But there's no trace of any North Carolina business registration. When the Better Business Bureau attempted to contact it by paper mail, the mail was returned by the post office.


Stratton Press claims to offer "an experience that is one of a kind for both novice and veteran authors". Oddly, it doesn't display its publishing packages on its website; you have to go to its Facebook page to see them. Named after famous writers, they start at $1,800 and go all the way up to $10,500.

The website is replete with vague claims ("our team's eight-year experience in the publishing industry), shaky English ("Since every book is unique and every story is special, it is just but right to have a team of experts behind your back."), and plagiarism (here's "How to Write a Novel" by Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest. Here's "How to Write a Novel" by "Chuck Subchino" of Stratton).

Stratton is the one of the only clones I found that doesn't actively try to conceal its Philippine/Author Solutions roots. A Cebu City address also appears on its Contact page; and per his LinkedIn page, Stratton's co-owner, Aaron Dancel, worked for three years as a Sales Supervisor for Author Solutions' Cebu call center.

Stratton claims to be located in Wyoming, where it does have a business registration. However, despite its A- rating at the BBB, there's also this:


ReadersMagnet describes itself as "a team of self-publishing and digital marketing experts with more than 10 years of combined experience". Its motto: "Your Success is Our Delight!" So is your money.

You can pay as much as $29,999 for a Premium Color Adult Book publishing package. On the junk marketing side, you can shell out $6,299 for an Online Brand Publicity campaign, or $2,799 for a Premium Dynamic Website, or $4,999 for a 90-second Cinematic Deluxe video book trailer.

In true clone style, ReadersMagnet is a tireless and prolific phone solicitor (hence the many complaints that can be found about it online). I've heard from many authors who have been repeatedly called and/or emailed by this outfit; one author told me that she got so annoyed that she blocked the caller's New York number, only to be contacted a couple of days later by another ReadersMagnet solicitor, this time with a California number.

Writers have also told me that callers have foreign accents and Spanish surnames. A search on LinkedIn turns up two Philippines-based ReadersMagnet staffers. Oh, and ReadersMagnet apparently had a lovely Christmas party last Cebu.

ReadersMagnet's current website reads okay, with occasional lapses. But its original website, which came online in mid-2016, was full of howlers. Compare this early version of its About Us page (courtesy of the Internet Archive) with the current iteration, which isn't high literature but at least is more or less grammatical.

The company hasn't worked as hard to clean up its correspondence. Here's a snippet from a recent solicitation email--it's really kind of a masterpiece.

ReadersMagnet originally claimed a New York address. Now it says it's located in California. As far as I can tell, it has no business registration in either state.


Toplink Publishing bills itself as "the global leader in accessible and strategic publishing and marketing solutions". It boasts every one of the warning signs identified above: SolicitationRe-publishing offersUnverifiable claims about staff and experienceTortured English. Lots and lots of marketing.

Toplink's publishing packages are categorized a la Author Solutions (black and white, full color, children's book, etc.), and neither they nor the marketing packages provide any prices; you have to call to find out. Hard-sell sales tactics work better on the phone.

Also, no prices on an author services company's website is nearly always a giant clue that they're super-expensive. Here's the marketing proposal one author received--note how Toplink wants the author to believe that the ridiculous amount of money he's being asked to pay for his "compensation share" is more than matched by Toplink's "investment" (a classic vanity publisher ploy).

Toplink claims addresses in North Carolina and Nevada, but there are no business registrations for it in either state. A number of complaints about it can be found online, including at its Facebook page. It also has an F rating from the BBB, based on its failure to respond to consumer complaints.


Book-Art Press Solutions (not to be confused with the graphic design company of the same name, or with Book Arts Press) and Window Press Club present as different companies, but in fact they're two faces of the same ripoff.

My recent blog post about this two-headed beast goes into more detail, including the identical website content that gives them away.

Book-Art Press employs an exceptionally deceptive approach to authors, portraying itself not as a self-publishing provider but as a group of "literary agents" who want to re-publish authors' books in order to give them the "credibility" needed to "endorse" them to traditional publishers. The cost? Only $3,500! Authors are encouraged to believe is all they'll have to pay. In fact, as with all the clones, the initial fee is just a way to open the door to more selling.

BAP/WPC is a pretty recent venture, with domain names registered just last year. BAP claims it's in New York City, although its business registration is in Delaware. WPC doesn't provide a mailing address, but its domain is registered to Paul Jorge Ponce in Cebu, Philippines.

Here's one of BAP's solicitation emails, reproduced in its entirety. It really tells you everything you need to know.


Greenberry Publishing (not to be confused with an Alabama publisher with an identical name) registered itself in California, where it claims to be headquartered, just last August.

Its M.O. is clone-standard. Out-of-the-blue solicitations. No names, vague claims. Shaky English ("we will always let you know if your work is best or not"). Re-publishing offers (see the solicitation below, which I'm reproducing because I think it's so funny; what genius, looking for an enticing photo of a published book, thought it was a good idea to pick one in Cyrillic?). Less emphasis on marketing than some of the others, but I'm sure that's coming.

Greenberry is owned by Maribelle Birao and Aaron Gochuico, who now appear to reside in California but are originally from Cebu.


BookVenture started up around the same time as LitFire, in 2014. It's got all the identifying characteristics of a clone: phone solicitations, no meaningful information about the company or its staff, a range of Author Solutions-style publishing packages with goofy names, a dizzying array of marketing, publicity, and add-on services.

Equally predictably, these are seriously overpriced: $2,399 for a Kirkus Indie review, which would cost a mere $575 if you bought it from Kirkus; $199 for US copyright registration ($35 if you DIY); $4,199 for a half-page magazine ad that actually costs $1,400. See also this angry blog post from Self-Publishing Review, which discovered in 2016 that BookVenture was offering its review services without permission and at steeply inflated prices.

BV's website doesn't display the same level of English-language lapses that are a giveaway for other clones--but someone should have done a better job of vetting its Publishing Guide.

Or this editorial services pitch:

Like other clones, BV claims a US location--Michigan, to be precise--but a search on LinkedIn turns up a lot of Philippines-based staff (who in some cases are Author Solutions alumni/ae). Although BV doesn't acknowledge its parentage, I've gathered enough breadcrumbs to be certain that it is owned by eFox Solutions Inc. (formerly Yen Chen Support Corporation), which is registered in Wisconsin (where it's listed as "delinquent), but is actually based in Mandaue City, Philippines.

eFox also owns notorious book marketing spammer BookWhirl, which in terms of hard-sell solicitation tactics and overpriced junk marketing services has been giving Author Solutions a run for its money since at least 2008.

BV has racked up quite a number of complaints about quality, timeliness, and customer service. The one complaint I've received about this company is very similar. I've also received reports of telephone solicitations (BookWhirl is infamous for phone soliciting).

Check out BV's referral program--you can earn $150! Also its Author Solutions-style shill sites, which pretend to be independent but are actually author recruiting tools.


In the course of researching this article, I ran across three companies about which I haven't received any complaints or other documentation, but whose websites and other publicly available material have a lot in common with the clones.

Okir Publishing says it started out as "a marketing services provider" in 2006, and transitioned to book publishing later--but according to its Wyoming incorporation data, its initial filing was just last September. Okir has overhauled its website since I started researching this post, and has scrubbed it of most of the English-language lapses, but clonesign still abounds: phone solicitation by "literary scouts" with re-publishing offers, an About Us page with, basically, no "about", a large number of junk marketing services (check out the eye-poppingly costly BookExpo programs). As with so many clones, there are Philippine connections.

Zeta Publishing is incorporated in Florida. English-language errors are apparent throughout its website, and the About Us page includes the usual non-information. There's a full raft of Author Solutions-style marketing and add-on services, all insanely marked up. You can get your copyright registered for $189 (or do it yourself online for $35). You can pay $4,150 for a half-page ad in Bookmarks Magazine (or you can contact Bookmarks yourself and buy the ad for $1,400). You can also buy a 10-minute radio interview with internet radio personality Stu Taylor, who just happens to be Author Solutions' favorite radio talk show host.

Clonesign is there as well at Everlastale Publishing: no concrete info about the company or staff, whimsically-named Author Solutions-style publishing packages, the familiar range of overpriced junk marketing services. Everlastale's President, Don Harold, is an alumnus of BookVenture/BookWhirl, and Everlastale's publishing agreement has been substantially copied from BookVenture's.

It's a revealing demonstration of how these predatory companies seed imitators.

UPDATE 1/26/18: As noted above, LitFire Publishing is miffed at what I've written about it, and has been persistently (if infrequently) trolling me. Here's its latest English-challenged salvo, posted today in the comments section of my original article about it. Bad blogs, bad blogs, whatcha gonna do...

January 19, 2018

Solicitation Alert: Book-Art Press Solutions and Window Press Club

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I'm getting a lot of questions from authors who've been solicited by an Author Solutions-style author services company called Book-Art Press Solutions.

Book-Art Press's website dangles the carrot of free publishing ("Why spend thousands when you can publish your book for free?"), but this is less a yummy vegetable than a poison pill. BAP's publishing packages are really just a way to steer writers toward a smorgasbord of junk marketing services (book trailers, paid review packages, press releases), questionable editing services ("A thorough applied for the material to be professional written, yet retaining the author’s voice"), and add-on services of dubious value (illustrations, data entry, and more).

BAP's website is full of questionable grammar and syntax ("What the authors feel and assured of is the press club’s transparent journey and reliable sources of publishing channels in every step of the way"), which should be a major red flag all on its own. Also, there are no prices anywhere on the site; you have to call to get that info. This is nearly always a big clue that the fees are huge; plus, forcing people to get on the phone is a classic hard-sell sales tactic. It's a lot easier to hook victims if you can talk to them directly.

BAP's solicitations are even more egregiously dishonest than is typical for this type of service. Its "Executive Consultants" present it as a "literary agency" that has stumbled on the author's absolutely brilliant book and wants to "endorse" the author to traditional publishers. There's already substantial interest, but first, the author must re-publish in order to gain "credibility". From one of BAP's emails (read the whole thing here):
We are not a self-publishing company. We work as a literary agency that will endorse your book to be acquired by a traditional publishing company. We have inside contacts with major publishers and we know which of them are most likely to buy a particular material. So you won’t need to hire literary agents to promote your book to major publishers as we’ll do the endorsement for you.

We have done a preliminary endorsement to 50 traditional publishers and 6 out of the 50 have shown high interest in your book. However, they’re quite hesitant since your book is self-published and it has not been doing well when it comes to sales.

We have made a strategic plan for your book. Before we can endorse your book to traditional publishers, we will need to build your book’s credibility and your brand as an author. Because, as of now, you are still an unknown author. We can’t afford any flaws once we endorse your book.
To take advantage of this amazing deal, all authors have to do is agree to pay for "at least 500 copies of your book (priced at $6 per book -- $3,000 total) to be distributed to physical bookstores across the globe for circulation".

Here's the closer. BAP may be English-challenged, but it has an excellent grasp of author psychology:
With a self-publishing company, your book’s success depends on how much money you are capable of investing; which almost all self-published authors are unaware of how this delays the success of your book. Delaying your success is more practical for their business. Because, the longer your success is delayed, the more services they can sell to you. Your pocket will be exhausted until it becomes empty because that’s how they earn as a business and how sales agents get commission from-- the more services they are able to sell, the bigger commission they get. And eventually you get exhausted as well and so you get discouraged to move forward because you have invested so much effort, time and large amount of money and you haven’t seen any progress with your book yet. Which probably what you feel now. And that’s the worst thing that can happen to an author -- despair. Your book is too great to be left sitting online among millions of books available in Amazon. It’s like a grain in a bucket of sand. Almost impossible to be noticed. Our goal for your book is to make its success faster and that’s by directly endorsing your book to executives so you can land a contract with a traditional publisher.
It's all lies, of course. There will be no 500-copy  print run. No brick-and-mortar bookstores will be approached. No publishers will be pitched. Instead, once authors have ponied up the initial $3,000, BAP will do exactly what it pretends is not its business model: solicit writers to "invest" even more money in additional marketing services.

Given the amount of casual plagiarism I've found in investigating similar services (for instance, LitFire Publishing and Legaia Books), I always do a phrase search. That's how I discovered Window Press Club. Like BAP, it's an Author Solutions-style publishing/marketing service. But although it has a different name, and a different logo...well, see for yourself. Here's WPC's home page...

...and here's the exact same text on BAP's home page.

There's plenty of other stuff that's identical, from the About pages to the marketing product descriptions to the "free publishing" promise and the absence of prices.

So did BAP plagiarize WPC? WPC's domain registration precedes BAP's (though both were registered just last year), and at first that's what I thought. But...they have the same phone number (though this appears to be an oversight, since a different number appears on BAP's Contact page). They filed the same press release for the same book on the same day last November. There's also this: a pitch for WPC that was once on BAP's website. It's been de-linked, but is still Google-able. Oops.

So it's pretty clear what's going on. WPC and BAP are one operation, posing as different companies in order to maximize their customer base.

BAP and WPC's domain registrations are both anonymized, but WPC's wasn't always. Originally, it was registered to Paul Jorge Ponce from Cebu City, Philippines, where the Author Solutions call centers are located. A connection? Wouldn't surprise me.

Always, always beware of phone or email solicitors promising gifts.

Next week, I'll be posting an article on the growing number of Author Solutions-style author services companies that are laying traps for writers across the internet. Stay tuned.
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