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.

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 editing...is 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.

January 11, 2018

Alert: Copyright Infringement By the Internet Archive (and What You Can Do About It)



Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has issued an alert on copyright infringement by the Internet Archive. Other professional writers' groups taking notice include the UK's Society of Authors, which has posted an alert on its website, and the USA's Authors Guild and National Writers Union, which have alerted their members.

I've reproduced SFWA's alert below. Although this seems to be the first time widespread attention has been paid to it, IA's massive scanning project is not a new endeavor. See this 2013 article from Teleread's Chris Meadows.

I've commented on my own experience at the bottom of this post.

--------------------------------------------


From the Legal Affairs Committee:

INFRINGEMENT ALERT

The Internet Archive is carrying out a very large and growing program of scanning entire books and posting them on the public Internet. It is calling this project "Open Library", but it is SFWA's understanding that this is not library lending, but direct infringement of authors' copyrights.

We suspect that this is the world's largest ongoing project of unremunerated digital distribution of entire in-copyright books. An extensive, random assortment of books is available for e-lending—that is the “borrowing” of a digital (scanned) copy. For those books that can be “borrowed,” Open Library allows users to download digital copies in a variety of formats to read using standard e-reader software. Unlike e-lending from a regular library, Open Library is not serving up licensed, paid-for copies, but their own scans.

As with other e-lending services, the books are DRM-protected, and should become unreadable after the “loan” period. However, an unreadable copy of the book is saved on users’ devices (iPads, e-readers, computers, etc.) and can be made readable by stripping DRM protection. SFWA is still investigating the extent to which these downloadable copies can be pirated.

These books are accessible from both archive.org and openlibrary.org. If you want to find out if your books are being infringed, go to Internet Archive's search page and search metadata for your name. You have to register, log in, and "borrow" the books to see if they are there in their entirety. A secondary search on Open Library's search page may turn up some additional titles, but will also show books that are in the Open Library database that have not been infringed.

If you believe that your copyright has been violated by material available through the Internet Archive, you can provide the Internet Archive Copyright Agent with a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice. Alternatively, you can use the SFWA DMCA Notice Generator to create a DMCA notice for you. As a temporary measure, authors can also repeatedly "check out" their books to keep them from being "borrowed" by others.

A DMCA notice must include:

• Identification of the copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed;
• An exact description of where the infringed material is located within the Internet Archive collections;
• Your address, telephone number, and email address;
• A statement by you that you have a good-faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law;
• A statement by you, made under penalty of perjury, that the above information in your notice is accurate and that you are the owner of the copyright interest involved or are authorized to act on behalf of that owner; and
• Your electronic or physical signature.

The Internet Archive Copyright Agent can be reached as follows:

Internet Archive Copyright Agent
Internet Archive
300 Funston Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone: 415-561-6767
Email: info@archive.org

------------------------------------------

Here's my personal experience with the Internet Archive and Open Library.

Four of my books have been scanned and are available for borrowing. One (The Lady of Rhuddesmere) is out of print in all editions, but still in copyright. The other three are in copyright, "in print", and available for purchase in digital, print, and/or audio formats.


When you borrow a book from IA or Open Library, you can either read a photographic scan of it on-screen via the Internet Archive BookReader, or download it as an EPUB or PDF. The "borrows" are said to expire after 14 days.

On January 1, to test all of this, I borrowed and downloaded Passion Blue. The PDF is the photographic scan rendered page by page (rather than double-paged, as in the on-screen reader). The EPUB is an OCR conversion and is full of errors--weird characters, garbled words, page headers and footers in the text, and the like.

I also sent a DMCA notice for Passion Blue. I emailed the notice on January 1, and a second notice on January 9. As of this writing (January 11), I've received no response.

I'll update this post as I get more info.

January 3, 2018

Book Promotions International, or, How Not to Get Your Book Into a Library

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Hot on the heels of the infamous Christmas writing contest spam comes another spam solicitation aimed at separating writers from their money.


The link leads directly to PayPal.

So if you're not already ROTFLing at the sheer chutzpah of this, um, offer, why would it be a terrible use of money?

First and most obvious, because once you sent your payment, you'd have no way of confirming that a) this person had actually bought your book, or b) actually donated it.

And second, because this is not how books get into libraries. Some libraries don't accept donations at all (my local library among them; when I was doing book reviews, they declined my offer to donate brand-new direct-from-the-publisher hardcovers). Even if they do, there's no guarantee they will actually shelve the donations, especially if the books aren't professionally packaged. Where donated books will probably wind up is in the annual Friends of the Library book sale.

So is this a scam? As cartoonish a ripoff as it seems, it's hard to say--the line between scammery and simple cluelessness can be difficult to discern. G.E. Johnson does seem to be a real person; her activities as a book promoter appear to consist of posting book cover images on Facebook and Pinterest, and offering vaguely-described "marketing":


As with the library spam, the link goes directly to PayPal. Ms. Johnson's webpages don't include testimonials, but I did find this, from a discussion thread on Goodreads--I'm guessing it was unsolicited...


UPDATE: Did you think that Ms. Johnson's attempt to sell authors a completely unverifiable promise of a book purchase was just a one-time, ill-advised spamstravaganza? You would be wrong.



Here's the diamond:


Rock salt, anyone?
 
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