A few days ago, I received my first ever personalised writing scam via email. Here is the full text of that email:
Dear Ms Curtis,
I am writing on behalf of a new international publishing house, JustFiction! Edition.
In the course of a web-research I came across a reference of your manuscript Worse Things Happen at Sea and it has caught my attention.
We are a publisher recognized worldwide, whose aim it is to help talented but international yet unknown authors to publish their manuscripts supported by our experience of publishing and to make their writing available to a wider audience.
JustFiction! Edition would be especially interested in publishing your manuscript as an e-book and in the form of a printed book and all this at no cost to you, of course.
If you are interested in a co-operation I would be glad to send you an e-mail with further information in an attachment.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Just Fiction! Edition is a trademark of:
LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing GmbH & Co. KG Dudweiler Landstr. 99 66123 Saarbrücken Germany
Phone: +49 681 3720-310
Fax: +49 681 3720-3109
Register court/number: Handelsregister Amtsgericht Saarbrücken HRA 10752 Identification Number (Verkehrsnummer): 12917
Partner with unlimited liability/Persönlich haftende Gesellschafterin: VDM Management GmbH
Register court/number: Handelsregister Amtsgericht Saarbrücken HRB 18918
Managing directors/Geschäftsführer: Dr. Wolfgang Philipp Müller, Christoph Schulligen, Esther von Krosigk
This is a fairly simple scam. They don’t charge money up front, but will presumably gain that cash by offering me copies of the book – probably at a reduced rate. The sales of that book to the author are probably the only sales that will ever happen. Interestingly, the first book in their “catalogue” was “published” less than a month ago. (Never publish with a company less than two years old and/or one that has no successful titles.)
It is clear from the email above that not only do they not bother with editing, they don’t actually bother READING the books they represent. In fact, my “manuscript” Worse Things Happen at Sea is a twitter tale – all of about 1000 words. They list a large number of distributors (many of which are probably actually wholesalers, meaning that they STORE books, not sell them – I strongly doubt any actually “distribute” books to bookshops). One of the American distributors sounded familiar, so I searched Writer Beware and found this excerpt about it:
Now, one of the tricky things in this industry is that one of the major players, Ingram, is both a distributor and wholesaler. They have separate arms to handle each. But, per the descriptions above, there’s a vast difference on what they do if you pay them to be your distributor, versus merely having a listing with them in their wholesale catalog.
Unfortunately, a lot of small presses and POD self-publishing companies try to make you believe they have the distributor relationship when, in fact, they have the wholesale relationship. Since Ingram won’t reveal its client list, it’s hard to know which is which. However, I believe that right now, Ingram requires that a publisher that’s a distribution client must have about $20K+ of income from Ingram in order to qualify. If you think logically, would even PublishAmerica, the powerhouse of POD presses, qualify? Probably not. PA has the titles, but not the sales.
Kids, here’s the take-home message: There are a lot of scams out there (plus, to make things worse, some helplessly naiive publishers who simply don’t have the business sense to function). Never forget that. If someone approaches you with a wonderful shiny offer, they have a reason, and – I’m sorry – it’s very rarely because your writing is as good as your dreams. Often people are dodgy even when it’s you approaching them (setting up a web site isn’t difficult). If their books aren’t on shelves at your bookshop, they’re not actually getting sold – and yours won’t be sold to the public either.