This post has been updated.
A few weeks ago, I began hearing from writers who'd been solicited, out of the blue, by a company called LitFire Publishing. In some cases by phone, in others by email, a LitFire "consultant" claimed to have received or seen information about the writers' books (or even to have read them), and wanted to offer a wonderful marketing opportunity--for, of course, a four-figure fee.
Here's how LitFire describes itself and its services (also see the screenshot at the bottom of this post):
Founded in 2008, LitFire allows authors to skip the hassles of traditional publishing. The company started out as a publisher of digital books. With hundreds of published titles and more than 50 publishing partners, we have learned how to succeed and soar in the eBook market. In 2014, LitFire expanded its horizon by offering self-publishing. Today, we offer all the services you would expect from a traditional publishing house – from editorial to design to promotion. Our goal is to help independent authors and self-publishers bring their book production and marketing goals to fruition.In other words, LitFire is one of those outfits that offers publishing packages, but makes much of its profit from hawking adjunct services such as marketing.
Cold-call solicitations, hard-sell sales tactics (writers report receiving repeated phone calls and emails), expensive publishing packages with silly names, absurdly overpriced "marketing" services: are you detecting more than a whiff of Author Solutions, the much-criticized self-publishing service conglomerate that owns AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, and Trafford, among others?
In fact, at least four of LitFire's "consultants"--Portia Peterson, Tori Mesh, KC Normanns, and Mark Advent (also see the screenshots at the bottom of this post)--are or were employees of Author Solutions imprints. And LitFire's publishing agreement bears many similarities to an older AuthorHouse agreement (from 2012; the most recent agreement, which is much more complicated, was revised in 2014). Compare, for instance, AuthorHouse's Clause 18, Termination by Service Provider, to the last paragraph of LitFire's Clause 14, Refunds and Work Termination.
But there are reasons other than possible Author Solutions connections to be wary of this company.
- False or conflicting claims. Of the "hundreds of published titles" and "more than 50 publishing partners" claimed in LitFire's description of itself, there is no trace.
Eight books appear on Litfire's website, only one of which seems actually to have been published by LitFire. That one shows up on Amazon, along with just two others. A few more surface with a websearch (interestingly, these also show up--with different ISBNs--as having been published by Author Solutions imprints). All in all, that's seven titles. Total.
LitFire also appears to be confused about how long it's been in business. Its website claims a 2008 founding date, but its URL was only registered in June of this year. On the other hand, according to one of its email communications, it's been around for 8 years, which would push its founding date back to 2006.
- Illiterate written materials. Most of LitFire's website, while it won't win any prizes for business communication, doesn't read too badly. But the LitFire correspondence I've seen...yikes. For example, this email from "Senior Publishing and Marketing Consultant" Tori Mesh:
The most charitable thing I can say is that it reads as if it were written by someone for whom English is not a first language. Tori's resume includes a current or former stint at AuthorHouse UK; we do know that a big portion of Author Solutions business is outsourced to the Philippines, and that Philippine staff use American or British-sounding aliases, presumably to make it seem as if they actually work at AS headquarters in Bloomington, Indiana, but actually resulting in some very odd-sounding names. (See, for instance, this recent Author Solutions marketing pitch.)
Also check out this blog post on, er, craft, from Jill Bennett, LitFire's Book Marketing Specialist. Here's a sample (also see the screenshot at the bottom of this post):
When can one’s writing writhen out a reader’s metaphysical standpoint?
How about this: Somebody wrote a book saying that the laws the world is following today: spiritual, political, logical are but a rehash of the Primo genial world that the Primo genial human beings have cleaved to and everything everyone believed in that world turned out to be flawed and destructive, thereby the First Apocalypse. He doesn’t claim himself a Messiah or a prophet or whatnot but proves his evidences authentic, like the codex of that first world, every inch of it intact.
I did not make that up.
- Plagiarism. A solicitation email from "Senior Marketing and Publishing Consultant" Mark Advent (formerly of Trafford) is a peculiar mix of the kinds of ESL mistakes found in Tori Mesh's email and relatively fluent passages. There's a reason for this: Mark has borrowed the good bits from others, without bothering with attribution.
The red-boxed passage is from an article by marketing expert Penny C. Sansevieri (see the last paragraph). The blue-boxed passage has been filched from speaker and consultant Al Lautenslager.
So what is LitFire? Despite the many Author Solutions connections and similarities, I don't suspect that LitFire actually has anything to do with Author Solutions itself. AS is a big company, and it has no need to be coy about what it does. If LitFire were a new AS imprint, we'd know it. I think it's far more likely that LitFire is an Author Solutions clone, created by former or current AS workers in hopes of siphoning off a share of their employer's business.
Either way, one thing is clear. If you hear from LitFire, just say no.
UPDATE 11/11/14: Either as a result of this post or of the accompanying discussion at Absolute Write (which includes a lot more speculation and information about possible LitFire staff names and aliases), changes have begun to appear on the LitFire website. I've therefore appended a bunch of screenshots at the very bottom of this post.
UPDATE 1/17/17: As the comments below will attest, LitFire is still at it. And it seems like they're not even trying all that that hard. Today I got this:
Good day Mark,Mark, whoever you are, I'm glad to take the bullet for ya.
How are you ? I hope you are doing great. I am Kate Avila, Senior Consultant with LitFire Publishing. I have been trying to get in touch with you in regard to your Book Project. I’m hoping you could get in touch with me as soon as you can. We’d like to know if you are still pursuing the book because we would like to help you.
Feel free to visit our website to know more information about us https://litfirepublishing.com/
Please feel free to contact me at 1 800 511 9787 ext. 8125 or send me an email at email@example.com.
I am looking forward for your response.
UPDATE 2/22/17: LitFire is reportedly soliciting former Tate Publishing authors (Tate went out of business earlier this year, amid lawsuits and a massive number of complaints).
UPDATE 2/23/17: I received this lengthy complaint today, from someone who made the mistake of buying one of LitFire's marketing packages. It explains exactly why LitFire and its ilk are a ripoff.
Writers beware LitFire Publishing. Please share this post to protect fledgling authors, as many people have called BookExpo to complain about this company already and have tried to warn writers on the internet. This is my personal experience.
This publishing house which seems legitimate, inconspicuous, and appears to have evidence backing up such claims, is nothing more than a ploy to take advantage of new authors. Litfire promises a marketing campaign of either Deluxe or Ultimate for $2,000 or $2,300. The original promise of these packages was a booth at Book Expo America in NYC, where major publishing houses and 200,000 attendees (as well as authors such as Scott Kelly and Stephen King) would be present and where an author thus, through them, could begin to fortify his or her portfolio, and the ability for the author to come and help man that booth if desired (although not necessary).
If purchasing the Ultimate package, LitFire promised an ad in the author catalog given out to all attendees as well as a full spread in "Wayfairer magazine" and 100 "gift cards" to give away to people at the fair and encourage them to buy the book. For the Deluxe, there were no "Gift cards" promised nor author catalog, but the author would receive a quarter spread in "Wayfairer magazine." With both packages, a 15 minute web internet radio interview over the phone was promised and a press release would be sent out for over 5,000 media outlets.
These promises, however, are no more than bait.
At the last moment, my LitFire representative claimed "misunderstanding" and said that I would have to separately procure a pass to attend the event, even to go to that booth (where I specifically got a very different answer before, an answer which claimed that my badge was included in the total cost). In a previous follow up before my representative claimed "misunderstanding," he specifically said that I would not have to pay ANY admission or undergo the application to attend the Book Expo, that it was all set, and that once I paid I would be assigned a financial marketing assistant who would tell me where to procure my pass and where to meet up.
Further, once I asked how much money was on the "gift cards," it was revealed that they aren't gift cards at all, but advertising cards with QR codes to better direct people to buy the author's book from Amazon or another major site. The name "gift card" was misleading.
Another change was in the "press release to 5,000 media outlets." At first, a "full marketing campaign" was promised. Upon further questioning, it turns out that this "full marketing campaign" is just bait, and they are simply referring to the booth at the Expo, advertising the book by genre to passersby, and the press release. Even worse, at the last minute, although the phrase "over 5,000" was used multiple times, my representative changed the number to "over 100 media outlets." No specific media outlets were specified, but that question was dodged.
The worst crime, however, is the exploitation of the name "Wayfairer Magazine." Since these baits are sent over the phone, if one were to look up Wayfarer Magazine (different spelling), one would find a reputable literary magazine. I called this magazine and found out that a full color spread costs $3,600, a B&W full spread costs $2,900, and that even the quarter spreads in color exceeded $1,000 and in B&W neared $1,000. LitFire's promise sounded like a fantastic deal.
At the last minute, upon request, I was sent PDF photos of "WayFairer Magazine." It is not a real magazine at all. In fact, it can't be found on google anywhere--only in the email, and is created by LitFire publishing themselves. The magazine itself is fake. Litfire banks on authors looking up Wayfarer Magazine when hearing the name over the phone since it isn't spelled anywhere except in what I was sent.
In fact, when I asked my representative to spell the magazine name specifically since there are multiple magazines with similar names (like Wayfare, Wayfair, etc.), and I wanted to be sure, he completely dodged the question. He banked on me being more entranced by the color photos of the full book spreads, which look very visually appealing and seem to market the books very well, and not noticing the tiny spelling difference between "WayFairer" and "WayFarer"
LitFire publishing is a scam--no more than bait to exploit the aspirations of new authors. Although they seem to check out at first, the true colors will bleed through upon deeper investigation and numerous calls to different corporations.
Although there are many "Beware LitFire!" cries on the internet, none actually explain why to do so, and make it sound more like an overpriced service than the complete illusory bait that it is. Do not trust LitFire, and do not pay them attention at the Book Expo America.
LitFire's description of itself:
Jill's illiterate blog post: