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.

AIMEE ANN / RED HEADED BOOK LOVER BLOG

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.

BOOK WRITING INC.

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.
 
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