I'm not a stranger to questionable sales calls. I've detailed the majority of the contacts that have come my way through unsolicited emails and phone calls in an earlier blog post that was later turned into a static page on my website because they just keep happening. But one of the latest encounters has left me a bit speechless and I feel this encounter requires additional attention.
On 1/12/22 I get an email from someone going by the name of Glenn Sanders who claims to be a representative from Christian Works Media. The email is very basic with no attachments. The email's subject is "Invitation from Los Angeles Times Festival of Books".
At first, I just see the name Glenn Sanders and the subject line. The subject would seem to suggest that the Festival of Books is extending some type of invitation to me which caught my eye. In all of the questionable sales emails I've received over the past couple of years I've not seen one with a subject line like that.
Curious to see who this Glenn Sanders was and what this invitation might be about, I explored the email message. Instantly, the message of the body did not fit with the subject line, classic scam hook, almost like click-bait on websites.
This was not an invitation from the Festival of Books but rather a crude sales attempt by Glenn who is not affiliated with the Festival of Books. Glenn claimed to be from Christian Works Media and was offering me the opportunity to have my book showcased at their booth during the Festival of Books for the low, low cost of $599.00. There was no invitation "FROM" the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books but rather Glenn's invitation for me to give him money in exchange for his group promoting my book at the festival. The subject line was a complete lie intended to get me to click the email, which it did.
The bulk of Glenn's email was about the festival. When it was. Where it was. How many vendors, publishers, distributors, etc., would be participating in the event. There were even a few banner images for the event embedded in the email. Granted, the content regarding the festival was only a few lines long but it did constitute the majority of the email which seemed odd. Glenn was more interested in hyping the event but not really describing what he was trying to sell me.
Only toward the bottom of the message did we get to Glenn's actual pitch.
"Book Display - $599
That was it. Glenn's entire email contained only those four brief, vague lines about what he was wanting to sell me. $599 for a display of some kind and size for 2 days, "magazine exposure" whatever that is, and post-event photos and videos. There were no examples of what the magazine exposure might include or look like. No mock-ups or examples of that the display would look like. No definition of how many photos or videos would be available or in what timeline after the event such items would be available. There was nothing of substance of value in Glenn's message.
Now, if you've clicked the links at the top of the blog to see the many interactions I've previously detailed then you will have no doubt have noticed that Christian Works Media has contacted me for other things in the past. Despite recognizing the name from previous contacts, I opted to do my due diligence again. I pulled up their website, which I had to find because the link in Glenn's signature to his own company's website was bad. Their website was still the same sad, pathetic website that felt like I was shopping for unlicensed plastic surgery in a back alley that would be done by someone in the back of a van. Basically, it was still the same uninspired design that did not motivate me to do business with them.
Next, I hit up the Better Business Bureau where I still found no entry for this company. Usually I can at least find a record of a company. They generally have poor ratings with multiple complaints against them but they do exist. Christian Works Media doesn't seem to exist according to the BBB, which isn't necessarily the case but does send a negative message that they have been contacting me for the better part of a year via at least 3 different people (or so they claim to be 3 different people) and yet the BBB has no record of them.
At this point, I knew I would not be doing business with Glenn @ Christian Works Media but was curious to see what else I might could learn from him about this offer. If nothing else, it could serve as a good warning to others and give me some knowledge moving forward about what others may pitch.
I replied to Glenn's email that same day (1/12/22) and asked him multiple questions about what was included with that $599 price tag. I asked what would I be expected to do or provide as part of that service vs what would they do and provide. I asked for examples of the display and whatever the magazine exposure would be. The fact he called it out as "quarter page size" suggests to me that it would be some kind of ad. There were other questions about what outcome I could expect to see from their services and how I would be able to recognize those results. And as my usual routine, I asked if he could either provide me with references for other authors I could speak with who have used their services in the past or if he could pass my contact info along to a previous customer who might be willing to speak with me. I didn't go as far as to say my standard "no references, no deal" but I did make a point to ask for references, which is always a good idea when someone tries to sell you anything unsolicited.
But not to stop there, while I waited for Glenn's reply, I reached out to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books group. This is a legit event with a very public listing that includes multiple contact avenues, one of which was booking info if you wanted to be an exhibitor at the event with a booth. I crafted a polite email to the unknown individual at the other side of the email address and simply inquired if Christian Works Media was a registered exhibitor at the event. I explained that someone from that group contacted me about basically renting space in their booth to display my book but I wanted to verify their participation before continuing any discussions with them. I provided in that email the group's name, their listed corporate address (also in California), and their website URL. I figured it might be a bit of a long shot as some groups might not be willing to disclose such information but it never hurts to ask.
Less than 24 hours later I get a reply from someone at the Festival of Books. They confirm that Christian Works Media is NOT a registered participant for the upcoming event. The event is not for several more weeks so it might be that they simply haven't registered yet but if you aren't a confirmed participant, how can you sell slots in a booth you don't yet have for the event?
And not unsurprisingly, more than 24 hours after replying to Glenn's email, I have not received any reply. With other questionable contacts in the past, once I start questioning them on things the emails stop. If I'm not going to be a sucker that will just fork over my money with nothing but a simple email then I must be more trouble than I'm worth. Others though have replied but in some cases the replies take a few days. Some are almost immediate but not always. If Glenn replies, which I'm not expecting, I will append this post at that time but even if this attempt stops right here, right now then I am still just flabbergasted that someone would attempt to sell me on an event that they're not going to and their lack of participation can be so easily verified.
And at the time of this blog's posting, 1 week after my initial request for additional details and references, I have yet to receive a reply from Glenn Sanders with any information. It seems questioning his vague and uninformative email was too much for him.
If companies like this exist then it means the old saying of "a sucker is born every minute" must be true but in this minute, I'm not that sucker!