I have blogged in the past about how groups have contacted me regarding a variety of services they want to sell me in connection with my books once they’ve been published. To date, I have yet to agree to terms with any of these groups as their sales pitches always seem fishy to me and they refuse to provide references despite their sometimes steep asking price. I have even gone so far as to establish a permanent page on my website dedicated to these groups, their salespeople, their offers, and my interactions with them with the hopes that others may discover it before signing any agreement with a group that may not be able to deliver on the promises they sell.
Recently (June 2, 2022, to be exact), I was contacted by another author who had found my information and wanted to share their story regarding their involvement with one of these groups. What follows is a breakdown of the events as reported to me by this author involving a group who had also reached out to me with a similar pitch. The author has requested to remain anonymous, which I can understand and respect, and will only be referred to as J. Doe but this is that author’s story which I have been allowed to share.
J. Doe published a book in 2018. Like all new authors, J. Doe began the arduous task of promoting and marketing the new book. By early 2020, J. Doe received a call from someone representing a group/company named New Reader Magazine that seemed to make all the sweat and tears poured into that book over the years to be worthwhile. Dave, the sales rep for New Reader Magazine, explained to J. Doe that there were already some “companies” interested in making J. Doe’s book into a film but these interested parties all needed a script or treatment first, something New Reader Magazine could help with.
It was described to J. Doe by Dave from New Reader Magazine that for an initial investment of $5,000.00 from J. Doe that New Reader Magazine would give the author’s book the treatment it needed to be optioned by someone in the film industry. All J. Doe had to do was sign a contract with New Reader Magazine and give them the $5k and if after 2 years the book had not been optioned by a studio then New Reader Magazine would refund 50% of J. Doe’s investment. Dave from New Reader Magazine even provided J. Doe with a contract via email that stipulated those exact terms too.
Bing, bang, boom – the contract was signed.
Doe secured the necessary $5,000.00 initial investment by taking a loan against their 401k retirement. The thought was that if companies were already interested in the book, then it would not take long before a studio optioned it and J. Doe could recoup the loaned amount and then some.
2020 came and went with no news, no offers, no money, nothing. 2021 passed by with the same silence from the studios. J. Doe had been in contact with the assigned account rep from New Reader Magazine during this time in which Kelly Smith, the rep for New Reader Magazine that had replaced Dave on J. Doe’s “project” over the course of the 2-year agreement, advised that “things were being put on delay,” presumably due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that struck in 2020. Regardless of any delays or their causes, J. Doe’s contract with New Reader Magazine was only good for 2 years, and as 2022 began there still had been no contact regarding any studio optioning J. Doe’s book under their agreement with New Reader Magazine.
After the contract’s 2-year term expired in February/March 2022, J. Doe began reaching out to New Reader Magazine regarding the owed 50% refund of the author’s $5,000.00 investment. Under the terms of the contract, New Reader Magazine owed the author $2,500.00 but the refund had not been automatically issued upon the contract’s expiration. For the next thirty days, the author tried repeatedly to contact New Reader Magazine regarding the refund but got no response.
That is until April 2022, after J. Doe filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (or BBB) regarding New Reader Magazine’s failure to comply with the terms of their contract.
Side Note: New Reader Magazine's listing with the BBB is under New Reader Media but the business address listed for New Reader Media is the same as the address listed on New Reader Magazine's website.
In April, well past the initial agreement’s 2-year expiration date, Kelly reached out to J. Doe. The contact from Kelly though was not about the group’s refund owed to the author but about a recent contact they’ve had with “Netflix U.K.” who was interested in optioning J. Doe’s book. Curious, J. Doe agreed to have a conversation regarding this new development. Kelly explained that someone from Netflix U.K. wanted to speak with the author and would contact J. Doe directly and soon. Later that night, in the late-night hours to be precise, a phone call came in on the author’s cell phone but due to the late hour, the call went to voicemail.
Concerned about having missed the phone call from a Netflix rep in the wee hours, J. Doe reached out to Kelly and explained the situation. Kelly replied that the Netflix rep will simply call J. Doe back at a later time. Someone calling herself “Isabella Castillo” eventually got connected with J. Doe and identified herself as the Acquisition Manager for Netflix, this was also reflected in “Isabella’s" email signature in emails sent to J. Doe. “Isabella” and J. Doe visited over the phone about the book, the possible agreement between the author and the studio, and the “next steps” in the process. A few days later, J. Doe got an email from “Isabella” from the email address email@example.com, and it also CC’d an email address of firstname.lastname@example.org, that contained a copy of the contract and additional information regarding the “next steps”.
Side Note: If you do a DNS lookup on “netflixoriginalsworldwide.com” it comes back to a “Namecheap, Inc.” registrar/DNS Host, a web host based out of Phoenix, AZ, according to their BBB profile where they have a current rating of 1.18 stars out of 5. However, Netflix.com points to an Amazon AWS host and a registrar of markmonitor.com. If you go to the URL of netflixoriginalsworldwide.com in your browser you get a dead website, i.e., a website with no content or even a landing page other than the default page from the provider. If this were a legitimate domain owned by Netflix, there would likely be something Netflix branded there, or it would redirect to another official Netflix website. Also, according to a whois lookup, netflixoriginalsworldwide.com wasn’t registered or created until 8/3/21 and was only given a one-year lease that expires in August of 2022. By contrast, Netflix.com has a multi-year DNS lease that does not expire until 2023. If this was a legitimate URL used by Netflix in their acquisitions for content, then I would suspect the URL to be older than from 2021 and to be anticipated and supported for more than 12 months by a major corporation like Netflix.
As it turns out, the “next steps” in working with “Netflix” according to “Isabella” was for J. Doe to wire transfer $3,000.00 to someone named “Loverlyn Catada” in Ontario, Canada. This was even stipulated in the “contract” provided to J. Doe that the author would pay a sum of $3,000.00 “directly to the assigned Project Field Agent’s account” reportedly to allow for faster processing to acquire a "film license".
Side Note: I found it most interesting and telling that “Isabella” identified herself as the Acquisition Manager during the initial conversations with J. Doe but on the contract provided from “Netflix” to J. Doe it showed “Isabella Castillo” listed as “Head of Legal Team” and not “Acquisition Manager” as the signature in her email to J. Doe did. I can’t imagine that a company as large as Netflix would have their head lawyer also be a run-of-the-mill acquisition manager. By the way, Netflix’s Chief Legal Officer was last reported in 2022 to be David Hyman who has been with the company since 2002 according to a quick Google search.
It was suggested to J. Doe that if the author paid this additional fee of $3,000.00, bringing their total investment into the project to $8,000.00 since 2020, a sum of $200,000.00 would be paid to the author likely within the next 6 months.
At this point, J. Doe had begun to suspect that this “Isabella Castillo” who was claiming to be from Netflix was not who she claimed to be and that the contract provided might not be real. J. Doe reached out to a couple of lawyers and shared the provided contract with them. Both lawyers advised the same thing, “This is a scam, and is not being sent by Netflix.” One lawyer even explained that authors should never have to pay money to have their books optioned and that what was described in the provided contract from “Netflix” is not how film licensing works, which is consistent with what I’ve learned in doing similar research on the subject after receiving similar offers from Kelly Smith at New Reader Magazine but instead asking for me to invest a sum of $13,000.00 compared to J. Doe’s $5,000.00.
Side Note: As an outsider looking in, the contract appeared suspect to me from the onset simply by its length. The whole thing, header logos included, was less than 10 pages long. That seems pretty basic for such a contract from a large group with significant reasons for legal protections like Netflix. I mean, my loan contract for my house was lengthier than that.
After hearing from not one but two lawyers that the contract was a fake and that likely the entire set of events that led J. Doe to that point was part of a scam, J. Doe began working to hold New Reader Magazine to the terms of their original agreement, a 50% refund of the initial $5,000.00 investment given that no studio optioned the author’s work within the 2 years the contract stipulated.
To date, J. Doe has not been able to recover any of the funds paid to New Reader Magazine. J. Doe has made repeated attempts to contact Kelly at New Reader Magazine via email, but all messages are rejected/returned to the author with a note that Kelly’s Inbox is “full”, or rather “Delivery incomplete” as it was described in the automated messages referring to the email delivery from J. Doe’s mailbox to email@example.com when attempting to send messages to Kelly’s email address. J. Doe has Kelly’s phone number and has tried calling and texting that number several times to discuss the owed refund, but Kelly has yet to answer, reply, or return any of the calls. It would seem that Kelly and New Reader Magazine have adopted a strategy of “if we ignore this author then perhaps, they will go away” but J. Doe is doggedly determined to get back what is owed.
Since suspecting that there might be some issues with the arrangement with New Reader Magazine, J. Doe has started doing some research online about the group and anyone else claiming to have received similar “offers” from Netflix. In my conversations with J. Doe, the aggrieved author has claimed to find reports from others online that suggest they have received similar contracts from similar email addresses from people using these same names who claim to represent Netflix. Such reports would suggest that this is not a one-off incident and that others like J. Doe might have fallen victim to what the lawyers J. Doe previously talked to referred to as a scam.
And while I have not personally seen these posts or spoken to those involved, I would not be surprised if this was the case. The fact that New Reader Magazine has contacted both me and J. Doe with similar sales pitches, provided us both with similar film treatment contracts with refund guarantees, and we both even spoke to Kelly Smith leads me to suspect that there are likely many others out there that have been contacted by this group, some of which may have fallen victim to the claims made by this group and invested what I can assume are not insignificant sums of money only to never see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Of course, this would also be consistent with my research on the group that I performed after getting an uneasy feeling about them and their ability to deliver what was claimed after speaking with Kelly. So, while I can’t say with any certainty that these other claims are true, they do seem consistent with the experiences I am familiar with regarding New Reader Magazine.
Doe is currently seeking legal assistance in this matter and hopes to resolve it amicably by New Reader Magazine upholding their end of their contract and refunding the money owed to the author. Likewise, the author continues to work with the BBB regarding their complaint against New Reader Magazine and the group’s failure to comply with the terms of their contract. No contact has been made by New Reader Magazine to discuss the refund owed or the fake Netflix contract as of the writing of this story.
Good luck and Godspeed to you, J. Doe.