I don't know about anyone else but since the release of my first book The Ascension Legacy: The Shamed Ranger in the summer of 2020 (right in the middle of COVID shutdowns) I have fielded a bevy of calls and emails from different people/groups wanting to sell me services to increase my sales, reduce my costs, attract more followers, and even potential movies or tv shows based on my work. Being a self-published author, I try to accept these mostly unsolicited offers with a grain of salt and approach them with the caution and skepticism they deserve while trying to remain open to the potential hope that an offer is legit.
Sadly, it seems that most of them are little more than scams from what I can tell. I have had some give me an email address of XXX@gmail.com but claim that they are an established company with years of expertise in the industry. Really? You claim to be a legit company with dozens and dozens of clients but you use basic gmail as company email? If you can't spring for at least a legit looking email address then how do you expect to sell yourself as a seasoned professional?
One representative for a "company" trying to sell me their marketing services decided to try and take pot shots at my website and social media numbers. Interestingly enough, in return I pressed them for their website and social media information and they were unwilling to provide it (mainly because it didn't exist). What company in today's world has neither a website or any social media presence? Any real company will have at least one or the other and any major company will have both. Don't be fooled by the "new" claims as an excuse for what should be a given in the modern world. Facebook and Twitter are free. There's no excuse for not having at least one of those at an absolute minimum.
But the biggest one so far was someone who called claiming that my book had been highly recommended to them by "independent literary agents" and that they wanted to give my manuscript "treatment" so that it could be shopped around to studios who might be interested in licensing my work for a movie or tv series. Unlike some of the others that I had spoken to, this group had a website and a real looking email address but still came across equally suspicious the more I looked into their name. Just because something looks legit on the surface doesn't make it so. Be thorough when checking up on anybody trying to sell you their services via an unsolicited contact.
And how I came to the conclusion that these offers/people/groups/companies were most likely scams, or at a minimum untrustworthy or likely unable to deliver on their promises, was a combination of clues and discoveries. I always start by checking the Better Business Bureau's website (www.bbb.org) to see if they have anything on this company. Often times the BBB either has no data about the company, which is suspect in itself to me, or the company's profile on the BBB website shows multiple complaints and a poor rating, something that does not instill a great amount of assurance that the group will be a valued partner in any business agreement.
Another telltale sign that I've noticed in dealing with some of these less than reputable groups is that none of them are willing to provide references. They contact you out of the blue to sell you their services, sometimes with a cost of several thousands of dollars, but are not willing to do anything more than tell you how great they are themselves. If a company has dozens or hundreds of success stories, as they have all claimed to have, then there should be at least one of those people willing to stand on the mountaintop and shout to the world their success and achievements gained with the help of these groups. When the best reference a group can provide is the testimonials on their website then odds are the testimonies are probably fake in my opinion. If someone calls wanting thousands of dollars from you to secure their services but they aren't willing to provide references then they're not really interested in providing said services as much as they are interested in just collecting your money.
And let's not forget the social network of validation and verification. Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and any number of other online social networks are great places to look for information of any groups "wanting your business". In one case, I found numerous posts that not only talked about their bad experiences with a particular group that had contacted me but many of the posts specifically called out the same individual I spoke to. That is never a good sign when you find multiple posts online of different individuals not only complaining about the company and their very negative experiences but also specific people being named in nearly every post.
If nothing else, Google the names of people trying to sell you things, especially if they seem too good to be true or they are asking for any substantial amounts of money. Never give someone your financial details without some level of assurance surrounding their authenticity beyond their own spoken word. Not to mention that if the best brochure they can provide on their company and services is a poorly formatted email then it is probably best just to walk away. Most reputable businesses have tons of marketing material available upon request, only those looking to scam money from suckers will approach you without those things because they aren't there to be legit, just to get your money and marketing materials cost money that fake businesses don't have.
And, to take things a step farther, below is a list of the names of groups and people I've spoken to, the services they said to provide, the cost associated with those services, and highlights of my interaction with them. I'm not saying that these people are scammers and that their companies aren't legit, only that in my dealings with them that I did not feel their offers were on the level or that my findings at the time did not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling about doing business with them at my financial expense. I'm sure the list will expand over time so stay tuned:
Kelly Smith (New Reader Magazine)
- Services: Treatment of my manuscript for Hollywood studios and streaming services that might consider my work for a movie or tv show.
- Estimated Cost: $13,000.00
- I exchanged emails with Kelly a few times and spoke with her at length in a phone call that lasted over an hour as she touted her company's success rates (60%+ if I recall correctly)
- The company had a very negative rating with the BBB with multiple complaints on file regarding failure to deliver and the company's difficulty in honoring their "cancel anytime" clause in their contract that called for a refund of monies paid for services.
- I found ZERO positive stories regarding this group online but the majority of posts I found specifically called Kelly out as being the person they spoke to initially but was getting nowhere with when the project soured.
- I made multiple requests for references but Kelly never provided any, claiming that the testimonials on their website was the best they could provide despite their asking price of $13,000 of my money.
- After expressing my concerns and findings with Kelly who tried to discount the numerous complaints as hearsay, I promptly rejected Kelly's proposal but it took multiple email exchanges with her before she accepted the fact that I was not going to be the next sucker in line. This level of pushiness did not do anything but add to my suspicions regarding the nature of their business model.
Kelly White (Writers Apex)
- She sounded just like Kelly Smith from New Reader Magazine with the same accent and idiosyncrasies in her speech patterns ("In regards to" as a leading phrase when answering any question.) I'm convinced Kelly White and Kelly Smith could be the same person though I have no proof of it.
- Services: Writers Apex wanted to "republish my book" because my book's prices were "too high". Their service would reduce my printed book cost by 25% and my ebook cost by 50%.
- Estimated Cost: Unknown. I hung up on her before we even got there.
- I had two questions for Kelly during our phone call. 1) How does your company plan to accomplish such significant cost reductions without altering the format or content of my material? Her only answer was "we will republish your book" which does little to explain how that accomplishes such a goal. 2) Do you have references of other authors that you've republished who saw the claimed reduction in price that led to an increase in sales? Her answer to that was "our client details are confidential".
- Since Kelly could not explain how her company planned to achieve what they were trying to sell me and refused to give me references who could speak to her company's ability to deliver on their promises I gave Kelly an ultimatum, give me references or we end the conversation. She continued to tell me how I needed their help because I didn't know things that they did and repeatedly dodged my questions until I grew frustrated enough to terminate the call. I flagged her email as spam and the number she called from already showed up as spam on my cellphone (clue #1).
- Update 8/1/21: Wow! Just wow! Kelly sent me a new email basically trying to have the same conversation with me again. It was like she had no knowledge of our previous contact. Do they not keep a record of who they have and haven't reached out to? Do they not keep a record of who has and hasn't shot them down recently? I mean, it has only been 4 months since she sent me the EXACT same email (subject line and everything).
- I replied and politely reminded her that she and I had already spoken on the subject and that unless she could arrange for me to speak with authors who used their services with success and she could offer a better explanation than "because we will republish your book" as to how they plan to achieve things that my previous decision will remain unchanged.
- Update 8/30/21: I guess the last email she sent me at the beginning of the month that I replied to did not register with her because I got a 3rd email from her, this time for my latest book release. It was the same email as the two previous ones she sent. I am flabbergasted that she would contact me a third time given our last two exchanges.
- Once again, I politely replied and questioned if they tracked their contacts given our previous exchanges. I reminded Kelly that I would not entertain any services she offered unless she could explain how it would work AND provide references. I ended the email with asking her to lose my email for any future contacts if she was unwilling to provide that information since that would be the only way I would move forward with her attempts to sell me services I didn't request.
- Update 9/7/21: I received the same email again from Kelly. That is 3 emails with the exact same content in 5 weeks. I replied to the first two with NO response from Kelly. At this point, I have no reason to think that this is anything but harassment given that she keeps sending the same email, she never replies to my responses, and I previously asked her to stop emailing me. If this isn't sufficient excuse to NOT do business with someone, I don't know what is.
Julia Martinez (Book Bean)
- Services: A paid advertisement in the form of an interview with a radio host (Ric Bratton)
- Estimated Cost: $699
- The conversation started off normal as she explained that Book Bean was "relatively new" and largely comprised of agents and workers that were formerly associated with a multitude of publishers and she was there to "level up" my marketing by helping me to secure this radio spot on Ric's show, which is basically a podcast type broadcast from what I understood on things like Youtube, Spotify, iTunes, etc. but not a typical radio show on the AM/FM stereo.
- Following our phone call, Julia sent me an email with criticism of my website. This was after she questioned the effectiveness of my current social media management team from Snow Tree Media (who have done an amazing job). Interestingly, "Book Bean" has no website or social media presence that I was able to find and when I requested information on where to find their website and social media presence in response to Julia's email I have not gotten a response.
- UPDATE 4/21/21: She replied stating that the company was just started in December of 2020 so their website was still being worked on. This is in stark contrast to her previous claim that the company was started in 2015 that she made during our phone call on 4/19 when I specifically asked how long they had been around.
- I mentioned references in my phone call with Julia and again in an email stating my desire to speak with someone who has used their services but no references have been provided to date.
- UPDATE 4/21/21: - In the same email when she claimed they had no website because being new despite previously saying the company was started in 2015, Julia provided 2 names. One she said was an author for a different publisher so I'm not sure how that's a valid reference to anything to do with them. The other name she said was one of their authors but skipped right over the reference part of connecting the two of us so that I could speak to him about his experiences with that group. When I Googled that author his last book was published in 2019. How is he one of their authors from 2019 if the company was started in December of 2020? Just a lot doesn't add up there.
- Julia made contact with me on 4/19/21 and the BBB website shows nothing for that company despite Julia claiming to have booked over a dozen people with radio spots in the last month alone and the company being started in 2015. How does a 6 year old company not have a listing with the BBB? Smells fishy...
- Her email address ends in @gmail.com. When I called this out to her it was explained as something they were working on because they were still "a new company" but she also claimed that the company had been around since 2015. 6 years in business with dozens of clients each month and you use basic gmail accounts for your business? I don't think so.
- In the end, there were too many things missing that anybody would expect a company to have. No website. No social media presence. No company email addresses. No brochures or marketing material. All I got was information in an email that looked suspect and a lot of criticisms about my online presence when they had none of their own. Julia would later change her claim from being a 6 year old company to a 6 month old company and blamed me for misunderstanding how when I asked how long had Book Bean been around and she answered since 2015 that she meant she had been in the industry since 2015. It just seems too much like a classic deflection technique in an effort to make me think I'm the one at fault for suspecting them as being a scam when everything they say and do is classic scam tactics.
- I don't care if you've been in business 6 years or 6 months but a free social media account and company emails are a must at day 1 and don't claim cost prohibitive as your reason, especially after you claim to book 15-20 clients a month just for radio interviews at $700 a pop. $700/each x 15/monthly bookings = $10,500.00/month and that was just for Julia's efforts. That's over $120,000 annually just from radio spots she supposedly sold so in the last 6 months they would have made $60,000 just from her efforts and yet somehow it is too expensive to have company email. That doesn't make me think that they are legit and even if they are, I don't want to work with a group that shortsighted.
Victoria Powell (Filmways Pictures Agency/Filmways Pictures LTD)
- Services: Wants to make my book into a movie
- Estimated Cost: Pending
- They have an almost legit looking website that claims they've been around since 1952 but the BBB has no data on the company. Any company that's been around for nearly 70 years is going to have a history.
- Just doing a quick Google search on the company name I found 1 post where the consensus was the group was a scam and another post where someone had received the exact same email that I had from the exact same person. I am trying to reach out to that individual to see how that went for them but I'm not optimistic that they had a positive experience.
- I made it known upfront that I would require a minimum of 2 verifiable references and if they were unable to provide those then there was no point in even talking. I'm waiting to see if they reply or where this may lead.
- Update 4/29/21: It has been over a week since I replied to "Victoria's" email in which I made it clear that I would need references to be included in any discussions had. I have received no response to my reply. Likewise, my attempts to contact the individual I found online that mentioned receiving the same email I did from "Victoria" has not yielded any fruit. I had hoped to validate the company's status with someone else who had spoken with them to see what their experience was like but I can understand that individual's possible desire to not talk to strangers online.
- Update 5/6/2021: Another week passed and still no response. It seems pretty clear at this point that the mere mention of references is enough to scare Victoria away.
- Update 5/25/21: Still no response. I guess Victoria Powell with Filmway Pictures wasn't as serious about her offer as her email suggested if the mention of references scares her to the point of no contact for 30+ days.
- Update 6/14/21: Still no response from Victoria. I am going to write this off as a scam since the mere mention of references has led to a complete lack of response from her.
Alex Wayne/Alex Morris (Ingress Advertising LLC)
- Services: Something about a book fair based on the poorly formatted and brief email containing poorly constructed writing and sentence structure.
- Estimated Cost: Pending
- I got an email on 4/12/21 from someone with the email address header of Alex Morris but the email contained a signature line for Alex Wayne. Is Alex a recently married individual and the names don't match up because of some mismatch of data or is it just lazy scammers not realizing that the data doesn't line up? Anybody's call at this point but to say that I've become somewhat jaded and pessimistic in these situations is an understatement.
- According the BBB's website, Ingress Advertising LLC had a profile created on 4/7/21, a mere 5 days before Alex emailed me. That's not a promising start.
- Due to work obligations, I replied to Alex's email on 4/19/21 to discuss the possibility of setting up a quick phone call in the off chance this is not a scam but as of 4/21/21 I have not gotten a response from "Alex".
- Update 4/29/21: I have not received a response back from Alex. It has been over a week since I responded and indicated that I would like to include references for their work as part of any discussion. Others at least replied to play down the need for references or claimed they couldn't give me any. We'll see if a response ever comes but I am not going to hold to my breath.
- Update 5/6/2021: Still no response from Alex. All I said is that I’d want references as part of the discussion but apparently that’s a deal breaker to the point that they won’t even reply to say ‘no thanks’.
- Update 5/25/21: Still no response from Alex. It seems the idea of providing references is scary enough to them that they hide and can't even reply to say "sorry, but this isn't going to work". If just mentioning references is enough to scare them away then it only serves to increase my suspicions of their legitimacy.
- Update 6/14/21: Still no response from Alex. I'm going to write this one off as a scam. It has been 6 weeks with no contact from the group since requesting references.
Ryan Scott (Christian Works Media)
- Services: Paid advertisement time in the form of an author interview on the radio show "This Week in America" with host Ric Bratton (the same thing Julia from Book Bean tried pitching to me a week earlier).
- Cost: $899 (it is also worth noting the $200 price difference between this "group" and Book Bean)
- So far I have only received an email from Ryan that included the same template content about how securing my spot on one of Ric's upcoming shows and how widespread my appearance would be given Ric's impressive background and how it would increase my sales by helping me reach my target audience.
- They do have a basic website but no information about them on the BBB's website. I don't find a Facebook page for any group with that name. A quick Google search for the company name only found the website for the group but no immediate posts either praising or criticizing the group.
- I politely replied to Ryan and indicated that I would want to speak with authors who successfully used their services previously. I made it clear that there was not an expectation for him to give me personal contact details for those authors but instead directed him to share my email address (which he clearly had since he emailed me first) or to direct them to contact me through social media (and I provided him my social media information). All that is left now is to wait and see if Ryan replies and if so, what that reply includes.
- Update 5/6/2021: It has been a week since I replied to Ryan saying that was interested in hearing what he could tell me about the service and suggested that he suggest one of their success stories to reach out to my social media account on their behalf but I’ve heard nothing in response.
- Update 5/25/21: Still no response. I guess the mention of references was enough to scare Ryan away for good. Who would have thought that something so simple would scare someone so completely as to never respond. I guess if it were a legit offer that a response might be warranted but if its a scam then I can't be too surprised.
- Update 6/14/21: Still no response from Ryan, although I did get a call and an email from someone claiming to work for the same group (see below). I still think this group is likely a scam. Initiating contact with a new name but the same information doesn't instill a great deal of confidence either.
Ryan Scott (Christian Works Media)
- Services: A website
- Cost: $499
- Yes, this is the same Ryan Scott (I assume given the same email address) that contacted me a few months earlier about doing a "radio" interview on Ric Bratton's podcast show.
- I didn't even entertain a conversation with Ryan. I replied to his email and let him know that I currently have a website and that I was not interested in their services. I added that I had his contact info so if I changed my mind in the future that I would contact him. In addition, I asked that he remove me for their mailing lists given this was no less than the third contact I've had from their group this year.
Ryan Scott (Christian Works Media)
- Services: Social Media marketing for my book
- Cost: $199 (Special)
- Same Ryan Scott as above. I guess he didn't bother to remove me from his mailing list after my last request which just goes to show their true nature.
- Services: Just like his colleague Ryan who reached out to me at the end of April, Cyrus wanted to book me on the Ric Bratton show! This is like the third person to contact me in reference to this show.
- Cost: $780. Still more than the price quoted by the person from Book Bean but less than his fellow colleague.
- Cyrus initiated contact with me via telephone roughly a week ago. It showed as a number from California. I didn't answer and he left a voicemail. It was a bit hard to understand. I had to listen to his message a few times before I understood even his name but I was never fully able to understand what it was he was trying to sell me. I could make out something about an author selected for a live interview but that was about it.
- I tried to call Cyrus back twice but never reached him. On the second attempt, I left Cyrus a voicemail asking him to send me the details of his offer via email and provided him with my email address (though I'm sure he had it from the press release where he found my phone number). I received the email from Cyrus on Friday, June 11, and it included the same templated sales pitch for Ric Bratton's show that I had already received from his colleague Ryan and Julia @ Book Bean. I replied letting him know that someone from his group had already approached me with a similar offer but that I would require the same thing from him as I had his colleague, references of previous clients. Again, as my usual spiel, I was very explicit in my request that I did not expect Cyrus to provide me with private or personal details of these individuals but that I would like for him to give them my email address or social media contact information so they could reach out to me. As of 6/14/21, I am awaiting to see if Cyrus will reply. His colleague Ryan never responded after I made my request for references, let's see what Cyrus does.
- Update 6/16/21: Surprisingly, Cyrus replied. When prompted for references, most others simply fall off the face of the planet and never reply but Cyrus did. Not surprisingly, he did not provide me with any information regarding my request. In fact, it was pretty much the opposite. He stated that I was the first to ever ask for references and then immediately in the next sentence started asking what it would take for us to do business today. Really? I point blank said "no reference, no deal" in my first email so that question was answered before it was even asked. The best he had to offer in this email was a "I guarantee you will love it!" statement which is not very reassuring. I replied to reiterate my requirement for references. I also took the opportunity to remind him that they contacted me to sell me their services despite no prompting from me so it was up to him to prove the value of what he wanted to sell me, not for me to determine the value of what I was wanting to buy simply because I was not wanting to buy their services prior to them contacting me first. Also interestingly, he did not seem concerned or curious about who else from his organization may have contacted me previously despite me pointing that out in the beginning of my initial response.
- Update 8/5/21: Cyrus never replied to the second email. The fact that in order for our two groups to do business would require them proving that they can deliver what they claim to sell is too much to ask or even warrant a reply makes me feel pretty confident that they are either a scam or know the product they're selling to be ineffective at best.
Marshie Prieto (EC Publishing LLC)
- Services: Looked to be primarily digital marketing though the conversation did not get far enough to really establish which service(s) were being sold to me through their cold contact.
- Cost: N/A. Their website did not display any prices for any of their services that I found and given the conversation with Marshie never advanced beyond a couple of short emails, I have no idea what anything they have to offer might cost.
- This contact started as an email to me from Marshie on 7/29/21 with a very brief introduction and a request for 10-15 minutes of my time. The initial email did not include any information regarding target services being offered, promotional pricing, nothing. Just a "Hey, this is who I am, who I work for, and I'd like a few minutes of your time to discuss your needs" type email.
- I did a little poking around online looking for information on this group and basically all I found was a BBB profile which indicated they had been in business roughly 3 years, a website with minimal information, and a Facebook page that showed random posts dating back to about Feb 2019 (a little more than 2 1/2 years ago). I didn't really find anything where others talked positive about them but did find a few negative comments on the BBB page.
- I replied back on 7/30/21 to Marshie saying, "let's chat". I had expected to get a phone call setup for that quick 10-15 minute discussion that Marshie had suggested in the initial email but instead I was just greeted with another email from Marshie later that same day.
- The second email from Marshie included a picture of my book's cover art and some explanation that some Amazon Associate had recommended my book to them. From there, Marshie posed a few questions to me in the email but that was it. I replied to the email and provided answers to the questions submitted with honest feedback. I did close out that second email with a statement that I had looked through their website to see what services they provided but wasn't sure which services would be a fit for my needs but that I was open to seeing what Marshie had to say given that they are suppose to be the experts in that area.
- Update 8/5/21: That was a week ago and I have not heard back from Marshie. Perhaps Marshie thinks I would be too difficult to work with and has opted not to pursue me as a client given my feedback and blunt comments or perhaps Marshie realizes that I will not be so easily swayed into throwing away my money on empty promises. I can't say why Marshie stopped talking to me so suddenly but it does make me wonder how legit Marshie may have been given that such a simple statement could have scared them away so easily.
Unknown (URLink Print and Media)
- Services: Republish my book and various other "recommended" services
- Cost: "Free" for republishing and other services will cost an unlisted amount.
- I'm not even going to give them a chance to discuss this with me. Yes, I've become somewhat jaded after dealing with multiple groups that can't even sound trustworthy or believable to even give this group a chance after looking into them for only a small amount.
- When I checked the BBB's website (bbb.org) on 9/14/21, this group had a rating of 3 out of 5 stars. On the face of it, that looked good but as I dug deeper it seemed the positive reviews were suspect. Most of them came within a few days of each other in Sept. 2019. What are the odds that multiple people are all going to post 5 star reviews, most of which were not very specific regarding services rendered. One, in fact, made a point to call out that clicks do not equal sales. It said nothing about what the group did for them but seemed to be more making a sales excuse to refute a complaint regarding the group's marketing services not resulting in sales.
- When reviewing most complaints, they all seemed to share a common theme, fees were paid but services not provided/projects not complete, and communication was horrible (although friendly). It seemed that the group was good at making excuses but not delivering. And for nearly all complaints, the company replied to the complaint in an effort to justify the issues reported but the complainants generally rejected the customer's response as misleading or incorrect. One person even had to get an attorney involved. That does not inspire one to use the services if it will require you to have legal representation to get your money back because the provider fails to provide the services they were paid for.
Peter Pascual (Westwood Books Publishing)
- Services: Publishing, republishing, targeted email marketing, etc.
- Cost: I don't know. I didn't talk to them but their sales emails, yes EMAILS, were very general and aimed at trying to get me to contact them so they could figure out what services I needed.
- I received 4, count 'em 4, emails from Peter over a course of 22 days. Yes, you read that correct, he sent me 4 unprompted emails in the span of less than one month. Of course, looking into it a bit more, I discovered that all 4 of these messages were part of some mailing list campaign. The group uses Mail Chimp, suspiciously the same mail provider I use for my book marketing newsletters, and it had the same familiar newsletter template (and the Mail Chimp banner at the bottom of the email).
- I replied to the email address listed (Peter's) and suggested that they remove me from the list in addition to me clicking the unsubscribe button on the email. I'm guessing they auto-added my information to the mailing list when they found it in a press release because I know I didn't sign up for it!
- I checked them out on the BBB website. They have a 2.5 out of 5 rating. It shows they've been in business since 2018 (3 years). In those 3 years it seems that 9 complaints have been filed with the BBB where all of them seem to claim a lack of services and communication and the company seems more than happy to publicly argue with the complainants through the BBB website. It would seem reading through those threads that the best way to establish communication with this group is via a BBB complaint and anything less will go ignored...ouch.
- There aren't very many reviews on the BBB website for them either. And they are either 1 star or 5 pretty much. The positive reviews were less descriptive than the negative ones and somebody likes to argue with reviewers too. I can understand wanting to "protect the brand" but I'm not so sure going back and forth with an angry customer in a public forum is the most professional way to resolve a complaint or that it protects the brand much. It actually causes me to have some sense of security about the truthfulness of the complaints.
- They do have an actual website that looks pretty standard, nothing fishy. Their online bookstore is 90 pages with 8 books per page which would indicate that they've got nearly 720 books under their belt. Now the quality of those books, I can't say but it seems they've done something at least.
- I don't know that I would consider this group a scam in the typical sense but it does seem that it might be one to have some serious hesitations about doing business with.
- The biggest thing for me is when I looked up the company on a website that rates publishing service providers this is what they had to say about Westwood Books Publishing: "Formerly known as Greenberry Publishing, a vanity press rated "F" by the Better Business Bureau." Apparently they were once known by another name with a horrible BBB rating. If that's not enough of a reason to think twice about dealing with this group then I don't know what is.
- Services: Marketing/Advertising for authors
- Cost: Not sure but others have posted roughly $699
- I've received 2 phone calls from someone representing this group in the past month. both calls have come after normal business hours which seemed odd enough but in the voicemail the individual says their hours are M-F 5PM-Midnight! That has all the makings of someone overseas operating through a U.S. based redirect phone service if you ask me but who knows, that might be their legit hours in NY.
- The person in the voicemail is kinda hard to understand for me. I had to listen to the messages multiple times to work out the name of the company she said she represented and she butchered the name of my book too. I have yet to make out what her name is though.
- They do have a website but it is very basic with NO information. There is a signup form where you can request information but I could not find anything posted openly about their services and costs. There was only a banner that said we provide the following services but no real details. There isn't even a phone number or company address listed that I found.
- The website shows a copyright date of 2016 but I found no record on the BBB website for a company with this name.
- I did a quick Google search and found other people trying to figure out who this group was and the general consensus was a waste of money. The best record I found was a guy talking about they wanted nearly $700 to rent a spot on the group's table at a book fair event or something along those lines.
- The lack of information, the odd business hours, and the fact that after nearly 6 years in business they have no BBB record tells me to not go near this group with a 10-foot pole.
Blake Brown (URLink Publishing & Media LLC)
- Services: Republishing and Marketing
- Cost: Undisclosed
- Got email from Blake on 11/3. The email suggested they would republish my book for free provided that I purchase marketing services. The email listed several service packages but no prices for any package.
- My email automatically flagged the message as Spam and put it in my Spam folder so that's what I'm treating it as but felt compelled to add this contact to the list for future reference.
Kevin Price (Writer's Branding NJ)
- Services: Marketing, publishing, social media services
- Cost: Varies
- Kevin first reached out via a cold call on 10/27 but the voicemail was difficult to understand. He left only his name and phone number but nothing about a company website or email address that I could use to lookup the company he said he represented. The name of the company was difficult to make out in the recording. Given the poor quality of the recording and lack of researchable information, I opted not to return his call.
- Kevin reached out again, another cold call, on 11/5. This voicemail was clearer sounding but again I wasn't sure exactly who he represented. This time I returned his call and left him a voicemail with my email address and asked him to send me some information, mainly so I could figure out who he worked for.
- Kevin emailed me twice on 11/5. One was a general sales email that talked about what I could achieve by working with them but little mention of exactly what they would do or how much it would cost. The second email was a special email where for only $2000 they would write a 500 word review that they would get "published" in different places which would entitle me to put a "as seen as" logo on my website. Yippee!
- The thing that most turned me off on Kevin's approach is that in his voicemail, before he ever had a chance to talk to me, made mention of my books "still having a fighting chance" and "a rough experience". He had no idea how rough of an experience my books have or haven't had nor is he able to quantify what a fighting chance is until he speaks with me about their sales performance vs my goals. In his email, he also made mention about marketing campaigns "not doing anything much". Again, how could he know what had or hadn't been done and the results of such campaigns? He suggested his presumptions were based off of data acquired from the printer despite that data not being publicly accessible which only undermines his assertions as true and valid.
- Through additional back and forth via email, Kevin suggested that he had somehow acquired my sales data from the printer, which is not available publicly which would suggest his latest claim was a lie. When I fired back about his lack of information and other false claims, he "excused" himself from the conversation and it ended there. I made it clear that I was not interested in talking with him given his poor attitude, lack of insight, and false claims about being BBB accredited when the BBB website specifically said they weren't.
- Update: I guess Kevin "didn't get the memo" or understand his own words about "excusing" himself from any conversation because he called me on 11/20 and again on 11/24 leaving me the same voicemails as before. It was as if he had no memory of our previous conversation, how he got caught lying about things, and that I expressly said that I was not interesting in doing business with them. Today (11/29) I politely replied to Kevin's previous emails indicating that I had received his latest messages but that I still had no intention of doing business with him. I made it very clear, in a respectful manner, that I did not want any contact from him. I requested that he stop calling me and that moving forward the only contact between us would be initiated by me if for any reason I ever lose my mind and choose to do business with a group that can't even keep their own word during pre-sales efforts.
The moral of the story here is to always do your due diligence and never accept anybody's word at face value when they come to you wanting to take your money.
If somebody from a car dealership called you unexpectedly and said they'd sell you a brand new car if you sent them money would you do it before you had a chance to inspect the car? If someone said they could make you a million dollars just like they had all of their other clients if you give them money would you blindly turn over your financial future to these strangers without trying to find out who one of their many clients were and talked to them about the services? I know if somebody made me a millionaire I'd damn sure be telling my friends all about it and anybody else that was curious.
When "companies" cold call you to solicit their services in exchange for your money, always be skeptical. Legit businesses will usually have no issues providing references when asked. Legit businesses will have well prepared marketing materials available upon request. Legit businesses will understand that when they ask for money that you will want to verify their authenticity. Legit businesses will have bad marks and bad reviews out there, its the cost of business that is unavoidable that one or more deals will go bad for any number of reasons, but its how those businesses deal with those negative experiences that are most telling about the company's level of authenticity and professionalism. Any company that sidesteps concerns about negative feedback or tries to discredit multiple complainants probably aren't the people you want to do business with unless you want to end up like the other people who voiced their complaints about that company.
It is always a roll of the dice when you choose to give someone else money in exchange for services or goods but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to hedge your bets as much as you can before letting those dice fly.
And just for the record, I do archive all of the email correspondences I have had with each of these individuals. If a phone call exchange is made between me and someone else I always request that they either send me the information we discussed during the call via email so that I can have it writing or I, at a minimum, will email them a recap of the conversation so that they have an opportunity to correct or refute any claims documented to my understanding of what was discussed. I always try to be polite and honest regardless of if the contact is done over the phone or through email but do not mistake nice with gullible or bluntness with rudeness. I try to be upfront with them in reference to what my expectations are and how our two groups can work together to achieve a goal but it never seems they are willing to put in the same level of effort or honesty.