After publishing the first book in my Ascension Legacy series, I started being inundated with emails and phone calls from "service providers" trying to sell me their services. None of these contacts were solicited by me and I've come to learn that many groups look for press releases, which often contain author contact info, and then use that data to initiate the cold-call-type sales pitches.
At first, I was polite and tried to talk with them to better understand what was being offered, who was offering it, how much things might cost, etc. I never agreed to anything over the phone but those I did speak with were usually eager to get something signed and would often send over contracts for me to sign via email. I never signed any contracts and continued to research the group, often to a disappointing end.
In the end, I came to the belief that many of these groups are either complete scams or at best low quality companies that are more likely to either not deliver or under-deliver on what they sold you. The more companies that I looked into and the more research I did, the less positive each company sounded. The BBB website was filled with complaints, numerous people posting on various platforms about their negative experiences with one of the groups, and just the general shadiness of some of the interactions I had with some of the people left me reeling.
After the first half-dozen or so of these contacts, I decided to write a blog post about my experiences with these cold-call artists. You can read the original post here if you like. For a while, I kept the post updated as I was contacted by more and more people about a growing variety of services. But then I realized there was a problem with this approach. Updating my blog did not move my original post to reflect the updates in my blog section. It stayed on the list based on its original posting date. As a result, I have now decided to create a page on my website dedicated to detailing my experiences with these different groups and salespeople so that others may more easily find this information should they be contacted by any of these people in the future.
If you are curious to see this same list but organized by company then click here to see that alternate list.
Disclaimer: What follows are details of my experiences with the people and companies listed. This is in no way slander, libel, or anything other than fact. While some, if not all, of these companies may be very legit companies, my interactions with them were not positive, my research into them did not yield positive findings at the time, and I concluded that I would not do business with them based on a variety of factors, many of which have been detailed below.
Layla Brooks (Brilliant Books Literary)
- Services: Unknown
- Cost: Unknown
- I’m listing this one here because I don’t know what else to list it as but I’m segregating this one from the others because of the interaction I had with them is very unlike any other.
- Basically, I got an email from Layla indicating that she had come across a press release about my book and just asked how my books were coming. Layla and I exchanged a number of emails over a few days discussing my books, my inspirations, and whatnot. Never once did Layla ask me to call her to discuss anything. Never once did Layla try to sell me anything. It was just conversational in context. After a few days of chitchat, Layla just suggested that if I was ever interested in discussing promotional stuff for my books that I consider reaching out to her. She was never pushy, cheesy, nor did she employ the typical sales tactics that I’ve come to expect. It was actually a very pleasant exchange that ended in a casual request that I keep them in mind.
- Not to be blinded by the polite and casual conversation, I did my typical research on the company to maybe better understand who I might be dealing with.
- Their website registration was created in Jan of 2022 so VERY new.
- Likewise, their FB page was created in Jan of 2022 and have only a very few followers to suggest that they are VERY new and unknown.
- I could not find a profile for this company on the BBB website
- The website registration listed as being registered to an individual in Cebu, Philippines. I’ve found a few of these questionable companies being primarily run out of that region. This company having a website registered to that area is certainly a red flag but alone is not a solid indicator.
- Their website looks like the typical “services” I get calls on for my books. Paid reviews, publishing assistance, marketing services, audiobook conversion, etc. The About Us page talks about hiring a lit agent but their website does not look like a traditional lit agent outfit. Most lit agencies have you submit your work to them and they selectively choose if they want to rep you, not you just going out and hiring a lit agent willy nilly.
- They have all the makings of other organizations that reach out to me that I would be hesitant to engage in a business setting but the approach used stands out as being different. I don’t know if that is just their approach to stand out from other groups and to lull prospective clients into a false sense of security through their friendly approach or if that is just really how they do things and any similarities with these other groups are just unfortunate coincidences. Either way, I’m not in the market for any services and since Layla didn’t offer anything else I’m left with nothing else to go on. I’m suspect of the group simply because of their newness and lack of information but at the same time I’m intrigued by Layla’s casual approach and refusal to engage me in pushy sales techniques.
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 were 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 Smith (New Reader Magazine)
- Services: Film treatment to turn a book into a movie
- Cost: $5,000.00
- This is not my story but the story of another author who asked me to share their story with New Reader Magazine.
- You can read the account of J. Doe and New Reader Magazine over in my blogs here.
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 trying to have the same conversation with me again. It was like she did not know 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 shut 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 by 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 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 a sufficient excuse to NOT do business with someone, I don't know what is.
- Update 3/19/22: Yet another email from Kelly that matches the previous ones. I guess my refusal to participate in their programs multiple times is easily forgotten or she hopes that I have but either way I replied the next day to decline her services (again). I did add a line requesting to remove my information for all future contacts. I guess we'll see if she pays attention and honors my request this time since she didn't honor my last one. If it happens again I may have to look into escalating the issue because this is bordering on harassment in my mind.
- Update 4/5/22: Yet another email from Kelly. The same as the others. I guess she either didn't see or chose not to respect my last request to stop contacting me. This time I was less polite and blunter with "Stop contacting me" and "Do not contact me again" statements clearly at the top of the message with no additional data.
- Update 7/29/22: Kelly hasn't gotten the hint. A different formatted email this time but still essentially the same thing. I replied with ANOTHER request for Kelly to stop emailing me while also indicating that I was NOT interested in their services. I guess it is time to turn up the heat on stopping this harassment.
- Update 9/25/22: Kelly emailed me again! This time I was MUCH less polite in my reply in which I declared “STOP FUCKING CONTACTING ME!!!” I guess I will need to send a registered letter to the address in Kelly’s email signature line along with a cease and desist letter from my lawyer.
- Update 11/23/22: Yet another message from Kelly. Ugh. That's all I can say. She's exhausting but persistent. I replied with a blunt message. If she can't respect my wishes then I won't pretend to be polite.
- Update 12/26/2022: After filing my complaint with the BBB regarding this company and individual, the BB replied saying that after 30 days that they had not been able to establish contact with the company regarding my complaint. Sadly, the BBB have closed my complaint for the time being and will make no further attempts to deal with this complaint. Should the company reach out to the BBB later about it, unlikely, then the case will be reopened. Guess I’ll just have to open a new complaint the next time she emails because after 10 emails I have no reason to think she’ll stop now.
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 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 which 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 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 on 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 were 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 to 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 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 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 it's 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 from 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.
Cyrus Lee (Christian Works Media)
- 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 about 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 waiting 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. 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 an "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 before 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 at the beginning of my initial response.
- Update 8/5/21: Cyrus never replied to the second email. The fact that for our two groups to do business would require them to prove 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 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, or anything. 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 that indicated they had been in business for 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 find anything where others talked positively about them but did find a few negative comments on the BBB page.
- I replied on 7/30/21 to Marshie saying, "let's chat". I had expected to get a phone call set up 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 supposed 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 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 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 22 days. Yes, you read that correctly, he sent me 4 unprompted emails in 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 ratings. 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 which 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 whether 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 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." 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.
Somebody (STRAT Advertising)
- 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 5 PM-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.
- Update (11/29/21): Somebody from this group called me again. Still, my book was "highly recommended" to them but she didn't say much else. I also wasn't able to make out her name. Still not interested in calling this one back to see how far down the rabbit hole this goes.
Blake Brown (URLink Publishing & Media LLC)
- Services: Republishing and Marketing
- Cost: Undisclosed
- Got an 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 look up 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 had 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 an "as seen as" logo on my website. Yippee!
- The thing that most turned me off about 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 mentioned 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 on data acquired from the printer despite that data not being publicly accessible which only undermines his assertions as 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 interested 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 with 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 word during pre-sales efforts.
Marshie Prieto (EC Publishing LLC)
- Services: Book fair
- Price: $1,000
- This is not an error. Marshie has made the list multiple times. Marshie reached out about 6 months ago and then again on 1/5/22.
- An email trying to get me to invest $1,000 to get my book into 2 book fairs. I did not reply. The email was another poorly formatted and rather cheap-looking presentation. There was a lot of highlighting but nothing much else to capture your attention. It was more of a fear tactic in that it talked about the rising costs of book fairs and they were my savior to get me a good deal for only $1000 to get into 2 books fairs, 1 in Tucson and 1 in LA.
Glenn Sanders (Christian Works Media)
- Services: Los Angles Times Festival of Books
- Price: $599
- First contact from this individual but not the first contact from this group.
- Got an email from Glenn on 1/12/22 with some pretty basic information about the L.A. Times Festival of Books (which looks like it might be a legit event). Glenn's email said for $599 that they would do a "Book Display" for the 2-day event and an ad in the L.A. Times magazine. Aside from those details, the majority of the information was about the event and almost nothing about what I got beyond a "Book Display" and magazine ad. It did not include any sample ads from previous years, display mock-ups, or example photos. There was nothing in the initial email that described in any level of detail what was to be obtained for this fee of practically $600, what the expectations were, what the goal or results were to be, just nothing.
- I replied to Glenn's email later the same day. I asked for particulars about how this worked. What would I get out of it? What I might be responsible for outside of the fee. What they would provide. What they would do with my book. I asked for sample ads and as always, references. I didn't go as far as to say the usual "no references, no deal" but I'm always keeping that in my hip pocket. I'm curious to see what Glenn says this $600 fee covers.
- Funny enough, Glenn's email contains a fun typo in the signature line. The company's website is misspelled and doesn't work. That's not to say that it isn't intentional but I still find it funny. I am still deciding on whether or not to point it out.
- I also reached out to the Festival of Books group to see if I could verify if this group was indeed a registered exhibitor for the event. I suspect I may not get a reply for a few days and even then it might be a long shot to get confirmation of anything.
- Update 1/13/22: It has been 24 hours since I replied to Glenn with my questions and requests but have not received any reply. However, I have received a reply from the organizers of the Festival of Books who have confirmed that Christian Works Media is NOT a currently registered exhibitor at their planned event. Huh? How can Glenn sell me a promotion in their booth at the fair if they aren't registered to attend the fair? Sounds a bit fishy.
- The skeptic in me feels that this is a scam and they are selling fake space in a fake booth knowing that I won't attend to verify my purchase.
- The idealist in me wants to argue that they are looking to see if they can get enough interest from authors to warrant registering for a booth. It does no good to attend and spend the money as an exhibitor if you have nothing to exhibit.
- The realist in me feels this is not legit simply because the pitch did not refer to gauging interest or potential participation in the fair. The email I received point-blank referred to them as being in the fair. "promote your creation and showcase your book “The Ascension Legacy” in our National exposure at Los Angeles Times Festival of Books." I'm not sure how I could assume this statement meant anything less than their guaranteed presence at the event yet the organizers have no group by this name registered as an exhibitor.
- Update 1/19/22: It has been a week since I replied asking for examples and details but have yet to get a response from Glenn Sander. Color me surprised!
- Update 2/1/22: Still no reply from Glenn. His silence speaks volumes!
Marshie Prieto (EC Publishing LLC)
- Services: An ad campaign/book fair showcasing
- Cost: $499
- They wanted to showcase my book at the Tucson Book Festival and the London Book Festival. This of course came with an ad in their magazine, promos on social media, etc. It all sounded very similar to what Glenn had promised for the other book fair that his group wasn't even registered to attend. However, due to time constraints, I was unable to contact either group to verify this group's participation in either event.
- I didn't beat around the bush with this one since this is Marshie's 3rd cold call attempt to sell me something I didn't request via an email blast. I replied the same day and explained that I wanted samples of the ad and that I would require references or there would be no deal.
- Marshie replied shortly after my request was sent. Sadly, he couldn't provide me with what I asked for. He sent some links that were busted while others went their content. Interestingly, one of the links he sent referenced the same LA Time Festival of Books that Glenn tried to sell me on (something of a red flag at this point for me).
- The real kicker was why he said he couldn't provide references. In addition to the normal "privacy" excuse, Marshie added a new twist. "They also have time on their own and we respect that." He can't provide references because his clients are busy and they don't want to bother them. Well, if my business is too much of a bother for you to get a reference for me then I'm too busy for you too!
- However, in all fairness to Marshie, he did point me to some Google reviews for their company. Not one review that he pointed out referenced him though. I didn't spend a great deal of time reading through them though as that is not what I requested.
- The main outcome of this interaction was that I replied and told Marshie that I am not interested and to remove me from his mailing list for all future offers. He replied in kind, thanking me for my feedback but nothing about removing me from his mailing list. We will see what the future holds between Marshie Prieto and me but something tells me that I'm going to have to get a little hateful before Marshie leaves me alone.
- I did do an updated BBB search for this group and it was a mixed bag. The company shows an A- rating which isn't bad but the 2 complaints on file are concerning. One person claims that after they filed the complaint with the BBB that EC Publishing basically extorted him using his refund as leverage saying that they would only issue him a partial refund if he revoked his complaint with the BBB, citing breach of contract somehow as their reasoning. If it is a breach of contract to file a complaint when you don't uphold your end of the bargain then that sounds like a pretty shady contract to me.
Al Galasso, NABE (@BookMarketingProfits.com)
- Services: Listing in some book directory called "Best E-Book Directory"
- Cost: Only $35.00 per title
- Received an email from this Al Galasso and it was immediately apparent that this was little more than a mass mail-out. It was addressed to "Dear Author or Publisher:" so it wasn't targeted at just me. The email consists of only a single paragraph about the 2022 edition of the "Best E-Book Directory" about to be digitally released and how for "just $35 per title" I can opt to have my E-Books listed in the directory.
- First off, I've never heard of the "Best E-Book Directory" and a Google search for that name reveals absolutely nothing. If it is a real directory, it is not a popular one so even at the low cost of $35 I don't see the value, if it is even legit, to begin with.
- Al leaves no signature or any information regarding who he is, who he represents, nothing. The only reason I know the name Al Galasso is because it's associated with the email address the message was sent from. I can make the assumption that perhaps his group's name is NABE based on the email address and the copyright info at the bottom of the email but a BBB search for that name in Oregon yields no results. It turns out that NABE is short for the National Association of Book Entrepreneurs which, according to Al's bio, he's been the director of for 40 years now.
- I didn't bother replying to Al with a series of questions. I clicked the link in the email and visited the website for bookmarketingprofits.com and found them eerily similar and completely underwhelming. Both websites looked like they were created with basic HTML in the late 90s. The design was BASIC, the colors were atrocious, and there was no content. The link in the email was a single page with an order form and the other page was pretty much the same thing. There was nothing that made me think this was an outright scam but at the same time, I didn't feel comfortable doing business with something that looked like it was thrown together by a beginner but wanted to collect my financial data.
Gee Smith (Author's Press)
- Services: The London Book Fair?
- Cost: Doesn't say
- The email is nothing but an image flyer. There are no links, no signature line, nothing but the flyer, and the typically expected footer info.
- I'm just going to classify this as spam since there was no attempt at communication and it appeared to be nothing more than a mass mail-out aimed at book people. Is it a scam in addition to spam? Hard to say since there was no content aside from the image. There was no attempt to solicit or sell anything but nor was there more than a basic attempt to advertise anything. This one was just another poorly constructed email that makes me leery to do any business with those associated with it.
Al Galasso, NABE (@BookMarketingProfits.com)
- Services: Entry into the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award contest
- Cost: Not real clear!
- Al doesn't waste time. Before hitting me up about the Best E-Book Directory, Al reached out about getting me to submit my book for his contest. The email itself is again very basic with minimal information designed to get me to click the link to go to his page. The page, like the others, is pitiful looking. There is no level of professionalism or design in these rudimentary and questionable web pages.
- The page for the contest has a lot of information that is poorly organized while not telling much. It talks about picking multiple options to get savings but not what each option costs. It talks about becoming a member for 2 years that gives you perks but not what the cost is for non-members. The page's disorganized flow makes it difficult to understand what is being offered cohesively and comprehensively. Is that be design, I can't say. All I can say is that as a former web developer and programmer, this is something I would have a beginner create as a learning tool, not as a fully functional e-commerce site.
- Just like before, I don't know if I'd call this a scam but I won't be doing business on such an unprofessional-looking site. If they've been around for 30-40 years and do these contests annually then why don't they have a more attractive and functional website? What value is there in participating in this contest if the award for winning is being added to this website? I would not want to use this website as any part of my marketing strategy because it looks so bad, so outdated, so unprofessional, and almost childish.
Marshie Prieto (EC Publishing LLC)
- Services: 2022 In-Person Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
- Cost: $1,299 (a reduced price from their standard $3,299 because my book was "recommended".
- Pretty much the same services at the same event as Glenn but at a significantly higher cost.
- I didn't even bother checking to see if EC Publishing LLC was a valid attendee for the event as I did the other group. This is the 4th unsolicited email from Marshie since my first book was released in June 2022. I just responded to this message that I was not interested in and explicitly advised Marshie to stop contacting me. Hopefully, Marshie will get the point and this will be the last I hear from Marshie.
Glenn Sanders (Christian Works Media)
- Services: Something about an interview on Daily Spark TV with Dr. Angela Chester.
- Cost: $899
- As per the usual spiel, the email came unprompted to my Inbox with the entire pitch formulated in an HTML-based message. There was nothing too eye-catching about the proposal. It suggested that if I paid them $900 they would give me a 30-minute interview on some lady's "TV" show that airs in 3 major areas; Atlanta, NY, & LA. Of course, this is a show that I'm unfamiliar with but any show that you have to pay to be on is less of an "interview" and more of a paid advertisement. Essentially it sounded more like they wanted me to fund an infomercial on some small-time public access show. And considering the various other things that this group has unsuccessfully tried to sell me over the past few years, I already was skeptical of whatever Glenn's email had to offer even before I opened it.
- I politely replied to Glenn within an hour of receiving his message. My reply was the standard "I would like to talk with other authors who have used your services before proceeding". A similar line was given in my reply to Glenn's last attempt to sell me representation by his group at a book fair that they weren't registered to attend and like that last email, I didn't expect to get a reply from Glenn.
- Surprisingly, Glenn replied the same day but with the typical, we can't give our reference info excuse. Instead, he referred me to the links he provided in his original email. How thoughtful to direct me to your own marketing materials that are in no way biased about your products/services as a form of reference to a hesitant prospect. Why didn't I just think to look at that information and take its word for how awesome their group is instead of wanting to talk to a real person who has had first-hand experience in dealing with them. Ugh, how short-sighted am I?
- I did appreciate Glenn's attempt to assuage my concerns about the validity of the group by including the statement, "I mean you no harm and deceit," in his reply. How can you not trust that? I mean, he contacted me to sell me a service I never requested and then only offered his biased marketing email as a foundation of trust along with such a reassuring sentiment in his follow-up email in which he directly refused my request to speak to references willing to discuss their experiences with his employer.
- Given that Christian Works Media seems to contact me regularly with poor attempts to sell me services that I seriously question their ability to deliver, Glenn never bothered to respond to my request for references in his last attempt to sell me something they weren't even a part of, and now his outright refusal to do so, I politely reminded Glenn that he was the one trying to sell me something, that he was the one who sought me out and not the other way around, and then I asked him to never contact me again unless he was willing to provide references because I would not conduct business with him or Christian Works Media without them. Let's see how that goes.
Katrina Parker (URLLink Media and Publishing)
- Services: Unclear. She left a voicemail suggesting that the cost of my books was "too high" which is typical of poachers trying to get authors to "republish" with them to decrease book prices as a sales approach to increasing sales. Her follow-up emails did not go into any detail but that may have been due to my replies.
- Cost: Unknown. Since we never discussed exactly what she was trying to sell me there was never any discussion regarding cost.
- Katrina called me on 3/16/22 and it came up as Spam. I let it go to voicemail, because why would I answer a call flagged as Spam? A minute later my phone popped up saying I had a new message. When I listened, it was the typical "we've been recommended your book but there are concerns about the price being too high," etc., etc., etc.
- Katrina's voicemail was quickly followed up by an email to me that only asked if I was the author of The Ascension Legacy: Book 1: The Shamed Ranger. There was no content regarding what her interest was in the book, what services she was peddling, nothing. Just that question and her email signature. Of course, the condescending part of it all is that they get my contact info from the press releases for my books so the phone number and email address are clearly mine and there is no reason to ask but I can understand the attempt at courtesy.
- I replied to her email indicating that I was indeed the author but that I was not interested in acquiring any services. She was not the first person to contact me from this group so I was already familiar with what they offered and what they commonly tried to sell me. I headed off any attempt at conversation or sales discussion because I knew there was nothing I wanted from her group. My reply was polite but it was clear, that I was not interested in any services such as republishing, changing publishers, etc.
- Katrina replied too. She said she wasn't trying to get me to change anything or republish anything but likewise, she never said what she wanted. Her voicemail suggested that she was interested in helping me reduce the price of my books which typically means paying them to reprint my books, i.e. changing publishers and republishing. The fact that in two emails she never said what she was trying to sell me suggests that either she wasn't committed to the sale or my initial reply made it obvious that it wasn't worth her effort. Either way, her voicemail gave me all the information I needed.
- I replied to Katrina's reply and asked to be removed from her group's contact list. Katrina is the 3rd person from that group to reach out with the same message. If I haven't been convinced to do business with you by now, just give up.
- Update 4/6/2022: Katrina called again and left the same voicemail as before. Unlike before, I did not receive an email this time but it still does not change the fact that despite my previous request to be removed from their contact list I still received another call from this group. This type of disrespect and disregard for the author's wishes only serves as a good reminder of why I have not opted to do business with this group and why I likely never will. If they won't listen to what I say before I give them money, why would I expect them to listen later?
Unknown (Author Express)
- Services: L.A. Festival of Books (I think)
- Cost: Unknown
- I contemplated not putting this contact on the list since I'm unsure exactly who it was that contacted me or who they claimed to represent. Truth be told, there was a horrible connection on both call attempts made by this individual that left me searching for information in the voicemails he left for me and his accent caused some translation issues with the speech-to-text translation feature in my voicemail which only worked to compound my problems in deciphering who this was and what he wanted.
- From what I could tell from the messages, his name was something like Ned, Ted, Ed, or something along those lines. The company he worked for may have been called "Author Express" but I'm not sure. That part of the message cut out really bad and the accent with the translation means I can't be certain that the transcript automatically created is accurate. From what I could hear, it sounded like he was trying to get me to participate in the L.A. Times Festival of Books (like so many others before him) but again, between the connection and the accent the exact message was lost.
- I never got an email from the caller but he did call twice in one day within less than two hours. The first call came in at approximately 1:45 pm and the second around 3:30 pm. Both messages sounded to be similar but each had its own quality issues that made them both unintelligible.
- The call showed to be out of Orinda, CA but the voice messages referred to what I think was Pittsburgh, CA.
- I decided not to return either call. If his call quality was that poor on two attempts then there was nothing that led me to believe that a third call would be better and there was no point in spending my time asking him to repeat himself due to connection quality issues to discuss an event that I am already skeptical about when it comes to random callers like this and I have no desire at this point to even entertain the idea of participating. Why waste his time but more importantly, why waste mine.
Chi/Che (Author Express)
- Services: Unknown
- Price: N/A
- Like the other calls from this number, the connection was bad but for the first time, I heard a name. Still same pitch, "your book was recommended but there are concerns about price. Call us, we can help." Blah, blah, blah.
- I haven't found a website for this company only a Facebook page that is minimal, to say the least. The phone number on the Facebook page doesn't match the phone number in the message, I mean like it's not even close.
- When I did a look-up for the company I found a website that showed books published by Author Express and it was less than a dozen books and most of them looked like self-help-type stuff.
- I don't find anything on the BBB website for Author Express in California, where the calls claim to originate and the caller suggests the company is located. Just because the company isn't listed doesn't mean that it isn't real but it does raise some flags and concerns for me.
Al Galasso, NABE (@BookMarketingProfits.com)
- Services: Magazine Advertising Space
- Cost: $150
- Got an email selling advertising space in an online catalog and pdf that gets distributed to unknown groups. Of all the contacts I've gotten, this is one of the cheapest and most logical but it is still absurdly simple and amateurish looking.
- It appears to be an automated email list that keeps sending me these invites from Al. I clicked the Unsubscribed button but we'll see what that does.
Chi/Che (Author Express - 4/12/22)
- Services: Unknown
- Price: N/A
- Something about my book is up for an award and she wanted to discuss it with me. She made no mention of what award my book was competing for or anything else. Given that this is not the first time this individual has called me but this is not the same thing she has contacted me about, I'm just gonna let this one go.
Chi/Che (Author Express - 5/25/22)
- Services: Unknown
- Price: N/A
- She wanted to discuss an upcoming book fair that they wanted to include my book in. That was it. The message included nothing else of value or detail.
Mike Green (Author Express - 6/8/22)
- Services: Unknown
- Price: N/A
- Mike said his group was participating in the Frankfurt International Book Fair and that they would be including my book in their display despite having never talked with me about it or obtaining my permission to do so. His message said they wanted to fill me in on the book fair and explain how it would work.
Audrey (Inks and Bindings - 6/9/22)
- Services: Amazon Reviews
- Price: $999 and up
- She just wanted to chat with me about my book. There was nothing else in the message other than she ran across my book on Amazon and wanted to talk to me.
- They are a new self-publishing company and she's likely looking to score new clients.
- The FB page was created on Feb 3, 2022.
- the URL for their company, inksandbindings.com, wasn't registered/created until Jan 6, 2022.
- Audrey says the company has been in business for 5 years. Had no answer for why they've been in business 4.5 years longer than any of their digital profiles suggest. They also have NO profile on the BBB website.
- Audrey suggested initially that there was an "Amazon program" to get reviews and guaranteed sales using Amazon in-house reviewers. The wording Audrey used suggested this was an Amazon-offered service but when I questioned that she changed her tune and revealed that this was a service Inks and Bindings offered called "Bookvertise" where they would do something through their "partnership" with Amazon to get Amazon's in-house reviewers to buy and review my book. The basic package for $1000 for simplicity would guarantee 4-5 reviews on Amazon. That's paying $200-$250/review.
- I did tell Audrey that before I would consider moving forward with her offer I would require to speak with another author who had used their services in the past, a.k.a. references, and surprisingly, she agreed. Audrey indicated that she would get with her supervisor to arrange it and email me. I'm skeptical that the person they are going to try to connect me with is the actual author but we'll see. If she's willing to tell me the company has been around for 5 years when all signs point to this name only being 6 months old then I have to wonder about everything else they tell me.
- Also, their phone number automatically popped up as "SPAM RISK" on my phone's caller ID.
- Update 6/13/22: A strange phone number popped up on my phone. It did show up as coming from CA, the same state Audrey's number showed but I get a lot of unknown calls from that state for various things. I opted not to answer. A short time later, I get a text from the same number. It is Audrey's boss, Zach Davis, saying that I had "been endorsed" to him by Audrey. The text made no request, no suggestion, or anything else. Since Zach can't be bothered to leave me a voicemail, email me, or provide any real content other than his name in a text message, I can't be bothered to text him back. There are already a few red flags with this group given the inconsistencies in Audrey's pitch and the deceptive wording she opted to use when describing the Amazon program that really isn't an Amazon program.
- Update 6/14/22: Zach called back. I recognized the number but didn't answer. I was in an epic Apex match. Again, no voicemail. No text this time though. Maybe my lack of response from the previous day was enough. I know Audrey said she would talk to her manager about references but I'm not interested in debating this fact with a 2nd person. If they were serious about it they could email me or even be bothered to provide relevant information in a voicemail or the text message about the next steps.
Madison Grey (Book Launch International - 6/15/22)
- Services: CBS Talk Show Invitation for Al Cole from CBS Radio
- Cost: $1,899.00
- The domain from the email signature was registered in 2019 but the BBB has no record of a company by that name in the city of Cocoa Beach, FL, as suggested by the signature line.
- The email looks like it came from a gmail account but the website and the email signature suggests a more professional email address. Why send an email from a gmail account if you have a professional account?
- Has all the same indicators as old contacts trying to sell space on the Ric Bratton show but for a substantially higher price.
- The email signature line also includes 2 different names. "Much Respect, Brittany Angella Regular" and then "Madison Grey Senior Consultant". Which is it? Is Brittany contacting me or is Madison? The email signature and header suggests Madison so then who is this Brittany Angella Regular?
- Mail client automatically flagged the email as Spam. I'll leave it alone and not reply. An email from a random gmail account that contains 2 different names in the signature asking for a large sum of money for a random podcast show shouldn't warrant a reply that might open the door for more communication with this person.
Alex Martinez (Unknown)
- Services: Unknown
- Cost: Unknown
- I received a phone call on 8/1/22 that my phone automatically flagged as Spam so I sent it to voicemail. A few minutes later my phone pinged to let me know that someone had left me a message.
- The message was someone named Alex Martinez but the individual did not identify a company they represented or anything, just "...this is Alex Martinez....give me a call back thank you."
- The funny part is that Alex called me Anthony at the beginning of the message before stumbling through another word and correcting my name to Gary. It seems Alex wasn't sure who they had dialed. The message did not leave any contact details beyond the name Alex Martinez so I'm left to assume the number based out of Westminster, CA, is an appropriate callback number though I have no clue where that number is expected to go since Alex left no other identifying information.
- The only thing the message said was that Alex had received "a book endorsement with your materials...". Whatever that means. I'm assuming it is the same "we've received recommendations about your book by our Amazon partners" or "your book has been highly recommended to us but there are concerns about X that we'd like to discuss with you", you know, all the typical hooks they try so they can sell you their services to get your money but provide little actual value in return, if any at all.
Sanders(?) (Author Express)
- Services: Unknown
- Cost: Unknown
- I got a voicemail from Sanders(?) on 8/9/22 and again on 8/10/22. Both messages just said they were calling me about one of my books and "potential changes" to it. He made no mention in the call of anything else before leaving his phone number and asking me to call him back.
- Given the experiences of other people from this group calling me in the past, I've opted not to return his calls. Hopefully that will be ample feedback to stop calling me.
- I have this contact listed as "Sanders" because the voicemail message cuts out a little when he says his name in both messages (odd right?) and the only thing that can be made out is what sounds like "Sanders". I'm not sure if that is a first name or a last name or what but that's the best identification I can make on this caller from these messages.
- This guy is relentless. He called me 5 times in a 4 day period
- Tuesday, August 9, 2022 3:46 PM CST
- Wednesday, August 10, 2022 11:32 AM CST
- Thursday, August 11, 2022 11:30 AM CST
- Thursday, August 11, 2022 4:14 PM CST
- Friday, August 12, 2022 10:34 AM CST
- Yep, you saw that right. This guy called me twice on Thursday, I guess to make up for not calling me on Monday to complete the week (haha). All 5 calls went to voicemail and all 5 messages were the exact same vague content./ All 5 messages when without a response from me./
- Update 8/15/22: Holy crap! This dude called me again. Same guy. Same voicemail. When will he get the hint?
- Update 8/17/22: This dude will not stop. He just called me again and left the same stupid message. I have decided to call him back just to tell him to leave me alone because I'm tired of him calling me daily.
- I called him but his voicemail was "full" and his extension was "unavailable" but he immediately called me back. I didn't give him a chance to speak but immediately told him to leave me alone. That 7 calls in 7 days was too much and that my lack of response to the first 6 calls should have been a clue. I told him to delete my name and to delete my number because I wasn't interested. I politely said "thank you" and hung up. I didn't want to talk to him the past 6 days and I really wasn't interested in talking to him today beyond telling him to leave me alone! My goals were accomplished now to see if he got this less subtle hint finally.
Kelly White (Writers Apex)
- Services: Republishing (same as before)
- Cost: Unknown
- 8/21/22 (Sunday): I get an email from Kelly again. This is the 8th contact I’ve had from this contact. The emails are always the same, they want to do something to help me increase my sales because my prices are too high, blah, blah, blah. I’ve talked to Kelly about this after the first contact and she was unwilling to provide me with the relevant information about how they planned to achieve the different aspects they were trying to sell me on. Also, they were unwilling to provide references.
- Between August 2021 and July 2022 I have made 4 requests to Kelly in response to her unsolicited emails that she stop contacting me but the emails continue to roll in. I replied on the same day this email came in and was very blunt (using all caps in some cases) in that I did not want to have any contact with Kelly or Writers Apex. I had previously lodged a complaint with the BBB after her last attempt to contact me despite the multiple previous requests to stop.
- I guess now its time to take things to whatever legal recourses are allowed for such sustained harassment.
- Services: Book Query Letters and Submissions
- Cost: $199-$299/MONTH
- This is the first time I've seen something offered as a monthly subscription service which caught me by surprise
- On 8/29/22 I received a random email from Reign, no last name provided, just Reign. Reign's email was the typical "we got a copy of your book and would like to discuss its potential" type stuff. "It would only take 2-3 minutes" blah blah blah but without really saying much else. The email left a phone number and time on some future dates that I should call Reign to discuss.
- The web address in Reign's message was "liftedquery.one" which isn't a valid web address. When you hover over the link in the email it shows that the actual web address is "liftedquery.odoo.com".
- Odoo is a CRM type tool that has several features, each are separate subscription fees, one of which is a website like this one.
- If you do a Google search for LiftedQuery or LieftedQuery.one you get nothing. For Google not to recognize the domain means its either new or something else kinda iffy.
- I looked up LiftedQuery on the BBB website and found no record of it. I'm guessing this is a new group and doesn't have a profile yet or something along those lines.
- I was unable to find anything for LiftedQuery on social media and their website did not link to any social media pages either.
- Given that this was my first contact with Reign and this group, likely because its new, I didn't blow them off but I didn't just pick up the phone and immediately call. I sent a reply indicating that before we bother with a phone call that I need to know upfront if they'd be willing to provide references. Now it is a "wait and see" situation. Updates to follow.
- Update 8/30/22: Reign actually replied back on the afternoon of the 29th but I didn't see it until the 30th because guess what, the reply was automatically filtered to my Spam folder by my mail host! That aside, Reign's reply was typical. I had asked for references but LiftQuery "respects their privacy" and instead offered a random quote or testimony from someone that I have no way to verify. Then Reign followed it up with "Would this be enough for us to talk about this opportunity in Frankfurt?"
- It sounds like another of those Book Fair Show deals that I've gotten before because I've seen some talking about a show in Frankfurt. I politely declined and advised Reign that I do not do business with salespeople who do cold-call techniques without providing references. Let's hope they choose to leave it at that but we will see.
- Interestingly enough, in Reign's reply, Reign stated that he/she has had clients that they've worked with since 2018. I can't imagine LiftQuery is 4 years old but has no social media, no BBB profile, no Google record, and only a crappy, malformed, poorly designed webpage through Odoo.
- Reign also mentioned screenplays and book to movie adaptations which is another red flag for me given the experiences I and others have had with New Reader Magazine
- Update 8/30/22: Reign replied with a "fair enough" acceptance to my rejection. Reign did suggest I click on a few links that are supposedly for clients they handled the PR for. Funnily enough, one of them was on a Podcast after 6 query letters. I can get on dozens of podcasts without a single query letter, much less a $200/month subscription for query letters.
- Reign also suggested that I signed my book up for some network that authorized groups like this to contact me but I don't remember ever signing up for anything like that. Perhaps Newman Springs did when they did the Press Release for my book. I don't know, but I don't appreciate the sales tactics of those groups who have opted to contact me for whatever reason.
- Reign was actually very polite and just "I appreciate your time and patience. If you change you mind, feel free to reach out" and I thought that was nice. Its not often I get that kind of response from these groups. And while I will say such a response does impress me, the other failures of the group in terms of available data on Google, BBB, social media, etc., far outweighs that in terms of my willingness to entertain any type of agreement.
- Services: Frankfurt and Las Vegas Book Fairs
- Cost: Unknown
- Received an email from Julianne on 8/30/22. The email was VERY basic. It basically said they were participating in these book fairs and I wanted to have a detailed conversation with them about how my books could be a part of that just reply to her message with "YES".
- Given the poor quality of the email and lack of real information, I'm just going to leave this one where I found it, in my Spam folder after it was auto-filtered by my mail host.
Nate Amora (Authors Press)
- Services: Frankfurt Book Fair
- Cost: $1,500.00
- I received a mass mail-out that included me and 79 other individuals. It was the typical email with information about the company, the book fair, and a list of things provided that included being included in their own in-house magazine. There really wasn't anything in the email that seemed particularly impressive or appealing.
- I started to research things a bit more but then show the dozens of other email addresses that had been exposed in this mass mail-out. I found that funny considering so many places refuse to provide references in the name of "privacy" but then Nate exposes my contact information to 79 other strangers without a thought. Such sloppy handling of my information and the information of others made me immediately opt to decline any consideration for this pricey offer.
- I replied to the group to decline Nate's offer but to also call out that such a mass mail-out that exposes all of our information is generally considered a privacy failure on Nate's part so that others who may not be as observant sees that their information was made public due to Nate's lack of care.
- Luckily, more than 25% of the addresses on Nate's email were rejected as invalid addresses or at least marked as undeliverables.
Audrey Collins (Bookside Press)
- Services: Display my book in a bookstore?
- Cost: Unknown
- Audrey called me multiple times and left a couple of voicemails. None of the messages really gave me much to go on other than the “hi my name is” and some general “your book was highly recommended” type stuff. And each message concluded with the typical “call me back at <insert number> to discuss”
- The first message on 9/1/22 seemed to indicate that they were interested in representing me to traditional publishers though their website does NOT list lit agent type representation among their available services.
- The second message on 10/12 made no reference to her previous call or desire to rep my book to publishers. Instead, this message suggested that the company had opened a brick & mortar store in Toronto and they were interested in displaying my book in their store.
- After the second message, I waited until after hours and called Audrey back at the number provided. Interestingly enough, the number provided routes back to Orange, CA (as do many of the spam/scam calls I get) despite Audrey’s message suggesting she was located in Canada. I left Audrey a polite message indicating that her messages had not come through cleanly, likely due to them using a VOIP service to get a continental US number and them not having a great connection speed, and I asked that she send whatever information she had to the email address listed on the press release where they got my phone number but I also provided the same email address as part of my message just in case.
- Audrey called back the next day and left another message that she would be sending me info via email soon. I’ve still not received any email from Audrey and I monitor both my inbox and my Spam box for contacts from groups regarding my books.
- Here are some fun facts that I’ve found so far about Bookside Press:
- Their FB page dates back to July 2020
- They show a business address in Toronto, Canada
- A Whois lookup on their web domain shows it was created in Dec of 2021.
- They have no entry currently with the BBB
- Their website looks like a cross between vanity publisher and a promotion manager provider but nowhere on the website does it discuss rates. Although there is a link to their refund policy prominently listed in the page’s footer.
- There’s not much information to go on either way to say how valid or reputable of a group this company may be which is what lands them on this page. The fact that their number comes from Orange, CA like so many others that are associated with questionable companies, they have no listing with the BBB, their website and FB pages appear to be new, and the same person has called me twice with two very different messages regarding my book definitely is enough to give me concern.
- The main thing that really caught my attention was Audrey’s message about wanting to show my book in their store. In my message to Audrey, I advised that my books were publicly available through all standard distributors so if they wanted to put my book in their store that they were more than welcome to acquire copies through the distributors like any other retail outlet. I know that’s not what she was trying to get at but I felt playful.
- Update 10/19/22: A week after Audrey’s voicemail which prompted my reply later that day, I finally got an email from Audrey with some “details”. The email had no real content in the body but included an attached “agreement” that was named “Maple Staple Consignment Agreement”. The file consisted of almost no valuable information. It gave the impression that Bookside Press offered different marketing packages that would include X number of my books to be on display in their store, 1 social media post, etc. The file did not list any details about how the plans worked, only what they supposedly included. There were no prices listed or anything of the like. It looked entirely tailored to intrigue others into having phone calls but absolutely provided no real information. This email was almost immediately followed by another phone call, which also went to voicemail, in which Audrey mentioned turning my book into a movie (HUGE RED FLAG!!!). I would reply to the email the next day an call out the insufficient and underwhelming amount of data in her flyer AND her mention of other services in her voicemail that did not interest me. It was an attempt at a polite but clear rejection of their services. Later that day, Audrey replied with questions regarding my goals for my books. I replied with a simple statement that my goals did not include their services at this time and I left it at that. Audrey did not reply so hopefully that means she understood the message’s intent.
Wayne O’Neil (Good River Print & Media)
- Services: Not entirely sure
- Cost: N/A
- Received a voicemail from Wayne on 10/25/22. The message just said something me being invited to be among something called “People of Distinction”, whatever that is. The message did not really describe anything beyond the name. That statement was then followed up with a mention of a Hollywood producer eyeing my book for a movie and that this producer wanted to speak with me via Skype. All I had to do was call Wayne back to set it all up. There was no mention of who this producer was, who he represented, or anything else.
- I waited until late that evening before returning Wayne’s call. I knew it would be after hours and I could leave him a message. I explained that it is difficult for me to hear clearly on the phone and that it would be easier for him to send me an email with the information he was trying to provide. I referred him to the press release that he clearly got my contact information from since it lists both my phone number and email address.
- Update 10/31/22: Wayne called me back. He stated that he couldn’t find my email address but sent something to an address that isn’t mine nor has any similar address ever been associated with my books. His second message didn’t make any reference to the People of Distinction thing from the first call but only made mention of the Hollywood producer. He tried to make it sound urgent that I call him back about this meeting but frankly, I think this was just a sales tactic and nothing more.
- The thing that sticks with me over the course of these phone calls is why would a Hollywood producer interested in my books have someone with this group contact me about setting up a meeting? I have no business with this group. They don’t represent me. They have no association with me, my book, or my intellectual property. One would think that a Hollywood producer would reach out to the publisher of the book, not a random company that has never dealt with that author to arrange such conversations.
- Good River Print and Media is a publishing and marketing services group. They are a vanity publisher. They are not literary agents. This is not their business to facilitate movie deals for authors. It has all the markings of something akin to what others have reported by New Reader Magazine.
- Their URL was registered in October of 2020, making their website barely 2 years old. I don’t see a Facebook page under that name. I don’t see an Instagram page under that name. How does a modern company that offers marketing services to authors not have accounts on the 2 most popular social media markets? I found an entry on the BBB.org website for the company that shows it with an A rating but it is suspect. They have 3 reviews that all rate it 5 stars but the funny thing is review #2 says they worked with someone from Good River on their project and the next review posted a few weeks later was written by someone with the same name as the person review #2 mentioned as being an employee at Good River. It would seem that the reviews are written by employees to fraudulently inflate their rating. It’s all a bit suspect if you ask me.
- Reign contacted me regarding a page associated with this list on 2/28/23. Reign essentially demanded that I take that page down under the threat of legal action.
- In his defense, the original title of the page was "Scam/Spam Contacts by Company" and I don't know any company that would want their information on a page with that title. But technically speaking, their email was auto-filtered by Yahoo! to my Spam folder which would count as a Spam contact.
- I replied to Reign indicating that I would not remove the page but would revise the title and add a disclaimer to the page to help alleviate any accidental insinuation that LiftedQuery is a scam. I don't know if LiftedQuery is a scam and never made such a direct claim when detailing my previous interaction with Reign but wanted to demonstrate my understanding to how the page's title might lead others to draw that conclusion. Now, the ball is back in Reign's proverbial court and what happens next is up to LiftedQuery.
- Update 2/28/23: Reign and I exchanged a few additional emails. I think we've found a suitable agreement to leave the page in place while clarifying any assertions or potential assumptions regarding LiftedQuery. And let me be clear that at no time was Reign rude or anything but professional in our exchanges. I can certainly understand someone not wanting to be explicitly presented or presented in a way that might suggest that they were in any way involved in fraudulent or illegal dealings and wanting to take the necessary steps to protect oneself from such claims.