Writer's Beware

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. Other groups were virtual ghosts with little information to be found online outside of maybe their own website.

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 unsolicited experiences with the people and companies listed. This is in no way slander, libel, or anything other than fact and my occasional opinion. While some, if not all, of these companies may be very legit companies, my interactions with them were not always positive, my research into them did not frequently yield positive findings at the time, and often 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. While I have not yet opted to do business with Layla, our interactions have been friendly, positive, and encouraging. My priorities are not currently aligned with Layla's services but in the future that may change and Layla would be at the top of my list of considerations given our exchange versus my exchanges with others from this list.
  • 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 (Urlink 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. 

Reign (LiftedQuery)

  • 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.
Julianne Ostin (EC Publishing LLC)
  • 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 (LiftedQuery)

  • 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.

Ryan Scott (Christian Works Media)

  • Look who's back on the list after a long absence!! It has been nearly 2 years since Ryan last emailed me. After his last email in 2021 I reiterated my request to be removed from their mailing list. It seems that my request worked for a little while but not permanently as I had hoped.
  • Services: to be featured in Authors Grand Magazine
  • Cost: $25-$75
  • Ryan's email is the same HTML formatted email with embedded images as always. Apparently Authors Grand Magazine is a digital magazine (available online only) that if I pay them a small fee that they can get me a spotlight interview in as well as promotion on multiple "pages" geared towards authors.
  • There were 3 packages offered in Ryan's email. Each package had its own cost associated with it. Option 1: $75. Option 2: $49. Option 3: $25.
  • A quick review of the website for Authors Grand Magazine shows that it is based out of New Zealand and the Philippines. While legit businesses may exist there, far too many companies that I've found suspect over the years have been associated with the Philippines. That is now something of a red flag for me that automatically gets my guard up.
  • A whois lookup on the domain shows something similarly concerning. The domain was registered on June 10, 2023.
  • There appears to only be 1 issue of the magazine posted on the website that shows June-July, consistent with the new domain registration dates I found above, despite the website having copyright dates back to 2020. How does a 3 year old website/magazine have a domain registration that is only 2 weeks old with 1 digital issue available?
  • Looking through the website, there a bunch of picture of what I assume are to be authors that were previously included in other issues but you can't click on anything to read their interviews, see what books they've written, or anything. It is a completely pointless and useless slideshow on an otherwise minimal website.
  • They have a Book Spotlight and a Books to Buy section on the website too but neither of them work. It is a basic slideshow of images that visitors can't click to learn more or even buy as the section title would suggest.
  • I'm not saying the magazine is a scam but the quality I see certainly deems it unworthy of a higher cost than what Ryan's email suggests. Either way, I think I can find a better use of my money than to be included on a website with no functionality that doesn't drive traffic to my books.

Natasha Dawson (Writers' Branding/Reading Glass Books) 8/1/2023

  • Services: Book consignment program
  • Cost: Unknown
  • This one was a bit different from the rest. A) the contact came in the form of a text message to my cellphone and not an email or phone call. I've heard of others getting text messages from groups but this was the first for me. B) Unlike many of the other companies that contact me, I found a plethora of information online regarding this group (Spoiler Alert: None of it was positive) C) This is the first "consignment" service that I've run across. Usually it is people trying to have me use their publishing services, marketing, convert to a movie, paid radio interviews, etc., but I've not seen consignment before now.
  • The text message didn't mention any specifics about the program. The text listed 2 physical locations that they could have my books displayed at "reaching 3k-5k servicemen/staff" as at least one of the two locations is on a military base.
  • A quick Google search for the company name Reading Glass Books revealed a lot of data.
    • One of the first links was https://writerbeware.blog/2021/12/03/a-pay-to-play-bookstore-scheme-the-reading-glass-books/ which breaks down the business model for "consignment" book sales and offers images of the physical locations mentioned in the sales pitch. It was an enlightening read that anyone contacted by this group should make a priority.
    • I found some social media pages on the big social media sites (FB & IG primarily). The page histories are consistent with the company's posted background with starting around 2020. The FB page has over 1.6k followers but so does my podcast that I started with my son about a year ago. We've gotten about as many followers in 1 year that they've gotten in 3...just sayin'.
    • I found an entry for the business on the BBB website. The rating on the BBB website was good (rating of A at the time I wrote this) but there were 0 reviews and 0 complaints which makes it hard to make any determination about the company's capabilities.
    • Of course, I found their company website that listed Sonny Goot as the owner and founder of The Reading Glass Books
    • I found a LinkedIn profile for Sonny Goot. Consistent with what was posted online, Sonny is in the US military but about to retire after more than 20 years of service. It also shows The Reading Glass Books on his profile with similar dates as other things posted/found. However, I don't see anything to suggest what Sonny's qualifications are for running this business or providing valued services.
    • I also ran across this link: https://www.bizapedia.com/nj/the-reading-glass-books-llc.html which also includes some very not flattering reviews for the business. There were only 3 reviews posted when I found the article but all 3 were 1-star reviews that slammed the group's business model.
    • And as per my usual approach, I did a WhoIs lookup on the web domain just to see if anything else showed up there. Most of the data is private (an option when registering domains to keep personal contact info hidden). The dates here lined up with everything else.
  • Basically, what was found out about the consignment model is that The Reading Glass Books group sells shelf space to authors. The prices mentioned varied but essentially authors send books to this group at the author's expense on top of the shelf rental cost. The store will then reportedly display your books in the rented shelf space and will pay the author 100% of the sales for any of their books. Seemingly, the store makes its money from the shelf space rental fees paid by authors and not from book sales. Of course, the real question is how frequently authors can expect to see sales from that space to justify the cost of the rental space.
  • Bottom line: I'm not a fan of the consignment business model as described by those reviewing the business in the links posted above. I'm not impressed by the three 1-star reviews. I'm not encouraged by the fact that the business is relatively new and focuses on its airbase location when its owned by someone leaving the military which makes me question the longevity of the location. Also, I'm not excited about the generic text message Natasha sent. Nowhere in the message does it include my name or the name of my book(s) that prompted this contact. The lack of details in the text message makes it feel like a mass messaging system was used to just spam every phone number in their system and was in no way a personal or direct contact (Of course the "Reply STOP to stop receiving messages") at the end of the message also seems to confirm that suspicion.

Natasha Dawson (Writers' Branding/Reading Glass Books) (again 8/24/23)

  • Pretty much a repeat of the previous contact. I received a text from Natasha with base information regarding their consignment service.
  • Nothing has changed since the last contact I had from Natasha about a month ago so my interest hasn't changed either.
  • I replied to the message with 'Unsubscribe', as prompted by the message to stop receiving messages from them. We'll see how well that works since the first message said to reply 'Stop', which I did, but still got another message from them ~3 weeks later.
    • Just to be safe, I'm filing a complaint with the BBB regarding this unwanted contact following my previous request to 'Stop' as their message directed.
  • Update 8/28/2023: The company replied to my complaint through the BBB on 8/28/2023 acknowledging that I had complied with the instructions, that they would address the issue internally to ensure that no additional communications were sent, and that they would review and address any internal training policies/procedures to prevent others from being subjected to future unwanted communication. I am happy to see that the company has acknowledged the issue and confirmed my experience but only will time tell if the issue if fully addressed, at least as far as my contact goes. This does go some way to show some level of customer focus and company integrity but given the proof provided I would have been shocked had they returned with anything less. I can only hope that they would show similar care and concern if someone else reported similar activities without having the evidence to support it like I did.

Cathy/Kathy Hayes (Dream Books Media Professionals) [08/29/2023]

  • Services: Book to Film Adaptation
  • Cost: Unknown (but likely $5000 based on reports from others)
  • I received a phone call from Cathy and she left me a voicemail. In the message she said she was a VIP phone campaign specialist. Cathy's message indicated that Book 3 of my series had been recommended to them by Jim Meyers ("one our trusted literary agents") and she was calling to invite me to be a part of their 3rd quarter submissions for a "book to film project." This sounds oddly familiar to the same pitch I got from New Reader Magazine not long after the release of Book 1 of this series (see above).
  • Before even considering returning Cathy's call, I did some snooping on the Internet to see what I could find on Dream Book Media Professionals. The results, while not surprising, were copious.
  • Firstly, I just did a simple Google search for "dreambooks media professionals reviews". Their website was number 4 in the results list. The first 3 returns were:
  • I checked out their website. The DNS name was registered in Sept 2021 (so nearly 2 years ago). There really isn't much on the website to suggest how long the group has been in operation. Even the website's copyright tag in the footer only says copyright but no date. I did find part of their footer banner comical though as it has horribly bad text under each icon (see image below)
"All the Lorem Ipsum on."
"No one rejects, dislikes." "It has survived not only." "All the Lorem Ipsum on." "Many desktop page now."
  • A website with such obvious errors does not give the impression of quality work and does little to inspire confidence in their ability to deliver on any promises sold. Add to the fact that the comment from someone else on one of the links above that called this out prior to my discovery made the reference 7 months before today (8/29/23) so the issue has been there at least that long, if not longer.
  • I did try to find any reference to a literary agent named Jim Meyers but nothing discernable was found to suggest that this is anyone operating outside of Dream Books Media and as an internal employee of the group his name means nothing to me so what value is there to his mention? I don't get it. Who is Jim Meyers and why should I care that he recommended my book for this project? The odds are that he didn't and it was just a ploy to help entice me to sign up for whatever they were selling.
  • I did my usual check for the BBB website to see if there was any information found there. Despite the website's claim that they are based and operate out of Houston, Texas, I couldn't find anything on the BBB website for this group in ANY U.S. state. The website does make admissions to having people located in the Philippines, which is also consistent with other groups that have tried to sell me similar services.
  • They don't appear to have any profiles on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok. If you click the icons for some of these social media sites on their website, rather than take you to their social media profile page it takes you to your page and initiates a post to your page/profile promoting their website. What viable and trustworthy business today doesn't have a social media page? The absence of a better online profile smells fishy to me.

Bob Dillon (Author Queries) [09/22/2023]

  • Services: Pitch my book to movie producers
  • Cost: Unknown
  • Bob sent me a simple email on 9/22/23. The email simply said he was "reaching out to invite you for an opportunity to pitch your book The Ascension Legacy: Book 1: The Shamed Ranger to a film producer and get a movie deal." There were no other details in the email other than Bob's contact information and a request to "Call me back at the number below if you'd like to discuss the details." There wasn't a single piece of marketing material or jargon to accompany his email, just those two simple, uninformative sentences followed by a standard email signature.
  • I replied to Bob's email the next day (9/23/23) but not before doing some research on Author Queries.
    • They have a basic web page, not a site but just largely a single page. The page is dedicated to pitching things to Hollywood. There is a YouTube video clip of an author on the Ellen show. The clip shows the author talking about her book and her upbringing that inspired the book. HOWEVER, there is nothing in the nearly 6 minute clip that suggests Author Queries was any way involved with this clip, any Hollywood connection between the book and any related shows or movies, and the clip is posted by TheEllenShow and NOT Author Queries. PLUS, I have yet to find any connection between the author in the clip (Tara Westover) and Author Queries on either AQ's website, Tara's website, or anywhere else. The appearance of the video on the website would seem it is there to suggest that somehow they are connected but no such connection can be publicly found so far from my end.
    • I cannot find any social media for Author Queries on the big 2 (Facebook and Instagram). The closest thing to a social media presence I found for Author Queries is they do have a VERY basic listing on IMDb's website that consists of a very brief synopsis of their book to movie services but nothing else.
    • Their current website's domain was registered/created April 12, 2022 and renewed/updated April 17, 2023. This suggests to me that their website is only about 18 months old at this time and when combined with the EXTREMELY simple nature of the page (because 1 page does not make a site in my opinion) that this is not a serious group or anyone who has any clout in the industry to provide the services they're selling.
    • As usual, I checked the BBB website and found no profile for Author Queries.
  • My reply to Bob was direct. I indicated I had a hearing issue (which I do), that I would prefer to communication via email, and that I had some simple questions for him that I wanted answered before anything else. My questions were as follows:
    • How long has Author Queries been around and helping authors pitch their stories to producers?
      • Bob: Since June 2022
    • What background does Author Queries have that enables this service to succeed?
      • Bob: They employee unnamed professionals with 10 years of nondescript “experience” in the literary and film industries.
    • Specifically which studios and producers has Author Queries worked with on previous pitches?
      • Bob: They don’t work with any studios. AQ only facilitates the scheduling of pitch meetings between authors and producers.
      • [NOTE]: Bob’s reply only distanced the group from studios but failed to provide a single producer reference in his reply.
    • What is the average cost and timeline for an author who chooses to use your services?
      • Bob: $800 to guarantee 1 pitch meeting between me and a producer.
    • Other than the service cost to produce the pitch, what does Author Queries get out of a successful pitch?
      • Bob: Nothing. If my book sales have a verified sales volume of 50,000+ units then AQ will forfeit the $800 in lieu of 10% of any deal struck.
    • What are some specific books that Author Queries has successfully pitched to have turned into movies?
      • Bob: None. AQ doesn’t make the pitches, only facilitates in setting up the meetings between author and producer. AQ does not even know if a deal is struck between author and producer.
      • [NOTE]: This statement stood out as odd because how else would they get their 10% if they are not involved in the pitch process and have no knowledge of a deal between the author and producer?
    • And finally, before I would be willing to sign anything or spend any amount of money I would like to speak directly with at least 1 author who has successfully used your services. Would you be able to provide me with such information? Please note that testimonials on your website and random YouTube videos are not sufficient.
      • Bob: Yes, he can provide references but would need to seek the author’s approval before providing any such data.
      • [NOTE]: Bob also clarified that in their terms a successful service is scheduling a pitch meeting between an author and a producer, nothing more.
  • Of course, my reply/questions was sent on a weekend (Saturday) so now it is a waiting game to see if Bob will reply during the work week.
    • Update 9/25/23: Bob replied late in the day. He took the time to provide answers for each of the questions asked in my initial email. But while he provided answers, not all of his answers really answered the questions. Much of what Bob stated in his answers felt like vague marketing answers meant to give the appearance of providing satisfactory information while not really answering the actual questions. I have included summaries of Bob’s replies to my questions up above.
      • Another thing that really stood out to me in Bob’s reply is his comment that the company’s main purpose was to help authors who had been scammed by fake lit agents and film production companies. He only made that one statement and offered no additional details about any specific scams, fake agents, or fake film companies that he mentioned. Why make that statement unless you are trying to make yourself seem legit by calling out the scams angle?
    • I replied to Bob with a new series of questions stemming from his replies. I also encouraged him to start on getting the required permissions for references. Below are the latest questions posed to Bob.
      • I asked about specific studios and producers that you’ve worked with. You replied that you don’t work with studios, which is fine, but failed to specify which producers your group has worked with despite indicating that you set up pitch meetings with producers. I understand that you may not have a contracted relationship with anyone or anything similar but if you’ve played middle man between an author and a producer then there should be some record of who those pitches were made to, regardless of the outcome.
      • I found it interesting that you mentioned your group’s “main purpose is to help authors who were scammed by fake literary agents and fake production companies.” Would you care to elaborate on that subject and if/how that purpose relates to me? What scams, fake literary agents, and fake production companies are you referring to and how does your company’s purpose “help” authors with that issue
      • $800 gets me what exactly? “1 guaranteed pitch meeting” meaning what? What exactly does a pitch meeting consist of? I’m assuming there are add-on services to support that meeting for additional costs? Does the “1 guaranteed pitch meeting” imply that additional meetings may result from the $800 investment but your group can only guarantee 1?
      • So the service is basically I pay $800, you set up a video conference between me and some random producer, and then I’m on the hook for everything else?  
      • Who are the professionals with 10 years of industry experience and what exactly are their backgrounds in those industries? If your service is just setting up meetings between people, how does their experience matter? If I’m the one making the pitch  and Author Queries isn’t involved, what value is there to their experience?
      • The 10% cut is only applicable if I have over 50,000 units sold otherwise your only ask is the $800? Is that because without at least 50,000 units sold the likelihood of securing a deal is very low so there’s no reason to ask for 10% of the movie rights?
      • You mean to tell me that you have no clue if an author secures a deal? Then how do you know who has successfully used your services, i.e. had a successful pitch that netted them a deal? How can you provide me with a reference for someone without that data? But then again if all you provide is a service that schedules appointments then I guess that would be a “success” but I spend my days in meetings, I’m not going to spend $800 (or more) just to schedule a meeting with a random person.
      • How did you find me and what about my books are appealing or show merit to engage such options?
    • Update 10/02/2023: Bob was sure quick to reply to my first set of questions but it has been a solid 7 days since his reply to my first set of questions and I have not heard anything back on my second set of questions. Perhaps he has decided that I’ll be a problem customer and I’m not worth the effort for only $800. Or perhaps this isn’t a legitimate service and it is easier to avoid a skeptic like me than to continue to engage me. Who knows? All I know is that Bob pinged me eager to talk about helping me to get a deal when he first reached out on 9/22 but in doing my due diligence, Bob hasn’t been so eager to continue the conversation in the week since our last exchange. His silence speaks volumes to me but I’ll let everyone else decide what that means to them.
    • Update 10/13/2023: Bob has not replied to my second email of questions. Did he decide I'm not worth the hassle? Or is he afraid I'll see through some facade?

    Peter Hoffman (Sprint Entertainment)

    • Services: TikTok Marketing
    • Cost: Unknown
    • I received an unsolicited email from Peter on 10/04/23. It was a very simple email. It mentioned the first book in my Ascension Legacy series by name, though it used the capitalization from the press release (THE ASCENSION LEGACY: Book 1: The Shamed Ranger) and not the typical capitalization one might expect from a person typed letter rather than the form letter this email gave the appearance of being. Peter's email even included some vague compliment of "it's clear that you have some remarkable talent" without giving any examples or specifics to suggest that he has actually read my book. This was immediately followed by Peter's suggestion that the company's TikTok Marketing services might be something I could benefit from. There was no mention of cost or anything beyond that aside from a polite closing and his email signature.
      • "Sprint Entertainment specializes in helping authors like you reach their full potential, and one of our most effective tools is our TikTok Marketing service. Backed by real life data collected and analyzed by our team, we are confident that we can help you expand your online presence. If you have time, I would like to share our proposal with you."
    • I promptly replied back to Peter's email indicating that I was not currently in the market for such services. I did not request to be removed from any mailing list or anything. At this point, the exchange has been simple and polite so I just left it at a thanks but no thanks type reply.
    • Below is what I found when I checked into Sprint Entertainment:
      • The BBB website does not have anything on file for any company under the name Sprint Entertainment in any state. Peter's email signature and the website says the company is in New York though.
      • The domain sprintentertainment.com was registered in June of 2023 (June 22, 2023 to be exact according to whois.com) That means that Peter contacted me just over 3 months since their web domain was registered
      • Their website is the typical website for groups offering publishing services. Everything is generic and vague with the intent of encouraging authors to reach out to them for information. Services include publishing, marketing, and "book to movie" conversion.
        • Interestingly, the Home page had a testimonial from an Andrea G. and the About page included one from Andrea P. What are the odds that the two testimonials posted to their brand new page both come from women named Andrea? I'm not saying it isn't possible but what a wild coincidence.
      • Their website lists the company's address as nothing more than "New York, 10001 USA" No street address. No city. No suite number. No P.O. Box. Nothing. "Just "New York, 10001 USA" That seems questionable to me. But at least the area code for the phone number listed on the page (347) does track back to New York. Still, if you're going to post an address, post the entire address. Just listing this minimal amount of detail seems suspect to me. I'm just saying.
      • I did find a Facebook page for them. The FB page was created on August 10, 2023. It has no posts and no followers as of 10/4/2023. That means that in the 2 months since the page has been active that nothing has been done on a profile for a company that is listed as "Marketing Agency". That does not inspire much confidence that a Marketing Agency trying to sell me social media marketing services can't even market themselves on a key platform for 2 months.
      • I did NOT find any profiles on Instagram that could reasonably be linked to this group. There was a Sprint Entertainment but it was not for this group. It was a hip-hop group in the Netherlands.
      • I don't use TikTok so not sure if a profile exists for them there or not. I would hope so since Peter's email was offering TikTok services but I'm not going to create an account on that platform just to check on these people.
        • My wife does have TikTok. I asked her to check for Sprint Entertainment through her TikTok account. She did not find a profile for Sprint Entertainment on TikTok that seemed consistent with this company's brand. How can they sell me marketing services for a platform they don't exist on?
      • Their website does NOT include any links to any social media platforms/profiles for the company.

    Tina Jones (Christian Works Media)

    • Services: guest at "Passionaire Magazine" The Podcast"
    • Cost: $199
    • Got an email from Tina about being a "guest" on a podcast. I'm not sure how much of a guest spot it is when I have to pay to be the guest. It says I'm invited to be a guest but what it really means is they're inviting me to pay them money.
    • This is far from the first time that anyone from this group has contacted me, albeit it has been a while since I've heard from this group so I'm already not interested just based on previous interactions and research. I replied back to Tina politely declining the "invitation" to give them money and asked to be removed from future mailings.

    Tina Jones (Christian Works Media)

    • Services: "Get featured in Pen & Page Magazine!"
    • Cost: Packages mentioned in the email ranged from $25 to $45
    • I got this email a whopping 60 seconds after Tina's first email. Even at those prices I'm not interested. $25 is not a significant amount but the pitch doesn't make me feel that there is even any value offered for that price. When I look at what's in the email I'm thinking I'd have a better return on my money if I just Cash App'd them $25 for the hell of it.
    • I simply copied my reply from her first email and sent it as a reply to this on too. This means that for the 2nd time in 1 day that I politely declined Tina's invitation to waste my money and for the 2nd time in 1 day I asked to be removed from their mailing list.
    • Update [10/21/23]: Tina replied with a "Will do" which I'm assuming means that she will remove me from their mailing list but only time will tell. For the time being, I'm happy that Tina had the courtesy to acknowledge my reply and request.

    Anthony Devera (Spoofing Parkes + Macdonald Production)

    • DISCLAIMER: Parkes + Macdonald Production (or P+M Production) is a REAL production company with REAL movies to their credits. This contact was from someone claiming to be part of P+M but the staff at P+M I spoke to said he does NOT work for them and they do NOT offer the types of services he was trying to sell. I am in NO WAY saying that P+M is fake or a scam, only that Anthony Devera was seemingly misrepresenting his association with P+M.
    • Services: Book-to-Screenplay conversion
    • Cost: $999
    • I received an email from Anthony on 10/20/2023. It went to my Spam folder automatically so I did not see it until 10/23/2023. The email was the typical email I’ve come to expect from these contacts, all text with a few embedded images. There was a link to a website and even a link to the real P+M IMDB profile. While the email was stereotypical of the emails I get from others that wind up on this page, some of the information I was finding about the group Parkes + Macdonald Image Nation was not typical. I was, at first, conflicted about my assessment of Anthony and his offer. Without digging deeper, the offer didn’t sound legit but there was a lot of easily verifiable information for P+M to be found online.
    • I replied to Anthony on 10/23/2023 with a couple of basic questions seeking clarity about some of the statements in his email that were vague. I also requested a copy of a proposed contract. I thought it might buy me some time to do some more digging and maybe even give me a bit more information to go on if he replied.
    • As I dug in, the idea that Anthony and the website from his email were legit quickly faded. Below is what I found:
      • The website from his email was created 24 hours before he emailed me (10/19/2023 domain registration created)
      • The phone number listed on the website was a Skype VOIP number that tracked back to an online retail store, not a movie production company. Also, keep in mind that VOIP numbers from Skype can be created from anywhere so even though the number is a number from the same area as P+M’s office that doesn’t mean the person using that number is in the same area.
      • I found a Facebook profile with the same name and logo as the website. The FB profile was created in Oct 2022 but had a different website address (that was no longer functional), a different phone number (that was traced back to a bicycle shop), and a physical address.
      • Since P+M is a real company, I was able to find the names of key people at the company and decided to look them up on LinkedIn. One of the managing partners for P+M is Walter F. Parkes. I found 2 LinkedIn profiles for Walter. One was several years old (likely a real profile) but the other was created around the same time as the Facebook profile. Both profiles had the same picture, same name, same credentials, etc.. They were all but identical. I suspect whoever created the FB profile also created the LinkedIn profile in an attempt to present themselves to other as Walter fraudulently.
    • With a little sleuthing, I tracked down P+M’s real phone number. I called and made them aware of Anthony’s email, the website, the Facebook profile, and the duplicate LinkedIn profile. The individual I spoke with was very shocked by what I was telling them and assured me that the email I received did not come from them or anyone that works there. This is the first time I’ve run across someone spoofing a real company like this.

    Kelly Palmer (Author Reputation Press)

    • Services: Endorsing my book in a bookstore of something of that nature
    • Cost: Unknown
    • This is an interesting one...I received a phone call from Kelly on 10/27/2023 late in the afternoon. My phone flagged it as "unknown" so I let it go to voicemail. Kelly left a message with her name, her phone number, and a very high level description of what they wanted to do with my book. It was all a bit difficult to follow but at no point did she say who she worked for, just "from Boston". And no, she did NOT have a local Bostonian accent. With little information to go on I had two options, 1) call her to find out who she worked for, or 2) do a little sleuthing on the Internet.
    • I typed the phone number Kelly's message contained and it pulled up right away to Author Reputation Press. She didn't say that's who she was with but that was certainly the number she provided me on their website so the safe assumption is that she's calling from that group. Now, I decided to check up on Author Reputation Press.
      • Their website dates back to 2018 making them one of the oldest websites to make this list in recent entries.
      • I checked the list of "Oversea Scams" from the website Writers Beware, which has way more entries than my list. Sure enough, Author Reputation Press appears on their list, which is not a good sign to me.
      • They do have a Facebook page that goes back to 2018 as well but the post history isn't anything exciting. It doesn't make me hate 'em but it doesn't make me like 'em either. Just meh.
      • The BBB does have a profile on them and its not great. The profile dates back to 2019 which would be consistent for a company starting in mid to late 2018. The profile currently holds a B rating which isn't terrible but isn't great. But there were a few things that did stand out to me as suspect.
        • The company has 123 customer reviews but all of them are since the end of 2020. Their profile was 18 months old on the BBB before a single review was left. Almost every review is a 5 star review but the odd 1 stars. A few 4 stars are sprinkled in but it just seems off. Many of the 5 star reviews just say generic things like "they're doing all that they promised to do" or "I never had to call them about a problem" which doesn't sit right with me if that's the extend of your 5 star review.
        • More telling to me is the 41 complaints that have been filed against them through the BBB. The complaints go back almost as far as the reviews with the first complaint listed currently as being dated March 02, 2021. Skimming through the pages of complaints, which should be a clue in itself, I found the same old song of "I paid them money and now they won't return my calls or emails" and "they didn't deliver quality work and when i asked for a refund they disappeared". I saw at least one complaining about unauthorized recurring charges to a credit card and another about asking to be removed from their call list but still getting calls (where else have we seen that). The complaints are the same song and dance that we've heard from every one of these groups.
    • I have no interest in calling Kelly Palmer back. Maybe if she sends me an email I will reply and asked to be removed from their contact list, which after reading the complaints I'm not sure will do any good...

     James Lewis (Citi of Books) [11/16/2023]

    • Service: Put my book on their shelves
    • Cost: Unknown
    • My phone rang and the caller id simply said "TELEMARKETER". As usual with such calls, I let it go to voicemail. A few seconds later there was a message from James in broken English about my books and his company's interest to put my book on their store shelves, which wouldn't require me since my books are available through standard book distributors. There was no mention of anything else, just some generic platitudes about my books and a phone number that I could reach him back. As with my other contacts, I dove in to see what I could find about Citi of Books
    • Their web domain was created in July of 2022 and their Facebook page was created a few weeks later in August. Their website is the same cookie cutter website of other marketing groups that appear on this page. I didn't see a lot of specifics and no pricing, only a website that felt familiar, in a sense. The Facebook page has about 9k followers but none of them are public. There seemed to be several basic posts on the page but nothing to get too excited over.
    • I attempted to reach out to an author tagged in one of their recent posts on their social media pages to see if I could pick their brain about their experience with this group. I am waiting to see if I get a reply.
    • I checked out the group on the BBB website. The dates on the BBB profile match the dates from the website and FB creations, the company has been around for about a year to this point. The company is NOT accredited with the BBB. I found 0 reviews (positive or negative) and only 1 complaint. However, that 1 complaint was rather serious. The author claimed to have paid over $12,000 to the group and had the position of Citi of Books had not fulfilled their part of the agreement, was not responding to his calls and concerns, and was unwilling to refund his money. I've seen other groups with more complaints in that length of time but the allegations and sums included in this complaint was worrying on its own to me.
    • I checked the Writer Beware list but did not find this group among their comprehensive list. Now, it could just be that they are still new enough that they haven't made their way on to the list yet or perhaps they're on the list but under an old name. Some of these groups have been known to change names from time to time when a name becomes too sullied to be effective in their "sales" process. Or maybe this is a group that doesn't belong on that list. I can't say which, only that I know I didn't find the name "Citi of Books", or a variation thereof, in their alphabetically ordered list of company names.
    • The hours of operation listed on their website are also rather unusual. 11am-9pm, though it doesn't say which timezone. The company's physical address is in New Mexico which leads me to believe they are Mountain time.
    • If you do a reverse number lookup on the number James called from, it just shows as a toll free number but does show to have been reported by others as a "Scam Caller".
    • I have no interest in doing business with this group at this point but I am curious to know more of what James is trying to sell. His voicemail suggested putting books on shelves so I'm curious to see if this is another of those consignment models or if it is a republishing pitch. Maybe both? I'll wait until after their business hours, assuming the timezone is correct, and leave him a message to contact me via email. Not only do I have concerns about trying to have a conversation with the individual from the voicemail but this way I can have in writing whatever they're trying to sell plus I can document my replies. CYA, you know!
      • Update Nov. 17: James (or at least I assume it was James) called again today from the same number but did not leave a message this time. I did return his original call and left a message that I would prefer to communicate via email so I’m not sure why he chose to call a second time. Also, I have not received an email from James as I had requested in my voicemail. I provided my email address in the message and even spelled it out for clarity. Either he didn’t listen to my message or he opted to simply ignore my request but neither choice inspires much confidence in the group.
      • Update Dec 4: Still no email James but I got another call from this group from one of his associates (see below).

    Stacy Mercado (Citi of Books) [12/4/23]

    • Services: Recommending my book to be put on some store shelf?
    • Cost: Unknown
    • Number: 877-389-2759
      • Note: I've decided to start posting the numbers these calls come from since many of the reverse lookups only show VOIP and don't reference an actual company name like old-school landlines do. At least this way others and I can search the number and get something that links to a company to know who is calling.
    • The same message basically as the one left by James about 3 weeks ago. The only real difference I see is that James referenced all of my available books while Stacy only referenced one.
    • This time there is a 1-star review (the only review posted to date) on the BBB website for this group. The review is as one might expect for such a low rating. In essence, the complaint asserts that the group failed to meet their contractual obligations, cut off contact with the author when the author requested a refund (as stipulated in the "money back guarantee" portion of the alleged contract), and has yet to receive a refund. That complaint is dated 11/25/23.
    • Given that the only thing that I see changed for this group in the last 3 weeks is 2 VERY negative review, I'm still not optimistic about this group's potential.
    • Update 12/6/23: Stacy called back and left me a second voicemail almost identical to the first one she left me roughly 48 hours ago. Not only that, this second message came a full day AFTER I had left her a message indicating that for medical needs (my current hearing issues) that I needed future communication to be done via email. Given that Stacey either has opted to ignore my message or simply couldn't be bothered to listen to it it is ample evidence for me that this is not a group I want to engage even in conversation. I returned Stacey's second voicemail that same day and left a second voicemail of my own at the extension number she provided. My message clearly indicated that not only did I NOT want to do business with Citi of Books but that the message was to serve as my official request to be removed from ALL contact lists within Citi of Books and that Citi of Books was NOT to contact me regarding ANY current or future works published under my name.
      • Not only have I documented my contact with Stacey here but I recorded my call where I left my message in her voicemail making my request for Citi of Books to remove me from the contact list. It may sound extreme to do this but should Citi of Books continue to contact me, I can use the recording and its transcription to demonstrate my effort to be removed from their list in stark contrast to any future contact they may try to initiate. This information may be useful for lodging complaints with the BBB or any other organizations that may be necessary.
    • Update 12/13/23: I received another call from Stacey even after I left my previous message to stop contacting me. I'm not sure if my previous message didn't sink in right away or what because the extent of her message was simply, "I am leaving this message for Gary Richardson." And that was it. Nothing else. I recognize the voice from her other messages and it came from the same number so I'm positive it was Stacey from Citi of Books (again!)

    Carl Perez (Urlink Print & Media) [12/5/2023]

    • Service: Have my books available in Barnes & Noble
    • Cost: Unknown
    • I received an email from Carl with the subject line of “Are you still the Copyright Holder of the book?” The body of the email talks about B&N looking for “fresh titles” to stock their shelves. The only hint at a service mentioned is that my “book will have the chance to be displayed to their 600 physical books store nationwide!”
    • Spelling errors aside, the message makes no attempt to suggest what URLink is wanting to do other than “display” my book to B&N stores. I assume the intent was to suggest that my book had the chance to be displayed IN their 600 stores but that isn’t what it said.
    • I replied to Carl’s message indicating that yes, I am the copyright holder of the book in question. I also advised Carl that my books are already available through B&N and that I was not in need of any services.

    Carl Perez (Urlink Print & Media) [12/7/2023]

    • Service: Have my books available in Barnes & Noble
    • Cost: Unknown
    • I received an email from Carl with the subject line of “Are you still the Copyright Holder of the book?” The body of the email talks about B&N looking for “fresh titles” to stock their shelves. The only hint at a service mentioned is that my “book will have the chance to be displayed to their 600 physical books store nationwide!”
    • No, this is not an error on my side. No, you are not seeing double and in need of an eye exam. I received the exact same email from Carl two days after the first with no acknowledgement of my previous reply.
    • Given Carl’s extremely short memory, I replied with a tart “I’ve already answered this email 2 days ago. Do not contact me again.”

    Carl Perez (Urlink Print & Media) [12/19/2023]

    • Service: Have my books available in Barnes & Noble
    • Cost: Unknown
    • I received an email from Carl with the subject line of “Are you still the Copyright Holder of the book?” The body of the email talks about B&N looking for “fresh titles” to stock their shelves. The only hint at a service mentioned is that my “book will have the chance to be displayed to their 600 physical books store nationwide!”
    • No, this is not an error on my side. No, you are not seeing triple and in need of an eye exam. I received the exact same email from Carl a third time with no acknowledgement of my previous replies.
    • My reply was less polite this third time.
    • I do not find a profile for this group on the BBB website (red flag!) so I am unable to file a complaint there.

    Carl Perez (Urlink Print & Media) [1/2/24]

    • Service: Have my books available in Barnes & Noble
    • Cost: Unknown
    • If you're keeping count, this is the 4th email I've gotten from Carl regarding this service despite me advising after the first email that I was NOT interested in the service and then with the next two that I wanted to be removed from his contact list. I'm guessing Carl doesn't read his emails (or maybe can't read them?)
    • I replied and this time added the contact email address from their website to the reply asking that they have Carl cease and desist in his contact efforts. I provided dates of Carl's previous emails and my replies to show that I have already expressed that I have no interest in his service and that I had already asked twice for Carl to stop contacting me. I advised that this and future contacts will constitute harassment and that if they don't do something about Carl's unwanted communication that I will seek legal action. Let's see what this does...

    Unknown Woman (Unknown Company) [3/15/2024]

    • Service: Unknown
    • Cost: Unknown
    • Call came in to my cellphone and was automatically flagged by my phone as potential spam. I sent the caller to voicemail. The caller left a message but I have no clue what she said in most of the message. It was clearly something to do with my book The Ascension Legacy - Book 1: The Shamed Ranger but beyond that neither I or Siri could make out what the woman leaving the message said. I managed to make out a little more than Siri did but not much. Its unclear in the audio what the caller's name is or who she says she works for. She was trying to pitch some service to me but the audio is too jumbled and messy to make out what she's saying.
    • Voicemail transcript: “Hi this message to Mr. Karen Sean this is Jennifer Shannon I'm calling you you have a great charger media and the reason why I am trying to get in touch with you it is because I just received a completing all article regarding your material and one that I am referring to you ascension legacy book one machine rangers that I just thought it would be a perfect or great fortune would be a perfect time to inform you that you are one of support Oscars yes we are hoping to be charging off spotlight that is part of the case and of course is shows which is hosted by an road caster house if you are interested so should you like me to assist you or education for this excuse review medicate and please feel free to ring back 302412949873020129498 extension 11184 I look forward to hearing from you and part of the show thank you and have a wonderful day be safe…”

    Carl Perez (Urlink Print & Media) [3/25/24]

    • Service: Have my books available in Barnes & Noble
    • Cost: Unknown
    • If you're keeping count, this is the 5th email I've gotten from Carl regarding this service despite me advising after the first email that I was NOT interested in the service and then with the next two that I wanted to be removed from his contact list. I'm guessing Carl doesn't read his emails (or maybe can't read them?)
    • I replied again and reiterated that I had previously asked to be removed from his contact/mailing list. This time I added that I would not now or ever be interested in doing business with such an incompetent company that can't even follow a single simple request.
    • I tried to file a complaint with the BBB but URLink is non-existent according to the BBB website. Perhaps they are listed there under another name? Regardless, this name appears in a variety of other articles and websites warning authors to avoid their services. I refuse to the use the word scam when describing companies I haven't worked with or have firsthand knowledge of but there does seem to be a common consensus among others that this is NOT a group authors should do business with. Regardless, Carl's blind refusal to accommodate my now 4 requests in the last 3 months to be removed from his contact list is all I need to know to know that URLink is not a company that listens. And if they can't listen to the needs of prospective clients then I highly doubt they will care to listen to the needs of clients once they've gotten paid.

    Mia Morgan (Writers Apex) [4/4/2024]

    • Service: Republish my book
    • Cost: Unknown
    • The return of Writers Apex! It has been a while since Kelly White has reached out to me so I guess they thought a new name might make me forget who I'm dealing with. Wrong! This was the exact same email that I got from Kelly White 11 times before. The only difference this time is it has Mia's name on it. The body of the message and even the subject line are 100% the same. Pitiful. Just pitiful.
    • I replied the following day making sure to let Mia know that I have rejected Kelly's 11 previous offers and that I want nothing to do with this group. I closed with "STOP CONTACTING ME!" but something tells me they won't bother to read that bit.

    Alisa Vaugh (MyBookBees.com) [3/26/2024]

    • Services: Social Media Promotion
    • Cost: Unknown
    • I received an email from Alisa on an address not affiliated with my books. Oddly, this is the second email about my books I've gotten at that address and I can't for the life me figure out how they are finding and connecting that address to my books.
    • I replied the same day with a "thanks but no thanks" type message.
    • The web domain for MyBookBees.com has been around since 2022, so newer but not brand new. The thing that sticks out to me about the registration is that it tracks back to New Delhi, India. I've not really heard of many nefarious groups in the literary world operating out of India so this might just be a group looking to capitalize off Instagram marketing schemes. I get a ton of DMs on Insta from people wanting me to pay them to boost my sales by promoting my book on their Insta pages. And a lot of those do track back to India. Maybe this is a similar group now reaching out via email. I don't know.
    • But the real fly in the ointment for me on this one is the gmail account. Alisa didn't email me from an @MyBookBees.com address. No, she contacted me with an @gmail.com address. I can't take a business proposal seriously from a group that doesn't bother to set up business email addresses. To use a gmail address like that just seems "low rent" and doesn't inspire me to believe that any services they provide will be of any value to me or my books.

    Emma Brown (Silver Fox Media) [4/3/2024]

    • Service: Movie adaptation
    • Cost: Unknown
    • Phone Number: 800-709-1178
    • Phone flagged it as "Spam Risk" so like the others it went to voicemail. Emma left me a very brief message where she only mentioned a proposal regarding a movie adaptation of my book, though she did not specify which one, and her phone number so I could call her back to discuss.
    • I can't find much about Silver Fox but I found enough. Their website domain has been around since 2019 but they have NO social media presence, no BBB profile, and almost nothing else is found about them online. I did however find them on another website that maintains an extensive list of "Overseas Scams" in which Silver Fox Media does appear.
    • I did not return her phone call. I will leave it alone for now and see if she gets the hint or tries to call me again.

    Dean Nelson (Citi of Books) [4/5/2024]

    • Service: Republish my books
    • Cost: Unknown
    • Phone Number: 877-389-2759
    • Phone automatically flagged the call as potential spam so I let it go to voicemail. Dean left a lengthy message without much detail. It was the usual spiel, my books cost too much and its discouraging buyers but if I call him back and let Citi of Books republish my work then they can fix the pricing to increase my sales.
    • I called Dean back after hours and left him a voicemail stating that I wasn't interested in their offer and that I had already previously asked others from Citi of Books to stop contacting so it he chose to contact me again that it would be considered harassment and that it would be reported. We'll see how that goes.

    Tony Garcia (Urlink Print & Media) [4/25/2024]

    • Service: Unknown
    • Cost: Unknown
    • I got an email from Tony asking if I was still the copyright holder for one of my books. As this is far from the first time this group has contacted me, 9 previous contacts by my count, I was less than thrilled to see this message in my inbox. I replied and very forcefully through the use of ALL CAPS and some foul language explained that I had already made 5 previous requests to be removed from this group's contact list and that Tony could "GO THE FUCK AWAY AND STOP CONTACTING ME!"
    • I guess Tony didn't get the hint because he emailed me back almost immediately. He started off apologizing for the "repeated messages" but made no mention of my multiple requests for them to not contact me before attempting to continue with his sales spiel. I simply replied back with "What part of my last message did you not comprehend?"
    • Unfortunately, it looks like this company is based out of WY which allows for anonymous corporate registrations. I've started seeing more and more of these companies with WY addresses but no BBB profiles and this is why. Sadly, I can't report anything to the BBB about their harassing methods. Maybe the FCC?

    Cassandra Smith (PageLink Solutions) [4/25/2024]

    • Services: Unknown
    • Cost: Unknown
    • Phone Number: 415-230-2557
    • I received a voicemail from Cassandra but the message had very little detail in it. She spoke very slowly over the course of the 62 second message but only revealed her name, her callback number (listed above), and that she wanted to talk with me about my book. She neglected to say what about my book she wanted to discuss but more importantly who she represents. If you can't tell me who you work for then I have to assume its for a group whose name has a bad reputation otherwise you would proudly state the name in hopes that its positive reputation would encourage me to call you back quickly.
    • A quick search on the web finds that Cassandra's is a mobile phone number that is owned by a group called PageLink Solutions out of California. A quick search on that name reveals a company website offering publishing and marketing services. A quick whois lookup on the domain name shows that the domain was registered on August 15, 2023 but most other details are private.
    • A quick look at the company's website shows links for Facebook and Instagram but neither work. If you click the link it doesn't take you to that social media profile but just opens another copy of their website in a new browser tab. Not a good look for a marketing group that offers help with website creation.
    • A quick check on Facebook and I did not find a profile with the name PageLink Solutions.
    • A quick check on Instagram and I DID find a profile with that name but only 16 posts from August 16, 2023 to April 3, 2024. And none of the posts had much engagement at all. The one post with the most engagements was 6 likes but most of their 16 posts only had 1 to 2 likes. That's a bad sign for a group who offers marketing services.
    • I failed to find a company profile on the BBB website but if this company has only existed for 9 months then I guess that isn't too surprising.
    • I waited until late at night to call the number in Cassandra's message to see if it gave me any company name or information but it went straight to voicemail and gave no identifiable information that would confirm the assumed connection here between Cassandra and PageLink. Though I think it is a safe assumption given that the phone number is registered to PageLink Solutions out of CA and that group is a self-publisher oriented group.

    Cassandra Smith (PageLink Solutions) [5/03/2024]

    • Services: Unknown
    • Cost: Unknown
    • Phone Number: 415-230-2557
    • Cassandra called me a second time. Like before, I did not answer and she left me a voicemail. It was almost a word-for-word copy of the same message as before. There is absolutely no new details in this message compared to the first. And just like before, Cassandra only offered her name and phone number but nothing about who she represents/works for or what exactly it is about my book she wants to discuss.
    • The details of PageLink have not changed so there's nothing new to add since the last contact a week ago.

    Eden Starling (Silver Fox Media) [5/09/2024]

    • Services: Movie Adaptation of my book
    • Cost: Unknown
    • Phone Number: 718-878-1322
    • It has been about a month since the last time someone from Silver Fox Media called about a movie adaptation. Eden, much like Emma who called before, was directed to voicemail. Unlike with Emma, when I saw on my iPhone that this was a voicemail from Silver Fox Media again about a movie adaptation, I interrupted the voicemail and spoke directly to Eden. I told her, "I'm not interested. Please stop calling," and hung up on her.
    • Based on previous findings about this group, I do not entertain any thoughts of communicating with them about whatever it is they want to pitch me. This is not a group that I want to do business with based on those same previous findings.
    • Hopefully verbally declaring to Eden that I do not want additional contacts from them will suffice and this will be the last I hear from Silver Fox Media but based on what I've seen with others who continued to contact me after similar requests were made I am not optimistic. Maybe they'll prove me wrong, who knows.

    Tony Garcia (Urlink Print & Media) [5/10/2024]

    • Service: Get my book "in bookstores across the country"
    • Cost: Unknown
    • This is my second email from Tony in 2 weeks. I guess my "go the fuck away and stop contacting me!" reply from that exchange was too subtle for him.
    • I replied with something a bit more aggressive this time opting to use large fonts, bold lettering, and red colored text. Minus the foul language though. Unlike the last time, Tony did not attempt to continue that line of communication. It is time to see what else I can do to get this group out of my inbox because frankly, I'm tired of telling them no and asking/demanding that they stop contacting me only to be ignored.

    Cassandra Smith (PageLink Solutions) [5/15/2024]

    • Services: Unknown
    • Cost: Unknown
    • Phone Number: 415-230-2557
    • Cassandra called me a third time. Like before, I did not answer and she left me a voicemail. It was almost a word-for-word copy of the same message as before. There is absolutely no new details in this message compared to the first. And just like before, Cassandra only offered her name and phone number but nothing about who she represents/works for or what exactly it is about my book she wants to discuss.
    • The details of PageLink have not changed so there's nothing new to add since the last contact.
    • I think at this point I need to return her call and leave a message indicating my lack of interest and request no future contacts.
    • UPDATE [5/16/24]: I returned her call on 5/16/24 at roughly 11:10 AM CST. Firstly, I went to a voicemail box that did NOT have the user's name or company identified in the outgoing message. It was a generic "the person you are trying to reach is unavailable, leave your message" type opening. Assuming that this was Cassandra's voicemail,I advised that any communication would need to be directed toward my email address and provided said address. I also indicated that this would be the only phone call I would make/take and that any future phone calls would go unanswered and ignored. I also added that if she chose not to communicate via email that I did not want to be contacted by the group again.
    • Update [5/20/24]: Its been a little over 4 days since I called Cassandra and left her a message indicating that I would need any communication to come via email or she would need to cease contact. I guess she's opted to cease contact because I've heard nothing from her so far. No return call. No email. Nothing, which is fine with me. The likelihood that I would engage this group in business is low but if they only choose to communicate via poor voicemail messages then I can't see me being encouraged to change my opinion.

    Larynn Ford (BreakTheDeals.com) [5/3/2024]

    • Service: Book Promotion
    • Cost: $18-$38
    • Email recieved from a gmail account not associated with the website came in and was auto-filtered by Google to the Junk folder. The message didn't say anything particular and didn't target a specific book. It was just a generic marketing email aimed at marketing books online using Facebook, Pintrest, and Twitter. I'm not a fan of working with groups that can't be bothered to get email addresses that go with their domain. If you send me an email from an @gmail.com account (or similar) but have a business domain I don't consider your business as a serious one.
    • I pulled up their website. It was a very basic website with no company details and only listed minimal information regarding services and prices. The one thing that did stand out to me was it contained 2 links to Facebook but neither link was to their Facebook profile. Both links went to Facebook groups that were created and managed by others. Presumably, these are the Facebook groups they post to if you pay for their services because I can't see anything else on Facebook for this group.
    • I looked at the history of their web domain. It was first registered in 2022 and is currently set to expire in November 2024 but could be renewed and extended between now and then.
    • I wasn't able to see much about them on Twitter due to some time limitations on my side.
    • Their Pintrest account has tons of links to books that direct to Amazon, Goodreads, and other retail sites which was nice but they only have a little over 400 followers on that page, and I presume many of those are probably previous customers.
    • Bottom line: There isn't enough information available online to really draw much of a conclusion about this group and the effectiveness of their services to me. While their prices aren't bad and warrant some consideration, it might be hard to quantify the success of any marketing campaigns they perform given the lack of details available. The Facebook groups they have linked have thousands of members in them but there's nothing that stops me (or you) from joining those groups and posting our own stuff for free. I might be intrigued to give them a try just to see since their prices represent a minimal risk on my end but their limited offerings and limited information make them seem underwhelming to me.

     Katie Walker (MyBookBees.com) [5/13/2024]

    • Services: Online Book Marketing
    • Costs: $40-$60
    • Got an email from Katie using a generic gmail.com account and not an account associated with MyBookBees.com. I've already expressed that sending me an email from @gmail.com or another generic address to promote your business will automatically be considered a negative to me.
    • I pulled up the website using the link from the email. It was a simple website but I did find a few minor mistakes within its design. They aren't trying to sell me web design services thankfully but still. There wasn't anything too concerning but at the same time nothing too exciting either.
    • A WhoIs lookup on the domain shows that it was created in early 2022 and registered to a group in New Delhi, India.
    • I don't see a Facebook profile for this group under the name My Book Bees or MyBookBees but their email and website discuss marketing on Twitter, Instagram, and Pintrest. I do find a profile on Pintrest but not as many posts as I would expect for a service that's been doing this for 2 years. It looks like maybe 150-200 posts on that profile which is about 1 to 1.5 posts a week if this feed started at the same time as the website. They do seem a bit more active on Twitter with a profile that's been active since 2021 and has a little over 8,000 followers, many of which are authors. Instagram is a similar story but with a few less followers, roughly 5,000 followers and 2,800 posts.
    • Bottom Line: I'm liking this group less than one above. Prices are similar. Both used @gmail.com for their addresses. Neither have a blowout website. Neither have an online following that screams "I'll get you sales!". But something about the other group appeals to me more. Their Pintrest page by comparison was much fuller than this one while everything else seemed comparable between the two. If I pay for services that include Pintrest then I want Pintrest to be a valued component and I just didn't get that sensation here. Either way, I'm not likely to do business with either simply because they spent the time and money to register a domain and build all of these profiles but not get an email address to match.

    Susan Winfrey (BookKnocks.com) [5/21/2024]

    • Services: Online Marketing
    • Cost: $30-$70
    • I'm going to just put this down as an automatic NO! I won't go into all of the other tidbits about this group regarding social media profiles or anything else. I did the WhoIs lookup on the domain and it goes back to the same address and phone number of MyBookBees.com (see above). If you operate multiple websites offering the same services for different prices then that is an automatic NO for me.
    • And just like with MyBookBees, they can't be bothered to use a real address but instead opted for a generic @gmail.com.
    • Bottom Line: Since both BookKnocks.com and MyBookBees.com track back to the same address in New Delhi, India while offering the same services as different prices it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. Something about that feels dishonest. Why two different names? Why two different price sets for the same service? It comes across as shady and doesn't inspire trust or faith in me.

    Reign (WriteQueries.com) [5/29/2024]

    • Services: Unsure
    • Cost: Unsure
    • I think this might be the same Reign that contacted me before from LiftedQuery.one. The email has the same tone, vague wording, and request for communication. Even the signature line looks suspiciously similar. And LiftedQuery.one is no longer a viable domain which suggests to me that WriteQueries.com is its replacement.
    • The domain WriteQueries.com was first registered in June of 2023 but other information about it is private.
    • However, the company website only lists Reign Sator as CEO. If I do a search on that name I find a rather unprofessional looking gentleman on LinkedIn that has Philippines listed as his location. The profile doesn't have anything about WriteQueries.com associated with it but I don't see a lot of other results returning for that name.
    • The email I got from Reign was an @gmail.com address. This meant that it was an automatic no from me regardless of anything else.
    • I politely replied and advised that I was not interested and kindly asked that I be removed from his contact lists. We'll see what happens next.

    Eden Starling (Silverfox Media) [5/30/22024]

    • Services: Movie Adaptation
    • Cost: Unknown
    • Telephone Number: 718-878-1322
    • Eden is back! Funnily, Siri picked up her name as Stephen Starling which through me for a loop when I first heard the message. I wasn't expecting a woman's voice. Only when I compared it to her previous message from 5/9/24 was able to truly say it was the same person. In this latest message though she spoke a lot faster than her first message so it was a bit difficult to understand some words which might explain Siri's mistakes.
    • When I do a reverse lookup on the number it does show as a landline owned by SILVERFOXMEDIA.
    • I returned Eden's call on 5/31/2024 but was sent to voicemail. I left a message and advised Eden that I needed all communication to go through my email and left my email address for her (twice). We'll see what happens next.
    • UPDATE [6/3/2024]: Eden called me back. Her message made no mention of my request to communicate through email or that she would reach out to me via email as I requested. Instead, she left her number again and asked that I call her back. That won't be happening. If she can't follow a simple request to email me then I don't think she is capable of doing anything else.
    • Update [6/5/2024]: Eden called back again and left me a message asking me to call her back. Still no mention of connecting with me via email as I requested on 5/31/2024.

    Maggie Smith (Christian Works Media) [6/3/2024]

    • Service: To be included in Pen & Page Magazine
    • Cost: $39 (Pro) or $49 (Featured) with additional add-ons available
    • I politely replied to Maggie's email and advised that I was not interested and reiterated my request to be removed from all contact lists from this group.

    Reign (WriteQueries.com) [6/9/2024]

    • Services: "exclusive annual literary submission/pitching to targeted literary networks in your Genre"
    • Cost: Unsure
    • Reign from WriteQueries is back again. Its been roughly 2 weeks since the last email, to which I replied and asked to be removed from all future contacts.
    • I copied the original message from Reign along with my reply, I highlighted the send dates of both, and I bolded my response that included my request to be removed from future contacts. I prefaced it with "Let me refresh your memory from about 2 weeks ago..."
    • I'm trying to stay somewhat polite and civilized but if this continues Reign will get the same nasty grams others have received in their continued ignorance or willful refusals to honor my request.