1. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Scam or no?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by agentkirb, Aug 5, 2012.

    I've asked a similar question on this website before. My situation is that I'm a writer by hobby. So I'll write relatively short novels (somewhere in the neighborhood of 50K words). I post them for free on a website that allows you to post stories and people can read them for free.

    Some guy PMs me (I don't give out any personal info on the site so PM is the only way to contact me) saying he wants to buy the rights to a series of stories I wrote. I posted about it the first time it happened to me, and you guys suggested that it was probably a scam and I agreed after asking him more questions about his business and he was really vague about it and doesn't really go into details about how this business of his works.

    Since that scam PM, I've gotten 3-4 other PMs that were the same sort of thing. And usually I'm nice and I ask for more details and as much information as they can conceivably give. Usually the people kind of stop PMing once I starting questioning them about what they do. But this recent guy actually replied with a 3-4 paragraph response. I basically asked "how does this business work?" and "why me, and not a writer you get through some agent?".

    The PM he sent back I pasted below if you guys want to look. I edited out personal info, it's basically the name of the guys website and company because something just didn't seem right about including that seeing as it's a personal message.

    So I'm a suspicious guy by nature. Does this sort of business ever happen? Should I just shut down the communication between us and say thanks but no thanks? Or is there a way I can proceed but block off potential ways for them to screw me over?

    I'm not desperate for money, so I can walk away from this at any time and not feel like I missed a chance at something, but I also don't want to be overly cautious and probably miss out on anything that might happen either.
     
  2. vVvRapture
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    vVvRapture Member

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    Why would anyone pay money to buy a piece or pieces of writing when they can go on the Internet and read them for free?
     
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  3. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Well, my guess there is that it's not a major website where the story got thousands of hits and won all kinds of awards. So he probably figures with his marketing strategy he can reach out to more people to sell it or something. I've seen situations with articles where people have gotten paid to contribute to a website and someone had to take it off another website that it had been posted on for free so they could post it on the one they were getting paid for. So that isn't too weird.

    I think the weirder question for me is that obviously this guy is just going through these "free" websites looking for stories to try to get the rights for to sell. I'm not completely sure how successful a business strategy that is. Which is kind of why I am curious about it.
     
  4. abby75
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    abby75 Member

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    As you have already posted your stories free for anybody to read I wonder, do you have anything to lose? Did you check out the company, and search for him on Amazon? If he has indeed published kindle books you should be able to verify that with Amazon. It might be that by scouting for talent on a writing website they will not have top give as large a cut to the author as they would have to a professional writer, but it could be a good way to get your work out there? As long as they are not asking for any cash from you I think it sounds like quite an interesting proposal. Is there any way that could check that they haven't been bulk pm'ing other writers on the site? If you could verify that they are just selecting writers of a certain genre and quality of writing and not just asking everyone, that should put your mind at rest.
     
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  5. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Yes, I checked out the website, and there are like 3 e-books listed in the "current selections" tab of the site, and half a dozen in the "upcoming selections" tab (I assume that means they are in the works). I don't know if that means the guy is legit because I imagine it's not hard to just link to a current e-book on amazon and pretend to be the person that published it.

    The only reason I'm even taking this guy seriously is because everyone else I started questioning what they do and they either didn't explain what they do clearly or the answer didn't make any sense or English wasn't their first language. But this guy went into a little detail about what goes on. Obviously not an expert businessman just based on that PM but sounded far more competent than the other PMs I got.
     
  6. abby75
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    abby75 Member

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    Sounds interesting. It is a bit odd that he's asking you to 'name your price' rather that offering a fixed fee. If it was me I would be inclined to play along and see what he will agree to, once you have the contract in front of you and can see what his terms are you can decide then whether or not to commit to it. I certainly wouldn't want to leave it as it is without being more sure of what you're passing up.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would run away. I just don't believe that legitimate business is done this way.
     
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  8. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it were me, having already published these for free, I'd go ahead and self-publish them and keep that 70% for myself instead of giving it to this guy. It just doesn't sound like they could do that much better for you, all things considered (as in - this is how they do business?).
     
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  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    tell him you want to see the contract and have your literary attorney look it over before making a decision... if he's still with you after that, he may be legit...
     
  10. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I don't have a literary attorney. I guess when I have a contract in front of me I can find someone qualified to look it over.
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ask for a contract - then you can't be scammed cus it'll all be there - and then yeh hire an attorney to look it over. There's no harm done quoting a price. As long as you've signed nothing, it's fine. And don't pay him anything. And are there any authors who've been published by them whom you could contact? testimonials on their website? Terms and conditions listed on their site?
     
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  12. paul stewart
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    paul stewart Banned

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    This is assuming the guy can be found and it's worth suing him. My experience of working online for 12 years is to try and do it yourself or hire someone to teach you. Too many scam artists who make promises as bait.
     
  13. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    This smells like these scams the Nigerian mafia is notorious for. My guess is that they send emails to build a "relationship" and at some point they will ask for a small sum, say 200 USD, for promotion or legal screening by a famous lawyer, or from some other service that may at first glance seam not unreasonable. Be warned, my friend.
    I recall a great joke where the "mark" countered by asking a picture of the email sender with a red circle painted on his chest, as this was his religion and he could only do business with someone who respected that. This picture was published on the Internet. Boy, did I laugh my ass off! Come to think of it, you might google the alleged sender and check if he already made a victim....
     
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  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Real agents/publishers don't go around cold-calling writers. I'd be extremely surprised if it's legit. It screams of unethical at the very least.
     
  15. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Yeah, that's kind of how I feel about it Cog. I would feel a little better if there was an obvious end-game where the guy can somehow get important information from me. But in the other thread you mentioned how these scams tend to hook you in and get you to do all kinds of crazy things. I would certainly describe myself as the type of person that is skeptical of everything and and I'm certainly not at the point where I'm desperate enough for cash that I'll trust someone hoping they'll give me money and not screw me over.

    So right now I'm at the point where I'm going to see where this leads, but I'm going to try and cover my bases and find a literary attorney to try and read through whatever contract they want me to sign.
     
  16. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe I'm wrong, but as I read it, the indiviudals really aren't that interested in your works, other than to round out their list of works published on their 'publisher' website, to improve sales with what they've already published.

    What will they do for you that you cannot do for yourself? Will they provide $ to advertise? Do they bring readers to the table?

    As has been said, get a look at the contract first. Find out what they are offering, specifically, if you have any interest in this venture.
     
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  17. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Yeah... he isn't really doing anything that I couldn't do myself. Most of it is just the marketing and effort.

    Right now I'm worried less and less about a scam and more and more about getting caught in a situation where I sell myself short and they end up making a ton of money off of what I wrote because I'm not really sure what is a good offer. That might be the "scam" part of it. Offer someone a deal that sounds good when in reality they make far more money off of it than I do.

    On the bright side, it's kind of low risk on my end because I didn't really plan on trying to make money off of those stories anyway.
     
  18. Muff
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    Muff Member

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    Honestly, even if this is a scam I don't see how they can hurt you. Just be careful and worse case scenario the money they promised you never shows. In which case, they wouldn't have any rights to your work and if it were published you could sue them.
     
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  19. Juganhut
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    Juganhut Banned

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    If they buy the rights then they would probably have you delete them from the free site.

    So they buy the rights from you (Lets say $1000) and you have nothing more to do unless they ask you to write more in the series. They would get all royalties from kindle.

    Basically you get a lump sum of price guaranteed money instead of staggard amount of possibly nothing. Some people like doing that.

    They are most likely a small publishing company trying to get their name out by opening of their genre market. I have heard of businesses like this. They actually do make money (Some do.)

    Copyright it before you do anything. After that, negotiate with them to get their terms and pricing. Offer a limited release for them (3 years) so you can reclaim rights after their time is up.

    Worst that can happen is they do not pay you, and they cannot publish it because you copyrighted it (Or if they do you can sue).

    In the end, if they ask for any time of money or account info do not do it. Paypal and cashier checks only, and do nothing until they have been cleared (I would wait about 2 weeks.) If they really want you they would wait. They approached you.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Random thoughts about possible scams:

    - To pay you, they "need" your bank account number or Paypal number, they "need" you to create a new PayPal account to which they have access, they "need" you to be the PayPal account that accepts funds and somehow that ends up with you paying out more refunds than you got funds in the first place.

    - They get you all excited about the development and editing process, they send you sample covers, they somehow get you to invest a whole lot of time while they invest very little, in order to make you feel invested and eager. Then, oh, dear! How awful! They need a few hundred dollars to finish the process, can you write them a check?

    - They got a bazillion dollars for your book! Woohoo! Here's a cashier's check, but of course you'll need to turn around and pay them their royalty percentage. After you write that check and they're long gone, the cashier's check bounces. I've forgotten precisely how this works (since cashier's checks are supposed to be unbounceable), but "we'll pay you too much; please refund us some of the overpayment" scams are common, and it's not uncommon for what looked like rock-solid reliable original payments that appear to have already cleared, to end up bouncing and being pulled back.
     
  21. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Good points CF. Is there no possible way to protect from #1? I could probably just demand they mail me a paper check. #2 and #3 seem like things I can avoid but its good to know about what type of things they might potentially try to pull. I should probably bring up methods of payment up front.

    Would a literary attorney be keen to these types of scams/unethical behaviors though? That's probably one of the questions I could ask.
     
  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know. My first (uninformed) thought is that a literary attorney probably wouldn't interest himself in precisely how you got paid, just how much and on what terms. But I don't really have a clue.

    I just think that a publisher that comes to the writer is someone to be very wary of. And I know that really good scams have been known to take money from smart people, so when I'm wary, I just turn around and walk away rather than staying in range of the (possible) scammer.
     
  23. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    Research the authors they have published. Is their work good or just thrown together to make a claim of a publishing inventory? Would you like to be associated with work of their caliber? If at all possible, contact the authors to see if they are satisfied, although they could be shills.

    As long as you are willing to let the deal fall through at the first unreasonable demand, regardless of how promising things have looked, then you don't have much risk. Read the contract and understand what you're promising. Do not send any money under any circumstances. Do not give them a bank account. Wait long enough for any check to clear (ask the bank how long). Paypal would work safely - you give them enough information to deposit in your account but no password.
     
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  24. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    See what their contract offers. Instead of simply a lump sum payment, why not an advance against royalties. Then, if the work is successful, once the advance is earned out, you the author would begin earning royalties on each copy sold. It's standard in publishing.

    So much of this is speculation. Until there's a contract to consider (if they even have one to offer) it's difficult move forward.

    A couple comments:
    With copyright, it takes the US Copyright office about 18 months to two years to fully register a work, or that's how long it took to receive the certificate for my first novel, and still waiting for the second. However, the certificate is dated the date it was sent in to be registered.

    False or fake cashier checks can take longer than two weeks to bounce and be proven false. It can take up to 5 or 6 weeks. The money will appear in your account based on the deposit, but then if it proves false, your bank will remove those funds.
     
  25. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's already copyrighted, jug!

    it has been ever since it was completed... all who want to be writers should learn the basics about copyrights here: www.copyright.gov

    those are for the us... the uk and all other signatories to the berne convention will have similar laws...
     

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