November 17, 2023
Scams are an unfortunate reality in the publishing world. To help you stay alert to new entities seeking to defraud authors, we include scam alerts in our newsletter, which you can sign up for here. (If you’re an Authors Guild member, you receive our newsletter automatically.) We also update this page with new scam alerts as we publish them.
If you’ve come across or done business with a publishing scam, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can assist you and let our members know to avoid it.
November 17, 2023: On October 30, Amazon filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California against 20 individuals and companies falsely claiming to be affiliated with Amazon, Amazon Publishing, and Kindle Direct Publishing. According to the complaint, the defendants target authors using websites with misleading names and URLs that replicate the look and feel of Amazon services. Victims believe they are working with Amazon, paying “substantial sums of money, often thousands of dollars, for grossly inadequate or non-existent services.”
We’ve included previous warnings here about scammers impersonating Amazon Publishing as well as Amazon Studios. We urge all authors to be vigilant, to ensure that web and email domains are legitimate, and to reach out directly to verify authenticity if you have any doubts about any communications you have received.
November 3, 2023: The literary agency Writers House recently alerted the Authors Guild that someone is impersonating one of its agents, Merrilee Heifetz, via email. The scammer is reaching out to authors claiming to be Heifetz and saying they work for an agency called Lighthouse Literary. The email appears to be an attempt to solicit manuscripts from writers under the guise of a fraudulent literary agency.
Authors should exercise caution with any unsolicited contacts claiming to be Heifetz, and other known literary agents and agencies in general. Always contact an agent or agency directly to verify authenticity before responding with a manuscript or any personal or financial information.
October 20, 2023: Hachette Book Group has published an alert on its website warning authors to be aware of scammers impersonating the company to solicit money and information. Tactics include fake job interviews and offers using Hachette’s name and logo, fraudulent publishing contract offers from fake agents that promise a large advance from Hachette and involve fabricated documents or claims of working with Hachette employees, and phone calls posing as Hachette staff demanding fees before entering into fake publishing agreements.
Please exercise caution whenever you’re contacted about a publishing opportunity claiming to be affiliated with a well-known publisher. Read more details and tips on how to avoid this scam on Hachette’s website.
September 22, 2023: A member of the Guild was planning to self-publish his latest book when an alleged senior agent from Pageturner Press & Media (Pageturner.US) assured the author that they could secure a publishing deal with an advance of $1.5 million with Basic Books, a well-known imprint of Hachette Book Group. The representative insisted that the writer had to make additional payments for advertising and distribution efforts. Despite reservations, the author made payments starting in May 2022. By September 2022, when the author demanded proof of the impending deal, they were provided with a false contract draft, along with deceptive phone reassurances from someone posing as an editor from Basic Books. This led to the author transferring a significant amount of money in September 2022.
The author’s communications with Pageturner were primarily via phone, with some emails. It wasn’t until one of the author’s associates reached out to someone at Basic Books that a lawyer for Hachette Book Group confirmed that there was no such contract issued by them and the situation was a scam. This is not the first time that Pageturner has been accused of scamming authors; you can read more about Pageturner’s practices at Writer Beware.
September 7, 2023: We’ve received numerous complaints from Guild members about Book Writing Experts, which claims to be a professional services company for authors, offering writing, editing, design, and marketing assistance. Its website features prestigious magazine endorsements, positive customer reviews, and a Los Angeles address. The scam involves a non-binding contract with a client for purported services. After securing initial payment, the company may provide minimal or substandard service, only to subsequently assert that the client has underpaid. It then demands additional funds to continue or complete the services.
Upon further investigation, there is no evidence of the magazine endorsements on the company’s website, and its claim to be a subsidiary of Mini Investments Inc. in Mechanicsburg, Virginia, appears to be false. Attempts to establish contact or serve legal documents have been met with confusion by the real occupants of the alleged address. The identity of the website’s owner is masked by a firm in Iceland known for its services in concealing website ownership, and the company’s Facebook page is administered from an overseas location.
August 24, 2023: An alleged literary agency called Liberal Literature (that also goes by Eagle Press Publishing House) reached out to a writer offering to submit his book to Simon & Schuster for $300. After the author paid for this service, the agency said his query was forwarded along and then requested more money for an author website and additional campaigns. When the writer refused to make additional payments, the agency threatened to stop a supposed “proposed contract” with Simon & Schuster.
We recommend that authors in this situation dispute the charges with their banks and report the scammers to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Reputable agents do not charge fees to represent authors and generally work on commission once a book is sold to a publisher.
August 10, 2023: An old scam has resurfaced on Kindle thanks to generative AI technologies. Jane Friedman spoke out earlier this week about fraudulent books being sold on Amazon under her byline that were clearly generated by AI. The titles and contents of the books were similar to things she has written in substance and style, meaning the perpetrators either fed her writing into an AI model in order to emulate it—or the AI they used had already been trained on her work. The titles appeared in search results on Amazon and were automatically added to her profile on Goodreads. While the titles were obviously fake, getting them removed was not easy.
Misappropriating authors’ names to sell scam books through Kindle is not new but has gotten worse with the advent of AI-generated content. While Kindle’s customer service responds to copyright takedown notices promptly, this kind of scam is not necessarily a copyright violation. Instead, it gives rise to unfair competition claims under the federal trademark law as well as under state laws. The Authors Guild has dealt with many types of scams on Amazon over the years and we set up a relationship with Amazon where we can escalate valid complaints on behalf of members that are not resolved through normal channels.
If you’re a member, know that we can help escalate these kinds of claims. Meanwhile, we encourage everyone to search for your own name on Amazon and report books that try to profit from your brand through Amazon’s complaint portal. If you do not receive prompt assistance and are a member, file a request for legal services.
July 27, 2023: During the pandemic, Great Writers Media, a seemingly legitimate company, contacted an author with promises of a traditional contract and exposure to Hollywood film makers. Intrigued, the author was passed around different marketing and publishing agents, all appearing friendly and helpful.
The author was assured that their book would become a bestseller, featured in prominent publications like the LA Times, an interview with Kate Delaney Radio, and a spot on cable channels. However, the company demanded additional payments for “Reading” and “Marketing costs.” The author was asked to pay a staggering $140,000 to secure exposure on the channel Nickelodeon and $4,500 for the promised radio interview with Kate Delaney.
The author invested around $18,000 in the scheme but didn’t receive responses to his queries nor any royalty payments. The scammers used wire transfers and Payoneer, utilizing fake names to appear legitimate. Unbeknownst to the author, these scammers were based in the Philippines, using fake US phone numbers and addresses. The author is now undergoing an arduous process with their bank to recuperate the funds.
July 13, 2023: We’ve heard from authors who were contacted by individuals claiming to be with a publishing company that would sponsor their book at festivals such as the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. The scammers say that their company will pay part of the book fair fees if the author pays the rest of the fee to them.
June 30, 2023: Liza Dawson Associates has posted a notice on their website advising authors that scammers have been impersonating some of their agents, using a fake email domain, and pretending to work for the acquisitions teams of major publishers.
Anyone receiving such an email from someone purporting to be a Liza Dawson Associates agent can email the address on the agency’s website to confirm its legitimacy. Scam emails should be reported to the FBI.
June 8, 2023: The FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office has issued a report on financial fraud schemes targeting authors by impersonating film production studios. The report warns production studios and publishers that scammers are emailing authors impersonating real or fake executives at their companies.
The report included scam indicators to watch out for, such as:
May 18, 2023: We’ve heard reports of authors receiving emails and phone calls from scammers alleging to be with Amazon Studios. The scammers use a variety of aliases, including the names of real Amazon executives, and claim to be interested in adapting their books for film. We urge any authors receiving such messages to be extremely cautious and never respond without first confirming they’re real.
May 4, 2023: We were recently alerted to a book writing and print-on-demand service called LT-Writing.com. The person who wrote to us was charged $400 to join, then another $3,700 to register the copyright for her manuscript. The company claims to have won awards, but its website was only created in January, and all its reviews were submitted on the same day.
May 4, 2023: One of our members was recently approached by someone claiming to be from a literary agency representing bestselling and award-winning authors. The Writers Value website uses an old logo of the Authors Guild but is not associated with the Guild in any way.
April 10, 2023: We’ve recently been alerted to a scammer claiming to be affiliated with Amazon Publishing, using the domain name amazonpublishingoffice.com. We have alerted Amazon to this use of their trademarks, and as of this week, access to the website has a warning notice saying “Dangerous Website Blocked.”
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