14 Ways to Avoid Getting Scammed by Calls for Publishing and Marketing Services
Have you gotten phone calls from out of the blue from someone pitching publishing or marketing services? For a while, I was getting 3 or 4 of these calls a week, though in the last month about one a week. Initially, I just said that I wasn’t interested and hung up, though in the last few weeks, I have been collecting the caller’s name, company, website information, email, and phone number, saying I would call back if interested. Recently, I referred about two dozen callers to the WriterBeware site, which has lists of questionable companies offering to publish, market, or promote a book.
I don’t want to mention any names here, though if you want to contact me privately and let me know who has approached you, I’ll be glad to let you know if they are on my list of companies that might be engaged in scams.
Here are some of the things that suggest that a company may be offering unnecessary, ineffective, or overpriced services, based on my experience with these callers.
1) The company calls you out of the blue to say that they or a book scout has discovered your book.
2) The caller suggests your book has been recommended, so it merits a special promotion to gain increased book sales or turn the book into a film.
3) The caller has a foreign accent which suggests that they are in another country; often they will be from the Philippines, India, or other countries where English is a second language.
4) The caller may select a much older book which is no longer being actively marketed and has low or no sales and claim it can be rereleased.
5) The caller doesn’t know the name of your “recommended” book, but just claims it was recommended to them. And if you ask who recommended it, they will just mention an unnamed scout or other unnamed referral source.
6) If you ask why the caller has chosen your book for a relaunch or promotion, the caller won’t have a good-reason or may not even know the name of your book. He or she might just claim it was recommended to them by someone, without telling you their name.
7) If you look at the website of the caller’s company, you may find it just has a few pages with general copy about how the company can help publish, represent, market, or promote your book. But it doesn’t have examples of any books from authors it has worked with. Or in some cases, the company site may include images of previously published books, sometimes by well-known authors, but if you look closely, you will discover the books were published by other publishers, and sometimes the claimed books have been published before their website was created, even many years ago.
8) If you check on the date their website was created, you will find it was created only recently — even in the last month or two.
9) If you read through the copy on the company website, you may find misspellings, grammatical errors, and the use of odd word choices not used by a natural English speaker, such as saying your book has been “endorsed over to you” by a book scout, rather than saying it was “selected” or “recommended.”
10) If you ask about references or recommendations for the company by previous clients or others in the publishing industry, the caller won’t be able to give you any references or recommendations.
11) If you ask questions about what the company will do for you, the caller will only be able to talk in generalities or in some cases, will hang up, not knowing what to say.
12) If you ask where the company is based, the caller will often claim they are in a major U.S. city, such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia, and sometimes they will claim to be based in a smaller city or town. But if you check out the location on their website, if it is listed at all, it will turn out to be a post office box or shared office space in an older building. Another tip off if you get an account to make a payment to them, such as on PayPal, you will find the account is for someone in a foreign country.
13) In some cases, these callers may pick out recently published books and suggest they have ins to get you a film deal, if they help you develop some material to show to producers and agents, such as a logline/synopsis, script, show bible, or sizzle reel. These are materials that legitimate producers and agents do want to see. But typically, these companies don’t have special ins. And if your book hasn’t had huge sales and you aren’t well-known or have many thousands if not millions of followers, that’s a giveaway, too, because legitimate companies are unlikely to be calling you. After all, both the publishing and film industries are very competitive, so film producers and agents are unlikely to reach out to find books or scripts from someone with a new book, who doesn’t already have big sales or a high-profile platform.
14) And undoubtedly, there are other signs that the caller is pitching a service that will turn out to be overpriced, unneeded, not useful, of low quality, or an outright scam.
I wrote about one of these scams in The Big Con. The company not only lured in victims with a book-to-film pitch, but then the sales director went one step further than other companies by inventing imposter executives from real companies. Then, he claimed these imposters wanted to see more and more material to get authors to pay more and more for writing and marketing services for pitches that went only to the imposter execs, though some books might have had real potential if presented to real executive. I recently discovered the company has an updated website and is still pitching various publishing and marketing services, including a book-to-film pitch, although the name of the original sales director is gone, and the site lists the original owner as the CEO.
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The author is internationally published author and film producer, Gini Graham Scott, PhD, who has published over 200 books, 50 for traditional publishers and 150 for her own company Changemakers Publishing, specializing in books on self-help, popular business, and social issues. She is the author of The Big Con: Scams Targeting Writers, the Victims, and How to Avoid Becoming a Victim and I Was Scammed about all types of scams and how to avoid them. She has written and executive produced 18 feature films and documentaries, featured on the www.changemakersproductionsfilms.com website. An inspiration for this article is that Changemakers Productions is now raising money for its first horror film Dark Cabin, which features 6 friends on a vacation up against Viking ghosts. It’s filming in the New York area in February 2022, and other horror films are planned. She also writes books and scripts for clients. Her website for writing is at www.changemakerspublishingandwriting.com.
For more information or to set up an interview, contact:
Executive Assistant to Gini Graham Scott
Changemakers Publishing and Writing
Lafayette, CA 94549 . (925) 385–0608