Well, how annoying. I wrote a whole blog yesterday and it went right into thin air and never got posted at all. I am NOT getting the hang of this, I guess. I suppose this one will go POOF! too, and if it does, I quit.
Well, I’ll give it one more try. And I’ll save that blog on an email so someone can maybe volunteer to post it for me as a comment, or something…because Aol won’t allow me to cut and paste stuff into internet sites, who knows why?
You’re probably wondering why I stay on Aol? Everyone knows it’s not a “real” ISP. I do it because there seem to be hordes of aspiring writers on Aol who wander into the author chatrooms and post on the message boards, wondering how much they should pay an agent. Or how much it’s normal to pay a publisher.
It’s nice to be needed, as they say…
Anyway, I’ll try again with the Kelly O’Donnell saga.
After I had determined to my own satisfaction that Kelly O’Donnell was a scammer, I began watching for her online, and every time I saw her in the Writers Cafe, hunting for prey, I’d pop in and tell people not to pay her money. I began to really cut into her business, I think, because she became more and more hysterical in trying to discredit me, and then she began making threats about how she was going to sue me, etc.
By this time had my dander up, and I’d researched her pretty thoroughly with editors I knew in the publishing industry (the REAL publishing industry) and they told me that when they received submissions from O’Donnell Literary, they were promptly roundfiled. I couldn’t find any books supposedly “sold” by Kelly through any venue except vanity presses. She “sold” stuff to her own PressTIGE imprint, and also to Cynthia Sterling’s Sterling House Publishing. A quick glance at that website led me to realize that was a vanity press, also.
About this time, I encountered Kim, from the Writer’s Connection. Kim had been scammed a couple of times, and was determined to fight back against scammers. What a brave woman! All on her own, she’d compiled a database of scam agents and publishers. Kim was the one who told me about the Deering Literary Agency, and Sovereign Publishing. I began checking them out, too, and they were every bit as bogus as Kelly O’Donnell.
Tipped off by Kim, I signed on to some message boards for authors who had realized the Deerings were scamming them, and who had banded together to exchange information and offer emotional support to each other. These poor writers had hired Dorothy Deering of the Deering Literary Agency as their literary agent. Dorothy claimed to be the daughter of William Morrow, of the Morrow publishing empire. She was raking in victims for her agency and “selling” their books to two bogus companies, Northwest Publishing, owned by James van Treese, and, later, as Northwest began to flounder, (which is about when I arrived on the scene) to Commonwealth Publishing in Canada, owned by Don Phelan, a former scam literary agent who realized that he could make more rooking authors with so-called “Co-op” publishing contracts. Northwest had come up with the idea originally. They convinced desperate authors that publishing was a risky business, so they should sign “co-op” or “joint risk” or “joint venture” contracts in which the author and the publisher split the cost of producing the book.
Of course Northwest and Commonwealth put in no money…but you knew that, right?
Also during this time, as I talked to my husband about what I was discovering about all of this, he told me that he thought I should write an article on my findings for the SFWA Bulletin. (My husband was President of SFWA at that time, and I was Eastern Regional Director.) I determined to do exactly that.
Around this time, a number of things happened:
1. The number of Deering victims appearing on the message boards had grown to dozens of writers. I started posting to their group, urging them to get in touch with both State law enforcement and Federal law enforcement. I knew the FBI covered white collar crime, and these scams were certainly criminal!
2. Kim of the Write Connection encountered Professor Jim Fisher of Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. Jim was a former FBI agent who taught criminology classes at the University. He had become interested in the problem posed by writing scams when one of his friends was scammed. Jim Fisher also had a database of scuzzy agents and publishers, and had developed guidelines called “The Fisher Scale” to measure the legitimacy of an agent. I learned a LOT from both Kim and Jim Fisher.
3. I discovered that my friend Brenda Clough was also researching writing scams at the request of the SFWA Bulletin editor. We decided to combine forces and do a series of articles for the Bulletin.
4. I discovered that another SFWA member, Victoria Strauss, had a site called Writer Beware, because she, too, had realized that writing scams were proliferating at an alarming rate.
Tomorrow: It must have been fate…
Okay, so now let’s see if this post, too, will vanish into the ether, or whether it will turn up on my blog. I did cut and paste it so I kept a copy.
Oh, and before I close: Writing tip for the day! WHEN WRITING DESCRIPTIONS OF CHARACTERS AND DESCRIPTIONS OF SETTINGS, AS WELL AS NARRATIVE AND ACTION SCENES, BE SURE TO UTILIZE ALL FIVE SENSES! MOST BEGINNING WRITERS TEND TO FOCUS ONLY ON SIGHT, AND SKIP OVER SOUND, TOUCH, SMELL AND TASTE. USE ALL OF THE FIVE SENSES!
-Ann C. Crispin
Author: STORMS OF DESTINY/HarperEos