How Warnings Can Backfire

Just saw this on the messageboard of a faux publisher that shall remain nameless (though I bet that most of you can guess which one it is):

I know that it is possible to find anything negative about anyone on the internet. Just look at the negative hype that is out there about [Publisher X]. If I had taken the time to research all the message boards that have negative posts about [Publisher X] I may not be a published author now. So time will tell if [Agency X] will be a good thing for me or not.

Agency X is one tentacle of an especially slimy scammer that Ann and I have been tracking since 2001. Since Agency X’s scam model is based on volume, not discretion, its evil doings are just as–or maybe even more–widely known than those of Publisher X. The person who made the post I’ve quoted from above has been warned about Agency X by others on the messageboard, but has decided not to heed them. In a neat turnaround of what groups like Writer Beware try to accomplish, the warnings aren’t driving him away from the scam, but toward it.

I know this person’s reaction isn’t typical. I also know that it has something to do with the, er, unique mindset of many of Publisher X’s writers, who dismiss overwhelming evidence of the lying scumbaggery of their publisher as the carpings of an elitist industry scared of change. Still. It’s kinda depressing.


  1. In my experience, people who have given their work to anything loudly derided as a scam often go through a period of defensiveness when they start hearing warnings. During this time, they are prone to resist and explain away any attempts to caution them, not just about their own scam, but about scams in general. Behold the myriad of PA authors who make yet another poor choice in their second publisher, signing with amateur outfits such as the now-defunct Capri Publishing and vanity houses.

  2. Some people probably consciously seek out the fraudulent companies or vanity publishers because they subconsciously believe they’re not good enough for the “real thing.”

  3. wgw, your post is somewhat tongue-in-cheek so I’m not certain your agent question isn’t humorous also…but in case it isn’t, I’d suggest you steer well clear of an agent who wants a 50% commission. The standard commission for domestic sales is 15%. A very, very small number of established agents ask for 20% from newcomers (I don’t approve, but that and $2 will get me on the subway). But I don’t know of any reputable agent who asks for more than that. 50% is highway robbery. Run away!

  4. It’s not true that you can find negative things about everyone on the internet – except maybe in pay-to-view archives – as search engines turn up nothing negative about me, even though I have been active with a small publishing company (which smelled a bit like vanity press) and an even smaller literary agency. But I never posed as Donna Mills 😉 or anyone else from the Mills clan, maybe that saved me. 🙂 Or maybe it is that I haven’t published a book by someone else since AOL became a public company 😉
    Personally I’m more worried currently about a well-known former-publisher-now-agent who’d like me to write a book, sell it and keep 50%. And keeps asking for more sample pages before willing to get a contract in writing… Any advice on that?

  5. I wouldn’t call what you’ve described “backfiring.” It’s not as though these people would not have gone with these “publishers” had they not read the warnings; they simply explained away the warnings to justify doing what they’d planned to do anyway.

  6. Don’t be too hard on youself, Victoria. You can save people from scammers, but there are some people that nobody can save from themselves.

  7. Longtime lurker, first time poster.

    This goes along with what emeraldcite said. Some people mistake their desperation to get published/secure an agent/succeed with a “gut feeling.” So they pay processing fees, editing fees, and fees I’m not aware of because their gut tells them to go with it.

  8. I’m with Dave on this example. Something about the “hurry/hurry” tone that is a scammer characteristic.

  9. “There’s a sucker born every day!”

    “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

    All you can do, is keep doing what you’re doing to warn people. That way your conscious is clear. You can’t save them that don’t want to save themselves!

  10. All that is coupled with desperation to get published, and Publisher X is offering a “silver bullet” that turns out not to be.

  11. Although there are surely some people who will disregard warnings, I suspect that many of the postings attributed to people like that are actually posted by the scams using false names. In fact, I wouldn’t put it past one scam agency to get published by an author mill in order to use the author mill’s forum to attract more writers to their own scam agency services. They’d probably even get away with it so long as the scam agency’s posts in that forum were always supportive of the author mill while putting in plugs for themselves from time to time.

  12. Some people are just born to be scammed. They almost have a subconscious need to be a victim. You can’t save everyone, but you save quite a few.

    They are probably the kind of person who will go ahead, get scammed, then whine about it later in order to garner sympathy.

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