Some of you may be aware that for the past few months, a group calling itself The Write Agenda has been attempting to wage a disinformation campaign against Writer Beware and other anti-scam activists.
(Note: We’re expecting that at least some of the data we’re linking to in this post will disappear after the post goes live, so we’ve taken a bunch of screenshots and, rather than clutter up this post with images, set up a special Screenshots page to host them. Be sure to click the links to get the full picture–you don’t want to miss it!).
The Write Agenda is an anonymous group that claims to be
a group of individuals, writers, want-to-be authors and inquisitive wordsmiths that have become “literally” numb from reading the numerous author help related blog posts. Many of these postings are subjective and do not offer any substantial documentation regarding purported claims regarding publishers and other industry professionals. In addition, many of these sites have become nothing more than complaint boards that disseminate speculative claims without any substantiation. We do not discount the validity of some claims made. However, we want to question both sides of an issue and to assist other authors in making informed decisions. If a fact is proven true we’ll support it. If a claim is twisted, slanted, incomplete, not updated (retracted) or smells like innuendo . . . we’ll challenge it.
Sounds admirably even-handed, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, providing reasoned discourse to assist in the formulation of balanced choices is not what The Write Agenda is all about. TWA’s real agenda is to harass, discredit, and intimidate just about anyone who speaks out about literary scams, or supports anti-scam activities.
The Write Agenda’s shenanigans over the past few months have included suggesting that activist author James Macdonald has a criminal history, asserting that Writer Beware Chair Ann Crispin’s recent sprained ankle is “karma”, attempting to embarrass Victoria Strauss with quotes from her personal Facebook page (oh dear, they do follow us closely, don’t they?), praying for Victoria to die (this link may stop working, so see #1 on the Screenshots page), suggesting that Writer Beware, and watchdogs in general, engage in threats and blackmail attempts, calling for a boycott of Ann’s books based on her colloquial use of the word “mitzvah,” implied stalking threats (see #2 on the Screenshots page), a public call for information on a lawsuit that they don’t appear to realize has been dismissed, attempting to intimidate a critic with a laughably fake Cease and Desist notice, compiling an extensive “author boycott list“, soliciting donations for a bonfire of its critics’ books (while neglecting to provide an address for those who wish to contribute to the promised pyre), and general frothing and ranting, including a bizarre open letter to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Till now, Writer Beware has pretty much ignored The Write Agenda. We feel no need to defend ourselves against anonymous groups with obvious hate agendas. Also, despite its best efforts, TWA hasn’t succeeded in attracting much attention, so we don’t feel that its fractured logic is much of a threat to new authors. Plus, it’s kind of hard to take seriously a group whose logo is a guy with a bag over his head, or that creates a website called BadReads devoted to posting bad reviews of its critics’ books, or claims that criticizing literary scams leads to low Amazon sales rankings. (Do they also think that kissing leads to pregnancy?)
However, we’ve become concerned by the way The Write Agenda’s venom seems to be spilling beyond the “watchdogs” and into the wider writing and publishing community. TWA’s rapidly growing “boycott list” now includes many writers who have nothing at all to do with Writer Beware or WB’s activities; one writer is on the list for nothing more than the crime of having Victoria as a guest on her radio show (she blogged about TWA’s attempts to hijack the interview even as it was being conducted); others are included, apparently, simply because they’re SFWA members. Recently, TWA posted hundreds of one-star reviews of “boycott” authors’ books on Goodreads (see #3 on the Screenshots page for an example); these reviews were flagged by Goodreads as spam and removed, but not before they prompted some angry responses by targeted authors.
So who’s behind The Write Agenda? Clearly, someone with an axe to grind. Despite TWA’s preoccupation with fee-charging publisher American Book Publishing (on Writer Beware’s Thumbs Down Publisher List), our research suggests a more likely connection with Strategic Book Publishing, a.k.a. Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Agency (also on our Thumbs Down List, as well as the subject of an Alert at Writer Beware and of many other online warnings and complaints)–including material similar to TWA’s residing on Strategic websites (these links may disappear; if so, see #4 on the Screenshots page); and a big “whoops” on Twitter (see #5 on the Screenshots page), in which Strategic publicity material was mistakenly posted to TWA’s Twitterfeed. (We can’t help finding it amusing that TWA, which has dubbed us “weiner dogs” after disgraced politician Anthony Weiner, should, like Weiner, screw up on Twitter.)
There’s also a familiar feel to the tone of The Write Agenda, as compared to the several threats Ann, Victoria, and Jim Macdonald received from Strategic’s owner, Robert Fletcher, just before he launched a defamation lawsuit against us in 2007 (Fletcher lost, and we won our motion to have the suit declared frivolous, giving him good reason to nurse a grudge).
Other assorted names, websites, trolls, and sockpuppets that we believe are associated with The Write Agenda:
- Turnaround Media (an obscure PR and digital publishing firm,
which apparently maintains TWA–see #6 on the Screenshots page for the connections)
- Jared Goldstein, Turnaround Media’s VP of Marketing (we don’t know whether this is a real name or not, but he has a Facebook page)
- Jonna Silverman, another Turnaround Media staffer (again, we don’t know if this is a real name or even a real person, but she’s on Twitter)
- Miriam Silverstein (“Miriam” has a Facebook page, but “her” profile uses a stock photo)
- Lizzy Greenberg (the name TWA uses for posting press releases, uploading content to Smashwords, etc. “Lizzy” has a Goodreads profile–note the presence of books published by Turnaround Media) Don’t these colorful names sound oddly similar?
- Nick Caruso (a Strategic Book Publishing sockpuppet. See #6 on the Screenshots page for an appearance by “Nick”)
- Michael Sigvagni (signatory to TWA’s fake Cease and Desist letter; according to Google, there’s not a single real person in the world by this name)
- A mirror blog, also called The Write Agenda
- Another mirror blog called Writer Be Aware
The bottom line: The Write Agenda is not a credible group–not just because of the trollish obviousness of its agenda, but because whoever is behind it isn’t brave enough to publicly own their words. So if you’re alarmed by finding your name on its “boycott” list, or by its so-called B.A.D. Project (which supposedly disseminates the list to libraries and bookstores), or if its one-star reviews show up again on your books–don’t be concerned. In fact, consider it a badge of honor.
In addition to buffing your badge, Writer Beware advocates could also let The Write Agenda know they’re not going to put up with this kind of childish smear campaign. If you run across these absurd allegations, or others in the same vein, don’t let them stand unchallenged. Link to this post, or blog about the truth, or post messages so that those who don’t know Writer Beware’s reputation as advocates for authors don’t have to see just TWA’s ridiculous rants.
(This post was edited 10/7/11 to reflect new information connecting Turnaround Media to The Write Agenda. See #6 on the Screenshots page.)