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 and recoup our legal costs, 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.)
When I was a bookseller I used to refer would be authors to Writers Beware for information on publishers to watch out for. It's nice to see you folks are keeping up the good work! best small coffee maker
I find it weird that the very people who want to ban or burn books fail to realize that if we had censorship laws that allowed it, they wouldn't have the freedom of speech to call for books to be banned or burned!
I read The Write agenda's commnets on Amazon Ranking. Foa "scam" publisher whose only outlet might be online sources such as Amazon it is a tremendous indicator how few copies of any books the print actually sell. This is of greater significance when it compares to the cost the writer endures, payment to these so-called publishers, books bought to send to reviewers. It indicates these writers have nevver made a dime truly most have lost hundreds if not thoushands of dollars. Further, it indicates that these "publishers" could not exist on book sales to the public. Where then do they make their money? Obviously from the wirter.
Well, he's busy, I'll give him that http://myfloridalegal.com/lit_ec.nsf/investigations/31273A2F06893B9B852573760050A9EA:
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When I was a bookseller I used to refer would be authors to Writers Beware for information on publishers to watch out for. It's nice to see you folks are keeping up the good work!
Truth is indeed stranger than fiction! No one among us could make any of this up!
I checked the Propaganda Watch List, and found this: Anonymous Posters Always a Red Flag, Utilize C.R.A.P. Test
Good advice, no matter who it comes from!
Wow. Just wow.
fun ahoy: the Wrong Agenda has decided to make its Tweets private – in effect, only preaching to the converted/gullible.
Very significant information that I think the points you mentioned simpre we take them into account.
I remember talking to Detective Wilkins when she was gathering information about C. Lee Nunn. She asked what information Writer Beware had collected on Ms. Nunn's current "publishing" endeavor, and I referred her to Victoria, who keeps the database. I distinctly recall her using the word "investigation" to refer to her activities.
(Since the name has now been mentioned publicly in a variety of places, I guess it's not a violation of confidentiality for me to use it — otherwise, I wouldn't.)
I bet C. Lee Nunn had a cow when Victoria posted those screenshots from Speculations, where a lively discussion about Det. Wilkins and her investigation took place, and is still archived. I bet C. Lee thought there was NO EVIDENCE left about the investigation.
Heh, heh. As they say, the internet is forever…
If you haven't looked at Vic's screenshots, you should. They make fascinating reading.
-Ann C. Crispin
Chair, Writer Beware
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Boycott list has become a Propaganda Watch List and can be seen at the bottom of this page. Scroll quickly; you don't want to infect your brain.
@jonlevir: I would, but I would run the risk of being frivolously sued again. (I'm sure it would be thrown out, again, but I have better things to do with my time).
I *am* happy to email the talk slides and abstract to folks who'd like 'em, though; I'm in favor of people drawing their own conclusions from the data.
I'd rather not post my email address here, because, sockpuppets. Pretty sure you can find it! But if not, not sure what to do…
@Shweta: Please do put it up online somewhere. Not only would it hopefully shut up the sock-puppets, but I'm now extremely curious about the paper they keep yapping about.
The case they are harping on about American Book Publishing Group dates to 2003. I have emailed the detective who was handling the case at that time in the hopes that she is still there. I have also posted another rebuttal to their rebuttal.
I tried reading some of the Write Agenda's comments under the rip-off report entry, but my brain glazed over. Poor thing. I shall have to feed it some nice SF later.
I don't know how Victoria and Ann put up with this stuff. I'm very glad they're prepared to do so, however.
@ Alan Yee: it's notable that Anon chooses to continue their libel anonymously. And it's not worth engaging with.
But some of their misinformation should be cleared up — the fact is that UCSD as a whole is simply not connected to my paper at all. The conference happened to be held at UCSD that year (and it's a right laugh to claim that any given paper in it affects the university's reputation), so the linguistics department had abstracts up online for participants' convenience.
That's the other misleading part: UCSD linguistics hosted abstracts, not papers. These jokers have never seen my paper, which passed editorial muster no problem; they might have seen the pdf of the slides I put up for a while on Absolute Write, but if so they ought to know those were never up at UCSD.
I am rather delighted at the notion that my *abstract* was so impressive that it could be called a bloody disgrace 🙂
Anyway, since the conference was over when the harrassment started, there wasn't any issue with taking my abstract down; I advised the people involved to do so, and to do everything necessary to avoid engaging with these people. Ignorant waffle about UCSD having all the money aside, professors don't need to have their time taken up with frivolous lawsuits.
@Anon, shall I put my stuff back up online so that people can see how terrible my scholarship is themselves? If you believe a word you're saying, then you ought to agree happily, because in doing so I'll only prove your point. Whatcha say?
I've just posted a blog on my views about "Publishing, Self-Publishing and Scams" that includes a warning about this mob. Hopefully it'll get me onto the list.
Alan Yee, the Univ. of CA removed Shweta Narayan's paper and abstract entitled "The Parodies of Barbara Bauer" from their site because they need to uphold their reputation as a scholarly institution using proper methods to pursue academic excellence, not because they were afraid of being sued. They are the state and they have plenty of money and nothing to lose. The reason they removed Narayan's paper from their site is because it was a bloody disgrace to their academic reputation. They could lose millions in grant money should anyone actually read that appalling piece of nonsense.
I've never commented in this blog before, but on seeing the Write Agenda, couldn't help but comment.
How angry are these people? Not to mention psychotic, they even have a boycotted authors page and they claim to be professional?
As for myself, I've read Writers Beware for quite a while and am thankful that this blog exists. Like every industry, there are shonky people within publishing and I can only see positives when blogs such as Writer's Beware exist to rectify this negativity.
Snif. I am one of the authors who was dropped off the boycott list. On a bright note, however, I am still on their propaganda watch list! I suppose I shall have to return my badge regardless. Snif.
Oh, I thought the boycott list just had the first nine biggies, and somehow we could click to see the rest, not that they had dropped most of it. What a pity. I was looking forward to buying their books.
These people seem seriously nuts.
As of right now, it looks the Author Boycott list has been cut down to nine people. This is rather the opposite of what all of us wished. I guess the prospect of maintaining a boycott list of hundreds of writers (and non-writers, too) was too much for them to handle?
They are very logic challenged. I needed a new hobby and decided to make them my new one.
That is what boggles my mind, the sheer stupidity. By continuing their ugly crusade they practically guarantee that their identities (or identity – I have a feeling that it will turn out to be the work of one person) will be discovered.
Just read the new info on the screenshots…for Pete's sake, how hard is it to crop a screenshot in Photoshop? Did they really not have thirty whole seconds to cover their tracks?
You guys rock. Keep up the good work.
I went to the ripoff report page to see the gladitorial contest there in action, but it kept crashing my internet. Based on what little I was able to see of it, every point they make is based on a falsehood, a misquote or a remark taken wildly out of context. I'd say there's almost enough defamation of character for a class-action lawsuit by all the boycottees. Durn, wish I were one. 🙁 And I've tried sooo hard.
…..A "Turnaround" media folder? They can't run a logical smear campaign within those parameters.
If that sounds a bit confused, sorry. It boggles the mind, which may provide me a minor excuse.
Wowzers. Somebody forget how to use the cropping tool?
I just updated the blog post to reflect new information connecting Turnaround Media to The Write Agenda. See also #6 on the Screenshots page.
Janrae's blogging again. Be afraid; be very afraid. 😀
Just joined the League of Reluctant Adults. It's nice to find a place for people like me on the web.
Thanks for the kudos, Victoria.
I am in the process of writing a rebuttal to the latest complaint. I haven't blogged about anything in close to a year, but I think I'm about to start up again.
The Write Agenda has responded–sort of–though not on its blog, which has been eerily silent since Monday. Instead, it has posted several rambling addenda to the Ripoff Report complaint it filed about me a while back.
Apparently, I'm still a lying liar.
Miffed that you're not on The Write Agenda's boycott list? Stand up for your rights! Join the League of Reluctant Adults and demand to be added!
cussedness–thanks for the update, and kudos to Mark.
Mark Coker has tossed TWA off smashwords for TOS violations.
I'm so glad that you are doing what you're doing. I'd donate, but of course I know you don't take money from individuals. I buy your books, too, but I'm afraid that's because I like them. I must confess that I bought them before I even knew about WB.
As for TWA: can I get you to join my Internet zoo? The "troll" cage is running a little low these days.
I'd love to be boycotted, too. Can I? I've only written an e-monograph on publishing profitably. Maybe if I promised to write a longer book?
Holy cow, their site is insane.
I salute you for having ticked off a group of people to the point where they will put such effort into defaming you in typo-ridden rhetoric worthy of a Dr. Bronner's label. Now I'm going to go shower to wash some of the crazy off from having looked at their blog.
Wow, if they put all of their schemes, emotion and persistence into a respectable line of work, they would be so successful.
I clicked the link to The Write Agenda site, and I felt like I was back in high school — except that the mean girls in my high school were more articulate.
I can't believe they're calling for a boycott of Donna Lea Simpson?! Who could possibly want to be mean to her?!
Actually, that wasn't directed at you at all–mostly a general look-out-for-the-troll-wars comment. I've seen it get pretty flaming on comment sections before when these people were involved, and thought I'd remind us all to stay professional.
So yeah–not thinking of your comment when I wrote that. 🙂
I do know PR agents who, if a writer they represented were on the "burn his/her books list" would be immediately turning the incident into some press release with a header like "Burn My Books–Please!" and sending it all over the place, in the hope of increasing sales through the publicity if not through donations-to-burn.
@Lucy (10/04/2011 11:07 PM) – Hi Lucy,
I understand about not letting them turn the comments section into a flame pit; I was unsure if I should post what I did, but thought it might be mild enough to pass muster w/o inciting riot or reflecting (too?) poorly upon me.
Glad to see so many folks posting here in support of WB. 🙂
All I can say to that is, if you're reading this, TWA, can you put me on your list too? It's probably the most prestigious company in the writing world at the moment, and I'd consider it an honour to be included.
Keep up the great work, Writer Beware.
Oh, so that's who they are.
Several months ago, soon after I created my Twitter account, they popped up on my follower list. I'll usually follow writers/industry folk back, but I always check out their profile first. Anyway, I noticed that most of their tweets were devoted to Victoria, and not in a good way. Clearly someone had ish-shoes. So no follow back.
I don't know why they are following me. I'm a nobody whose debut novel is published with a small epress. Most of my tweets are political. *Shrugs.*
If they want to add me to the boycott list, though, that would be peachy keen. I could use the press.
Is it too late to get in on this boycotting action? Hey, Write Agenda folks, my name is Mark Orr, and Janrae Frank published my short story collection, Hardboiled Horrors: Tales of the ParaNOIRmal, available at both Amazon and Smashwords. Boycott me, too, please.
Keep after 'em, Victoria. Never give up, never surrender.
We do suspect that The Write Agenda is reaching out to the people on our Thumbs Down Publishers List (we're guessing that's why the "boycott" includes so many authors who've criticized or complained about Thumbs Down publishers), and we wouldn't be surprised if many of those publishers were closely following TWA's antics. But we think that TWA is basically a one- or two-man band, and that it's an individual effort rather than a collaboration.
I blogged about this as well : http://marianperera.blogspot.com/2011/10/write-agenda-soliciting-donations-to.html