Once upon a time, there was a publishing and marketing scammer called Chapters Media and Advertising, owned by one Mark Joseph Rosario. Chapters pretended to be a US company–it even had dual business registrations in Wyoming and Florida, as well as a purported address in Nevada–but in reality, it operated out of the Philippines (much like its many brethren).
Chapters was an unusually devious little scammer. In addition to offering the usual substandard publishing services and junk marketing ripoffs, it had a sideline in impersonating literary professionals, including agent Jennifer Jackson of the Donald Maass Agency and literary scout Clare Richardson of Maria B. Campbell Associates. I’ve written about both of these impersonation scams (as well as the issue more generally; Chapters was not the only one doing this).
I don’t know if it was my posts that did it, but Rosario apparently felt that Chapters had received too much exposure–because sometime in the past couple of months, he abandoned the old Chapters website (along with the website of an associated scam, TechBooks Media) and rebooted as a pair of new companies: Paper Bytes Marketing Solutions and Blueprint Press Internationale.
(UPDATE: Chapters Media has been resuscitated, and is operating again; and new names have been added to the group, Quantum Discovery and Beyond Movies. A previous Rosario company, Fresh Pages Media and Advertising, appears to be inactive.)
Here’s the “paper” trail tying Chapters to Paper Bytes; note the officer names and identical Florida “head office” addresses (that address, by the way, appears to be a vacant lot).
And here’s the trail tying Rosario to Blueprint Press, aka Blueprint Press Internationale (which purportedly is based in Oregon):
(Also see the Update toward the bottom of this post for more evidence pointing to Mark Rosario.)
To go with his brand new companies, Rosario has initiated a brand new scam: a stable of imaginary literary agents. It’s an unusually detailed endeavor, with actual websites for many of the agents (albeit not very good ones) that include photos–some stock, some stolen–as well as made-up bios and false claims about who/what they represent. All share the email address @bookliteraryagent.com, which no doubt is convenient for the interchangeable roster of Paper Bytes/Blueprint marketers who inhabit these agent personas, but also makes them easier to track and expose.
I’ll list them all below. But first, How It All Works!
Targeted writers (who, as with all the Philippines-based scams, are primarily self-pubbed or small press) receive a solicitation like this one:
Too good to be true? You bet. If the writer responds, they’re told that, while the agent is Commission Only! No Fees Ever! they will still have to tap into their bank accounts. For instance, Imaginary Agent may excitedly relay this news:
Amazing! Fantastic! Once in a lifetime! All the author has to do is provide the requested treatment. Now, they could write it themselves–although that would be awfully difficult to accomplish because, naturally, there’s a deadline. Not to worry: Imaginary Agent has a “trusted” company that can do the job.
Writers who decline to pay receive a succession of additional fake treatment requests, from Netflix, HBO, and more, with pressure to capitulate each time. One writer told me that their Imaginary Agent claimed they’d be blacklisted in the film industry if they continued to refuse.
Here’s a different solicitation, from another Imaginary Agent. Note the @bookliteraryagent.com email address:
This one is a re-publication scam. The writer is offered “licensing” so that their book can be re-published, supposedly to improve its prospects of a “mainstream” contract (even though re-publishing an already-published book so it can be published a third time makes absolutely no sense, and is not how it works in any case), plus “book returnability insurance” that’s as imaginary as the agent is. Services will be provided courtesy of a totally unrelated company, Paper Bytes, which doesn’t usually deal with lowly self-pubbed writers but is willing to make an exception, thanks to the efforts of trusty Imaginary Agent:
Alternatively, the “services” recommended come from Blueprint.
Plenty of writers who receive these emails will smell a rat: from the out-of-the-blue solicitations to the laughably rudimentary websites (see below) to the poor written English, there are a ton of scam markers here. But like the Nigerian email scammers, Mark Rosario and scammers like him just need a tiny number of potential victims to buy in in order to make a profit.
Those who do pay up will be pressured to spend more money for more bogus services; eventually, when they start asking too many questions or the scammers judge that they are tapped out, they will simply be abandoned, their emails unreturned, their phone calls blocked, and their bank accounts considerably smaller.
Here are the imaginary agents I’ve identified so far.
Alexander boasts an impressive-sounding but strategically vague bio (“His success in the independent publishing industry helped him become the youngest Senior Traditional Marketing Executive, in partnership with some of the largest Traditional Houses in the world”) and a new and notable page that encourages potential victims to believe that he reps Robin Cook and Andrew Mayne, among others. His is the one photo I couldn’t confirm was stolen or a downloaded freebie–but it sure looks fake.
Lola Moira Ventura
According to her bio, Lola is “a Mexican American literary book expert, author’s adviser. In 2012, she founded Ravenous Romance Books, an e-book publishing company” (this might surprise actual Ravenous Romance founder Lori Perkins). The accompanying photo has been stolen from an article about author Maaza Mengiste. Imaginary Lola wants unwary writers to be wowed by her imaginary track record, which includes James Comey and Rick Gates.
“I started as a jr. literary agent at Writers House and Trident Media before I decided to venture as an independent literary agent.” Impressive! John’s I’m-too-sexy-for-my-shades photo has been borrowed from free image website Unsplash. Chuck Pahlaniuk and N.K. Jemisin might be startled to discover themselves on John’s Books page.
Mia Sanders aka Mary Sanders Lee
Website: https://miasanders.us/ (currently has a “dangerous website” caution)
Website: http://marylee.us/ (defaults to the Mia Sanders website)
Mia/Mary claims to be “a frequent speaker at writer’s conferences and conventions from romance to kink and attends approximately 13 conferences a year.” Her photo is from Unsplash, the free image website, where it’s alt-tagged “woman in pink crew-neck shirt in closeup photography”. Mia is the only imaginary agent who doesn’t claim to have repped Big 5-published books from major authors: the covers on her Books page–which, oddly, have all been stripped of authors’ names–all come from an Author Solutions imprint or another Philippines-based scammer.
Jessica has a terrific work background! “I started as a jr. literary agent at Writers House and Trident Media before I decided to venture as an independent literary agent.” Her Book Gallery encourages writers to believe that she reps Jennifer Armentrout and Susan Sallis, among a grab bag of other authors. Like her buddy “Lola Ventura,” Jessica hasn’t bothered with free images; she has appropriated the image of Juliana Martins, a cosmetics expert.
Harry is one handsome, happy dude! Just one problem: he’s been downloaded from free image site Unsplash, where his photo is alt-tagged “smiling man standing between brown concrete buildings at daytime”. Harry too “cut his teeth in publishing” at a prestigious agency–Writers House–and according to his Books page, he reps Chuck Palahniuk, putting him in direct competition with his imaginary colleague John Morris, who claims to rep the very same book by that author. I guess it gets boring copying book cover images to paste into your imaginary agents’ websites.
Busy as he is with all that high-level agenting, Harry does double duty at Blueprint Press:
I’m getting a 403 notice today when I try to access Lloyd’s website, which was extant a couple of weeks ago when I began researching this post. You can still see a cached version, though, and here’s Lloyd’s About page, where he claims to have “worked with” real writers such as Lisa Jewell and A.S.A. Harrison, whose books supposedly are “now being considered by one of the Top 5 traditional publishers in the US”. Except…oh dear…looks like those books were actually published years ago.
As with two of his imaginary brethren, Lloyd’s photo is stolen: it’s been purloined from a business photographer’s website.
Website: Chris is one of several members of the Imaginary Agent squad who doesn’t have a website, but he uses the same email address and solicitation style as the rest.
Bryan is Chris’s (imaginary) twin brother. He uses the same signature block (just with “Bryan” instead of “Chris”), and also has no website–but, no slouch at the impersonation game, has concocted an elaborate, four-page, laughably fake resume that he provides to authors who are savvy enough to ask about his bona fides. Here’s page 1 (you can see the whole thing here):
Like his buddies Chris and Bryan, Johnny has no website, but his 7-page resume is equally fake, from boasts of professional success to claims of famous clients (surprise, Kazuo Ishiguro and Ernest Cline: meet your REAL agent!) His photo looks a bit more convincing than some of the others, but no doubt it’s stolen too.
Casey is another Imaginary Agent who doesn’t have a fake website, but his email solicitations are identical to those of his imaginary brethren (see this comment below).
Another one with the telltale email address but no fake website.
Same email address and solicitations, but no fake website.
Same as above.
I’m going to stop now, or this post will never end. The names keep multiplying, and Rosario appears to have abandoned the fake website gambit for most of the newer ones.
UPDATE: I’m kicking myself for dropping the ball, but the one thing I didn’t do in researching this post was to check the domain registration info for the fake agent websites (partly because I had so much other evidence of fakery, but also because scammers are good about anonymizing). If I had, I would have discovered that all but one of them look like this:
Amazingly, Mark Rosario has been careless enough to allow his name (not to mention his Cebu address) to appear on these registrations (see the first image in this post). Oops.
Thanks to the anonymous commenter who drew my attention to this.
How to protect yourself?
1. Know how things work in the publishing world. Real literary agents don’t sell services to potential clients, or refer them to companies that do. Real agents don’t commonly contact writers out of the blue. The warnings at the Writer Beware website can help you recognize non-standard or predatory practices.
2. Proceed from a point of skepticism. An unsolicited contact from a literary agent isn’t automatically suspect–as commenters have pointed out on a number of my other posts, it does sometimes happen. But it is not common. With the volume of scams currently in operation, out-of-the-blue contacts are far more likely to be illegitimate than on the level. Caution is always in order–especially if it sounds too good to be true.
3. Mistrust–and verify. Do a websearch…and do it BEFORE you respond. A real agent, with real sales, will have at least some web presence; be suspicious if you find nothing, or almost nothing (strategically, Paper Bytes’ imaginary agents have common names or names that are similar to celebrities’, making them harder to research). Vet the agent’s website: my recent blog post unmasking a fake agency provides some tips for that. If the agent claims to rep authors or books, or to have worked at a particular agency or publisher, see if you can verify whether this is true (often you can find out who agents an author with a simple websearch, or by visiting the author’s website).
4. Use your common sense. Out of the blue, too good to be true? Extra-careful research is in order. Also…anyone can make an occasional typo. But agents selling rights in English-language markets are capable of speaking and writing grammatical English. No reputable agent would send out language-challenged emails like the ones above.
5. Contact me at Writer Beware. Always a good default. I may have heard something, or received complaints. If I have, I’ll let you know.
UPDATE 4/12/21: Five days ago (as of this writing), Mark Rosario resuscitated Chapters Media & Advertising with a new domain name (chaptersmediaad.net) and a new website. The address: that vacant lot in Defuniak Springs, Florida.
Scammers like Rosario often do business in the Philippines under names different from their US operations. In Rosario’s case, it’s Bridgebooks, which describes itself as an advertising and marketing firm, and serves as the umbrella for Chapters Media, Paper Bytes, Blueprint Press, and now Quantum Discovery.
Here’s Mark in 2019, in his previous job at publishing scammer Innocentrix, demonstrating how publishing/marketing scams proliferate and give birth to new ones. Scammer Shawn Serdena is another Innocentrix graduate.
UPDATE 3/3/22: A new name has been added to this scam network: Beyond Movies, which bills itself as a “film agency” whose staff of “creative, hardworking, and dedicated movie production consultants and publishing professionals” all just happen to have alternate existences on stock photo websites.
UPDATE 3/24/22: This blog post about one writer’s experience with Quantum Discovery illustrates how the scam works: the writer is solicited by someone claiming to be a literary agent, signs up for representation, is then persuaded to spend money on some sort of service (in this case, a website), and then is solicited for more services that cost even more money (in this case, a fake film producer claiming to want to make a movie of the book). Writer beware, indeed!
UPDATE 7/5/22: Blueprint Press Internationale has this urgent bulletin: it is not a crook! Let me know if you’re convinced.