Here’s one example, from a scam that does business under multiple names: Page Turner Press and Media, Orions Media Agency, Fox Media Studios Agency, and Silver Fox Media. Despite their apparent US addresses and phone numbers, all are based in the Philippines, where they operate under the umbrella of a company called Innocentrix (you can read more about the huge proliferation of overseas scammers here). (UPDATE: Another name has been added to this scam complex: Experttell, aka Experttell Media.) (ANOTHER UPDATE: Two more new names for this scam complex: InkStone Literary Agency and The Metro Films.)
This is the initial pitch–which arrives, as always with this type of scam, out of the blue:
This is not the way things work: literary agents aren’t “assigned” to represent you without your knowledge, and major film studios don’t randomly stumble on books and reach out to agencies you never heard of, which then cold-call you. In fact, real agents only very rarely reach out to writers directly. For scammers, on the other hand, it’s their main recruitment method.
Any out-of-the-blue solicitation or offer should be treated with suspicion.
If the writer bites, they receive this.
Note Allison’s email address, which doesn’t match Universal’s email address protocol. It’s always a good idea to search on this, and also on the email address itself; you can discover interesting things, such as that the universalpicturesacquisition.com domain was only registered this past March–not very plausible, given Universal Pictures’ long history. In another revealing discrepancy, Allison Gray is a real person…but she works for Paramount.
“Allison” doesn’t mention money. This is strategic: as any scammer knows, it’s harder to say no when an offer is (purportedly) on the table. And money is definitely involved. The writer who responds with excitement to this INCREDIBLE OFFER learns that the “cinematic trailer” will cost them $3,500 (a cost the scammer may promise to share), and the “relicensing” of the book (there’s no such thing) requires a further $1,099.
I shouldn’t need to say–again–that this is not how things work. If a film studio is interested in your work, they will pay you, not the other way around. Plus, the demand for your driver’s license and passport suggests that it’s not just your cash that will be stolen.
Here is the promised “pre-production agreement” (this time from another dba of this scam, Fox Media Studios Agency). “David Benson” does not appear to be an employee of Universal–or any film company. Allison Gray is cc’d, though at a different, and equally bogus, email address. Note also the identical scary pseudo-legal language at the bottom, which is likely intended to discourage writers from contacting people like me:
The money grab in this one is for the “Director’s professional fee” as well as the supposed permits and clearances, which no doubt amount to several thousand dollars. Keep in mind that the writer has already paid nearly $5,000 for a (likely crappy) book trailer and the mythical book re-licensing.
Yet again, this is not how the industry works. Authors are never asked to bankroll their own films (at least, they’re never asked to do so by reputable film companies). To the contrary: if a film of your book has been greenlighted, you will previously have received a considerable sum of money.
A final word. It’s every writer’s dream to have their book made into a movie. But the hard truth is that this is among the rarest of all outcomes of publishing a book. The vast majority of books–even very successful ones–never sell or option film rights. Where they do, it’s via real, reputable agents or entertainment lawyers with track records that can be verified–not unknown parties who contact you out of the blue.
Remember: solicitation is the number one sign of a scam. And there are more scams aggressively soliciting authors than ever. Be careful out there.
UPDATE 8/7/21: The scam is also soliciting as Netflix. Some of the language in the solicitation below is identical to that of the first fake Universal email above; note also the identical scary disclaimer in italics, and the fact that, although this came to the author as a direct solicitation and not through the filter of a fake agency, the scammers were too careless, or too lazy, to remove the references to “your agency”.
As they often do, the scammers are using the name of a real person–except she’s an actress, not a Netflix executive.
UPDATE 9/2/21: The scammers have added a new name: Experttell (aka Experttell Media), which is sending out email “offers” from Universal and Warner Bros. that are substantially identical to the emails above.
UPDATE 11/25/21: The Orions Media Agency website is dead, and writers are reporting that their emails go unanswered. I’m guessing that the abandonment of this particular business name had something to do with its D+ BBB rating, as well as the proliferation of online complaints.
Other names associated with this scam–Page Turner Press and Media, Fox Media Studios Agency, Silver Fox Media, and Experttell–are still alive and well.
UPDATE 3/30/22: They’re still at it. Just heard from a writer who got the Netflix version of the scam soliciation. They’re not bothering here with the pretense of an “agency” intermediary, but they’re too lazy to reformat the canned email to remove the “agency” reference.
(There’s an Ivanna Martinez who works at Netflix, but not, as far as I could discover, an Ivana Alvarez. Still, the names are similar enough that a hasty websearch might confuse them.)
UPDATE 6/3/22: New name for the scam complex: The Metro Films. This one specializes in offering “movie deals” to Page Turner Press and Media clients, which require handing over a minimum of $100,000 for a publicity campaign (supposedly, this is just a fraction of the publicist’s cost, with Page Turner promising to front the rest). I’ve heard from writers who have actually paid six figures. Names associated with this scam include Mark Alvarez and Isaiah Callum.
UPDATE 6/13/22: Yet another new name for the scam complex: InkStone Literary Agency. Rather than fake film offers, InkStone wants writers to pay $3,000 to buy the “license” to their books, supposedly as part of re-publishing offers from Simon & Schuster or Hachette (complete with a fake contract copied from one of the Idiot’s Guides)–but large swaths of its website are identical to that of fellow scam Experttell (portions of which have in turn been plagiarized from the websites of legit agencies, such as The Waxman Agency). Compare and…compare:
UPDATE 12/27/22: The scam is currently impersonating Columbia Pictures, Icon Productions, and Hyperobject Industries with the email below. Although the “required materials” (i.e., the stuff writers will have to pay for) are different, there’s plenty of content that’s identical to the emails above, including the threatening NOTE at the bottom.