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The “Mexican Film Director” Scam

Solicitation email supposedly from Guillermo del Toro offering to buy movie rights

If a rash of solicitations over the past few months are to be believed, there's a major rush down in Mexico to acquire film rights to books.

These virtually identical emails are, of course, laughably bogus--from the peculiar capitalizations, to the anonymous "Hollywood Movie Agents", to the implausibility of these supposed directors bollixing up their own movie titles, to the unlikelihood of famous film folks personally soliciting authors via funny-looking Gmail accounts--but they have been briskly doing the rounds since this past summer, and I've collected quite a trove of them thanks to the many authors who've sent them to me.

Obviously a scam, in other words. But what's the endgame?

Why You Might Not Want to Use Wire Transfer or Payment Apps to Pay For Publishing Services

Header image: yellow CAUTION tape

One of the few remedies available for writers who've been ripped off by scammers is to file a payment dispute.

This is possible if you've used a credit card or PayPal, and are within the window of time in which a dispute is permitted. In the USA, credit card companies are required by law to give consumers up 60 days from the time they receive their bill to dispute a charge, though many companies allow for a longer 120-day period (the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau maintains a database of US credit card company agreements where you can look up your company and see what their policy is). They also cap consumer liability at $50. Protections for UK credit card users are similar.

For PayPal, the dispute window is within 180 days of purchase.

How to (Maybe) Get Out of Your Contract When Your Scam Re-Publisher Ghosts You

Header image: shirt and hat with no person inside

Last year, I published a post about a growing problem for self-published writers who've bought into a "re-publishing" offer (always received out of the blue) from a company that promises it can do a better job, or provide more marketing, or facilitate a transition to traditional publishing.

Such offers can seem attractive, especially to writers trapped in the Author Solutions ecosystem, where customer service is poor, book prices are often non-competitive, and low sales and obscurity are all but assured. Often the offer is reasonably priced (as a loss leader to get writers in the door so they can be pressured to buy more expensive services), or includes tempting features like marketing campaigns or (supposed) literary representation.

Unfortunately, most of these companies are scams (see this list), and signing with them carries serious risk--from relentless upselling pressure, to substandard services, to fake trad pub or movie rights proposals involving enormous fees, to simply taking the cash and running.

Long-Standing Payment Problems At Cricket Media

Cricket Media logo

Cricket Media describes itself as a global education company, with products that include mentoring platforms, language instruction, and a suite of well-known children's magazines for kids of all ages. Having a story, article, poem, or illustration published in one of these magazines is a coveted credit for kidlit writers and illustrators, and can provide a real boost to a writing or artistic resume.

Cricket is a paying market (rates are posted on its Submittable page). However, over the past few weeks I've received multiple complaints from writers and illustrators who say they've had tremendous difficulty getting paid--or have never been paid at all.

The range of reported problems is wide, and also somewhat random. Some creators told me they were paid promptly for some works but very late (like months or even years) for others. Some said that persistent emails or invoices eventually pried a payment loose--though far later than the promised payment date--while others received repeated form responses but no check, or no response at all. Several told me they have never gotten the money they are owed (the longest reported time lag: two and a half years). Some are still invoicing for these missing fees--but others said they'd just given up.

Whatever Happened To Catstone Books?

Catstone Books logo

In April 2022, I was contacted by an author who reported being basically ghosted by Catstone Books after submitting a revised manuscript at Catstone's request. Over the course of seven months--and after what the writer described as considerable enthusiasm from the editor--the author received no response at all, either to the re-submission or to polite nudges from their agent.

I hadn't heard of Catstone before. so I took a look at its website (which no longer exists: that link is to an archived version). A nonprofit publisher registered in Georgia in February 2021 with a three-person Board of Directors, it boasted an ambitious slate of socially conscious programs in keeping with its mission of highlighting the voices of marginalized authors of speculative fiction, including a fellowship to help a writer from a marginalized community complete a project, a school donation program, and WinkBC, a book club supporting blind and visually impaired readers. It also sold memberships that offered various member-only perks, including reviews, short fiction, and giveaways, and had a literary magazine called Pharos.

There was something missing, though: books. Although Catstone had been in business for more than a year, and had announced two projects--a novel, Sargassa, and an anthology, Horror That Represents You--it had not yet actually released any titles. As for Pharos, the literary magazine, not a single issue had been published.

When New Isn’t Better: The Value of Experience

Header image: the word NEW on a red brick wall

Today I'm blogging over at the fabulous Writer Unboxed.

“Everyone has to start somewhere.” It’s a familiar truism. And like most truisms, it states a fact so self-evident that there’s no need to really think about it. There’s no start without a starting point, right?

Too often, however, it’s used to dismiss or excuse a lack of skill or training or experience or some other important qualification for doing something that requires expertise.