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Alert: Scammers Impersonating Video Streaming Services With Fake Job Offers

Header image: man holding a photo of a woman's face in front of his own

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post about a job offer scam in which fraudsters impersonated Acorn TV.

The scammers' M.O.: they messaged writers on Twitter and Instagram, claiming to offer an opportunity to write stories for Acorn TV and earn an improbably large amount of money. If writers expressed interest (and why wouldn't they), a two-part "texting interview" on Telegram followed, at the end of which the writer was offered a job agreement and description. Although I never heard from anyone who accepted, the presumed goal was to steal personal details, such as Social Security numbers and bank account information.

The same scammers are at it again. This time, they're impersonating Minno, a Christian streaming service for kids.

One Week, Two Fakes: American Booksellers Federation and The Acquisitions Guild

Header image: "Real" label being scratched away to reveal "Fake" underneath

As you'll know if you're a regular reader of this blog (and from your own experience if you've ever self-published), we are currently in the midst of a tsunami of scam companies that aggressively solicit authors with out-of-the-blue emails and phone calls touting phony services--"endorsement" to Big 5 publishers or major film studios, "nominations" for representation at book fairs or other costly-but-useless PR strategies, and more.

These ripoff artists often seek to boost their credibility--and stroke writers' egos--by naming some made-up organization or group that has recommended or otherwise validated the author's book. The Guild of Literary Agents, Book Acquisitions Guild of America, Book Acquisition Society, The Literary Arts Organization, Affiliation of Creator Agents, Hollywood Database, Literary Review of Books...I could go on, but you get the picture. Despite the official-sounding names, none of these so-called organizations (which I've seen referenced in multiple scam solicitations) exist--as even a cursory websearch will confirm.

Scammers, of course, are counting on writers not to check. But writers have become much more savvy about solicitation scams than they used to be--partly because there are now so many of them, and partly because there are so many warnings about them. This has caused some predators to up their game, attempting to create credibility for their made-up endorsement organizations by giving them actual websites.

Spam Alert: 4 Seasons Book Awards

Header Image: Four Seasons Book Awards logos

Over the past couple of days I've gotten multiple reports from writers who received this solicitation via the contact forms on their websites:

Spamming via contact form is way more labor intensive than just regular spam, so you've got to respect the commitment--though I have to say a bit more time could have been invested in proofreading. Also, is it 4 Seasons Book Awards, as in the solicitation, or Four Seasons Book Awards, as in the little medallions in the typo-ridden image at the top of this post? It's a bit confusing, brand identity-wise.

Anyway, the 4 (or Four) Seasons Book Awards appears to be your standard profiteering awards program, where the intent is to generate a bundle of cash for the owner (I've written about several of these on this blog, and why they should be avoided). Spam solicitation: check. No-name judges: check. High entry fee: check. Zero-cost prizes, to avoid cutting into profit from entry fees: check (the "Time [sic] Square Billboard" etc. are available only to "Grand Price [sic] Finally [sic]" winners chosen from all entrants at the end of the awards cycle; everyone else gets "celebratory badge and digital certificate of victory").

When Your Publishing Contract Flies a Red Flag: Clauses to Watch Out For

Header image: a red flag flying on a beach (credit: Dimitri Argyriou)

Today I'm blogging over at Writer Unboxed, an excellent writers' resource with a wealth of information about the craft and business of writing.

Today's post focuses on what comes after the excitement of a “yes” from a publisher: the job of assessing your publishing contract.

Facing down ten pages of dense legalese can be a daunting task, especially for new and inexperienced writers, who may not have the resources to hire a literary lawyer, or have access to a knowledgeable person who can help de-mystify the offer terms.

Scam Alert: Scammers Impersonating the Strand Bookstore

Header image: photograph of Strand Bookstore in New York City (copyright info below image)

Impersonation is an increasingly common tactic employed by the Philippines-based scams that have been taking up so much space on this blog for the past few years.

Impersonating literary agents. Impersonating publishers. Impersonating film producers, directors, and production companies. Impersonation scams extort anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars from unwary writers, and damage the reputations of the individuals and companies whose names they falsely use.

A new impersonation scam doing the rounds appropriates the name of a famous bookseller: the Strand Bookstore in New York City.

Findaway Voices, Machine Learning, and the New Rights Frontier

Header image: Findaway Voices logo

Audiobook creation service Findaway Voices has become a popular alternative to Audible's ACX, especially in the wake of #Audiblegate (the controversy over ACX's author-penalizing returns policies that has generated at least one lawsuit).

In the past few days, though, authors and narrators have been drawing attention to this paragraph from Findaway's Digital Distribution Agreement, which grants Apple--a third party--a license to use the rights holder's audiobook files for "machine learning", aka AI training:

This paragraph doesn't appear to be a new addition: I've seen an agreement from September 2022 that includes it. But I can't find anything to indicate when it may have been incorporated, or any discussion of it prior to a few days ago. (UPDATE: In the comments and also on social media, people are confirming that the paragraph was part of the agreement as far back as 2019.)