Little Ray & Shark Patch Things Up
June 2018 by V. R. Duin


All eyes were on the frightening beast.
Nobody wanted to be its next feast.
It was drawing terribly near,
Making the future less than clear.
(“Little Ray & Shark Patch Things Up”)

Online publishing predators include the fraudulent agents, book promoters, fly-by-the night publishing houses with overpriced publishing packages and too-good-to-be-true creative writing competitions who pirate the work of promising writers.

Beware of Online Publishing Predators: Book marketing services that do not read and screen the book to determine the potential for success may be organized to make money only for the inside administrators. Promising writers are unlikely to recover the cost of overpriced publishing packages. One-size-fits-all junk marketing approaches cannot work for vastly dissimilar books. Fraudulent agents often tie promising writers up for a year, for a fee, with poor customer service. They may have zero connections in the industry. Writer clients merely are being exploited. The rate of book placement is very low. More writers than agents or publishers are interested in book submissions. Therefore, these fraudsters need not do anything. They simply wait until the end of the contract year to report the creative fiction or nonfiction work of the writer client cannot be placed or sold, without further upfront cost. Beware of online publishing predators who ask for bank account information. The promise to pay for a writer's work may be a hoax. It is difficult to connect with legitimate operators in publishing. Every offer of assistance should be considered suspect. Rarely will insiders initiate communications with outsiders.

Magazine and book publishing houses also target promising writers with promises of professional marketing assistance and vast distribution networks. Often, these fly-by-night predators offer overpriced publishing packages through junk-emailing pitches. These fraudsters may have no physical address or tangible business. They open with an empty promise and close once they have pocketed enough money to move to another scam or the same scam under a new name. They may have no background, connections or knowledge of the publishing industry. They are unlikely to be looking for partnership opportunities with a promising writer. If these business models prosper, it may be due to rights grabs and failures to pay writers for materials pirated and posted online for free viewing. They charge fees to take control of past, present and future earnings that should accrue to the writer. Control of the writer's derivative rights to past, present and future work may be diverted to the online publishing predator. Entire industries prey on promising writers who want to publish or sell their writing. Most writers want to sell their work. Few writers have the patience, connections or experience to write, market and sell books.

Searching for book publishing houses online can expose promising writers to services that are merely building contact lists for sale to telephonic and to online publishing predators offering overpriced publishing packages. Instead of a link to an appropriate publishing house, promising writers often make themselves subject to scammers and opportunists. These fraudsters often are affiliated online predators in the business of selling corrupt goods and overpriced publishing packages and junk marketing services to the unwitting buyer. Writers should be especially wary of organizations that want to know how much a writer is willing to pay for publishing packages or junk liaison services. The more a writer is willing to pay, the more phone and email solicitations they are likely to receive. Self-publishing is a pay-to-play industry, just like social media. Major publishing houses do not advertise online. They are understaffed and overworked. Traditional publishing moves at a snail's pace. Publishers want concepts that are innovative, electrifying and sales-worthy. They generally look for these within their specialized field, not on the generalized Web.

Writing contests also may be a rip off. Writers hear of award-winning work and believe their own work is equally worthy. Many of these contests are simple rights grabs that do not result in the payment of winnings. Before entering into creative writing competitions, it is important to study past winners. Did they all come from the same publishing house? If so, outside writers merely will contribute payment to the awards in a writing contest destined for insiders. Today, the author is more important than the book. A known author generally can sell any book. Traditional publishers make money by selling books from successful authors. Fly-by-night, fee-charging operations often make their money by scamming promising writers with their overpriced publishing packages. Writers must read the fine print. Who owns the story when the contest ends? Everyone must be alert for scams that unfairly transfer ownership of written work from promising writers to online publishing predators. A good resource for information on bad actors is Writer Beware.

Beware of the Government: Promising writers' book sales are getting whacked by pirated copies offered free of charge by the government. No writer should ever submit PDF files of their work to such government agencies as the Library of Congress, United States Copyright office or the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Anything that is sent to the government is readily requested and received by anyone who asks for it, including online publishing predators. Instead of PDF files, send printed book specimens for filing, recording or documentation purposes. Print versions are not as easily pirated as PDF files. Printers of overpriced publishing packages typically are printed from PDF files. Cost or effort must be applied to copy or scan and ship print books created from professional desktop publishing layout and typography files. Interactive audio books with board pages may offer the best format for theft prevention. Although traditional publishing houses have the legal and business resources needed to protect their productions, they suffer from the loss of sales and value in books that are illegally copied and shared online without permission from the writer or the publisher. The writers and the publishers lose out on royalties.

Thanks to Freedom of Information Act requests, online publishing predators can receive records in digital or print form from the U. S. Copyright Office and in bulk from the Library of Congress. Requests cover all documents created since 1978, including recorded specimens of promising writers' books. Fraudsters who make their money from overpriced publishing packages are not concerned for protecting work in which they have no further interest once the printing is done. Creative writing competition takes on new meaning when writers charge for books that are offered elsewhere for free, thanks to the government. Curiously, for 64 years, the Congressional Research Service, which is part of the Library of Congress, was banned from releasing non-confidential reports about government policy proposal, productivity, background information and other unbiased analysis. For private industry, piracy continues to expand and evolve with emerging technologies. It is an expensive battle for the publishing industry. Independent promising writers generally cannot afford to put up a fight.

Withholding Congressional Research Service reports stemmed from the cost of making “photostatic copies”. Members of Congress, some lobbyists and some reporters had access to this massive store of government owned knowledge. That ban makes no sense in the digital age. It now has been reversed. However, there never was a ban on releasing private work product to online publishing predators. PDF files of private work product have been widely, freely and publicly distributed by the Library of Congress, upon request. Subsequently these PDF files may be uploaded to websites, where downloads are available to users at no charge. This also may be the destination of print books, which are made available for scanning by the government. The International Publishers Organization works with officials from government agencies, including law enforcement, and with partners in creative industries to spread awareness of the broad economic costs of piracy to publishers and promising writers, and to lobby for effective anti-piracy laws to protect intellectual property. Fraudulent producers of overpriced publishing packages have no interest in joining this battle.

Free goods generate traffic to websites. Popular sites are monetized through advertising, membership fees or other means. An online search for specific book titles should uncover the pirated offerings of promising writers. The writers victimized by these online publishing predators often have little recourse. Their work is public record. Victims of government largess with private property rights can only hope that users will be reluctant to download these pirated books. There should be fears of malware on the sites offering them. The book owners also can hope legitimate copies will be purchased after preview of the pirated versions. Mainstream publishers also may take into account readers' comments on these unethical sites when evaluating the potential for these books. In the meantime, of course, the book sales of promising writers may suffer, thanks to online publishing predators. Threats to copyright protections, evolutions in digitalization and changes in distribution channels and in customer behavior are forcing the publishing industry to change their business structure, focus and operations. Fraudsters, who make their money from overpriced publishing packages, take their money and run.

Beware everywhere online: Online publishing predators, spammers, scammers, and cyber attackers lurk everywhere. These bots and beings find readers, writers and educators on social media. An unwitting click on a malicious email or social media link can redirect control of a writer's computer or browser to a malignant source. Thanks to the sale of user records, fan pages and game applications on social media can be toxic traps for entire networks of connections. Predatory bots and individuals attach themselves to promising writers' websites to divert traffic for harmful purposes. Hackers often use small, non-secure sites as a springboard to reach larger target sites, leaving destruction in their wake. These online predators direct traffic from victims' sites to those trumpeting their own noxious purposes. Many sites are set up to look legitimate, but they are filled with fake reviews and used to get personal information, such as passwords, banking and credit card numbers or to cause the user to infect their own computer with malware. Pitches from marketers of overpriced publishing packages and junk marketing services also mine this online information.

Fraudulent agents steal identities. These online publishing predators attack entire networks with contagious, malicious code. Problems originating online are becoming common. Social media may not be aware of fraudsters offering overpriced publishing packages and marketing services to promising writers from within their networks. Lures of fake pages, fake groups, fake news and fake profiles also may come via email, cellular phone numbers or be derived from other personal contact information made readily available by social media administrators for mercenary online purposes. Data collection of personal information became of great value for marketing and other purposes. Leaks of of private information for targeted digital marketing have led to new regulation and customer distrust. Concerns for the protection of personal data from unrestrained and uncompensated commercial use have people fleeing social media. Legitimate and illegitimate companies scrambling for new ways to target this lifeblood.

It is not necessary to steal devices or passwords for cyber attack. Denial-of-service attacks can originate with attacks on unsecured home appliances or services that post simple default passwords online for anyone to find. Eager, willing and spendthrift customers need not be searching, streaming or socializing to have their household appliances drafted to create a massive threat against major utilities. The weight of these linked systems can bring down the Internet. The government is beginning to look into online fraud and power concentrations. Only the government can sanction into law the strong legal consequences needed to deter the online publishing predators who lure innocent tech users, including promising writers, into toxic disaster online from malware pushed or pulled onto unprotected surfer's devices. Fly-by-night operators with overpriced publishing packages and junk marketing services are not likely to stick around long enough to protect their customers' data.

However, as online users, promising writers must understand how online fraud works. This is the only way to avoid becoming unwitting agents used to spread toxic disaster. Fraudulent agents have a myriad of ways to attack the networks attached to promising writers' businesses, stories, events, organizations and causes. Creative writing competition does not always come from other writers. Some of these contests are lures to promising writers. Once they have paid for overpriced publishing packages and junk marketing services for their award-winning work, promising writers may receive nothing but poor customer service in return for their entry fee and wasted follow-up costs. Assault from online publishing predators merely add to the woes of promising writers. The efficiencies in the digital world of market concentrations, sophisticated algorithms, expanding piles of data and vast interconnectedness have been upended by unscrupulous and reckless software applications. Online publishing predators launch their attacks through the written word. However, unlike the goals of promising writers, the true mission often is less than clear.

Predatory Highlights for Writers

  • Promising Writers V. R. Duin says:

    Optimistic efforts to sell books can ensnare promising writers in problems with predators lurking around book writing, marketing and publishing ventures.

  • Creative Writing Competitions V. R. Duin says:

    Entry into most creative writing competitions is done by contracts, which may infringe upon a promising writer's copyrights and trademarks.

    • Fraudulent agentsV. R. Duin says:

      Fraudulent agents charge writers for services, contrary to the contingent fee arrangements that reign in the literary world.