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 fraudulent agents, book promoters and fly-by-the night publishing houses with overpriced publishing packages.

Beware of Book Marketing Services: Services that do not read and screen books to determine potential for success may be organized for inside profit. Vastly dissimilar books are not served by one-size-fits-all junk marketing.

Publishing insiders seek inside players. They are understaffed, overworked and move at a snail's pace. Innovative, electrifying and sales-worthy concepts come with known names. Superstars can sell any book.

Beware of sham agents. They tie up clients for a year, for a fee, with poor customer service, and no connections, background or insights into publishing. The rate of placement is low. Fraudsters do nothing for their pay.

Beware of contributing editors and illustrators. By small print contract, they take ownership of edits and art they add to original work. Publishing houses reject complications of these royalty splits with joint actors.

Beware of fake freelance jobs. Online resources that require upfront bank account information may be hoaxes. Carefully research job postings. Every offer of professional assistance should be considered suspect.

Beware of pay-to-play publishing houses. They open with overpriced publish packages, then move to a new scam or the same scam under new names. There is no book marketing expertise or distribution network.

Beware of online magazines. Some models are rights grabs. With small payments, they take control of past, present and future earnings or divert rights to another predator. SFWA tracks bad actors in Writer Beware.

Beware of online clearing houses. Writer placement services may be click-bait agents for corrupt goods and services. The more a writer is willing to pay to find a publisher, the more solicitations are likely to be received.

Beware of writing contests. Were past winners from the same publishing house? Outside writers may contribute to awards for insiders. Who owns the story at the conclusion of the too-good-to-be-true competition?

Most creative writing arrangements are done by contracts. These may infringe upon a writer's copyrights and trademarks. Contributors may claim an expanded interest in their share of the work due to unforeseen problems.

Beware of hackers. Non-secure sites serve as springboards to larger sites. Phony reviews and contact links are made to look legitimate to get passwords, banking and credit card numbers, leaving destruction in their wake.

Beware of social media. Fan pages and game apps can be toxic traps. A malicious link can redirect control of a writer's computer or browser to a malignant source. Victims may infect entire networks of connections.

Shadowy companies hawk phony followers. They steal personal information to sell, endorse or misrepresent things or activities. The value of small accounts is diminished by fake armies behind celebrity numbers.

Selling fake profiles is illegal, deceptive and unethical. For now, caught businesses are shut down. New laws are under consideration. Things may get worse for phony social media creators and their purchasers.

Beware of the Government. Specimens filed with the Library of Congress, United States Copyright office or the United States Patent and Trademark Office, as private work product, become public record information.

Understand the Freedom of Information Act. Records in digital or print form from the U. S. Copyright Office and in bulk from the Library of Congress are widely, freely and publicly distributed to anyone on request.

Fraudsters benefit from government largess. They upload free goods to pull traffic to their sites. Advertising or membership fees monetize this opportunistic effort. Writers and publishers lose out on royalties.

Protect your rights. Send printed specimens for filing, recording or documentation. Print versions are not as easily pirated as PDF files. Interactive audio books may offer the best theft protection.

Online title searches uncover pirated offerings. Creative writing competition takes on new meaning when writers charge for books that are free online. Independent writers rarely can afford to fight this battle.

Writers victimized by online pirates have little recourse. The International Publishers Organization works with government agencies to lobby for effective anti-piracy laws for intellectual property.

Online fraud and concentrations of power need regulations. Efficiencies of algorithms, data and interconnectedness are upended by unscrupulous and reckless applications. Strong consequences may stop predatory abuses.