Before I start telling this story I want all writers to be aware of the blogsite Writer Beware. Ran largely by Victoria Strauss, this is the site you need to go to to see if a contest, competition, offer, opportunity, course or agent is legit, or a reported scam.
Lately, there has been many stories of brazen people contacting writers directly (they often find their contacts through their books or on writer groups open to the public on Facebook). They then make them a terrific offer or give them an opportunity. This is one such story of a former student who is self published.
A man emails her out of the blue and says he got her contact from her book. He says he’s a literary agent named Ryan Reeves who has seen her nonfiction books and he wants to represent her. He says he had noticed a lot of interest in her book from publishing companies etc.
She is thrilled and signs on with him using DocuSign for him to be her literary agent. He then says we have to get you a proper website and talks her into the need for a website and working through a company called quantum.discovery.net to get it set up. Cost: $1500 – $3500 USD. She pays up front. (ASIDE: I have never in my early days as an entrepreneur spent that much on a website. For authors you probably can get something very serviceable with a free blogsite if you are not that tech savvy, and not fussy, but if you want something more complex and you are not tech savvy, you should try to spend hundreds not thousands and you should still get something pretty nice BUT NEVER PAY UP FRONT).
Then, later on Ryan, her new “agent” tells her this Andrew fellow is excited about doing a Hollywood film basing it on one of her nonfiction books, maybe a documentary, but it may be one in three possible choices he’s looking at.
Later she gets a phone call from Andrew saying he can’t reach Ryan right now. He doesn’t usually call authors directly but really wants to help her because his late father was self-published and he’d made a promise to him to help another self-published author. She looks him up online and finds someone of that name who is an actor, writer, director, and producer living in LA. Then he says we’re going to need to make a book trailer so she can beat out other potential books. That’s going to cost $2000 US dollars.
Meanwhile, the website is done and she’s not that impressed with it. She has no access to the backend. The Buy button just goes to Amazon where she’s already selling her book. But now, according to contract, she technically owes the agent 20% of new sales.
She contacts me because she is now suspicious. I can’t find a literary agent named Ryan Reeves and the site he has on his email isn’t working. I tell her I cannot find a documentary filmmaker by that Andrew name on IMDB, though there are filmmakers of similar names. Usually feature filmmakers do not make documentaries and vice versa. Also, I let her know that they should not need to be asking for money to make a trailer, in fact they should be giving you money to option the rights to your book for film. I tell her I suspect you have been scammed and then find Victoria Strauss’s blog article on this guy with many aliases and websites such as bookliteraryagent.com (the one I tried that doesn’t work) and quantum.discovery.net. and paper bytes marketing solutions. His aliases are numerous but his real name is Charles Rosario. HERE IS THE LINK TO ALL SHE FOUND ABOUT HIS SCAM: https://victoriastrauss.com/2021/03/12/paper-bytes-marketing-solutions-and-its-stable-of-imaginary-agents/
My last advice to her was: Tell him you are cancelling your contract with him in an email i.e. he does not represent you. The contract is void. It says that either party can void it (she sent me copies of the contracts). I said tell him you are not satisfied with the website and you want your money back. If you paid him through PayPal or a payment sites like PayPal, they often have a resolution process. He can be kicked off the payment site if they find he is in breach of their policies. Especially if you send them the link to Victoria Strauss’ article and make it clear it’s the same scammer. You might get money back that way. Also, contact Victoria Strauss herself, using the link email in the article to ask her advice.
The person whose story this is, very kindly allowed me to tell her story to warn others.
THINGS TO REMEMBER:
1) Agents rarely contact someone out of the blue. You usually have to sent them a query letter they like, according to their specs.
2) Do not spend thousands on resources on things like websites or book trailers unless it is already a business site for you. Never pay up front for services unless through a reputable third party website that holds the money until you are satisfied. Sites like fivrr and Upwork have lots of talented folks that are rated. They make sure both sides are getting the real deal and satisfied AND you can find someone at your budget level. Get references and resources from people you trust sooner.
3) If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. BEWARE. Don’t get so flattered that someone loves your book. It probably is a terrific book, but for film projects producers or agents are often looking for already wildly popular books because they come with a built in audience.
4) Do extensive research online. Ask others. Google names of everything and add the word scam after it. Research agents and what they are looking for, who they represent, etc. Use Writer Beware and don’t pay money upfront to a stranger with no way of getting it back.