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 Book Marketing Services: 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. Entire industries prey on promising writers who want to publish or sell their writing. Fraudsters, who make their money from sham practices, take their money and run. Most writers want to sell their work. However, few writers have the patience, connections or experience to write, market and sell them.

Know that self-publishing is not traditional. Major traditional 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. 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.

Beware of sham agents. 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. They may have no background in or knowledge about the publishing 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. These fraudsters need not do anything. They simply wait until the end of the contract year. Their final report states the creative fiction or nonfiction work of the writer client cannot be placed or sold, without the payment of additional upfront cost.

Beware of fake freelance jobs. Beware of any online source of work that requires upfront bank account information. The promise to pay for a writer's work may be a hoax. Writers seeking freelance writing work of any type online, should carefully research job postings. Freelance Web writers should not provide bank account information, without confirming the assignment is legitimate. Good and bad things are lurking online. 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.

Beware of publishing houses. Fraudulent book publishing houses target promising writers. They promise professional marketing assistance and vast distribution networks. These fly-by-night predators offer overpriced publishing packages through junk-emailing pitches. They 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 are unlikely to be looking for partnership opportunities with a promising writer. Self-publishing is a pay-to-play industry, just like social media.

Beware of online magazines. 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 may pay small 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 some other online publishing predator. A good resource for information on bad actors is Writer Beware.

Beware of online clearing houses for writers. These writer placement services may be building contact lists for sale to telephonic publishing fraudsters. Instead of a link to an appropriate publishing house, contact information for promising writers may be delivered to scammers and opportunists. These fraudsters often are affiliated with sellers of corrupt goods and services. Writers should be wary of organizations that want to know how much a writer is willing to pay for publishing services. The more a writer is willing to pay, the more phone and email solicitations they are likely to receive.

Writing contests also may be a rip off. Writers hear of award-winning work and believe their own work is equally worthy. Once they have paid to have their award-winning work judged, writers may receive nothing in return for their entry fee and wasted follow-up costs. Worse: many contests are simple rights grabs. There are no winners; only losers. 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. Writers must read the fine print. Who owns the story when the contest ends? Everyone must be alert for scams that transfer ownership rights from writers to online publishing predators. Creative writing competition does not always come from other writers. Contests may work against writers, too.

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. Although traditional publishing houses have the legal and business resources to protect their productions, their work is pirated. There is no 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.

Understand the Freedom of Information Act. Anyone can get 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 writers' books. 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. 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.

Protect yourself from the government and its online 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. When books are made free for reading, without permission, the writers and the publishers lose out on royalties.

Know what happens to pirated books. Fraudsters are not concerned for protecting work in which they have no interest or sunken costs. 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 made available for scanning by the government. 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. Creative writing competition takes on new meaning when writers charge for books that are offered online for free, thanks to pirating. For private industry, piracy continues to expand and evolve with emerging technologies. It is an expensive battle for the publishing industry. Independent writers rarely can afford to put up a fight.

Is anything being done to stop piracy? 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. For now, writers victimized by these online publishing predators may have little recourse. Copyrighted work is public record.

Is there any hope for victims of government largess with private property rights? These writers can hope 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 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.

Beware of social media. 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. These fraudsters may cause the victim to infect their own computer with malware. Pitches from marketers of overpriced publishing packages and junk marketing services also mine online social media information.

Social media platforms are under fire. Social media may not be aware of fraudsters offering fraudulent packages and services to writers inside 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.

Beware of website hackers. Predatory bots and individuals attach themselves to writers' websites to divert traffic for harmful purposes. These online publishing predators attack entire networks with contagious, malicious code. 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. These sites are set up to look legitimate. They are filled with fake reviews. They are used to get personal information, such as passwords, banking and credit card numbers. Problems originating online are becoming common. Fly-by-night operators with overpriced, junk website packages are not likely to stick around to protect their customers' data.

It is not necessary to steal devices or passwords for cyber attack. Denial-of-service attacks can originate with unsecured home appliances or services. Simple default passwords are online for anyone to find. Eager, willing and spendthrift customers need not be searching, streaming or socializing to have their household appliances drafted for massive threats 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 writers, into toxic disaster online from malware pushed or pulled onto unprotected surfer's devices.

Writers must understand how online fraud works. This is the only way to avoid becoming unwitting agents used to spread toxic disaster. There are many ways for fraudulent actors to attack the networks attached to writers' businesses, stories, events, organizations and causes. 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 most 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.