Is it a scam?

Conceptual photograph of scam. A fishing line is hooked onto a credit card against a blurred background of a computer keyboard. Photograph © Dmytro Sukharevskyi / Adobe Stock
Photograph © Dmytro Sukharevskyi / Adobe Stock
The SoA Advisory Team

The SoA Advisory Team

SoA advisors provide free, unlimited, confidential advice to members on all business aspects of the profession. Get in touch
The SoA’s advisors warn about misleading websites and unsolicited emails

The SoA advisory team helps members with a wide range of queries, from contracts to professional challenges, and more.

We have seen a recent rise in members seeking advice on what have proved to be scams. The internet is teeming with companies offering services to writers, and it can often be difficult to distinguish between legitimate offers and scams.  Always treat information sourced from the internet, or from cold-call emails, with great caution, and remember that scams are designed to play on your hopes as a writer.

We have seen a variety of misleading offers:

  • To act as the author’s agent – one such scammer even used the name of a legitimate agent, and falsely implied that he was an authorised scout for HarperCollins.
  • To publish the author’s book.
  • To convert the author’s work to a new ebook format which would (naturally) make them money.
  • To ghostwrite for the author (with no credentials of the ghost provided). One such site aggressively pressed also to publish and publicise the author’s work, all for further fees.
  • To boost ebook sales / increase income from Amazon / manipulate Amazon’s rankings.  Such sites are often branded to give the impression that they are Amazon companies, affiliated with Amazon, or Amazon-endorsed. They are not.

The fallout from these scams can be distressing. SoA members have reported:

  • They have paid for services but cannot recoup the money they have spent.
  • They are left disappointed, sometimes demoralised, about being misled. Many feel that they have been made a fool of. They haven’t. These people are extremely clever at what they do.
  • They have given away rights in their works that they cannot get back.
  • In a couple of instances, they were pressured by excessive follow-up emails and phone calls – an approach similar to persistent bank scammers who will urgently request your login details because someone is, as we speak, spending thousands of pounds on your credit card in Harrods.

There are things you can do to minimise the chance of being scammed:

  • Check with the SoA. If the offer is bona fide, it will be a pleasant surprise.
  • Do not search for and rely on glowing reviews for a service. Your search is likely to bring up only carefully curated and not always entirely independent positive comments. Instead, search for ‘is it a scam’?
  • Take a look at this useful page: Overseas Scams – Writer Beware (but bear in mind this isn’t a definitive list).
  • Always be wary of clicking on dubious links.
  • Never pay money unless you are clear about what you will receive in return. Don’t settle for vague promises and aspirational jargon, but only for specific undertakings.

Pirated works

If you believe you have found what might be a pirated copy of your work:

  • Check with the SoA. It may not actually be a pirate copy.
  • If it is clearly pirated, notify your publisher. Usually it will be your publisher which has the authority to pursue the matter.
  • If the work is self-published, or the publishing contract has terminated and the rights have reverted to you, get in touch with the SoA advice team for how to serve ‘notice and takedown’.

The advice we give is at the heart of our offer to members. The more of these scams we can encounter through your queries, the better we can warn against them. If in any doubt, please always get in touch [email protected].

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