Episode 196 – Scams, Engagement, and Actual Bigfoot Romance

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Question of the Week: If you got an email like the one NY Literary Magazine sent out, would you respond with anger or would you try to make the sender understand the error of their ways?

If a business sends an email about an ill-conceived program, would you have a chat with them or respond in anger? Getting 2018 started off with a bang, Bryan and Jim thank their wonderful patrons Gone, The Cordova Vector, and Taking Charge: Making Your Healthcare Appointments Work for You. The first tips of the year include how authors can gather more audiobook reviews, how authors can combat common health problems, and how to set writing goals. In news, find out what changed Playster has made to their audiobook service, changes coming to Amazon author portals, how one man transformed from cancer survivor to a bestseller, information on the new tax code, Facebook’s revised News Feed algorithm, and what one literary magazine did to upset the indie author community. Question of the Week: If you got an email like the one NY Literary Magazine sent out, would you respond with anger or would you try to make the sender understand the error of their ways?
What You’ll Learn:
  • Where authors can gather more reviews for their audiobooks
  • How indies can combat common health problems facing writers
  • How to set writing goals for 2018 and overcome probable failure
  • What changes Playster has made to its unlimited audiobook service
  • What new changes Amazon is making to its author portals
  • How one man transformed from cancer survivor to bestseller
  • How the new US tax law will affect indie authors
  • How Facebook’s revised News Feed algorithm will affect authors
  • What one literary magazine did to upset the indie author community
Links:

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  • The whole NY Literary Magazine “Best Story Award” story smells a lot like those “Who’s Who” biographical directory scams, whereby a company tells you you’ve been nominated as an esteemed . Then, they ask you for $20 to have your information published in a book full of people dumb enough to take the bait.

    But, hey, that scam seems to still be working pretty well. I can definitely see NY Literary Magazine trying to cash in, then offloading the pressure of the backlash onto this nefarious, unnamed “Asian marketing company”. Probably not a super-awesome idea to blame them for being Asian, though.

  • Matthew Staggs

    Pretty easy going. I wouldn’t get mad, just ignore and move on.

  • Robert Smith

    I’d choose a third answer – delete the email and move on with my life. I think a better question of the week would’ve been ‘What is actually the all time greatest New Year’s Eve movie?” because it can’t possibly be ‘When Harry Met Sally’. I’d say it was a two way tie between ‘Ghostbusters 2’ and ‘After the Thin Man’.

    • Bryan

      I’d say to be the “best” movie of a particular holiday, you have to at least be the best movie in it’s own series :). I suppose I’m just a romantic at heart :).

  • I would’ve deleted the email and not thought twice about it, believing it to be a scam and not actually connected to a real magazine. Because I actually expect real businesses to be better managed than that. Silly me!

  • Linda Fausnet

    The Hudsucker Proxy is the best New Year’s Movie. Just sayin….

    Anyway, I would have rolled my eyes and deleted the email. Why should I send them my money when I have a Nigerian prince that’s about to make me rich! Rich, I tells ya!

    • Bryan

      Haven’t seen it! I’ll have to watch it and let you know if I agree :).

  • I clicked through to the site and then smelled a scam. The weird thing is, I’ve seen authors posting about this in a wide variety of forums. Most had never heard of NY Lit Mag. So, where did they get the email lists from?

    PS: Delighted that the Big Foot romance amused Jim.

    • Bryan

      Thanks again for sharing it :).

  • L.C. Mawson

    I had already seen people say it was a scam before I checked my email, so I just ignored it when I saw it. But I find it hilarious that they were all “these big meanie authors were picking on us >:(” when all I ever saw was people asking “Hey, is this legit?” and other people responding “Nah, it’s a scam.” Hardly the great wave of hatred they claimed…
    (Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been on the internet long enough to believe that if enough people are angry, someone, somewhere got a death threat, but this is definitely on the tamer side of internet blow-backs.)

  • My first instinct on receiving that kind of email is to mark it as spam. If the idea keeps pulling me I ask questions. I have to 5* the answers to move it out of spam.

  • Patrick O’Donnell

    I would suspect it as spam and pay it no mind. BTW…I was looking forward to Jim shredding his axe. What gives?

    • Benjamin Douglas

      I’m seconding the call for more axe-shredding. Don’t leave us hanging, Jim!

  • I received one of their emails, it read like a scam. I googled the website to see if it was for real. It existed but with lots of meta data to drive traffic to it. The site looked inconsistent, amateurish, incomplete and hastily built. I read 3 posted short stories all were poorly written or not edited. Later the same day I got an email stating their demise. It was a quick and sudden death, why was I not surprised?

  • TBH I would assume it was a scam. Then I would reply to play along and wring as much comedy out of the situation as I possibly could.

  • It would sound like all the other scams in my Junk Folder. The fact that they closed so soon afterwards means it was obviously a last ditch money grab. Sad, really. If they would have offered something of real value, they could have done good for them and their company, but playing on people’s dreams or needs for public validity as a writer is low. After that, they deserved to close their doors.

  • Laura Morelli

    I also got “nominated.” I laughed and moved on, but wow, their second email was a trip! Here it is in its entirety:

    Re: NY Literary Magazine Scam
    Dear Author,

    This is an official email from the NY Literary Magazine (NYLiteraryMagazine.com) regarding the Best Story Award contest, the nomination emails, the scam complaints, and the cyberbullying attacks upon our authors and our magazine. (This is the last email you will ever receive from us.)

    What is this about?
    On Christmas, an email was sent from NYLiteraryMag.org telling authors they were nominated for the Best Story Award contest and inviting them to submit their book to our contest.
    It appears these emails angered people and caused them to believe our contest is a scam.

    We would like to apologize for any annoyance, confusion, disappointment, or aggravation which the marketing email you received on Christmas may have caused you.

    Additionally, there have been many inaccurate accusations circling around and cyberbully attacks upon authors who were awarded our award.
    This has ruined our business and caused us to permanently shut down our magazine and contests.
    Everyone who purchased an entry into our contest has been refunded.

    After years of work on this magazine, we have had to fire our entire team of loyal, hard-working, full-time employees.

    Who are we?
    The NY Literary Magazine was a print and digital magazine.
    We published free-to-read digital poetry anthologies, ran free-to-enter short story contests and poetry contests, interviewed authors, and wrote helpful articles.

    The scam allegations are regarding an email sent out from NYLiteraryMag.org about our “Best Story Award” contest.
    This is indeed a book contest we started and were running on our website with an extremely affordable reading fee.

    What happened?
    Regretfully, we outsourced our marketing to an Asian company to help us spread the word about our Best Story Award contest.
    We believed they were experts and could help us reach authors.
    It was our terrible mistake to entrust the entire marketing campaign in their hands including the marketing methods, approach, and text.
    They sent out a marketing email on our behalf, from an email at nyliterarymag.org, at an unexpected time for USA time zone on Christmas.

    Unfortunately, it appears they chose the wrong approach and terminology when inviting authors to our contest by telling them they were nominated instead of simply informing them of our contest and inviting them to join it.
    It was our terrible mistake not to closely supervise and monitor each marketing action they did and the text they used.

    For other businesses such as VIP Entrepreneur clubs (with ~$1,000 annual membership fees), sending a nomination email instead of an invite to join their clubs worked very well. Our marketing agency, therefore, presumed this was a good way to approach authors as well. They even thought that authors who didn’t want to/couldn’t afford the $15 entry fee to our contest would still be happy to be nominated and be able to mention it in their bio.
    They did not think there would be an issue with nominating multiple authors.
    Nor did they think it would annoy authors to be nominated.

    We apologize to all the authors who feel they were misled by being nominated.

    In reply to the inaccurate accusations:

    We are shocked at the number of inaccurate allegations which are circling on social media regarding us, our magazine, our anthologies, and contest. To make matters worse, some forum threads are locked and comments disabled on websites so we can’t even answer the accusations.

    “The award seal is fake.”
    The award seal is a PNG image. What exactly can be fake or “real” about a PNG image?
    We never claimed winners would receive a physical, solid gold sticker for their book.

    “You’re selling award seals for $15. Everyone is an award winner, you just have to buy the award to win.”
    These accusations are completely false. We are not selling award seals. We never have and we never will.
    Nowhere on the sales page does it say we’re selling award seals.
    $14.95 was the initial entry fee (which was later raised to $19.95) for the contest. Award winners were to receive an award seal for free.
    Stating “everyone is a winner” is also false. We have 1 winner per month per genre.
    Obviously, those spreading these false accusations and outright lies didn’t even visit the website or the contest’s page.

    “The nomination email came from a mailing list. Only scammers use mailing lists!”
    It takes a lot of time to contact people one by one. Even authors use mailing services to contact all their readers in one go rather than sitting for days sending individual emails.

    “The authors you say won an award don’t have it on their book covers. It’s a scam! They didn’t really win!”
    It is up to the award-winners if and how they choose to use our award seal.
    All we do is inform the winners. Whether or not they choose to use our award seal is up to them.
    We showed 3 examples of how awards CAN be used on a book’s cover for illustration purposes.

    “Their free contests prove they’re scammers. It’s a trick, a way to make you like their magazine.”
    Interesting. So we’re a “scammer” if we charge entry fees and we’re a scammer if we don’t charge entry fees.
    Hard to please everyone. At least our poetry contest winners were happy when they won our free-to-enter contests.

    “They say you were nominated but have to pay to be nominated.”
    Authors nominated were not required to pay anything to be nominated.
    Some nominated authors posted the picture of our trophy statute they were nominated for and used it for their marketing without paying to enter our contest. They didn’t have to pay to be nominated.
    If they did not want to enter our contest, they did not have to. No one was forced to enter.
    Those who wished to have a chance to win the awards paid the low entry fee and entered their book.

    “Your contest is a scam. You are stealing people’s money.”
    Some authors think our contest and magazine is a scam due to the marketing email they received about being nominated.
    Our contest was a normal book contest with a low entry fee.
    Many contests have entry fees. Whether or not the marketing email was misleading or annoying is another matter but that does not turn our entire magazine and contest into a scam.

    “There is no submission page! It’s a scam!”
    Due to a PayPal IPN issue, clients who purchased an entry were not automatically redirected to the contest submission page. Moreover, after many people reported us as spammers, our confirmation emails no longer reached our clients’ inboxes.

    We have been dealing for the past days with hundreds of support tickets.
    Each of our clients has been given the URL to the submission page where they successfully managed to submit their work, while we worked on fixing the IPN and form issue. It was only today that we realized what the issue was after PayPal sent us the email you see us above.

    There is a contest submission page. People have been using it to submit their work.
    These allegations that there is no submission page are false.

    “Your stealing money! People can enter the same contest for free on another page on your site.”
    Someone claimed our Best Story Award contest (which is a full-length story/book contest) is the exact same contest as our free-to-enter short fiction story contest. These two contests are completely different. One is for books the other for short fiction stories up to 2,000 words. Seemingly, this person did not visit the contest page or bother verifying facts.

    “Stop trying to pretend you’re a literary agency!”
    This comment which was posted on our “List of 20 Top Literary Agents Representing Fiction Authors” really surprised us.
    The article is a resource listing 20 top literary agents with contacts to them or links to their websites.
    Nowhere on or off our site did we ever claim to be a literary agency in any form or manner. We are not a literary agency. We are a magazine.

    “Scammers always put “NY” in their name. It’s a red alert flag.”
    NY is one of the biggest publishing centers. We had no idea the city/state’s name has a reputation as a scammer. That person should perhaps inform the NY Times to change their name and branding as well.

    “The reviews you quote from authors are fake! They didn’t enter your contest. You’re using them to bait others.”
    The authors who were featured on our sales page were all indeed awarded the “Best Story Award” by our magazine.
    Yes, they did not pay to enter this contest. They submitted their book for review to our magazine on their own accord at some point during 2017.
    We awarded them this honor because we believe their book is great and they deserve the award.
    We have a right to award an award to anyone we want to.
    We quoted exactly what they said in reply to our email in which we told them they won our award.
    We did not quote anything which they did not say. We did not invent, modify, or add anything to what they said.

    “On the PayPal receipt, it says Goodwin Media Group not NY Literary Magazine! Scaaaaam!”
    Yes, the magazine is run under the umbrella of Goodwin Media Group (GMG). Many websites are owned by companies which have different names than the actual website domain name. We informed our customers on the thank you page after payment that they would see GMG on their PayPal receipt.

    “The quotes on your page are fake.”
    We have a section talking in general about how winning an award can help an author.
    We quoted what various reliable sources such as The Independent Publisher and others have to say about how winning an award or being placed in contests is helpful for an author’s career, for their credibility, and for getting more sales etc.
    We quoted true facts about winning awards and contests in general. We did not lie and say this is what they said about our contest.

    “Your anthologies are fake.”
    There is nothing fake about our anthologies. They are filled with original art and with poems written by real people who submitted their work to our mag and were overjoyed about being published. We even offer the anthologies in a free-to-read digital format.

    Since the founding of the NY Literary Magazine, we have worked long and hard to turn it into a beloved and respectable magazine. We worked hard to design each of our free-to-read anthologies, read through thousands of free poetry and short story submissions, write articles to help authors, provide useful resources, and grow our readership. We did all this work in the past years at our own cost.

    “You hired an Asian provider. Ha! That proves you’re scammer.”
    American marketing agencies charge extremely high fees.
    Many companies outsource their marketing to Asia/India.
    There are tens of thousands of Asian marketing companies on sites such as Upwork.com
    It is very hard to know who is good or not.
    Simply hiring an Asian marketing company does not make us a scammer.
    If an author hires a Phillipino assistant for $300/mo to answer emails, this doesn’t make the author a scammer either.

    “The poor Asians! All the scammers always blame them.”
    We are not the only company who has had bad experiences with outsourced providers.
    It’s a matter of luck.
    Yes, we know we made a mistake by not monitoring all the marketing campaigns.
    But that one wrongly worded email does not make us scammers.

    A big apology to all the authors who are suffering due to the lies spread about them “buying” an award seal from us…

    For two years, we’ve been running free-to-enter poetry and short story contests and publishing free-to-read digital magazines and print anthologies. We even spent time training and monitoring 20 interns who read through thousands of free poetry submissions this summer.

    We made tens of writers around the world happy. Writers published by our magazine sent us heartwarming thank you notes. Some said being published is what gave them the strength to continue writing especially after receiving discouraging letters from agents and publishers they contacted.
    Others from extremely poor countries (Nigeria, Botswana, India) were overjoyed to have an opportunity to submit their work for free to a magazine and to have their voices heard.
    We featured writers of every nationality, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
    Even our interns enjoyed working for us and were grateful for all the things they learned.

    Since our anthologies are free, our poetry contests are free, and submissions to our magazine are free, we needed a way to sustain our magazine for the future, which is why we launched the Best Story Award contest.

    We are completely devastated and shattered from the extent of hate mail, comments, messages, tweets, lies and false accusations that were posted online which have totally blackened our name and destroyed our magazine – all based on a single email with one wrongly-worded sentence.

    It’s shocking how many people have posted blatant lies which weren’t based on any facts and how many more people have shared, retweeted, and quoted those lies without ever checking to see if it’s true or at least visiting our website.

    Worse still, it is truly horrible to see how cruel some humans can be.
    Some unsuccessful, jealous authors are spending days contacting the fans of authors who won an award from us or received a book review, telling their fans lies in an attempt to ruin the author’s reputation, turn their readers against them, destroy years of their hard work to build up their careers and readership, and ruin their lives for no reason and under the guise of “saving them from a scam”.

    We love our authors and feel terrible to hear what some of them are going through thanks to these misguided people!
    This has been a heartbreaking Christmas.

    We hope those people who spread the lies and worked so hard to destroy honest people’s lives are now satisfied.
    We have closed our contest. Refunded everyone who entered.
    There will be no more free-to-enter contests. No more free-to-read anthologies.
    No more articles. No more anything.

    We had the heartbreaking task of firing our team of loyal, hard-working employees. 10 people are now jobless after Christmas.

    Please leave the poor authors alone. They did nothing wrong by receiving a book review from our magazine or receiving an award from us. Stop ruining their lives for no reason. Go work on your book instead.

    To all the rest of you, we wish you all the best success in your career and a happy life!

    Sincerely,

    The NY Literary Magazine Team

  • JustinSwapp

    If I responded at all, it would probably the later. In all likelihood, I wouldn’t have responded at all. It was spammy.

    • Benjamin Douglas

      Same–no reply. Life’s too short.

  • I would probably have deleted it as soon as I saw there was an entry fee and never thought about it again.

  • Melissa E Beckwith-Author

    Happy New Year guys!

    I would have immediately suspected it was a scam and would have deleted the e-mail. I know I hadn’t submitted to that magazine so I couldn’t have been nominated for anything. Plus they were asking for money. I would have been a bit perturbed.

  • In light of last week’s question of the week I vote for some calmness. I didn’t suspected a scam ($14 gross profit didn’t seem to be not enough for a scam), but just a not very well thought through model. A contest with limited submissions means nothing else, that first-come first-serve has a higher priority than quality. Anyway, not worth following up.

  • I’m actually surprised that people fell for the scam. I’m assuming that the email in question didn’t actually name the “nominated” stories…?

    My response would have been to unsubscribe, delete, forget.