Beware! Beware! Be very, very ware!* (Of a crappy PR company among other things)
As writers, we are a passionate bunch. After all, we just sit down at a keyboard and open a vein, for hours a day for days on end. There’s a lot of emotional, time, and financial commitment involved. People who have those characteristics are the same people who will do almost anything to succeed.
In other words, we’re prime targets for the wretched scum of the business world. In simple words that don’t sound like I pulled them from a Star Wars crawl, we can get scammed.
If you’re not familiar with Writer Beware, you need to be, especially before you spend money on agents, editors, contests, or just about anything else in the book world. A recent post not only calls out an outfit called the Albee Agency (Book Publicity Delivered, doncha know?), it’s a primer on what to look for when you engage a business provider online.
You should go read the post. Study it. Commit its concepts to memory. They will serve you well.
Here are some tips, based on Albee’s website and Writer Beware’s critique:
- If it feels hinky, it probably is. If you go to the Albee Agency’s home page, it includes a wonderful testimonial by Suzie P. Who the hell is Suzie P.? What has she written? And who’s Chris Allen? I Googled Chris Allen Interview and didn’t see anything that led me to want to spend money to get a similar interview. Why no reference to where Chris Allen works? NPR? GalleyCat? On BlogTalkRadio, doing a show from his parents’ basement?
- Trust, but verify. Victoria Strauss, who wrote the blog post, followed up with one of the authors identified on the website, and asked if he’d worked with them. When their response starts with WTF, that’s usually not a positive sign.
- Look beyond the website’s appearance. Albee’s website doesn’t look like something developed in Notepad using hand-written HTML. It’s easy to create a decent-looking website these days. So ignore the appearance and focus on content. Ms. Strauss points out a number of red flags — no one seems to work for this outfit except one guy, and he’s not exactly long on credentials. There’s an impressive list of venues on their Media Reach page, but no specific examples of which authors they’ve placed there.
- Check them out on other venues. There are 262 likes for their Facebook page, but they’ve only been there since September and no one else has posted except them. (Cough, cough, sock puppet?) Most references are to “one of our authors.” Who is that? And why aren’t you using your Facebook page to specifically plug their event?
* — Reference to the Heffalump and Woozle song from Winnie the Pooh.