Writers are prey to all sorts of schemes, scams, ill-advised plans, well-intentioned offers and more. We need someone to watch out for our best interests. We look for agents to represent our work and guide us through the arcane business of publishing, distribution and promotion.
That desire/need for help can cost the unwary.
Alan Wechsler of the Albany Times-Union reported on Dec. 6:
"Six months after being accused of taking thousands of dollars from unpublished authors who desperately wanted a book, Catskill resident Martha Ivery pleaded guilty to all charges Monday.
"Ivery admitted guilt to 15 counts of mail fraud in connection with taking money from would-be authors. She also pleaded guilty to one count of credit card fraud and one count of bankruptcy fraud, all felonies, in U.S. District Court in Albany...
"Ivery defrauded prospective authors from 1997 to 2002, prosecutors said. She presented two different identities: publisher of Press-TIGE Publishing Co., and Kelly O'Donnell Literary Agency Inc.
"After hooking authors by advertising in Writer's Digest magazine and on the Internet, the O'Donnell agency represented the authors and led them to the publishing company. Fee requests kept coming, but books were rarely published."
The full-text story is available here.
I encountered this agent/publishing house setup years back and didn't bite, but I know that some people aching to publish saw this as a way into print.
Ivery faces up to 20 years in prison for the fraud charges, but I don't think a jail sentence does much to heal wounded vanity and emptied bank accounts.
Be careful walking through those big woods ....