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July 10, 2002

Want to see a scam in progress?
Posted by Teresa at 02:46 PM *

Go here, to iNet Reviews. See the part about being able to request a copy of any book you want? No way. That’s not how it works. Publicity is the department that would handle that, but I have yet to talk to a book publicist who’s heard of iNet. I don’t know of anyone in the industry who has deals going with them. I also have yet to hear of a reviewer who wound up getting their iNet reviews published by any other venue, paying or not.

Last time I got spammed by iNet Reviews, their site was encouraging people to post reviews of books they’d obtained through normal channels. This means that the presence of a review for a particular book can’t be taken as evidence that that publisher sent someone a copy of it in return for one of iNet’s coupons.

Their system of sending out requests for review copies is irrelevant. So’s their system of having people post reviews that are supposedly marketed to newspapers and magazines. Those are red herrings. The real point of the exercise is to get you to send them money in return for their bogus request forms.

Comments on Want to see a scam in progress?:
#1 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2002, 03:15 PM:

Not only a scam, the website rates about an 8 on the hideous meter.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2002, 05:14 PM:

If those are your criteria -- scam in progress, hideous website -- let me point you in the direction of

JustEdits is a [*cough*] wholly separate second business run by the same people who run the Robins Agency -- who, by an astounding coincidence, pretty much send all their writers to JustEdits to be worked over for $6/page.

You can see the JustEdits contract at, where it says:

"Editor will complete editing services on the work to include spelling, grammar, word usage, content and organization, character development, logic and overall marketability. a0Editor will enact the red-pen method for the edit. a0The Work is considered market-ready if the Editor finds fewer than 20 common errors during the final read."

Yes, you read that right. The editor checks the editor's own work. The measure of market readiness in a manuscript is the absence of common errors. The editor will complete rather than perform the work. Worse, the editor will "enact the red-pen method for the edit." I don't know what that's supposed to mean, but the person who wrote that sentence is not qualified to assess and hire freelance editors.

If I had an unrecognizable e-mail address, I'd be tempted to send these guys a chunk of my writing for their free sample edit (, just to see what they'd say.

#3 ::: ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2002, 05:36 PM:

Well, that one's only a 6 on the ugly meter. As to an unrecognizable email address, we might be able to find you one.

#4 ::: Scott Janssens ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2002, 08:09 PM:

I assumed the red pen method was what you did to my ms at VP :)

#5 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2002, 09:39 PM:

I think I have enacted the red-pen method from time to time (interspersed with enactments of the Post-It method, the form rejection method, and the rolling the eyes heavenward, or Stanislavsky, method), but right now I am busy enacting the dance method about architecture.

#6 ::: James Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2002, 10:38 AM:

No, Scott, Miss Teresa didn't use the red-pen method. She used the red pencil method.

And if you want to see something that looks like a scam front to back, side to side, and corner to corner, check out

Then go over to Google groups and search on the phrase "Robins Agency."

After that, go to Speculations and search on Robins Agency

Wow. Good stuff. Tell all your friends.

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2002, 03:53 PM:

A dance to spring beats writing about music, and many Delsarte positions are admirably useful in the vicinity of wastepaper baskets.

I might have used a pen on Scott's story, if that's what came to hand, but it wouldn't be canonical.

#8 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2002, 05:42 PM:

"At Just Edits our job is to make your work marketable regardless of your personal genre."

My personal genre? That's not right, that's not even wrong.

#9 ::: James Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2002, 11:13 PM:

My personal genre is zurna. What's yours?

#10 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2002, 01:59 AM:

Anna Sui Generis. When You Wear It On Your Sleeve.

#11 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2002, 02:18 AM:

I liked the way they slipped in the mention of purchasing the review forms. Even having read your description, I had to read the "quick overview of what we do" page TWICE before I noticed that part.

I raised my eyebrows at the mention of software reviews, because I know something about software reviews. I am trying to break into the software reviewing racket myself, and am not having a lot of luck doing so, despite 13 years experience in other parts of the computer trade press.

So that's the first thing I noticed about the Web site. Even assuming iNet Reviews was legit, there'd be no market for them. Freelance tech journalists are about as easy to find and hire as the cities in the Okie jungle in the third volume of "Cities in Flight." We circle around a burned-out sun, huddling together for warmth and occassionally one of us will waste valuable fissionables to send a radio message reminiscing about the dotcom boom when the phone started ringing at five in the morning with $2 a word assigments and mid-six-figure job offers. No magagazine, Web site, or newspaper would ever subscribe to the iNet service--they have absolutely no reason to. They either hire their own freelancers from the plentiful and cheap available supply, or just get their technology coverage from AP, the New York Times wire service, etc.

Also, ethical technology reviewers don't keep what they review. If it's cheap hardware, the PR agency that is coordinating the reviews has only a limited supply of the gadgets, and they want the thing back after a few weeks so they can send it out to the next v/i/c/t/i/m/ reviewer. If it's software, you can keep it of course - because software can be duplicated virtually for free - but the ethical reviewer does not do so, to avoid conflict of interest. I learned this from the Yoda of technology reviewers, Wayne Rash. "But Master," I said. "What do you do if you find you really like a piece of software and would find it very useful for your own purposes." "Buy it I would," he said, and thumped me with his cane while I carried him on his back across the swamp world.

You DO get a lot of free software in a trade publication, but it's all unsolicited and it's all crap. Publications tend to store the software in a broom closet. I work from home and the broom closet here is full of, um, brooms and stuff, but I do have more than a few software boxes lying around the home office, which will go out the door when I next clean out my office (hopefully before the 2008 presidential election). One package, for sending faxes from the PalmPilot, I had perched on a bookshelf and left it there for some reason for years, where it would catch the corner of my eye every now and then and silently implore me: "Plese. Install me on your PalmPilot. Fax something."

#12 ::: Vicki Rosenzweig ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2002, 12:02 AM:

Ages ago, somewhere in high school, or was it elementary, we got a few lessons in understanding advertising. One thing I remember is that "virtually" means "not really". It means "almost", and there's no legal definition of almost. So "virtually all" means "well, maybe a few".

That they have it hosted on Angelfire doesn't exactly suggest a real business--but there are people who won't catch that either.

#13 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2002, 05:19 PM:

Vicki - In real life, "virtually" is an excellent word, meaning "so close to being true that it IS true, for all practical purposes."

In other words, if you say "almost all Americans love the Osmond Brothers," then you might mean 99 percent of Americans, which means a couple of million Americans adore Donny and his sibs.

But if you say "virtually all Americans love the Osmond Brothers," you're saying, yeah, maybe you can find some non-Osmond fans if you look real hard among the survivalists who live without lectrissity and indoor plummin in the woods north of Marin County in California - but EVERYBODY ELSE loves the Osmonds."

You may be right about the meaning of the word "virtually" in advertising, though - I hadn't really thought about it.

#14 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2002, 01:54 AM:

Well, I've got to go with Vicki's usage of "virtual." Virtual memory isn't memory, it isn't nearly as good as real memory. The term 'virtual genius" isn't a compliment. Personally, I define "virtual" as the Jargon File does -- "acts like, but isn't."

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