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August 21, 2009

Robert M. Fletcher, Part III: Spammer and Scammer
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:21 AM * 33 comments

Fletcher has been urging his victims authors for some time to advertise their Strategic Book Group (Strategic Book Publishing and Eloquent Books) books with comment spam on message boards.

How it works is this: He’d tell them to put in Google Alerts for keywords based on their book. Then, when one of those keywords came up and they got the e-mail alert, go to the place and (if there’s a comment thread) post their ad. You can, in fact, find comment spam for (and presumably from) Eloquent and Strategic authors all over the web. (With the usual success that such spam has in selling books that aren’t in stores: that is, negligible.)

Now he’s doing the same thing with his employees (allegedly around fifty of ‘em), urging them to spam with this letter that he has allegedly sent them:

To: All

From: Robert

Re: Please help us reduce our dependence on Google Advertising by posting this blurb whenever appropriate.

Many of us surf the web and as we do, we might see opportunities to post the following information about our company. If you see a place to “put us into the list” would you please do so? (Adding a comment like, “this is the company I work for and I am proud of what we are accomplishing” would be nice. Of course, just posting it is fine too).

Here is the publishing version:

“Strategic Book Publishing (SBP) is a member of the Strategic Book Group (www.StrategicBookGroup.com . Our imprints, Strategic Publishing and Eloquent Books, have published over 1000 authors in the last twenty-four months in all genres, including children’s books. The Strategic Book Group also includes a Literary Agency, Kindle and eBook Consulting, Writers Services, a Book-To-Film Division, and a global foreign rights department. When asked what Strategic does better than their competition, their CEO states, “Frankly, our book marketing division is better than anyone’s. We are selling a ton of books for our authors in bookstores, in non-traditional locations, and around the world. We attend the major trade shows in NY, London, and Germany with our authors, and we are on top of all social media and traditional marketing techniques”. Our exhibit at the Book Expo in NY was a resounding success! We had a double booth and numerous authors attended with us. Here are some great pictures.
http://s639.photobucket.com/albums/u…albumview=grid
For more information please visit www.StrategicBookGroup.com.

Here is the marketing version:

“Strategic Book Marketing (SBM) is a member of the Strategic Book Group which has published over 1000 authors in the last 24 months in all genres, including children’s books. The Strategic Book Group also includes Kindle and eBook Consulting, Writers Services, a Book-To-Film Division, and a global foreign rights department. When asked what Strategic does better than their competition, their CEO states, “Frankly, our book marketing division is better than anyone’s. We are selling a ton of books for our authors in bookstores, in non-traditional locations, and around the world. We attend the major trade shows in NY, London, and Germany with our authors, and we are on top of all social media and traditional marketing techniques”. Our exhibit at the Book Expo in NY was a resounding success! We had a double booth and numerous authors attended with us. Here are some great pictures. http://s639.photobucket.com/albums/u…albumview=grid
For more information please visit www.StrategicBookGroup.com.

Here is the Agency version.

The Literary Agency Group (www.WLwritersAgency.com, www.WLchildrensagency.com, www.WLpoetsAgency.com, www.WLscreenplayagency.com) is a member of the Strategic Book Group which has published over 1000 authors in the last 24 months in all genres, including children’s books. The Strategic Book Group also includes Kindle and eBook Consulting, Writers Services, a Book-To-Film Division, and a global foreign rights department. When asked what Strategic does better than their competition, their CEO states, “We are selling a ton of books for our authors in bookstores, in non-traditional locations, and around the world. We attend the major trade shows in NY, London, and Germany with our authors, and we are on top of all social media and traditional marketing techniques to spread the word about their work”. Our exhibit at the Book Expo in NY was a resounding success! We had a double booth and numerous authors attended with us. Here are some great pictures.
http://s639.photobucket.com/albums/u…albumview=grid
For more information please visit www.StrategicBookGroup.com.

——————————————
Also, you will notice the move to Strategic Book Group. We are going to slowly but surely move to that as a corporate holding company. We need a better name than AEG, so that’s where it is headed. My goal is to LOAD GOOGLE WITH Strategic Book Group before it has a chance to get on the negative message boards, so the more postings the better.

Ps. For every group of 5 places that you post us, we’ll give you a thank you bonus of $25. Send the URL list to Timesheet@StrategicBookGroup.com and they will account for it there. If you want to post for hours to hundreds of places and make a lot of extra money, that’s fine with me, there are no limits to this offer. This will be some of the best marketing money we will spend.

Ps. If you have any other marketing or revenue producing ideas, please don’t hesitate to email me.. That’s my job, revenue creation.
Rob

This could mean several things. Perhaps Fletcher can’t pay the Google bills any more (he’s all over AdSense and has to pay for all those clicks). Perhaps Google is about to shut him down, since his operation is fraudulent and if Google ever sees the judge’s order describing it that way … anyone know Google’s Terms of Service?

And there’s the change to the new name (Strategic Book Group). That might mean that AEG has worn out their welcome, with too much information on them on the web, so it’s time to move on to a new name. Or it could mean that one or another of the pre-existing AEGs out there have whacked him for trademark infringment.

Be that as it may, one way we can judge the authenticity of that supposed letter from “Rob” is that Googling on key phrases turns up that comment spam actually being posted.

[UPDATE: 03SEP09: Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against “Literary Company”]


[UPDATE: 20JUN12]
Bobby has renamed his scam (again) to Strategic Book Publishing & Rights Agency (SBPRA), Publish On Demand Global, Best Quality Editing Services, and Best Selling Book Rights Agency, plus a dozen other names.

Comments on Robert M. Fletcher, Part III: Spammer and Scammer:
#1 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 01:09 PM:

"anyone know Google’s Terms of Service"

It's not as though they(*) don't have a nice website that lets you look that stuff up. From here:

4 Prohibited Uses; License Grant; Representations and Warranties. Customer shall not, and shall not authorize any party to: (a) generate automated, fraudulent or otherwise invalid impressions, inquiries, conversions, clicks or other actions; (b) use any automated means or form of scraping or data extraction to access, query or otherwise collect Google advertising related information from any Program website or property except as expressly permitted by Google; or (c) advertise anything illegal or engage in any illegal or fraudulent business practice. Customer represents and warrants that it holds and hereby grants Google and Partners all rights (including without limitation any copyright, trademark, patent, publicity or other rights) in Creative, Services and Targets needed for Google and Partner to operate Programs (including without limitation any rights needed to host, cache, route, transmit, store, copy, modify, distribute, perform, display, reformat, excerpt, analyze, and create algorithms from and derivative works of Creative or Targets) in connection with this Agreement ("Use"). Customer represents and warrants that (y) all Customer information is complete, correct and current; and (z) any Use hereunder and Customer's Creative, Targets, and Customer's Services will not violate or encourage violation of any applicable laws, regulations, code of conduct, or third party rights (including without limitation intellectual property rights). Violation of the foregoing may result in immediate termination of this Agreement or customer's account without notice and may subject Customer to legal penalties and consequences.

The relevant bit would seem to be "engage in any illegal or fraudulent business practice". If you've seen an adwords ad by this scammer, make a complaint on the adwords feedback form. Be sure to have the ad's link target (right-click on the ad's title and select "Copy Link Location" or "Copy shortcut" as appropriate to your browser) on hand.

(*) Okay, we, but as: 1) I'm not involved with ads policy enforcement at all, and 2) I'm not willing to be the contact to file the report myself, we'll pretend for a moment that I'm employed elsewhere.

#2 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 01:24 PM:

So should we be posting SBG=AEG=Scam everywhere?

#3 ::: Bob ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 02:03 PM:

Yes, I believe a great way to combat the spam is to put the real information out there. Apparently he's great at convincing naive people to send him money. Maybe if we get enough information out there the naive population will start to lessen.

#4 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 02:20 PM:

It couldn't hurt to link the words "Strategic Book Group" to http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/alerts-for-writers/#Literary

#5 ::: DaveKuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 02:25 PM:

The best way to handle this is to cut Bob off from his victims by alerting any advertisers he uses of the results of the civil suit where the judge declared he was conducting a fraud. In fact, that might be why those instructions to employees exists. His advertising efforts may already be in the process of being blocked.

#6 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 02:30 PM:

Given the unique phrases in Fletcher's comment-spam, it shouldn't be hard to find various examples of it in the wild and, if appropriate, post follow-up messages with accurate information and links for further research.

#7 ::: Alice Bentley ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 05:05 PM:

Three Panel Soul shows another option Fletcher might consider.

#8 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2009, 01:18 AM:

Please help us reduce our dependence on Google Advertising...

Which brings up another thought: What kind of publisher, and what kind of agent, relies on Google advertising? Or advertises for authors at all?

#9 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2009, 03:32 AM:

Ignoring the fact that it is an unethical scam for a moment .. what is his ROI for a single post of that screed?

Does he really expect an average income of > $5 per post of that information?

Seriously?

Mac

#10 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2009, 04:00 AM:

Mac, there are strong signs that many of his staff are, at best, sock-puppets for posting on blogs. And other reports suggest he has a history of not paying salary.

What surprises me about the latter is that I've never heard of him being sued over it. Is Florida law unhelpful on such issues? There's an old con where somebody sets up companies, trades through each for a while until the company debt hits the limits and he's extracted all the cash he can, and then abandons them to bankruptcy. Over the years, the UK has introduced laws which make that harder, and a bank can require personal guarantees which can sidestep the limited liability protections (Not always a good thing).

I can't really see how he can keep pulling off such a scam, and it would be quite blatant, but I'd be very interested in just how the change from the AEG name to Strategic Book Group is being done. Is it a change of corporate name, or a change from one corporation to another?

Corporate law in the USA, and especially Florida, is something I know nothing about. But why the change he is doing? It's apparently the same public-facing names, so how does this hide him from the people who already know his tricks?

I do get the feel of something deeper going on.

#11 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2009, 07:04 AM:

Jim @6:
it shouldn't be hard to find various examples of it in the wild and, if appropriate, post follow-up messages with accurate information and links for further research.

Yeah, I went to do that a day or so ago and noticed that someone else had got in ahead of me...

#12 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2009, 09:18 AM:

David Bell #10 Corporate law in the USA, and especially Florida, is something I know nothing about. But why the change he is doing? It's apparently the same public-facing names, so how does this hide him from the people who already know his tricks?

I expect that the Florida Attorney General's Economic Crimes Division, which is currently investigating Fletcher, knows quite a bit about corporate law in their state.

And Fletcher doesn't care about about people who are wise to his tricks. He's looking for people who aren't wise to his tricks.

Fletcher casts a wide net. And the first stages are entirely automated and essentially cost him nothing. He's like the stage hypnotist who first does a quick, general test for suggestibility on the whole audience, notes who responds the way he likes, then calls on them to come on stage (where they donate their pants for the amusement of the crowd assembled).

Anyone who writes to any of the public faces, I am convinced, falls into a web of auto-responders and form letters. The only time humans get involved is after the first check for $90 for the critique arrives, and then he knows he's got a fish on the line. (Even then, afterward, it's mostly automated. See, for example, the "Circle back to me in about a month if you have not heard from me before then" letters.)

We've heard reports from more than one of his freelancers that their pay is slow, or missing, or (in one case) the check bounced. So those $5 bonuses may well cost him nothing.

And for the people he "publishes," the fees apparently start at a thousand bucks and go up from there. ($295 for two five star reviews on your book at Amazon, for example.)

You might think that no one would pay that, but a new writer with stars in his eyes, told that this is how Marketing Works in the Internet Age ... check out how many Eloquent and Strategic books have two five-star reviews posted in quick succession by people who have never written any other reviews for any books except that one.

#13 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2009, 01:44 PM:

A tremendous number of the U.S. based spammers in the course of the last ten years or so have been based in Florida (particularly Boca Raton.)

I had never heard a clear explanation of why that might be, until very recently someone mentioned that many of the old traveling circuses and carnivals used to winter in Boca Raton or nearby areas of Florida, and that the traditional carnie mentality of pride in a good con game and contempt for marks and outsiders - or at least a tolerance for cons and scams as a means of living - had gotten deeply ingrained in the local culture over several generations. True? I can't tell, as I've never been there, but it sounded vaguely plausible.

#14 ::: JS Huntlands ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 08:08 AM:

Set in today’s day and time, Me and My Best Friend is about a young boy, his faithful companion and their exciting adventures.

Henry and Liam are the best of friends and they do everything together. They can run and play all day long. But when Henry the puppy gets tired and tries to take a nap, three-year-old Liam keeps waking him, wanting him to play some more. Will Henry get any rest?

Get your children involved with this beautifully illustrated book. Your child will love to match up words and pictures, and find Liam, who keeps hiding in his bedroom. Perfect for the young reader!


About the Author

J.S. Huntlands is the author of Nick Twisted Minds and is currently working on more books in this series, as well as 23 more books in the Me and My Best Friend series. Huntlands is a full-time writer, as well as a mom to a wonderful four-year-old boy. This book is dedicated to her son in hopes that he never forgets his best friend.

#15 ::: Cadbury Moose sights spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 08:36 AM:

From "strategic book publishing" no less!

Truly they are not only more stupid than we imagined, they are more stupid than we _can_ imagine.

Cadbury.

#16 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 08:55 AM:

Cadbury Moose @15:

Stupid? Naive, perhaps. Yes, it is spam, but I'm inclined to be charitable in this case. If the details in the first Google hit for the author's name are true, it just shows the kind of scum Robert Fletcher is - one who has no scruples about preying on people like her. But we knew that already.

#17 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 08:58 AM:

(To clarify: By charitable, I meant thinking of her as naive or gullible, not that the spam should be left there.)

#18 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 09:46 AM:

I think this particular spam should be left in place, as an object lesson on how Fletcher's victims are taught to advertise. They're told that comment spam in blogs is an effective and innovative(!) method of book promotion.

As Bouncing Bobby says, "Frankly, our book marketing division is better than anyone’s."

But as Florida's Attorney General says (in his lawsuit against Fletcher and Fletcher's companies):

"Since none of the books printed were actually advertised, other than what the author could do
alone, the reality was that the whole publishing business was designed to earn money for FLETCHER’s businesses from the aspiring authors’ payments, with little, or no money ever anticipated to be earned by the author from the publishing of the author’s work."

#19 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 09:51 AM:

Jim @18:
I'd cleaned it up. Shall I restore it?

#20 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 10:01 AM:

I wonder if the lady read this post and thread before putting up her spam. If she did, now she knows that Fletcher is a fraud and she's been victimized--again.

And she's required to buy five copies of her book per week at full retail. That's $69.75 (probably plus postage). That's just got to hurt.

#21 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 10:04 AM:

Would you mind restoring it, Abi? As an object lesson in what Fletcher's scam is all about. Real people, really hurt.

#22 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 10:16 AM:

All back but the email address, which I didn't C&P. If she turns up again I'll link future comments.

Makes me really sad, actually.

#23 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 10:22 AM:

If you Google on "Set in today’s day and time, Me and My Best Friend" you'll get over 900 hits for this particular comment spam.

She's trying hard....

What she needs to do now is get in touch with the Florida Attorney General and hope that she can get restitution.

#24 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 11:12 AM:

It's a pity you didn't save the email address. The email given at the linked web-page is praise@AEGpublishingGroup.com which goes, not to her, but to Bobby Fletcher, who will pass along the letters that he feels like passing along. It's part of isolating the victim from help.

Also, her original web page is gone. I'm told that Bobby insists that his authors have their web-pages with him. In the Google caches of her now-defunct web-page (www.jshuntlands.co.uk) we read:

Please submit your questions via the contact us page so we can post your questions and answers.

Q1. How long did it take to write 'Nick Twisted Minds'?

A1. Approximatly 7 months

Q2. Do you have children?

A2. Yes I have one son

Q3. How old are you?

A3. I was born in December 1978

Q4. How old is your son?

A4. He is now 4years old

Q5. Are you married?

A5. No

Q6. Have you finished book two?

A6. It should be finished early next year

Q7. Are you going to write other books?

A7. Yes. Nick, Dead or Alive and Through the eyes of a child. See my 'News' page

Q8. Have you met JK Rowling?

A8. Not yet, but I would love to

Q9. Are you in a relationship?

A9. Yes

Q10. When is Nick, Dead or Alive coming out?

A10. At the end of 2009

Q11. Did you spend lots of money this christmas?

A11. Dont we all

Q12. Is Nick Twisted Minds fact or fiction?

A12. Nick Twisted Minds is based on fact with added fiction. All characters names have been changed to protect their innocence

Q13. Is it true Nick Twisted Minds is being made into a film?

A13. It is with an agent in USA to see if it could be made into a film

Q14. When are your childrens books coming out?

A14. I am hoping for the end of this year. It is still under negotiation

We can guess who the "agent in USA" is. Bouncing Bobby has a "Book to Film division" as part of his flim-flam.

This lady will wind up spending well in excess of $4,000 and have nothing to show in return. (Except a basement full of unsold and unsaleable books, that is.)

#25 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 11:37 AM:

Her profile at www.blogger.com includes:

Your people want to make a statue in your honor. What will it be made out of and what victory will it commemorate?

It would be made out of stone so it lasts. I would hope it would be in rememberance of all of the books I have wrote.

Can't say I'm impressed by her wroting skills.

#26 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 11:48 AM:

Joel @25:
Is that really necessary? She's got enough troubles right now without you adding to them.

Don't make me go through your (view all by) in search of typos.

#27 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 11:57 AM:

Mmm. I feel some sympathy for her as one of Fletcher's victims. And I do make occasional typos, no question. But I try to be more careful than usual with my writing when I'm posting something that I'm hoping will be making a good impression and is intended to represent me... and she's been going to a lot of effort to direct people towards her profile. Looks like she just posted her little screed to the Publisher's Weekly website.

#28 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 12:41 PM:

Looks like she just posted her little screed to the Publisher's Weekly website.

The exact link is here. Can't say she isn't trying. And she's not alone over at PW. Also today, we have a similar comment spam from Brenda Estacio, author of Gateway to Dreamworld (Eloquent Books, July 28, 2009).

These folks are trying so very hard. Too bad that the advice Fletcher sold them is worthless.

Watch for increasing desperation, followed by despair.

#29 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 01:32 PM:

As a further note: J.S. has a previous book from AuthorHouse. Brenda has a previous book from Vantage. Both of them were trying to get away from the vanity-press world when they fell into the hands of a slick and accomplished conman.

J.S. dropped out of school at 16. She's a single mom. And this is the sort of person that Fletcher is cheating to pay for his house, and his car, and his yacht.

Maybe she and Brenda wrote dandy books. Maybe they didn't. I don't know and neither does anyone else. I can't imagine that this experience they're having will go on their list of Golden Memories.

#30 ::: JS Huntlands ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2010, 07:23 AM:

Wow,
What can I say? You have strong views. Thank you for the advise.
No I didn't read this before signing the contract with AEG. I got rid of my website as my 12 months for free ran out and AEG offered a free web site. (good idea at the time)
I don't have 1000's of books in my house but, AEG do try to make you have x amount on hand. I own one of each of my books. I have been though a rough time but still no excuse for typo's (typed for you Joel Polowin,) or not doing my homework. There are 100's and 1000's of publisher's out there. It's not so easy finding the right one for you.
On the plus side for me though I did sign a 'traditional contract' So publishing cost me nothing. The advertising however can be very costly with nothing in return. Hence I have done it myself. Ie: live radio shows, newspaper reports. The blogging. I thought a great way to get out there. Clearly not such a great idea. Thank you again for your thoughts

#31 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2010, 03:06 PM:

#30 There are 100's and 1000's of publisher's out there. It's not so easy finding the right one for you.

There are indeed a lot of publishers. But crossing bad ones off your list is pretty easy: Do they have books actually on the shelves in your local bookstore that you've seen with your own eyes?

If not, they aren't the right publisher for you.

#32 ::: J Hunter ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2010, 08:15 AM:

Hi to all

After now reading pages and pages regarding the wonderful Mr F. Has anybody heard of an illustrator KJ based in India. AEG uses them frequently and offers discounted rates for the author to use KJ direct.

#33 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2010, 01:00 PM:

No, never heard of KJ in India.

If you have any information, I'm sure the Florida Attorney General would like to know.

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