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September 3, 2009

Robert M. Fletcher, Part V: The Hammer Comes Down
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:03 PM *

Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against “Literary Company”

TALLAHASSEE, FL - Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that his office filed a lawsuit against a Boca Raton company that allegedly preyed on aspiring authors. According to the Attorney General’s lawsuit, Writer’s Literary Agency and owner Robert Fletcher used more than 20 websites and related companies to collect funds from potential authors, but misled victims about fees, costs, and promised results.

The Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division received more than 175 complaints from around the world claiming Fletcher and his associates, who claimed to act as literary agents and publishers, allegedly collected money from victims anxious to see their work published. Potential writers paid anywhere from $89 for an initial critique to over $600 for various services including editing and marketing of a manuscript to publishers. Allegedly, Fletcher also told potential writers that fees were paid from book sales when in fact all costs of publishing were paid by the authors. According to the lawsuit, few books were ever sold as a result of the efforts of Fletcher’s companies.

Investigators determined Fletcher expanded into the field of publishing within the past year. Fletcher admitted to having no background as a literary agent and to using at least 10 aliases in his businesses.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief against Robert Fletcher and his associates, as well as his many businesses, prohibiting further business activities in the field of literary agencies or publishers. The Attorney General is also seeking full restitution on behalf of all victimized consumers, civil penalties of $10,000 for each violation of the Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and reimbursement for fees and costs related to the investigation.

A copy of the lawsuit is available online at: http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/MRAY-7VJLSY/$file/WritersLiteraryGuildComplaint.pdf


[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 V: The Hammer Comes Down:
#1 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2009, 05:22 PM:

Oh wow! Let's hope they make it stick.

#2 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2009, 05:30 PM:

Time to break out the bubbly. There's a way to go yet, but even this step will make the scamming that little bit more difficult.

#3 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2009, 05:35 PM:

Julia@2: Well, time to put the bubbly in the fridge, at least. While it seems very likely that this will result in running Fletcher out of the business, and bankrupting him, it's by no means guaranteed yet.

#4 ::: Jane Smith ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2009, 05:39 PM:

Absolutely bloody brilliant. My congratulations to those who have helped the authorities reach this point. I admire you all.

#5 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2009, 05:45 PM:

And there was much rejoicing. For me, this is the delicious bit:

The Attorney General is also seeking full restitution on behalf of all victimized consumers, civil penalties of $10,000 for each violation of the Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and reimbursement for fees and costs related to the investigation.
There's no way he can pay that. They may not be able to take his house, but if he sells it they get the money (don't they? IANAL).

But the civil lawsuit, even if concluded successfully, is only the first step, right? Can't the decision in this case be evidence in a criminal one?

#6 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2009, 06:03 PM:

I wonder if google ad sense should be informed. I see ads for his scams quite frequently. Google for 'how do i get published' and WritersLiteraryAgency.com shows up as one of the paid ad options.

@ David Dyer-Bennet - All he has to do is fleece some more suckers. It's jail time that would actually do something. Taking away money form someone who swindles away other people's money for a living just encourages him to be a more effective swindler.

#7 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2009, 06:15 PM:

Xopher @ 5: Sadly, no, a civil judgment can't be used as evidence to prove the matter adjudicated in a criminal trial. The rules of evidence are similar and the case to prove the matter would be presented similarly, but the standard of proof is a whole different other (beyond a reasonable doubt [every judge who tried to set a percentage for this standard has been overturned on appeal] vs. by a preponderance of the evidence [anything over 50%]). Also, the specific elements of the crimes being charged may differ in some legally significant way from the elements needed to establish civil liability.

#8 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2009, 08:22 PM:

All right! Here's hoping, which may be foolish in this case, that this suit will finally put him out of business.

#9 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2009, 08:33 PM:

I lived in Florida and the fabled "home protected in bankruptcy" thing does not apply to State civil complaints. If he loses, he loses everything.

#10 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2009, 09:37 PM:

Scha-

den-
effin
freude

#11 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 07:23 AM:

Couldn't happen to a more deserving guy. (*)

(*) Although I'm sure that somewhere in the multiverse there is probably someone more deserving, I just can't think of anyone at the moment.

#12 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 08:43 AM:

#11 Daniel
Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Anton Scalia, John Roberts... for the decision that a woman who sued on labor and wage complaint for systematic sex discrimination and underpayment, as soon as she had evidence to prove it, waited too long... and for their other decisions, including the ones who were on the Supreme Court when it appointed the war criminal misadministration into office.... and the war criminal misadministrators, of course.... that entire bunch is much worse that Fletcher. He's a white collar scammer who commits fraud for money, and someone who dupes people out of their income--but he's not a torturer, not a destroyer of world heritage; not someone who promulgated orders to stand aside and give thieves, robbers, looters, vandals, arsonists, rapists, and murderers license to commit mayhem and devastation and intimidation, and failed to even secure and guard munitions dumps full of material up to and including high explosives...

And of course the law enforcement and redaction and revision and modification and repeal of laws protecting consumers, by the misadministration and the judiciary which it appointed/which colluded with it, facilated Fletcher's activities and fostered his continuing in those activities bilking more people....

#13 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 08:47 AM:

#12 myself

Oops, I left out the virtual slavery in the Marianas that the misadministration facilitated and promoted and blocked investigation and termination of.... I wonder if Fletcher has been a political contributor and active in political support....

Birds of a feather flock together, etc.

#14 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 09:31 AM:

Yes, Paula, Hitler was worse. But we can't do anything about Hitler, and we can do something about Fletcher.

#15 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 10:16 AM:

#14 James D.

Yes, and I applaud the time and effort pursuant to squelching Fletcher. I hope that the effort effects a permanent termination to his scams.... I wonder alas if there are people who are almost incapable of changing their ways... redemption is something that is almost never not available, but not everyone avails themself of it, alas.

Perhaps he will find some just and noble cause to put his energy and focus to, that doesn't involve scamming people, one can only hope. Nothing that's occurred to date seems to have dissuaded him.

(I have this sudden picture of a publisher of televangical preachers with Internet audiences and distributor of promo videos....)

(One of the amazing things about a lot of scammers is the amount of effort and determination they put into perpetrating their scams... if they put as much time and effort and focus into just and noble, or at least, innocuous legimate enterprises, they'd not be such targets for ire and attack, and might even be commercially legitimately successful....)

#16 ::: Michael Mock ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 04:35 PM:

Um... Muwahahahahaha? Yes, definitely. Muwahahahaha!

#17 ::: Ingvar ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2009, 08:07 AM:

Paula Liebermann @ #15:

From my (admittedly very far from perfect) understanding, one of the things that drive con-artists is the buzz they get from when they con a mark. I suspect more legit business practices don't give the same buzz opportunity and taht is a shame, because if that was the case, maybe we'd have fewer con-artists.

#18 ::: epdaws ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2009, 10:21 AM:

I'm wading in cautiously as a first-time commenter. I also happen to be a first-time author, so I hope this is relevant. A friend insisted I come over here to seek out the "generous, outstanding advice from the authors and professionals in the comments section."

I am a novice in the deep sea of publishing contracts.

My book is non-fiction and regional. I have secured an offer without an agent. The offer includes an initial print run of 10k with a modest advance and what appears to be a standard schedule of royalties. And here is where I'll betray just now little I know about contracts.

Territory is listed as "World." Should this bother me?

The book concept can travel to other regions, and I'd like to make sure I own the brand. Is it standard to negotiate branding?

The release is listed as roughly a year after delivery date. Is that standard?

Is there a roughly average advance and royalty schedule for books of this nature?

I understand that it might come off as overly rude for a first-time commenter to barge in and seek counsel. For that I apologize. Cheers and thanks for any insight you might be able to provide, and it's nice to find such a welcoming and passionate forum!

#19 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2009, 10:52 AM:

I am a novice in the deep sea of publishing contracts.

Welcome, friend.

First, let me say that I am neither an agent nor a lawyer, nor have I seen your contact, nor do I know which publisher you're with.

Have you considered getting an agent? A contract in hand is a powerful lure, and an agent knows where the land mines are buried in all sorts of contracts. You can get an agent for just one project, if you wish.

Remember, a useful agent has sold things you've heard of.


My book is non-fiction and regional. I have secured an offer without an agent. The offer includes an initial print run of 10k with a modest advance and what appears to be a standard schedule of royalties. And here is where I'll betray just now little I know about contracts.

Territory is listed as "World." Should this bother me?

Does the publisher in fact have the ability to sell world-wide? If not, try to negotiate to just the territories where they do business. You might find out if they have regular dealings with overseas publishers who routinely do foreign editions of their books.


The book concept can travel to other regions, and I'd like to make sure I own the brand. Is it standard to negotiate branding

Branding? Say what?

The release is listed as roughly a year after delivery date. Is that standard?

There's no such thing as "standard," but it isn't unusual. Does the contract specify what becomes of the work if they fail to bring it out in a year? I trust that the rights revert to you, and you keep the advance.

Is there a roughly average advance and royalty schedule for books of this nature?

Short answer: No. Longer answer: The royalties should be based on cover price, and are usually in the 8% to 15% range. The advance is usually what the publisher figures the total royalties will be over the life of the book.

I understand that it might come off as overly rude for a first-time commenter to barge in and seek counsel. For that I apologize. Cheers and thanks for any insight you might be able to provide, and it's nice to find such a welcoming and passionate forum!

Not a problem. I'm not certain that this is the best thread for it, though. Not that I'm sure what the right one would be.

Please feel free to look around and read and comment wherever you please. This bit of indexing might help you out: A Writer's Index to Making Light

#20 ::: epdaws ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2009, 11:08 AM:

James,

You're very kind. I appreciate the help and welcome. I'll poke around the place and, ahem, lurk for a while.

Many thanks.

#21 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2009, 02:58 PM:

I can think of how regional non-fiction can be enough of a brand to be worth thinking of that angle. Think, folks, of a series of books of curiousities--local myths and legends, for instance, working through the USA state by state.

(I'm not saying it's a good example.)

But it's exactly the sort of thing that a competent agent can advise on.

Beyond that, I can't say.

But I can assure you I know several authors besides Jim who would give the same advice as he has. Good luck.

#22 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2009, 03:14 PM:

epdaws: If by branding you mean that your book is the first part of a projected series which you hope to establish as a brand, similar to (for example) the 'Lonely Planet' travel guides, then my suspicion is you probably would want that covered specifically in the contract to ensure you retain rights, and would probably want to register it as a trademark or service mark as well. An agent could probably advise you better on that.

Disclaimer: I am neither a lawyer nor a writer nor an agent. I'm a software developer and sometime entrepreneur who reads a lot.

#23 ::: Shiva the Destroying Angel ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 11:08 AM:

I rarely follow Fletch's activities as of late, but it certainly makes me smile that I, humble Shiva, have had a hand in bringing him down. Bobby only took me for three bills, and that was due to my own stupidity.

I'm sure you recall who I am from the Water Cooler, Mr. Macdonald.

#24 ::: Doreen Kimmel ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2010, 01:54 AM:

Are they also checking Eloquent books and Strategic Books? That $89 was exactly what I paid and the $600 too. By the time my book came out it had cost me $2000 all because as a 72 year old woman who is on a fixed income I wasn't able to go out and sell the book myself, according to them.

#25 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2010, 03:59 AM:

This is just to say that, although I used Shiva as my old SMOF-BBS handle, I did not write #23.

#26 ::: Danielle spaaar ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 12:07 AM:

I just received a contract with strategic book publishing is this the same company you are talking about they have a payment plan for $50 a month for 18 months I can get my book published. Please say it isn't so...

#27 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 01:24 AM:

I'm sorry, Danielle, but it is the same company.

Furthermore, any company that's so far into making you pay to be published that it has a payment plan is a bad idea, unless you're doing it specifically to self-publish. And then you should try someone more up-front about being a self-publisher; Lulu has a good reputation, for instance.

The publishers who get your books into bookstores don't make you pay them to be published. They get their money from the book-buying public, and pay you.

#28 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 03:25 AM:

Yes, Danielle, it's the same company.

Please send copies of all your correspondence between you and whichever of Bobby's sockpuppets you've been talking with to the Florida Attorney General.

#29 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 12:33 AM:

More on the lawsuit from Writer Beware. Includes a link to a deposition that Bouncing Bobby made.

#30 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 01:28 AM:

I've gotten about halfway through that deposition and it's ... interesting. Especially how he doesn't know the last names of anyone who works for him.

#31 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 01:35 AM:

You don't think that maybe he's trying to keep investigators from talking with his employees, do you?

#32 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 12:16 PM:

Oh no, he's probably just trying to protect them. Or something.

#33 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 12:32 PM:

Is it even possible to subpoena a laundry basket?

#34 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 04:06 PM:

Cadbury Moose @ 34

That line sounds almost as though it could be from a translation exercise from an old-fashioned language text book for law students.

'Your Lordship, the Attorney - General has sub-poenaed my laundry basket'

#35 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2011, 05:29 PM:

Xopher @43:

It was indeed linked to a Dutch website for ordering sand and gravel for delivery.

I'm somewhat interested in why all the Fletcher threads are appearing on spammers' target lists. As if someone wanted us to shut their comment sections down or something.

Naaaah. To convoluted.

#36 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2011, 04:00 AM:

Jim, I think that's a fair call in this case in particular. As I said, I find it...interesting that these threads are suddenly the target of so much spam.

I mean, I don't know how to get a URL into the lists the spammers trade, but if someone did, it would be a useful way to silence their enemies.

#37 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2011, 06:12 AM:

If someone's favorite method of advertising was spam, I expect he'd know.

#38 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2011, 12:18 PM:

I lack sufficient nefarity (or perhaps incentive), to have thought such a thing up. What amuses (for values of amuse which can't be articulated) me is that I don't see Fletcher having any need to criminally defraud his victims, he could have been an "honest" scam, where they got their books, and were out the money.

But greed will out, I suppose.

#39 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2011, 01:50 PM:

Terry Karney #39: But that would involve actually creating something of value, and then giving it to someone else -- I suspect he's constitutionally incapable of doing either.

#40 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2011, 09:01 PM:

David Harmon: yeah... I mean I get that he "makes" more that way, but it's not in me to cheat people that thoroughly.

I can imagine running a vanity press, and I can imagine telling people this will make them authors. I can't imagine despoiling them of even that last scrap of dream.

#41 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2011, 06:47 AM:

Bobby's latest legal woes:

The Situation vs. His Dad: Zip It, Pops

and

The Situation SUES Dad -- Stop Exploiting Me!!!

Mike also takes a shot at his father's business partner -- claiming the guy who created his dad's site is a scumbag businessman who has a long history of ripping people off.

Be sure to read the legal documents. Yes, that's Bobby Fletcher he's talking about.

#42 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2011, 10:13 PM:

Terry Karney #41: Well, that's just one reason neither of us could be a conman. Remember the conman's motto: "Never give a sucker an even break". Whereas folks like us (and pretty much all of the regulars here) would instinctively want to help vulnerable people, instead of feeding off them.

#43 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 09:43 PM:

And ... the situation with The Situation has resolved, without that six-figure book deal.

The parties have settled, with Fletcher required to pay $5,000.

And while Frank takes some of the blame for going on camera and trashing his kid -- Frank claims in the dismissal docs he's the real victim ... because he was exploited by a "con artist" named Robert Fletcher who wanted to reap the profits from the Sorrentino family feud.

...

Frank says his anti-Situation website has already been shut down and he's willing to testify against Fletcher in court if need be.

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