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April 19, 2011

The Write Agenda: The wrong company to keep
Posted by Teresa at 09:53 PM * 113 comments

Word to the wise: a new outfit calling itself The Write Agenda has been taking potshots at Victoria Strauss, Ann Crispin, our own Jim Macdonald, Absolute Write, Writer Beware, Preditors and Editors, SFWA, Atlanta Nights, and other entities that give newbie writers helpful information about the scams and nogoodniks that prey on them.

To state the obvious, The Write Agenda is not the kind of company you want to keep. For one thing, they’re attacking some of the best and most helpful resources for aspiring writers. For another, it looks like the site is either being run by Robert Fletcher of The Literary Agent Group, or C. Lee Nunn of American Book Publishing. Maybe it’s a collaboration. In any event, Fletcher and Nunn are both bad news.

See also:

SFWA Alerts for Writers.

Writer Beware’s Two Thumbs Down list of publishers.

Do some googling on your own about this subject. If you’re an aspiring writer and you don’t know how to do research, it’s high time you learned.


The Write Agenda has been following Making Light bloggers and commenters who have Twitter accounts. Patrick and I blocked them when we found them in our followers list. If you find them in your own list, do whatever amuses you most.

They’ve also posted a string of new blog entries denouncing me, Jim Macdonald, Yog’s Law, Ann Crispin, and other usual suspects, and an open letter to SFWA in which they misspell multiple names, grossly misquote Jim Macdonald and Robin Bailey, and demand that SFWA discipline, expel, and repudiate Ann Crispin, Victoria Strauss, and Jim Macdonald in order to preserve SFWA’s good name.

They do get one thing right, probably by accident: they point out that there’s an element of the argument ad hominem in my own remarks about the Write Agenda. That’s true! There is! And furthermore, it’s valid! There’s a long history of bad behavior on both their parts that tells us that if Robert Fletcher and/or C. Lee Nunn are associated with a project, prudent writers shouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

A further addendum, 21 July 2011:

The Write Agenda has continued to splutter and denounce the lot of us. I now have a couple of pages there devoted to me, starting here. There’s still nothing of any real substance; just angry grousing and griping. The only thing I find remarkable is the site’s repeated characterization of my writing as “narcoleptic babble.” I do believe that in all the years I’ve had that disability, this is the first time someone’s publicly thrown it at me as an insult.

Well, heck. We already knew Robert Fletcher and C. Lee Nunn were a class act.

Yet another addendum, 14 February 2012:

The site is being run by C. Lee Nunn, who runs American Book Publishing. A little googling will turn up specimens of her long and hair-raising history. Here’s a starter kit:

John Scalzi on The Write Agenda, being very Scalzi-ish.

The League of Reluctant Adults (a group of paranormal romance and urban fantasy writers) announce the creation of The Write Pretendas to protest being left off The Write Agenda’s list of authors to boycott.

Ann Crispin and Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware lay out the facts about C. Lee Nunn and The Write Agenda in The Agenda of The Right Agenda. There’s also a gallery of supplementary screenshots that document various points.

Finally, on general principles, the Absolute Write Index to Agents, Publishers, and Others. There is no better archive of information on this and other subjects.

Comments on The Write Agenda: The wrong company to keep:
#1 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2011, 10:37 PM:

Sigh. Cockroaches again, eh?

#2 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2011, 10:57 PM:

I've browsed their site, and it gives off the unmistakable odor of psychosis. I shudder to think what the world would be like if people like that were to meet with success in their clearly insane efforts to bury the world under an archeological layer of their bullshit.

Now, I'm sure to have nightmares about the coming zombie publishing-scam apocalypse. Braiiinzzz!

#3 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2011, 10:57 PM:

A group of people who style themselves as writers who claim they've become "'literally' numb" on their front page? Why do I think they're not particularly competent at what they're doing -- is it the scare quotes, or the lack of even an attempt to craft a convincing narrative?

#4 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2011, 11:01 PM:

Having scanned the publisher list at Writer Beware -- please note that I am in no way associated with Whitmore Publishing, nor had I even heard of them before looking at the list. I expect they haven't heard of me either.

#5 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2011, 11:48 PM:

It's really hard to slap a quick coat of paint on one of these people and pretend it's an objective, non-scammy voice, isn't it? One wonders how many they think they'll fool.

I also note the hiding behind anonymity to criticize those who have the courage not to.

#6 ::: JM ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2011, 11:51 PM:

Their article titles put me in mind of old-timey scandal sheets. But at least they have that quote from Albert "Eintsein" lending the site some gravitas.

#7 ::: Fuzzy ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 12:10 AM:

Ever curious, I clicked over to the site, clicked on the topmost post, and the first two sentences that greeted me were:

Today, Victoria Strauss posted blog in support of “Atlanta Nights.” Click Here to read the post it its entirety.

A couple of spelling and grammar errors don't necessarily mean your points are invalid, but if you're trying to put forth that you're a site for writers, it might not hurt to take an editing pass through your text before you "post blog".

#8 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 12:53 AM:

A few mistakes of that sort are reasonable; and a consistent pattern of them indicates a different concept of "professionalism" than I have.

#9 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 01:53 AM:

"We will soon be publishing a white paper on this subject. For now, the flow chart below (click on image to enlarge) will walk you through this process and illustrate fallacies behind 'Yog’s Law.'"

And sure enough, they have a fancy colored chart with boxes & arrows and a prominent YOG'S LAW TERMINATES.

Sheer genius. I wonder what other goodies await us in the forthcoming white paper? I can't wait.

#10 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 02:35 AM:

The mind reels. The, "how to evaluate" internet sources would be interesting to read, if it ever appears. Comparing the criteria to the blog which publishes it would be entertaining.

If I had a bottle of something potent, say Kickapoo Joy Juice, handy.

#11 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 08:34 AM:

The site has a definite resemblance to the "noisy investigations" that the Church of Scientology[tm] would run on its critics. They would loudly propagate whatever information they could find (or manufacture) that would make their targets look bad, in the hopes that it would intimidate them and get them to shut up. Often the propagation was done by a front group, or anonymously or pseudonymously, as in this case.

I gather it worked fairly well in the old day. But then the Internet arosem and people there caught onto them and Scientology[tm] critics could get together and get their own messages out. At that point it got much less effective, and sometimes backfired amusingly.

I doubt that this particular campaign will fare much better.

#12 ::: EF Kelley ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 12:54 PM:

But but but! They quoted Einstein on their About page! They MUST be AMAZING!

Ohhh such a conundrum!


#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 12:58 PM:

EF Kelley... Bob Einstein?

#14 ::: Janrae Frank ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 01:13 PM:

Are these the same people I noticed were trolling the Writer Beware blog?

#15 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 01:19 PM:

If you’re an aspiring writer and you don’t know how to do research, it’s high time you learned.

If you're an aspiring writer and you don't know how to do research, what in the world do you expect to write about?

#16 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 01:22 PM:

They have comments, but they seem to be purging them. I saw, "2 comments" did something else (without reading same) and now it says, "no responses"

Also.. they are using a screencap of Writers Beware, which starts right below the, warning, "THE CONTENTS OF THIS PAGE MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT PERMISSION"

Which just sort of begs for a takedown notice.

I'm going to attempt a comment.

#17 ::: Ben Reeder ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 01:27 PM:

So, I posted a comment on their Yog's Law page, pointing out the logic flaw in the fancy little flow chart. It's awaiting moderation. Let's see if they post it....

#18 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 01:31 PM:

My comment is in moderation. I didn't use my name, nor email, but I did do a screencap.

I suspect my question (asking for primary sources denying any investigation) will never be published.

I wonder about the "2 Responses" and think they may have set up moderation in defense.

#19 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 01:50 PM:

and I realise that mentioning all of that here is less than good OpSec, oh well.

#20 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 02:33 PM:

I'm not going to go back and give them another hit on their site, but I would be interested in specifics about their claim that 'plenty of people have successfully made the jump from self-publishing to being published traditionally' (that's as close as I can remember the sentence; bold is mine).

Names, people -- names. Perhaps those "successful" "authors" would be interested in doing guest posts.

#21 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 02:43 PM:

Surely I am not the only one who thinkgs of Yog Sothoth when they see the name of that law?

#22 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 02:50 PM:

guthrie: Since it's "Yog Sysop's" Law, you aren't, nor are you supposed to be. :)

#23 ::: Victoria Strauss ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 03:23 PM:

"Are these the same people I noticed were trolling the Writer Beware blog?"

I'd say yes. We have a pretty good hunch as to who that person is.

Ann and I have been aware of The Write Agenda for a while. We haven't responded mainly because, despite Mr. Agenda's intensive efforts (he follows my every Internet move), he hasn't been able to scrape up much visibility. He's probably gotten more traffic today than in the entire time his blog has been up.

#24 ::: Victoria Strauss ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 03:46 PM:

"Also.. they are using a screencap of Writers Beware, which starts right below the, warning, "THE CONTENTS OF THIS PAGE MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT PERMISSION"

Which just sort of begs for a takedown notice."

I'm not bothering with this, because he'd just put up the post again, without the screen capture.

The capture also includes the entirety of my warning about American Book Publishing, which might inspire a thinking person to put things in context.

#25 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 05:53 PM:

Is this something I should look at, Victoria?

#26 ::: Nyki Blatchley ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 06:47 PM:

Congratulations to all the people attacked; you obviously have them worried. Keep up the good work.

#27 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 06:51 PM:

Yeah, the louder the bottom-feeders scream, the better I like it.

#28 ::: Victoria Strauss ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 09:04 PM:

"Is this something I should look at, Victoria?"

If you're curious and want a laugh. Most of the recent stuff is aimed at me.

#29 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 09:22 PM:

I'm not that curious.

I expect we'll find out who's sponsoring it when we see who starts sending their authors there.

#30 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 09:53 PM:

Victoria Strauss: I wouldn't file a takedown notice either, but the irony of it is precious.

There was a non-answer answer to my question about primary sources on their claim of no investigation. We'll see how long before I get tired of asking polite questions.

#31 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2011, 10:45 PM:

The third sentence of the entry "The Write Agenda: The Right Company to Keep" reads:

In addition, while discouraging writers to avoid our company, she portrays our postings as "attacks" and that we are somehow affiliated with Robert Fletcher of The Literary Agent Group or C. Lee Nunn of American Book Publishing.
(emphasis added)

Oh, Teresa, you discourager of avoidance, you!

#32 ::: Nangleator ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 09:10 AM:

I guess quotes from Einstein will soon become a clear signpost that you should clap one hand over your wallet... and point with derision with the other.

#33 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 09:59 AM:

Especially from people who can't spell "Einstein".

#34 ::: Ann Crispin ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 10:52 AM:

Re: the C. Lee Nunn allegations that Writer Beware fabricated Ms. Nunn being investigated by the authorities. One would think that Mr. Write Agenda, having been exposed to Writer Beware's extensive documentation and organized record-keeping a couple of years ago (and, after being exposed to it, dropping his lawsuit with a dull thud) would realize that Writer Beware never makes claims without documentation to back them up.

-Ann C. Crispin
Chair, Writer Beware

#35 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 10:58 AM:

Suzanne @1, the more effective the anti-scam information measure, the more vindictive its targets. Fletcher has more reason than most, since he's appeared on both the bad agents and bad publishers list.

Matthew Brown @5, if allowed to stand unchallenged, they could fool quite a few people. Aspiring but not-yet-successful writers get desperate, and look for the secret key or formula that will get them published.

Evan @9, isn't that an amazing chart? What it demonstrates is that their business plan violates Yog's Law six ways from Sunday.

#36 ::: Victoria Strauss ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 11:19 AM:

That chart actually makes no sense at all. But the colors are pretty.

#37 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 11:53 AM:

Teresa @35: Yep. You folks do good work, and the angry skittering of the nasty critters on the linoleum as they're driven out of their dark hidey holes is proof.

Skittering they are, though, and rather indiscriminately; they've just started following me on twitter.

#38 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 11:56 AM:

@9, it's clear that they're trying to make it appear that Yog's Law doesn't apply to everything so they can ignore it and their victims will believe they're doing everything correct in order to get published even if that means paying.

#39 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 12:07 PM:

Debbie #20 Names, people -- names. Perhaps those "successful" "authors" would be interested in doing guest posts.

I'm sure they'd bring out the good old "Self-Publishing Hall of Fame" that lists Mark Twain (he went bankrupt), L. Frank Baum (he lost the rights to his books), Louis L'Amour (he self-published a book of poetry), Stephen King (he typed up stories in high school and sold them to his friends for a quarter), and John Grisham (actually, he didn't self-publish at all).

A whole bunch of examples that don't actually prove what they purport to show.

#40 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 02:13 PM:

Einstein isn't the only surname they misspelled. I noticed that they got Scalzi* wrong too, and made one of the two common mistakes about Teresa.

But they got Macdonald, Crispin, and Strauss right.

Where your heart is, there is your spelling.

* And not with the Official Misspelling, either.

#41 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 02:30 PM:

I take it back. They've got Jim's capitalization wrong.

#42 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 03:08 PM:

The more I hear about misspellings and poor grammar, the more I think that maybe Larry Clopper or Miranda Prather are behind this.

But lookee here! There's a lot of Yog Bashing happening. At vanity-press Tate's blog, dated 3 April of this year, we read:

Sunday, April 3, 2011


A few years ago an individual created out of thin air a concept he called "Yog's Law." I have no idea who "Yog" is or what planet he may be from but just like Superman there is "kryptonite" in this concept and that "kryptonite" is the facts.

They don't know who Yog is? Maybe I can help 'em out....

#43 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 06:49 PM:

James D. Macdonald: I'm sure they'd bring out the good old "Self-Publishing Hall of Fame" that lists Mark Twain (he went bankrupt)...A whole bunch of examples that don't actually prove what they purport to show.

I agree with your list of examples and how they don't disprove Yog's Law, but Twain going bankrupt isn't really a fair cop: he did go bankrupt as a publisher, but not because he had published his own stuff, or even had published books by unpopular authors (the Grant autobiography was successful as all hell). He went bankrupt because he put two idiots in charge of running the company and contracting with authors who then went out and bought the rights to books that were legendarily overdue for huge advances with no escape clauses for the publisher, or were works so bad that nobody wanted to buy them, despite Twain's best advice. (All through his life, Twain kept folks working for him past the time you or I would have thrown them out a fifth floor window, or built a five story building just to throw them out of it. The publishing hires unfortunately meet this pattern in spades.)

#44 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 06:58 PM:

No, Twain didn't go bankrupt because he published his own stuff, but he did go bankrupt because the business of being a publisher isn't easy. And every single blessed "Successful Self-Publisher! Guy You've Heard Of!" list has Twain front-and-center as an example of how great self-publishing is. I mean, look at Mark Twain!

#45 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 07:16 PM:

James D. Macdonald: And every single blessed "Successful Self-Publisher! Guy You've Heard Of!" list has Twain front-and-center as an example of how great self-publishing is. I mean, look at Mark Twain!

Anyone that pushes that delusion has never read Twain on publishing, or Twain on his worldwide tour to pay off his creditors. I gather the Publish America crowd spends most of their time cramming this one down the throats of those they wish to delude? If so, there's a special place in Hell for them, and it's fueled by a mixture of unsold books and Thermite.

#46 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 07:34 PM:

No, not PublishAmerica. They claim that they aren't self-publishing at all, they're "traditional." Even though by any definition of the term you'd care to use, they're actually a vanity press (sub-group author mill).

The vanity presses that use Twain are the so-called "self-publishing services," even though you pay the whole freight up front, and only get a fraction of the income down back.

(In actual self-publishing, you pay the whole freight up front, and get all the income, if any, down back.)

#47 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 07:59 PM:

James D. Macdonald: No, not PublishAmerica. They claim that they aren't self-publishing at all, they're "traditional." Even though by any definition of the term you'd care to use, they're actually a vanity press (sub-group author mill).

Sorry, I've had Publish America on the brain ever since I went into the West Seattle Barnes & Noble and saw that some deluded victim had convinced B&N to stock their book in the SF section. I didn't pull it out and get the title since I was afraid the author might be in the store and think I was proof that the lurkers supported them in shelf browsing. (I doubt it was "Tales of the Elven Vampire.") I've been feeling sad ever since, because at best they'd been duped into spending a wad on a book that nobody else will buy or reorder and at worst they've done several books that nobody else will buy or reorder...

#48 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 09:56 PM:

Patrick O'Brian has a lovely little bit about unwary authors being duped into bad publishing deals in The Reverse of the Medal. (Too long to quote in full, but if you Google "reverse of the medal" plus "open-handed gentlemanly cove" you should find a Google Books result with the relevant passage.)

#49 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 11:16 AM:

Interestingly, the Write Agenda just sent a follow request to my Twitter account. I follow Patrick, Teresa and Abi, so it looks like they're tracking down followers of ML principals.

#50 ::: Elisabeth ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 11:27 AM:

I've gotten a "follow"-message from the Write Agenda too (have public account). I'm following Abi & Teresa.

#51 ::: Joy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 11:38 AM:

ditto Persephone and Elisabeth. Thought it was funny they had to append a 1 to their name for their twitter handle. Interestingly, I searched for them (using the at symbol) and didn't see any tweets mentioning or interacting with them. #mademesmile

#52 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 04:43 PM:

My comment has been pulled, so there are (for the second time) no comments to that post.

What's funny is they quote Jim explaining that commercial publishing is where the money goes to the author.

So, they are advocating for non-commercial publishing, Yes?

#53 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 04:45 PM:

I am also pretty sure my stuff was pulled from lax OpSec, because they are quoting recent comments here, verbatim. Unless those comments were cut/paste from elsewhere.

#54 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 04:55 PM:

He's quoting stuff from here?

Maybe he'll quote this:

If you claim that you've "disproved" Yog's Law, or that you've found "a fallacy" in Yog's Law, or that Yog's Law "doesn't apply," either you're a scammer, you're a dupe of scammers, or you have no clue about publishing.

#55 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 05:21 PM:

My mistake (re pulled comments) it seems I looked at the wrong post. The second has not been release, the first is still up.

Jim, yes. Ann Crispin's comment @34. I don't know if she's said that elsewhere. They also quoted from the graf beginning, "Last is true of Self Publishing," though they clipped that part. I don't have all other discussions of Yog's Law bookmarked, so I don't know if that was new to that post, or reposted.

#56 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 06:13 PM:

It won't do the little guy any good. When you Google on The Write Agenda this thread turns up first.

#57 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 12:44 AM:

James D. Macdonald @ 54: Yup. They quoted it. (With the classic misspelling of your surname).

In this case, I genuinely can't see the point. It doesn't even make as much sense as quoting the line from the AW prompt discussion out of context to make it look like you regularly make smarmy comments about girls, not that you regularly mock bad tropes. (Which, really, would be like saying I'm sexually harrassing men to say that "It's not a real fight until the Starship captain loses his shirt.")

#58 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 01:01 PM:

All this Twitter-following is making me think it's Fletcher. He likes automated processes.

#59 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 02:32 PM:

But bringing up American Book Publishing? That's a blast from the past. I'd almost thought Cheryl was out of business.

Could just be a smokescreen, because if Mr. Write Agenda only talked about Bouncing Bobby we'd know right away who it was.

Incidentally, since ol' Agenda tried to disprove Yog's Law, I Googled on "Yog's Law," and guess what I found! Someone else tried to do the same thing, three weeks ago. Our old pal Dick Tate of Tate Publishing. I've done a line-by-line here.

#60 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 02:35 PM:

There's a lot of Tate citing in that blog, both by and about (quoting threads on AW). I'd have guessed them as sources, but I have less notion of the full range of suspects than others do.

#61 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 02:38 PM:

They have not, by the way, followed me on Twitter. I guess my username is not sufficiently obvious. Or, perhaps, they don't love me†.

† Martin is playing Portal2 these days*. It's infecting my style.
* I can't play it. Something in the rendering engine makes me thoroughly, desperately motion sick**.
** Generally referred to as Doomsick.

#62 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 03:32 PM:

Goodness! An open letter to SFWA? This almost makes me want to go look. I wonder how it stacks up against the old Forum? Now those were letters!

Have they actually sent this letter? Or (gutless wonders that they are) do they realize that sending it would reveal their names?

#63 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 03:46 PM:

abi 61: I love how you're not even angry about that. I'm sure they'll realize they made a mistake, but they'll keep on trying til they run out of cake.

#64 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 04:20 PM:

What I think is going on is this:

Electronic self-publishing is fast, easy, and free.

That's what has the vanity presses flapping their arms, running in circles, and screaming.

The commercial presses are taking it in stride. I expect that they'll come out on top. The public wants gatekeepers. But the vanities? They're in deep, deep trouble, even if they haven't realized it yet.

Observe this Tweet from PublishAmerica:

"a mere 1.5 percent of polled twitteters want their book to also be an e-book. tells you volumes.very few authors want to be considered e-book writers. they know that ebook writing doesn't count as a publishing credit. also, most ebook writers have a bad name. for a good reason."

Keep dreaming, PublishAmerica.

Everyone with an Internet connection is saying, "Why should I pay these goombahs $4,000 when I can do what Amanda Hocking and Joe Konrath did, for free?

#65 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 06:56 PM:

Jim, that sounds right. I expect some of them will be switching over to fake agenting, since it can still pretend to be offering something of value.

#66 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 07:17 PM:

I don't know if they'll go to fake-agenting. You don't need an agent to upload your works to Smashwords.

I expect they'll start pretending to be editors, or perhaps they'll offer to format your books for the electronic edition. But it'll be hard for them to charge $4,000 for that.

Maybe they'll go into other lines of fraud; cold-calling old ladies to get them to buy worthless stock, perhaps. Or maybe they'll become financial planners and churn their clients' accounts to generate commissions.

#67 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2011, 06:56 PM:

abi @ 61:

Since I can only watch the stuff around The Write Agenda in a train-wrecky sort of way, a possible help for your 3D game woes.

Many games have an option called something like "wait for vertical sync", "vertical sync", or something along those lines, often buried under the "advanced" graphics settings. This is ordinarily turned off "for performance". You want to make sure it's turned on. Off is a great way to induce headaches in lots of people.

#68 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2011, 11:29 PM:

The Wall Street Journal had an article by Jeffrey Trachtenberg on how cheap ebook prices are getting the attention of publishers. One author who made $126K selling his books at 99 cents said he paid $1000 for publishing service, plus extra for editing. I'm a bit unclear what that $1000 is buying, other than some cheesy cover art.

I think of the services that a publisher provides as mainly including taking business risks on the cost of the book (n/a), printing (n/a), paying the author (n/a), paying the editor (n/a), selling the book into a distribution channel so it reaches bookstores (n/a?), advertising (unlikely here?), cover art (ok), picking potentially good quality work out of slushpiles (I don't think of "identify the works with $1000 checks attached" as a method that correlates positively with literary value). Is the author getting typesetting work as part of the "publishing" fee (should be something you can do yourself by now, but you might find it worth paying for)? Or is it really just a cheaper self-publishing scam?

#69 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2011, 12:37 AM:

I'm a bit unclear what that $1000 is buying, other than some cheesy cover art.

The cover art, and the digital formatting (which isn't as easy as it might be).

#70 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2011, 05:27 AM:

A couple of things I've come across with ebook methods:

A normal manuscript doesn't use smartquotes. The automatic methods available in word processors need checking, and you have to use the correct method of encoding them to reliably display them in an ebook.

There's other problems with a nicely laid-out WP document, such as soft hyphens.

It's likely that a good ebook can't be reliably made from the data prepared for the conventional printer. And, every time somebody loads it into a reader, they're the printer. It's like trying to make a PDF which works for the gigantic presses of a printing house, the PoD hardware at Lulu, and the the Laserjet on another continent, using a paper size that nobody in your office has ever fed into a printer.

#71 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2011, 05:33 AM:

I can see myself doing a vanity self-publish of some of the stuff I've written. The NaNoWriMo people arrange a special deal for Winners, using a US PoD operation, but some of the details of the deal are awkward for non-US people: things such as measures preventing tax-evasion if people actually buy the book.

#72 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2011, 10:01 AM:

@Dave Bell, I would say that not having smart quotes in an ebook would be a feature rather than a bug, but I may be a little odd. I've never seen much purpose to them. Elipses though, and swapping underline for italics...but really I'm not seeing those as terribly difficult or time consuming tasks either. If you're on a Mac there's a fifty dollar piece of software that's specifically designed to take any of the common document formats and spit out ebook ready files. I know a number of authors who've had great results with it for OOP backlist books.

#73 ::: Calton Bolick ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2011, 07:17 PM:

Someone might want to keep an eye on Wikipedia, as per this example:

#74 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2011, 06:44 AM:

#73: Wikipedia-watchers seem to be doing a good job of reverting the efforts of this helpful person whose interests are confined to Atlanta Nights, James D. Macdonald ‎ and Victoria Strauss.

#75 ::: Victoria Strauss ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2011, 01:31 PM:

Someone alerted me to the Wiki vandalization last night. I'm not surprised--Mr. Agenda has also posted complaints about me to and, issued fake press releases urging people to boycott my books, and attempted to start mirror blogs to disseminate his silly posts about me. He just started a LinkedIn group.

It reminds me of the boy who threw rocks at me on my way home from school when I was eight. My mother told me it was because he was really in love with me. Sorry, Mr. Agenda, I'm already married.

#76 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2011, 06:31 PM:

Net kook? Troll? Scammer? You deci--

Ah, to heck with it. Obviously a scammer who's seeing his/her livelihood vanish and doesn't know what to do.

#77 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2011, 12:52 PM:

Fletcher was making a very comfortable living off writers before the scamhunters got hold of him.

#78 ::: Marian Perera ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2011, 02:28 PM:

The Write Agenda's own entry on Wikipedia was deleted.

#79 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2011, 02:49 PM:

It isn't just the scam hunters that are kicking the vanity press's and fake agents' butts.

The big new thing is the ease, speed, and price (that is, zero) of electronic self-publication. True self-publication.

The scammers say, "Pay me $4,000 and you can be a Published Author!"

The newbie writers chant, "Amanda Hocking! Joe Konrath! Smashwords! Kindle! Yog's Law!" and walk right past the scammers. It drives the fraudsters nuts.

Who knew that the new publishing paradigm would mean the end of the vanity press?

#80 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2011, 04:00 PM:

I got curious, and headed over to the W. A. website to check out the comments. Oddly (or perhaps not so oddly), every single post of theirs I looked at appeared to have no comments at all. Even the ones that people here mentioned commenting on.

I was looking forward to reading those comments, and the replies thereto, too. Oh, well.

#81 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2011, 10:42 AM:

Of course. Anonymous cowards can't handle honest comments.

In the fullness of time we'll discover which scammer this one is. There are no secrets in this world. It'll come out.

#82 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2011, 04:04 PM:

Somewhat off-topic, but if a non-trade paperback book was published by a real publisher and you buy it for half price at the going-out-of-Borders sale, does the author typically still get their full royalties? I'm assuming they only lose that if the bookstore can't sell it and sends the cover back (and that TNH's editing job on one of them got paid for upfront by the publisher and isn't affected by either case.)

#83 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2011, 08:00 PM:

That's right, Bill.

Teresa got paid for the edit at whatever rate she gets paid. She cashed the check, it's over. If the book flops, if the book becomes a best-seller, same deal. No extra for her (but if it becomes a best-seller, her rep goes up and she gets to work on more books and do her magic with 'em.)

And the author? If the book leaves the bookstore in a customer's hand, the author gets the agreed-on royalty. Which is usually a percentage of the printed cover price.

Borders could give the book away, and the author would get paid. (Remember, bookstores get their stock at some pretty steep discounts: They can sell books for 50% off or more, and still make a profit on each one, and the author still gets the full royalty. Exceptions are spelled out in painful detail in the contract.)

In every case except returns, the author gets the full royalty.

#84 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2011, 08:06 PM:

The author, however, gets no royalty at all on a used book. Only on first sale (and, if you're in the UK, there's a royalty generated by library uses I believe).

#85 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2011, 08:24 PM:

One copy, one royalty.

#86 ::: Amy Sterling Casil ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2011, 10:09 AM:

I'm still in Washington and just saw this, so I suppose the frequency of my checking my own name can be known. As the recipient of this type of harassment for a number of years now - these folks don't quit.

Just wanted to point up the fact that the Atlanta Nights proceeds so far have gone to the Emergency Medical Fund. That's worth about 100,000 defamatory nattering nabobs.

#87 ::: Pere ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2011, 10:13 AM:

I was originally going to be a lurker supporting you in email, but I figured the risk wasn't too bad if I note it out here.

I work for the outsource outfit of a certain massive vanity--koff, I mean "indie publishing" conglomerate with which you'll all be very familiar. One of the brands has recently been having lots of trouble with negative publicity: writers backing out of contracts and marketing deals, citing Writer Beware and other sources. One of our brand managers found The Write Agenda and is planning to use its propaganda in the sales spiels of our hawkers--er, I mean "publishing consultants", to counteract the Writer Beware effect.

I asked him flatly whether he was "investigating" Ms Strauss (his words) using the Write Agenda as basis for a possible lawsuit. He claimed not to, just planned to send the material to Sales. I suspect he knows any lawsuit based on this material will be laughed out of court.

I also had a very enlightening "discussion" (Sorry, that's my sarcastic quote quota, I swear) with him re. Ms Strauss and Writer Beware. Funny, I had thought he was a fairly rational person before that. Bee in the bonnet doesn't begin to cover it. Sigh.

#88 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2011, 01:39 PM:

Pere @87:

Thanks for the feedback. And you have my sincerest sympathy at your work situation; I hope you can find a better job, or better clients, soon.

#89 ::: Pere ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2011, 09:18 AM:

Thank you very much. On the lookout for a better situation. I liked being an insider for a while (and it means I finally got to contribute to the wonderful ML conversations!), but it does get one down.

Keep fighting the good fight! :)

#90 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2011, 01:11 PM:

Hey there, Pere.

Either your boss doesn't recognize that The Write Agenda is run by a scammer, in which case he's stupid, or he does, in which case he's dishonest.

In either case, it's time to find a new job.

#91 ::: Pere ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2011, 08:36 AM:

Thanks. I've been following your Learn Writing posts...this seems like good advice too.

#92 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2011, 12:14 PM:

Pere. you've no need to be in "the business" to be part of the ML community. You just have to be interesting.

I am the very model of a Making Light contributor.
I can rattle off apropos verse that maybe is sonnet, or
Look at modern politics and try to keep to Godwin's Law,
While disparaging the idiots who want to fight expensive war.
All my years of reading have made me a deft vocabulator,
Though disappointing for the ones who expect this rhyming more.
In short, I am a master of converso Fluorospherian,
And know so many tunes by that clever Mister Sullivan!

#93 ::: Victoria Strauss ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2011, 08:27 PM:

Pere, would you please contact me? beware [at] Thanks much.

#94 ::: Pere ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2011, 05:10 AM:


To refer to posts that strike a familiar note,
Abi wrote two lines that went straight to my gut:
I challenge you: illumine what we see.
Be not content to simply content be.

A shill was I: a step from spammer,
But soon I'll fly for truths elsewhere.
Indentured serf of indie scammers,
A shill was I, a step from spammer.
The dropped Last Clue hits crown like hammer:
Ce soir, je vais essayer de lumière.
A shill was I; a step from spammer,
But soon I'll fly for truths elsewhere.

Hope it scans at least! Also, er, pardon my French, literally, if it's wrong.

Victoria@93: thanks; will get in touch soon :)

#95 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2011, 05:16 AM:

Pere @94:

Have you lurked long enough to know the local translation for "Do you write poetry?"

Please stay around. Hang out. You're clearly our kind of people.

#96 ::: Pere ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2011, 06:29 AM:

Thank you :)

I've been lurking full-time since about 2006, when my favourite writer passed on and my searches for elegies brought me here. (I've been a fan since I read 'Green Is the Color' at 13.)

Before that I was visiting off and on since about 2003. I don't know Fluorospherian for 'Do you write poetry?' though. I just enjoy it as it happens!

#97 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2011, 05:07 PM:

Pere @96:

"Do you write poetry?" is Fluourospheran for "I like your style. Make yourself at home."

#98 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2011, 04:31 PM:

Writer Beware has gone public on The Write Agenda, in response to the scammers' moving from just attacking scam hunters to going after ordinary writers.

Scalzi has picked up the story.

Tell all your friends.

#99 ::: Sean T Poindexter ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2011, 02:38 AM:

Great post. Tweeted and shared. I referenced it in my blog post about the same group.

#100 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2011, 05:57 PM:

Somehow I made it onto their author boycott list. Considering how small my career is, I almost count this a milestone. But flattered as I am, I am trying to figure out what possible criteria they have; for commenting once on this thread? On occasional other ML threads on scams? Or several years ago at AW?

Jim Hines is right that their site "should be required reading for pretty much anyone hoping to be a bottom-feeding douchebag."

I was looking for a way to say just that, as I do firmly believe it, from looking at it, but I realised that no words of mine would be half as well-phrased. This could be why he has a much more awesome career so far than i do.)

OIf course, I realise that I might be setting him up for the boycott list. Sorry, Jim.

#101 ::: Janrae Frank ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2011, 09:09 PM:

I'm one of the people on the boycott list and I just now got an entire page dedicated to trashing me because I defended Victoria and Writer Beware. One of my editors, Debbie Moorhouse, gave me the heads up on what was going on and now I seem to be knee deep in the mess.

#102 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2011, 09:16 PM:

Janrae, it's a badge of honor. People are using the boycott list as suggested reading.

#103 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2011, 02:46 AM:

Janrae @101:

Having been the target of that kind of disordered malice in the past, I have a lot of sympathy for what you're feeling right now. Because it looks just like something that you should care about.

But it is, as I said, disordered. It's disproportionate and disproportionately unpleasant. Whichever poor souls are behind that site have something wrong with either their morals or their minds to direct that kind of slimy attention at people.

You should do something pleasant for a while, to shake off the miasma of their contact. All will be well.

#104 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2011, 12:33 AM:

Janrae @ 101:

Actually, we're both off it. They cut the boycott list to the top names only.

Though they still have the page dedicated to you up. I'm sorry to see that.

#105 ::: Janrae Frank ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2011, 12:55 AM:

I think they dropped the rest of us because they were not prepared for the reaction they received. I have been skirmishing with them at Rip-off Report and it has now been nearly nine hours since I posted my most recent rebuttal there.

#106 ::: Janrae Frank ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2011, 05:52 PM:

They are currently putting up homophobic information on me on their site.

#107 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2012, 04:36 AM:

Janrae, I know #106 is an old comment, but I just found something interesting: Cheryl Lee Nunn working with gay marriage groups in Utah. Maybe there are two people by that name in SLC, but it would be just like the C. Lee Nunn we know to be working both sides of the fence. She's a prodigious liar.

#108 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2013, 04:20 PM:

Thread necromancy ahoy!

So, The Write Agenda seem to be closely following the SFWA elections of 2013, and in the course of doing so are (re 106 and 107) being bizarrely homophobic about Steven Gould.

#109 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2013, 04:50 PM:

SFWA seems to worry the scammers so much that they'll thrown their support (whatever it's worth) to a racist, sexist, homophobe, in an attempt to break the organization. This despite C. Lee being herself female and apparently working with/for a gay marriage group in Utah, and Bobby Fletcher's notable habit of using feminine pseudonyms.

#110 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2013, 06:21 PM:

Huh. I think I initially thought TNH@107 was saying that CLN was working with a Salt Lake City group that's against marriage equality. How strange that she should work for gay rights on the one hand, but use insinuations of Teh Gay as character assassination on the other.

It was just bizarre. I saw that captioned picture and I thought, "'Announce their engagement'... She does realize he's already married, right?" I wonder if she's got a picture of John Scalzi in the Campbell Award tiara or the Jim Hines pose-off, and a caption that refers to his habit of cross-dressing?

I tried reading her recent articles just to determine whether she's explicitly endorsed a candidate or only implied an endorsement, but I kept having to stop. It's mind-numbing. She makes the strangest leaps of (il)logic. And every subject ties back to either Bauer and the 20 Worst Agents list or to Writer Beware. It's sort of fascinating, but my brain keeps sliding off the page. It's like trying to grab something covered in salad dressing.

#111 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2013, 06:58 PM:

I believe you when you say what The Write Agenda are writing; what I don't understand is how you can find any of it. I've clicked on their homepage, and "articles" and "sfwa", and I can't find a thing. Talk about a poorly laid-out site....

#112 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2013, 07:36 PM:

Oh, it's terrible, I agree.

The "Archives" link seems to go to her latest posts. But I found my way (unintentionally) by doing a google search on "SFWA President endorsement" and seeing an article of hers 4 links down. And, perhaps unwisely, clicking.

Jim Hines notes she seems to have taken a strange interest in his own candidacy.

#113 ::: Danny Adams ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2013, 11:19 PM:

They just did a really nasty obituary of Ann Crispin, with "burn in Hell" being one of the kinder comments. Like you said - real class act.

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