We owe our readers a HUGE apology. We really dropped the ball on this one. Allow me to explain…
Sometimes, when looking over the articles I’ve written for WritersWeekly, I wonder if I’m starting to sound like a freelance writer’s drill sergeant. (Some examples are HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.) That’s because I’m usually called on to write an article whenever we come across a writer who presents us with either really bad writing, or really bad marketing methods. I’m also called upon to expose rude editors or publishers, or those who are ripping off writers and/or authors. And, so I write.
Usually, the process tends to follow a general framework:
- Identify the misdeed that so shocked Angela and/or me
- Give the unnamed entity a virtual spanking in the form of some sarcastic prose
- Issue an explanation as to why YOU should not be doing what they did.
Sometimes, I fear it may seem that I just spend all my time criticizing others. But, the reality is that I have a genuine concern in seeing those who publish their books with us at BookLocker, and those who write for us at WritersWeekly, succeed in their endeavors. And, like Angela, if an opportunity presents itself to expose a business that may not be a fair dealer with those in the BookLocker/WritersWeekly family, I’ll gladly step up, and weed out the facts.
My piece this week summarizes some interactions we’ve had since posting an advertisement in our “Paying Markets” section seeking freelance writers. And it’s a warning to our readers (and, of course, to ourselves).
Two weeks ago, we posted a Paying Market entry that was from a so-called therapist.
The description stated they were looking for articles on depression, insomnia, sadness, relationships, revenge, family, etc. They also listed additional instructions for submitting a complete manuscript with an introductory email.
POTENTIAL RED FLAGS AND WHY WE OWE OUR READERS AN APOLOGY
1. When building the page for this ad, the URL provided was for a psychic service. That caught my eye. It seemed strange that a “therapist” would have a website that identifies herself as a psychic. So, I surfed on over to that website. Basically, this is an online psychic who – for a fee – will give people advice on what to do in their lives based on her visions and whatnot. Psychic readings from an email, and various spells, are apparently some of her more popular services.
So, we have an online psychic who is presenting herself as a “Therapist.” However, despite my skepticism toward psychics, witches, and soothsayers, I understand that there are people who are true believers. So, I saw no reason to shelve the ad.
2. The ad requests that writers submit a full manuscript in an email with no prior query. Although many publications ask for submissions on spec (“send the whole article and we’ll decide if we want to buy it”), you still want to be careful that your work doesn’t wind up published somewhere as blog content without any compensation to you. But, still, that wasn’t a show-stopper.
So, we published the market listing and ran a link to it in our weekly newsletter. Where did we drop the ball? Despite the red flags above, we didn’t Google the name of the publication or the psychic…or therapist…or whatever she is.
AND THEN THIS HAPPENED
Later in the week, I received the following email:
Thank you so much for the effort you put into this site. I am a freelance writer and find your site very valuable. I contacted a site listed on your ‘recently added markets’ list and wanted to provide you with some feedback. The site is appearing online under several scam complaints.
Julie (not the real name)
I let Julie know that I personally do not believe in psychics and spell weavers. However, I continued, I have no way to determine whether someone reading tea leaves and offering magic spells over email is truly a scam. I told her I would check out the link she sent. When I did, my eyeballs almost fell out of my head (details are at the end of this article).
Julie responded by agreeing with me, and then she sent me the thread of emails she’d exchanged with the Scam Psychic. They were pretty shocking, to say the least.
JULIE’S QUERY SENT TO THE SCAM PSYCHIC:
I am responding to your advert for an article writer. You have an amazing energy and I would love to contribute to your site. I am a yoga teacher, an intuitive empath and clairvoyant, and owner of (omitted).
I have recently started as a regular contributor for (omitted). My articles have not been posted yet, but I would be happy to provide sample copies of these articles for you to look at.
I will be able to create the content around your specifications and work with you in order to generate content that can be easily and organically linked to your products if this is a requirement.
I have had articles published in (omitted) as well as a number of online publications found through these links: (omitted)
To be honest, I wish I received a lot more queries like this one. It’s close to perfect. Clearly, anyone would want Julie to write for them.
The Scam Psychic responded, saying Julie was supposed to submit entire articles. She also wrote, “You can either write suitable articles or you cannot.”
Julie returned what I feel was a very reasonable, professional response:
No problem, I can send one by the end of the week. I get the impression that perhaps you have been working with time-wasters. I would certainly also want to avoid that.
Shall I just pick between Astral projection or ouija board or have these been allocated to someone already? Is there anything specific you are currently in need of?
The Scam Psychic responded by telling Julie to “Forget it,” accusing Julie of ignoring her instructions, and saying she’s too busy to write back and forth, and that it would be easier for her to just write the articles herself. She ended her message with, “Use some sense.”
Julie responded to the Scam Psychic:
Yes. After these emails I believe it is best not to mix with your energy.
The Scam Psychic responded by calling Julie “Honey,” and accusing her of writing “some really stupid, naive, timewasting (sic) emails. She then called Julie “lazy,” compared her to a child, said she had no energy to offer, and then, “You were rejected. Goodbye.”
And, then, as if THAT brushoff wasn’t enough, the scam psychic sent ANOTHER email to Julie just three minutes later, saying lots of people send in articles correctly and that Julie was the only one who didn’t follow instructions. She tops it off with “Use some sense. TURN YOUR BRAIN ON.”
So, how many of you would like to deal with THIS person as a client??
Well, Angela and I kicked into gear, addressing the scam psychic’s unprofessionalism from two directions:
Angela immediately pasted the above conversation into an email, asking the Scam Psychic to explain her position. She did not receive a reply.
At the same time, I sent the Scam Psychic an email myself. Using one of my “secret squirrel” email accounts, I sent her a very stupid, naïve, and time-wasting email, offering to write a really great article on “revenge.” I even claimed to be someone who counsels people on anger and violence issues. I avoided the Ouija Board and other-worldly topics because, you know, I’m not a clairvoyant.
I sent off my email, and immediately received an automated marketing response that didn’t address my query at all. It mentioned nothing about submitting articles. I waited three days for a response. After not hearing back, I sent this as a reply to the automated message:
I actually did not order anything, as your auto-responder suggests. Per the instructions on your website, I have sent a query to this email address. (“ALL CONTACT IS TO BE THROUGH (email address removed) WITH NO EXCEPTIONS. WE WILL REPLY ASAP.”)
I’m following up to check if you received my query.
Strangely enough, this so-called psychic (who claims to read the future through emails, I might add) somehow didn’t “see” that I was an undercover journalist setting some bait.
The next day, I finally got a response! She said her website has details and prices. She said she doesn’t know of anyone who creates a website and leaves out the prices, and then writes back and forth with someone (the back and forth part was similar to wording in an email sent to Julie). She said it doesn’t make sense to pay people to send details to people who should have read the website. She then repeats that the prices are on the website and that it’s obvious that I would see those before booking a session with her.
Does it sound to you like the the Scam Psychic even read my email, and understood its contents? And, it’s pretty clear that she treats her customers similar to the way she treats freelance writers!
I sent a final email the Scam Psychic from my real business email account. After identifying myself, I revealed that I was the person who contacted her from the secret squirrel email address. I included my conversation with her, and included Julie’s emails as well. I then informed her that I would be writing this article, and asked her for a comment. That was a week ago.
I believe the lack of any snarky reply from the Scam Psychic speaks for itself.
So, why aren’t we naming her? Well, first of all, she casts spells on people! We are literally shaking in our sandals here in fear!! In all seriousness, though, we want our readers to be on the lookout for ALL types of scams, not just ones being perpetrated by one individual. It goes without saying that her ad seeking writers was removed from WritersWeekly the moment we received the first email from Julie.
We genuinely care about our readers, and everyone who has helped BookLocker.com and WritersWeekly.com become successful all these years. We don’t want to be indirectly responsible for anyone suffering abuse, or being scammed.
We are genuinely sorry for posting that job listing and we are extremely sorry that Julie endured such abuse because of one of our market listings. In hindsight, we should have investigated further after those initial red flags. We dropped the ball and we hope you can forgive us. We have DEFINITELY learned from our mistake!
It would be nice if the Scam Psychic saw this post, and cleaned up her act, but that’s doubtful, especially considering the complaints posted about her online. She appears to be not only unprofessional and mean, but even downright evil. Here are some quotes from people claiming to be her past customers:
the reading is not actually a reading but some complete vague content
She goes by five different names and has more than one website.
She has been reported to the police and the FBI by more than one of her customers.
She calls herself a celebrity but uses stock photos of different women on her websites.
She’s accused of writing the positive testimonials online herself.
She threatens her customers with cursing and puts spells on them.
She called one customer mentally ill, stupid, and idiot.
RELATEDWritersWeekly.com and the Operations Manager at BookLocker.com. Brian is an Army vet and former police officer, and spent several years chained to a desk, commuting Tampa's congested roadways, working in corporate management and training, while writing in his spare time. He is now an author, and avid sailor, and NRA-certified firearms instructor. Brian lives and works aboard his 36-foot sailboat, the “Floggin’ Molly” in St. Petersburg, Florida. He calls her his "rescue boat" that he found abandoned in a boat yard and rebuilt himself - fulfilling a dream he had to one day live aboard. Brian no longer commutes, and has donated all his business slacks, collared shirts, and ties to Goodwill.