I was in the midst of editing a chapter when I hear my wife on the phone saying, “He’s working on his book.” She handed me the receiver, and I was immediately intrigued. People never call me at my house about writing. The guy on the other end started telling me how interested he was in Ages of Aenya, and how “book scouts” had given the book an 8.5 out of 10. Anything over 5, he said, and his company, URLinkPublishing.com, takes interest. We talked about the business for a good thirty minutes. He extolled the virtues of marketing, to help get the book into the hands of readers, and the best way to do that, he said, is book reviewers. He name dropped Kirkus, which I’d seen on the jackets of top-selling novels, and overall he sounded knowledgeable and sincere. To assuage my skepticism, he urged me to “do the research” before making any decisions. Surely, if this was all a scam, he wouldn’t be telling me to do research, would he? But here’s the thing: my heart rate did not change a beat. Five years ago, I might have been jumping with excitement, but like a jaded lover, I’d been burned too many times before.
When I got off the phone with URLinkpublishing.com, I went simply back to my chapter. Only later in the day, when I got bored at work, did I whip out my phone to check the site. After no more than five minutes I determined that the man on the phone was a liar. Here was a company promising to help me increase book sales, but their book/client list had about ten books, most with amateurish covers, and their “featured author” had, and I kid you not, ONE review on Amazon! Couldn’t they get a few of their office workers to help out? Christ, I have TEN reviews already and I find that pathetic. What’s more, their “featured author” is in the 3 millionths in sales. And to join the ranks of their esteemed laureates, I had only to get a professional review, for the recommended low low price of $3000.00!
It disgusts me to know that companies like this exist. But we are living in world of school shooters and rapist politicians, so there are worse things, I suppose. Still, when someone tries to deceive you personally, to take advantage of all your hard work and heartache, it just burns me up inside, and this is why I’m writing this post, because scammers like these need to be exposed for what they are.
My most popular article to date remains Olympia Publishers and the Art of the Soft Scam. Dozens of hopeful writers have thanked me for steering them clear of that pitfall, and now I am hoping to do the same for anyone about to get duped by URLinkPublishing.com. No doubt, they will go by a different name, or someone else will come up with a new way to fuck over people, so here’s some basic tips for not getting scammed:
1) If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
2) Be sure to ask, up front, if there’s money involved. Don’t be too shy to be blunt. You can say, “What do you get out of this?”
3) It’s OK to get your hopes up, but DO YOUR RESEARCH! Look up the company’s website, find blogs (like this one) discussing the company, and e-mail old clients.
4) Be clear as to what the company is offering, and if what they are offering is something they have successfully provided to others in the past. If they have an author/client list, look up the author on Amazon, and check out that author’s sales rank! The author need not be a bestseller, but they should be ranked in the thousandths or tens-of-thousandths in their prospective genre, at the very least.
I should probably note here that, after turning hundreds (maybe thousands?) away from Olympia Publishers, I managed to get the attention of Olympia Publishers. They sent me a few e-mails to curry my favor (in hilarious ways) to get me to remove my piece, but I refused, despite their excuses, and assertion that they’ve changed. You can read our e-mail exchange below, and decide for yourself whether Olympia is worth a second shot:
Firstly, my name is Chantelle, I am the PR manager for Olympia Publishers. I recently came across your article written on your website. And I have to say I was rather disappointed. Opinions are of course welcomed, but falsities are a little disheartening. We are in no way a scam. ‘Scam’ is defined in the Cambridge English dictionary as “an illegal plan for making money, especially one that involves tricking people”- That we are not.
We’re transparent about our different types of contracts, to quote our website: “Should we be unable to offer a traditional contract, but I feel the work has potential an alternative offer may be made. This offer is known as a ‘partnership contract’ and is based on a contribution, to be paid by the author, to cover initial production and printing of the work”.
Taking on un-known authors is a risk, we’re the first to admit that. But we felt that was a huge gap in the market where first time authors without an agent had no chance. The bigger publishing houses who only publish traditional contracts very rarely publish first time or unknown authors, especially those that do not have a literary agent. To get ones work to the meet the approval of the large publishing houses, they have to spend thousands on literary agents who often take cuts of the royalties of your work when published, paying professional illustrators to take on their covers and inside artwork and paying proof readers to look at their work before they can even submit. We wanted to give those authors a chance. We are more than happy to take on first time authors or un-known authors, do not have a charge to look at work, and if we do not take on the work we offer free advice in where to go and what could help.
Publishers cannot guarantee success, no matter which publishing house you are. From the smallest to the biggest. If a book doesn’t sell it doesn’t make that publishing company a scam. It’s not a trick, as we said, we’re open about being a hybrid publishing house, many of our authors have not paid and some have had contribution contracts.
I see writers as one of the most respected careers one can choose. I have a huge amount of respect for authors, knowing that a book can change someone’s life, bring someone out of a very dark time in their lives, offer help and guidance, or for some, having a place to escape and feel at home.
I’m are genuinely glad you have not quit and of course wish you the best of luck in publishing, I’m sure you’re well aware of how difficult it is to break into the market as a published author, so please see both sides, we try and give our authors the best platform and all the help we can.
On a more personal note, as a fellow enthusiast of D&D, it’s good to see another avid player, and we also sympathise and totally agree on your stance with trump. We found ourselves in a bar in Soho when we heard the dreaded news and a dark cloud just loomed over us and has since not budged.
Also, it’s very refreshing to see someone smart enough on the internet that understands the earth is indeed round, not flat. Great choice with the Zelda shirt as well, we certainly approve of that. Like Zelda, it’s dangerous to go alone – in publishing.
Many authors are happy with the way that we operate, hence why we have a large number of returning authors, some of whom have published 5 or more books with us. This would not be the case if we were any kind of scam.
I’m are more than happy to accept criticism for our practises, and I understand that many authors are firmly against paying to publish, but this is not the problem here. The problem is that you are accusing us of being a scam, with no actual evidence to back up this claim. If you could please remove this falsity that would be very much appreciated.
I look forward to your reply.
I never said Olympia was a scam, or that it was doing anything illegal, hence the title of my article, “The Art of the Soft Scam,” emphasis on the word “soft.” Here are my exact words, from the piece I wrote,
They imply fame and fortune, but what they don’t tell you is that none of their authors have ever managed it. Could it happen? I don’t doubt it, but the chances are so unlikely, it might as well be a scam.
Olympia Publishers isn’t doing anything illegal, but I put them into a category below Xlibris. At least self-publishing houses have the good graces to admit what they are offering. Small presses like Olympia pretend to allow for success, to do what publishers are supposed to do: promote your writing and profit from readers, but they work in reverse. They ask you to send in a query and synopsis, and after a few tense weeks, ask for the manuscript. If it passes the scrutiny of their editors, you become a published author! If not, there is a second option, a pay to play option. After a little Googling, I found dozens of heartbroken writers tricked by this scheme, who were told they would be published, only to be asked to cover costs of up to 3500 pounds (nearly $5000)!
You need to realize that you are crushing the hopes and dreams of many struggling authors, by creating a false sense of hope. I have sold more copies of Ages of Aenya through my own website than most of your “published” authors have, and for one tenth the price, so what exactly are you offering writers for their $5000?
If you don’t want people to be turned away from your services, I suggest you change the way you do business. Be upfront with your authors. Tell them in advance that they will have to pay you. Admit the kind of publishing services you provide, that you are more Xlibris or CreateSpace than Bantam, then I’ll drop the soft scam label.
Thank you very much for your reply.
I have worked here for three years now, and even in these three years, I have noticed a huge change in our company. We’re being completely honest about out publishing process, we’re just about to launch our Author Hub (which by the way I’d love to share with you to see your own comments and how we can maybe improve before it goes live) which is a website for author advice – this is not biased to us, we actually recommend other types of publishing if it suites the writer/author and we’ve invested time and resources in creating helpful videos and articles. It’s not to promote us and our company or to sell books – it is purely a helpful resource. We’ve also taken to charities and so on with our new website, writing blog posts dedicated to them and donating what we can to various hospitals, libraries and animal and environmental charities.
Also, on our about us section right in the centre of our website, we make it very clear that we offer both free and paid contracts. We even say to authors that submit to us to please put a comment in the additional notes if they are only interested in a free contract, then a free contract will be the only contract that is offered.
We have expanded our publicity and promotions team so each author has a publicity coordinator to work with on a daily basis, since this we have been able to expand to the US and India. Some of our recent books have sold over ten thousand copies, which is a huge step up for us. Our contract prices have also significantly lowered. So overall we are really trying our hardest to be as upfront as possible with our publishing!
If you have a look on our forums (not by us by other reviewers) you will notice a huge turn around in the comments. The last two or three years there have been little or no negative comments.
At the end of the day. We appreciate your article, its those like you that help publishing shape themselves and improve. But as I’ve said, we have really up’ed our game, we focus all of our attention on our authors and are including many charities and projects in a lot of our works. Which is why I email to kindly ask you to perhaps remove the review, or even give us an updated review if you would rather?
That is fantastic that you have had success! And there’s no doubt more will come for you too.
Have a great day!
I wish to reply to the unbelievable cascade of nonsense that Chantelle Wadsworth has spewed to get you to take down your blog which is very important to budding writers. I say this because, we have been waiting for our book to be finished since 2016. We are still in the editing stages dispite having supplied it to them almost complete. We also paid for the pleasure. Their editors and senior staff have changed several times in the last two and a half years. The person supposedly working on our book has changed 3 times to be exact and still they they don’t have a clue of how to even get an index right or change a full page photograph that they have featured twice. These are the bigger issues I would be here all day if I went on with the minor. They seem to be totally incompetent.
In our case we were not looking for fame and fortune we were looking to get our book published. They were handed a project with pagination, photographs, forward, thanks, covers already designed etc. What more was there to do one would ask? However, here we are two and a half years later with no end to this saga.
I always am weirry of companies that start with the charity ego line. This they think gives them a soft push but charity should be your pleasure and not used to get yourself out of a tight spot. Bravo, do what you do for charity but get your act together so that your sympathetic side works for the people that have put their trust in you.
On our side, what started as a fun project for a man just retired has turned into a nightmare of sleepless nights. To be truthful you have stollen 2 and a half years from a now 70 year old man. Bravo, Olympia Publishers, Bravo Chantelle. We have been with your company almost as long as you have. It is a career we were not looking for.
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Thank goodness I read your article. I went through the same scenario as you described. Yesterday I received my contract from Olympia Publishing. Lucky, like you, I did some research on whether or not it was a good deal! Disappointing, it wasn’t the real deal. But look, It’s not all bad, you have saved me the £1,800s they were going to charge me. Thanks for that. Regards, Andrew Jackson
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I have received an email from Mr. Jake Molton (Olympia Publishers) that “work has passed their initial review”, etc, etc… Just when I got excited, I found your website and realized, it must be one of those vanity publishers… Oh, dear… Shame….
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I received an email from Olympia stating :
“If you were to source the illustrations yourself this can increase your chances of being offered a traditional contract, where we cover the costs of publication, as work with illustrations can stand out more to our senior editorial staff who will evaluate it further. We require a sample of the illustrator’s work if you are going to source them yourself.”
I am looking for advice. Do you think that it is true that if I find my own illustrator I could actually be offered a traditional contract?
I do not know, but based on all of the horror stories I’ve read, I would not trust them. At the very least, I would never send them any money. Remember, they are supposed to profit from readers, not YOU.
Although I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience, this is my own with Olympia.
I have now signed more than one co-contribution contract. The terms were very clear from the outset- a set fee and no further charges- and all invoices and statements have been provided promptly. There has been complete transparency. As I am an unknown writer, I understand why this kind of contract was offered. They have also been flexible in terms of payment schedules etc.
The editing process has not been without its frustrations, but having read a number of blogs from writers with major publishing houses, this is a common thing. Any issues that arose were ultimately resolved after some discussion. If there are any remaining editorial flaws, which I have no doubt there are, the responsibility is mine.
The first manuscript I submitted required significant improvement and underwent a number revisions and drafts, probably more that usual. The approach from Olympia was patient and indulgent, and after a little over twelve months, I was presented with a professionally designed and edited paperback version to accompany the e-book, which is available on Amazon and other major platforms, and is also being promoted on Olympia’s own social media, which has a solid reach internationally.
The marketing and promotion is now in its early stages, but there are obviously no guarantees of success. I went in with my eyes open, and Olympia has done everything they promised to do thus far, and they have been friendly and attentive. If it fails from here, the responsibility is mine.
Thanks for the opportunity to contribute.
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Hey, thank you for your comment, I’m going through the same process as we speak.
Could you let me know what happened next and how it’s going now?
Do not blame yourself if your book does not sell well. Even a superbly written book can fail if it is not marketed properly. My book, “The Princess of Aenya,” has earned itself a great deal of acclaim from critics and readers alike. IndieReader gave it a 4.7 out of 5, calling it a “great book” and KIRKUS MAGAZINE listed it as “one of twenty great books worth discovering.” Even still, without the backing of a major publisher, it’s hard for me to generate sales. If Olympia cannot provide you with that kind of marketing, you are essentially paying them for nothing. The editorial process is nice, but you can hire an editor yourself (like I did) for much less.
I just received a letter from James Houghton offering me the same, a contributory contract….heart rose, then sank! But it’s best not to be out of pocket so thank you for your work on this.
Here was my response:
Thank you for your email.
While I am reluctant to get involved in any contribution scheme, I will keep an open mind and am glad to receive the contract to view.
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I have just received the same as you.
I have not asked for the copy contract yet.
Could you tell me what happened next and if you had a positive or negative experience?
Do they make all offers the same value?
Any comments would be welcome
Thank you for exposing Olympia Publishing.
I loved all their compliments regarding my YA Fiction, Teen Angel. But the last paragraph peeved me off as it smelled of VANITY PUBLISHER. That’s when I decided to research and came across your article. The initial high and then the disappointment must be the same for all of us.
Sigh. M. C. Syben
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This 2020, they want to give me contract, I stumbled on your site, and I’m going to reject their contract. Thanks for this exposure.
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Same here, in 2020, I received a rather complimentary email from them on my work and their desire to publish under a “contribution-based contract”. That, in and of itself, was a serious red flag for me, also. So, as described by many authors here, my immediate excitement dimmed, and then my instincts told me to a do a bit of digging, and here we are. To say that I am most disappointed in the reviews and the unfortunate and awful experiences recounted by others who have had the misfortune of being taken in by their promises, would be a vast understatement. This has truly soured what should be a very momentous and exciting occasion in my life. Thank you so very much to all of you for sharing your experiences. I agree that after pouring our hearts and souls into creating our work — in my case, almost ten years’ effort — only to be asked to fork out thousands of dollars to bring that work to the world, reeks terribly; the publishers should, indeed, be making their profits from the readers, not from us, the authors. Shame on them! Other aspiring authors, beware!
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I was just this morning offered a contribution-contract from Olympia Publishing. I have not even seen the contract yet. I was immediately excited and then quickly frustrated at the ‘offer’ from them, which would start with me paying out money instead of making any. I cannot afford to buy this project, rather I would very much like to earn from it. With that being said, I wish I could find a publishing company with integrity. The advice above from those who have already been down this road is extremely valuable. Thank you all for helping the new kid on the block.
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It’s very important that this review is here, it amazes me how Olympia doesn’t care about promoting your book on their social media profiles. I’m an author and illustrator who have published one book, I have been lucky to be offered a traditional contract, for other books I was offered to pay the fee, which I dropped.
And one of the main reasons is that they don’t bother to promote! If you go to their page on Instagram, (Olympia, BumbleeBee) the photos are so not professional, I never saw a picture of my book, they promote big names as Sarah Ferguson and other celebrities, but not the newly signed authors. And that is disappointing. They just don’t bother to engage or look professional.
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Great article Nick. I was offered a hybrid-publishing contract today from Olympia. There was one strange caveat saying my illustrations were not of a high enough standard therefore they would only proceed if they used their illustrators. I took a look at their Illustrators’ portfolio and was appalled at the low quality! I suspect they are ‘scamming’ budding Illustrators too. I’m an experienced graphic designer and illustrator myself and my book text and illustrations are very personal and integral to the whole piece. Either they missed the point or as I say want to squeeze some more cash out of their artists.
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