Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Review of Strategic Book Publishing Group

First let me say that I am always willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt. Anytime that I write an expose about a company, it is because I have first-hand experience in dealing with said company. I never jump to conclusions, and I always give the company a chance to prove me wrong. In the case of Strategic Book Publishing Group , which by the way has several other aliases as does the owner Robert Fletcher, there is clearly a scam being perpetuated. While the names may change, the behavior does not.

I first came across the name Strategic Book Publishing when looking for freelance gigs. Now keep in mind because I’ve been doing this for a few years now, I always get everything in writing before I believe anything the company or individual has to say, and before I do any work. It’s easy to pay lip service about how great your company is, but since I’ve been scammed before, I’ve found getting everything in writing is crucial. Incidentally, the similar or the same job ad is still posted that I originally responded to. Whatever you do, do not apply for work with this company. You’re about to see why.

So, I responded to an ad like this one titled Book Marketing & PR-Reviews on The Write Jobs job Board. Since I’m an author, and I’ve successfully marketed my own books, and the books of other authors, I thought this sounded like a very good gig for me. I responded with my resume as per the ad, and a few days later I heard from someone named Rob. We talked back and forth via e-mail, and I asked all the right questions about pay, when I would be paid, and what the work involved. I was told I would be paid weekly, and they even offered me a few dollars more an hour than they do most people just starting with them. I was asked to do an initial project that I would be pre-paid for just to show their good will, and the hiring paperwork was sent to me. Everything looked legitimate until the pre-payment didn’t arrive. Still I was still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, after all I was just starting and maybe the paperwork hadn’t reached the desk of the payroll person yet. By the time I finished the project, I still hadn’t been paid the pre-payment amount, and to top it all off, both Rob, and their payroll person kept requesting my paypal address. This wouldn’t have been so suspicious except that it was asked for repeatedly, and in one case as a response to an e-mail where I had given it! The money finally arrived when I pointed out, with a little snark I might add, that I had given it to them four times already and why was I continuing to be asked for something I’d given them in writing via e-mail four different times, and was in the payroll paperwork I had just turned in. Even after this I was still willing to give this company a chance. That was my mistake.

Not too long after this I was introduced via e-mail to the person who would be training me as a Marketing Coach. It turned out that what I would be doing basically was responding to author’s e-mails and pushing them through Strategic’s many departments so that Strategic could get them to spend more money in most cases. In their defense, they do offer a few free marketing options. However, we were trained not to give this information first, but rather later after encouraging the author to, you guessed it, spend money. Now keep in mind, some of these authors had already forked out $695 to have their book published, and just before I left, the price was raised to $895. What you got for this was the following, you got cover art for your book, you got your book on Amazon and B&N, you got an ISBN, you got a website, a video book trailer, and or depending on the type of contract you had, set up on all the social media websites. The fact of the matter is with a little effort, you can do most of these items for yourself for free. Still some people don’t want to make the effort, they’re looking for a quick fix to what they hope in some cases will be the top ten bestseller list. They want someone else to do the work for them. That’s what I figured when I started. I found over the month I was with this company that I was dead wrong. Many of these authors were very new, many were older and didn’t have computer skills, and as such they got sucked in by the big promises of what turned out to be a vanity publisher.

So the check for my first week of work arrived with no problem and I figured I’d made my point with the owner Rob, that I expected to be paid on the schedule that was on my contract. Remember, they were late paying me the pre-payment, and I made it clear fast that that was unacceptable. However, the second week did not arrive on schedule at all. I was nice, I let it go figuring that I would receive it the next week. But when the third week rolled around, I still had not been paid. I began getting nervous because I had been putting other paying projects aside to work on in the evenings, in order to work on this job as supposedly it was eventually going to be full-time. The idea of a guaranteed full-time income where I could put in 6 to 8 hours every day and get a weekly paycheck and do my other gigs in the evening, and on weekends was enticing. So, I e-mailed Rob again and made it clear that the delay was unacceptable, and if he wanted me to work, he had to pay me. When it became apparent to him and my boss that I would not work unless paid, I was paid, but only for the second week. By this time I was owed for two additional weeks, and the following week, no money arrived again. Does anyone see a pattern here? By this time I had about had it, because I was having to fight to get paid for every single week. When I would point out that I had a written contract that said I would be paid weekly that both they and I had signed, I was told by my boss on more than one occasion that it should say bi-weekly. Of course my response to that, and it degenerated into her trying to shout over me on more than one occasion, was that I didn’t care what it should say, it said I would be paid weekly, and that wasn’t happening. Also, my boss admitted to me on more than one occasion that she and others were five weeks behind in being paid. By this time I could see the writing on the wall, because when I again complained about not being paid to her since she basically forbade me to contact Rob, and she told me there was no money to pay me, I turned in my resignation. I was finally paid for one more of the weeks I was owed, but not the final week. Still I was fair, I waited a month before I said anything. On October 10, 2009, I sent an e-mail to Rob and told him in no uncertain terms that it had been a month and I was still owed for my final week of employment, and I expected to be paid ASAP. My boss had already told me before our final conversation had degenerated into a shouting match, and I blocked her number from my phone, that she had okay’d the final time card, so it was approved. There was no reason not to pay me what I was owed. Rob sent me a nasty e-mail back telling me that I was no longer one of his employees and that he paid his current employees first, it would only be after that that I would be paid. Yeah, right.

It was then I knew I would never be paid for the final week I worked for Strategic Book Publishing. Since I knew that he had employees that were at least five weeks, if not more behind, there was no way he was going to pay me what he owed me.

When I look back on it now, there were signs that I should have paid more attention to. For example, the not paying the pre-paid amount agreed upon until the project was done and I pushed for it. The having to fight every week to get paid, and having to force this company to adhere to the written contract they had with me. Also, being told that I needed to have other work, that I shouldn’t count on Strategic for my main income (even though they were offering full-time employment, and assured me I would have full-time employment after a few months if not sooner). Another sign was the fact that it became obvious that Rob was very litigious when I found out he sued someone for defamation of character for pointing out his shoddy business practices. When the judge told him that his lawsuit was frivolous and then told him he had to pay the people he was suing court costs, he in turn sent an e-mail around to employees about how he wasn’t going to pay those court costs, all the while offering more work via taking phone calls from prospects. Truthfully, I should have quit before it ever got this far, but jobs are hard to come by and I’m one of these people that believes in giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. After all, they had paid me a few times, eventually they would get the point and start paying me on time, right? Wrong! That was my mistake, I kept believing there had to be some good in the company and the owner. After all we are all having tough times financially, or so I thought.

I discovered just before I quit that Robert Fletcher, and his top employees are being investigated by the State Attorney General of Florida for fraud. I was stunned at just how many scams this man and his top employees have been committing over the years when I read the paperwork for the investigation that the State of Florida Attorney General is doing. For those interested, you can read all 27 pages for yourself here.

Whatever you do, don’t publish your book with Strategic Book Publishing Group, AEG Publishing, or any of the other companies owned by Robert Fletcher. I would also strongly urge one and all to not answer the ad I linked to above, or any other ad he runs in the future. He can talk a good game, but in the end he is not going to keep his word, even when there is a written contract. Believe me, I read the contract to be sure there were no loopholes in it, and there aren’t. According to the paperwork previously referenced, at one point Rob was pulling in about 500 prospects every 6 months that paid him $600 for services. That’s $300,000 in 6 months, $600,000 a year. Now, if you do the math knowing that he was charging $695 (the raise to $895 was recent) per author and assuming he’s pulling in about the same number of prospects, he’s making approximately $695,000 per year. Where the heck is all this money going? Making that much, he should be able to pay his employees, and any other coporate expenses, and still be able to live well, and yet he isn’t paying his employees in a timely fashion crying a bad economy, and less people purchasing Strategic Book Publishing’s services. The fact is my personal experience with this company has proven that it does not pay its employees, so chances are, other people like the authors aren’t getting what they paid for either. However, that money has to be going somewhere, and I would guess it’s going into his pocket and the pockets of those helping him to perpetuate these scams.

My purpose in writing this as always is to help other writers, and freelancers by informing them about shady companies with shady business practices. Strategic Book Publishing Group and it’s many other associated companies are without a doubt practicing shady business practices. While a person is innocent until proven guilty, my personal experience with Strategic Book Publishing Group and Robert Fletcher indicates to me that he is running a scam to make money, and he does not care about the writers or the employees that work with him or his company. If he did, he would run a legitimate publishing business where the writers get what they pay for, and the employees get paid according to the contract that he signs with them.

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