Monday, November 24, 2014

We're moving!

As some of you may have already heard, we have some exciting news: Gotham is moving! After four terrific years with the Global Strategy Group, starting next month we'll be co-locating with the renowned Dystel & Goderich Literary Agency.

Our new home will be 1 Union Square West, Suite 909, New York, NY 10003, so update your address books!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bidding on Elance: Here’s How Easily Freelancers Can Get Screwed

by Carol Tice
From my very first blog post back in 2008, I’ve advocated that freelance writers avoid mass bidding sites such as oDesk and Elance.

This past week, I learned in an unexpected way just how easily freelancers can get ripped off doing writing work through impersonal, third-party platforms like Elance.

Because I got ripped off, big time.

Here’s how it happened…

My first sign something was wrong was a series of emails I got from several different India-based SEO writers applying for “the post of content writer.” Asking if I would hire them.

I assumed they were interested in my writer’s guidelines for guest posting here on the blog, so I sent those over.

But something about it was weird. Just the way they were phrasing it didn’t seem right to me.

But I didn’t write anything for you…

Next, on the day after a religious holiday when I was out of the office, I got this odd email:

I assured her that I had never started article writing for her, and certainly wasn’t going to continue. I didn’t even have any idea what topics she was having articles written about!

When I asked what the deal was, I got this reply:

So there you have it, sports fans: An imposter created an Elance profile using my name, my photo, and my writer website, and was trying to get writing clients based on my reputation.

And if this one client hadn’t smelled a rat, who knows how long this might have gone on.

How’d they pull that off? They used a different, London-based Skype number and a different email address than my real one, thereby funneling responses to them rather than me.

And Elance was clueless.

Obviously, I was pretty steamed, given how strongly I’ve advocated for writers to avoid using places like Elance! I was quick to post about it on Facebook and Twitter, and start spreading the word around that I am not really hiring writers on Elance, hoping to warn prospective clients that they weren’t really hiring me.

I was hoping that would help resolve the problem.

But instead, things got worse.

Writers get sucked in

If the news that I was being impersonated on Elance so that someone else could earn a few bucks made me mad, I can tell you I totally hit the roof when I saw the next set of emails and Facebook messages that came in:


The complete picture emerged: Someone was impersonating me on Elance, getting clients, and then subcontracting out the work to other writers.

The final insult? The rates! This impostor was charging $20 a post… I opened that spreadsheet the client up top had sent over, and that was the per-piece rate.

I shudder to think what this person might have been paying the writers they hired to do the actual work. If, in fact, this fraud paid anyone at all.

Will writers get paid?

I contacted Elance immediately about all this, and it took them several days to get back to me. They let me know the bogus profile had been removed.

I think it’s notable that there wasn’t even an apology made for the damage to my reputation here. But OK — I’m breathing and letting go here, because suing is not a positive way to spend my time.

Who was the impostor? Elance isn’t saying. But I know they’re overseas, which would make legal action difficult to pursue anyway.

What about the writers who went busily to work, thinking they were writing for me? Given that Elance allowed this fraud to take place, will they be compensating the writers for their work?

Elance’s security team wouldn’t tell me how the writers would be dealt with…but one of the writers responded to me directly, saying they were told Elance’s payment protection policies would cover them — IF they could document their work to Elance’s satisfaction.

Here’s hoping Elance does the right thing and pays all of these freelancers for their writing.

Elance did indicate that it reached out to at least one freelance writer to warn them to stop writing for the impostor. But at least one other writer told me they got the word to stop work from the impostor, not Elance!

I guess it’s nice that Elance alerted at least one writer it was a bogus account, but from what the writers had to say above, it seems like the damage had already been done. Several writers had already wasted their time writing dozens of articles which they may or may not be paid for.

It just makes me sick to think about how these writers were excited to be writing for me, and then had to find out it was all a scam. Even though I’m only an unwitting participant in this ripoff, it really rankles.

Fighting writer exploitation is the core of my mission here on the blog! And then, this mess happens. I run a Google alert on my name, but it never turned this up. Makes me wonder what more we can do to monitor our online reputations.

The bottom line

This whole experience was a sad reminder that when you go on platforms where it’s easy for clients to mask their identities, you really don’t know who you’re dealing with. Which means it’s easy for that client to disappear without paying you.

Just another reason to go out and find your own clients instead of hanging around bidding on Elance for gigs posted by clients who may not be what they appear.

This article originally appeared on

Monday, November 3, 2014

Wordenfreude: GG Writers Weigh in on the German Ghosting Scandal

photo from Deutsches Bundesarchiv, via Wikimedia Commons
A German friend of ours recently tipped us off to the most intriguing ghostwriting story of the year so far—what we have taken to calling "three reichs and you're out."

According to the magazine Der Spiegel, Heribert Schwan, the writer who worked with former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on his memoirs for eight years and two volumes announced that he plans to publish his research for the third volume under his own name, after Kohl severed the relationship.

What makes this episode especially juicy—and borderline Wagnerian—is that the collaborator claims he was axed because Kohl's current wife had it in for him.

That got us to wondering—if there were a long crazy German word (along the lines of lebensabschnittpartner) to describe this unusual turnabout, what would it be?

We asked our network of ghosts to chime in, and here are our favorite responses:
  • Brad Schreiber sent us the elegant and economical autobiografikaput.
  • Mary Jo Bohr came up with the contagious-sounding frauKohlitis.
  • Claudia Gryvatz Copquincoined kohlaxghoulenscribe. In case you need a breakdown: "Kohl/axed (got rid of) / ghoul - en - scribe (ghostwriter)"
  • Tom Teicholz suggested the slightly profane diefraugefuckedovermich.
  • Jeff Kreisler showed off his comedic chops with derwifencrazenwritersblach. Writer's block indeed.
  • Arthur Allen won the award for longest entry: Kohlsfrauverursachteghostwriterausgrenzung. According to his German friend, this literally translates to "wife-caused ghost writer exclusion."
Think you can top these submissions? Show us your edelwrites in the comments below.