The Albee Agency Using Testimonials From Authors the Authors Did Not Give

The Albee Agency purports to be a book publicity agency that will get you and your book in and on all manner of media outlets, including TV, magazines and newspapers. To bolster those claims, it includes testimonials from authors, like these:

The problem? Chuck Wendig didn’t give that testimonial. Neither did Myke Cole. Neither did Maureen Johnson.

There’s a word for falsely attributing words to someone else in order to convince people to use your business: It’s called “fraud.”

I think if you’re a writer looking for a publicist, you might want to avoid the Albee Agency.

Update, 4:30pm: The quotes from Myke and Maureen and Chuck have magically disappeared from the Albee Agency site! Good thing I took screenshots!

Update, 8pm: Promoting this comment from Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware:

More detail on this mess at Writer Beware: http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-albee-agency-book-publicity-faked.html.

One important point to make: even if there had been no testimonial fakery, this would still be an outfit to beware of. Red flags aplenty.

Indeed.

78 thoughts on “The Albee Agency Using Testimonials From Authors the Authors Did Not Give

  1. Wasn’t there something similar a while ago? I can’t seem to remember, but this whole situation sounds very familiar.

    And you have to wonder just what train of thought led to this, it would an absolutely fascinating read. Well, as long as it was more involved than, “I need testimonials. I’ll just make them up, no one will notice. All testimonials are fakes anyway, just look at the ones on TV commercials.”

  2. Very sloppy work, capitalizing the “The” in The Albee Agency each time. It’s like using the same Sharpie to sign your fake Rembrandt and your phony Van Gogh.

  3. The testimonials are displayed somewhat randomly. Not only have they fabricated quotes from real authors, but some of the authors/books referenced in the testimonials don’t seem to exist at all.

  4. I wonder if their defense will be, “Hey, we got testimony from *A* Maureen Johnson, not your fault you assumed it was the well-known author instead of the bag lady we found collecting cans by the bus stop.”

  5. Actually, I’m guessing that what we’ll see is the “Oh darn it, the designer made up those quotes to show how real testimonials would look when formatted, and then the designer forgot to take them down before we launched” defense.

    What’s really going on is that a startlingly large number of would-be grifters and con artists have absolutely no idea how quickly people will find out about it if you pull a stunt like this on the modern internet.

  6. “No, not THAT Chuck Wendig. We meant the Chuck Wendig from Pierre, North Dakota, who works in Jim’s Oil & Tire. See? Our publicity engine works so well we convinced you it was the other guy. WE’RE JUST THAT GOOD.”

    In other news, I’d like to take this moment to declare that Schroedinger is both a fan and is not a fan of my work, and will continue to be so until he actually reads it. Which he can’t do. Because he’s dead.

  7. The Albee company is so committed to moving their product, they’ll commit fraud to make it happen! Imagine what such unrestrained enthusiasm can do on your behalf!

  8. JR: But the front page also says the Albee Agency has been in business for almost 20 years. The Albee Agency can’t count. Although, I guess one could round 7 up to “almost 20.”

    “The Albee Agency is a book marketing and publicity agency that works with authors and publishers on their promotion, and media relations. We have been doing it with great success for almost 20 years.”

  9. @mintwitch, this is a pretty common thing to say on business proposals as well. What you do is you add up the combined experience of each individual person on your team. So if they have ten people who each have two years of experience, then they have, collectively, put in twenty years worth of billable time. And so you have twenty years of experience.

    Sophistry is fun and profitable!

  10. I hope no one gets suckered in by them. Refreshing their webpage pulls up multiple quotes, multiple times on the same testimonial page. I get lots of Suzie Plackson and Barry Krusch.

  11. I had the exact thought as PNH – they will say that those were fake testimonials that were never supposed to see the light of day.

    It looks like they’ve pulled most of them – if you go to the page now, you only get testimonials from Suzie Plackson and Barry Krusch.

  12. They must be torturing their web master right now.

    Currently, there are 2 testimonials on the testimonial page (used in 5 slots)… There are still 6 on the “Campaign Features” side bar.

  13. Is that not also a form of “plagiarism”, except it’s sorta reversed–you’re attributing words to someone who didn’t say them, instead of not crediting words to the person who did say them?

  14. The Testimonials page seems to be undergoing some changes. As of now the testimonials are down to two authors. There is a testimonial from one Suzie Plackson which is duplicated and one from Barry Krusch. His testimonial is repeated twice on the page.

  15. “Quick, pull the fake quotes! That’ll make this all go away!”
    “Good thinking! Lucky for us there’s no quick and easy way to take a shot of what appears on a screen.”

  16. It’s hilarious that they chose Chuck Wendig and Maureen Johnson, who have two of the most distinctive voices in the Twittersphere, to tag their bland marketing copy. So sad they didn’t attribute one of their indistinguishable praises to Drunk Hulk.

  17. John, you and your old school respect for ethics and the law. It’s so quaint! Don’t you know that in the digital age, it’s expected that everyone just makes shit up?

  18. It’s not like there are a whole bunch of Chuck Wendigs running around.

    OR ARE THERE.

    *starts loading the guns*

    THE DOPPELGANGER HUNT BEGINS NOW.

    Ahem, anyway, no, I didn’t write that testimonial. Mike Albee stole my name and plastered it onto some wan, toothless endorsement.

    — c.

  19. I think they might mean Suzie Plakson, who does exist, apparently. I guess if you misspell an author’s name, they can’t cry fraud. Oh, that OTHER Plackson, with a C. See?

  20. Clearly a Public Relations firm that actually believes “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” (just capitalize the “The” at the start of our name correctly).

  21. You’ve got to admit they’re damn good at getting publicity for themselves. Not good publicity, maybe, but then you remember what Sam Goldwyn said about that. Of course, I’m not completely sure that Sam actually said it, but it’s not like he can sue us. Hey, that’s the ticket! Get your testimonials from folks who are safely dead. My next book will have blurbs from Socrates, Alexander Hamilton, and Houdini.

  22. “The only thing I truly know is that I know nothing. Also The Albee Agency.”
    – Socrates

    “I think, therefore The Albee Agency.”
    – Descartes

    “The United States should have been a monarchy. But The Albee Agency is good stuff.”
    – Alexander Hamilton

    “The only straightjacket I couldn’t get out of was put on by The Albee Agency. Seriously, get a good lawyer.”
    – Houdini

    “These are the three good things in life: to drive your enemies before you, hear the lamentations of their women, and The Albee Agency.”
    – Conan

    “I’ve been all over this galaxy, kid, and I’ve seen a lot of weird things, but I’ve never seen anything to convince me to leave The Albee Agency.”
    – Han Solo

  23. Of course, through the magic of quote mining, they now actually do have a glowing testimonial from an NYT bestselling author:

    “The Albee Agency […] will get you and your book in and on all manner of media outlets, including TV, magazines and newspapers.
    There’s a word for […] the Albee Agency. Good[…]!”
    – John Scalzi

  24. I also like how under the (now-Plackson-and-Krusch-ified) testimonials they also have a list of “National Television Shows,” “National Radio Shows,” and “National Press,” which appears to be simply a list of popular publications and (as far as I can tell) have nothing to do with the actual Agency itself. Shit, if that’s all it takes, I’m just going to start walking around shouting the names of famous people and wait for everyone to recognize my genius.

  25. @The Pathetic Earthling

    Not Chuck Wendig, Chuck Vendiig, the well-known Dutch author.

    Nice Python reference.

  26. Well, almost. Barry K. and Suzie P. (Gotta love that publicity! Way to get those names out there!) are still on the “About Us” page, sharing rotation in what is now only one testimonial slot. They are gone from the “Media Reach” page, however, which is where the testimonials had been featured.

  27. In case anyone comes by here and thinks PNH’s excuse is a real justification (as opposed to a lie made up when caught posting fraudulent quotes) I have two words for you: Lorem Ipsum. That’s how the design bits are done by honest people.

  28. For a guy with 20 years of experience in publicity, he’s got an awfully unprofessional Twitter feed:

    https://twitter.com/MikeAlbee

    Somebody needs to explain to him that “fake it ’til you make it” doesn’t actually work the way he thinks it does…

  29. You mean like the post in which he exults in the fact that one of his authors has been booked on Fox, but doesn’t bother to mention the name of the author or the name of the show, much less the time and day?

    Truly, a master publicist.

  30. So far as ‘getting away with it goes, yeah, won’t.
    The plan is to get away with it for long enough.

  31. Over at Writer Beware dbschlosser pointed out that, for a company that’s supposedly been in operation since 2005, they have suspiciously no web presence at all until this year.

  32. Seriously; what goes through what passes for these people’s minds?

    “Um. Well, sure. That’s going to work – I mean, it’s not as if authors, their readers or their professional organisations actually live on the web. They’ll never find out we’ve stolen their names to hawk our largely illusory products; they live in garrets with no electricity, don’cha’know.”

  33. This was all I had to do to be a publicist? And here I’ve been trying all that old-fashioned stuff. My new career starts tomorrow!

  34. Way to go Myke Cole! Big enough now to be used in fraud. By incredibly stupid people who apparently believe that authors never search for their names on the Internet. But still, desirable for fraud!

  35. To those saying the testimonials are gone: there’s one there now. I quote it below, for a couple of reasons:

    The Albee Agency landed me two national television interviews and three radio spots in their first month. They are extrenely good at what they do, with excellent follow through and follow up. I will be using them again next year!
    -Barry K.

    That’s verbatim, except I bolded the typo. So: now they’re proudly trumpeting a pseudonymous endorsement! And they didn’t proofread it! Convincing!

  36. Well, you certainly dropped the Mallet of Unloving Scorn on those scumbags. Good work there.

    Will you be taking further action in your official SFWA role?

  37. Steven Davidson, the defrauded people who could take action are the folks who paid the Albee agency money based on those quotes; I’m not sure (beyond a defamation case that’s probably not worth the time and money) if there’s a huge amount of recourse available for the authors in question (especially since it’s easy enough to provide a weasily excuse, as PNH noted).

    (Although if Leverage survives the cancellation rumors, these guys would make a fun Season 6 target.)

    That said, I hope no action gets taken on an individual restitution front, simply on the grounds that I don’t want anyone to have gotten conned in the first place. There are certainly actions that can be taken against them for violating the law, at least, and I’d love to see that happen.

  38. The law isn’t as clear cut as the original posts or the comments like to think. Fake testimonials are not part of the service offering, their inducements. So, while it might constitute false advertising, it doesn’t constitute fraud unless the service offerings say they will do a, b, c, and they actually only do a.

    The difference is striking — fraud is a criminal offence, with significant penalties. False advertising tends to be a regulatory offence with financial penalties that are scalable.

    Success in a civil suit that is based on actual fraud is a slam dunk; a civil suit related to “false advertising” runs into problems when it is testimonials because the testimonial itself isn’t an “advertisement” of false services. Just because Barry K had success (perhaps) or not says nothing about the services offered by the company in the actual contract terms signed for. And, in contract law, testimonials by other clients doesn’t tend to fundamentally alter the terms of the contract, except insofar as it goes partially (but only partially) to their experience. In other words, just cuz some celebrity endorses something (rightly or wrongly) doesn’t mean that the contractee doesn’t have to do due diligence to vet them and see if they are real. If it was, then you could sue any endorser for misleading you.

    It’s unethical, it’s crappy, it’s scummy, but it isn’t “fraud” in the normal sense and winning a case against them is not a slam dunk.

    PolyWogg

  39. I recently discovered that the Albee Agency apparently had taken extensive copy from my company website, (www.smithpublicity.com) and used it — often verbatim. They also used testimonials from OUR clients. After a pointed conversation, much, but not all of the copy they lifted from our website has been removed from theirs. They also actually had testimonials from made-up authors and books. To make matters worse, Mike Albee actually had on his LinkedIn profile the he had WORKED for my company for 10 years, (I had of course never heard of him). Amazingly, he listed his “start” date of working for me nearly two years before I actually founded my agency.

  40. So in other words his business plan seems to have been “Lie about absolutely everything and hope no one catches me at it” ?

  41. Their BIG mistake was using real-ilife authors for the “testmonials.” And they got caught. If they’d made up fake testimonials from non-existent authors their scam would have probably never been discovered.

  42. He used the text of testimonials from clients of mine, but attributed them to made-up authors and books. I’ve never run into anything close to this in my 15 years in book publicity. I also discovered his website was created this past summer, so he actually made up an entire company using my website copy, my testimonials, and by saying he worked for me for 10 years. I’m dumbfounded …..

  43. @jfbrown123 If i’m reading the Writer Beware post right, it looks like Victoria Strauss was already looking into them before the fake testimonials were discovered. That’s comforting, knowing Albee would have been outed even if he hadn’t engaged in this particular act of monumental stupidity. Much love for Ms. Strauss and A.C. Crispin.

  44. I’m amazed that this still happens. How does anyone expect to use fake testimonials and expect to get away with it? They’re in marketing, so it’s like, “Look at this!” but at the same time, “Don’t look into this!”

  45. Is there any evidence that the guy’s name is really Mike Albee? It could be an attempt to falsely associate himself with Edward Albee’s name.

  46. Good points, PolyWogg. Still, they’re scam artists, if not technically fraudsters, and everyone who values their wallet should steer clear of them. If they’ll lie about their client base, they’ll lie to their clients. (No, I don’t think you’re saying different.)

  47. The Albee Agency landed me two national television interviews and three radio spots in their first month. They are extrenely good at what they do, with excellent follow through and follow up. I will be using them again next year!

    -Barry K.

    Barry Kwipkie possibly?

  48. No, that testimonial was originally credited to Barry Krusch. Whether it’s yet another lie is anyone’s guess; I’ve not seen Mr. Krusch comment one way or the other.

  49. The Albee Agency has emerged in a new form, SandPiper Publicity. He shut down the old agency and started a new one. Spoke to an author today who almost got ripped off for $6,000.

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