catfishing

MTV Catfish; Paula Deen’s Agent; Silicon Valley Sex Scandal

There’s an article in this week’s Time Magazine about the MTV show Catfish. I do subscribe to the print version of Time, and I will quote, but I can only link to part of it because Time Magazine makes you subscribe for fresh content online.

For those who might not know, a Catfish is someone who uses a fake ID online, mostly on social media to hook up with people, scam people, and basically screw around with their heads to fuck them up emotionally. (You won’t read that part in Time Magazine, but it’s really what Catfish do.) It can be both serious and painful, and ruin someone’s life.

The gist of the show revolves around helping some poor soul who is having an online relationship with someone who seems to be hiding something. The article in Time mentions Manti Te’o and his catfish experience, which I posted about here a few months ago. I’ve posted about catfishing here. And what I find most interesting is that so many people still aren’t aware this can happen to them, and that it does, indeed, happen way too often on social media, and not just in romantic relationships.

I’ve reached a point where if I have any doubts about anyone who sends me a friend request on facebook, I send them a personal FB message first and ask to know more about them. I don’t want specifics. I only want to know basic information that tells me they are legitimate. This past week someone with a name Mt. Snow Mt. Snow (I swear that’s the name) sent a friend request, but has yet to reply to my personal message. At this point, I have not accepted the request. I did notice that this Mt. Snow Mt. Snow had become friends with other familiar names in m/m romance…only m/m romance…which leads me to believe it’s another author with a fake name that resembles one of the four seasons. However, I’ve reached a point where I don’t take chances anymore.

In any event, Catfish: The TV Show looks like a fascinating show, and if you’re not familiar with the old wild west tactics of the Internet, I would recommend watching it so you know how to protect yourself against the scammers and liars of the Interwebz. And not just for romantic online relationships. I think this is a show that could help you vet who you can and cannot trust online these days with regard to all social media friendships. My rule is you can’t trust anyone on the Internet until they prove to you they can be trusted. Below I’m going to post about my new release in the Bad Boy Billionaire series. It’s titled, The Silicon Valley Sex Scandal, and it gets into catfishing and online manipulation.

From Time Magazine, link above:

The thrill of mystery isn’t new. Neither is lying. Catalina Toma, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who studies online dating, has found that deceptions are frequent but subtle: a 2008 study she co-wrote found that 81% lie about their age, weight or height. Big Fraud Catfish are outliers. (Schulman gets e-mails from people in healthy online relationships and people who have un-masked their Catish independently, but those folks don’t make it onto TV.) Even so, Fabrications are about psychology, not technology. “People lie about these things in face to face dates. They lied about these things in video dates back in the ’80’s,” Toma says. “I don’t necessarily expect those patterns to change.”

I only agree with this part of the article slightly, and I think Toma isn’t as familiar with the Internet as I am, and she’s underestimating the serious situations people are experiencing online. When you meet someone face to face you at least get the upper hand of putting a face and voice and personality together…even if that person is a liar. When you meet someone online, whether it be for romance of just plain friendship, you’re at a disadvantage in more than one way. The possibilities to scam are endless, and social media like facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads promotes this brand of fakery and anonymity to the point where no one can be trusted. I personally think there should be legal guidelines and laws that protect people from social media scams, and all the fakery we’ve seen since the early years of the Internet. If people who used facebook were forced, legally, to sign up with their real names, with proof, I think half the issues on facebook would disappear. Of course the membership would probably drop to a third of what it is now and stock would plummet as a result. But that’s the risk of running a business built on a proverbial house of cards.

As a side note, I’m wondering who this MTV show is being marketed to. Tony and I have a guest house on our property that we rent out. For the past ten years, consistently, we’ve rented to young college graduates in stable professions…new adults. In every case, none own a TV or watch TV. So I’m guessing that unless younger people are streaming this show somewhere, the show is more focused on an older crowd that still does watch TV…cuz we know they aren’t reading Time Magazine.

Paula Deen’s Agent

A good deal of Paula Deen’s fame and fortune came through her cookbooks, and while reading about her recent scandal I grew curious about who her literary agent is. So I did a quick search and came up with this:

JANIS A. DONNAUD & ASSOCIATES, INC. was founded over 18 years ago by Janis Donnaud, who had previously been Vice President and Associate Publisher of the Random House Adult Trade Group.

The agency represents, develops and packages a wide range of commercially successful properties. It negotiates publishing agreements with the top trade houses in the U.S., licenses all subsidiary rights, arranges foreign editions and translation rights, and licenses film and performance rights. The agency’s varied list is concentrated mainly on nonfiction, with an emphasis on the culinary, narrative non-fiction, memoir, health and medical books, and women’s books.


Paula Deen- the #1 TV Food Network star for which the agency has represented more than ten books, including the new Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible;

This article gives a more personal side.

 Knowing that a book’s success doesn’t depend only on New York or “East Coast-West Coast” reader preferences, Donnaud landed one of the least big-city clients around when Paula Deen signed with her.

And this one made me smile. Not because of anything related to Janis A. Donnaud. I’m sure she’s a fine agent and she’s in shock over the Paula Deen debacle. This is a link to Absolute Write that goes back ten years. I’ve always maintained that Absolute Write is the essence of online ridiculousness, and you can only trust about a fourth of what’s posted there. Some of these old comments are highly entertaining.

Here’s an example of the kind of amusing nonsense you’ll find at Absolute Write in any given thread:

The hot agents don’t need websites. They already have all the business they want, and can get more any time they feel like it just by letting it be known that their lists are open. Among the top agents, the ones who have websites at all do them as celebrations of their clients, not of themselves.

She’s hot because the editors who know her matter, she knows what house is looking for what kind of works, and she can tell a good/marketable manuscript from one that’s less good. Editors trust her. She’s probably also a good negotiator for contracts.

This is a classic example of what you’ll generally find on AW. Information that’s only partially true and needs to be taken with that proverbial grain of salt. I find it about as relevant today as Miss Snark, Victoria Strauss, Preditors and Editors, and agents who charge reading fees.

Bad Boy Billionaires: The Silicon Valley Sex Scandal

A good deal of the subplot in this book gets into social media, online scamming, and catfishing for romance. In fact, it becomes deadly this time. I’ll post more in the coming weeks. But this excerpt shows how the main character made his billions. I thought it would be interesting to have a character who is a billionaire bad boy with a slightly good side, too. And it’s my fictional version of how I would love to see things really happen with social media someday.

To create a relatively honest social media web site where everyone used real names and there were no sockpuppets or fakes wasn’t always realistic. Most of the time it seemed impossible. One way Shannon tried to do this was by only allowing users of lovemetender.com to sign up with one e-mail address and one password. In other words, the e-mail address used to sign up could only be used with one specific password, and users were not allowed to create multiple accounts with that e-mail address. He also stated in the terms of service that multiple accounts with fake names were not allowed and that anyone who did this was in violation of the terms of service and could atomically be banned from the site forever.

            Unfortunately, most people who know how to navigate the Interwebs have more than one e-mail address. And there was no way to battle the corruption one hundred per cent. The best they could do at lovemetender.com was to handle each complaint and do an investigation as they came in. Shannon had a department in one wing of the building that only focused on this kind of corruption. Each complaint was taken seriously, by trained professionals. Each person who lodged a complaint was treated with respect and they always received a prompt reply from someone at lovemetender.com. And each time a user with multiple fake accounts was spotted he or she would be banned from the web site forever. Or at least until they figured out a way to change their IP addresses.

Gavin Newsom Interview; Snapshot Self-destructing Photos; Catfishing: Konrath on KDP Select

In this week’s Time Magazine, former San Francisco mayor and supporter of gay marriage, Gavin Newsom, is the focus in the “10 Questions” section. He’s also the present California Lt. Governor and the author of a new book titled, Citizenville.

The questions are interesting, especially this one about the Catholic Church, which I found interesting because I was raised Catholic and went through twelve years of strict Catholic education. I basically feel the same way he does, and I understand his difficulty.

How do you Square your politics with your Catholicism?

It’s difficult. It’s hard for all of us, especially for those with progressive leanings, to square (the gay marriage issue). Then there’s stem cells, choice, birth control. That said, it’s very important to me, my faith.

I also have issues with the way the Church looks at divorce, too. I recently had to fill out a long questionnaire for someone who has been divorced and is seeking what’s called a Papal Annulment. Without this grant from the Church, divorced people are basically excommunicated.

In any event, here’s a link to a video of the full interview.

“Snapshot,” or, Self-destructing Internet Photos

This link is amazing. Check it out and watch what happens.

But that’s not why I’m posting about this topic. Images seem to be running rampant on the Internet these days. Just this week an older friend who is getting a new computer asked if I could show him how to take photos from his digital camera and put them on facebook. This is someone who never dreamed he would have been on facebook five years ago, let alone posting personal pics there.

 “If I texted you a photo of myself, you could keep it forever and then I have no control over what you do with it,” said Travis Mayfield, director of social media for Fisher Communications.

But Snapchat can make images vanish into thin air. The app allows users to put a self-destruct timer on photos, giving the recipient only seconds to see the image.

You can read more here. Supposedly parents are worried about sexting, and from what I gather screen grabs can be taken before the photos self-destruct. But I don’t think most people take screen grabs unless they are on some kind of mission. I know I’ve only taken them twice, and just because I wanted to back up something I’d posted about.

Catfishing

I’m sure a lot of people already know what this is, but I didn’t know until recently and I figured I’d share for those who still might not know.

From Urban Dictionary:

The phenomenon of internet predators that fabricate online identities and entire social circles to trick people into emotional/romantic relationships (over a long period of time).
Sounds like something that takes sockpuppetry to a whole new level. Tony actually plays a lot of online poker, with people from all over the world. And some of the stories he tells me about how these people…mostly straight…flirt and play around with each other online is very entertaining. The most recent was about some guy in the Netherlands who’s been flirting romantically with a woman from Texas. She’s been flirting right back. Both are married. Turns out the woman’s IP can be traced to Canada, and now this guy is freaking and they’ve never even met. Oh what a tangled web we weave!

Konrath on Kindle Select Program

Joe Konrath, of the A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing fame, recently wrote a blog post titled, “Hungry Dogs.” It’s a good post for the most part. But I found a few things that wouldn’t work for me as a writer who has self-published four books in the past year, all of which have hit bestseller lists (I’m not bragging about that. I’m just pointing out that I must have done something right while self-publishing, and unlike Konrath, I do ALL the “nuts and bolts” work alone and pay no one for their services to format or layout. There’s nothing wrong with using someone to e-publish, but I wanted to have that control, too. And, learning formatting and HTML has made me much stronger than I thought it would.)

This was one things I found in Konrath’s post that wouldn’t work for me:

What’s changed has been making titles free using the Kindle Select program.

To wit: there are millions of people with Kindles, and the majority of them haven’t heard of me, haven’t come across my titles, haven’t read me before. So by getting three ebooks on the Top 100 Free list, I am making myself known to them.

I’m a huge fan of the Kindle Select Program in a general sense, and I have been part of it with several books and I have no huge complaints. However, Konrath is talking “Hungry Dogs,” and I agree with him completely. But that means that when I’m self-publishing I need to think distribution in as many places as I can get my books, which includes places like Allromanceebooks.com and Kobo.com. I need to think like a hungry businessperson, not an author.

And with Kindle Select I found myself locked into an exclusive that kept me from distributing the books anywhere for a long period of time, and that just didn’t work for me. And I don’t think Amazon allows you to just put a book up for free for a week unless you’re part of Kindle Select (I would do these promos often if they did). At least that’s how it’s been explained to me. So I’ve opted out of Kindle Select for this reason with all my books, and in turn I’ve had a lot of success offering free book promotions on Allromanceebooks.com for my readers, and other web sites were e-books are sold. But more than that, I can offer these free promotions and no one’s locking me into an exclusive. And I can tell you that after twenty years of publishing experience, I don’t do exclusives with anyone unless the deal is so sweet I can’t pass it by. It’s why I’m not asking for an exclusive with the upcoming anthology I’m indie publishing this summer (more to come on that soon.)

In a general sense, if you don’t know how to aggressively distribute your e-book, I do have to agree with Konrath. Taking advantage of Kindle Select might work for you if you don’t want your book anywhere else, or if you don’t know how to put it anywhere else. However, my advice would be to take the next step and learn more about e-book distribution if you’re serious about self-publishing. Because your goal is to get that book into as many places as you can. There are a lot of venues like allromanceebooks that sell a lot of e-books to people who prefer this boutique e-book shopping experience instead of going to Amazon.

My point is this: get that book out there to as many retail web sites as you can, including Amazon. And that’s something I’ve learned from digital first book publishers, not something I figured out by accident.