Mike Albee and Lura Dold scammed me of $40,000 by pretending to be book publicists. Exposing their methods should help you avoid being defrauded. This might also force Mike and Lura to come up with a new approach. I don’t think they’ll be able to do it.
Anatomy of the Mike Albee scam
1.You contacted the now-defunct Sandpiper Publicty by going to their Website and sending an e-mail, asking if they’d be willing to represent you. You can also send a copy of your book, the galleys, or an electronic manuscript.
2. Lura Dold poses as Mike Albee’s assistant. She e-mails back and asks if she can call you. Then she sets up an appointment for you to talk to her.
3. When Lura talks to you, she sounds exactly like this laughing newscaster.
The timbre of her voice is the same, and no matter what you say, she laughs. She susses you out and makes an appointment for you to talk to Mike.
4. Mike Albee calls and butters you up from top to bottom, telling you that your book is the most amazing one he’s read in his twenty years in the publishing industry. His deep, soothing voice and reassuring manner are identical to those of George Zimmer, founder of Men’s Wearhouse.
He explains how his company—whatever name it uses—will publicize your book:
First they get you reviews from their list of 20,000 independent reviewers. Then they contact local media in your area, then they go to media in your half of the state, then they go statewide, then they go regional, then they go national, and finally they go international.
5. They have you sign up at www.basecamp.com. This way they can send you “Daily Recaps” that give you the illusion that they’re working. What they’re actually doing is sending out junk e-mails that virtually nobody will even open, much less read. But it looks super-professional.
6. They bombard you with messages telling you what they’re going to do and what they’ve done. They also send you PDF files with thousands and thousands of names, addresses, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers, all in tiny print.
In the initial phone consultation, Mike tells you that some of his clients think he sends too much information, but by keeping clients in the loop this way, his busy staff doesn’t have to waste precious time with clients when they could be on the phone earning beautiful money for all of us. In fact, the blizzard of e-mails is designed to reassure you that something is being done.
They had no homies in Washington. There was never a chance they’d get me on the Danny Bonaduce show. Nobody lifted a finger to make it happen.
7. They send you follow-up messages to give the appearance that things are moving forward. Like all good con artists, they do just enough to keep you from thinking it’s all a waste of time.
However, the vast majority of the responses come to nothing. When a prospective reviewer or interviewer responds, Mike and Lura send you a note, and that’s usually the last you hear of it. Instead, they ply you with a daily flow of new contacts, new outreaches, new follow-ups, and new opportunities. They give the appearance of continuous momentum, but few actual results ever materialize.
8. They have an “influence rating” that they send you in addition to the outreaches and follow-ups.
For each potential contact, you thus get four separate e-mails. You’re absolutely overwhelmed with information, which is how they get away with it.
9. They offer to do everything for you, and they constantly tell you what a great writer you are, when they aren’t asking you how you’re doing or sending condolence cards after your mother died.
The SEO (search engine optimization) work was supposed to finished by the beginning of December. When I fired Mike and Lura on January 7, 2014, only about a third of the Website had been optimized. I never received a weekly update on the SEO progress.
Here’s an example of how Mike Albee or his SEO dunce “optimized” a page. The screen shot was taken January 24, 2014, six weeks after Mike promised that full optimization would be completed.
Note the dates: I published this on August 27, 2013, and Mike applied his expertise on October 31, 2013. Since he knew by reading my blog that I had a breakdown on October 28, 2013, he took advantage of my inability to keep an eye on what he was doing.
At top right is the score from the “Scribe Content Optimizer.” A perfect score is 100, so 60 and 44 are awful. The Scribe plugin that Mike installed on my Website gives specific instructions for how to optimize the page when you click “Analyze.” Most of the instructions are too technical for me to understand. Mike never optimized a single page in the three months I paid for SEO. All he did was analyze. If the page got a low score, he did nothing to improve it.
In the bottom right corner is the “Update” bar. Above and to the left of it you see a yellow dot with the word “Check” beside it. This is from the Yoast SEO plugin I bought myself. Before Mike “optimized” my Website, all my Yoast scores were green, the highest you can get. Look at that stupid meta description at the bottom of the page: “It took incurable illness and the loss of everything to convince me that it’s all good.”
That’s not what I wrote, and that’s not what this page is about. This page describes a strange young man who told me, “Don’t worry, sir. It’s all good,” and then disappeared.
On the left, below the cut-off photo, it says “WordPress SEO by Yoast.” Under “Snippet Preview” is the second criterion “Focus Keyword.” All five of the categories beneath “Your focus keyword was found in:” should have a green “Yes.” Notice that four have a red “No.” Mike did that by changing the focus keyword from “It’s all good” to “Saint Michael.” He told me that Scribe was more important than Yoast, but again, the Scribe score is dismal: 60 and 44. Thus Mike lowered the Yoast score and did nothing to improve the Scribe score.
For $2250 per month, Mike Albee un-optimized my Website. He didn’t bother doing the work for which I paid him because he saw from reading my blog and my posts on Basecamp that during this period I was trying to recover from total emotional and mental collapse. This is one of the many ways he capitalized on the suicide of my mother. To Mike and Lura, Mom’s horrible death was a bonanza.
Why It Worked On Me
A person in his right mind wouldn’t fall for this scam as long as I did. For virtually all of 2013, however, I wasn’t in my right mind.
1. Both my parents committed protracted suicide that year. Their deaths were the most traumatic experiences of my life.
2. I have Meniere’s disease, which causes a form of confusion known as “brain fog,” characterized by forgetfulness.
3. The Valium I take to treat the Meniere’s disease adds to my cognitive impairment.
4. Stress greatly increases the brain fog of Meniere’s disease. My doctor tells me it becomes similar to Alzheimer’s.
5. I have post-traumatic stress disorder with secondary psychotic features (PTSD-SP), which causes disassociation when I’m under stress. Mike and Lura not only knew of all my problems, they exploited them by constantly expressing their sympathy and admiration.
6. Immediately prior to meeting Mike and Lura, I’d been ripped off by three Web designers, one publicist, and one marketing director.
7. This was the best book I’d ever written. I wanted desperately for it to succeed. It would be a Cinderella story that made up for the anguish and failure of my entire life. Mike and Lura seemed like the answer to my prayers.
8. My $12,000 Website was worthless after it went live, since it was invisible to search engines. Mike offered to “fix” it. Like his publicity efforts, he did just enough to keep me from recognizing that he was simply prolonging the problems in order to profit from me.
9. Mike read my nightly posts, gauged my state of mind, and timed his various strikes to coincide with my lowest mental and emotional ebb. He also read all three volumes of the Ghosts Trilogy, which are guides for how to take advantage of me if one is so inclined. I’m sure he researched Meniere’s disease and PTSD.
10. When my Website was hacked and I received threats, I sent a doomsday package to Mike, to be forwarded to the police in the event of my death. In the package I revealed the full details of my past. Mike said that he too shared such a past. It didn’t occur to me that this intelligent, sensitive, supportive man was so dedicated to theft that he’d exploit what I told him: I’ve been dead my whole life except for three years.
A Guide for Recognizing Mike Albee and Lura Dold
If the woman to whom you first speak can’t stop laughing, beware.
If the publicist sounds like George Zimmer, beware.
If the publicist tells you that he’s going to start locally, than in your half of the state, then statewide, then regionally, then nationally, and finally internationally, beware.
If the publicist wants to sign you up on Basecamp or a similar project-management or online-collaboration site, beware.
If the publicist sends you massive lists of thousands of names in PDF or Word format, beware.
If the publicist overwhelms you with e-mails, beware.
If the publicist says he has personal contacts in every single opportunity for publicity that you suggest, beware.
If the publicist never tells you what happened to all the promising leads he mentioned at the beginning, beware.
If the publicist and his staff take an intensely personal interest in you, beware.
If the publicist doesn’t follow through on elementary promises such as posting your book trailer on YouTube and adding a link to your Website, beware.
If the publicist has staffers whose jobs change depending on the problems you experience, beware.
If the publicist has an SEO department, an art department, an audio-visual department, and a social media department whose members also personally work the phones, reaching out to contacts in the media, beware.
If you start getting MASSIVE amounts of spam after you sign with the publicist, beware.
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I’m sure I’m the biggest fish these creatures ever landed. If I play may cards right, I’ll also be the last.