I never criticize other book marketing agency competitors, but in this case, I’m going to, because the “competitor” really isn’t one at all.
I’ll get right to the point: Late last year, a publicity “agency” I had never heard of reared its ugly head. The Albee Agency, as it calls itself, headed by a mysterious fellow named Mike Albee, suddenly began popping up on the Internet. Albee claimed, at various turns, to have been in business for 4, 7, and 20 years, and to have worked with 20,000 authors. No one in the industry, as far as could tell, had ever heard of him. Odd, to say the least.
But that’s just the beginning of the story. I soon learned Albee had “stolen” the website copy of Smith Publicity. Approximately 70% of his website copy was ours. (Mike, if you’re out there, I have the screenshots to prove it.) But it gets even worse; on his LinkedIn profile, Albee indicated he worked for Smith Publicity for 10 years, including a time frame when my agency wasn’t even in existence.
So, I was faced with a website thief and a fraud. Albee wasn’t just some benign annoyance, he was actively marketing himself. He was, in essence, trying to steal the success of Smith Publicity, a version of some type of corporate identity theft. He was using our copy, our credentials, and lying about working for us to ostensibly give him credibility.
But it gets even worse, and worse. Albee, who is very savvy in some aspects of fraud, perhaps isn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. He actually made up fake books and fake authors and attributed some our clients’ actual testimonials to them. (Note to Mike: It’s pretty easy to check if a book is real.) He also subsequently posted testimonials from real authors for whom he had never worked. A tweet from one irate author:
WTF? Who is the Albee Agency? They have a testimonial from me on their main page that I never made. http://thealbeeagency.com (@victoriastrauss)
In an even more bizarre twist, Albee apparently claimed my firm paid for the faked testimonials:
The Albee Agency–which, amazingly, is still in business–now appears to be claiming that this and other blog posts about its attempts to hoodwink the public with false testimonials were “faked and paid for by a competitor” (presumably, Smith Publicity–see the comments to this post).
Well, I don’t even know what to say about this claim. It’s idiotic, moronic, and makes no sense at all.
I called the Albee Agency. Some inarticulate, clueless person answered the phone. I asked to talk to Mike, but not surprisingly, he wasn’t available. I had a very pointed, one-sided conversation with this person who identified herself as the vice president of the agency. I told her I knew what Mike was doing and that they had 48 hours to remove the website copy they hijacked from Smith Publicity.
Albee apparently got the message, at least to a degree. His LinkedIn profile was changed, and much of the stolen website copy was removed; most, but not all.
So, we did what any publicity agency would do: we went to the media. (Another note to Mike: If you’re going to try and rip off a company, choosing a literary publicity agency isn’t the best choice. Just a thought.)
Media responded. Many outlets investigated Albee and came to the same conclusion I did – he is an outright fraud. The New York Daily News did a full article on the matter.
Other media coverage:
Online author support sites and blogs also came down on Albee:
I called Albee again in January and left a message saying the remaining stolen copy on his site needed to come down. He took down more of it.
Then, we began to hear from authors who had been ripped off by Albee. One author told us:
This is embarrassing – I am a POD author who got scammed (for $2k) by The Albee Agency, which stole your website copy etc (which was obviously very good – ’cause it sure sucked me in!) for promoting its own fake agency – see the Writer Beware blog on The Albee Agency for more details (your Mr. Smith responded to it).
So … where do things stand now? Well, Albee is still out there, still apparently preying upon gullible authors and taking advantage of their dreams. As I consider my legal options, my battle with Albee continues.
For any authors, please, please stay away from The Albee Agency. Mike Albee, I’ve been told, is very slick and capable of convincing even the most careful authors that he is actually legitimate.
To Mike, I say: Come out and show yourself. Stop hiding in the low-life waters of the Internet. If you think I’m wrong, come out and say it.