Has the Publishing Industry become Prime Breeding Ground for a Con Artist Scamming Authors?

He’s the man who created not one, not two, but three separate book publicity agencies in one year. (The Albee Agency, Sandpiper Publicity, and Magnus Publicity) Each agency complete with its own website, testimonials, and information on how he could help authors present their books to the media.

The problem is, none of them are true book publicity agencies. (See Writers Beware blog for information about The Albee Agency and Sandpiper)

He stole website copy from Smith Publicity to start his first agency, and included fake books and testimonials. He even tried to establish credibility by falsely saying he worked for Smith Publicity for ten years. His agency websites are slick and appealing.

By all reports, Mike Albee is a super smooth-talking guy who, according to numerous authors, has been able to scam them out of thousands of dollars.

It appears the publishing industry, with hundreds of thousands of new books by self-published authors released every year, may have become prime hunting ground for a skilled con artist.

Case in point: author Thomas Wictor.

Most of Wictor’s life has been a series of nightmarish events. A dark cloud has followed him everywhere, as he documents in Ghosts and Ballyhoo: Memoirs of a Failed L.A. Music Journalist. Suffering not only from multiple illnesses, but under additional stress due to his ill parents, Wictor was a perfect candidate for Albee’s scam.

“Albee targeted someone who’s housebound with an incurable illness that’s getting worse,” says Wictor. “Not only that, he scammed me during the worst year of my life, right after my father died and while my mother was dying, facts of which he was fully aware. Now that’s dedication to thievery.”

Doing just enough to convince Wictor he ran a real publicity agency, he allegedly took nearly $40,000 from him and produced essentially nothing. Wictor suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and Meniere’s disease, both of which cause loss of short-term memory. According to Wictor, Albee monitored his blog to determine when to double-bill him and charge him for services that he did not perform. He even sent Wictor condolence notes while allegedly bilking money from him and making promises he never kept.

“He’s a malevolent psychologist who got inside my head,” says Wictor. “He constantly checked on my mental and emotional status while reading everything I wrote. My books and blog became manuals for how to defraud me.”

There’s much, much more to the story, and Thomas Wictor is willing to tell it. What he’ll say stretches the limits of believability, but he says he can prove it all. It is a horrific tale of merciless scamming and manipulation.

“Mike Albee is many things, but one thing he clearly isn’t is a true book publicist,” says Dan Smith, CEO of Smith Publicity. “What he allegedly did to Thomas Wictor is so heinous, so awful, it goes beyond anything I’ve ever seen during my 17 years in the book marketing business. Yet Thomas is just one of his victims; many other authors have contacted us with similar tales claiming to be ‘taken’ for thousands of dollars by him.”

“My advice: Authors beware,” adds Smith. “It seems a shark is circling, and he’s looking for the next gullible author.”