Book to Movie Scam – My Experience

Photo by Sammy Williams on Unsplash

Hi, SEers John with you again. Here we are in Mid-December with only ten more days until Christmas. I don’t know about you, but I have not finished my shopping yet, so I better get cracking.

So, as you can see by the headline, I’m going to talk about one of the latest scams we all need to avoid.

It all started with an e-mail. It seemed to be an innocent inquiry regarding my interest in joining a team of folks who have a desire to make movies out of books. Before we start, I have to add that a club I belong to advised us that they had a conversation with an agent looking for books to make into a film. So, I had it in the back of my mind that this could be a result of that contact since I did express interest at the time.

The e-mail was from a person working for a recognized studio. Of course, I was skeptical, so I searched on the agent’s name and got a hit on IMDb (The entertainment database) and found he was currently a producer or co-producer of five movies in pre-production. He also had an article written about him in what looked like a real entertainment magazine.

I placed a call to one of two numbers listed in the e-mail. The first number, a toll call, went to an automated voice mail.  The second was a toll-free call, and the guy picked up on the first ring. I identified myself, and he seemed to know who I was. This made me feel okay since he would have never made the connection if he had sent a mass mailing.

After a few minutes of talking, two things started to become apparent. The first was this guy not very articulate. At least not the kind of command of the language that one would think needed to do high-level Hollywood negotiating. It sounded like his dentures were slipping. The second item was the level of conversation in the background. Again, there was a boiler room noise level, with other discussions heard in the background.

These two items immediately put me on alert, even though the discussion was about things needed to turn My GRL into a movie. We talked at length about such requirements as:

A resume, the manuscript, an author video, a literary endorsement, social media presence, pitch deck.

The guy finally said if I would supply all the items we discussed, he would work on the pitch deck. Once that was complete, he would take the project to his production people to pitch a possible movie.

This is all pretty exciting stuff, but I still had my antennae up. He asked if I had any questions, and I said I did not. He then said, “Well, get me all the stuff we need and a payment of $1500.00, and we’ll be on our way.”

I said something like, no problem with the money, just take it out of my option advance.

He said the money was an upfront payment.

I said goodbye.

What is the learning here?

1 Agents don’t call you

2 Agents don’t collect fees for doing their job.

3 Sophisticated scams have big setups. This one had the best. A big-name entertainment house, IMDb listing, A review in what appeared to be a legitimate magazine. Since then, I found the magazine is no longer available. The toll number listed in the e-mail belongs to an agent, just not the guy talking to me. The toll-free number is no longer the same people. The media company never heard of the guy I talked to either.

All this says to be careful and remember you should never pay for any kind of representation.

How about you? Have you been approached by someone wanting to make a movie out of your book? Tell us what happened in the comments section.

122 thoughts on “Book to Movie Scam – My Experience

  1. I just got hit with the Amat Escalante email scam. I receive these usually once or twice a week, different entity, but they all have the same focus: the second book in my series, not the first, which is a huge red flag. Anyway, thank you for sharing. Best of of luck to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This week I received this email headed
    Chasing the Demon Project Movie Deals
    “Dear Louise White,
    I hope you have a great week!
    My name is Amat Escalante, I am a Mexican Film Director of the movie “The Untamed and Heli”.
    Your book “Chasing The Demon ” reached my office and it was recommended by Hollywood Movie Agents that this material suits the International Film.
    We have seen great potential with your masterpiece and it has been evaluated by our Literary Agents. We’ve been in the Film Industry for more than 20 years and we have strong connections ins and outs of the arena, our partner Film Production Companies like Warner Bros. Picture, Lionsgate, Searchlight, Paramount and Netflix are looking for unique stories like yours that we can use for entertainment. We are willing to buy your Movie Rights if you qualify.
    Call me at 1-323-521-4027 so we can discuss further.
    We look forward to working with you soon.
    Best regards,
    Amat Escalante”
    The real Amat Escalante’s management service confirmed the suspicion that this was a current scam.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think the hardest part is they know we would like it to be true and gouge away at our hope. And when it does go belly up it takes such a swipe to leave us very flattened by the whole thing. You have had the courage to face it and defeat it, hopefully that very thing will encourage something real to come from it John and start another path…a good one. Best wishes for it and a Happy New Year to hold it 😀 ❤️ 🙏🏽 🦋

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  4. Pingback: Book to Movie Scam – My Experience – Sutton’s Code

  5. Pingback: Book to Movie Scam – My Experience – Jackanori, (MPD)

  6. Many thanks for sharing this with us, John. My paranoia has reached the level where I hover over the email addresses of posts I’m suspicious about to check that they are from who they say they are. Increasingly they’re from scammers and, whereas many are obvious because of mistakes, some of them are pretty convincing now. Here’s to the real deal for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post, John! I know a few new authors with great books who might be suckered into a sophisticated scam like this one. Who wouldn’t love to have their books made into movies? Thanks for sharing your experience and your words of caution. I haven’t been approached for a movie yet, but I get these calls from my grandchildren who find themselves in a pickle and need money to get out of it. Every time I get one, I catch them by calling them by the wrong name.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve had about three of these types of calls in the last two years. I tend to be skeptical in nature, especially from solicitations that come out of the blue over the phone. I Googled the first company and found numerous complaints about them. The last time a different person called me twice about a week apart. I ignored the first call left on my machine, asking me to call them back. I picked up the second call, and the person launched into his spiel about how fabulous he thought my book was and asked me if anyone had approached me about a movie. My BS detector was already at 99%, and I asked him a specific question about my book, to which he gave a very general answer.

    Sadly, some people fall for this nonsense and may feel too embarrassed to admit they got scammed. While I tend to be an optimistic person, there are scammers everywhere looking to take advantage of people (particularly the elderly). Thanks for the cautionary tale, John.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for the nice words about My GRL, Diana. The guy had a great story but the way he talked didn’t really seem right. At least he made the money pitch during the preliminary call. The way I would write this is to have the Agent request a lot of stuff and the author run around and get it together. The author would send it off and then the agent would call back and say something like,”You know you are a great author but this description needs some work. I know a guy who can make it perfect for $1500.00 dollars and will also do the pitch deck.”

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Con artists and scammers are everywhere. I haven’t been approached by one, but anytime someone asks for upfront money, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.

    Thanks for sharing this information, John. Likely more authors will be targeted by scammers.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow! John, I’ve never heard of this scam, but it’s scary how slick it appeared to be. I am so sorry this happened to you but so glad you shared your information in a post. I’m always somewhat skeptical, thinking if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It’s disgusting the number of predators who prey on the dreams of others. We all want the movie deal and the big book contract. and there are plenty of scam artists who know how to take advantage of that. I hope this guy has been shut down!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Great post and information, John. I have not been approached about making a movie from a book, but I would have been as suspicious as you were. Asking for money is a sure sign it’s not legitimate for sure. Although Me GRL would make a great movie!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Talk about sophisticated scams! I haven’t been offered the movie, but I’m already always suspicious of any email approach and always investigative when I smell a rat, lol. Good advice John, and good PI work. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Hi John, I’ve never been targeted by such a scam. Maybe they only target American authors or maybe my books don’t catch their eye/s. I agree that you should not pay for representation by a publisher or any other organisation or business wanting to benefit from your books.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. There are SO many scams out there, John, and they prey on authors. Kudos to you for ending the contact and moving on. Of course, we all want to get our books turned into movies, but never pay anyone for that service. As Sue Coletta said, they pay you, you don’t pay them. I have two friends who recently had their books picked up – one for Netflix and the other for a major motion picture and let’s just say their bank account is greatly expanded right now. And that’s the way it works! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. This stuff is rampant around the world today. The appeal of tax free stolen money is high. Keep it to misdemeanor levels and the heavy enforcement folks won’t even take note. I respect you for spreading the word. Many of our readers could be taken in by this, or something equally devious.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I don’t know why I keep being surprised at the sophistication of scammers. Is no milieu safe? Thankfully, they have their moments where you can feel your Spidey senses tingling and not fall for them. Of course, this means that you must always be on top-notch alert.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Great post, John. Writers are often targets. Heartbreaking.
    A guy messaged me on Twitter. “We think your book, SCATHED, would make an awesome movie.”
    “Thanks!”
    “Great! Glad you agree. If you send me $2,000, I’ll get started writing the screenplay.”
    “Umm, that’s not exactly how it works. You’re supposed to pay ME for the option, not the other way around.”
    Surprise, surprise, he went dark. Good riddance.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. There are scams from Dan Alatorre’s “entry fee” to be included in his “anthologies” to $ upfront editors to “influencers” with $ for reblog routines. Be glad you spotted yours, I’ve heard of $20k scams just like this. And even if it’s legitimate be careful what you sign. A real studio optioned Tony Hillerman’s first couple of books and he found out halfway through a new novel he no longer owned his lead protagonist.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. I get emails like that and similar every now and then. There are many scammers like that (many based on the Philippines) out there posing as legit agents for publishing houses, etc. You have to be careful. Tells of scams in such emails can be poor grammar, asking for upfront payment, and slight misspelling in agent,/company name. I always check out any emails I get. Writer Beware is a great site devoted mainly to keeping tabs on the latest scams.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. This scammer didn’t know who he was messing with when he spoke with you. Thank you for sharing your experience and alerting us to yet another scam that preys on writers. For all the energy people put into hurting others, you would think they’d just get a legitimate job.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. My son-in-law has a side job as a DJ. He’s hoping to eventually turn that into his career. He’s getting more and more exposure, and landing gigs at bigger and better clubs. An “agent” approached him, and they had a meeting. The guy pulled out all the stops when he made his pitch. Even appeared to be taking a smaller percentage of all gigs booked than my SIL expected. THEN he asked for a monthly upfront fee of $1000 to manage his social media. Not even that he’d take it out of the payments from gigs he secured, but out-of-pocket. My SIL walked.

    Proof that creatives across all media/genres/industries are targeted. It’s a sad state of affairs.

    Sorry that happened to you, John. But I’m glad you didn’t fall from it. When your work finally gets in front of the right people, you’ll be treated right.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Shocking how sophisticated scammers are these days. You did well picking up on this one. I got caught with a ‘poetry compendium’ scam in my younger more naive days. Nobody has approached me regarding making my books into movies, although plenty get stolen via illegal download sites, grrr. Thanks for sharing, John 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

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