Author Alert Riverhead Books Impersonation Scam

Author Alert Riverhead Books Impersonation Scam

Author Alert Riverhead Books Impersonation Scam

This latest author scam is designed to trick you into handing money over as a ‘returnable bond fee’ to show that you’re committed to your book before signing the contract!


The following article highlights the Riverhead Books impersonation scam, which is circulating among authors. It’s important to note that fraud isn’t new, and authors being targeted by scammers online is occurring more frequently.

As great as the internet is, it still has its downfalls. Scams such as the one that is circulating currently involving Riverhead Books impersonation scams are a really big pain for aspiring authors and can be financially and emotionally devastating.

Please note Penguin Random House are aware of the scam, the agent involved is aware of the fraud, and they are doing everything they can to prevent authors from falling victim to it.


The Email Received by the Author

This morning, I received an email from an author asking if I had heard anything about this practice and whether or not this looked like a legit email. This email was also at the end of the chain of emails, which typically begins with information about an agent seeing the book and reaching out to the publisher and the publisher or agent going back to the author.

Below is a copy of the email where they attempt to get money in advance from the author:


Sent: Tuesday, 21 March 2023, 3:00 PM
Subject: RE: Penguin Random House Traditional Publishing Proposal


You’re welcome.

I am optimistic about what your agent has presented for this subject. I believe there is a special connection that universally binds this project.

I have attached our Terms and Conditions for your review. Although this is not the official contract yet, it summarizes some details. You will receive the official contract once we confirm our agreement.

Why is there a returnable bond fee? Years ago, we required none of this. However, we have had several unfinished projects due to authors did not continue with their publications. We have paid them advanced royalties, invested in their books, and printed thousands but chose to self-publish. On the business side, it’s already a loss. Thus, we require a certain commitment fee. We also return this once you sign the official contract. The timeline is between 3-12 months to repay the commitment fee.

Call it one-time registration to show that you are committed to this project. But we can’t exempt you from that, as this gives Riverhead the go signal of your acceptance.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Rebecca Saletan

Vice President and Editorial Director of Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House


Unfortunately, many authors dream of having their book picked up by an agent or publishing house, contracts, royalties, television shows, movies, the whole deal. But, in reality, this only happens to about 1% of authors, and it’s not typically the author getting approached. Instead, it’s the author approaching a book agent or publishing house.

I recently wrote an article Does Every Author Need An Agent, and I spoke about some of the most significant authors in the world and how many rejections they got before they made it to being trade published.


The Investigation Into the Potential Scam Email Begins

So, the first thing I did was Google the name of the person involved, Rebecca Saletan, and the company, along with the words scam. They’re both real. However, a quick look at Rebecca’s LinkedIn profile and I saw this:


Rebecca Saletan LinkedIn Warning


That’s a pretty big red flag right there. Also, I did a security check on the website address, and it came up with the following points:

  • The website owner was using a paid service to hide their identity.
  • The website didn’t have a lot of generic traffic; only those linked directly to it were going there.
  • Similar low-rated websites were found all on the same server.
  • Several known spam and scam sites used the same registrar.
  • The website itself was only recently registered.
  • The website appeared to use a hosting service with a dubious track record and history.


Next, I went to Social Media to see if I could find any red flags. Immediately I found a similar scam involving people impersonating another publishing house and agent. You can check out the link to the Facebook message here.

Below are some of the comments from other authors detailing their experience with the scammer and how they were approached:



Traditional Publishers Won’t Ask you to Pay to Publish

A traditional publishing company, particularly one as big as Penguin, isn’t going to make you pay $499 to ensure ‘that you are serious’ about publishing a book. Another common scam that targets authors is where companies try to get you to enter legitimate book awards and book fairs and pay an entry fee. The events are real, but the entries are all fake.

These days you can never be too careful, especially when people reach out and contact you. An email from an agent would probably be something like, “It’s such and such here, loved your book, would love to chat over a coffee.” Not, “Hey, loved your book, will just need $500 off you to make sure you’re serious.” And in most cases, book agents and traditional publishers have so many authors approaching them that they’re not out soliciting like ambulance chasers!

Just to let everyone know, I contacted the Penguin Random House Fraud email to let them know, but I’m sure they’re already 100% aware of what’s happening. Unfortunately, these fake sites appear and disappear quickly and hide behind the internet to protect their identity from the authorities.

Have you ever been the victim of a scam or been approached by someone trying to scam you? I’d love to know, and your comment could just help prevent an author from becoming a victim of the same scam in the future.


The below message is taken directly from the Penguin Random House Website:

Publishing Fraud Alert

Here at Penguin Random House, we understand the value of a good story. Unfortunately, bad actors do too.  We have learned that scammers are impersonating literary agents, editors, marketers, and providers of other literary services and are targeting self-published authors and other writers.  In some cases, these bad actors pretend that PRH is interested in publishing the author’s work.  These scammers usually seek payment from writers in exchange for facilitating a publishing agreement with PRH.  These communications are fraudulent.  PRH will never seek a fee from an author to read or consider a manuscript.  Reputable literary agents will not seek an up-front payment to represent a client.

We have become aware of instances in which scammers have used the Penguin Random House logo and/or names of PRH publishers, editors, and even the CEO of our company to create fraudulent documents such as so-called “letters of interest” to perpetuate this type of scam. These are not real documents, and the use of our logo and names is not authorized.  Please do not trust these types of documents, especially if they are shared in the form of screenshots.

Please be aware that Penguin Random House does not work with, endorse, or have any relationship with the following entities:

  • Dream Works Media – Social Media Agency

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