Robert Castillo, Brennan Harvey, Mike Resnick

(left to right) Illustrator judge Robert Castillo, winner Brennan Harvey, and Writer judge Mike Resnick.

Writers of the Future 1st Place Trophy

Brennan Harvey, First Place, 1st Quarter winner of the 2010 Writers of the Future

March 27, 2014

Unscrupulous people prey on writers. It's easy to do. We are optimistic, believing that our creations are unique and have merit. We're altruistic, feeling we give something to the world, and, in the process, make it just a little bit better. Unfortunately, some predators recognize this, and rather than give, they take from the easiest mark--that optimistic, altruistic writer.

As proof of writers being taken advantage of, I offer two different websites.

Think about this . . . there are two separate websites out there that warn writers of untrustworthy people who are trying to take advantage of them. You never see something like this regarding dentists or programmers or teachers. And yet, there's two of them specifically aimed at us writers!

There are other professions where hungry, desperate artists are preyed upon. I seem to remember something about scammers taking advantage of women eager to enter the modeling field. There's also stories of movie producers seducing young actors on their casting couches. Predators are always after fresh prey, so I'm positive there are more examples out there.

I personally got bitten recently. Joshua Essoe (no link provided--on purpose) offers editing services on his webpage.

I initiated communication from his contact page, asking about editing my 100,000 word manuscript. Joshua asked for a 5-page sample so he could quote me a price. After looking at it, he agreed to edit the rest of the manuscript, agreed to take two weeks and agreed to a price range (a $550 price range.) Joshua Essoe didn't return his sample edit so I couldn't see how is editing style was (a big red flag, but the guy had a testimonial from David Farland.) After clarifying some details, we set up a date five months in the future and I paid him a $500 deposit (I never got a receipt--another red flag.) A week past my deadline, Joshua finally contacted me and started my edits. Then he stoped working on my manuscript to edit another work that came in late--bumping me for some other writer--and when that was done, came back to my work. I agreed to this because I didn't want to lose my deposit, (his website clearly stated if I cancel with late notice, I lose my deposit) so I agreed to his two-part edit. After all, Joshua Essoe claimed to be professional and has a recommendation on his website from David Farland. So, I didn't hear from him for six weeks after my appointment date. Then he contacted me, told me he's spent up to the low-end of his quoted price, but only completed 60% of my manuscript. He insisted that to finish my manuscript, I'd have to pay him 25% more than his original quote. I told his to stop working on my manuscript--even through two more "negotiating" sessions where he tried to get more money to finish my work. He finally agreed to "scale back on his edits" to finish content editing the manuscript.

A mutual Writer of the Future friend came to Joshua Essoe's defense, equating his initial "quote" as really an estimate--similar to what a car mechanic might give you. Sure, if I go in to have my brakes fixed, a mechanic might make find something unusual and inform me that his quote would not cover that. But, he would do that BEFORE any work is done. I never got a word from Joshua, other that "I've started," "I'm on page 92" and so on. The fist time I heard about complications was when he told me he wanted more money. I feel like I asked my mechanic for a brake job, got quoted $400 and I agreed to the terms. Then when the mechanic got the job 60% done, he stopped until I agreed to pay him $500 instead of the agreed $400. This is classic predator behavior.

Joshua Essoe gave me a low-ball quote, spent my budget, did only 60% of the promised job, then demand more money to complete the work. It's not professional at all.

Here is David Farland's testimonial:

"I had Joshua Essoe review my novel NIGHTINGALE as a final edit. His insights into audience analysis were very helpful. He caught plenty of dropped words and even a part of a dropped scene, but he went much further than that--looking for ways to enhance the story by adding scenes.

"Now, I've worked as an editor myself for some thirty years, and I've had some fifty novels edited at various firms like Bantam, Random House, Tor/St. Martins and Scholastic, but I don't recall ever having an editor who did such an in-depth and exhaustive job on editing. It wasn't over-reaching, either. It was just a darned-fine job.

"Not only do I give Josh my highest recommendation as an editor, I plan on using him again and again in the future."

I guess when your name is David Farland, Joshua Essoe will bust his butt to do a good job for you. Listen to the Hide and Create Podcast (I don't remember the episode, but will update this post when I find it) where he explains how he moved Heaven and Earth to make David Farland happy. Me, he did 60% (hell, 64% is an F in any institute of higher learning.)

I do not give Joshua Essoe any recommendation whatsoever. I don't plan on using him again in the future. My hope is that you won't either.

- Brennan Harvey


So Joshua Essoe finished the "content edit only" work on my book, at his request, for free. Some sort of way to make himself feel better about scamming me, I guess. On April 4, 2014, and I got an email from him with his finial critique and his final invoice. And, something strange--a screen shot of his time sheet for the work he did for free. Four lines in an excel spreadsheet that clearly indicate the time was "free" of charge. What was that supposed to accomplish?

I have no idea why he would offer to finish the work--for free, then attempt to guilt-trip me with an accounting of the time he spent doing what he promised.

But, then again, this project was full of promises that Joshua broke.

  • Promise to start the edit on February 3 - broken
  • Promise to finish the manuscript within two weeks - broken
  • Promise to charge between $1,850 to $2,400 - broken.
  • Promise to provide a comprehensive line and content edit - broken.


- Brennan


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