American Book Fest announced the winners and finalists of THE 2020 INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS (IBA) on July 22, 2020. Among the finalists for Best General Fiction was my novel, Cooperative Lives.

Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of American Book Fest, said this year’s contest yielded over 2,000 entries from authors and publishers around the world, which were then narrowed down to the final results.

Participating publishers included Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, John Wiley & Son, Palgrave Macmillan, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Thomas Nelson, Forge, Loyola Press, Shambhala Publications, SoundsTrue, She Writes Press, Free Spirit Publishing and hundreds of national and international Independent Houses.

Congratulations to all winners and finalists, but especially Steven Manchester for his winning entry in the general fiction category, Bread Bags & Bullies: Surviving the 80s. I've added it to my reading list.

The International Book Awards

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3 January 2020

Cooperative Lives promoted from
"infamous Slush Pile" to Long List

2 February 2020

13 February 2020

13 July 2020

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3 January 2020

Cooperative Lives promoted from
"infamous Slush Pile" to Long List

2 February 2020

13 February 2020

13 July 2020

It's been quite a wait, but Cooperative Lives is a Somerset Book Award Finalist.

For those of you who have been following, the Somersets are a genre division of the Chanticleer International Book Awards (The CIBAs). The Somerset Book Awards recognize emerging talent and outstanding works in the genres of Literary, Contemporary and Satire Fiction -- i.e., the good stuff.

Chanticleer Book Reviews is an editorial review and author services company that hosts one of the largest, poshest and most-respected book writing conferences and award ceremonies in the industry. Ordinarily, the conference and ceremony are in mid-April at the luxurious Hotel Bellwether in Bellingham, Washington, with panel discussions and lectures by marquee names in writing and publishing. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit Washington State early and impelled Chanticleer to reschedule this year's events for September, and, just recently, to announce the conference and ceremony will be conducted virtually. Bummer.

One upshot is that book contest announcements were stretched over months rather than weeks. On January 4, Chanticleer announced my novel made it out of the slush pile (their phrase) onto the long list. A month later, it was short listed. By March 7, it was a semi-finalist. After four months of nail-biting, it is now a finalist. Two more months of suspense to go.

Thank you, Chanticleer. I am thrilled to be a finalist, just as I was thrilled to be a semi-finalist, short lister and long lister -- anything but a slush pile discard. And, congratulations to everyone else who made the cut. Let's all keep our fingers crossed for September. I am signing up for 6 days of zoom conferencing later this afternoon. Hope to meet many of you virtually.

Chanticleer Announcement

Everyone knows I love book contests. I have entered most that have a track record and some that do not, but I screeched to a halt at this one, the so-called Elite Choice Book Awards at There were far too many red flags.


Someone claiming to be Katherine Hughes invited me via bulk email to enter my latest work in the Elite Choice Book Awards contest – one that offered a $5,000 grand prize. $5,000 is, by literary standards, a sizable award. Who wouldn’t want $5,000?

I dug deeper. To begin, Katherine’s email address was spoofed. "Her" real address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., as was the link to the organization’s website, "She" also uses 009601d64fc7$f8c16b40$ea4441c0$ Nothing to hide, right? Props for transparency.

The IP address of the email spoofing service ConvertKit is, which was blacklisted by multiple firewall services, following recipient complaints.

About the Elite Choice Awards website

The domain name was registered with GoDaddy on June 14, 2020. Previous to June 14, 2020, the domain name did not exist. The registrant’s profile information is private, generally a red flag. There is no listed website administrator. Similarly, there is no contact information on the website.

What the website does contain are bold claims: international recognition and prestige, 2,500 previous winners, a complimentary editorial review, awards since 2017 – each remarkable, given that a Google search of “elite choice book awards” and “elite choice awards” generates zero hits before June 2000, and all those hits were self-generated by the website itself and its social media aliases at Medium and Twitter. In other words, despite all the asserted recognition and prestige, not a single winning author decided to publicize their respective award via the Internet, and not a single editorial review was deemed worth publishing.

Another red flag is Elite Choice's web-host, Domains By Proxy, the web-host of choice for legions of porn, gambling and other dubious enterprises, because of how zealously it protects the identity of its customers. Domains By Proxy is the "go to" web-host for businesses that have something to hide.


The site dispenses with a secure payment platform such as PayPal and does not permit payment by check. Instead, it harvests credit card information directly.

Direct credit card payment is extraordinarily dubious, especially when the payee’s identity and contact information are withheld. Needless to say, there is nowhere to send your book. It has to be uploaded, which contradicts the website’s PSA that all entries, once judged, are donated to local libraries. Plus, there is no cover upload button, so Elite Choices could not publicize winners or publish editorial reviews if they indeed wanted to.

Elite Choice's defense

I wrote "Katherine Hughes" on July 1, 2020, giving "her" an opportunity to explain. The reply was as follows.

Our old website was recently hacked, so to protect the safety and information of our customers, we have had to completely overhaul all of our systems including registering a new domain, creating a new website and support portal.
Due to COVID-19, we have had very limited support, so it is taking some time to re-upload all of our information (e.g. previous winners). Our #1 priority is the safety of our customers so we are treating this situation delicately to ensure our new systems are completely protected.

Were any of this true, there would still be thousands of citations on Google by previous winners. When and if previous winners are identified, I will reach out to them for corroboration. Until then, the asserted explanation is unpersuasive.

Bottom Line

The Elite Choices Book Awards are probably fraudulent. Nothing in the bulk email or on the website is verifiable. There is no grand prize. But someone will gladly harvest your credit card information. You just won’t know who.

Ratnesh Goswami - Internet Fraud

Several years back, a young Indian entrepreneur and professed book lover, Ratnesh Goswami (professional bio at, Facebook profile at began reviewing books professionally for the then-bargain price of $29.99 per review. His website grew in popularity and orders flooded in. And that is when he ceased writing reviews. Mission accomplished: steady income, no deliverables, no recourse.

Ratnesh had two accomplices at Jay Digital Services LLP , Divyesh Pratap ( and, previously, Durgesh Pratap Singh ( – the owners by proxy of The web servers for Enas Reviews are operated by, a proven serial host of pfishing and porn sites that protects the privacy of its domain registrants zealously.

Ratnesh's other venture is, Book-Tweep, It promises 300 book tweets for $35. An empty promise. is registered with, meaning it's as trustworthy as

The only redress anyone has, short of filing suit over their $29.99 or $35 outlay, is to protect other authors and publishers from being similarly defrauded, and to shame the defrauders. This is my contribution to that effort.

This is the only time I have ever commented publicly about a reader review. My book appeals to some, turns off others. That’s the way it goes. And so it went with one reader review until I read the final criticism, one about inaccurately permitting a Greek character to bear a Slavic surname. Huh? Here, too?

I note in the preface that Cooperative Lives was written in 2013, before the present “global contagion of anti-immigrant nationalism.” No surprise, then, that the contagion spread to Online Book Club and infected one of its reviews.

It isn’t a favorable review, 2 out of 4, but that’s not uncommon. What is uncommon is the tacit nationalism of the criticism:

“Last but not least, the author struck a chord with a geographical inaccuracy I'm sensitive about. He did so by mistaking Macedonia with Greece and giving a character a Slavic Macedonian surname but a Greek passport.”

To be clear, the character in question is a Greek Cypriot national with a Slavic surname. The novel never mentions the respective land masses of Greece and the Republic of North Macedonia, and certainly doesn’t get them confused. But that is evidently not what annoyed the reviewer. In his post-Brexit, nationalist world, Greek characters must bear Greek surnames. Deviations are an “inaccuracy” or, worse, something that strikes a chord they’re sensitive about.

I’m sensitive about this subject, too, but in a different way. Back in 1982, when I was interviewing in law school, an attorney from Sidley & Austin conducted interviews on campus. There were twelve or thirteen pre-selected candidates, 30 minutes per interview, a call-back for one or two. When my turn came, he glanced at my résumé, observed me skeptically, then grilled me on “why I chose the name Finegan.” “You’re obviously not Irish,” he insisted. “What were you seeking to gain?” I was stunned. This was 1982. This was America. I explained that my father was Caucasian, that my mother was not. Explained this to … a lawyer. It’s the only interview I ever walked out on.

A close friend of mine hails from Iceland. His parents were natural born citizens of Iceland. All but one of his grandparents were from Iceland. My friend’s name is Moeller – a Swedish or German name, perhaps, but not Icelandic. I befriended him when he was still head of the Reykjavik Chamber of Commerce, back in 1990. He’s still a prominent civic figure in Reykjavik. I assure you; no one ever questioned the validity of his Icelandic passport.

Last I checked, Greece does not restrict the surnames of its citizens. Anyone who reads the news knows that the 2019 national Hellenic parliament includes members of non-Hellenic descent, including, quite prominently, Ilchan Achmet and Chousein Zeimpek. Yet they are Greek citizens with Greek passports. Imagine that; in this day and age!

The reader chose a German moniker, Herbstlicht. Apropos. Today’s New York Times ran a feature, “‘I Will Never Be German’: Immigrants and Mixed-Race Families in Germany on the Struggle to Belong.” It begins, “Thirty years after Germany’s unification, nearly 500 readers shared with us what it means to be German.” Five hundred respondents! I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts some had Slavic surnames.

There are plenty of gaffes in my novel, but the only chord this reviewer’s criticism struck was D-flat.

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