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 www.elitechoiceawards.com. There were far too many red flags.
Someone claiming to be Katherine Hughes
The IP address of the email spoofing service ConvertKit is 220.127.116.11, which was blacklisted by multiple firewall services, following recipient complaints.
About the Elite Choice Awards website
The domain name elitechoiceawards.com 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.
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.
The Elite Choices Book Awards are 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.
Several years back, a young Indian entrepreneur and professed book lover, Ratnesh Goswami (professional bio at https://in.linkedin.com/in/ratnesh-goswami-bb93b662, Facebook profile at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRatnesh) began reviewing books professionally for the then-bargain price of $29.99 per review. His website www.enasreviews.com 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 (https://in.linkedin.com/in/divyeshpratap) and, previously, Durgesh Pratap Singh (https://www.linkedin.com/in/durgesh-pratap-singh-a1a41632) – the owners by proxy of enasreviews.com. The web servers for Enas Reviews are operated by domainsbyproxy.com, 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, https://booktweep.com/. It promises 300 book tweets for $35. An empty promise. booktweep.com is registered with domainsbyproxy.com, meaning it's as trustworthy as enasreviews.com.
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 Li
ves 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.