Passive Guy received the following from an author.
The identities of the people involved are obscured.
PG has not investigated any of the matters described in the post and, with some additional obscuration and editing, is presenting the story as he received it.
As a long time freelance artist and writer; with many years under my belt navigating through the publishing world, I was thrilled at the prospects of becoming an author of indie fantasy. After being a member of the freelance and publishing communities for so long, I had developed a long list of colleagues, many of whom I hoped I would have a chance to work with.
One such chance cropped up about a year ago. During the Winter of [date omitted], I was shopping around for a cover for my eBook, [title omitted]. I had known [artist name] for many years. He/she was (and remains) a relatively underground and unknown artist. However, I had always admired his/her work. Although, there were some red flags that painted the picture of an unsavory personality, I let all of that slide due to his/her immense talent.
I contacted [artist name] to see about licensing one of his/her works. He/she let me know that the price for licensing the specific painting that I was interested in was $6,000.
Something about this didn’t jive with me. I felt some bad juju. So, I contacted a few friends who design covers for the Big Six for a living. They all had the same story… Licensing a painting should never cost more than $20 – $100 if it’s from an artist who’s relatively unknown. And still, the Big Six never pay more than $5,000 – $6,000 to the biggest names in the business for a 100% completely original work of art for a cover. The general consensus was that [artist name] either was self-aggrandizing or that he/she simply had no interest in licensing his/her artwork, but that really remains to be seen, as no one but he/she can really attest to his/her motives.
I had decided that $6,000 was much more than I felt comfortable spending. [Alternate artist's name omitted] licensed artwork to me for commercial use, free of charge as it was already Creative Commons- licensed material and I decided that I would design my own cover.
After knowing [artist name] for many years and out of respect for him/her, I decided that the professional thing to do was to not leave him/her hanging. I contacted him/her and let him/her know that I would be licensing artwork from someone else as $6,000 was outside of my budget and that I hoped that he/she and I would get to work together in the future. At the same time, my spouse had purchased all of [artist name]‘s digital art tutorials for me. I also e-mailed him/her telling him/her that my spouse had purchased his/her tutorials for me and asked for a simple product recommendation. At that point, I received a file from him/her. I assumed that it was a product recommendation.
The day after I had opened the file I received from him/her, all of my social media profiles were hacked and deleted. I was able to salvage everything. Until, two weeks ago… When he/she started hacking again.
I have my Apple ID and Facebook setup to alert me if someone logs into my accounts using a device other than the ones registered to my accounts. In fact, my Facebook had been deactivated. I received two e-mails from Facebook. One that my account had been reactivated and another that my account had been accessed by a computer other than one of the devices registered to my account.
I logged into my Facebook account and brought up the log of devices. There is was, in black and white, my Facebook account had been accessed by someone living in the area where [artist name] lives. The next day, the same thing happened with my Apple ID.
Then it happened with my computer. Someone had bypassed my Firewall and succeeded in corrupting the documents for [title omitted], which I was editing to enter into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.
My external hard drive was connected at the time and my backups of those files were also corrupted. The person who did this, knew exactly what to do to destroy the files. [artist name] is the only person with a motive to do such a thing.
I also started receiving abusive e-mails from [artist name]. He/she started slandering me online. It was obvious that the things that he/she was saying about me were fabrications.
I have since discovered that, while using many different aliases, [artist name] posted books that were in direct competition with mine. Mine have been much more successful then his/hers. His/her sales ranks are all the way at the bottom of the pile and his/her books don’t even have any reviews after being on the market for a long time. So, mine is faring much better. He/she started posting fake negative scam reviews on [book title omitted]‘s Amazon and Goodreads pages. These reviews have been removed as both Amazon and Goodreads deemed that those reviews violated their review policies. This whole ordeal has negatively impacted the sales of my eBook.
I recently ran a virus scan on my computer. The file [artist name] had sent me tested positive as malware. I deleted both the e-mail and the file.
I’ve filed reports with my ISP, my local police, [artist name]‘s local police, the FBI, the Department of Law Enforcement for my state, the registrar of [artist name]‘s website, as well as all of the social media networks involved.
Of all of the social media networks I contacted; only Goodreads, TimeRepublik and 500px have responded and are willing to assist me. The only agencies who have responded are my local police and the Department of Law Enforcement for my state. The Department of Law Enforcement sent me a list of state statutes that [artist name] is breaking and they let me know that my local police need to handle this. Yet, my local police refuse to handle this.
However, my local police did tell me to do the following:
1. Close all social media/networking accounts and never create new ones.
2. Be completely anonymous. Change my handle/pen name (for everything already published and anything that will be published in the future) to something gender-neutral that doesn’t use anything identifiable, including my website.
3. Delete all pictures and video of myself from the internet and never post any pictures or video in the future. No one can know what I look like, nor my gender.
4. Contact all bloggers I’ve worked with and have them remove anything identifiable from their posts.
5. Become 100% private and secretive, not sharing any information, even in interviews.
6. Never ever do any appearances, ever.
7. Do not do a podcast. No one can know what I sound like, since then they’ll know my gender.
The obvious problem with following this advice is that I would have no platform. I think of it like this… If a politician is running for office and I don’t know what this politician looks like, nor if it’s a man or a woman because they don’t make any appearances, there’s no photos or videos to be found anywhere. I have no idea what this politician’s platform is, because they’re secretive about it. This politician isn’t going to be receiving my vote. There needs to be a certain amount of disclosure and trust between public figures and the public they’re reaching out to.
The same thing applies to the author-reader relationship. That’s really only the tip of the iceberg. I’m an extrovert by nature. Being private and secretive aren’t a part of who I am. Nor am I comfortable with the idea of needing to behave in such a manner. As such, I’m wondering what options are available to me.