I recently got an e-mail from a friend asking about an "opportunity" to make some money from their short (audio) fiction… but they weren’t sure about the site itself and if they were scammers.
So I took a look. I’m going to walk you through my decision making process here; as I re-evaluate some of my business model, this is one of the services I’ll start offering. I’ll run through a couple of other evaluations in the next days and weeks, though, because this is something you need to learn to do as well.
New Rennaissance Media: Yes, that’s totally [sic]. They spelled "renaissance" wrong in the company name in the copyright portion of each page. The website design is… well, dark. Not a horrible thing, but something that indicates cluelessness among people who claim to be steeped in digital media. Grammar is stilted and strange at times – including the "Our Work Speaks Quite Loudly For Itself" … without any live links to their work. Strange capitalization throughout (e.g. "Monetization" in the middle of a sentence). No real names used in the "About Us" (or even "Contact Us") portion of the site. Oh, and buzzwords galore. (Yeah, I have to purge my own site of buzzwords too – they weren’t buzzwords when I set it up…) Warning signs, but still, maybe the actual product site is better….
MyAudioShortStories: The media company name is mis-spelled again – and differently, too: "New Renascence Media". We finally get a real name of an owner – though it’s exposed through their e-mail address ("About Us" is once again devoid of anything actually saying anything about them as people).
The site is curiously… empty. There are no "member plans" available for customers to buy! There’s a grand total of one author, and one short story collection.
And then there’s the issue of "copy write" [sic]. (Side note: If they don’t know how to properly spell copyright all the time, it at least indicates a stunning level of ignorance for someone interested in publishing or content distribution.) At one point on the site, they claim that they will not take "ownership" of any author-created content… but later, they say:
New Renaissance Media is the sole owner of this website as a whole, and of any individual content on the website that is provided by MyAudioShortStories.com staff, Authors, Artists or other contributors who provide work under contract with New Renaissance Media.
And that language is under the "User Agreement" (which seems to be trying to do double duty for both authors and for end-users). Sure, they later say that "The MyAudioShortStories.com website also contains content that is the property of others, such as individual contributors or experts…", but again, there’s nothing else that clearly states who that is.
So, taking all this into account, I told my friend that I don’t think these people are scammers… but I wouldn’t grant audio rights of my work to these folks.
The Legal Agreement bits seem to be aimed more at curbing piracy while providing DRM-free content, and it’s not pay-to-play, which is why I don’t think they’re scammers… but contracts (and legal agreements) are about what is actually said and written, not what about what was meant. It’s not hard to find examples of how to word this stuff correctly (Escape Artists does a good job with their podcasts, as does Clarkesworld for print and audio), so there’s really not any excuse for doing it poorly.
Which also brings us to the other issue: They’re putting themselves in direct competition with markets that are already well established – Escape Artists, Clarkesworld, The DrabbleCast… and then there’s also Audible now as well. (Though I don’t know what Audible has in short fiction, but the three prior exclusively do short fiction.)
With the degree of ignorance already on display (and lack of preparedness prior to soliciting people to join), I’m highly skeptical these folks will be able to meaningfully penetrate the market.
This isn’t quite the same as putting your eBook up at every marketplace you feel like (which, in general, I recommend). Given that they don’t specify anything about audio rights (even whether they want exclusive or non-exclusive), by working with these folks you might be disqualifying yourself from putting the audio elsewhere or even selling it yourself directly. (Or hey, why not Bandcamp?)
So maybe these folks will see this review (or hear back from my friend) and get their act in line. Lord knows I’ve benefited from the criticisms of others. At that point, we can revisit and see if it’s any better.
Doing the research (and digging) as well as this writeup took me about an hour or so. If this has helped you at all, consider clicking on the coffee cups up there to the top right and toss me a buck or three, or buying some of the books there (especially if you buy them directly from Alliteration Ink). I’m toying with the idea of ads (or "Affiliate Ads"), but I’d rather not, and it’s your support that sways me away from the advertising options.