Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Ethan Hawke, Kiley Reid, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. They have something in common besides being successful authors—all were the targets of a bizarre manuscript phishing scam that has the book world buzzing.
A mysterious scam artist has been trying, sometimes successfully, to get authors to send their unfinished manuscripts, the New York Times reports. Whoever is behind the scheme poses as an agent or an editor, with the goal of gaining access to the unedited, unpublished books.
Nobody can quite figure out the endgame of the mysterious crook(s). The Times notes that the manuscripts appear not to be for sale anywhere. And while books by high-profile authors like Michael J. Fox have been targeted, so have little-known writers.
“It’s so befuddling because it’s not like fiction is driving our economy,” The Nest author Sweeney told the newspaper. “Ultimately, how do you monetize a manuscript that you don’t own?”
On Twitter, author Laila Lalami said she had been targeted by the scammer. “This happened to me in 2017,” she wrote. “I realized it was a phishing attempt and didn’t send the manuscript, but I was never able to figure out who was behind the scam or why.”
This happened to me in 2017. I realized it was a phishing attempt and didn’t send the manuscript, but I was never able to figure out who was behind the scam or why... https://t.co/bkroCAVoi7— Laila Lalami (@LailaLalami) December 22, 2020
And author Patrick Radden Keefe highlighted the pure absurdity of the story, tweeting, “This new Borges story is off the chain.”
This new Borges story is off the chain https://t.co/7JKfiN3h1J— Patrick Radden Keefe (@praddenkeefe) December 22, 2020
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.