Some time ago, I blogged about the advertisements that the mail-order writing course Writers Bureau place regularly in the national press. The general tone of the adverts was that their course could open the door for you to become a professional writer, earning lots of money. This was supported by testimonials from apparently successful clients. As I pointed out at the time, a prominent success story often featured in the ads was Jon Eagle and his novel Red. According to the ads, Jon received £25000 as an advance and sold the film rights. The ads said he's working on the script. The truth was that Jon Eagle did publish a book called Red- but he published it in 1996 with Minerva, a vanity house, and therefore very very unlikely to pay an author anything, still less anything like 25 grand. Another contentious claim was by Christina Jones who claimed that her first three novels were bestsellers. Only bestsellers, it appeared, in lists of romantic novels by people called Christina Jones. There were other problems which I won't go into again here.
What I can reveal now, however, is that after my post, I made a complaint about the ads to the Advertising Standards Authority. I'm happy (smugly so, actually) to be able to reveal now that my complaint was upheld. It took a long time - from early April to now, in fact, but I'm gratified by the result.
The ASA were very thorough, if a little slow, in their response, and approached Writers Bureau with my comments. Writers Bureau were obviously not prepared to give an inch. They maintained that Ms Jones was, if not a best seller, a fast seller, but the most egregious response was that relating to Mr Eagle. According to Writers Bureau, he stood by the £25000 claim, and his proof was a paying in slip. I had to point out gently to the ASA that you actually hand the paying in slip in with the money, and anyway, anyone could grab a slip and write whatever they wanted on it. A bank statement would have done the trick, but this was not forthcoming. It was also revealed that he had indeed sold the film rights - but for £1, and further, that no film had been or was going to be made.
The upshot is that if they continue to use Mr Eagle, they can't mention the 25 grand, and they've got to say that the book was published 11 years ago. They also can't claim that Ms Jones is a best seller any more. Interestingly, the complaints that the ASA added to my complaints were not upheld.
So, a small triumph, but nonetheless, a pleasing one. You can read the full judgement here.