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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 16 September, 2019

Here's why the internet is talking about Caroline Calloway, the influencer accused of "scamming" her followers

Her “creativity workshops” came under scrutiny.

WOULD YOU PAY €144 to learn how to be creative from one of Instagram’s biggest and brightest stars? 

Well, the people who signed up to Instagrammer, influencer and writer Caroline Calloway’s workshop did. 

View this post on Instagram

Hi, beautiful friends. I know I’ve been off the Insta for a while, but I have an excuse as unglamorous as it is valid: I finished a book. Ok, I didn’t finish it. And it’s not a book. But it is the first step in a series of random steps towards doing precisely that. You see, publishing houses don’t buy manuscripts; they buy “proposals,” pitches that should be snappy, absorbing, and persuasive—think Hemingway and Don Draper collaborating on some copy. What you don’t want to do is write 103 pages of graphic narrative LIKE A CRAZY PERSON. I’ll give you one guess what kind of proposal mine is. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” my agent Byrd said over the phone, and I could almost hear him shake his head. Byrd is the Ari Gold of New York literary agents. He wears a blue tooth headset, edits ruthlessly well, and when he likes something he slaps his desk in excitement, grinning, “This is fucking money.” I decided I wanted him to be my agent when I was 18, reading Tucker Max. Three years later I worked up the courage to call his secretary and ask her for a ten minute meeting with Byrd. She said, “We’ll call you!” They did not. The next week I called back and eventually she said fine. But when I walked into Byrd’s office a month later he had no idea why I was there. As he sat at his desk Googling me, I stood awkwardly in the corner. “Come back when you have a proposal,” he said finally. “I want pages.” Eighteen months later—on this past Thursday—I finished the 103-page 20,000-word tsunami that is my proposal. “If this were even a fraction less good, I wouldn’t submit.” Byrd continued. “The file is too big and, frankly, editors don’t want to read something so long… But this… This is fucking amazing. Nice work.” But my proposal came at a price. Namely: my grades, friendships, and whatever it costs to cure carpal tunnel syndrome, which I now have. But do you know what’s so special about us, Instagram? You and I? Much like me and my carpal tunnel syndrome, we’ll always have each other. Writing for Byrd and NYC editors has been fun, but writing for you guys is what this has always been about. I AM SO EXCITED TO WRITE THIS BOOK FOR YOU. Are you excited to read it?

A post shared by Caroline Calloway (@carolinecalloway) on

Wait, who’s this now?

Caroline Calloway is probably one of the Internet’s first “influencers”, if you will. At the time of writing, she boasts over 820k followers. Calloway began using the app as a way to secure a book deal, by publishing her stories from Cambridge University bit-by-bit across the captions of her photos. 

In the end, Calloway secured a $500,000 book deal, before ultimately backing out of the contract as she didnt’t want to write a book that wasn’t one she “could stand behind”. However, a September 2015 interview with Broadly revealed that Calloway had “procrastinated on the proposal so much that [literary agent Byrd] Leavell had to designate specific hours during which she would come into his office and work, monitored.”

Her publishers withdrew her contract, she said, and asked her to repay her advance. But by then, Calloway had already spent her entire book advance: roughly $165,000, according to her own figures.

In an interview with Man Repeller, she said that she was “working on changing my business model so I have the income I need to repay [her publishers]“, engaging in #sponcon and lengthy Insta Stories, something which she reckons she popularised.

It would be safe to assume that this business model also involved the “creativity” seminars which she is now being roasted over.

A Twitter thread brought to light how her promises shrunk from an expansive four-hour seminar where she’d bare her soul about the creative process and make a salad lunch for attendees, into a briefer lesson that included an hour-long meet-and-greet.

Cracks appeared from the off, as she initially tried to hire an unpaid photographer for one event, before receiving backlash from her fans and then choosing to pay a photographer for their work for one event. She also panicked about ordering 1,200 mason jars because she wanted to give all attendees “a portable DIY wildflower garden to take home” as part of her care packages, before realising her studio apartment hardly had room for them.

She announced her plans for the series in December, and hosted the first event less than a month later, planning to hold similar workshops across the US and Europe. Calloway backpedaled her description for the event. What was initially sold as a four-hour seminar with perks became a three-hour event with a meet-and-greet, while asking attendees to bring their own food.

People who attended the event said that while they had a good time meeting fellow fans, the experience was disorganised, and many things Calloway promised — including an orchid crown making workshop and “personalised” letters — never happened. 

Calloway also failed to secure venues before announcing her tour dates and making tickets available for purchase. In one case, she promised to secure a venue and create an event in Atlanta on 2 February, the same weekend as the Superbowl. (Slight oversight there.)

After holding one event in New York, she began cancelling dates in Boston, Philadelphia, and Denver, assuring that the people who purchased tickets for those events would receive refunds.

In the end, Calloway cancelled the whole thing off the back of the Twitter thread.

Taking to her Instagram Story, (naturally), she admitted that greed got the better of her.


“I was overconfident in believing that I had something to offer people that was worth $165 dollars and this experience has been incredibly humbling,” she said.

I take full responsibility for letting my total inexperience with event planning and GREED create a situation where the details of the tour were ever-changing, preparation was inadequate, and the event did not match the description by the time it went on.”

Calloway said she would refund everyone who purchased tickets, including those who attended the first two events. However, there’s speculation she won’t even be able to fulfil on that promise, as the events were listed three weeks in advance, meaning they wouldn’t fall under Eventbrite’s refund policy, which requires that ticket buyers cancel their tickets a 30 days in advance.

However, Eventbrite as since responded to a potential attendee, saying they are investigating the matter.

Since the statement, Calloway’s maintained a radio silence on social media, which is probably for the best as she continues to be condemned by commenters and fellow creators. 

You can read the thread which originally exposed Calloway below, or by clicking here.

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