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View Full Version : How do we turn Writing Scams from a "niche market" into a felony?



Bartholomew
08-22-2007, 03:50 PM
Seriously.

Places like PA couldn't exist if they weren't viewed as a niche market instead of something altogether illegal. Is their business--and thus the business of every other shark out there--legitimate? Or are their clients the victim of a crime?

I think the majority of us here would say it is the latter. So what can we lobby to change?

Christine N.
08-22-2007, 04:23 PM
What they're doing - by and large- ISN'T illegal. It's not against the law to open a publishing company that takes everything, poorly edits, does a second rate cover and then sells the overpriced things back to their authors and not having them stocked on shelves. Not against the law. Their advertising is worded just so as to not to be completely false. Misleading, perhaps, but that's not the fault of the company you didn't know what they meant, right? (/sarcasm)

Just like it's not against the law for an agent to take money for reading fees or whatever. Just not industry practice, and not looked up kindly by the AAR. Those agents however, when/if they lie to thei clients and say they couldn't sell the book if they didn't even try, are more culpable than PA.

If PA gets caught selling books they don't have the rights to, that might stick, but you've got to prove it, and that could be very costly for the amount the individual might win.

I think the way PA will go down is if the IRS ever gets interested in them. That wouldn't be pretty.

Arkie
08-22-2007, 05:00 PM
What PA does is not illegal. Unethical, yes. If being unethical is against the law, then scads of our state and federal elected officials, not to mention most TV evangelists, would be serving time in the penitentary.

James D. Macdonald
08-22-2007, 05:11 PM
False and misleading advertising is illegal.

But the dollar amounts are low, the victims are spread out over a lot of jurisdictions, and explaining to a jury how what they're doing is different from mere incompetence would be tough.

Vanishingly few literary fraudsters go to jail, even among the worst of the worst.

DeadlyAccurate
08-22-2007, 06:54 PM
Considering poetry.com still gets new victims every day who think it's a legitimate writing credit, I'd be surprised if PA ever goes out of business. As long as they don't get too greedy, they can probably keep this going forever.

The work done here does seem to be keeping fewer serious writers out of their hands, though. The proportion of writers there who are just playing Author: The RPG seems higher than in times past.

BarbJ
08-22-2007, 07:27 PM
Sadly, it's unlikely we can, for the various reasons noted above. What we can do is the death from a million pin-pricks approach, which is what many people are doing. Anyone who does minimal research on PA can easily discover the truth now. If they choose not to do the minimal or ignore the warnings and the "royalty checks" and the bookstore wake-ups and the censorship on the boards and the poor quality and the tone letters and - well, we've done what we could. The only thing to do now is welcome the saddened to the world of reality and kick PA in the bal - er, the behind when we can.

A couple of lawsuits will help. And, as Christine says, the IRS may become interested. Such blatant deception and arrogance no doubt includes disregard for the government. The stooges don't appear to think they are answerable to any authority; it's for the plebians to support them.

Here's hoping. :D

Tina
08-22-2007, 07:39 PM
...What we can do is the death from a million pin-pricks approach, which is what many people are doing...:D

Exactly.

In the time I've been learning about PA, I've seen the proportion of serious, career-minded writers diminish from the PAMB while the army of wingnuts increases. This doesn't help PA's already embattled image as a "traditional" publisher.

It's still so perplexing that many people have the idea that it is normal to pay to publish, including the purchase and promotion of your own books (which can get mighty expensive).

Bufty
08-22-2007, 08:20 PM
I wouldn't imagine PA regard themselves as having an 'embattled image'.

The manuscripts still roll in and the 'praise PA's' still roll out from the message board. I must say I am surprised at the length of time the odd 'questioning' post remains these days before the 'Post Doesn't Exist' button is pressed. Maybe that's because there's always some nut ready to leap to PA's defence.

And apart from a handful of genuine aspiring novelists, maybe most of PA's writers (memoirs, non-fiction and the like) are pretty happy with what pittance PA offers them. I suspect many of them aren't looking for any long term gain or benefit career-wise.

"Look Ma, I'm published! It will be hell to sell any books, but that's normal for writers, and hell, Ma, I am published!"

It's just so sad to think the likely smallest of PA's sectors is the one where most damage and pain is caused.


Exactly.

In the time I've been learning about PA, I've seen the proportion of serious, career-minded writers diminish from the PAMB while the army of wingnuts increases. This doesn't help PA's already embattled image as a "traditional" publisher.

It's still so perplexing that many people have the idea that it is normal to pay to publish, including the purchase and promotion of your own books (which can get mighty expensive).

Tina
08-22-2007, 08:36 PM
I wouldn't imagine PA regard themselves as having an 'embattled image'.

Well...there are an awful lot of negative websites, legit agents know a PA credit isn't a real one and so do most author's unions. There's been more than a few instances of bookstore managers giving PA writers the straight goods, too.

Those that praise PA are usually relatively new to the club.

For those that are genuinely happy, then we wish them well. But I often think some of that cheering is just a mask.

Old Hack
08-22-2007, 08:57 PM
As writers, we are very well positioned to do something positive here. Newspapers and magazines are always looking out for informative, thought-provoking articles. Seems to me that if all of us who write articles were to write something about PA, that would help. We've got plenty of ex-PA writers to interview about the whole set-up, and could produce a big range of different stories: how PA sent fake police round to Kevin's house, how PA hassled Christine (if that's OK with her), the Atlanta Nights and Crack of Death stings; all sorts. I remember Uncle Jim discussing a PA writer he heard of who had mortgaged his house to promote his PA book: a terribly sad story. So long as you can tie your pitch in to something either local or topical, you've got a good chance of selling an article or two, I would think.

I was poised to write about it here in the UK when Publish Atlantica quietly disappeared. But all of you out there in the USA have all sorts of chances to write about this.

Tina
08-22-2007, 10:09 PM
As writers, we are very well positioned to do something positive here. Newspapers and magazines are always looking out for informative, thought-provoking articles. Seems to me that if all of us who write articles were to write something about PA, that would help. We've got plenty of ex-PA writers to interview about the whole set-up, and could produce a big range of different stories: how PA sent fake police round to Kevin's house, how PA hassled Christine (if that's OK with her), the Atlanta Nights and Crack of Death stings; all sorts. I remember Uncle Jim discussing a PA writer he heard of who had mortgaged his house to promote his PA book: a terribly sad story. So long as you can tie your pitch in to something either local or topical, you've got a good chance of selling an article or two, I would think.

I was poised to write about it here in the UK when Publish Atlantica quietly disappeared. But all of you out there in the USA have all sorts of chances to write about this.

I think the trouble is finding ex-PA writers who are willing to go on the record and endure more stress and perhaps shame, even if it is for local news. (And hey, since the internet nothing is ever really 'local' anymore - people 6,000 miles away can read about you.)

Tina
08-23-2007, 12:16 AM
I would be willing to go on record, I'm not ashamed of what I did. I would be ashamed if I didn't do anything to correct my mistake.

There is no shame in turning a mistake into a positive, I think I did. I think that most ex-PA authors stories are similar, we all made a mistake, we all choose to correct that mistake and inform others. And from what I read here many have gone on to be published by real publishers.

Exposing PA for what they are and showing that good things have come out of the experiences would be a very positive story.

Maybe you could approach your local media and see what happens?

Initially, I wondered if I could write an article about Cdn authors dissatisfied with PA. The more I read and learned, the more I discovered that most just wanted to move on with their lives.

You are brave, Burgy, and your braveness is be a tremendous asset in the on-going challenge against PA.

Christine N.
08-23-2007, 01:28 AM
False and misleading advertising is illegal.

But the dollar amounts are low, the victims are spread out over a lot of jurisdictions, and explaining to a jury how what they're doing is different from mere incompetence would be tough.

Vanishingly few literary fraudsters go to jail, even among the worst of the worst.

Yes, and every time we've pointed something out to them, they've changed their wording so that it's NOT false. We've watched them do it. Now on their pages it says 'a book is not automatically placed on the shelves. Author, there is work to be done!'

And if someone doesn't look closely enough to find it, well, that's not PA's fault.

Just as recently as a year ago they added the 'lower acceptance threshold' line - meaning we pretty much accept most of what comes into the inbox. But it's not a lie.

They edit for grammar and punctuation. They do a really bad job, but they do it.

The only thing I can see they've really done that's absolutely illegal is sell books after the rights have been returned.

It's like buying a timeshare- it looks really good in the brochure, but once you lay down your money, they show you the fine print.

I'd be happy to contribute to an article. But perhaps a more meaningful one would be one about how REAL publishing works, and then compare it to PA. Don't go in guns blazing - most newspapers hate controversy - but be respectful, articulate, and informative.

There's some question over the royalty statments, but unless someone like the IRS did a foresnic accounting (and got to look at the real books), no one's going to know for certain.

DaveKuzminski
08-23-2007, 04:16 AM
Try writing the article by comparing a real publisher to PA, but don't give either of the company names. Then when readers come across the same scam lines in PA's claims, maybe they'll recognize who you meant. That way you won't have to expose the paper to any suits by giving any company names even if every word is true.

PVish
08-23-2007, 05:58 AM
National Fraud Awareness Week is November 1117, 2007. Perhaps during that week AWers with blogs might mention a particular scam or fraud they've noticed. http://www.fraudweek.com

Virginia Festival of the Book is March 2630, 2008. Dave (or other Virginians), have you thought about proposing a panel on literary scams? Application deadline is Nov. 1.

Just a couple of thoughts.

Bufty
08-24-2007, 10:52 PM
The biggest barrier to getting media involvement is finding the newsworthy element.

James D. Macdonald
08-25-2007, 01:25 AM
Look for "Local Man Scammed."

DaveKuzminski
08-25-2007, 02:58 AM
Virginia Festival of the Book is March 2630, 2008. Dave (or other Virginians), have you thought about proposing a panel on literary scams? Application deadline is Nov. 1.



No, I wasn't aware that I could propose a panel.

PVish
08-25-2007, 06:41 AM
No, I wasn't aware that I could propose a panel.

Maybe as a "program provider"? Check out http://www.vabook.org/site08/participants/howtoparticipate.html#programproviders and see what you think. Worth a shot.

JulieB
08-25-2007, 06:42 AM
I sat on a literary scams panel last year at a convention. We held AN up as a shining example of what could happen - and told the audience to all go buy copies. You're welcome, Jim. Or should I say thank you, for providing such a wonderful example!

Marie Pacha
08-25-2007, 09:20 PM
According to ebay two copies of one of my books are available for a price considerably under the sale price listed by Publish America.
http://cgi.ebay.com/Dragon-Wings-And-Faerie-Rings-by-Marie-Pacha-2004_W0QQitemZ130145455124QQcmdZViewItem

Additionally the same seller has three copies of my other book for sale on ebay; also at a lower price than is posted on PA. http://cgi.ebay.com/Pawnshop-by-Marie-Pacha-2004_W0QQitemZ130146691753QQihZ003QQcategoryZ377QQ rdZ1QQssPageNameZWD1VQQcmdZViewItem

I have dated screen shots of both, and have contacted ebay administration.

Not to mention PA's web page for ordering books online has been down for the past half hour.

ResearchGuy
08-25-2007, 09:59 PM
. . . Exposing PA for what they are and showing that good things have come out of the experiences would be a very positive story.
Alas, you will be battling folks like some of my writers-group friends, published by PA and raving about how great it has been. They spout all the usual lines, including the infamous, "They did everything the contract said they would." (Sure. So do loan sharks. Does not mean they are offering a good deal.) I once tried to explain to one of them that PA was a vanity publisher and she looked as though I had just shot her puppy. But she is still recruiting folks to PA at every opportunity.

--Ken

Bufty
08-26-2007, 01:03 PM
You would think so, but I wonder how many folk have seen that in their local newsaper - in relation to PA?

Nobody rings one's doorbell, nobody stops one in the street, nobody sends one prodding letters, nobody escorts you to the bank and demands you hand over your pin number. It's all instigated by the one who's been scammed. And usually, it's a year or more before the scammed realise they've been scammed. I still don't see the current newsworthiness in that. Plus it's of little interest to other than writers.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not a PA supporter by any means. And I know the advertising is misleading, but...there are also downsides to the individual concerned when they admit to being scammed in this way.




Look for "Local Man Scammed."

Mac H.
08-26-2007, 01:34 PM
According to ebay two copies of one of my books are available for a price considerably under the sale price listed by Publish America.
...
I have dated screen shots of both, and have contacted ebay administration.

Not to mention PA's web page for ordering books online has been down for the past half hour.The poor re-seller. They have just listed a book from a standard database on the assumption they can buy it from the publisher.

If this is the case, then they'll find out when they try and get it from the publisher that their database is out-of-date and the title isn't available.

Another possibility is that they have previously purchased copies - so they are just re-selling them. There isn't anything wrong with that - you can't control how already sold books are resold. (If they are unread, they might even still count as 'new')

Either way, why bring Ebay administration into this? Surely it might cause strife for the reseller who probably hasn't done anything wrong.

Why not simply contact the reseller directly (via the 'Contact' button on the page you linked to) and tell them that the book is no longer available from the publisher. They'll then remove the sale and you have what you want.

Good luck,

Mac

Marie Pacha
08-26-2007, 02:45 PM
A couple of reasons. I don't have an eBay account so I cannot contact the seller directly. Two, they have listed those as new books, and they have three copies of one and two of another. Three, I haven't had a royalty check for one of them in almost 2 years.

Four, I am not the only PA author I found with new books being sold on eBay, but not all of PA'S authors are there. I've never had huge sales with PA so why did someone choose my books to sell at a reduced rate?


The titles are still available, and although I am in Arbitration against PA it is still possible to purchase my books. These copies are not for sale on eBay auction which might give the seller an opportunity to regain their loss, they are for sale at a set price which is under the price listed on Publish America's site, and on Barnes and Noble, and on Amazon. Not very sound business practices for someone doing business on the Internet or anywhere else.

And eBay took my complaint seriously enough that they recommended I go to my local police department. I take it at least that seriously; if not more so.

There will be no strife whatsoever for any eBay "store owner" who hasn't done anything wrong. There should be a "paper" trail of how and when they came to purchase my books and that's what I want to see. I also want to verify the price they paid for my books to confirm the amounts I should see reflected in my royalty statements. You are correct in that I can't control how books are resold, but I can attempt by legal means to determine if I have received royalties for them (or should.)

Does that clarify my situation?

Marie

jamiehall
09-21-2007, 01:12 AM
Yes, and every time we've pointed something out to them, they've changed their wording so that it's NOT false. We've watched them do it. Now on their pages it says 'a book is not automatically placed on the shelves. Author, there is work to be done!'

And if someone doesn't look closely enough to find it, well, that's not PA's fault.

Just as recently as a year ago they added the 'lower acceptance threshold' line - meaning we pretty much accept most of what comes into the inbox. But it's not a lie.

They edit for grammar and punctuation. They do a really bad job, but they do it.

The only thing I can see they've really done that's absolutely illegal is sell books after the rights have been returned.

It's like buying a timeshare- it looks really good in the brochure, but once you lay down your money, they show you the fine print.

I'd be happy to contribute to an article. But perhaps a more meaningful one would be one about how REAL publishing works, and then compare it to PA. Don't go in guns blazing - most newspapers hate controversy - but be respectful, articulate, and informative.

There's some question over the royalty statments, but unless someone like the IRS did a foresnic accounting (and got to look at the real books), no one's going to know for certain.

Their advertising (and contract) still contains statements that are misleading in spirit even if technically not false, and statements like that are sometimes judged illegal when a lawsuit happens. I'm sure a good lawyer could get the "misleading advertising" charge to stick even with the way they've cleaned up the worst of it.

Plus, lying outright to their authors, repeatedly, is illegal (such as claiming that all bookstore managers are wrong in saying that the discount is only 5%).

They are still breaking the law in many ways other than continuing to sell books that they don't have the rights to.

allenparker
09-21-2007, 06:01 PM
Maybe as a "program provider"? Check out http://www.vabook.org/site08/participants/howtoparticipate.html#programproviders and see what you think. Worth a shot.


Dave, if you do it, I'll help. I can be the shining example of the fat guy who gets sucked into a scam. It will be a welcome change from being the before picture on all those dieting ads.