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The Newer Never-Ending PublishAmerica / America Star Books Thread

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Don Davidson

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If PA were to go out of business . . .

Out of curiosity, what would happen to all the author contracts if PA were to close their doors? Would they automatically become null and void, or would PA still technically have to send official contract releases to their authors?

This issue is a bit premature since PA is still very much in business, and contract law is not my field of specialty, but I will tell you what I can based on my Contracts class in law school and my other limited contracts knowledge.

First, paragraph 26 of my contract (and probably yours, too) specifically contemplates that PA's rights under the contract will pass to any "successors and assigns"--that is, to any company that PA devolves into or to anyone to whom PA sells or gives those rights. PA's contractual rights are potential assets, just like a computer or a desk, which can be sold to any willing buyer. If PA went bankrupt (liquidation, not reorganization), those assets would pass to the bankruptcy trustee, who could then sell them. If PA's owners simply closed up the business, those assets would belong to them, and they could sell them to any willing buyer.

While it is hard to conceive of anyone paying much for PA's contractual rights, I could easily see someone buying them at nominal cost--most likely hoping they could then sell those rights back to at least some of the authors for enough to make a tidy profit. On the other hand, if PA simply destroyed or discarded the contracts--either because no willing buyer came forward, or because the owners didn't consider the effort to sell them to be cost effective--then my contractual obligations, and yours, would disappear. And wouldn't that be nice?
 

Don Davidson

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Mail Fraud

Anyone with legal knowledge know the definitions of mail fraud?

The definition of mail fraud is at 18 U.S. Code § 1341. It's pretty lengthy, so here's a link:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/usc_sec_18_00001341----000-.html

Mail fraud is a federal criminal offense. In short, the prosecutor would have to prove all of the following beyond a reasonable doubt to get a conviction: (1) that the defendant knowingly created a scheme to defraud; (2) that the defendant acted with specific intent to commit fraud; (3) that the defendant mailed something through the U.S. Postal Service for the purpose of carrying out the scheme. (A "scheme to defraud" includes any scheme to deprive another of money, property, or of the intangible right to honest services by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises.)

Wire fraud is similar, except that the defendant uses "interstate wire communications" (such as telephone lines) rather than the U.S. mail to carry out the fraudulent scheme. Here's a link to the wire fraud statute, 18 U.S. Code § 1343:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/usc_sec_18_00001343----000-.html

IMHO, PA would be stupid to promise to ship "donated" books and then not do so. They are dishonest, but they are also very crafty. To promise to ship extra books to WalMart, or a library, or anywhere else, with no intention to actually do so, would be blatant fraud (probably wire fraud more than mail fraud). It would be inviting trouble. Perhaps they are that stupid, but I doubt it.

I'm sure PA charges enough for books and shipping to make plenty of money on all of these "donated books" offers, or else they would not make the offers. They know the recipients are going to just trash the books, or perhaps send them back, but PA will have done its part--and hey, they never promised WalMart would actually stock the books when it received them, right? The offers are simply designed to get the author excited enough to part with his money without thinking. And sadly, I'm sure it works in some cases. But so long as PA actually does what it promises, there's no fraud. Feeding the author impossible dreams of what might happen (but won't) is almost certainly not fraud.
 

CatSlave

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...IMHO, PA would be stupid to promise to ship "donated" books and then not do so. They are dishonest, but they are also very crafty. To promise to ship extra books to WalMart, or a library, or anywhere else, with no intention to actually do so, would be blatant fraud (probably wire fraud more than mail fraud). It would be inviting trouble. Perhaps they are that stupid, but I doubt it.

I'm sure PA charges enough for books and shipping to make plenty of money on all of these "donated books" offers, or else they would not make the offers. They know the recipients are going to just trash the books, or perhaps send them back, but PA will have done its part--and hey, they never promised WalMart would actually stock the books when it received them, right? The offers are simply designed to get the author excited enough to part with his money without thinking. And sadly, I'm sure it works in some cases. But so long as PA actually does what it promises, there's no fraud. Feeding the author impossible dreams of what might happen (but won't) is almost certainly not fraud.
What he said.
 

James D. Macdonald

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While it is hard to conceive of anyone paying much for PA's contractual rights, I could easily see someone buying them at nominal cost--most likely hoping they could then sell those rights back to at least some of the authors for enough to make a tidy profit.

When Commonwealth Press vanished (by the simple expedient of locking the doors and walking away), the landlord of the building seized all the manuscripts and contracts and rights that had been left behind as payment for back rent. The rights to those books were sold to another vanity press, which then got in contact with the authors and told each of them, "If you don't pay $x, we will publish your book and will keep all the royalties."

The authors coughed up.
 

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James, in your Commonwealth Press example, did the new vanity press have the legal right to withhold the royalties? I had thought that when a contract passes from one publisher to another the new publisher had to adhere to the contract including royalty rates etc.
 

James D. Macdonald

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James, in your Commonwealth Press example, did the new vanity press have the legal right to withhold the royalties?

None of the authors had a contract with the second press. The press had bought a bunch of assets and owed them nothing. Perhaps someone could have fought it in court. But that would have taken even more time and money (with no guarantee of success).

(To add to the fun, Commonwealth was located in Canada, as was the press that bought the assets. Most of the authors were in the USA.)
 

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Good grief. I always thought that when an author's contract was bought as an "asset" through bankruptcy or a merger or whatever, that the new owner was bound by the original contract's obligations, as was the author.

So what's to stop Publisher A (say, DAW) from contracting an author (say, James Macdonald) with a $50,000 advance and 10% royalties, and then selling the contract to Publisher B (say, Luna), and Publisher B getting to publish the book and telling the author that they're not going to pay the author any advance or royalties, nanny nanny boo boo?
 

Don Davidson

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There's right and wrong, and then there's reality . . .

When Commonwealth Press vanished (by the simple expedient of locking the doors and walking away), the landlord of the building seized all the manuscripts and contracts and rights that had been left behind as payment for back rent. The rights to those books were sold to another vanity press, which then got in contact with the authors and told each of them, "If you don't pay $x, we will publish your book and will keep all the royalties."

The authors coughed up.

The purchaser of the contract steps into the shoes of PA, with all the same rights and responsibilities. So while Commonwealth may have said they would keep all of the royalties, they could not legally do so--at least, not under any law I am familiar with.

On the other hand, practicality is something else--it is often too expensive to enforce your legal rights, especially from long distance. That is the primary reason I have never taken PA to arbitration for defrauding me into signing that silly contract--it is not cost effective to spend lots of money to get back the rights to a book that may not be worth anything. And that is why the best advice I've heard on AW for PA victims is to move on and write another book that PA will have no claim over.
 

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Thanks for the contract info, Don. I also don't think PA is going out of business any time soon. I was just curious hypothetically, since it was something I never thought about before.
 

Cyia

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I'm curious, and I AM NOT suggesting that anyone try this at all EVER.

What's to stop someone from opening say 15,000 Yahoo email accounts and sending in 15,000 junk MS (things that are auto created or cut and paste jobs of the same book with the chapters in a different order) under pen names. And taking the 15,000 $1 checks?

Would the computer catch the same physical address being used so many times or something?
 

LexiCan

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Forget Wal*Mart...this latest offer really takes the cake. HOW CAN THEY PROMISE THIS!?

Dear Author:

PublishAmerica will put your book on Oprah's desk*!
The queen of daytime TV is giving it one more year, and then it's over. No one has done more for bringing books to the attention of millions. PublishAmerica was there in 2003 when Oprah Winfrey announced to select book publishers that she was relaunching her famous book club, donation in hand for her Angel Network. And PublishAmerica is here today to bring as many talented authors to her show's attention for its final year as we can.

*PublishAmerica will put your book in the hands of Oprah's staff. Five copies, so that more than one staffer gets a chance to read your work!

We're not waiting for the Oprah show to ask for your book. We're donating it to them. And we will let your local newspaper, radio, or TV know that your book is being submitted to Oprah Winfrey. Yet another reason for them to put the spotlight on you as a local author.

Here's how we do it:

If you want to have books on hand, order now, and we will donate five copies
to the Oprah Winfrey show. And you receive a 40 pct discount!

We ship Oprah's copies the same day we ship your books to you.


Go to www.publishamerica.net, find your book, click on it, then add to cart, indicate quantity, and use this coupon: Oprah40. Then click Recalculate and finish the transaction. Minimum volume is 12 copies.


In the Ordering Instructions field, just write: "Media Yes". Our PR department
will automatically contact you for names and addresses of your local news media.
Again, we will ship your books to Oprah's staff the same day we ship your
order to you. By using the coupon you are authorizing us to donate the books
to the Oprah Winfrey Show. You may also request that we ship
the five FREE books to you instead.


Full-color and hardcovers excluded. Offer expires this weekend on Sunday night.


Thank you,
PublishAmerica Author Support Team



 

Eirin

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Duh!

PA's Secret Ninja B&E Team will spring into action, of course,


*PublishAmerica will put your book in the hands of Oprah's staff.

Seriously, that's just a question of sending the book to Oprah. Some of her staff will put their hands on it while carrying it to the dumpster.
 
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LexiCan

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Some of her staff will put their hands on it while carrying it to the dumpster.

I agree. I just wonder if any of the PA authors will actually believe this, it's just ludicrous! Though, sadly, I suppose that if they believe that PA is a real publisher they will also believe that PA is capable of such an amazing feat.
 

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E-mails awry! LOL!

I have received the same e-mail about Wal-Mart, employers and stores, but so far I haven't gotten the one about Opra. That's too funny. Maybe someone should e-mail Opra and tell her to do an investigation on PA. She does that sometimes, doesn't she?

As for the employer one, I had an idea about this one. If your in good standing with them and you ordered the implied copies of your books, couldn't you have them watch out for the "donated" copies to test PA's therory that they had actually sent the "donated" copies? To see if they really did follow through with their supposed "donation"? It was just an idea. That is if anyone actualy wanted to order that many copies. Also, you could get the "donated" copies from the employer and turn around and do whaterver you wanted with them. Does any of that make sense?

Wouldn't you in a sense be scamming PA? LOL!
 
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Gillhoughly

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Dear PA Lurkers and others,

Please send to AW the title of ANY PA book that Oprah has mentioned on TV or her magazine in the last 10 years since PA started accepting submissions.


I think ONE book was mentioned, but readers couldn't get it because PA was unable to fill orders. (Bad PA, NO cookie!)

Please check the boards and the whole of the PA site to see if ANY PA title has gotten any attention from Oprah.

The IS the kind of news they'd want you to know about on their opening web page, after all. It's good for their business!

Do you think PA will be as efficient at sending 5 books to the Oprah machine as they are in sending copies to bookstore signings?

If so, then kiss your cash good bye. Oprah's never going to see them.

Legit commercial publishers have a hard time getting Oprah to notice their books. You have to be aware that they send her thousands each year--and THEY know the proper protocols on how to submit them.

I doubt anyone at PA has a single contact on the Oprah staff. That woman has more layers of security around her than the US president.


How to submit a book to Oprah's Book Club?

Which takes one to this page:

http://www.oprah.com/index

So I tried a link someone else posted.

Which opens this page.

https://www.oprah.com/plugform.jsp?plugId=220

NOT encouraging.


Let's look at the book club numbers!


From 1999-2009, a whole 45 titles were picked, many of them classics, not new books. She went with classics after the Million Little Pieces fiasco.

I'm sure there are tons of books mentioned by her elsewhere, but those 45 titles top things for the last 10 years on her website.

Forty-five books. Ten years.



Once again, I have to ask WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY SMOKING over at PUBLISHAMERICA????
 

Marian Perera

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Please check the boards and the whole of the PA site to see if ANY PA title has gotten any attention from Oprah.

I did a search of the PAMB, and found this.

I have been e-mailing Oprah (at least 25 times) and I still have not heard from her.

It's an old quote, but I can imagine new emails being sent to inquire about the donated books.