Hi gang. I’m talking to Melina Turner, former author with Phoenix Fire. She’s offered to give us her insights as an author and editor with Phoenix Fire, from start to finish. So, without any further ado, I’ll turn the forum over.
Q: Melina, how did you first become involved with Phoenix Fire Publishing? How did you hear about them, and what made you decide to sign with them?
A: I needed an editor for a manuscript and Tab said she’d do it for free, so I said yes and that’s how it started. My first impression of Tabetha and the company was that they were okay
Q: How did you receive your contract? And was there anything about it that gave you pause?
A: It was all digital and all contracts were received and sent in 2013. No, I did not give pause to it because most of the things that I was not sure about – I had already covered what with a cover artist etc.
Q: Did you sign a traditional publishing contract with PF, or did you use the self-publishing services called, “Phoenix Rising?”
A: I actually came up with the self-publishing services thing. She came up with the flower packages etc. I just thought that many publishing companies these days were offering more services and that maybe Phoenix should have that option too.
Q: Were you required to pay anything up front? Was there anything in the contract that said you had to pay up front?
A: I was required if I didn’t have a cover to pay an up front cost for the cover which was around $20 and up front costs on swag which putting both orders together was around $80 – $90. In my contract as an author it said I’d have to pay a leaving fee of around $360 but this was replaced with my working contract which said I could leave freely with every manuscript and also stated contracts beforehand were void. In the end I only paid for swag.
Q: As you understood it, what was your pay schedule supposed to be for your royalties?
A: I had decided on receiving the royalties through my paypal as it was the only option offered – so I would be given monthly payments, even if it had not reached $100. The agreement was that I’d be paid almost 70% of my royalties for my books to pay for my editing as well, which I had agreed on.
Q: How was your editing handled?
A: My editing was handled horribly at first – Tabetha told me she had paid someone $150 to edit my short manuscript that wasn’t even a part of her publishing company and when it was done I never got to see it – I honestly thought Tabetha herself would edit it because she‘d said she would beforehand but instead it was ‘supposedly‘ someone else- I was sure Tabetha fixed the edits herself when it was sent back to her and then hit publish. After a few weeks of hassling her and her saying her computer must’ve corrupted for it to not send – I finally received the first copy which was indeed covered in grammatical errors – angry as all hell, I raged at Tabetha telling her to take that manuscript off of Amazon asap and to fix it. I did not want people buying it with errors – I have had many bad experiences beforehand with other editors and publishers and I did not want this to happen again. The second editor and edit of my manuscript was better.
Q: And your cover art? How was that handled?
A: I am real picky with my covers and looking on the sight I noticed that quality of many of the graphics on Phoenix Fire wasn’t that great to start out with – there were a few from Cindy and other main authors that I liked but the bare minimum so I decided to stay with my cover artists who knew exactly what I liked.
Q: Over all, were you happy with the way your work was produced and presented?
A: At first, I was but that was because I hadn’t seen my copy of The Deathly-Roses Volume 1 until a few weeks, after hassling Tabetha – once I saw the quality – I was very upset – quite angry. I did rage quite often at Tabetha because of quality and many other things but seeing as I had not seen my work until a week after release – that was what made me snap. I knew how publishers worked and I knew her way was different to normal publishing companies. In short, the editing horribly – the formatting was okay. The publishing logo was too big and as I have studied, should not be that way. There were many things I could point out but I will not.
Q: Were you offered any position within the company other than author? If so, did you accept? What was the position? And were you properly paid for it?
A: Yes, I was offered many things. I was offered a job as editor which I did accept. I was offered many jobs including co-owner of Phoenix – it is a dream for me to own my own publishing company one day so of course, I did not hesitate. I was led on to believe she’d train me in how to run a publishing company as so when I was ready I could run my own but it never happened. I was only paid for a few promotions I did. The royalties for my books I never saw and Tabetha kept making excuses every time I reminded her.
Q: Tabetha puts a great deal of emphasis on swag. What’s the story with that?
A: Well, here’s the thing a while ago – Tabetha had a swag maker published within Phoenix and was telling that swag maker that she would give her more royalties if she did some swag whenever she needed it – this swag maker said yes because she trusted Tabetha – this went on before I even joined Phoenix. Anyway, when I joined I became friends with the swag maker and she told me she made swag and it kind of dawned on me when I read my contract that authors were paying Tabetha money for swag. I asked myself did this swag maker get any part of the money for the swag she made for Tabetha or was something odd going on? I soon found out that it was the second option, the author hardly ever received any of their royalties and was asked all the time by Tabetha for new swag and that it would be paid through her royalties but the author received nothing, and was asking for my help in promotions so I helped them – I helped this person get out of Phoenix.
Tabetha does make some of the swag but mainly buys the swag which you pay what she rounds the payments to. I paid about $70 for The Deathly-Roses Volume 1’s swag and the swag was beautiful – my breath was taken away at how beautiful the quality of the swag was – we did the release party where she joined in and helped admin as well. Although, I did feel as though, I could have done it on my own – she was the publisher and she had my swag so I went with it.
Anyway, everything was going well and ‘supposedly’ all swag was sent so when I left Phoenix she talked her now ex co-partner into telling me that I had stolen swag and sent the parcel back, when I had not received it. She continued to go on about it till I made a few statuses about her and how she was going on about me stealing ‘my own’ swag. Seeing this she covered it up saying it could have been the postal people doing a random quarantine check.
I received the swag (I paid for the second volume of TDR’s swag) this month June 2014 and had a spac attack. I had paid for swag for The Deathly-Roses Volume 2 and none of the ‘supposed swag that had been made and she paid extra for’ was there except a charm bracelet. The things that were in there were some of LAST YEARS release party winnings. She had sent the winnings to everyone she knew and sent me the ones she didn’t know. I had asked around to everyone who won if they had received their swag and two had said no.
Q: What can you tell us about Tabetha’s many alts? Do you have any experiences dealing with them, or with seeing them in action?
A: Well, there are so many of them it is bloody confusing lol. I honestly thought it was weird. She was having a hard time admining Zoey Sweete let alone her book pages and now two new ones? Anyway, I did not understand why she went with Emerald Rae Fleurs. My reason for this being that she wrote lots of erotica under Zoey Sweete as well. So it kind of made the alt Emerald a pointless feat. I found that I always talked to Tabetha and not Zoey or Emerald or others. The only time I had talked to Zoey etc was when I quit and she used it to threaten me to pay to leave her company.
Q: Did you at any time hear Tabetha speak badly about other former authors of her company?
A: Every day, it was a repetitive thing. In fact, she bad mouthed every single one of them so badly that I believed her and thought they were bad too – that’s when I decided to speak with them and get both sides of the story and I realized that when her stories continuously changed all the authors she was against said the exact same things.
Q: Did there come a time when you became concerned that all was not as it seemed with Phoenix Fire or Tabetha Jones?
A: Yes, and it started to get me really depressed. Realizing not only had I been told she’d help me make my dream of helping me gain the experience to own my own publishing company but she once had threatened me about an old publishing company I used to co-own that was LEGAL and I had closed down due to my inexperience. I was completely flabbergasted that she would stoop so low as to make up bullshit about an old company that A) had been registered and made legal as a pub comp. The main thing that got me was when I never received the edits for my book the first time and royalties – I talked to some friends and they told me to ask and talk to her.
Q: How did Tabetha explain away your concerns?
A: With the royalties it was February (a month after TDR1’s release) and no royalties – that is when she told me that royalties wouldn’t be sent to me until March (something about payment every 3 months) and after talking to Tabetha and her going on about her computer issues I did receive a copy. Yes, I did and we did have an argument about it in which she explained how she did things. But when she explained them she told me about how Amazon and herself did royalties, saying if I didn’t get $100 I wouldn’t get my royalties till when I did. I could understand that but I thought it was rather odd when she said your royalties are coming soon and then nothing and when I went off she told me the $100 thing and said I’d have to wait till March, it was January. What happened to February?
Q: What finally made you decide to leave Phoenix Fire Publishing?
A: My depression – if I stayed any longer – I would have quit my writing altogether. When the authors still there that have now left told me what they went through – I started realizing I was heading down the same spiral with Tabetha as they were – maybe even worse. To express this, I would write depressing statuses in which to help make my emotions of the subjects go away. I was used and emotionally abused – I was one of the happiest people that ever you would meet but after joining Phoenix and realizing what was going on – it made me quite depressed that I too was now stuck there.
Beginning of March, I decided nope I couldn’t do this anymore. She’d demoted me twice because I was warning authors away from her publishing company because by that time all my fans that were authors who had dealt with her before showed me all the evidence and told me their stories – some even threatened me – that if I didn’t get out I’d be reported etc etc, I hadn’t been paid anything and it was March. I didn’t feel comfortable being there and knowing what she’d done, I’d been told to that none of the authors trusted me because I had (the owner of this blog interviewing me) as a friend and I was suffering major depression because I continually was facing everything all at the same time. I asked five people what to do – five people in my trust circle and they said do what will make you happy. So I did.
Q: What was Tabetha’s reaction when you told her you want to leave? Did her demeanor change at all from when she first signed you?
A: She told me that after all the things she did for me – I was leaving and that I fucked her over – then I told her that my contract said I could freely leave with every manuscript I had submitted because it was a working contract – she and her ‘supposed’ lawyer Tony or something like that did not agree with making fake contracts which supposedly I did and she sent me the one she ‘supposedly’ had. This was a new contract I had never seen, I soon realized, and I also realized that she would have either A) forged my signature or B) edited an already signed contract illegally- this contract said that I had to pay the leaving fee.
I am a hoarder and I kept every email and yes, I did have three contracts – two were author ones that were sent in 2013 by Tabetha (and I have proof) and the working contract – my current contract also in 2013 by Tabetha. I had never seen that contract and I argued with her for days on end.
She also tried to guilt trip me beforehand of signing saying things like “I was going to make you co-owner and train you at owning a publishing company.” She only led me on and lied.
Q: When you first announced your departure to Tabetha, did she try to charge you money to return the rights to your work to you?
A: Yes, she did. On her ‘supposed’ contract it says $150 and she likes to tell everyone that her authors pay $150 but when I jumped through the hoops to get the hell out – she did not give up – constant arguments and threats on both sides because she was holding me to that illegal contract till the point where I did not want anything to do with her – I just wanted her to fuck off so I paid the $175 she asked for and I told her to fuck off. After having a go at Tabetha, I soon decided that I’d had enough of her bullshit and Phoenix Fire Publishing’s so I signed the release form.
Q: What happened with your contract?
A: She said that that wasn’t the contract she had and sent me a whole new contract from that moment I knew I hadn’t seen it nor given any permission to sign it and I knew something was terribly wrong. I knew then that she’d either:
A – made a new contract and forged my name
B – Used the original void contract edited and added stuff to it and used it against me
I had a major argument with Tabetha Jones on how illegal it was to play with contracts as she had done. And I sent every contract from her which was two. The original void contract and the working contract. She said that I wrote them. My computers do not offer a PDF option (because I’m too broke to buy it.) And the computers corrupt every word document. I have no way of writing my own contracts and neither did I want to. When I sent proof of all contracts it was through forwarding every email she sent me. It had proof of when she sent it, what email she used, her name, time, everything. I could not believe that with the proof in front of her face she still said I wrote them. After a few weeks, I contacted two different people who worked in legals who again I forwarded all contracts even the new one and they read the contracts and told me I could have left for free and that I was scammed big time.
Q: Were all of your files provided to you, including digital conversions, edits and artwork?
A: None of it was provided to me till I continuously hassled and even then Tabetha said she refused to send me ecopies of my own books and that I could only have a PDF file – I did not understand why she’d say that seeing as PDF’s are the easiest way to steal peoples work. I was giving this to people to review and she refused to even budge an ecopy my way for them as so it would not be easy to steal.
Q: What could you say about the ‘family’ of Phoenix Fire?
A: To be honest, it was a family of authors BUT so many of these authors were or still are in the blue to what Tabetha was doing to them or other people around them that it kinda was like a dysfunctional family – some knew what was going on and quite cautious and others were so in the blue that they went along with anything.
Q: What difficulties did you encounter trying to untangle yourself from Phoenix Fire Publishing?
A: Everything – I was threatened by one of her editors because supposedly I was stealing their work on my book if I used it so I scrapped everything that I used through them and started over again. I was messaged from Tabetha going at me for the swag, as well as her ex co-owner. I was threatened by her illegal paper that I am supposed to say nothing of what happened even when I did because all my friends where thinking of going through them. It was just constant bullshit after bullshit and today, a few months no longer with them I find out she uses me as a scapegoat for most of her blame. And when someone told her straight about that she was wrong, that I was not lying because I had showed everyone who asked proof she removed it to cover her ass. She says I lie about the three contracts and that I am counting a trial contract into the three contracts – when literally all three were sent by Tabetha in 2013 and the trial contract sent in March 2014. I was so glad to get out – to stay away but after that, I have not much faith in the indie world. No offence, to all the good guys in indie out there but after all this bullshit, it makes you second guess yourself.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: Well my future plans are to continue writing and aim to be both traditional and indie, Well, I have been writing for twelve and a half years with every genre and formats (poetry, film scripts, lyrics, shorts, kids books, novels etc etc etc and it’d be good to find new readers who like my work as well as my older readers J To finally become a qualified veterinary nurse and start following a career as an actual Veterinarian – I have started my first course to become a qualified vet nurse assistant and that will finish April 2015. To continue editing and maybe to finally start up a good legal publishing company. To move out and start a new life and simply…to inspire others. I would actually like a damned comic book of the TDR series in the near future, I have been looking into it for months and it is a trying challenge that is beginning to pester me lol but I think it’d be well worth the months on end search.
And to travel – there are really so many things I have wanted to do.
Q: In parting, what message would you like to give to any author that’s signed with Phoenix Fire now, or any that’s considering them as a publisher?
A: To those already there, I advise you read the signs – everything that is said to you, everything that happens – it is a sign and then I would advise you to talk to other owners of publishing companies. I did this and was told what I am about to tell you.
Studying every law in a few countries on sole proprietors – I have found out that a sole proprietor cannot legally own a publishing company. A sole proprietor owns their own self-employed business that worries about the legalities for only themselves and their own work.
A publishing company is an organization and therefore a sole proprietor cannot legally own a publishing company because it is not a self-employed business – it is an organization that requires more than one person to work and more than one to legally worry about. If a sole proprietor wants to own a publishing company they must go through the right legal paperwork and register it etc as an organization.
So to all those who are managers, co-owners, any job to do with Phoenix – you are not legally allowed to do so and you should push Tabetha to stop wasting the money she scams off people on crappy photo shoots and start worrying about ACTUALLY BEING LEGAL. Yes, it cost me a chunk of money to talk to many lawyers overseas about this but it is true. Tabetha’s Company is the most illegal company you will ever meet.
To those about to join search the law on sole proprietors and what they can and cannot do and talk to the authors who are no-longer a part of Phoenix and who are still a part of Phoenix and see how the stories stand.
Thank you guys for having me and I hope you check out some of my books and have a great day!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck with your work 🙂
Check out Melina:
Her face book author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMelMelleni
Her The Deathly-Roses Volumes Page: https://www.facebook.com/TheDeathlyRoses
Her twitter account: http://www.twitter.com/@melinawritedark
Her blog link: http://melseverything.wordpress.com/
Or add her on face book: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorMelinaTurner