Cindy Franks-White was Phoenix Fire’s longest-standing author, loyal to Tabetha Jones for 2.5 years, dating back to the Mystic Press days. She has recently parted ways with Tabetha Jones and Phoenix Fire, and is graciously willing to talk about her experience.
Q: Cindy, how did you first become involved with Tabetha Jones? How did you hear about her publishing services, and what made you decide to sign with them?
A: Well, a friend of mine was talking to Georgina Merry, and I do believe Tabetha at the time working on a book together. My friend told me I should submit some of my works to Tabetha and see where it leads. Since my friend was so into my poetry, I sent a few of what I considered lesser works to Tabetha. She was all over them. She started telling me that I had talent and that she was starting a new company. She explained to me that she somehow got screwed over by the company she was working for prior, Mystic Press. That she knew how it felt to be screwed over, and she promised, swore even that her company Phoenix Fire was NOT going to be like them. After a few days of talking online, and quite a few phone calls later she offered me to come on board for Phoenix. After taking it over with my husband, we both decided that it may be worth it to give it a shot.
Q: That was Mystic Press? Or was there another company before MP?
A: I came on board right after Mystic crumbled.
Q: How did you receive your contract? And was there anything about it that didn’t seem right?
A: Tabetha emailed it to me. I started to have misgivings when Tabetha told me a few days later that she had to resend me the contract because her boyfriend Eric was going to be co-owner and he had to sign the documents and resubmit them for my signature. That never happened instead she told me she would just add his name to the contract she had and that she had talked to her “lawyer” and as long as I verbally agreed that there would be no problem with the contract.
Q: At the time, how much were you required to pay in advance?
A: I was not required to pay anything up front. I was told that I had to pay for my cover art if I intended to keep it. Because if not it would be considered like a loan and that if and when I decided to leave Phoenix I would not have a cover for my book. The prices I paid were very reasonable considering how picky I seemed to be on the covers. I don’t think I had to pay any artist over 30 dollars and that is reaching a bit I think.
Q: How was your editing handled?
A: Well I really don’t feel that the editing was handled properly at all to be honest. My first book ‘Through My Eyes’ was sent to me to basically edit. That was by the first editor. I was a bit confused over that since that was what I was told Tabetha’s part of the royalties covered. So I clicked the document, hit review, and spelling and grammar check. This was a very simple program that the editor could have simply done herself. Tabetha blamed the editor Misty for that issue, said that she felt bad for her and was giving her a chance to better her life by learning editing and being part of an up and coming publishing company.
Q: And your cover art? How was that handled?
A: I have to admit that went very well. I had a wonderful chance at working with 2 great and talented artists. Ms. Lindsay Anne Kendal and Ms. Luna Bloodmoon, their talent and understanding of what I wanted was amazing. They listened to my ideas, and were very creative and helpful. I paid them directly apart from anything to do with Phoenix.
Q: Did you become aware at any time that there was anything amiss about images that were being used for PM/PF covers? Like accusations the images were stolen?
A: Tabetha had told me and had made postings on the Phoenix Fire page that she had to let go an associate due to cover art being stolen. I questioned her about mine and would I lose my covers. She assured me that my covers were 100% legit and I was safe. That I had paid for my covers outright and there was absolutely no copyright infringement on them. But that a lot of her authors were going to have to redo covers and might have to pay more.
Q: If so, how were those concerns addressed?
A: Tabetha fired the cover artist, from what she said. I do believe in hind site that the cover artist woke up like I did and realized the truth.
Q: Over all, were you happy with the way your work was produced and presented?
A: My first book had to be redone 3 times, poems left out, misspelled words, and to top it all off, I had bought 20 copies of the darn book before it dawned on me that there were issues. How naïve is that?
Q: As you understood it, what was your pay schedule supposed to be for your royalties?
A: Tabetha was always vague about royalty schedules. She first implied you received royalties on a monthly basis, then there were changes supposedly by Createspace, Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble that royalties were going to be paid out every 3 months which later changed to it was quarterly.
The royalty percentage was 50/50 on ebooks and 60/40 on paperback.
Q: Do you believe that you were paid royalties equal to what your books earned?
A: No. I know I was not paid all of my royalties. With the back selling of the books through Ingram and grand eagle, I didn’t get squat.
In the 2 1/2 yrs i was there.. my 2 books and 5 anthology contributions only netted me 48.99 and tabs told me i should be grateful
Q: Were you offered any position within the company other than author? If so, did you accept? What was the position? If so, were you properly paid for it?
A: No, I was never offered a position in the company I was jokingly talking and told her I should charge her for writing her speeches for her. And helping her try to say the right things to not look like such a bitch all the time.
Q: Tabetha puts a great deal of emphasis on swag. What’s up with that?
A: She offers to do the swag at a cost to the author, I myself played it smart. I have a sister who loves making jewelry, trinkets and the like. I had my sister make my swag custom, to suit me and my personality. Most of my swag are skull in nature, but my sister had made me book thongs in brass, Tibetan steel that are carved and beautiful beaded tassels on them. She has made me bracelets and earrings to send out to the “winners” of the book release party. I have come to the conclusion that one or two of her “friends” win an awful lot.
Q: Do you have any interesting swag stories?
A: I recently received a message from Pamela Stuart, a very lucky winner of swag items in my last 3 book release parties and many other’s as well, as to if she had won any swag from my last party. I found that interesting since the day after my release party I sent Tabetha 6 Tibetan steel book thongs, a bracelet that was made for the little one, 2 pair of earrings, and 3 other bracelets. I told her to contact Tabetha.
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 if Tabetha’s alts are a window to her inner demons they must have some really interesting orgies. She has one who is suppose to be a model, Sky something or other, that only comes out to ask a lot of questions out of the blue. Tries to seduce the men of the company, and lure them into staying with promises of seeing her in person, and going out “wink wink”. Yet when this one is asked for a number to really talk, she claims her agent won’t allow that. Then there is the Zoey Sweete one, hmmm well that one is interesting. Ah, and Emerald she didn’t last long, something about Eric being jealous and that he was not happy about her having two types of an erotica writer in one.
Q: How is Zoey Sweete interesting?
A: She writes all this sexy or so called erotic material, yet hello. She wears a chemise to a photo shoot that is supposed to show a sexy side of her.. why not just wear a moo moo.
Q: Did you at any time hear Tabetha speak badly about other former authors of her company? If so, what was said?
A: Yes, I have heard her speak badly of more than authors. For example she tried to trash Lindsay, called her a thief and a fraud. Wow, in the about 2 ½ yrs I have been there, there have been quite a few come and go. Mike, great writer by the way, I was told that he tried to make a play for her. This was to have happened when she and Eric were on a break, split up or whatever. She claimed Melina was useless, and she was not doing her job. She called me a few days before I had made up my mind to leave Phoenix and was asking what she should do about Sabrina and Jackie. She had someone lurking on their PRIVATE facebook pages and checking out who their friends were. Interestingly enough she was mad over the same reason I came right out and made a comment on your blog for you to contact me. She was mad that they had befriended you and were in contact with each other. My comment to her was “well you confronted me after almost a month of my comment to Lepplady, so why are you asking me what you should do when you had no problem confronting me”. I later found out that she had her watch dog Pamela Stuart was the one that brought it to her attention about me contacting you and knowing what was on Jackie and Sabrina’s pages.
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, roughly about 9 months or so back, I had asked Tabetha for copies of my royalties. Solid proof of what I had been making off my book sales. She kept telling me my books were selling well and that when royalties come out that I would see what I had earned. I asked her more than 7 times in the 2 and ½ yrs I was with Phoenix.
Q: How did Tabetha explain away your concerns?
A: She said that some of the anthologies were not selling well, and that the one that was doing amazing, which I do believe was Glass Hearts, the one she claimed was to help raise awareness of abuse. That was the one she had “donated” all the royalties of said book was to go to some women’s shelter. It was then I started asking her what the name of the shelter or organization was, she became vague. About 2 weeks later she told me since she had to remove an artist from the book that the organization didn’t want the book anymore.
Q: You were with Tabetha/MP/PF a long time. What finally made you decide to leave?
A: I decided to leave because I really wasn’t getting the entire truth from Tabetha. I started talking to others from other companies, and really paying attention to all the promotions and double dealing going on. That company had so many co-owners, editors, and cover artists not counting authors was a revolving door. Yet, every time something went wrong it wasn’t Tabetha’s fault. Someone else screwed the pooch. She would call me to talk about my book and I would get a life lesson on her drinking and chasing the little green fairy from the Absinthe she was drinking along with the Jack, and Tequila. And then there was the photo shoots. She said that the guy was doing them for free, then it was at a massive discount. I know plenty of photographers, time is money, and the adage goes gas, grass or ass. No one rides for free. Also a long standing friend of mine and I were going to go and do a book together, my friend sent her a check for 30 dollars since she did not have a paypal account, Tabetha lied to me saying she never received any money from my friend. Now honestly who would you believe, a friend of over 25 yrs and is in dire straits or a woman who has avoided any real questions and changes the subject?
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: Tabetha was trying to be I guess nice at first, telling me that if I really wanted out I had to sign papers as per her “attorney” to released from the company. I reminded her that my contract for Through My Eyes was expired, and as far as the two other books there were no contracts signed. Also that there was only one contract signed yet I had written in a total of five anthologies. She has sent me messages and tried to get her friend Pamela to innocently ask about swag that I know darn right well she has received. But she hasn’t really been too hard to handle. I did tell her when we first started working together that I don’t care for liars, cheats or thieves. And that I am not a person to allow injustice especially to me or mine. I also told her you don’t poke the sleeping bear and you sure as heck don’t piss off the rattlesnake.
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: She didn’t try to charge any money, I do believe I put it to her perfectly clear to her that I wasn’t signing any papers or anything until I received my documents and after I spoke to an attorney I found out that all the papers she was sending weren’t worth the ink they were printed on.
Q: What happened with your contract?
A: I only had the one contract with my first book and one for the one anthology. And they were out of date when I terminated ties with Tabetha.
Q: Were all of your files provided to you, including digital conversions, edits and artwork?
A: I sure did receive it all.
Q: What could you say about the ‘family’ of Phoenix Fire?
A: This is a very dysfunctional organization, we try or at least some have tried to keep in contact and talk. There are too many unanswered questions and bullshit backstabbing to call ourselves family.
Q: What difficulties did you encounter trying to untangle yourself from Phoenix Fire Publishing?
A: I really haven’t had much difficulty as I thought. I consider this a learning lesson. Tabetha did contact me using her Zoey Sweete acct to ask me about signing release papers but I really didn’t understand “Alamo your release from signed and sent” was the ending of her message from the Zoey Sweete acct.
Q: Have there been any interesting developments with your book(s) since you parted company with Tabetha Jones?
A: Funny you should ask that question, I have found out that a company called Grand Eagle Retail and a place on the web www.wordery.com, have been selling my books. Interestingly enough I have not seen a penny of the royalties. Tabetha had sent me an email concerning woodery after I asked her questions about the EBAY sales. The Grand Eagle Retail place was selling copies of my books for double and triple the cost of them on Amazon. I inquired as to how they got the books to sell, She blames Ingram and told me I didn’t sell a copy so NO royalties. As Alice said “things are getting curiouser and coriouser.”
Q: How do you plan to address that?
A: I have contacted both companies, am waiting for a more clear response than “your titles have been removed”. I have a few other tricks up my sleeve and like a good magician I won’t reveal all my secrets. At least not yet.
Q: What do you plan to do with your works, now that they are yours to do with as you want?
A: I am seriously thinking of self publishing, going to try and get the bitter taste out of my mouth from this long drawn out bunch of bullshit.
Q: Do you know anything about her upcoming BIG DEAL?
A: She is really excited about the new book release ‘La Bare,’ based on the characters of the strip club she frequents. She wants it to be released on the opening of the movie [of the same name]. She has implied permission from owner of club and dancers with quotes from some dancers. She also has stated that she has dated one of the dancers, and that one of the dancers was to pose for the book or one of her zoey sweete books, At the last min he cancelled and somehow christian petrovic “volunteered” to do the shoot with her.
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: If it sounds too good to be true, RUN. Watch your back, DON’T be BULLIED, and first and foremost DON’T SIGN ANYTHING WITH TABETHA JONES. Find a real publisher, hell self-publish. Createspace will walk you through it.
Thanks a bunch for the insight.
And best of luck with your work 😉
Check out Cindy Franks-White: