Two authors contacted me this week, wanting to leave the scam publishing company they signed with thanks to some fast-talking and steep promises from the owner. They realize that it was a mistake to sign with a publisher that has a sordid history of defrauding authors and stealing royalties. But they’re afraid that they’re bound by the contract, and the owner threatens legal action if they try to leave. The owner says that if they try to leave, she’ll sue.
To this I say: “Make her.”
There are two reasons she won’t do a single thing to you if you walk out on your contract and take your work with you. First, her contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. If a company isn’t legal, neither are the contracts. Since the company isn’t legally structured, the contracts are worthless. There’s nothing legally binding in them at all. It doesn’t matter if you signed it. You could sign it ten times over and you’re still not legally bound by it. You can rip it up and walk away. And be sure to take your work with you. There isn’t a single legal thing she can do to stop you.
Second, she’s done so much illegal shit the last thing she wants is to step a single foot inside a courtroom. She’s been in front of a judge lately for too much other shit. I guarantee that, for all her bluster, she won’t even try it. She’s been threatening authors for years, and hasn’t sued a single one yet. Not one. And plenty of authors have walked out on her. People who were loyal to her for years finally saw through her act when her answers didn’t add up to the facts. When they realized that her boasts about how well their books were selling, yet they got paid a paltry few dollars. When they couldn’t get answers out of her about why she gets paid every month but makes authors wait for quarterly payments, if they get paid at all. They realize that we’ve been telling the truth all along and they want out. But when they try to leave, they see the other side of her.
That’s when the claws come out and the threats start. First, she threatens them with legal action, saying they can’t leave because they’re bound by their contract, either for a measure of time (like a year) or a certain number of books. They’re stuck, she tells them, and there’s nothing they can do about it because they signed the contract. It’s a legal contract, she’ll say. A lawyer approved of it, she’ll tell you.
If they push the issue and insist that they want to leave, she’ll tell them that they have to pay for early termination of their contract. Some authors have been swindled out of hundreds for this “early termination” clause. If they pay, she says, she’ll graciously let them out of their contract with no hard feelings. How generous of her.
The contract she’s trying to beat you over the head with is illegal. Her company isn’t legal, so neither are those contracts. Even if she had a lawyer (which she doesn’t) who wrote it up (which they didn’t. It’s lifted from the web), it’s not legal. Her company is bogus. Her contracts are bogus. A contract is a legal meeting of the minds made in good faith. If one of those minds is acting fraudulently, there is no good faith, no meeting of the minds, and no legal transaction.
Why is her company illegal? There’s a whole list of reasons, starting with the fact that she formed it under a fake name to begin with, to avoid paying taxes, perhaps. Also, she takes on partners from time to time, yet claims to own a sole proprietorship. A sole proprietorship company can’t have partners, nor can it have employees. And, no. her artists and editors are not independent contractors, as she claims. They’re other authors she’s wrangled into doing the work by promising them higher royalties, which she doesn’t pay in the first place. Since they aren’t independents, they are, by default, employees. Her company must be structured properly as such for taxation purposes, and hers isn’t.
So you to that have already asked about leaving her, and the others when they realize it, you can all demand your work back, and you can walk. Many authors have done it before you. Just ask yourself why there aren’t many (if any) that have been with her from the start. When she tells you that you’re stuck because of your contract, tell her to stuff it up her ass. It still would touch the sides if she stuffed it up sideways. When she tells you she’ll sue you, tell her to sit and spin. When she tells you that you have to pay a separation fee, or an “early termination” fee., tell her to eat shit. That “early termination” nonsense comes from a contract that isn’t legal in the first place. There’s not a single thing she can do to you. Take your artwork, too. You paid for it, after all.
On your way out the door, demand that she remove your work from her anthologies as well. Why should she keep making money from your work, your name? You have every right to demand that she remove it. If she refuses, report her to the FBI for piracy.
Once you’re clear, there are several things you should do:
1) Yank your work from publication. Contact Amazon, Goodreads, Smashwords and Ingram and tell them that you no longer publish with that bogus company and that they are not to carry your title(s) if they’re published by anybody but you. Each one of those services offers a proviso that lets authors refuse to let anybody but themselves to sell their work.
2) Publish your title(s). You can publish your own work on Amazon’s Createspace for free. That’s how your scam publisher did it. For a $25 dollar fee, you can include expanded distribution, which includes Ingram. Once you’ve yanked your title(s) and re-published them yourself, your soon-to-be-former publisher can’t keep selling your work. Several authors keep finding their work for sale on Amazon, Ebay, etc, long after they’ve severed legal ties. That means that she’ll keep selling your work and keeping the money for herself. She’ll tell you that it’s “third party sellers” still selling your work, so she doesn’t owe you any money for it. Bullshit. Whether it’s a “third party” selling your work or her still doing it, she got paid for the sale as your publisher, and she’s making excuses not to pay you.
3) Report her to the Better Business Bureau. She has blatantly lied to the BBB about her business, earning her a higher rating than her bogus company deserves, providing absolutely no documentation to substantiate her claims. And she’s agreed to pay for accreditation, which buys her a higher rating. She gets a lot of mileage out of her rating with the BBB, flaunting it in front of authors as proof of how upstanding she is as part of her scam. As an illegal company that withholds royalties from her authors, there’s nothing upstanding about her. By reporting her to the BBB, you’re letting other authors know what a scam she is and helping to stop them from being swindled.
4) Google yourself. Keep a close eye on your work. Make sure she doesn’t try ti sneak your work back in under the radar, either as books or as shorts in her anthologies. More than once, she’s kept somebody’s work in her anthologies, but changed the name of the author. Make sure she doesn’t try it with you. If she does:
5) Report her to the FBI for piracy. Publishing your work without your knowledge or consent is a federal crime. Don’t let her get away with it.
6) Speak up. Each and every person that’s been swindled by her says that they wish they’d been warned about her. They never would have signed with her if they’d known what a cheat she is. Those that were warned but chose to ignore it wish that they’d listened. By coming forward to speak up about what a fraud she is, you’ll be saving other authors from suffering through the nightmare of signing with a scam publisher. We’re warning you, so pay it forward. You can do a guest post here and I’ll be happy to share it. Tell your friends, and by all means, let your friends on social media know. That’s where she’s getting her victims, by trolling your friends list. That’s how she found most of you. At the very least, share the link to this blog so that they can see for themselves who they should be avoiding. You’ll be doing them a favor.
Don’t settle for being a victim a moment longer than you have to. It’s your work, your career and your reputation. Take it back and create a better future for yourself. Make your own dreams come true. Working with a scam publisher will only be a nightmare.