Contract walk

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.

Wrong.

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.

Wrong again.

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.

Yup. Illegal.

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.

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Same old song and dance

Here’s a guest post from someone who’s had their eyes opened about Tabetha Jones:

First off let me say that I am not using my name, although I am over all the lies and bullshit that have spilled from the poisoned lips of Tabetha Jones, I don’t need my future tainted. I want to first say that I was naïve and so willing to believe that the person who wanted my works wanted only the best for me. I was approached by Tabetha Jones, to at first do an anthology, someone had “showed” her my works and she was over the moon to get me on board. She insisted we talk because she had some things that she needed me to know. Things pertaining to her other companies affiliation. She informed me that she had been a part of Mystic Press, that things went south and she was left holding the bag. I felt bad for her wanted to believe that she was misused and she wanted to show the world that she was better. She told me of a “hate” blog that was all about how she was a thief, how she manipulated people and their money. She told me that she had all this stuff planned out and that my books would fly off the shelves. She promised book tours, book signings, that she would contact the local libraries and have me do signings there. She promised that I would get a very good percentage, which was 60/40 for paperbacks and 50/50 for eBooks. At the time I thought that was great, she explained that the royalties would be changed after the contract was fulfilled for the first year, and the sales were better. I need you to know now; NONE of these things were done.

Now to explain the quotations on the wording “showed”. She found a bit of my works when she was trolling another page, a group of people that were actually trying to get something good going by doing an anthology of pretty much no named people to get them out there. That was lie number one. I decide to go with Tabetha Jones and gave her a shot, although I truly was hesitant. Against her desire I guess I will say, I went to the “hate” blog and started reading all that was being said about her and her dealings with Mystic Press and her new endeavor of Phoenix Fire. I will be the first to admit I fought for her tooth and nail, I cussed people that I didn’t know, I accused them of being jealous, and petty you name it I was all on Tabetha’s side. I didn’t want to believe she was lying to me, that she didn’t have my best interest at heart.

Now to this “hate” blog. After being with Tabetha for a bit, I noticed a lot of things. When you would call her to discuss things dealing with your book, swag, book trailers, sales, royalty reports or to get book party things organized she would talk about family stuff. I am talking about things of the nature of her sick mom, her sister and her preferences in her lifestyle, what guy she was flirting with. Now don’t get me wrong we did discuss the other things, only to have her say to me, I will have to get back to you on that, uhm, the reports are all together, I have to print them out, black out the other authors information and copy and send to you. I want to tell you now this NEVER happens. I got a little bit pissed off. I started checking out this blog on a regular basis. I was reading of what people had dealt with when it came to her, so I started asking her more questions. I asked more about my sales and exactly why when the people from Createspace, Amazon, Kindle and the like pay monthly, why was I being paid every 3 months or when she saw fit. I contacted these places, and found out that yes, royalties are paid monthly. I also noticed my books popping up on EBay and a few other places. Yet, I was not receiving any royalties from those sales. It got to the point that for the most part she was ignoring everything I said to her except that what she wanted to tell me, which was more bullshit about her life. Not to be rude but when you go to work, does your boss say “ hey so and so, last night I got so fucked up with my friend that I have bruises all over my body, and I don’t know how it happened”? Not where I work. The more I read on the blog the more insight I got on how things were going. Tabetha could never give me an honest answer on where the money was, how many books I have sold or what.

I went over my contract, which btw I found out that it is a bogus contract that no lawyer in the world would sign off on that rubbish. And how do I know? I took it to a lawyer to have him review it. Why I didn’t do it earlier, is beyond me. Actually I went over both contracts the anthology one and the one for my own books. My first book should have been pulled after the first year guess what yep you guessed it she kept the book up for sale WITHOUT a new contract. Can we say illegal? She was also telling me that she had several “alts” that she writes under which by the way in case you are wondering is at least 5 people in every anthology she promotes. These “alts” get paid the same percentage as if it was a real person. So let’s say the book makes 200 for a month provided she pays monthly, which we all know she doesn’t, and 5 of those people are her “alts” and 5 people are actual authors and it is suppose to be split equally between all. Since she says the company doesn’t take any money from the anthology sales. What exactly is her cut? If my math is correct and it may be off a bit, but I am seeing her making what 100 off the blood, sweat, tears and dreams of others.

I am sure there are really talented writers that have been conned by her again. Hell I am from the south and fell for her southern belle charm and “I am a better person, I have learned from all my mistakes” blustering. I know that everyone wants to believe that people are good in general and want to assist us. Please I am telling you that not EVERYONE has your best interest at heart. Don’t trust Tabetha Jones, she is a scam artist and a liar. She will tell you that you are a family, that she isn’t running her business like others do. It is all bullshit. She will use you, bully you, tell you not to do things that her lawyer insists that that is the way it has to be. There is NO lawyer. NO big bad biker gang that will come and put you in check. THERE IS ONLY HER, TRYING TO BE THE BIG BAD BULLYING BOSS LADY. DON’T FALL FOR HER LIES.

Just don’t.

Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster. And if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
~Friedrich Nietzsche

What does this have to do with us?
Simply this:
I see too many former victims of Tabetha Jones and Phoenix Fire doing things exactly the same way she does.

For one thing, they set up their own publishing companies (three, at last count, and at least that many that didn’t work out) that are structured exactly the same way hers is set up. Each and every new company that’s popped up from among Phoenix Fire’s victims, old and new, are begun with the best of intentions. They want to do right what she does so very wrong. Yet they structure their companies exactly the same way she did. With more than one owner and overlapping jobs done by owners and executives within the company.
I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way. Not even with the best of intentions.
Each person within a company needs to have ONE clearly defined role. That’s it. One job they get one paycheck for. Not a hodgepodge of jobs with a jumble of pay that’s not clearly defined (or, more importantly, identified for the IRS). Authors don’t edit each others’ work within a company. Ever. That’s the same incestuous crap Tabetha pulls in her bogus company. The point is to be better than she is, right? So why put together a company the exact same way she does? It just makes no sense whatsoever. Not only are they not doing any favors to the authors they pick up, they’re also setting themselves up for the same financial headaches. If they don’t have editors that are trained and experienced, don’t do it. If they can’t offer real-world promotions like book signings and interviews, look for one that can. In short, look for a publishing company that can do better for your book than you can do for yourself. Otherwise, do it yourself and keep all the money.

Many of her former victims still write the same way she encourages her authors to, as much as possible as quickly as possible, cranking out more books at a time than anybody could possibly read and enjoy.
Books aren’t written lickety-split just for the sake of cranking them out. Good stories take time. They take rewrites, edits and development. There’s a reason it takes best-selling authors so long to put out new books. Because quality takes time. They don’t crank out a dozen books in a month, and neither should authors that want to be successful.
There’s another reason successful writers don’t crank out so much work at once: market saturation. As much as readers enjoy a writer’s work, they simply don’t have time to read a new book every two days. And, to be honest, they might get kind of sick of it.
Take the time to develop a GOOD book. Maybe even a great one. That simply can’t happen if you fly through a story at the speed of light. You’re not taking the time to get to know your characters, so they’ll probably come across as flimsy as Tabetha’s no-trick ponies, plodding along the same dusty old path, drawing the same stinky old flies. If you don’t take the time to get to know your characters as real people, how will your readers think of them as such? Get to know them, where they come from, what makes them tick. Explore their deepest, secrets, their greatest joys, their darkest fears. Real people don’t just do this and that, flitting through life with all the depth of paper dolls. They have substance to them. Discover it and gift it to the world on your pages. Slow down and take a look at the scenery. There are pictures on the walls, the walls have windows, the windows look out into the woods, and the woods are alive with more delights than mankind will ever know. And you can’t see any of it if you speed down the road at warp six. Take your foot off the gas and take it all in. Hell, park the car and go for a stroll. You might not get where you’re going quite as fast, but look how many beautiful things you will have learned along the way. Things you can share with your readers, like they were old friends you’re telling a story to. Not strangers you’re hoping to make a couple of bucks off of. Quality over quantity.

And finally, I think the one thing that bugs me the most about Tabetha Jones is how many aliases she cooks up. One after the next, practically every day, she makes up some new name to bolster her roster and pad her company with names to make it look more impressive than it really is. Thirty authors? Wow! Fifty? That’s great! Until you realize that all but a few are the owner’s fake names. Her alts have alts, and some of them do, too. It’s utterly ridiculous. Her alts have conversations with each other online, having whole conversations with herself. I can picture her sitting there at her mother’s kitchen table, pudgy little fingers flying a mile a minute, switching from one identity to the next so that she can answer herself back and forth, for hours, cackling over her silly little inner dialog, thinking nobody knows all along that it’s her. I shake my head at the thought of any former authors ending up the same way.

Maybe an author wants to write erotica and not let their family or colleagues know.
Why on earth not?
Erotica’s nothing to be ashamed of. If it’s written well, there’s nothing wrong with it. An author shouldn’t mind having their name associated with anything that’s well written and intuitive. Their fans are going to find out sooner or later anyway. So is their family, and everybody else. Usually because the author has said online that they’re doing it. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to sort it out.

If, however, it’s hastily-written Mary Jane spank, then yeah. That’s embarrassing. So why do it? Especially when everybody’s going to find out, anyway?

Maybe an author wants to write in different styles. They need a different name for each style. Right?

No.

Let’s put it this way. An author can use a dozen names, but he or she only has one face. Tabetha scares up pictures of models for her alts, like Emerald, Ivy, and most of the names on Phoenix Fire’s roster, including the infamous Sky Wicker. You know, the model Tabetha’s sister is supposed to be dating. The one that doesn’t exist. (Oh, shut up. You know it’s true.) These other authors could probably do the same thing. Some of them already do. What sense does that make?
There’s only one thing that guarantees: failure.
An author needs to promote a book in order for it to be successful. That means interviews, book signings, things like that. Not the wading pool of bogus blog tours nobody will ever see that Tabetha laughingly calls promotion. It means Real work in the real world. That can’t happen with a fake name and a fake face. So that means that a book written by an faceless alias can never possibly realize a full measure of success.
Why write a book to fail? If an author isn’t going to give a book every chance it’s got at success, why write it at all? Seems to me an author’s time is better spent writing quality work they can be proud of, not embarrassing smut they don’t even want their real name involved with. And they should publish with a traditional company that can give their work the promotion it deserves. Either that or they should publish on their own.

In short, they need to stop copying Tabetha Jones. They need to look at every single thing she does as an example of what not to do. If anything they’re considering is something she’s done, they need to heed these words.

DON’T DO IT!!

Voting time!

The names have been posted for the contest to pick a name for the protagonist in my next book Drop by and vote for your favorite.

There seems to be a front-runner with a couple of close seconds. Drop by and vote for your favorite, here.

Lepplady’s name contest

Payday

Authors, if you’re thinking of signing with a publishing company, there are a lot of things you need to find out first. What are your legal rights? What does a publisher offer you in terms of promotion? Can you get out if you’re not happy with them? Are they legally formed? Who’s going to be working on your book? Who’s going to do your editing? Your cover art? All SORTS of things that I’ll probably go into later.

But one of the most important things you need to know before you sign on the dotted line is your pay. As the author of the book, you have every right to know exactly what’s going to happen to the money it earns. So here are some specific questions you need to get answers to before you decide whether or not a company is right for you.

How much will you earn in royalties? It’s a pretty up-front question. Will you be earning a flat rate for each book? Two bucks? Three bucks? More? Less? Or will you get paid a percentage? They might sound like the same thing, but they’re not. Sure, you might know how much your paperback is going to sell for, but there are more formats out there. Ebooks on Kindle and Nook don’t cost as much as paperbacks, and hardcovers (if that publisher even carries them) cost more. So find out. How much will you earn per ebook? Per paperback? Per hardcover?

Finding out your rate of pay per copy, perversion of your book is paramount. If a publisher can’t tell you how much you’ll be earning, specifically, Look for one that can.

When will you get paid? This is another biggie. As an author, you’re also a business person, having to deal with taxes at the end of the year and bills to pay up until then. You need to know when you’re going to get paid. Will you get paid every time somebody buys your book?
Will you get paid by the month? Services like Createspace pay you a check by the month, if you’ve earned a minimum balance. By the month regardless if you’re having your pay direct-deposited. Some pay quarterly.
Will you get paid quarterly? If you find that your book was published by a service like Createspace that pays monthly, but you’re only getting paid quarterly, you need to find out why. If your publisher is getting paid monthly, YOU need to get paid monthly. If you’re not, you’re probably getting robbed.

How are you going to get paid? It’s your job as the author to nail your publisher down on the details. Is your publisher going to send you a check? Are they going to offer you direct deposit? Or are they going to pay you by check or direct-deposit it into your bank account? Are they going to pay you via Paypal?

If you’ve got a publisher that wants to pay you via Paypal. I’d be very, very wary. The reason why leads us up to my next concern.

What’s the path that your money takes? As the author, you have every right to know exactly where your money goes and how it gets there. When somebody buys your book, where does the money go? Does their publishing service send your money to your publisher? Or do they send your percentage to you? If the answer is the latter, you’re good. Carry on.
If, on the other hand, your money is being sent to your publisher, you need to nail them down on exactly what happens to it. Is your money being deposited into an account that’s exclusive to you, from which you’re paid your royalties? Or is your money being dumped into one lump account along with everybody else’s? If so, you’ve got a legitimate reason to be concerned.
If your money is being mixed up with everybody else’s, how does your publisher know exactly now much to send you, and when? If they have one or two authors, it might not be that hard to keep up with. Or, in some cases, if they have a ton of authors, but most of them are the publisher him/herself under alias, it’s not hard to figure out. They keep most of it. But if a publisher has a legitimate roster of quite a few authors, it can get really confusing as to who earned what. If they’ve got it figured out, they should be able to prove it to you. So…

What proof will you have of your sales? How will your publisher prove to you that you’re been paid everything your book has earned? Will they print out sales reports? In what form? Will they print out your statement from the publishing service website? Will you have access to your book’s sales reports on the website? Or will they type out some sort of spread sheet?
Unless you can see for yourself on the publishing service’s website exactly how many books you’ve sold, you have no way to confirm for yourself whether or not you’re actually being paid all of the royalties your book has earned. If your publisher won’t show you this proof, you need to ask why. You also need to ask yourself whether or not you want to do business with a publisher that can’t prove to you that you’re being paid as much as you’re really earned.

When you get a job at a store or in an office, you don’t walk in and sign up without knowing how much you’re going to get paid, when, and how. You don’t TRUST your boss to give you money …whenever. So don’t accept that from a publisher, either. Nail down the basics. How much will you get paid, how often will you get paid, what path does your money take on its way to you, and how can you be sure? If a publisher can’t give you specific answers to these questions, you might want to look for another publisher. Or go it alone. Because…

One last question: If your publisher is using Createspace, Lightning Source and/or Smashwords to publish your book, what are they doing for you that you can’t do for yourself?

Top Ten Writing Mistakes Editors See Every Day

One editor’s take on the top ten mistakes authors make. They’re very good points. If you’re considering publishing, whether traditionally, self, or indie, it’s well worth a read.

Confessions of a Creative Writing Teacher

Goya -The sleep of reason produces monsters (c1799) recut

In addition to writing and teaching, one of the things I do for a living is to evaluate manuscripts for their suitability for publication. I read fiction (and non-fiction) across several genres, and write comprehensive reports on the books. I try always to guide the author towards knocking his or her project into a shape that could be credibly presented to literary agents, publishers and general readers. You know how Newman and Mittelmark introduce How Not to Write a Novel by saying, ‘We are merely telling you the things that editors are too busy rejecting your novel to tell you themselves, pointing out the mistakes they recognize instantly because they see them again and again in novels they do not buy,’ well they’re right; I am one of those editors.

However good the idea behind a novel, when the author is still learning the craft of writing – like any…

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