Another Class Action Suit Launched Against PublishAmerica

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I wasn’t optimistic that I would ever be writing a post like this, after the class action filed last year against PublishAmerica was dismissed.


However, on January 31, 2013, the Maryland law firm Z Law and the New York law firm Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart (the same firm that is currently investigating Author Solutions Inc.) filed an amended complaint (the original complaint was filed last November) against Willem Meiners, Larry Clopper, and PublishAmerica LLLC on behalf of Diana Waterman, Jennifer Grant, Danita Clemons, and the class of PA authors in similar situations.

The amended complaint was filed in the Circuit Court of Maryland
for Frederick County (case number 10-C-12-003498 OT), and can be read in
full here. The electronic case record can be viewed here.

Plaintiffs allege breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraud, violations of the California Business and Professions Code (for untrue advertising), violations of the California Unfair Competition Law (for unlawful business acts and practices, unfair business acts and practices, and fraudulent business acts and practices), and deceptive acts and practices under New York General Business Law.

The allegations of fraud, unjust enrichment, and
breach of contract are similar to those of the earlier complaint, but where the previous complaint sought judgment under
the Maryland Consumer Protection Act–and was dismissed in large part
because it failed to adequately demonstrate that PA authors should be
treated as consumers under the Act–this complaint focuses on laws
governing business acts and practices, both in Maryland and in the home states of the named
plaintiffs. Does it have a better chance of success? That remains to be
seen.

The complaint’s Preliminary Statement is worth quoting in (nearly) full.

2. Defendant markets itself as a “traditional advance and royalty paying book publisher” that is home to over 50,000 authors.

3. As PublishAmerica openly states on its website, it specializes in books and authors “who face and overcome hardships and obstacles in life.”

4. Defendants shamelessly prey on ambitious first time authors and those who have faced significant personal hardships, luring them into exploitatively long contracts, often as long as ten years — that can only be broken for a high fee.

5. On its website, PublishAmerica uses the tagline: “We treat our authors the old-
fashioned way–we pay them.” Nothing could be further from the truth. PublishAmerica makes money from its authors, not for them. As alleged below, authors published by PublishAmerica have no chance of selling their books to a general audience.

6. PublishAmerica makes its authors’ books unsellable in a number of ways. The most obvious is pricing. Plaintiff Waterman’s paperback children’s book is priced at $24.95. By contrast, Curious George, a beloved children’s book, is available online at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for $6.99. In fact, Plaintiff Waterman’s book is priced significantly higher than all of New York Times’ ten best-selling children’s books. See Exhibit 1 attached hereto.

7. PublishAmerica sabotages its authors’ ability to sell and market their books by printing them with errors. These errors are inserted by PublishAmerica itself. Plaintiff Grant’s book has glaring typographical errors. On the side binding of the book, the word “collection” is misspelled as “collectrion.” If that were not enough, on every other page, the title of the book is misspelled, replacing “romantically” with “roimantically.” These errors humiliated Grant once the book became widely searchable on the Internet. Notwithstanding these glaring errors, PublishAmerica prices Plaintiff Grant’s book at $30. This price is notably higher than the top ten selling fiction paperback books. See Exhibit 2 attached hereto.

8. The simple fact is that the only consumers who will purchase these overpriced, poorly published books are the authors themselves.

9. PublishAmerica then bombards its authors with services ostensibly designed to promote, improve, and sell books that PublishAmerica knows cannot be sold. But as alleged below, these services are often themselves a scam or simply fictitious. For example, PublishAmerica offers to correct its own publishing errors – for a fee.

I’ve highlighted the allegations that were unfamiliar to me. Although they fit perfectly with the many other aspects of PublishAmerica’s business model that Writer Beware has received complaints about over the years, I still find them shocking. The complaint includes many other gems, including a couple of PA’s famous “tone” letters and examples of PA’s solicitations for bogus marketing services.
 
Plaintiffs are asking the court to approve the class, to order PA to release and return publication rights, to order PA to pay actual damages, restitution, and court costs including attorneys’ fees, and to order “such other, further relief as may be determined to be just, equitable and proper by this Court, including but not limited to punitive damages.”

The contact person for Giskan Solotaroff:

O. Iliana Konidaris
11 Broadway, Suite 2150
New York, NY 10004
Direct: 646-366-5140
Fax: (646) 964-9610

I’ll keep y’all posted as this works its way through the courts.

6 Responses

  1. Mark Nestell

    I to am a screwed over author of PA Gordon and the Magic Fish Bowl> I am a veteran on disability an was taken by this terrible company…..

  2. angel

    I want to know how can I become a part of this class action suit. I signed with them in December

  3. Dennis Hancock

    I am a veteran on disability and was also taken by PublishAmerica. I was told in emails and on the phone that PublishAmerica would cover all the publishing, printing and promotion cost of marketing my books and those costs would be taken out of my royalties from book sales. So within three months I published In The Shadow Of His Mountain, Devotion In The First Degree, Goodnight On The Farm, What If There Were No Colors, and A Tree House On The Bluff the books are listed in the PublishAmerica store for $24.00 each and at that price there will be no royalties from book sales. I want to know how I can become a part of this class action suit.

  4. Madelyn Hollis

    I have been with PublishAmerica for over a year now. I have many, if not all, the same complaints as the authors mentioned here. It has been my dream for years to publish my book, “Arts of Passion”. I had hoped to make money. Although I have sold a number of books through Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, I have not been paid. PublishAmerica originally said that I was simply awaiting the next pay date in February. When that passed with no check, my inquiry revealed that no check would be sent until I earned at least $25. I pointed out that I’ve sold 25 books that I’m aware if. Then they told me that I would not make money from the list price of the book, but from what the distribute paid $4.50. In other words – You get nothing Madelyn. Is it too late to add my name to this suit? I’m seriously interested.

  5. Rebekah

    I was very excited to see my acceptance letter from PublishAmerica dated April 25, as publication of my manuscript (“The Runs of Whiteskill”) is a dream come true for me. The package deal looked great on the website; I have even heard of PA books becoming movies, which would be another dream come true. However, I am in a bit of pickle. You see, I FINALLY saw the acceptance letter today, a week after the original letter was sent, as the letter fell in my spam folder. I replied to the letter with everything they asked for, and then the editor stated that they “have not been able to move forward with my book,” as “final word has not yet been received.” She also stated that I should recall my manuscript being accepted on April 19, 2013 (I submitted my manuscript April 18), despite the fact that I first received correspondence on April 25. I have not received my final contract yet, so hopefully I still have time to seek other options and build legitimate bridges. How is it possible to have my work accepted on April 19 when I wasn’t even notified for the first time until April 25?! Was I MAGICALLY supposed to recall that my manuscript was accepted on April 19 when I didn’t even receive news about it until MUCH later?!