Saturday, September 7, 2013

When Authors Steal From Authors


It's horrible, isn't it? In an ideal world, theft of manuscripts and ideas wouldn't happen, but this isn't an ideal world. However, I'm not here to talk about intellectual rights and ideas; I'm talking about theft of actual money.

In the following text, I’m going through my story and pointing out clues of things not being as they should be, so that you can learn from my current situation. I will point out the clues where I should have either confronted the author in question (who was also my publisher), or filed a breach of contract to get my rights back. I'm marking my story in purple so you can skip over it if you're not interested. 

So, let’s start.

With the ease of indie publishing many new publishing houses have popped up. A lot of them are founded and managed by authors, some just to publish their own titles and some to publish other writers as well. There's a big difference between the two as the latter means there are a lot of people relying on you to keep the business going.

Starting a publishing house and taking in other authors sounds simple, doesn't it? Just hire a group of editors and proof readers, hire/outsource to a cover artist, hire/outsource to a professional formatter, sign up with retailers, learn all about media and how to reach audiences, learn to calculate royalty and make statements, answer queries and the ton of email sent your way every day, buy/make a professional website - possibly with a storefront, and keep your financial books and records in order. I don’t know about you, but to me this doesn't sound like a job for one person unless this person is doing nothing else with their time and doesn't mind long hours into the night and no weekends. Fact of the matter is that not everyone realizes just how much time and money goes into running a multi-author publishing house.

I'm not here to tell authors not to start up publishing houses. There’s a plethora of authors who can successfully run an online business and keep up with their writing. It takes time, money, skill, determination, organization and delegation to make it work. But when an author (or any person) decides to start up a new house thinking it'll be an easy way to make some cash, that's when they need to stop and reconsider. If you start up a multi-author publishing house you need to treat it like a real business and not just something you have on the side with your writing. If you go into this with the mindset that this will be a little pet project that seems easy to run or a great way to get your name out there in order to increase your fame, think again!

Now, I'm not saying that easy cash for easy work or any of the above is what author Kharisma Rhayne (Denise Blackwood) was thinking when she co-founded No Boundaries Press - I actually think she had every intention of running an actual business - but I wonder just how easy she thought it would be along with her goal of being a successful author. Granted, she co-founded the company, but a few months after No Boundaries Press put up their first title for sale (my title, Hot Hands), her co-founder had to quit and Kharisma was left with a huge responsibility and a humongous amount of work. At the time, I had full faith in her. She came across as a driven individual with innovative ideas, but it takes more than drive and creativity to work a business, especially when you decide to do it alone.

If you decide to go it alone, you must be prepared for the influx of queries and requests from authors, reviewers, readers, retailers, editors, cover artists, formatters, marketing venues, and many, many others - every day - on top of everything else that needs your attention and steals away writing time. If you decide to be the only central person within your company, for example you decide everything must come through you (like edits between authors and editors so that the editor and author never actually communicate without you in the middle) the workload becomes massive. You also need to stay on top of things in the publishing industry and make sure your company is getting the coverage it needs to be successful. This is especially hard when you're brand new on the market. 

Working with No Boundaries Press was a pleasure to begin with. I loved the hands-on approach in the publication of my shorter works and I gained valuable knowledge by working with them. The author forum was active and we'd repeatedly get fresh ideas, announcements and marketing opportunities from Kharisma. I was over the moon when I received my first quarter pay check with only two releases out. The third story was also published by then and I was on a roll. However, after Kharisma became the sole owner of the company, things started to slow down. For me, it was good because my titles were coming out too fast, but then as time went on things seemed to have stopped. My next title was supposed to come out in June, then July, and then I simply didn't know anymore (first clue). Being a non-confrontational person, I didn't push. I knew she was busy and that there were some problems behind the scenes that she was trying to sort. 

The very first point of irritation was in July 2012, when one of my books was supposed to be free for a day. I had announced it everywhere, but when the day came it passed without the discount (clue). That was a huge embarrassment for me. See, Kharisma had taken some weeks off and she was not to be disturbed. I assumed the book would be made free by some automatic mechanism, since this had been planned months in advance, but that wasn't the case. The storefront was always closed whenever she took vacation. As much as I feel that taking vacations is important, it's not good for business if it puts a stop to the whole operation. That happens if you're the only person handling things. Supposedly, Kharisma hired an assistant called Heather, but even though there was a "Heather" the business stayed closed (emails and all) whenever Kharisma wasn't around (clue). This put a little "huh?" in my head and vague warning bells, but I put it behind me and moved on. 

August came and I got my second pay check. The amount was only half of what I'd received before, but I was a new author with a new company so I didn't question it. However, Kharisma didn't send me a statement so it felt a bit weird. No statements, people, is a huge clue that something isn't right. Belated statements by a week or so is fine, but none at all is not. It added to the doubt in my mind, but I was preparing for a convention and didn't dwell on it, trusting her to have done the calculations correctly and that she'd send the statement later.

When the time came to get my third payment, I simply didn't get any (clue!). I knew the books were selling, they were being added to- and rated on Goodreads all the time. Other authors must have been inquiring about lack of payments because a message was posted in the author forum stating that if you didn't receive a payment, you didn't meet the minimum $20 (which I was hearing about for the first time). The message also said that statements wouldn't be sent out if there was nothing to pay out. This sounded off and I decided it was time to grow a set of balls and inquire about my money. However, whenever I did (and I did it a lot, albeit, always politely), the only response I got was that I should have been paid, it was odd because “Heather” had sent out all the payments, or that Kharisma would look into it and notify her accountant (clue: vague or dismissive answers). Like most of the authors, I've since learned, I thought this was just an isolated case and didn't contact the other authors to see if they'd been paid. I just assumed they had been. I trusted her to handle it since I was very busy with my fourth title finally released on November 30th. 

On November 31st, a reader pointed out to me that the Kindle format was faulty to the point where it was illegible. I emailed Kharisma about this and she said she'd look into it, but it was never fixed and stayed up for sale for six months in that faulty format (clue). She repeatedly said that Amazon was their biggest seller, so something must definitely be wrong.

Finally, we received an announcement on the author forum (announcements and updates had become scarce by this time (clue)). The third quarter payments would go out no later than December 21st. Finally, I would see my money. What was more was that NBP was officially an LLC now, so it had to mean Kharisma meant business. I submitted what was supposed to be the last story in the series. I'd been holding it back to see if things would get better and suddenly things were looking better. The story was accepted, but I never received the contract (I later found out that Kharisma was revising the contracts - more on that later). 

December 21st came and went and there was no payment. I received dismissive answers when I asked about it. I was also unhappy with the fact that the Kindle formatting hadn't been fixed despite my (polite) complaints. I was beginning to lose faith in the publishing house altogether at this point. I was sad about it, because once all of my stories were published they were supposed to come out in an anthology in print (I didn't know how easy CreateSpace was back then and thought print was a huge deal). 

So, 2013. A new year. The fourth book, Little Stalker, had been released in November and I expected a fixed version and both 3rd and 4th quarter payments to come in one nice sum...but I received nothing. Kharisma was getting harder to reach (clue) and the authors were getting antsy. I didn't push for the contract for the fifth book because I wasn't sure if I was going to signing with NBP again or go and see if someone else would take a fifth book in a series. Then an announcement was made on the forum about the bright, future plans of NBP. It looked like things were finally picking up after some serious re-organizing. Kharisma sent the contract in February. The contracts had changed considerably and the warning bells went off in my head again (I'll explain later). I had written the sixth story and wanted it in the anthology as well, but was hesitant about signing. 

On March 15th, we received a message saying that payments were rolling out. Statements were to follow over the next few days and everything should be cleared up. This was when I re-read the new contract, tried (and mostly failed) to negotiate some of the clauses and signed eleven days later. Later, when I saw no money, I contacted a few NBP authors to see if they'd been paid and no matter whom I contacted, the answer was always the same: No. 
(The only people who had received a third and fourth quarter payment were authors who bugged Kharisma until she paid (no statements), possibly to get them off her back - I wish I'd been that persistent). 

So I signed the deals for the two books. I was a trusting idiot right there, signing even if it felt wrong to me, but I was brought to believe that everything was fine. The fifth story, Welcome, Brother, was rushed through editing (which were done decently) and it was out on April 23rd. I still had no pay check though for the third and fourth quarter of last year and first quarter for this year was coming up.

By now, you're probably wondering why the hell I didn't just send a "breach of contract - give me my shit back" message. The problem was that I couldn't. All the contracts had an early termination clause stating that I'd have to pay NBP money to get my rights back (all the authors were chained by this clause). The new contracts I'd signed had an increased early termination amount, so I was looking at impossible penalty fees if I pulled my books (see my comment near the bottom about early termination clauses and how to make them work for you).

On June 2nd I’d had enough and attempted to get my rights back. I sent Kharisma a breach of contract letter, but said I wasn't ready to pay the $1500 to get my short stories back. I offered her a fair deal, but fortunately she didn't reply and I withdrew my offer after talking to the other authors.

On June 5th, the same day I withdrew my offer, "Heather" (who had been assigned to handle everything because Kharisma could no longer work due to poor health) sent a message saying that NBP was closing. We would all get our rights back (yay!), but had to pay her for covers and edits if we wanted to continue using them (here I knew for a fact that my editor hadn't been paid) and we would definitely receive our payments as NBP was closing because of personal reasons and not financial reasons. 

So, okay. Phew, relief. I was getting my rights back. The titles were pulled off the sales sites pretty promptly and I received an official letter saying that I had my rights back.

Okay, so June and July came and went. I was terribly busy, using up my month of summer vacation to re-edit, reformat and republish my former NBP titles, plus the sixth story that had never been published. I was still in close contact with the other former NBP authors. There were only a few updates from the NBP front from "Heather," one saying that 7 authors had been closed out and other payments would start rolling out before August 15th. None of the authors I've been in contact with were one of those 7. A couple of weeks later, there was a new message saying that they would start payments ON August 15th and they should all be out by August 31st. 

Well, August 31st was a week ago and the authors still haven't received a dime. What's more, the only editor I knew worked for them (we never got to know how many editors there were or what their names were (clue)) hasn't been paid and I recently learned that the cover artist, who designed over 90 covers for NBP, didn't receive payment for the covers (she'd had to dish out money from her own pocket to buy the images used for the covers! 90 covers!).

Needless to say, we've repeatedly sent messages to all known email addresses of Kharisma and "Heather," we've sent messages through facebook and other mediums, one of us had her phone number and called her, but there has been absolutely NO reply. She has cut off all communication. She has changed her phone number and no matter how you try to reach Kharisma or "Heather," she will not reply.

For three whole months, since closing, “Heather” put a lot of powder into assuring us that we’d get paid. Why? I’m not sure. The only reason we got for that pay date was because some retailers take a couple of months to send their payments.

So, I’m not saying the following is what “Heather” did, but let’s set up a hypothetical study case where a publisher might do this:
Let’s say that, despite having offered and acquired new contracts, the publisher has known for months that they’ll never be able to pay the money owed but wants to cash in on the business a little longer. Let’s say that they are getting too many complaints and finally decide to close shop. Let’s say that they figure that since they don’t have any intention of paying, they might as well milk the cow for all it’s worth and make sure the pesky authors can’t stop the final payments from the retailers, so they send out messages with promise of pay to keep them placated. Then, on payday, they stick their middle finger in the air, thank the authors for a wonderful time of working together, take the money and stop replying to any messages (even going as far as changing phone numbers and moving states to get out of reach).
This is just one scenario of why a publisher might waste their time to assure authors they’re getting paid when they are, in fact, not. 

I'm not about to make a habit of flushing out publishers or people like this, but I want to warn other people about these business practices, about entering into a contract with Kharisma Rhayne (or any of her many aliases – see the bottom of this post), and hope that by telling my story people will learn to be on an early lookout for signs of trouble (which are summarized below). This is not an isolated case, there are many independent publishers who have gone down this swirl hole. These kind of stories are coming to light more and more.

If the publisher is in breach of contract, don't wait; call them on it. If they don't correct the breach, don't listen to any golden promises or excuses; ask for your rights back. If your contract has an early termination clause, challenge it. Speaking of, when signing contracts that have early termination clauses and there's no way the publisher will remove them, make sure you negotiate into the clause that if the publisher is in breach of contract you don't have to pay the fee to get your rights back. This is extremely important. Some say that you don’t need to do this since if the contract has been breached the clause is invalid, but to save yourself a lot of headache on whether or not your publisher will validate that argument argument (as far as I can tell, even experts disagree on this clause as it all depends on the wording of the rest of the contract), negotiate on it. Yes, contracts can be negotiated as they are a mutual agreement between two parties.

Now, there are loads of former NBP authors and staff that are owed money. Where is this money? Will we ever receive it? Will the cover artist ever be reimbursed for all the stock photography she had to pay out of her own pocket? With absolutely no communication it’s impossible to tell. My only option is to look for a pro bono lawyer who will file a case against her. I probably won’t get my money back, but I cannot just sit by and watch a person get away with this. No way. My sense of right and wrong is too strong to ignore this. So, Kharisma, even if you've spent the money and can't pay me back after being ordered to do so by a judge, prepare for court.

It's been a brutal lesson; a harsh reality that not all people can be trusted when it comes to money. Anyone with a computer and internet access can pull a money-making scheme. I've learned a lot through this, for example not to be so trusting and to spot the signs of trouble. I've also learned that I need to stop being so damn nice and understanding when it comes to being paid! Publishers aren't doing us a kind favor by publishing us - it's a mutual cooperation where both parties are to be paid. It's a business transaction, even if it may be a very personal and/or friendly one. Without authors there would be no publishing houses.

A friend assures me that not all start-up publishers or small publishers are to be distrusted, and she's right, but I've been burned badly, beaten with a bat and left to simmer in my own blood without an explanation. It's an unpleasant feeling and this is why I'm sticking with established publishers from now on and will publish my shorter works under Ice Cave Publishing (which is only for me as I am currently in no position to take on the responsibilities of running a multi-author publishing house). Established publishers aren't a sure deal though: Reportedly, Silver Publishing nearly went bankrupt after spending the author royalties on expanding the business and other things.

Here are the main points I've learned about a publishing firm in trouble:
- Late or no payments
- Unrealistic promises/goals
- No replies to emails for a lengthy time/key person hard to reach without explanation (the MLR Press owner and her editor in chief always let us know if they're away and when they'll be back)
- Unclear or no answers (or "internet/computer issues" being used as a constant scapegoat)
- Faulty formats not fixed
- No royalty statements
- Promised dates are not met
- Everything grinds to a stop when the boss isn't around

Additionally:
Beware of early termination clauses! Make sure you negotiate the wording of the clause, if it must be there, so you won’t get stuck if the publisher is in breach of contract.

Here is my additional advice:

Authors: 
- Listen to your instincts and talk to other authors of the same publishing house if you have concerns. It doesn't mean that you're going behind the publisher's back (critical thinking is never wrong); you're just making sure that everything is as it should be. If there is foul play, it can be discovered much sooner if people communicate. 
- Before signing a contract, ask people who are published with the firm how they like working with them. Ask if things seem to be in order and if they’d recommend people signing with them. 
- Do a web search on a prospective publisher, both the publishing house and the people who run it. Most are legitimate, but there are always kids who won't play nicely. For example, had I Googled "Kharisma Rhayne" before I signed up, I'd have discovered something that would definitely have made me change my mind (whether or not the accusations are true, it would be too much of a risk).
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Publishers: 
- Author royalties are NOT yours to spend. This is not your money and never was. The royalties should be set aside until they're paid out. Use whatever profit you receive to pay for whatever it is you need to pay for. If you can’t pay for it, take a loan, just don’t touch the author royalties or things will quickly slip downhill.
- If you can’t handle the amount of authors, don’t take on more!

Think you have what it takes to be a publisher? 
- Make sure you have the time and money if you decide to start a multi-author publishing house. 
- Treat this as a real business. 
- Delegate work and get more people on board so everything doesn't rise and fall with you. 
- Post updates regularly and keep a friendly communication. Try to reply promptly to email.
- Remember that there will be a lot of people counting on you and the money you’re handling for them is their bread and butter.

Lastly, none of what I've written in this post is libel. I have proof in forms of emails and screenshots for every fact written and, like my fellow former NBP authors say, it isn't libel if it's true. Over 40 people can verify that this development of NBP is true and can tell you even more startling facts. All I've done here is reveal what happened to me to try to teach people how to spot the signs. When I read over this post I feel so stupid for not having demanded to get out much sooner. However, this happened over the course of a year and a half and I didn't have every clue written on a neat piece of paper.

Before I end this, I'd like to say to the M/M writers and readers out there that the M/M author Blak Rayne is not a Kharisma Rhayne alias! It's unfortunate that Blak is already suffering from having a similar last name. 

Since we’re talking names, Kharisma has a long list of aliases. Make sure you never enter into a contract with Kharisma Rhayne, Denise Caroline, Mystee Blackwood, or Denise Blackwood (which is her real name, according to the public record of her registration of Kharisma Rhayne LLC). I have verified that these are all one person. 

These are only a few names that have been pointed out to me by others who have looked into the complex personality of Denise Blackwood: Whispering Peace, Alex Raines, and Catalina Cordova, but I haven’t been able to confirm those myself. “Heather” might also be an alias, we never received her surname or any information about her as she always communicated through Kharisma’s Facebook page, email account (along with NBP’s account and a new account created for the closing of the house) and Yahoo forum account.

Anyway, I realize that I may be committing a professional suicide by posting this. I've heard plenty of stories where the publisher/author being exposed somehow manages to turn herself/himself into the victim. I've heard how they turn their fans and followers against the whistle-blower, down-rate books on Amazon and Goodreads, mark the whistle-blower as a badly behaving author, troll around anywhere they can to discredit and ruin the person who dared speak up about the injustice of being deceived and stolen from. I am prepared for this, but I will not take part in a flame war, so if I see one starting I will walk away from it and continue writing my books. I won't get any backlash from the former NBP authors I've been in contact with because they already know that they'll never see a dime of their royalties and support me in what I'm revealing. I will absolutely NOT ask my fans and followers to attack Kharisma's books on book forums (please don't or you'll get me in trouble). What's more, I live in a world with freedom of speech and I'm using that freedom today. 

Why did I decide to reveal this? I couldn't just sit by with the nagging thought that Kharisma might try to take advantage of another unsuspecting person like me. Furthermore, I can’t bear the thought that she might get away with this (in which case, she might very well try this again), which is why I’m looking into legal counsel. Sure, she can file for LLC bankruptcy and I’ll never see a dime of my money, but from where I’m standing and from what I know about accounting, business law and business ethics, she’s behaved in a deceiving and fraudulent manner toward me, especially over the past few months, and that is punishable by law in the United States. If revealing this experiences saves ONE person from a similar experience, then this post is a success. 

Finally, if you're able, I would very much appreciate if you could share this message. Especially if you're a part of a writer group that is looking for publishers, or a group of new and upcoming authors.

Sept 13th Update: We finally received a surname for “Heather” after I posted the original article, in a letter attempting to free Kharisma from all legal claims and liabilities by transferring everything over to “Heather.” However, we have been unable to locate a real person with this name, so we still think "Heather" is fictional. Still, even if there was a “Heather” there are no witness signatures on that document, so... 

Sept 13th Update: No Boundaries Press had a vendor area which basically functioned as a place for non-NBP published people to sell their books and earn 70% of the sales back, kind of like Amazon (except NBP handled all the uploading and there was no way to monitor sales like you can on Amazon). We always assumed that these vendors always got paid first thing, but I've been contacting them and according to those I've spoken to, one hasn't received any payment while another (one of the first ones) received a payment in 2012 but not since.

92 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Ellie. I'm sorry you had to go this, too.

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  2. Oh, Erica. This is terrible. That this situation seems to be happening so often saddens me to no end. I admire you for taking a stand and wish you the best, both on the lawsuit and your own publishing.

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    1. Thank you so much, Taylor *hugs* Yeah, it truly is terrible that these things keep happening. One person I spoke to knows of eight cases for this year alone. It's shocking.

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  3. Having been through the Silver debacle, I can tell you that speaking out is the best thing you can do. The unscrupulous count on your silence and they operate in that dark space, continuing to do damage. Or damage control, that all-too-often takes the form of roping in the next batch of unsuspecting authors to steal from. Bravo, beautifully-written deconstruction of a fraud. I understand your pain, believe me.

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    1. Unfortunately, saving the next author the pain might be the only compensation you see, but that's gotta be worth something, right? (hug)

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  4. Excellent post. So glad you did this. I don't feel quite so alone now :)

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  5. Erica, we've never met or even communicated online, but nevertheless, as a fellow author, I am so so sad that this happened to you and the other authors who worked with Kharisma Rhayne.

    I, also, have had bad experiences while working with a certain small press--it will remain nameless but is on the Preditors and Editors sh!t list.

    I would urge you to contact P&E and give them all your documentation as well as the aliases used by this person. At least other authors, if they're taking the time to do the research, will realize that this gal is not someone to work with.

    Best of luck,
    Suz deMello

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    1. Thanks so much, Suz :) I'll see what I can do about P&E.

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  6. Thanks for this insightful blog. You've included a lot of helpful information, and I appreciate that you're sharing cautionary advice with others. Sometimes an author is just very eager and excited to get their work published, and many of us know very little about the publishing business. Personally, I've signed contracts without understanding exactly what I was signing...then later regretted my decision. When I started out, the royalties were not even my motivation. I was just thrilled to be published. Eventually the writing became my primary income source, and I wished I'd educated myself and done my research.

    I was very shocked by the Silver Publishing debacle. They had a huge presence at GRL last year, and I was aware they'd hosted an expense-paid retreat for their authors. I think everyone thought they were very solid, and at one point I was debating submitting work to them.

    Of everything you've said, I most appreciate the point you made that royalties are not just another expense that a publisher pays out. They are the portion of revenue that belongs to the author and should be set aside immediately. I'm especially grateful to have found a small press publisher that pays royalties monthly and has an impeccable reputation. I wish I'd found her a couple years ago, to be honest.

    Thanks again, Erica.

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    1. Thanks, Jeff. I was rooming with Mercy Celeste at GRL last year, so I knew something was up with Silver (I had considered them as well). For all the bad they did, at least they're pulling their act together. They could have taken the easy way and run with the money. I hope they've learned how to handle money better now - I hear that people are getting their royalties back, very slowly - but the whole thing left a lot of stress and worries among my author friends and I hated that they had to go through all the uncertainty.

      Mercy warned me about continuing with NBP after I told her a bit about it and I should have listened >.<

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  7. Erica, this is terribly disheartening for readers as well and unfortunately, not an isolated incidence. We always assume the publisher is paying their authors when we purchase your books. As a consumer, I am beginning to get very leery of new publishers and I know that the author suffers from this distrust. Thank you for being willing to speak up. Authors (and readers) need to know about publishers behaving badly.

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    1. I know, it's horrible - not only for authors and readers (as you so rightly point out) but also for a publisher who's trying to make a name for themselves and actually are taking the business seriously. This must be very hard on them, too.

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  8. I have never met a publisher who acted as unprofessional as this one. She didn't knew what she was doing, and no wonder, considering which other publisher she used as a model. She did everything wrong you can imagine, and had the nerve to say the authors liked it. Bullshit! She was a liar and a cheat, and used to threaten me with her legal department at the drop of a hat. Yeah, right. I'd like to say we can keep her from duping others, but the way she changes names, who knows.

    My advice is: authors write and publishers publish. It's one thing as an author to self-publish, but if you're going to do it right, you shouldn't be writing. Publishing should be your concern. I would never dream of trying to do both. One is sure to get short shrift.

    Good post, Erica, sorry it had to be done.

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    1. Thanks Julie. Wish I'd opened my eyes when you did and not submitted those manuscripts >.<

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  9. I'm so sorry you've had to go through this, Erica. I bailed after only a few months because I suspected what came to pass. I questioned a few other NBP authors, but they didn't share my concerns, so I went to battle to get out of my contract. I couldn't prove my suspicions about all her aliases, and going public without proof would have been professional suicide. She did let me go, I suppose because she knew she was in breach of contract and because I threatened to out her (even though I had no proof -- she didn't know that).

    I hate that so many authors are being robbed by unscrupulous publishers. There really needs to be some kind of oversight, some kind of regulation to keep this from happening. Authors need to beware of big promises and do their homework. Before I signed on, I checked out NBP, though there was little info since they were just starting. There were, however, complaints about No Boundaries Publishing. I knew they were probably one and the same, but decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and signed on anyway (stupid, I know), but I was very wary. I don't believe she planned to be a crook, but as you so brilliantly stated above, she just took on too much for one person (I believe it was only ever one person, even in the beginning), and got in over her head.

    Best wishes in your future endeavors!

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    1. Thanks Brandie. It most certainly would have been a professional suicide to come out with this without any proof. I was nervous about doing it even with proof.

      Best wishes to you, too.

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  10. Thanks for speaking up, Erica. Having been through similar with Noble Romance, I feel your pain.

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    1. It seems to be the season for it >.< One after another. I still have faith that most go into this with honorable intentions and try their best. However, spending author royalties is never a good idea (and those who take this seriously probably know that).

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  11. oh m y..my heart goes out to you Erica. Thank you so much for the post and after surviving Mardi Gras Publishing debacle I am more leery of new ones that offer the moon to the authors. HUGS

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    1. Yeah, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. NBP definitely sounded too good to be true (70% royalty for the first book, 60% royalty for the next three, 50% for the last two - with the new contracts). I was a noob and didn't know any better.

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  12. Thanks for the post Erica. Everything you said is spot on and I appreciate you speaking up for all NBP authors, editors, and cover artists. If you don't mind I'd like to post a link to this on mine. I won't do it until you say so. I really wanted to do a post but you did it so well, I figure to have people read your words.

    (((hugs)))

    SLira aka Michael Mandrake

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    1. I don't mind at all, go ahead :) Thank you.

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  13. I went through something similar with Twilight Fantasies, Dark Eden, and Forbidden Publications back around 2007 when all three crashed and burned one right after the other. TF was my first publisher. I'm so sorry you had to go through this. In addition to the Preditors and Editors web site which was already mentioned, I recommend you tell all this to the Absolute Write staff (Absolute Write Water Cooler forums Bewares, Recommendations, and Background Checks). Both P&E and AW are fantastic resources for authors.

    I followed Silver's story as it was happening, and I heard about Kharisma and No Boundaries after the fact. I've been told to avoid new publishers. Wait until a new publisher has been in successful business for at least two years before submitting manuscripts. Otherwise, you're taking too much of a risk.

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    1. Wow, three in a row. That's horrible.

      I suppose we come out stronger on the other side. That's the only bright spot about this mess; I am officially no longer a newbie.

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  14. I am so sorry you had to go through this. I as a new convention organizer received negative backlash in the opposite direction. I was never told who started a nasty rumor about me being a fake and my conventions a scam but I had to do a lot of work after the damage was done to prove that I was legit. I feel your pain as a victim in this world of publishing and may we just grow stronger.

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    1. I'm so sorry you had to go through that. Wow, that's really nasty and must have caused you a lot of anxiety *hugs*

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  15. I have all my crossables crossed for you, babe. I hope things get better.

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    1. Ohhh, Norma *hugs* I'm so glad I didn't manage to talk you into signing with them. So, sooo glad.

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  16. As a former Silver Publishing author, who also felt the sting of betrayal, lies and misappropriation of funds, I sympathize with you Erika. Well done!

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  17. If you haven't already, make sure to post this over on AbsoluteWrite.com in their discussion forum, under the publisher background check section for this publisher.

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    1. Thanks, Tymber. I've already shared a link there.

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  18. It's so sad to see another of these stories about bad publishers/authors. I'm sorry it happened to you, Erica. I know that when Silver was contacting authors offering them the moon and sun to publish with them, it raised red flags and I politely refused their offer to publish me.

    I started with a small press that is still viable, still doing business ethically (Jupiter Gardens Press formerly Pink Petal Books) and I am still happy with them, still making money with them. I will probably always be with them. But I also learned from JGP's owner (who is an awesome author mentor) that you should always aim high and try to find the best fit for your work, not just whoever will take it for whatever terms so you can say you're a published author. (Not that I'm saying you and the other NBP authors are in that boat.)

    One of things my mentor at JGP taught me is that this IS a business. Yes, you should enjoy writing but realize that it is a business and it is hard work. And when you've worked hard you should be paid for it. If you're not making much at a publisher, don't send them more work. Find another house where your stuff DOES sell.

    I've had work at nine different publishers. My sales at several of them were always either not much of anything or mostly Meh. I've gotten my rights back from four of those publishers. One when they quit, two when my contracts were up and one through a long fight that's ended recently with the publisher closing up shop (Noble.) I'm glad to have those rights back because now those titles have been revamped are making me money finally with other publishers.

    The books I have at the remaining five publishers range from books that sell extremely well (JGP) to moderately well (Ellora's Cave) to so-so (MLR Press, Loose Id and Liquid Silver.) And the things I put out myself have sold extremely well too. I've learned a lot about this industry and one of those things is that we deserve to be paid for our work. Any publisher who doesn't pay you needs to be warned that you will let other authors know of your treatment at their hands. And publishers where you don't sell well should expect that at some point you will go to another house where your work does sell.

    It's sad that I keep seeing this happen to authors. It's like the author who was doing web hosting for other authors and up and disappeared, leaving all those authors with their websites just gone. And that author did this twice over to people! Just disappeared and let their websites and files disappear too. You just have be on your toes with every aspect of your career.

    I'm glad you and the other authors got their rights back. Hope you get somewhere with suing her.

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    1. Great, great, tips, Lex. Thank you.

      "you should always aim high and try to find the best fit for your work, not just whoever will take it for whatever terms so you can say you're a published author."

      You're absolutely right. I actually had a deal with MLR when I got contacted by Kharisma about publishing with NBP (I was looking for a pub for my short stories, wanting to spread myself out a little). The deal sounded so good that I took it (idiot!). I've since self-pubbed these stories and they're doing extremely well - way better than I expected.

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  19. Sorry this happened to you, Erica. Glad you got your rights back and now you can pub them yourself - good luck.

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  20. That all sounds terrible!! I hope plenty of people will heed your good advice! Hugs from me.

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  21. What a terrifying cautionary tale! It's sad to think this goes on at all, let alone as much as is probably does. You've done the authors' community a great service by having the courage to tell your story.

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    1. Thank you, CM. I hope people can take something away from this :)

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  22. I know this story very well, because I too have been through this. Believe it or not, you come out on top with telling people your experience. I think we owe it to aspiring authors to tell our stories. No one should ever go through this. (I will find you FB and share my similar story with you.)
    Thank you for sharing your experience with us.
    When you think back on this, keep this quote in mind; “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

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    1. Thanks for the link you sent. I actually know someone who asked people not to buy their books from that house because he was trying to get his rights back and they were refusing. It's amazing how they'll threat authors like that. Inexcusable.

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  23. Erica,
    I hate that this has happened.

    I, too, have questioned (to myself) the practices of one of my publishers, but chose to distance myself and move on since the books under contract weren't really selling in the first place. The publisher had lost as much as I had, even though their math had never been quite kosher, in my opinion.

    Regardless, I applaud your courage and thank you for sharing.

    When we don't speak up, we allow others to be hurt. There's a difference between disgruntled authors causing trouble and those who have gone above and beyond by giving publishers the benefit of the doubt, and you, my friend, did just that.

    Hugs to you, and I wish you the utmost success with your future endeavors!

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    1. Thank you so much, Robin. I agree that we need to speak up to warn others and hope that it'll discourage people from taking advantage of authors.

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  24. Thank you for posting this and for summarizing the danger signs so articulately, Erica. A cautioonary tale and one that needs to be repeated so other people don't fall prey to the same kind of shenanigans. Very sorry things went badly, but pleased that you took control ultimately. XXX

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    1. Yeah, I'm done being a softie, hehe. Nah, I've just gained a lot of experience from this and for that I'm grateful. I also hope that new and upcoming authors can learn from this.

      *Hugs*

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  25. Sorry you had to go through this. Its a big deal to find a publisher to put out your work. Its so sad to see that today its all about profits and shortcuts.

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    1. Yes, it's hard to know whom to trust. There are wonderful publishers out there though, so I hope not everyone gets discourage from signing up with them. They just need to do some research before signing.

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  26. Hugs... Very good post... Good luck to you... Rj xxx

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  27. Thank you for posting this. As a newbie myself, these are extremely helpful tips. I'm sorry you and the other authors have to go through this

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    1. I'm glad you can learn something from this :)

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  28. Like I think Kathy said as a reader you feel so bad for the author. Here was book you really loved and got pleasure from reading. It's upsetting to know the author never got their due compensaton.

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  29. I went through a similar situation with my very-very first publisher--before I began writing for my existing ones. I stood up for the owner countless times, tried to help all I could. Got absolutely BLASTED for it on public forums. Nearly stopped writing altogether.

    Thank you for this post, hun. I'm sorry to see you (and anyone else) go through this. It was hell for me, which is something those who ran my name through the mud seemed to have forgotten.

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    1. That's the problem. These people are so good at talking and making you believe in them that you're totally blindsided. I'm sorry you got blasted like that *hugs* That must have been horrible.

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  30. I’m so sorry to hear this and I applaud you for sharing the experience and the warning signs. It’s great advice to everyone.
    I have always asked other authors before I even sub anywhere and mostly I’ve avoided trouble. I only have one pub that pays late—but they always pay. It’s the first one I used back when I didn’t know anything. I only have one title left with them, then I’ll be finished.

    New authors should ask around before subbing. Even if you don’t know anyone, ask another author at that publisher if they recommended them. Total strangers will be honest because they don’t want you to fall for the same lies they did. I’ve been warned away by other authors before.

    Good luck and keep writing. I’m looking forward to seeing you in October!

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    1. I was warned away by one author when I was first asking around. Everyone recommended MLR Press, so that's where I went. NBP was my own stupid risk that didn't pay off. I asked publicly if someone knew of a good publisher and Kharisma sent me a message. Hey, I was a noob -.-

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  31. It's my understanding that if a publisher is in BREACH OF CONTRACT, you cannot be held to the terms of the contract because the publisher has ALREADY broken it. A contract works both ways.

    Have you and the other authors considered a class-action suit?

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    1. Yes, we're considering our options :) I'm noting down lawyers in Arizona.

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  32. I highly recommend Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog, especially her "Business Rusch" publishing articles; they're invaluable advice for authors. She mentions many of the warning signs of bad publishers--which aren't limited to tiny fly-by-night indie things; the big-name publishers are often just as bad for authors.

    (She's always the first I mention when the topic of recommended ebook/publishing blogs comes up.)

    You should get a lawyer to look over the terms of the contract and see what options exist for damages. They may be entirely hypothetical, because to get them, you'd have to file suit somewhere--and if you don't know this person's legal name or address, that could be difficult. (Any ethical business has a person available to serve legal papers to, and an address on file. If she had a legitimate business at all, that information is available. If she didn't, the contracts may be void or voidable.)

    If the contract didn't specify what state any legal action takes place in, you may be able to file suit in your own state.

    It is not always true that in the case of breach, the entire contract is invalid and you don't have to hold up your end of any of it. However, it does lean that direction. That's definitely a "consult a lawyer" issue, and depends on the exact phrasing of the contract.

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    1. Thanks for the advises, Elf. All very good point (and I'm checking out those links right now). The LLC wasn't filed until late 2012, around the time people stopped getting paid. To me it was a sign that things were getting better, but I know now that it was not. The US law is quite different from Icelandic law.

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  33. As a reader, I really hate when authors are taken advantage of/ripped off by ANYONE!!! But for another author to do it it is really crappy! I hope that your post helps other new authors to avoid this situation, or notice those red flags quickly. It was a very well written post and lots of great info that even I (a non-author) could appreciate. So sorry for you and the other authors of both this publisher and other disreputable ones :(

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    1. Thank you, June. I agree that for another author to do this is just down on a whole new level. I've already been in contact with a few people who have reconsidered their options after reading the post (not to go a self pub road, just to look for different publishers), so the post really was a success :)

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  34. Good post Erica! Thanx for the heads-up :)

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    1. Thank you, Dustin <3

      Hugs'n Tugs, wasn't it? ^.^

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  35. Since you contacted me, Erica, I've been wondering whether I should say anything, or keep quiet, as I normally would. But, this time, after everything that's happened to me in the last two years, things like, my husband's cancer and the loss of our eldest son, as well as having to deal with an ex-partner who has stolen material I wrote and posted it on his website, which I'm in the process of weighing the cost of suing versus letting my anger go, I've got to admit, I don't feel like turning the other cheek. To be honest, I'm really pissed off. I don't appreciate the fact that people make assumptions based on conjecture.
    Just because my pseudonym is similar to 'Kharisma Rhayne', doesn't automatically infer we are one in the same person.
    Of course, this doesn't mean I don't appreciate what the authors of NBP have experienced; I do, more than they realize. I had a very good reason for creating my own company and becoming self-published. I do sympathize and understand that the authors are trying to recoup their losses, or at least achieve retribution for what's happened, but before jumping to conclusions, it would be appreciated if they'd do their homework.
    So, in light of the speculation floating around, I decided to do a little research to prove a point, and to exonerate my name, which never should've come up for discussion in the first place. If anyone is looking to accuse me of being Kharisma Rhayne, I'd like them to read the following list of author names with similar spellings that I copied from Goodreads. If anyone truly believes just because of a slight similarity in pen names that Kharisma and I are the same person, they'd best think again, and they'd best start contacting the following list of authors with same accusation.
    Sarah Rayne
    Rayne Hall
    Lisa Rayne
    Summer Rayne Oakes
    Rayne E. Golay
    Morgan Rayne
    Rayne Auster
    Marty Rayne
    Rayne 2. Marzett
    Cynthia Rayne
    Rayne Adams
    Freezing Rayne
    Lola Rayne
    Barbara Rayne
    Savannah Rayne
    Rayne Bexley
    Tabitha Rayne
    Celeste Rayne Heldstab
    Nya Rayne
    Rayne Forrest
    Melaina Rayne
    Eva Rayne
    Rayne Rachels
    Rayne Kruger
    Rayne Debski
    Rayne Caldero
    Crystal Rayne
    Alexandria Rayne
    Natasha Rayne
    Rayne Allinson
    Okami Rayne
    Rayne Storm
    Justyce Rayne

    Rhayne Thomas or Rhayne Marcella Thomas (not sure if they're the same author)
    Rhayne Sinclair
    Thanks for reading.
    Blak Rayne


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    1. Just so you know, it wasn't former NBP authors who asked me if you were Kharisma Rhayne - it was a couple of people who have never had any dealings with the company but had head about the trouble. We did wonder while we were trying to figure out Kharisma and her aliases (which seems to be an impossible task since more and more keep popping up), but we weren't spreading any doubts or rumors. I decided to ask you directly so I could give the two people who contacted me an answer.

      Again, I'm sorry you've involuntary become involved.

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    2. Not a problem, Erica, and thank you for contacting me. I was never upset with you. And I apologize if it came across that way. And, please excuse my verbal explosion. Initially, I was really angry with the situation, angry with Kharisma and her bullshit, and I'd hoped she would do the honourable thing. But, that's like asking the pope to okay smoking crack, it isn't going to happen. I think she has more aliases than we'll ever know. My only hope is that this never happens again, to any one.

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  36. I( am so sorry to hear that this happened to you and the other people involved. It reminds me so much of the Aspen Mountain Press debacle (and yes, the recent Silver Publishing issues). with ebooks it seems to be the wild west of publishing out there, not knowing who are varmits and who can be trusted. I hope you find some satisfaction in the courts.

    Melanie
    http://scatteredthoughtsandroguewords.com

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    1. The wild west of publishing, that's a brilliant simile. Especially since most get away without a lawsuit. I'm going to see if I can change that.

      I'm sorry you had to go through similar ordeals *hugs*

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  37. Wow! I'm so sorry you had to go though this, Erica. You're doing an amazing job by posting about your experience. Novice writers need to know not all publishers are honest, no matter how great they seem. Now I don't fee that shameless for having negotiated my first contract :P You can never be too careful.

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    1. Thank you, Shayla :) You shouldn't feel shameless at all, hehe. I did negotiate one clause in my NBP contracts, but it didn't do me any good when they're simply not paying -.-

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  38. *sigh* There just seems to be so much of this lately. :( I'm so sorry this happened to you. I heard about it from an author who wrote there. Same thing with Silver. Thank God that person warned me away.

    I haven't experienced this, knock on wood, and I can't imagine the stress you and the others have gone through. As a fairly new author myself, this just scares the pants off me. I'm glad you spoke out. Maybe this will reach that brand new author and save them some of the pain you've gone through. I'm certainly making note of the things you mentioned.

    ~Michelle

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    1. I hope so, Michelle :) That's the whole purpose of the post. I'm glad you haven't had to worry about things like this. It's very worrisome and really does a number on your creativity.

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  39. I am sorry you have had to deal with this crime. Thank you for sharing. I am passing the info on to writers. Have you contacted Writers Beware also? Good luck to you!

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    1. Thank you, Jan. I've just contacted WB, thanks for the tip :)

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  40. Erica it is just horrible that you and other talented writers have had to go through this. There are shitty people everywhere who will steal or con money from innocents whenever they can. I hope you and the others receive some relief financially, but it doesn't look promising. It's been a very expensive lesson. You have a lot of dedicated fans who will buy and enjoy your work. Please know that you can count on us!

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    1. Thank you, Tina, that means so much <3

      No, I'll probably receive any of that money owed. She still hasn't been in contact with anyone so she's obviously not paying. However, I've dug up the IRS address and part of my money can go there. I'm guessing they'll charge something extra because she didn't file her taxes last year (or I'm assuming she didn't because she never asked for tax info from us). I'd rather the USA government have my money rather than her. I'm also looking into reporting this as a crime to the police since there's more than enough evidence to suggest that she conned us.

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  41. I'm so sorry that this happened and I hope you'll consider self publishing now that you have all your rights back. You don't need to share your money with ANYONE! Good luck and take care!!!

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    1. Yes, that definitely is a bonus :) I spent the summer self-publishing, so they're all available again :)

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  42. I'm late as usual but very sorry you went through this Erica. I had considered NBP when I was just starting out as well. I'm glad I never got around to subbing to them. Hugs.

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  43. Hi! If you haven't already, please notify Preditors and Editors. They have a list of publishing houses and rate whether the house has a good reputation or not. Another good resource is Writer Beware.

    http://pred-ed.com/pebn.htm
    http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/

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  44. Well done for having the courage to speak out. I had a similar experience to yours and I too went public in the hope of saving other authors from the scam that swindled me out of my royalties. At first, there were a lot of false accusations bandied about to discredit my professional integrity. Thankfully, as always, the truth has prevailed, and the connections I've made with other authors in the same boat has proved invaluable. Thank you for having the strength to share your experience.

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  45. Great post, and so sorry you had to go through this. I went through something very, very similar over the summer. I realize I'll never get my royalties, which is part of what made me, too, "go public" with it. My story is here, if you're interested: http://melindaclayton.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/signs-of-a-failing-publisher/

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  46. Alas, that not all businesses have good intentions. Division of labor is supposed to increase wealth, not opportunities at theft. It is easy to get excited about the idea of publishing when you have a queue of work you are ready to bring to market and much harder to be cautious. Hopefully people will be proactive and take your advice when considering publishing contracts, or ask others with more experience for advice. In cases like this lawyers can easily earn their keep just by stopping you from signing on to fraud. It is, after all, a much easier thing to keep your money and your work than it is to lose both and attempt to recover them later. Good luck, and thanks for sharing your story; I hope everything works out for you. I got here via writer beware, just so you know.

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  47. Thank you for being the brave soldier to warn us new writers. I was robbed by an editor because she thought I wrote porn (MM Romance) after I sent her the tags of my story. She took my money and trashed me without editing. I think it is important the word is spread. These kind of people are predators. I plan to self-publish when I am ready.

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    1. Wow... I hope it wasn't too much money. The problem with this kind of theft in America is that it seems one has to file a personal lawsuit. The bill for the lawsuit is usually higher than what was stolen, so the system is making things easy for criminals to get away with their theft.

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