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Beware of Sharks in Publisher’s Clothing

by | Mar 1, 2017

Tate Publishing bit the dust and formally closed its doors on January 24, 2017. There are millions of dollars in lawsuits including one from Lightning Source (that’s Ingram) for over $1.8 million. In February, a default judgment was entered against Tate when its owners did a no-show in court. I can’t even imagine the number of authors and books who have been damaged.

Why another column on what I call the Publishing Predators?

  1. The self-publishing / indie publishing avenues now publish far more books than the traditional publishing stream from New York.
  2. Whenever there is growth, it identifies opportunity.
  3. Opportunity encourages darker forces to surface. The floodgates opened for self-publishing went into high drive when Amazon introduced BookSurge, the predecessor of CreateSpace in 2007. Scammers paid attention.
  4. In other words, scammers, publishing cons and publishing predators are breeding.

Two weeks ago, a phone call came in from one of my blog followers on a Sunday morning. I was in my offices and picked up the phone. My panic caller shared her information and needed some hand-holding. Rats … within seconds, I knew where the call was going … the giant sucking sound of author pain had started. The publishing predators had zapped one. I don’t like these calls or the news that spelled forth with it.

She had engaged Tate Publishing to create and publish her book. All was lost. And she didn’t have a book. Double rats.

Probing on my side, I came up with a plan to attempt to get some moneys back. And I referred her to:

  • The Book Designer site to get the templates for book interiors so she could get back into selling books pronto;
  • how to acquire her own ISBNs;
  • how to deal with Amazon;
  • and then get ready for a party to launch her new book and new publishing company.

“Breathe,” I said, “and let’s try this: I want you to contact the credit card company you used to pay for Tate … and tell them you’ve been scammed. If you want me to be on the phone when you do, I’ll text over things to say.” I gave her key words/phrases to use.

Oh my … she agreed to call. The following week, she came to the monthly AuthorYou Circles brainstorming I do on a Saturday. And WOOT … she has $2,000 back in her account. She bought the templates and is already laying out her book, tickled with their ease. And she has reached out to other authors who got caught in the loop that she knew to encourage them to take action.

Tate was a “paid-to-publish” operation … luring in authors-to-be with its massive ads … as a self-publishing company … Here’s one image:

Oh yes … what “wannabe” author wouldn’t ponder a bit with this image and then a sidebar of sorts giving a laundry list of benefits and a button to click over? What author-to-be wouldn’t want his or her dreams to come true? Authors respond to these lures by the thousands. The lure was tossed out, the author is hooked and oh my, a glorious email is received that is peppered with written strokes declaring that your book has been selected for publishing. It may share that hundreds, maybe thousands are submitted each year … but lucky you … you have been chosen “to be published.”

Sigh. Now here’s the bottom line truth: if you have a credit card or a check book to cover the “fees” … you are in.

That’s the way they work. As late as November of 2016, Tate’s executives were proclaiming on the local NBC affiliate that everything was fine.

In reality, it was not fine, nothing was fine—massive complaints and lawsuits were swirling in the air. Over 150 complaints had been filed with the Oklahoma Attorney General. Just about everyone was owed moneys—authors, vendors and I suspect, most employees.

Prevention Counts

Before you get into bed with ANY company that proclaims that it is a self-publishing company or expert or whatever, start probing before you pull out your credit card and sign on the dotted line. Please, please do your homework. News about Tate was posted online long before it went belly-up.

Yes, there are “self-publishing” companies and experts that are nothing more that sharks behind the slick logos, free webinars/trainings, etc.

Please honor your ”self” and your book-to-be. Before you pay anyone or company moneys, do your homework. Start searching online before doing business with any self-publishing publishers, a pay-to-publish, self-publish operation or any other person or company that wants your money to publish your book. Start with the Internet and create a Google search for:

(That company name) + Scam
(That company name) + Problem
(That company name) + Complaint
(That company name) + Lawsuit
(That company name) + Fraud
(That company name) + Rip-off
(That company name) + Con
(That company name) + “Better Business Bureau”

Don’t stop on the first page of your search like 90% of most Google visitors do … dig down and deeply. Scammers and cons know how to bury bad news–page four may have the info you are looking for. Read the reports and be advised. And here’s a caution. When I look at the Better Business Bureau’s reports on Tate related enterprises, over 100 had been lodged in the past three years—yet the Oklahoma BBB gave it an “A” rating. Really? Sounds like that rating might have moneys behind it, but I digress.

Taking the well known line:

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, acts like a duck … it is a duck

we can morph that for publishing to an Author Beware Mantra:

If it walks like predator, talks like a predator and acts like a predator … IT IS A PUBLISHING PREDATOR!

Don’t do business. Period. If you are in business with one, terminate it, don’t be seduced to stay—you may need legal advice to exit. Cancel the credit card it has on file and contact the credit card (or PayPal if you used it). And please, forewarn others.

Unfortunately, most walk away woven with the shame that they got sucked in the first place and/or so ticked that they got taken, they just want to take the shower and get as far away as possible. All of us who try to assist authors understand how you feel. The woman who called me on Sunday was already licking her wounds and upset with how she got taken. She never thought she would get her moneys back. And she did—but she had to ask the right person … is her case, PayPal. I was enthusiastically delighted to assist.

And, discover and subscribe to warning sites such as Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors.

My final advice:

  1. DO Your online research on any if these “self-published” companies. Best advice is to avoid one and ALL like the plague.
  2. Always pay with a credit card, not a check.
  3. If you have been duped, misrepresented, or scammed, immediately contact your credit card provider if you used one. Report that you have been scammed, that you are disputing, that you want your money back. Tell everyone.

Share this column with every author and writer you know. You may be doing them the biggest publishing favor they will ever receive.
Photo: Pixabay.com.

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