Thursday, March 31, 2011

Karma's a Bitch: Robin Price, David William Caswell

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Two individuals who exploited writers got their comeuppances recently.

Robin Price of Avalon Associates, Media Arts International, and Prospero Films

Robin Price, a fake literary agent and film producer accused of bilking writers out of more than £500,000 over a number of years, admitted in a UK court on Wednesday to six counts of theft. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

Price, who changed the name of his company several times to dodge complaints on the Internet, started out by setting himself up as a literary agent and charging relatively modest reading fees. Later, he presented himself as a film producer, convincing clients to hand over enormous sums of money to invest in non-existent film and publishing deals. He claimed extensive experience and contacts within the entertainment industry--this was a complete fabrication, but apparently Price was persuasive. One client paid him nearly £300,000, while others paid fees ranging from several hundred to many thousands of pounds.

I blogged about Price in January 2010, just after his first court appearance; my post contains a lot more detail about his various activities, including his use of well-known writers' names (without their knowledge) to further his schemes. Writer Beware was very familiar with him by the time he was arrested, having received a sizeable number of complaints. The court case identified 30 victims--but there are surely many more.

The Daily Mail has coverage of Price's sentencing, as does the BBC.

David William Caswell, New Century Publishing

In August 2010, the Indiana Attorney General filed suit against David William Caswell, CEO of US-based pay-to-play publisher New Century Publishing, for multiple violations of Indiana's Deceptive Consumer Act. In early March 2011, Caswell was ordered by an Indiana court to pay fines and restitution of more than $343,000 to 43 writers.

New Century charged anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000 to publish. However, it was one of those fee-based publishers that didn't reveal its fees on its website, and many writers approached it in the belief that it was a "real" publisher. As if that weren't bad enough, writers alleged that Caswell took their money and failed to produce books, or produced fewer books than promised and then failed to market them.

Although only $81,874 of the amount Caswell has been ordered to pay is restitution (the rest is fines), the judgment is a vindication for the victims named in the suit (there are doubtless many more). But writers may have to wait a while for their money. Amazingly, Caswell has been the focus of two previous suits by the Indiana Attorney General (for deceptive acts connected with his job placement businesses), which resulted in judgments of nearly $100,000...of which, according to state records, he has paid just $600 to date.

I blogged about Caswell and New Century in August 2010, with much more detail about his activities, his legal history, and the complaints Writer Beware received about the publisher.

12 comments:

Rick said...

Victoria, where in the world do these people come from???

Then again, since so many of us filed against Boyer, maybe you'll see a decision from the Indiana Attorney General against him, too.

Victoria Strauss said...

I was intending to make this post a threesome, and include an update on Boyer, but I don't yet have the documentation I need. Stay tuned!

Scooter Carlyle said...

It's nice to see consequences for those who deceive. So often they seem to get off footloose and fancy free.

~ Wolfe said...

Anyone wanting to charge fees for reviewing or publishing a book is definitely someone to ask questions about. Especially if you're tempted to actually pay them.

It's good to know that what goes around still comes back around. :)

christine tripp said...

Just a bit of a difference between justice in the UK and the US, what?:)

Rosanne Dingli said...

Wherever there is an opening, opportunists will take it. In publishing, it can seem like a goldmine to a fraudster, who can find a lot of willing gullible rookie writers who know little or nothing about the industry that produces books. The first thing new writers need to do is not find out about the semi-colon, or how to flesh out a character, but how the industry works! Since it is changing so fast now, that its main players (big publishers and celebrity authors) are so confused, new writers need to be more cautious than ever, because there is an opportunist hiding behind every screen.

BeWrite Books said...

I see at first-hand what desperate wannabe authors are so enthusiastically willing to give away as their submissions cross my desk, Rosanne.

It breaks my heart, but all I can do is to carefully explain our own house's short-comings in some areas plainly on site (and that on advice from Victoria herself) and to warn some on an indivuidual basis of the pitfalls of blind submission (pun intended) elsewhere when we must decline their work.

I see offers of financial subsidy, minimum numbers of self-ordered books, carefully crafted marketing plans, the lot. I consider them bribes (even in their innocence) and try to explain why such demands would never be made by a house that plays fair and that authors should not volunteer financial input of any kind.

For those fortunate enough to sign with a good agency (sound and publisher-recognised agents are not easy to attract), the minefield will be negotiated for them by experts.

Others writers MUST BEware. So many are simply not even Aware.

This is the value of Victoria's blog. It should be required reading for anyone entering the fray.

It all comes down to a single and simple old truism that many, in their enthusiasm and desperation, wilfully overlook: *If it seems too good to be true -- it probably is.*

Cheers. Neil at BeWrite Books

Bright Accommodation said...

It's not like writers actually get paid that much for their work anyway... unless you're a seriously big name.

Anyway, it's always good to see people who cheat or do wrong to others pay for their crimes.

Beware the vanity publishers I say.

Paul Anthony Shortt said...

This is very good news. I'm so glad to see at least some of these people suffer for their actions.

pstrick feenan said...

I once used a self - publish firm called Spinetinglerspublishing based in Ballygowan in N.Ireland. I won an elite book competition with them and they broke the contract by giving me four release dates, February, 2010, august, October and December all in the same year. I withdrew becqause they were taking too lomg, and now when i got my book self - published by a firm in Scotland UK, their people who blog on their forum have threatened to write to amazon where my book is on sale to give negative comments about the contents - The Twilight People - and there is no control on that forum by the owner, Nolene Dougan.

Anonymous said...

New Century Publishing owes not only authors, but editors, illustrators and printers. There will be more, stay tuned. Caswell has endured thru a half a dozen attorneys general.

Ludens said...

The blog's first link doesn't work anymore. It should be: http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2010/01/law-finally-catches-up-with-faux.html