Thursday, August 08, 2013

Expanded Alert at Writer Beware: American Book Publishing / Alexis Press / All Classic Books / Atlantic National Books

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

This sordid story is ongoing. See my updates: Going Out of Business, Nigerian Spam-Scam Style, and All Classic Books: The Scam Continues.

Last October, I started getting inquiries about a publisher called All Classic Books. I hadn't heard anything about it, though its rather odd website (a sort of online journal format, with content mill-style essays) along with the lack of concrete information about its staff and its apparent lack of publishing history (according to Amazon, just four books published, all of which appear to be public domain titles) did give me serious pause.

So I wasn't entirely surprised, a couple of weeks ago, to receive my first documented complaint about All Classic Books, from an author who reported a variety of problems through the production process.

What really caught my interest, though, was the heavy pressure placed on the author to spend thousands of dollars to buy hundreds of printed galleys to send out to reviewers. 500 was the "ideal" number suggested--though if the author really couldn't afford that many, 300 was OK too. Helpfully, All Classic's "Book Promotion Basics" brochure provides a pack of lies in support of this suggestion:
It's common practice at traditional publishing companies today that all but their top 1% or “A” list celebrity authors cover their own galley expenses. It's becoming more rare to find these exceptions, usually now made by a previously negotiated contract with literary agents or in book auctions or bidding wars for the celebrity author. Most authors today understand that sending their galleys are an expected and standard industry business expense and practice. All Classic Books is similar to many of the top New York Publishers in this regard. While we cover all other book publishing, distribution and marketing and promotion expenses, our authors do cover their galley expenses.
All of this rang a bell for me, because it's also the M.O. of a publisher Writer Beware has been getting complaints about since 2001: American Book Publishing (here's its other website), the subject of an Alert at the Writer Beware website and one of the dodgy publishers on Writer Beware's Thumbs Down Publisher List.

Could there be a connection, I wondered? ABP charges a "setup" fee ($880, as of my most recent documentation), and All Classic Books doesn't. It even pays a tiny advance. But while plenty of vanity publishers require or urge their authors to buy large quantities of their own books, ABP is the only one I've ever run across that pressures authors to self-purchase galleys for the purpose (well, the supposed purpose) of obtaining reviews.

So I started to research. And what I found was much more than I expected--not just a connection between ABP and All Classic Books, but between ABP and a whole network of satellite publishers, bogus organizations, shill websites, and imaginary publishing professionals. For those of you who are curious, I've included a section below with screenshots and other evidence that led to my conclusions. For those who want the quick version, here it is (the Alert at the Writer Beware website has been expanded to reflect this information).

ABP's satellite operations and websites include:
There are also some bogus news sites that pimp ABP, including American Book Publishing News Today and Book Publishing News and Views.

ABP’s founder, Cheryl Nunn or C. Lee Nunn, is fond of triple-barreled aliases. Names she may be using include:
  • Nathan Fitzgearl, Kathleen Brooks Montgomery, Abigail Woodward Wright (ABP)
  • Elizabeth M. Bennett (Alexis Press)
  • Susannah E. Solomon (Atlantic National Books)
  • Rebecca Reese Winslow, Kelly Kenworthy, Sherry Quinn (All Classic Books)
  • Kory Kessal (Media Book Group)
  • James Jackson Jones ("egalleys", whatever that means)
  • Madison Armstrong ("book publishing industry executive," author of a book that doesn't seem to exist)

 -------------------------------------

So, evidence of all these connections. 

There's some suggestive stuff at the websites linked in above: same Wordpress theme, some similar design features (check out the red advertising strip across the top of the satellite publishers' websites and ABP's blog, each offering a free, yes FREE, download of some kind), and a similar focus (most of the websites make a particular--not to mention hypocritical, given the source--point of railing against vanity publishing). 

That's not conclusive, of course. But here's what is. Having created separate identities for her various endeavors, Cheryl Nunn seems to have decided to streamline her workload a little by giving every one of them, including ABP, the exact same Twitterfeeds and Facebook timelines. Twitter screenshots are below (I've included them because the feeds may vanish or go dead once this post goes live); if you're really obsessive and want to see the Facebook timelines, they're easily Googled.

There's also this complaint by "Katie Montgomery" (one of the names used by Cheryl Nunn--see above) who--oh dear, what is the world coming to--claims she got ripped off by a graphic design bid site called DiginDigin.com when she attempted to get logos for Alexis Press and All Classic Books. Thank goodness that "Abp222" seems to have had more luck at 99designs.com with logos for Alexis Press, All Classic Books, and Atlantic National Books. (Do check out the logo campaign page for Atlantic National Books, where, in a serious fit of wishful thinking, Cheryl describes her competitors as "Amazon's Creative [sic] Space, Simon & Schuster, Random House etc.")

American Book Publishing
Alexis Press
All Classic Books
Atlantic National Books
Media Book Group
Publisher Services Group
Publisher Standards Board
Madison Armstrong, "Book Publishing Industry Executive"
James Jackson Jones, "egalleys"
Kory Kessal, "CEO for Media Book Group"
Poor "Katie Montgomery"! Someone ripped her off!
Thank goodness, Abp222, second time's a charm!
    Edited 9/26/13 to add: Dodgy publishers don't like sunshine. As of this writing, Cheryl Nunn has deleted her contests at 99designs.com, and Publisher Standards Board is gone. Alexis Press, Atlantic National Books, Publisher Services Group, and Media Book Group now claim they are "currently for sale."

    Stop laughing, people!

    Thanks to Sydney Oliver for the tip.

    21 comments:

    C.M. Albrecht said...

    The publishing business is a big ocean and there lots of hungry sharks swimming around.

    Victoria Strauss said...

    That's really the thing, though--ABP and its ilk aren't part of the publishing business. They're part of the author exploitation business, a parallel universe whose only intersection with the publishing industry is the aspiring authors it entraps.

    Unfortunately it can be hard for inexperienced authors to tell the difference.

    The good news, though, is that all the small presses and self-publishing options that exist nowadays are making it much harder for author exploitation "publishers" to make a buck. That, I'm guessing, is at least part of what accounts for ABP's expansion with these satellite publishers, as well as its screeds against vanity publishing and self-publishing.

    jongibbs said...

    It's good to have you back, Victoria :)

    Lois Browne said...

    Thanks, Victoria. It's important that writers looking for help getting published realize how vulnerable they are to predators like this.

    Daryl Devore said...

    Thanks for the info. I'm going to tweet and share this - every author should know it. And I'll be following your blog also.

    Ebony McKenna. said...

    Victoria, you are a National Treasure. Thank you so much for keeping up the good fight.

    Arlene Prunkl said...

    As a freelance editor of self-published books, I've been a fan of yours for years, Victoria. I've just joined Twitter, meaning I can now follow you even better. Thank you for all your marvelous detective work on behalf of self-publishing authors throughout North America.

    Arlene Prunkl
    www.penultimateword.com

    Cullan Hudson said...

    This sentence killed it for me. Had I read this on their webpage, I would have clicked away in immediate disgust.

    "Most authors today understand that sending their galleys are an expected and standard industry business expense and practice."

    Anyone want to take a red pen that?

    stacy said...

    With all the effort it takes to run these bogus "businesses" and websites, you'd think one of these yahoos would want to take a crack at a real job. (Well, I guess they can't now.) But still. They must get some weird thrill out of scamming people.

    Anonymous said...

    The MO of how Victoria Strauss has acquired some of this information may be open to law enforcement scrutiny. Author P.N. Elrod has stated that the SFWA has people that can hack computers (http://thewriteagenda.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/p-n-elrod-claims-science-fiction-fantasy-writers-sfwa-has-hackers-cyber-crime-incitement/). Perhaps it's time to "investigate" Victoria Strauss. It's kind of odd that Strauss came out of hibernation (i.e., writing another crappy book) to attack ABP.

    Ester Benjamin Shifren said...

    The exploitation of authors is nauseating. I'm so happy to see and read posts like this, for which I applaud and thank you. I've found so many authors are absolutely naive with regards to what they should be paying for and whom to trust. I'm going to share this on all the social media sites. The stronger and more informed we indies become, the better our chances of staving this brutal infiltration and exloitation.

    Victoria Strauss said...

    Hey, look, folks! It's The Predictable Agenda, showing up under a thin veil of Anonymity to troll!

    Joseph Harris said...

    Hello, I'm really just getting into writing (although I have read almost a thousand books in the past few years.) I am currently a high school student and run the new blog/site Creative Fantasy Writing.

    I've been reading through your blog and it's wonderful; however, It seems that there's a lot of discussion about what publishers or contests not to use to get your name out there. My question is what publishers/contests should you use to get your name out there? If you know of any discussions on that matter on other blogs (or potentially on this one) i'd like to hear.

    Joseph Harris, Avid Fantasy Writer and dedicated Scifi/Fantasy/Mystery reader.

    Victoria Strauss said...

    Joseph--

    I don't have a particularly positive view of contests. Few have the clout or prestige to get anyone's name out there; IMO, most are a waste of time/money. Writers' energy is better spent actually seeking publication (which includes the choice to self-publish, if that's appropriate).

    As for publishers--a bad publisher is bad for every author, but a good publisher is only good for some authors (since publishers have different goals, business models, and areas of specialization. That's why Writer Beware doesn't recommend or endorse any particular publishers (or agents): writers need to do the research themselves. We try to offer tools to help: our Small Presses page, for instance, which discusses the pros and cons of small press publishing, and offers lots of resources to learn more; or our Self-Publishing page, which does the same.

    Pay a visit to the Writer Beware website--there's lots of helpful info there for beginning and experienced writers alike.

    stacy said...

    Joseph, the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) site has a ton of helpful links for new authors. Here's a good place to start: http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/information-center/

    Joseph Harris said...

    Thanks

    Sydney Oliver said...

    The Alexis Press website, it now states the company is for sale...

    Victoria Strauss said...

    OMG, Sydney. You're right. I about split my sides laughing when I saw that. Once I recovered, I updated my post.

    Anonymous said...

    I was recruited to serve as ABP's Director of Editing (I won't reveal when or what name I used for fear of reprisal) but I can tell you, that is one dodgy organization.

    Nathan Fitzgearl is NOT an alias of C. Lee. He is a real person, and I can tell you, he is of questionable character. I really wish I could be completely open, but I can't.

    I met some wonderful people some of whom still work for ABP, and still maintain professional relationships with them today. But the company is unscrupulous and underhanded that refuses to come out of the closet and admit to the world that they are a vanity publisher--no more, no less.

    none said...

    Elizabeth Bennett? For reals?

    Earthquake Girl said...

    I edited a couple of manuscripts for ABP in 2001. One of them was very engaging; it was published in 2002, has good reviews, and still sells on Amazon.

    The other manuscript was so terrible that I was shocked it was accepted. The author was badly misled by ABP, making the experience such a nightmare that I refused to accept any more work from them.

    I received one royalty check in 2007 -- 5 years after the first book was published. Despite my efforts, I've not been able to contact ABP since. I guess now I know why! :D