Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Damnation Books: Authors and Readers Beware!

Over the past few years we've seen a lot of independent publishing houses pop up, something that is good for the most part. Some of them are good and have gone on to become fairly well known publishing houses in their own right. Others end up closing or just sort of dwindle into obscurity for various reasons. Then there are the ones that become legend for all the wrong reasons.

I'm sure that some of you have heard the name "Damnation Books" before. Some of you may have heard about it by way of book recommendations on various internet sites like Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Nobles. Some of you may have heard about it because of the rather bad reputation they're getting from multiple authors that have previously published with the company.

What has the company done, you might ask?

One thing that the publisher has done is hold authors' books even after they (the author) has cancelled out their contract with them. Author Tim Marquitz has been fairly vocal about his interactions with Damnation Books, as has Mark Edward Hall.  Hall has gone so far as to say that the publisher is little more than an author mill and that he had to file a legal suit against them because they tried claiming that they own the legal rights to books when they don't- Hall does. They even got Amazon to pull Hall's books that he uploaded, claiming that they were the rightful owners. This leaves a pretty big stain on Hall's record, as Amazon pretty much called him a thief when he was publishing his own works. He's not the only person who has had this happen to him either. Terri Bruce had similar issues and even had to file a temporary restraining order in order to stop Damnation Books from publishing works for which she owned the legal rights.

If you don't think that this is all that bad, take into consideration that Damnation Books has tried to use the termination fee as a reason to hold onto the rights for the books and in the case of Marquitz, where they demanded that he pay them $1,000 apiece for each of the books he published through them. Now Marquitz requested the end of his contact in 2012 and as of February 2013 (when this blog was published), the publisher made over $4,000 on both books. There was no good reason for them to try to retain the books' rights when they'd already made their money and then some... no good reason other than the publisher wanted to continue to make money off of the books.

Bruce (and many others) have also said that their books were published with multiple errors in them, which also harmed their image as an author because let's face it: how many of us have stopped reading a book because it had too many errors and other formatting issues? I'd say that all of us have had at least one of these in our past experience as a reader and it never reflects well on the author... or the publisher. What this tells me is that even if the books were run through an editor, Damnation Books ignored their advice and published them "as is" in the expectation that they could make a few bucks off of the author before discarding them for a new patsy. Bruce's experience with Damnation Books shows that she did ask them to fix these issues before publication, only for the publisher to completely ignore her requests.

To add insult to injury, when authors have complained about the low sales and other issues, Damnation Books tried to place the blame entirely on the authors' shoulders, as is the case with Naomi Clark when she tried to talk to them about the low sales and what she and the publisher could do to improve them. She went to them for advice and they blamed her for everything. To rub salt into her wounds, when Clark did write about her troubles with Damnation Books, they wrote the Twitter response "LOL" and sent her an e-mail with only one line in it: a link to a blog entitled "Ten Things I Wish I Knew Then". It was obviously done with the intent to shame Clark and try to cow her, which I find absolutely disgusting and appalling. (Read more about it here.)

There's a lot more to this story and I'll try to write more about this as I can, but let me just say this: Damnation Books is a terrible publisher and they treat the majority of their authors very, very poorly. I'm sure that they have one or two that may say otherwise, but most of them seem to have had terrible times of it and I can't help but get the impression that there are a lot of authors who are trying to quietly ride out their contract and not make waves.

If you're an author, don't work with them- if you sign up with them, odds are high that you will also be taken advantage of- Preditors & Editors even lists them as a "not recommended" publisher. If you're a reader, don't patronize them. I know, I know- you may see things there that you want and would love to read, but just wait it out and buy the books when the authors get the rights back. It appears that most of them are waiting for their contracts to expire so they can self-publish the works themselves, so it'd definitely be worth waiting. Not only will the author have more editorial control over the books, but they'll get a larger cut of the profit since they're self-publishing. More money for the author means that it'll be more likely that they'll write more- something that I'm sure we all want!



Further reading:

14 comments:

  1. Nothing has changed at Damnation Books, in fact there have been several heated arguments on their Yahoo authors list. Frustrated writers making their problems public because the Queen of Damnation, Kim Richards will not respond to emails from authors. They do no marketing, other than what a writer could do for themselves in about 20 minutes. The editing is a joke, an 8th grader could do a better job. Damnation Books is nothing but a book mill, they publish 10 to 12 titles a month, with no support or marketing. There is talk of a class action lawsuit against the company by a group of authors.... If you are writer run, don't walk away, if you are offered a contract, they are unprofessional and childish.......

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  2. Yikes. It's sad to see that little has changed.

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  3. My name is Jeani Rector, and I am the editor of The Horror Zine at http://www.thehorrorzine.com. Many red flags have come to my attention about Damnation Books. If anyone wants to chat with me about this publisher, I will keep your name confidential. Please email me at thehorrorzine@gmail.com and I thank you. Let's work together to keep writers safe. Jeani

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    1. Damnation was tame in its ineptness compared to what is occurring under Alan Leddon's reign. People must be extremely careful in dealing with him and his company. If you're wise, you'll stay away. If you've fallen into his trap, there may be no opportunity to escape; the best you can do is warn others of his insincere intent.

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  4. This is amazing; I got a LifeLock alert today that my email had been made public and my password stolen via damnationbooks.com and sold on an identity-theft forum. I didn't register at damnationbooks.com, but visited to check out their submission guidelines. I am not piling on, but sending along a warning; don't even go visit the website!

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  5. Damnation Books and Eternal Press have changed hands. Many authors await December's royalty payment. The companies are now imprints of Spero and Caliburn under control of Alan Leddon.

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    1. I and a few others have not received any royalties for more than a year from Alan Leddon. Though he was open and friendly at first, he now evades questions on royalties and cannot give us direct answers as to the publication dates of our novels. (He claims that he cannot do so, on the basis that he's interrupted too often with such inquiries and therefore has no time to tend to editing, etc. Unbelievable! This, however, does not stop him from posting incessant, political frivolity on Facebook.) Anyone who is running into problems with him should contact Victoria Strauss at beware@sfwa.org. She is very helpful and can offer a sincere assessment on Leddon's tactics, based on the many complaints she has received. Any information you share with her will be kept in confidence.

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  6. Some things are sadly entertaining.

    A publisher by any other name is still the same. My former publishing company was acquired by Alan Joseph Leddon who own Spero and Caliburn and various other imprints.

    I have not seen even a royalty report.

    This is a little something, cleverly titled..

    'Screwing' author allegedly screwed by publisher
    The author of "Creative Screwing: A Woman's Guide to Becoming an Erotic Enchantress of Superlustful Sex" filed a lawsuit accusing her publisher of screwing her out of royalties.

    The suit alleges Leddon "admitted to plaintiff in writing and to law enforcement of converting plaintiff's royalties for his own personal use and that he no longer had the money to pay plaintiff what she was owed."

    This is listed in Odd News.. and does not clearly state what became of this suit.

    http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2014/10/02/Screwing-author-allegedly-screwed-by-publisher/8591412264226/

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    1. I've been in touch with Ms. Hernandez, and she shared her back-up with me. I have absolutely no doubt that Leddon isn't to be trusted. It's amazing how much of my own situation with Leddon overlap with Ms. Hernandez's. I'm certain that other authors can say the same. What a damn shame.

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    2. From the research I've done, the Hernandez case is still ongoing. It was dismissed on the basis that Hernandez's attorney will now go after Spero on the whole, in addition to Leddon's spouse, whose account the royalty fees were stashed. Most interesting. This obviously won't be the last we'll hear of this case, it seems. Anxious to hear the ultimate outcome.

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  7. Several of us are running into the same situation with Spero and Caliburn, based on our comparing notes. No royalties have been paid to us, although proof of purchases is available to several of the authors involved. Responses from Leddon are sparse when updates are requested. Communication, therefore, is similar to that of the Eternal Press and Damnation owners. The Creative Screwing scenario of April 15 says a lot. Leddon informed people through the Caliburn yahoo group that this woman was a liar. It may be Leddon who is the liar. We can only hope to be proven wrong.

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  8. I've received information from Victoria Strauss of Science Fiction Writers of America that there is an enormous sum of complaints against Mr. Leddon, regarding both publishing dates, editing and royalty payments. He comes across as sincere in one's early interaction with him, but his unethical tactics become evident thereafter. If you have any concerns, please email Ms. Strauss at beware@sfwa.org. Your information will be kept confidential. Ms. Strauss can also enlighten you on the questionable tactics of Leddon and his company.

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  9. An update on Leddon and his shady tactics... He's now emailing jilted authors individually, stating that his distributor, Lulu, is to blame that they haven't been paid. It appears, however, that all Leddon had to do was pull those funds from Lulu and could have done so at any time. If that weren't the case, he could have touched base with the distributor after receiving so many complaints from his authors to see what was going on. It appears that Leddon may have gotten caught again with his hand in the cookie jar, as he did with the March 2016 embezzlement situation and is now trying to throw attention away from himself. Also, he's given no date as to when the authors will be paid, based on his "revelation". Please, be careful with this character. He layers lie upon lie, with promise upon promise and never comes through.

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  10. My name is Steve Soderquist and I am the co-owner of Foundations, LLC., a publishing company based out of Mississippi. Before opening my company with my partner, I had two titles with Damnation Books, LLC. When they (Damnation's) went belly up, I was given the opportunity to not renew with the new company, Caliburn, LLC. I chose not to for obvious reasons and the response from Alan Leddon was both snarky and dismissive, telling his assistant in the email to me (I suppose to impress me?) to 'put me on the list,' whatever that meant. Apparently, that list was 'wait six months and illegally put the book up for sale on Nook without his permission or knowledge.' Obviously, I found out and having good rapport with Barnes and Noble as both an author and a REPUTABLE publisher, the book in that format was removed.
    In a business where trust can be so easily manipulated, it turns my stomach to see authors who have the most honest of dreams taken advantage of. I myself was mislead by Kim Richards, but not to the point of flat-out breaking the law and stealing. All I can say is, what goes around, comes around, Alan. ;-)

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