Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Patrick McLaw: An update

This is a little late coming, but I notice that when you google "Patrick McLaw", many of the hits tend to fall along the lines of "he was victimized for writing a book". I think that it's important that I write this, even if it's fairly old news.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the reason for McLaw's suspension came from mental health issues and not because he'd published the works. Apparently the school and the police had been aware of his books for years and as they hadn't arrested him back in 2012 it seems like they weren't anything they'd arrest someone over, which is contrary to what some of the newspapers had been printing.

In my previous post I'd written that someone had claimed that McLaw's suspension and police investigation had been due to a letter he had written- which ends up being a truth. McLaw did write a letter that gave the school system and the police reason for concern. The reason we know about that is because the state decided to release parts of the letter to show justification for their actions. They didn't want to do this, but the growing pressure of the various blogs and news articles pushed their hand. I have yet to find any of the letter's contents, but one news outlet has stated that it contains "suicidal tendencies" and another stated that the police were involved mostly because they were concerned for McLaw's own well-being. If I can find the letter, I'll post what I can.

Now I've saved this part for last, as it's kind of a little muddled. In a September 6th article via CBS Baltimore, McLaw says that the police have been taking things out of context. It may not apply to the books, but I'm kind of thinking that this may be implied. I wish he'd clarify his point in all of this, as this sort of thing can really, REALLY backfire if/when more information comes out that proves beyond even a reasonable doubt that he wasn't targeted because of his books. What is also concerning is this statement:

“Within hours we received information of perhaps an inappropriate relationship involving a student so we had some concerns,” 

So... does this mean that McLaw was having an inappropriate relationship with a student? Did that factor into anything at all? Was it even about him? I dislike this sort of thing, as it's entirely possible that the relationship wasn't related to McLaw and/or that it was an innocent relationship. The article also mentions that he did in fact have a model of the school in his shed and that he is still at a mental institution, receiving treatment. (Although in all fairness, this could be something he's doing at the recommendation of his lawyer as showing that he was willing to cooperate with mandated treatment will work in his favor in court- especially if the doctors say that he had no pressing mental issues.) This sort of opens up some more questions, but it does seem that the "was he targeted for his books" question has been answered for the most part.

And the answer is no- he wasn't. I'm still not sure of the exact reason for what happened to him, but it appears that it wasn't because he was an author. Whether he did or didn't do anything that would be reason for concern, we need to stop holding him up as someone who was victimized for publishing controversial books because that seems to be far from the truth of the situation.

Further Reading:

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: