Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sad WTFckery: The Downfall of Aspen Mountain Press

One of the biggest fears I have as an epublished author is being with an epublisher that's not ethically honest or sound. Every writer and author needs to do their research when submitting to a publisher. I’ve done my research on various epublishers I have submitted to from asking past and present authors who have published with them about their experience and going on the Absolute Write message boards where people ask questions about a publisher or will post their working experience with that publisher. Sometimes it can get really ugly over there, but I rather know the unpleasant side to a publisher than not and being stuck in an unfortunate situation.

Sometimes, even with all the extensive research and questions you may ask, you just don’t know how a publisher is doing behind the scenes. This is the case of the epublisher- Aspen Mountain Press. AMP used to have a solid reputation and published high quality stories, mainly of the M/M gay variety. I know a few authors published there and they raved about AMP. Up to a few months ago, there didn’t seem to be any problems or gossip that AMP was going down the toilet.

I’m a lurker on Absolute Write, which is one of the best places I use to gain information about the publishing industry, from information on agents, and both epublishers and traditional print publishers. I always end up in the Discussion section of the message boards under: Bewares, Recommendations and Background Check.

Here a discussion was started about AMP that starts out promising but then goes downhill. In the beginning, where the first post is from 2007, AMP is a recommended epublisher since they were considered very professional with an excellent editing staff. Their contract was well received and their royalties are high-end and fair.

Then 4 years later and on the 4th page of the discussion, that’s where things turn for the worse. In August it was announced that the senior staff of AMP had resigned. More people have come out to say they have missed royalties, a major lack of communication, mainly from the AMP owner, Sandra Hicks, and the authors that have broken their contract with AMP are still finding their books sold on third party vendors when they have their rights reverted back to them. Some authors’ books are in limbo over at AMP from over 2 years ago and they can’t get their rights reverted back to them.

Yesterday, Celina Summers, former senior editor of AMP and now editorial director and co-owner of the new epublisher, Musa Publishing, has broken her silence and laid everything out on her blog about the horrible events leading up to AMP being on life support and what will eventually be its demise. Her post is a lengthy one, and as I read, my jaw dropped because the actions of the owner, Mrs. Hicks are eye popping, especially in regards to this:

Excerpt from Celina’s post:

“What we discovered when we took over was a nightmare: Hundreds of emails in all the AMP accounts, gone unanswered and unopened from authors and staff. The customer service email account alone had over 500 unanswered emails over the previous eight months. That took two people working eight hours to resolve—and in the process, we discovered a frighteningly large number of AMP books that had serious formatting problems for a long time.

Authors who were contracted and never heard back from the company, leaving their books unpublished and their rights tied up. I found books from two years previously that were still stranded by AMP, the authors begging to just get a response from somebody…anybody.

The owner (Sandra Hicks) was using the business's bank account for personal expenses. In the meantime, we were seeing these personal expenses—for food, souvenirs, car payments, doctors visits—coming out of the AMP account.”

WTF?? An owner of an epublisher is using author royalties to pay for her lifestyle? She has allegedly stolen the hard earned dollars from people who have spent hours upon hours working on something they’re proud of and haven’t seen a dime of it based on what seems to be the selfish actions of one person, regardless if she is sick or depressed (as she’s stating to be).

I’m speechless and horrified not only for the authors who trusted Sandra Hicks, but the AMP senior staff who want to do right by their authors and have to deal with this WTFckery.

Something like this makes me paranoid, but let’s hope this is just an isolated case. Keep in mind there are many other reliable, honest and ethically run epublishers who are run by smart and savvy people who think of their authors and publishing staff as their family and friends. Yes, publishing is a business and sometimes people’s toes will get stepped on or authors may have a bad publishing experience, but as a whole the epublishers out there are run by wonderful people who make little or next to no money.

I hope the victims of the AMP will be able to receive retribution for the wrongs done to them.



Teddypig said...

It's more like What the Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck!

Amazing reading those two posts are.

KB/KT Grant said...

Did you see the latest post?

Major WTF. :(

Teddypig said...

Yep got a link in the inbox this morning.

I have been trying to keep a post going over on my blog with some of the more longer informative posts so people can get the big picture without having to pile through too many comments.

Liza said...

It's really sad to see one person being so greedy that they would steal from others. Hate this for the authors of AMP. Hope they can eventually get the rights back to all their books.

Blodeuedd said...

That is just wrong wrong wrong, and so very sad :/

Lynne Connolly said...

It sounds like RFI West and NBI all over again!

When you choose to send your book to a small publisher, this is one of the risks you take. There are only a few members of staff, and the checks and balances aren't there.

The only defense an author has is to send books to more than one publisher. Then, at least, the closing of one publisher isn't the end of a career.

I'm so sorry for all the authors involved. Claim your rights back, before the company goes into administration, or your rights will be tied up for months, if not years.