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Writing dream turns sour

7 August 2013

From The New Zealand Herald:

A celebrated children’s author-turned-publisher has left the country, with a trail of unpaid debts and angry authors in her wake.

. . . .

It started so promisingly and ended so horribly. Twenty months ago Jill Marshall was a local hero, albeit an adopted one. In 2011, Next magazine chose her as its Woman of the Year (arts and culture), an honour still listed on her profile on internet site LinkedIn.

Marshall is now back in England, having left behind a posse of irate and disillusioned authors, a trail of debt and no forwarding address. A “desperately-seeking-Jill” message by one of the authors on Marshall’s Facebook page has gone unanswered, attempts to contact her by email and via the two vice-presidents appointed to her company have proved equally fruitless.

Two authors have won Disputes Tribunal claims, another has hired a copyright lawyer to stop what he claims are “unauthorised” sales of his book by England-based companies, and a complaint has been made to British police about what became of the proceeds of a charity book.

. . . .

Marshall was “outraged” with what was happening to her career as an author. “Poor communication, poverty, lack of promotion, feeling unloved and unwanted, and having no control over many rights issues were just some of the topics that fuelled my fever,” she wrote in an article in February 2012 promoting her own fledgling publishing company.

Surely, she figured, those who created the books – the authors and illustrators – should be those who were most connected and supported.

“I began to recognise that many areas of the traditional publishing chain were just not working – or if they were, it was for the wrong people.”

With the era of the e-book came the chance do something about it.

. . . .

In its first year, Pear Jam Books delivered quality books that were well-edited and produced to a high standard. One of its authors, who did not want to be named, told the Herald that the structure then was similar to a traditional publisher. Several of Pear Jam’s authors had been published before, some had won awards, and none were asked to pay Marshall any money.

. . . .

Problems began to appear later, with a second group made up mostly of first-time authors, who each paid $10,000 for a “partner-publishing programme”, whereby Marshall’s company contracted to provide coaching, marketing materials and book production in various formats including a printed book “to industry standard”.

. . . .

When the relationship broke down, the work of some authors had already entered the distribution chain and is listed for sale on some overseas websites. Having flawed versions on the market is bad for business and the fledging authors’ credibility, says Stuart. A lawyer is negotiating for his book to be removed from two British-based online vendors.

“Sounds strange, I know. I mean, how many new authors have to fight to be unpublished?”

Link to the rest at The New Zealand Herald and thanks to Catherine for the tip.

The Business of Writing

12 Comments to “Writing dream turns sour”

  1. Wow. This is certainly a caveat for fledgling authors.

    • Is it Linda ? It looks like a caveat for fledgling totally dumb authors to me. I mean how stupid does one have to be to pay 10k for a “partner-publishing programme” ? I may seem harsh but these are adults right ? And the web is strewn with easy ways for authors to get information and learn about this side of the business.

  2. with a second group made up mostly of first-time authors, who each paid $10,000 for a “partner-publishing programme”,

    See there’s your problem, right there. Money should always flow to the author.

    (In the case of self publishing, you should be wearing your publisher hat anytime you spend money, not your author hat.)

    • I was going to say, “Run far, run fast, from anyone who charges you money to publish your book”.

      Look. My cover artist charged me money for her artwork, as she should. My cover designer charged me money for her design work, as she should. My copy editor charges me money for her editing, as she should.

      Together, they are NOWHERE near $10k, and I didn’t use StockCoverArt.com.

      DON’T PAY SOMEONE TO PUBLISH YOUR BOOK. Pay someone to do some of the work you need done while publishing the book yourself. Really, people. How many times do we have to say it?

  3. Sad. I wonder what happened? She was a writer’s advocate, and then turned into an author’s worst nightmare…..??? A shame.

    This is actually a warning to those who want to leap into being a publisher. It’s probably not as easy as it looks.

  4. I’ve thought of trying to publish other people’s work but scenario’s like the above scare me. The idea that you could go into it well meaning and slowly be forced into a corner/make bad decisions from desperation on money issues is scary. I’d rather be poor. Kind of sad since there’s a number of light novel translations I’d love to see happen.

  5. Let’s be honest… she opened a publishing house, then turned it into an Author Solutions clone. At what point would you EVER pay $10,000 to produce your own book? If you were going vanity press, that’s when.

    Just because she was saying all the right things in the beginning doesn’t mean she was the right kind of person.

  6. “Jessica Copping, another author, says it is not a story of gullible desperate authors taken by a smooth-talking con, but a broken business agreement with a proven professional…”

    $100,000 in two weeks sounds more like a smooth-talking con than a broken business arrangement. That’s more than most families earn in a year.

    • I literally had the exact same thought. Mark it, this woman will set up shop some where else and do the same thing, then get up and leave and continue the cycle ad nauseum.

    • To be fair it’s NZ$100k, which is about $80k or £65k.

      Big difference, huh? (Maybe not.)

      Clearly what happened is she discovered a ‘coach’ who inspired her with the greed gospel and made her feel good about screwing people over.

      I’m guessing a lot of the money went on her personal debts.

      What’s frightening is the ease with which she found people willing to pay that kind of money.

      And apparently it wouldn’t have taken much more care and attention – nicer covers, more organised foreign sales, not skipping the country – for those authors to have been happy with what they got.

  7. $10,000 up front makes AS look like a good deal.

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