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Class Action Suit Against Publish America

15 June 2012

Publish America is a vanity publisher that has been the subject of many complaints on Writer Beware and other author websites.

A class-action suit has been filed in Maryland on behalf of Publish America authors against the company. Here’s what the website of one of the law firms representing the authors says about the suit:

Hagens Berman has filed a lawsuit against Publish America LLLP (“Publish America) alleging that the company misleads authors, promising to publish and promote their books when the company actually profits by charging authors for promotion services that are themselves misrepresented.

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, alleges that Publish America represents itself as a traditional publisher that pays royalties to authors and profits from the sale of books. However, the company actually operates more like so-called “vanity publishers,” profiting from authors to whom it sells services, according to the complaint.

Specifically, authors sign a contract in which Publish America is granted the rights to the authors’ books for between seven and 10 years, but Publish America does, according to the complaint “nothing constructive to promote their books.”

Instead, it offers authors a number of paid promotional packages. The lawsuit alleges that many of these services are fraudulent. For instance, Publish America claims that it presents books to J.K. Rowling for review, but Rowling has denied the claims, according to the complaint. Publish America also allegedly claimed to have a contract with a major Canadian bookseller, which the bookseller promptly denied.

Hagens Berman’s lawsuit alleges that Publish America’s actions entitle authors to relief under the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act as well as the Maryland Consumer Protection Act. The complaint asks the court to award damages to a class of authors currently or formerly under contract with Publish America who purchased publication, production or promotion services.

Link to the rest at Hagens Berman, including law firm contact information for authors who believe they may have been harmed by Publish America. This is the same law firm that filed a class action suit for ebook price fixing against Apple, HarperCollins, Hachett, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster.

Here’s the Complaint:


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4 Comments to “Class Action Suit Against Publish America”

  1. About time. They can’t get the screws put to them fast enough.

  2. Tristan Gregory

    I’ve been hearing about PublishAmerica’s scam operation since I started researching the publishing industry ~10 years ago. While I feel sorry for these poor fools who got scammed, I hope they get a little wisdom out of it. This is neither the first nor the last time PA has been taken to court.

  3. I think this is the first time that a federal class action has been attempted, though.

    I’ve never seen a complaint that so liberally quoted newspaper articles – eventually it gets to describing the actual injuries to the representative plaintiffs. It looks like it was written as much as a press barrage as a complaint.

    PG – what confuses me is the connection between the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act and the single claim of the violation of a state law. Does FDJA allow state law claims as long as the plaintiffs are from multiple states?

    • I had the same question, Pete, and don’t know the answer either.

      I’m not an expert on the financial logistics of class action suits, but using them with authors who signed similar publishing contracts and were similarly mistreated is something I’ve thought about before.

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