A few months ago I blogged about Author Identity Publishing, a publisher of short story anthologies that required contributors to "demonstrate you have the ability to sell 25 copies prior to the books [sic] release." (Since then, possibly as a result of exposure here and at Absolute Write, AIP has backpedaled a bit on this requirement. Contributors are now only required to "demonstrate you have the ability to help market your book.")
AIP's first compilation, The Shortcut, has been released. Back in November, I wondered how AIP would deliver on its promise to include "well-known authors and literary figures" as well as newer authors, since with the publisher's dubious provenance (I couldn't find any names associated with it), its vanity pre-sales requirement, and its paltry royalties (around 9 cents per contributor), it was a bit difficult to imagine it attracting established writers. Well, the answer is in: public domain, baby. In addition to stories from writers you've never heard of, there are stories from Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Bram Stoker, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. This is good news for the lesser-known authors: not only are they in august company, but the, uh, non-living status of their fellow contributors means they'll get a bigger royalty.
On the flip side, the inclusion of so many dead authors must have presented a dilemma for AIP. Being deceased, they couldn't pre-sell books. What to do?
A couple of weeks ago, J.B. Dickey of the Seattle Mystery Bookshop got a call from a man calling himself Michael Evers, who wanted to know if the store carried The Shortcut, an anthology he'd been hearing about. Mr. Dickey found it wasn't in stock, and Mr. Evers placed an order with his credit card. It's store policy not to charge until the order comes in; when it did, Mr. Dickey discovered that the order had been made with a phony credit card and a disconnected phone number. Since he'd ordered a second copy for stock, he was stuck with not one, but two nonreturnable books. (He has written up an entertaining account of the experience at the store's blog.)
Mr. Dickey posted a warning to the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association listserv, and began hearing from other store owners who'd gotten fake orders for The Shortcut from the same Michael Evers. He also contacted Publishers Weekly, which did a writeup on the scam (the "Talkback" section of the article has comments from still more scammed booksellers). Meanwhile, one of the booksellers, ticked off enough to do some sleuthing, made an interesting discovery. "Michael Evers" is the protagonist of a novel by one of the anthology's contributors, Kevin A. Fabiano (The Palace of Wisdom: A Rock and Roll Fable, published by PublishAmerica). Coincidence? Not likely. In a truly breathtaking combination of sleazy "marketing" tactics (which may have come straight off the PA message boards--I've seen the fake book order ploy avocated there a time or two) and just plain dumbness (hint to scammers: if you're going to use an alias, pick a name that can't be linked to your real one), Kevin Fabiano has apparently been trying to achieve the fevered dream of every vanity-published author: to get his book onto bookstore shelves.
So who is Kevin Fabiano? Is he an overzealous writer attempting in an extremely ill-advised manner to ramp up his sales? Or is he someone with a much more personal interest in The Shortcut's success? Is he, in fact, Author Identity Publishing's mysterious owner?
There's quite a bit of evidence to suggest this. In November 2006, when AIP had barely started spamming potential contributors, Kevin was already promoting AIP on his own website and on writers' message boards, claiming that AIP was publishing one of his stories. The nickname he has chosen for his Amazon.com profile is...Authoridentity. Compare the similarities in design and layout between Kevin's website and AIP's--something that becomes even more apparent if you view the source code (check out the meta description on Kevin's website, according to which he is "a lawyer and professor who owns a publishing company"). And there's one final connection, though it's no longer extant. The URL of Kevin's personal website is registered to Corporate Roots, Inc, a company with a blank website whose snail mail address is that of a business entity formation service. Last November, so was AIP's.
AIP's Whois information now shows Domains by Proxy as the registrant, so it seems Mr. Fabiano was smart enough to cover some of his tracks, albeit retroactively. I'll bet he's wishing he could do the same for Michael Evers.