Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Victoria Strauss -- More on Author Identity

Last week I blogged about vanity publisher Author Identity Publishing, whose recently released anthology, The Shortcut, has been the subject of a widespread fake book order scam apparently designed to boost sales of the non-returnable POD-printed book. (Other coverage of the scam: two articles in PW, commentary by Jim Macdonald at Making Light, and a blog entry from J.B. Dickey at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, who broke the story.)

According to a third PW article, published yesterday, Ingram has agreed to provide relief for scammed booksellers by making The Shortcut returnable (apparently, 1,163 copies have been sold through Ingram; BookScan reports sales of 150). In addition, author Kevin A. Fabiano, tied to the scam not just by his presence in the anthology but by the fact that the name used by the scammer, Mike Evers, is also the name of the protagonist of Fabiano's PublishAmerica-published novel, has emphatically denied participation in the scam, though possibly not in the most fortunate terms. "Why in a million years would I want to ruin the name of a character I am trying to brand?" PW quotes him as asking. "If I were to do something greedy and sleazy like this, I wouldn’t do it with 13 other authors, I would do it for a book only I wrote." Uh, yeah.

Fabiano has also offered to buy back any books purchased by booksellers as a result of the scam.

One thing that emerges from the PW article is that, as I speculated in my previous post, Fabiano does indeed have an ownership interest in AIP. According to PW, he's one of three partners (two of them unnamed) who each paid $250 to establish AIP and set up The Shortcut through Lightning Source.

How convincing are Fabiano's denials? Color me at least a little skeptical. For one thing, they seem to come rather late. You'd think that someone falsely implicated in a scheme like this would be eager to declare their non-involvement--but Fabiano didn't respond to requests for comment for PW's March 30 article on the scam. For another, Fabiano has numerous associations with the anthology, both pre- and post-publication--promoting it on his website, directly soliciting authors (though most of AIP's solicitations were anonymous), using "authoridentity" as a nickname on Amazon, possibly designing AIP's website, sharing a URL registrant with AIP, not to mention the Mike Evers name--and he's the only person who does. Those other partners, if they exist, are pretty silent. Given all of this, and leaving aside the, uh, inadvisability of using a character from your own book as an alias, it's more of a stretch to imagine that Fabiano did not mastermind the scam, than to figure that he did.

They say there's no such thing as bad publicity--but if there is, this is definitely it.

11 comments:

Samuel Tinianow said...

Two things are revealed by Fabiano's comments: (1) that he has delusions of grandeur with regard to his published works, and (2) that he sees absolutely nothing wrong with doing something "greedy and sleezy" under the right circumstances.

His offer to buy back copies is also highly suspect. Considering his track record for (not) acting responsibly, why has he decided that it's his responsibility to do so?

An orgy of evidence, in my opinion.

Yasmine Galenorn said...

I sign at SMB a lot, and JB is a wonderful guy--it's a shame this happened to him and other bookstore owners, but I am so happy he brought it to PW's attention and to your attention.

Regardless of whether Fabiano is the one responsible or somebody else, this was obviously a fraudulent act and I hope they catch who did it. I'm not a fan of POD technology, for the most part, but this unfortunatley reflects bad on all POD publishers, legit or not.

Yasmine

Yog said...

Given the quoted sales from Ingram's stock check of 1,163 copies of this anthology, and the Bookscan sales of 150, I would not be surprised to learn that the total number of bookstores that were scammed into ordering copies is somewhere between 500 and 1,000.

That puts the actual dollar value of the scam somewhere between $6,000 and $12,000. Which is, I believe, in the felony range.

I also believe that the scammed bookstore owners might constitute a class for the purpose of a class-action lawsuit.

I wonder if Mr. Fabiano, as a lawyer himself, might comment on that?

Anonymous said...

You would suspect that people were smart enough not to use names that could be traced to them in such activities, but my work on Wikipedia tells me otherwise. It's common for repeat vandals to have usernames that are somehow linked even though it makes them easier to trace.

On the other hand there's Occam's Razor. It doesn't make sense unless someone has a beef with him and is trying to frame him.

I'm not sure about Fabiano's guilt, but it certainly isn't looking good.

Victoria Strauss said...

I hope the booksellers do take action on this. As I noted in a previous post, this kind of scam is not new--I have seen it proposed many times, and know of two instances where it was used, both times by "publicity" services specializing in vanity-pubbed authors--though not on anything like the Author Identity scale. It needs to be discredited once and for all.

What people who pull these kinds of stunts don't seem to realize is that they are making things worse for everyone. Not only will booksellers become more reluctant to risk ordering books from publishers they've never heard of, these kinds of actions just confirm the poor opinion so many people hold of POD, and make the POD stigma that much harder to overcome.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking the moron spent more cash on long distance charges than he will ever get back in royalties.

And providing a fake credit card number? Genius. If they're ever able to backtrack his phone records there's another hefty batch of fraud charges in that pile.

Had he been with a legit publisher his career would be in the toilet for this stunt.

Since he's with PA (to quote Miss Snark) "where the crap goes to die," he's already flushed into the sewer.

With his easy to remember name I won't have to worry about any of his work crossing my desk. I'll be able to return it unread.

--Snarling Editor

Yog said...

I think the words "too clever by half" cover our mystery perpetrator.

Anonymous said...

A scumbag by any other name is still a scumbag. A pox on his house!

AJ said...

Why do people (Yasmine Galenorn here; some folks on other sites) keep saying this reflects badly on all POD publishers? I mean, unless they mean it'll be taken as such type of black mark by booksellers (which is what Victoria says below) -- a statement which is, unfortunately, probably true.

The fact is that one awful idiot, acting on his own or in concert with a couple of other awful idiots, to defraud a bunch of innocent bookstores, does not equal the whole of a small field any more than one person who writes a solid book and sells thousands of copies on word-of-mouth alone equals the whole of the field. (And we know that that second person is surely not the face of POD!)

Conflating the crime with the technology used to publish the book is like saying that people who use forks by a certain cutlery company are suspicious because someone killed their spouse with a kitchen knife made by the same cutlery company in the same small town. Well, maybe that's too much correlation to be a coincidence! one says. But correlation is not causation. :-)

Dave Kuzminski said...

Essentially, businesses within the publishing industry have found it necessary to react to such instances of fraud by implementing policies that have frequently harmed the chances of other writers, publishers, distributors, and customers. If they didn't, they'd go out of business.

In this case, the POD abusers, such as PA and AIP, are already causing such problems for everyone else who uses POD for production means. PA only encouraged such misbehavior while AIP has gone to the extreme length of actually implementing it.

Because of these kinds of problems, I dare say that POD will eventually be restricted to Internet sales. I won't be at all surprised if publishers make available a free chapter of each POD book online so that a reader can make a better determination of whether to buy a POD book off the Internet. Bookstores just won't want the hassle of providing computers in their store for the purpose of selling a handful of POD books each year because it would only cause them to face additional problems.

AJ said...

I seem to remember a similar debate and series of predictions arising about the use of the Internet for transactions altogether, about ten years ago. People developed verification systems and trust stamps. I see nothing that makes it impossible for small publishers using POD technology to develop track records and reputations of their own, just as people in any other sector of business must do.