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.