Saturday, November 03, 2007

Victoria Strauss -- Airleaf Update

I've blogged several times about vanity publisher/author "marketing" service/uber-spammer Airleaf Publishing and Book Selling (formerly Bookman Marketing): in July 2006, about its silly and factually inaccurate response to criticism by watchdog groups such as Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors; in January 2007 about its overpriced author cruise; and in August 2007 about its American Author Contest, an amateurish attempt to cash in on the current fad for American Idol-style writing contests. This post also takes a look at Airleaf's filmmaking "partner," Lite Stone Entertainment, all of whose supposed movie projects trace back to Airleaf's book-to-film program.

Over the years, Writer Beware has received complaints and advisories about Airleaf from writers annoyed by its relentless spamming, dissatisfied with its "marketing" services (I put "marketing" in quotes, because most of the services Airleaf offers are ineffective or downright useless--see my July 2006 post for a more detailed discussion), and unhappy with its publishing services. So we weren't entirely surprised to learn that a large group of angry Airleaf authors has gone public.

Airleaf Victims Fightback is a website organized by writer and relationship counselor Bonnie Kaye, who paid Airleaf $1,850 to publish her book. She tells her own story on the site, along with the stories of many other Airleaf authors who feel they've been ill-used by the company. Problems include the usual menu of questionable-publisher issues: non-payment of royalties, non-provision of paid-for services, substandard services, long publication delays, non-production of books, and nonresponsiveness to authors' questions and concerns.

Currently, there are more than 90 authors in Ms. Kaye's network.

Other Airleaf victims have taken independent action. This past May, the Indiana Attorney General's Office issued an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance requiring Airleaf to return nearly $7,000 to two authors, pay $1,000 in costs to the AG's office, and refrain from promising services, benefits, and timeframes it knows it can't provide or doesn't actually intend to sell.

The above is just the tip of the iceberg. There is much, much more to this story, which I hope I'll be able to tell in the coming weeks and months.

Also worth noting: former Airleaf CEO Brien Jones (who started his pay-to-publish career with AuthorHouse) left Airleaf earlier this year to form Jones Harvest Publishing, a virtual clone of Airleaf.

Bonnie Kaye's efforts have also been covered by Lee Goldberg at A Writer's Life and Angela Hoy at Writers Weekly.

Edited to add: Bonnie Kay also maintains an Airleaf Victims Blog, where regular updates are posted.

8 comments:

Dave Kuzminski said...

Jones may run, but he can't hide.

Madge Sinclair said...

It's so terrible that so many scam artists bilk money out of unsuspecting writers. It is the lowest form of disrespect any writer could face. I am so glad you work tirelessly towards exposing these fraudulent pigs wherever they may rear their ugly heads!

Deb said...

Dave, I hope you're right that he cannot hide. So many of them seem to hide quite effectively by adopting new business names and working the same old rackets.

And I'm not sure they can sue people for defamation if the information is true, can they? Of course they can threaten, but I hope this sways nobody. I've marked the site and will check back occasionally to see if the legal system has done its job on this collection of swindlers.

~Nancy said...

Just posted to Bonnie's blog.

And I've also posted this on my blog.

This is just SO disgusting. How can people look at themselves in the mirror doing this sort of stuff?

I just cannot fathom this. One poor man put up $10,000 of his own money.

I just hope they can shut down these despicable people before more unsuspecting people part with their hard-earned money.

P.N. Elrod said...

Jones Harvest Publishing

Goodness--is that warning that Jones plans to "harvest" money from his unwary marks?

Mr. Jones, your Freudian slip is showing!

Victoria Strauss said...

Local news coverage of the Airleaf story.

In another article, former Airleaf CEO Brien Jones (who now runs Jones Harvest Publishing) and current Airleaf CEO Carl Lau trade accusations.

As of now, Airleaf appears to have closed its doors. Over 225 victims have been identified.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that if Brien Jones left Airleaf in January of last year and has been operating without any Better Business Bureau negative reports that you all are jumping the gun and crucifying the guy before you even give him a chance. It's easy to jump on the bandwagon to obliterate a person and their business, but have you considered that perhaps you should wait for complaints before you become prejudiced? I think that unless you have tangible proof that he is running his business the same as Carl Lau (who has a multitude of complaints, including myself), or has legitimate complaints against his company which show illegal activity that you are bordering on libel with these inflammatory comments. I don't believe any one of us would welcome this type of prejudice as we've all had behaviors in our past for which we are not proud, but that doesn't give anyone the right to destroy anyone's life. My name is Mary Ann Rosser and I hope you'll click the link to see my saga with Airleaf, and then with Mr. Jones at www.kinshipministries.bravehost.com .

Victoria Strauss said...

A note of correction: Brien Jones has written me to say that he was not Airleaf's CEO, but its Vice-President.