Friday, November 18, 2011

Alert: Light Sword Publishing, a.k.a. LSP Digital, Returns

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

In July of 2008, I blogged about Light Sword Publishing, a.k.a. LSP Digital, about which Writer Beware had received a substantial number of complaints (delays, nonpayment of royalties, unprofessional behavior,  misrepresentation of the company's expertise and capabilities). For examples, see the Light Sword Publishing thread at Absolute Write, and also the comments thread of my blog post.

LSP was sued in 2007 by one of its authors, alleging breach of contract, fraud in the inducement, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The author prevailed: in April 2008, default judgments totaling more than $30,000 were entered against Light Sword Publishing and Light Sword's then-owners, Bonnie Kirby and Linda Daly. (The judgments were later declared non-dischargeable and dismissed.)

The judgments (and my blog post) occasioned quite a bit of discussion, and in May or June 2008, in time-honored dodgy-publisher style, Daly changed Light Sword Publishing's name to LSP Digital. It doesn't seem to have helped. December 2008, Linda Daly and Light Sword Publishing filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy petitions with the US Bankruptcy Court in the Eastern District of Michigan. By March 2010, the bankruptcy trustee had decided to abandon assets and close the file; and in June 2010, Daly was granted a discharge.



Daly's bankruptcy petition made no mention of LSP Digital, which remained open to submissions and continued to do business well into the bankruptcy proceedings, using Light Sword Publishing's URL (here's a snapshot from May 2009, courtesy of the Internet Archive). That URL lapsed in 2009 or 2010--but Daly had registered a new URL in late 2008, and LSP Digital was active at that URL as late as February 2011. At some point, though, it too disappeared. It looked as if Daly and LSP Digital were gone for good.

Wrong. Daly and LSP are back, with a new website that includes many of the same books (apparently, when the bankruptcy trustee decided to abandon assets, he didn't order return of rights to authors) as well as a new line called Coffee Break Reads. Naturally, the website--which blandly proclaims that LSP is "A publisher who believes in timeless tradition, using modern technology"--gives no hint of LSP's or Daly's earlier troubles.

LSP Digital will re-open to submissions in January 2012.

Here's one of the important evaluation tips on Writer Beware's new Small Presses page:
- Are there any complaints about the press or its staff?

Do some research to find out. A websearch on the publisher’s name will sometimes turn up information–often on authors’ websites or in their blogs. Or contact Writer Beware. We’ll tell you if we’ve gotten any negative reports.

Don’t skip this step. Some small presses that fail under one name start up again almost immediately under another; and staff who leave under questionable circumstances may start their own publishing enterprises....It’s a very, very good idea to do some digging into a small press’s business background so you can be reasonably sure it doesn’t have a seamy past.
The re-launch of LSP Digital is a prime example of why this is so important.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your attention to this kind of activity and for reporting on it.

Lane H. said...

"LSP Digital, LLC was formed so that our authors can COMPETE in todays COMPETITIVE market..." (caps mine)

You have to respect that wording, though!

Victoria Strauss said...

Lee Goldberg has also blogged about LSP Digital's rise from the dead. He caught something I didn't: there will be editing charges for LSP's new line, Coffee Break Reads. From LSP's website:

During the submission read-through process, we will determine the need for further editing, and while LSPD will not provide editing service on these reads, we will provide you with names of editors familiar with LSPD format. These editors are professionals and usually charge on average $3.00 per page. This is a one-time fee for a one-time edit, but it's well worth it, and you will be working with these editors one-on-one and completely separate from LSPD.

Mac H said...

How can LSP be offering some of the same books?

It doesn't have any contracts with those authors (the previous company does) or licenses (the previous company did).

Why did some of the assets of the previous company (copyright/license agreements/whatever) not go the creditors?

This is a genuine question - I'm not implying that they did anything wrong .. just trying to understand things.

BuffySquirrel said...

oh lordy

Morgen said...

I'm in process of publishing a new work, and I'm using the POD model. A small press or POD history would be helpful, too. Some of these folks can be quite unsavory...

Anonymous said...

In 2008, when the original Light Sword was about to go under and Ms. Daly and Ms. Kirby had both already been sued civilly, Ms. Daly (Ms. Kirby was long gone by then) sent a letter and a new contract to all of the authors under contract to her at Light Sword. She claimed she was changing the name of the company to LSP Digital as the reason she needed new contracts signed (and she gave a time limit, which seems to support that she needed this done in a hurry for her own questionable purposes). It appears that she was actually vacating the original contracts and moving those assets to another company in order to, in my opinion (and this is STRICTLY MY OPINION), hide them from the bankruptcy court. I don't know if the effort worked or not, but I suspect it did.

Hiding assets in a federal bankruptcy filing is a felony, but the court clearly accepted that Daly was insolvent by vacating the original judgements, so these poorly edited, badly written books probably didn't mean anything to the court, anyway. Her 'authors' all hoisted a glass of 'Honistee, Ain't it Grand' punch, and signed, continuing their hippity-hoppity stroll down the yellow brick road.

At one time I felt so sorry for these people, but I don't anymore. This woman has been outed, not only by her own behavior but by her horrible writing, too, time and again. These writers are just as bad and so are the people who've aligned themselves with this company in other capacities. All they're doing by their presence is helping to gull the unsuspecting into signing a contract with this fraud.

Lee Goldberg said...

That's very true. At least three former Light Sword writers continue to sip the Daly Kool-Aid by writing fake reviews for her books.

Here's the skinny...

Daly has published a half-a-dozen of her own novels on Amazon. Each of her books has garnered two or three five star Amazon reviews...but each one is from an author she has published. Naturally, none of those authors disclose in their reviews that Daly is their publisher.

Micki Peluso is one of those authors who left rave reviews on Daly's books and when I called her on her blatant and undisclosed conflict-of-interest, this was her rationalization:

I would think as a "professional" writer, you would realize that reviews posted on amazon are by customers , not readers and do not qualify as true book reviews, nor does the famous "five stars" mean anything, except to boost the morale of a newly published writer.

Truly astonishing, isn't it?

Authors like her have turned what was supposed to be a forum for honest reader reviews into one big, pathetic circle jerk....just so they can delude themselves into believing that their awful books are good and maybe trick someone who isn't a member of their family into buying their unreadable swill.

I wish this was an isolated, pathetic incident. But it's not.

It's common on places like the writer forums on Kindleboards to see wanna-bes offering to give five-star reviews to other wanna-be in return for five-star reviews of their own work. In the process, these authors don't see that they are totally diminishing the value of the Amazon reviews that they so desperately seek and that they are making it impossible for potential customers to believe that any reader reviews are authentic.

You can make a tiny difference. Mark the fake Amazon reviews on Rebel Dove, Sea of Lies, and Doves Migration as unhelpful. Maybe Linda Daly and wrong-headed authors like Micki Peluso, Stacie Coller, and Patricia Guthrie will begin to get the point that readers don't appreciate lies and deception.

sarahjoyliteraryagent said...

Thanks for writing about this. It's not nice when publishing companies do mean things and take advantage of well-meaning authors.

Victoria Strauss said...

Correcting the bad link to Lee Goldberg's post.

Deb said...

I cyber-know Micki, so I have to take exception to Lee's comment that her reviews are a scam.

Micki is a well meaning sort who might genuinely have liked Ms. Daly's books (anything is possible) and felt as though she wanted to post a review of them. I wouldn't impute negative motives to her, though it might be true for some of the others.

Lee Goldberg said...

Deb,

Here's how I cyber-know Micki: she has reviewed 11 books on Amazon...9 of them five-star reviews for her fellow Light Sword authors (she doesn't disclose her conflict of interest in any of those reviews, btw).

Those stats, the dishonesty of not disclosing her bias in those reviews, plus her stated view that "reviews posted on amazon are by customers , not readers and do not qualify as true book reviews, nor does the famous 'five stars' mean anything, except to boost the morale of a newly published writer" says it all.

She is abusing the Amazon Review feature to "boost the morale" of her friends and trick readers into buying lousy books that aren't good enough to earn legitimate, five-star reviews from genuine customers.

Lee

Deb said...

Lee, point taken -- but I cannot believe Micki did something very disreputable here. For all I know, Ms. Daly insisted the authors who published there give five star reviews to all the other Limp Sword books.

I ordered Micki's book when it first came out. Let's just say it wasn't "as advertised". I never ordered another of their titles.

Lee Goldberg said...

Micki has since removed her reviews from Linda's books...but not the other Lightsword/LSP titles she praised.

Anonymous said...

I suspect the posts were removed in order to likewise remove the comments posted in their regard. Otherwise, it seems to me that Ms. Peluso would have removed all of her reviews.

I smell Ms. Daly's clumsy fingers here. She no doubt told Ms. Peluso to take her reviews down.

Iola said...

I was happily browsing through the Amazon discussions when an interesting discussion caught my eye - apparently, new publisher Silver Knight Publishing, is actively seeking submissions. More information can be found on their website, http://www.silverknightpublishing.com/index.php/faqs/.

Have I been reading Writer Beware! too long, or is this fishy? No, they are not asking for money and yes, they do claim to pay royalties. But there is more information on my blog than on their website, and would a reputable publisher really advertise on the Amazon discussion boards?

Iola said...

Deb sys "I cannot believe Micki did something very disreputable here. For all I know, Ms. Daly insisted the authors who published there give five star reviews to all the other Limp Sword books."

Amazon's Terms of Service and Review Guidelines specifically state that you cannot review a book you have any financial interest in. If a publisher (Ms Daly) is 'insisting' that authors published by her company give five-star reviews to other authors published by her company, this is a clear breach of Amazon's rules.

And if the connection (like getting a free book or being published by the same publisher) is not disclosed, not only is it disreputable, but it might be against FTC regulations, making it illegal as well.

I love the comment about five star reviews. I'll be sure to quote that next time I see an author moaning that they only got a three-star review.