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December 1, 2016

Small Press Storm Warnings: Torquere Press, Caliburn Press, Month9Books

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware


This post has been updated.

A roundup of publishers about which I've recently received serious complaints (all of them documented).

TORQUERE PRESS

At the end of 2014, the founders of Torquere Press--a well-regarded small publisher established in 2003--turned the company over to new co-owners: Kristi Boulware and Joanna Talbot.

Before the change in leadership, Torquere had been trouble-free (or at least, not generating author complaints). It didn't take long for that to change. In early 2016, a little more than a year after the new owners took over, reports began surfacing of royalty payment problems. More reports showed up over the summer, even as Torquere participated in Twitter pitch contests to find new manuscripts. Also during the summer, Kristi Boulware was arrested on a hot check charge, allegedly after payment to one author bounced(UPDATE: the charge was dismissed on December 13 after Boulware posted a cash bond of $10,150.50.)

In an early September email to authors, Boulware admitted that Torquere was suffering "financial setbacks since losing several of our top-selling authors." Funds were "the lowest they've ever been" and the company was "trying to obtain some business funding to assist with meeting all of TP’s financial obligations." As of late September, things hadn't gotten better...but, per an update posted in the Torquere authors' Yahoo group, "We are staying positive and will be sending out at least partial payments as we are able to."

Those payments never showed up, according to multiple complaints received by Writer Beware (allegedly, Torquere owes one author more than $18,000). In November, communication stopped completely, with neither Boulware nor Talbot answering emails or responding to Facebook messages from authors asking about money owed or seeking rights reversions (Torquere apparently has responded to some reversion requests, but ignoring others). Both co-owners also have removed "Torquere" from their Twitter handles and bios. No matter how you look at it, that's not a good sign.

Meanwhile, Torquere remains open for submissions, with active anthology submission calls. Given the serious and apparently escalating problems at Torquere, I'd advise authors to stay away.

UPDATE 12/13/16: Torquere is closing. They promise rights reversions but are vague on when (or if) writers and staff will be paid. Details in my followup blog post.

CALIBURN PRESS

Caliburn Press consists of seven imprints. Only three appear to have actually published any books--including Damnation Books and Eternal Press, which Alan Leddon, then of Spero Publishing, acquired from former owner Kim Richards Gilchrist in 2015. Leddon then consolidated Damnation and Eternal with his other imprints under the Caliburn name.

Damnation/Eternal was a problem company. Writer Beware received many complaints about its lack of professionalism, with authors citing poor editing, minimal marketing, uncompetitive pricing, and, late in Gilchrist's ownership of the company, missing royalty statements and payments. Damnation's contract paid royalties on net profit, and imposed huge early termination fees--both red flags that I've warned about repeatedly on this blog.

I posted a warning about Damnation in 2013 after one author sued the company for inserting hundreds of errors into her published book and refusing to publish a corrected version. Here's another author who had to take legal action. And the Damnation Books thread at Absolute Write is loaded with complaints.

(Gilchrist couldn't be faulted for ambition. In 2010, with much fanfare, she and her husband took over long-running speculative fiction magazine Realms of Fantasy. In less than a year, they drove it into the ground,)

When Gilchrist unloaded Damnation/Eternal in September 2015, authors were hopeful that Alan Leddon would make a good-faith effort to fix the problems. Unfortunately, the situation only seem to have gotten worse. In early 2016, Writer Beware started getting familiar-sounding complaints of non-payment--not just from authors this time, but from staff. Other complaints included repeatedly-delayed publication dates, bad editing, high staff turnover, poor financial management (in an April email to authors, Leddon denied embezzling funds, but admitted that "some money is missing from business accounts"). To authors' fury, Leddon also attempted to expand the net profit royalty calculation in Damnation/Eternal contracts to enable him to deduct not just printing costs, but also cover art, ISBNs, copyright registration, and a raft of other expenses.

In April (the same month Leddon felt he had to deny embezzling company money), gobsmacked Caliburn authors got a solicitation to contribute a GoFundMe campaign set up by Leddon, through which he hoped to establish a brick-and-mortar "spiritual bookstore" where, among other items, their books would be sold. In a maybe-too-candid description of the campaign, Leddon revealed that he was "living on government benefits and an occasional few dollars from the publishing company that I started five years ago" and admitted to "years of my publishing company making less per quarter than the cost of a tank of gas". Not very reassuring for all the authors who had hoped their new boss had the resources and expertise to turn things around.

As of this writing, complaints continue to come in. Caliburn Press is still open to submissions. Writer beware.

MONTH9BOOKS


Last July, I wrote a long post on the troubles at Month9Books, which had just scaled back its author list amid multiple complaints of lack of payment (for staff as well as authors), delayed publication dates, broken marketing promises, overcrowded publication schedules, communications breakdowns, problems with royalty accounting, and alleged harsh treatment and/or bullying by Month9 owner Georgia McBride.

McBride pledged to work on the problems and make Month9 great again (sorry, couldn't resist). Unfortunately, Writer Beware is still hearing from authors who say they haven't been paid, haven't received royalty statements (or have received strange or incorrect ones), and have been on the receiving end of angry responses from McBride.

Two Month9 authors have filed suit against the company, alleging nonpayment and seeking return of the rights to their books.

Despite these issues, and the fact that overstuffing its publication list was a major source of its troubles, Month9 continues to acquire titles. Writer beware, again.

16 comments :

K. L. Hallam said...

Wow, as an author who had their book cancelled by M9 (thankfully I have my rights back!) I'm astounded.
The pain from this experience has left me wretched and still recovering.

Allen F said...

Many thanks for the warnings and glad to see you back. ;-)

Regina Paul said...

I'm a former Eternal Press author and can say without hesitation that the only time my books did well and royalties were paid faithfully and correctly were when it was owned by Ally Robertson. I wrote about my experiences with owner Kim Richardson and the new owner Alan Leddon on my blog/website, here are the links if anyone wants more proof: http://www.reginapaul.com/2015/11/spero-publishing-has-merged-with.html
http://www.reginapaul.com/2015/12/update-to-spero-publishing-has-merged.html

Regina Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rod Raglin said...

Just sent out another submission package that not only included my manuscript but also a detailed marketing plan and reader analysis. Just what do these publishers do for their percentage? Is it any wonder why more and more authors are self-publishing?

Of course, self-publishing has it's scammers as well including all those book launch and marketing pros.

I uploaded my work to Authors.me https://www.authors.me only to find that of the 15 publisher and agency "matches" they found for one of my novels:
- 2 sites "the page does not exist",
- 2 sites were without a doubt pay for play - called hybrid but are nothing more than vanity press.
- 2 sites were duplicated equaling four sites
- 2 sites were not accepting my genre
- 1 site claimed "we deliver stories in an easy-to-engage format that combines prose fiction, stunning visuals, and dramatic audio." Huh?

So sixty percent actually didn't match, didn't even exist or wanted me to pay to publish my book. Of the others, they were accepting “adult romantic fiction”, not specifically my novel.

Frustrating?

C. Austin said...

Have you come across Creators Publishing in your research? I found them in a database of small presses published by Poets and Writers online. I've had an offer from them but there are NO online reviews of their company.

Anonymous said...

I write for Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing. You can register with your state as a corporation and get tax breaks for self-publication. Amazon has never been late with my royalty payments.

Anonymous said...

I'm an author that is dealing with this now on Month9's imprint Swoon Romance.

Anonymous said...

Caliburn is a sham! Missing money 'embezzled' that CEO claims wasn't then later said it was and he had a plan to put it all back. Editors claim this place is the lowest paying editing jobs they've had. Some Authors have been waiting over 4 years to get published. He has the cover art and editing done right away and then leaves you hanging. Then when you try to get out, he says you have to pay the editor and artist even though you are not using them (covers specifically). He blocks people from the Yahoo group if they give him trouble and sends nasty posts PUBLICALLY on there about people questioning him. Lately, he claimed his main email address for him and the company has 'not been working for some time now'. This is his way of ignoring people. When people work for him and see him for who he is, he threatens them and they quit. The turnover rate is spinning and he always refers you to someone else that may or may not even exist. STAY AWAY FROM CALIBURN, SPERO OR SORDITA (spelling) Publishing as they are all his. I have his home address if anyone would like it.

Anonymous said...

Month9Books editor Georgia McBride spends her time bullying us in emails and refusing to pay us our book royalties. I have author friends who were never paid and bullied into reverting their rights. Signing with the Georgia McBride group was the worst decision I've made. I'm still with them and hoping to get out soon.

Fantasy Floozie- Kenya Wright said...

I signed with Swoon Romance several years ago. I'm currently seeking legal council due to a disagreement on IF I should get my past royalty payments for five novels. . .

Before that, I didn't have too many problems with Swoon Romance, although other authors would always contact me and complain about the group. I'm pretty disappointed and shocked that it's so many authors in Month9Books and Swoon Romance that are complaining about the same treatment.

Thanks for having this blog and keep the information out there for future writers who are looking to submit to publishers.

Anonymous said...

Alan Leddon is a con man, and Caliburn a fake publishing unit. It's as simple as that. Leddon's game is not to publish, but rather to get you frustrated enough to want to buy back your rights, but oh, there's a catch. You have to pay for editing and artwork that was done, and incidentally, he doesn't pay his editors or artists! That's a whole other outrageous matter that's only recently come to light.

If you review his Yahoo Group page, you'll see loads of excuses from him, though some look disjointed because it appears he deletes those comments that expose him.

Stay as far away from this character as you can. He may be the worst in the business at this point, and his shady image is only about to hit higher heights. I wonder how much longer he can keep up the charade.

j said...

I recently signed with Creators and will keep you posted. I spoke with one of their senior editors. She said they are an imprint of a larger company appearing to be highly respectable but yes that made me anxious as well. That's how I found your post. Not finding a whole lot.

Victoria Strauss said...

Looking at the Creators Publishing website, it looks to me like a self-publishing service rather than a publisher, which makes me suspect that fees are involved, though the website makes no mention of this. Cover are unprofessional-looking, and distribution looks to be self-pub standard (i.e., Amazon, etc., online only).

Anonymous said...

Looks like Alan Leddon of Spero Publishing is now reaching out to authors individually to say that he plans to pay them money that Lulu, his distributor, has either stolen or failed to report. This is similar to his claim that he would pay back funds that were evidently embezzled by either him or someone in his company and of course, he never made good on that promise. The hunch among those he's contacted is that Leddon may have been caught with his hand in the cookie jar again and is placing blame on Lulu to deflect suspicions of his wrongdoing. This is further proof that this guy is bad news. If one must deal with him, please be careful. In other words, BEWARE!!!

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 1/15 (or any other Spero/Caliburn author),

Could you please forward me any emails you're receiving from Alan Leddon? beware [at] sfwa.org . All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence. Thanks!!

 
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