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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.

32 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...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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!!

j said...

I did sign a contract with them and I wasn't asked for money nor did I see any clauses in the contract asking for money. I did put a lot of stock in the fact their parent company, Creators Syndicate, has been around for thirty years. I bought a book from one of their authors and enjoyed it. I had previously been with Lulu and they wanted a small fortune. Now this has only been a little over two months ago so I am still waiting for the copy editing to be done. So I am still feeling the process out.

Anonymous said...

There has been much said about the scandalous and highly unprofessional behavior of Alan Leddon of Caliburn Press, Siento Sordida and Damnation, Eternal Press, etc. In my opinion, it is all true. as someone who was very close to the heart of the company I must say that in my opinion, that Alan Leddon as well as his "Partner" Bekki Leddon are in no way capable of running a publishing company, as was evidenced by the money hemorrhaging from the company from the moment they took the above named publishing companies on. There is excuse for the unrealistic promises made by the Leddons, pertaining to paying both the authors, artists as well as the "Staff". I know of at least three core staff members who had their positions grossly misrepresented to them and then, insult to injury, were later blamed by the Leddons for their own mismanagement of the company and funds...and these poor slobs never saw a dime in compensation!

Those editors that were not holdovers from Damnation and Eternal were hired from Mr. Leddons' vast bank of friends made on social media, most of whom he never even met and many of whom were all but illiterate. It seems that hiring friends was more important than hiring qualified actual editors. Often, people were added to the company because Alan Leddon felt he could "Suck some money out of them" and if that proved untrue, they were just as easily dumped, which accounts for the extremely high staff turnover. Authors were seldom told the truth about how their manuscripts were being (mis)handled and sometimes Authors did not even know that editing had occurred until their hard work was put up for sale, with many errors still intact, as a result of poor or non-existing editing!

The fact is, Alan Leddon and Bekki Leddon are small-time swindlers, but no matter the size, there is no excuse for the poor treatment and likely criminal mishandling of funds that occurred. The piteous Go Fund Me campaign only reinforces the widely held belief that the Caliburn owners are just crooks, trying to crawl their way up by stepping on others and lying about whatever suits them, whenever they feel it will suit their needs. To authors, and anyone considering any kind of business relationship with these folks, I say "Beware, indeed!"

Anonymous said...

As of July '17, complaints are exploding on Alan Leddon's Yahoo group page. People are demanding answers as to when their books will be published and when authors will be paid. Leddon places the blame on others, of course, claiming many have quit, and oh well, what can he do? It's obvious why people have jumped ship. He doesn't pay his staff. He doesn't pay his authors.

He also claims he has little time to tend to the matters of his company, but to add insult to injury, that didn't stop the jerk from describing the stress-free vacation he just took to Alabama or the fact that he's planning on publishing new anthologies. Really? Publish new books, he says! He hasn't gotten rid of the 2-4 year backlog he's accumulated.

How in the world does this joker remain operational? Why are people foolish enough to embrace lie after lie after lie?

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 7/13,

Thanks for your comment. I'd like to update my post to reflect new complaints, but the Yahoo group is private. Any chance you could send me some screenshots? All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence.

Anonymous said...

Here is the latest from Alan Leddon, though a repeat of the same spiel he keeps posting on Yahoo. Mind you, this is from a man who has not printed any novels for any of his writers in more than a year and has not paid any of them, either. He did not even bother to change the dates of projected, anthology publication in his irritating loop. I wonder if he wishes to add insult to injury with this nonsense, Meanwhile, those who have been waiting continue to wait.

(From Leddon...)

Once the backlog is cleared, I'd like to have a go at publishing some anthologies. I want to start out with 4.

1> "Satyrical Tales 1" for Spero Publishing. Each story must include at least one satyr that figures prominently. Actions and behavior should be consistent with satyrs from Greek mythology. Other critters are welcome.

2> "Faerie Tales 1" for Spero Publishing. Each story must include at least one Fae or similar entity from any cultural mythology from around the world. Actions and behavior should be consistent with the entity's mythology. Please email me at ceo*@*caliburn*press*com to receive a list of such creatures.

3> "Work Tales 1" for Melliferia Press. Each story should involve the protagonist being at work and solving some puzzle or problem that is likely to occur at their job.

4> "High School Tales 1" for Melliferia Press. Each story should involve the protagonist being a teacher or student in a high school, solving high school style problems. Switching classes should appear in the story.

Now, for all four:

a> Please write it for an audience that will include young adults.
b> Word count is 5,000 to 15,000, with 10k considered optimal.
c>Earliest acceptance date will be July 1st.
d>Latest acceptance date will be September 30th.
e>Tentative publication date is January 21st, 2017
f>Ten stories will be chosen for each anthology.
g>Each story chosen will receive 6% of the anthology's net income. An author may be paid for multiple stories in the same book.
h>Stories that are not accepted for these anthologies may be placed in a fifth one, at our sole option.
i>Accepted stories may be run in The Spirit e-zine, at our sole option, to promote the anthologies. No extra payment will be made for this.
j>An eleventh or twelfth story may be included in each anthology if needed to bring the word count over 100,000.
k>I'm looking forward to reading what you come up with.

You'll see this reminder every month.

Alan Leddon said...

I just terminated the autopost that keeps putting this up.
Since you are on the Author's list, you might also be aware that we had a little setback with one of our distributors? I haven't been secretive about that. There have, however, been new publications, as a visit to Amazon will show you.
Why not contact me directly?

Alan Leddon said...

See below

People are demanding answers as to when their books will be published and when authors will be paid.
---Really? Haven't I answered this over 30 times? Can you provide something more concrete...like a screenshot?

Leddon places the blame on others, of course, claiming many have quit, and oh well, what can he do? It's obvious why people have jumped ship. He doesn't pay his staff. He doesn't pay his authors.
----I fired the problem in payroll. Not one founded complaint has come in since I took it overpersonally.

He also claims he has little time to tend to the matters of his company,
---Screenshot?

but to add insult to injury, that didn't stop the jerk from describing the stress-free vacation he just took to Alabama
---you mean when my aunt paid for me to go to my grandmother's deathbed?

or the fact that he's planning on publishing new anthologies. Really? Publish new books, he says! He hasn't gotten rid of the 2-4 year backlog he's accumulated.
---That I accumulated? What happened to the five-year backlog that I was handed? The anthologies were an idea to get more income to multiple authors (and my partners) more quickly.


How in the world does this joker remain operational? Why are people foolish enough to embrace lie after lie after lie?
--I stay operational because I work with people who communicate with me. And I really do try to do the right thing. Did you ever mention my assigning of an Author's rep, with the authors agreeing to my choice? Bet you didn't.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing new in Alan Leddon's post of November 2 that he hasn't been saying all along. Excuse after excuse. And it's odd how he keeps claiming that others are to blame, claiming the one(s) responsible have now been fired, and he has taken over whatever function within the company and things will be all better now. He has been telling anxious authors this exact same thing ever since he took over Damnation Books, and the wording of his excuses doesn't even vary much. I feel sorry for the authors who staked their careers on his empty promises. They deserve better.

Anonymous said...

Wow, oh wow! It appears that Horror Zine is also planning to expose Leddon. After reading his laughable statements of defense, several of us are anxious to see what this source has to say when it's eventually posted:

http://www.thehorrorzine.com/BewarePage.html.

Anonymous said...

Several of us just checked the Yahoo Group to give Mr. Leddon his screen-shot request(s), only to find the group isn't available, or is it we've been blocked? How convenient. To say the least, we are not surprised. More of the same nonsense from the King of Repetitive Lies.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, have been hearing from a number of folks over the past week about Alan Leddon and Caliburn, which is why I visited the postings here. Though I haven't had contact with Leddon for quite some time, I'm not at all surprised by the problems that persist.

The bottom line: Caliburn and its related company titles amount to nothing more than a hollow pursuit. Leddon's company exists only in its various names. Nothing is being published by Leddon or his wife, and therefore, one can't consider his company valid. It's as basic as that.

I feel real bad for those who are still waiting for their books to be published. Sorry, folks, but it's not going to happen. The best you can do is move on and find someone legit who appreciates your work and is willing to put it in print.

As for Leddon, one can only hope he finds the decency to end his charade.

Hey, Alan: You bit off more than you can chew, man. It's over. To more or less quote Judge Judy, stop pissing on people's legs and telling them it's raining. Too many people are wise to you now and it's only right to be honest with those still starry-eyed enough to hang on. Show some compassion. Stop this foolishness, okay? You're building up some really bad karma.

Victoria Strauss said...

I encourage any authors who have issues to report with Caliburn Press to contact me, preferably with documentation: beware@sfwa.org. All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence.

Alan Leddon said...

Anonymous said...
Several of us just checked the Yahoo Group to give Mr. Leddon his screen-shot request(s), only to find the group isn't available, or is it we've been blocked? How convenient. To say the least, we are not surprised. More of the same nonsense from the King of Repetitive Lies.

Funny...if you are anonymous, how could I possibly know who to block? You could read my message board until I asked you for statements from it. Very convenient. You posted at 11/09/2017 at 7:14.
Here's mine at Friday, November 10, 2017 2:23 PM:http://tinyurl.com/ydacnswh
I'll be adding a few more items there, too.
If you have ANY problem with the link, contact me at ceo@caliburnpress.com and I will get you into the page.

Anonymous said...

It seems you're blocking a number of people in your paranoia, particularly those who've worked directly with you. Savor that hint, sir, and again, have the decency to do right by those authors who haven't been published to date by you. If you want to improve your status, publish! If you want to prove people wrong, then do your job. Don't waste everyone's time with lame excuses.

Anonymous said...

Here's a way to keep folks quiet for a spell. Let's see Caliburn publish one book this week and put it for sale on Amazon. Then follow up on that with another book the following week. That's not such a hard thing to accomplish if a particular publisher is on the level.

Anonymous said...

Here's an even better option for Mr. Leddon: He can list all the titles he has published since taking over the company. If there are too many (ha, ha), maybe he can send us a link to a list, so we can enjoy the evidence of his efforts.

 
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