Since putting this post online, I've received dozens of questions about whether there's a class action lawsuit against Tate. To my knowledge, the answer currently is no. I don't think that's the best option, anyway, because given all the complaints by authors and staff of non-payment, I'm guessing that Tate has few resources to tap for reparations.
Instead, I'd strongly encourage authors to file complaints with the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office and with the FBI. Individual complaints don't usually spur action, but a volume of them may, especially if they are received over a short period of time. The Oklahoma AG has already received 155 complaints about Tate.
File a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office
Contact the FBI field office in Oklahoma City
This is a developing situation; see the updates at the bottom of this post.
It's hard times lately for "America's Top Publisher," a.k.a. Tate Publishing & Enterprises, a.k.a. one of America's most prolific vanity publishers.
Tate has been on Writer Beware's Thumbs Down Publishers List since the list was created. Not just because it charges enormous fees (an initial $3,990, with the option of paying hundreds or even thousands more for extras such as video trailers, custom websites, self-ordered books, and the like), but because it presents itself as a "mainline publishing organization" and doesn't reveal its fees anywhere on its website or in its promotional videos.
In fact, Tate's website specifically promises that authors do not have to pay to publish: "Tate Publishing does not charge a fee for publishing and absorbs all the cost of production and distribution of a book." But this is classic vanity publisher doublespeak. Deeper into the submission process, when Tate finally gets around to asking authors to pull out their credit cards, they are told that the money is for a publicist.
Clearly, Tate wants authors to assume that it's as traditional as traditional can be. And they do. Writer Beware has gotten hundreds of questions and reports from authors who approached Tate in the belief that it was not a vanity publisher.
We've also heard from many Tate authors who don't feel their money was well spent--and we aren't alone. In 2015, Tate was the second most complained-about company to the Oklahoma attorney general. Many more complaints--not just about Tate Publishing, but about its vanity recording subsidiary, Tate Music Group--can be found online. They make for terrifying reading--bad editing, shoddy production, constant staff turnover, books ordered and paid for but never received, delayed pub dates, non-payment of royalties, "marketing" that mostly consists of urging writers to buy their own books...the list goes on
The Better Business Bureau, which as of this writing has logged 134 complaints over the past three years, yanked Tate's accreditation earlier this year.
That's a lot of chickens, and they are now coming home to roost. This past May, Xerox Corporation filed a $1.7 million lawsuit (since increased to $1.89 million) against Tate, alleging defaults on service agreements and promissory note payments, and seeking re-possession of $450,000 in leased equipment. Tate has not had good luck with its attorneys in the case; the first withdrew in September, saying he was retiring, and the second is also seeking to withdraw, in part, apparently, because Tate hasn't paid him. (Maybe that's why Ryan Tate never got around to filing his promised counter-suit against Xerox.)
The Xerox lawsuit spurred layoffs from Tate's printing plant, even before Xerox began re-possessing its equipment in late July. And that's not all. Tate is facing at least four additional legal actions: a lawsuit by an author who claims that she paid over $12,000 for a book that was published full of errors (twice); a petition by a musician suing over copyright laws (a customer of Tate Music Group, which also runs on a vanity model); a claim by memorabilia manufacturer Jostens, which alleges that Tate owes it more than $13,000; and another by the property company that leases Tate its print shop (vacant now that Xerox has re-possessed its equipment), which alleges that Tate owes nearly $20,000 in rent.
If that weren't enough, Tate's employment practices are being investigated by the Department of Labor. (Some employees say that they were threatened and "coached on what to say" by CEO Ryan Tate before Labor Department investigators came to interview them; this would not be the first time that Ryan Tate has threatened employees.) And per an (uneverified) comment on one of my previous posts about Tate, Tate may recently have been evicted from its offices.
Are these the straws that broke the camel's back? Has Tate reached its very own End Times? Either way, it's not looking good for "America's Top [Vanity] Publisher."
Predictably, the honchos at Tate are pretending nothing's wrong. “There are a lot of issues that probably would be a little more important for you or your news agency or any news agency to deal with," company founder Richard Tate told local news station KFOR, "other than the fact that our company is doing a great job.”
Hmmm. I think some Tate authors would disagree.
Watch this space.
UPDATE 12/22/16: I'm getting a flood of emails and comments not just from Tate authors, but from Tate staffers in the Philippines (you can see some of the comments below). Here's what I'm hearing.
- Apparently Tate's Philippine workforce once numbered close to 1,000, but massive dismissals have seriously reduced this. The consensus seems to be that around 80% of staff have lost their jobs since October.
- Unpaid or part-paid salaries and bonuses; apparently corporate headquarters in the USA hasn't been wiring enough money to cover payroll.
- Staff complaints filed with the local Labor Department, citing salary disputes and dismissals without the required 30-day notice.
- Production halts and slowdowns have put books in limbo, since there's no longer sufficient staff to work on them.
- Resignation of high-level corporate staff in the US.
- Silence on these issues from corporate headquarters.
The Philippine staffers I've heard from are convinced that Tate can't survive much longer. Several have told me that they suspect that the Tates are shifting assets to a new company called Lux Creative Concepts LLC, which was registered in February 2016 by Ryan Tate's wife, Christy Kelley-Tate.
UPDATE 1/10/17: From the comments on one of my previous posts about Tate, today--I stress that this is unconfirmed. [UPDATE:: at least one Tate author has received an email from Tate's marketing department confirming the closure]
"Tate Publishing has officially shut down their business in the Philippines today. Their main office in Cebu has been locked up by the Department of Labor and the owner of the building due to non-payment of the rent."
UPDATE 1/11/17: And another:
"I'm an ex-employee of Tate, and we were just at the Cebu office yesterday. Today is the the last day that the office is open, mainly for HR to furnish ex-employees with certificates of employment and other documents. The Department of Labor has officially ceased all operations and is taking stock of the company's physical assets.
We have been informed that, as of this writing, there is no official directive or announcement from the Tates that the company is closing or declaring bankruptcy."
UPDATE 1/12/17: More on the Philippines debacle from an Oklahoma-based blog that has published a lot of articles about Tate's shenanigans. A former Tate staffer in Tate's now-closed Cebu offices describes partial payment of salaries, non-payment of government-mandated bonuses, and other problems dating back months.
I've received many similar emails from Cebu staffers, one of whom shared with me the Department of Labor notice resulting from a compliance visit to Tate's Cebu offices on January 9. Findings:
UPDATE 1/14/17: Some Tate authors report receiving an email signed by Tate's Director of Production, Tim Kelley, claiming that Ryan Tate hasn't paid employees and "your book will never be finished." This email was reportedly followed, within a couple of days, by another email claiming that the first email was the result of "identity theft" and its allegations aren't true.
Meanwhile, Tate authors are receiving this, also--apparently--from Tim Kelley:
Things are fine, folks, just fine. Never mind the mass layoffs of employees. Never mind the lack of payment and non-communication. It's all just a transition.
I'd love to hear from Tate authors who sign up for the portal. Have you received any results from your "new support ticket"?
UPDATE 1/16/17: There's now a forum for Tate authors to share experiences and support: Tate Publishing Help.
UPDATE 1/18/17: The Xerox lawsuit goes to court on Friday.
"Meanwhile, it was unclear Tuesday who is representing Tate Publishing in the case. The firm's attorney when the lawsuit initially was filed was Richard L. Hasley, of Oklahoma City. But in September, an order was granted allowing Hasley to withdraw from the case, as he was retiring.
Hasley was replaced by George H. Ramey and William D. Tharp, of Ramey & Tharp in Yukon.
On Dec. 1, Ramey & Tharp submitted an application to withdraw from the case as Tate Publishing's representatives, as well, saying the Mustang publisher had failed to meet its financial obligations with the law firm."
And...uh oh. This is what you get at 12:53pm on January 18 when you click on Tate's website URL:
YET ANOTHER UPDATE, 1/18/17: I've now heard from several Tate authors and former US staffers that Tate closed down today. Two people have told me that it is considering a bankruptcy filing.
Remember how I mentioned suspicions that Tate was shifting assets to a new company called Lux Creative Concepts, LLC, registered last February in Oklahoma by Ryan Tate's wife, Christy Kelley-Tate? Well, get a load of this.
As many Tate authors know, Tate's Marketing Director is Terry Cordingley. Here's a screenshot, taken today, of Mr. Cordingley's Blogger profile; it identifies him as Tate's Associate Director of Marketing, a position he says he's held since 2006:
And here's a cut-and-paste, also taken today, of Mr. Cordingley's LinkedIn profile, which identifies him as the Director of Marketing for Lux Creative, a position he also says he's held since 2006:
Draw your own conclusions.
UPDATE 1/19/17: This was just posted to the Facebook page of The Lost Ogle, a blog that covers Oklahoma matters and has devoted a good number of posts to Tate:
I suspect most Tate authors will find that last paragraph bitterly ironic.Tate Publishing ClosesBy Traci Chapman
What looked like a fork in the road turned out to be the end of it for Mustang’s Tate Publishing this week, as it closed its doors for the last time.
The news came Wednesday, just days after Tate co-founders Dr. Richard Tate and Rita Tate announced a consolidation of the company’s operations – the shutdown of its Philippines office and layoff of 50 employees there and a new focus on the company’s home base in Oklahoma.
Tate’s Mustang office employed about 30 people as of Monday, Rita Tate said then....
One of Tate family members’ primary concerns during the planned restructuring, and then as they faced the closure of their company, remained the company’s approximately 35,000 authors, they said. Work to help those authors make other arrangements was already underway and would continue as Tate worked with its attorneys to complete the closure process.
ANOTHER UPDATE, 1/19/17: Tate's website now claims that it's "experiencing a transition period." There are links to click; if you do, you're taken to a release form requiring you to release Tate from legal liability and from providing "any refund or monetary compensation whatever." For authors whose books have already been published, there's the option of paying (!!!) a $50 "processing fee" to get final book-ready files.
LinkedIn profile. "I previously worked for Lux Creative Concepts as the Director of Marketing, assisting authors with marketing, promotion and publicity for their books. Prior to joining Lux, previously operating as Tate Publishing LLC..." (my bolding)
The bolded wording is interesting, because I've learned, via a former Tate employee, that Tate was issuing Lux Creative Concepts contracts simultaneously with Tate contracts during the final year of its existence. According to the employee, the Lux contracts cost a few hundred dollars more than the standard Tate contracts, and were for authors who wanted more media "extras".
I've also learned, via an article published yesterday in Oklahoma paper The Journal Record, that yet another lawsuit has been filed against Tate: this one by Lightning Source, to which Tate routed its printing business in June of last year (the complaint can be seen here).
Lightning Source, which alleges that Tate failed to pay for services rendered, is seeking $1.8 million: $722,000 (which it paid to Tate "for the exclusive rights to print and distribute at least five million, five hundred thousand (5,500,000) non-returned units of titles") plus an equal amount in damages, plus late charges. The lawsuit also names Ryan Tate, who signed a Personal Guaranty agreement by which he "absolutely and unconditionally guaranteed the full payment of all amounts due from Tate Publishing to Lightning Source".
The timeline here is...interesting. Tate signed the agreement with Lightning Source on June 28 of last year--after Xerox, from which it had been leasing printing equipment, filed suit against it for non-payment and threatened to re-possess its printing equipment. Tate was probably desperate for a cash infusion at that point; it's hard not to suspect that it knew, when it signed the Lightning Source agreement, that it wouldn't be able to pay. Also... $722,000 is a sizeable chunk of change. What happened to it?
As with the Xerox lawsuit (which is in court today), it's not clear who will be representing Tate, since both its previous lawyers resigned due to lack of payment.