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August 9, 2017

Lawsuits, Liens, and Lost URLs: The Latest on America Star Books / PublishAmerica

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware
This post was written in August 2017, and chronicles the abrupt disappearance of PublishAmerica/America Star Books. It has now been over six months since the company vanished. Writer Beware thinks it's safe to conclude that PA/ASB is permanently out of business.

Unfortunately, ASB didn't terminate contracts or return authors' rights. ASB books have vanished from all retailers' sites but Amazon, where they are still for sale, especially in Kindle editions.

Efforts to get law enforcement to look into the situation haven't been fruitful. Despite scores of complaints from ASB authors, many of whom paid for services that were never rendered, the Maryland Attorney General's Office considers the author-publisher relationship a business-to-business matter, and therefore not something their Consumer Protection Division is willing to investigate. The AG's criminal division hasn't even bothered to respond.

Currently, this is what Writer Beware is suggesting that ASB authors do (and keep in mind that we are not lawyers, so this isn't legal advice). As we see it, you have two options.

First, you can wait out the term of your contract. The one silver lining in this situation is that ASB contracts are time-limited, not life-of-copyright, ensuring that authors can get free if they are willing to wait.

Or, second, you can file copyright complaints with online retailers to try and get them to take down your book listings.

Amazon's copyright infringement reporting form is here: https://www.amazon.com/report/infringement. In the Additional Information box, state that ASB has gone out of business (you can mention that this has been confirmed by the Maryland Attorney General's office) and is no longer issuing royalty statements or making payments, and that continued sale of your book is therefore copyright infringement.

For Barnes & Noble, here's the procedure and contact info to send an infringement notice: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/h/copyright-policy. Don't bother with snail mail; use the email address that's provided. You can use this handy DMCA notice generator to produce a notice in the proper form: http://www.sfwa.org/2010/07/sample-dmca-generator-for-authors/.

I've heard from some ASB authors who've had success with this method. Keep in mind that Amazon may not remove listings from third-party sellers--but these sellers rarely actually have copies of the books they list. Please leave a commment, or contact Writer Beware directly, to let us know how you fare.
This post has been updated.

It's been a while since I wrote about America Star Books, née PublishAmerica, one of the most prolific author mills in America (also the subject of scores of author complaints, and the recipient of an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau). So what's been going on?

In May 2015, ASB/PA co-founder Larry Clopper filed suit against PA/ASB, co-founder Willem Meiners, and several others, alleging breach of contract, among other causes, and demanding dissolution of the company and appointment of a receiver. After over a year of legal maneuvering--which included the appointment of an appraiser, a counterclaim by Meiners/PA/ASB, and the issuance of subpoenas by Clopper to various PA/ASB banks and creditors--the parties agreed in July 2016 to stipulate to dismissal with prejudice.


I don't yet know what was in the settlement--I've put in a public records request, and will report back when I get the documents--but over the duration of the lawsuit and afterward, things have changed at PA/ASB.

Sometime after September 2015, ASB's About Us page--which previously had touted its founding "by book publishers with a long history of publishing experience"--began to reference the "new" America Star Books: "Run by its employees, from the bottom up....The company has a management, but there's not much top-down going on at America Star Books." (Here's what the page looks like today.)

At some point after September 2016, all mention of the translation program with which PA/ASB launched its 2014 name change was removed (here's what the website used to say about that, courtesy of the invaluable Internet Archive; here's what it says now). And in November 2016, PA/ASB put a hold on submissions "throughout [sic] the end of 2016."

That hold appears to have become permanent. Here's how the submission page looks today:


And here's what was briefly posted at a now non-working ASB web address:
America Star Books no longer accepts new authors. ASB Promotions will morph into Paperback Services in the near future....Paperback Services works side by side on location with Paperback Radio, America's only live 24/7 station about books and writers.

Paperback Radio and Paperback Services are both owned by PA/ASB co-founder Willem Meiners (Paperback Services has a web address that goes nowhere at the moment).
In the kind of feedback loop that's common with vanity publishers, items from Meiners' Paperback Radio (ads"experts lists"), along with a variety of "promotional" and other services from Meiners' Paperback Services, were offered for sale to PA/ASB authors in the Meiners-owned PA/ASB webstore.

That's not all. More signs of change/trouble at PA/ASB:

- According to Amazon, ASB was issuing books pretty regularly through the beginning of 2017, albeit at a reduced rate from previous years (around 10-15 per month). Since mid-May, it has issued just two titles.

- ASB currently has three open liens against it from the Maryland Dept. of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, totaling $50,754.


- As of this writing, some ASB URLs are disabled: www.americastarbooks.net no longer works, nor does www.store.americastarbooks.pub, which used to host the PA/ASB bookstore and promotional "services" store (here are some examples of those services, courtesy of the Internet Archive). ASB's Facebook page also appears to be defunct (unless they've blocked me, which is possible). The PublishAmerica URL, which used to re-direct to America Star Books, now directs again to the old PA website (which hasn't been updated since 2013, but still has an open submissions portal).

- There's a bookstore link on the ASB website, but it doesn't work. PA/ASB books are still for sale at online retailers, but the PA/ASB bookstore doesn't appear to be online anywhere at any web address.

Is this really the end of America Star Books / PublishAmerica? Hard to say. There are rumors of bankruptcy, but I've searched on PACER and I've found no sign of any bankruptcy filings.

Questions remain. If ASB does disappear, what will happen to the books and authors currently under contract? If ASB Promotions, or Paperback Services, or whatever it winds up calling itself, survives as a separate entity, will spammer-in-chief Jackie Velnoskey continue her prolific program of email solicitations and comment spam?

Stay tuned.

UPDATE 8/14/17: ASB's one remaining web address now returns an account suspended message.
As far as I know, ASB/PA hasn't sent out any notifications or communications as to what's going on.

Authors, if you get any kind of notice or email from ASB, would you please contact me? Thanks.

UPDATE 8/19/17: I'm getting emails from authors wondering what to do. What happens with their books that are under contract? If ASB is really dead, can they take their books and publish elsewhere?

Right now, in my opinion, that wouldn't be wise.

All signs point to ASB being gone. Its website has vanished. Phones aren't being answered. Emails are bouncing. Putting those things together with the signs of trouble that I've discussed above, if I had to guess, I'd guess that ASB is history.

But...there's been no official announcement of a closure. I just checked again and there's still no sign of any bankruptcy filings, either under the business names or the owners' names. And ASB/PA books are still for sale new at online booksellers. I think there's at least the possibility that ASB might find a way to sell or otherwise transfer its huge catalog to some other entity (which many of the ASB/PA contracts I've seen allow it to do without asking authors' permission). Another possibility: ASB/PA books might somehow be folded in with Willem Meiners' Paperback enterprises.

Bottom line: we don't actually know what is going on, or what will happen. Until we do, it would be risky to take books that are under contract with either ASB or PA and try to re-publish them. The issue isn't just the possibility that ASB/PA or its successor might come after you, but that any new publisher or self-publishing service will require you to have full power to grant publishing rights. If you're currently under exclusive contract to a different publisher, and it's not clear that publisher is out of business, you don't have that power.

I'm also hearing from ASB authors who've paid for services they haven't received. My advice would be to immediately file a dispute with your credit card company or with PayPal (depending on how you paid). I've heard from a number of Tate Publishing authors who got money back this way. Feel free to use this post as justification.

Keep watching this blog for updates.

UPDATE 9/11/17: I noticed this a couple of weeks ago, but didn't post an update because I wasn't sure if it was a glitch. It's been long enough now that I'm guessing it's not.

Willem Meiners's Paperback Radio appears to have gone the way of  America Star Books. Its URL yields a "Site is currently offline" message. Its Twitter feed hasn't been updated since July 16. Its Facebook page is no longer available.

What's going on? No idea. There's still no sign of any bankruptcy filings, or any word from anyone at ASB. Publishers do a lot of bad things, but one of the worst is to do a bunk and leave authors in limbo.

If anyone has information or insight into the ASB/Meiners situation, will you please contact me? Your identity will be kept confidential. Thank you.

UPDATE 9/14/17: I've learned that this past June, some (though apparently not all) PA/ASB authors received an email from Willem Meiners announcing ASB's closure and transformation into Paperback Services. Here it is:
From: willem@americastarbooks.pub
To: [redacted]
Sent: Tuesday, June 6, 2017, 3:08:46 PM EDT
Subject: A letter from the CEO: name change coming

Dear [redacted],

At America Star Books we have reached a new milestone. As of later this week all of our book marketing and promotion efforts will be continued under a different name: Paperback Services. Our book promotion staff, Jackie Velnoskey, Kerrin Wuchter, Sarah Balukoff, and Sarah Freitas, will work using that new Paperback Services name. Nothing else changes there.

Not to worry — if your book is a hardcover, it will also be represented by Paperback Services. The name relates to that other entity that you have heard so often about: Paperback Radio.

I founded Paperback Services recently. I founded Paperback Radio a year ago. The station has been in the air nonstop since then. My motive was simple: there are many publishing companies today that will publish an author's book, either for free or for a fee. But there is no other radio station where everyone can hear about those books, let alone listen to what the author has to say about it. Paperback Radio is the nation's only 24/7 station about books and writers.

America Star Books no longer accepts new authors and publishes no more new titles. Nor do we attend any new trade shows under that name. Last week's Book Expo America was ASB's last event. Paperback Services, however, now takes over your book promotion with gusto, and will be at all the big events: Book Expo, Frankfurt Book Fair, Miami Book Fair, London Book Fair, Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the ALA library conventions, and more. Oftentimes Paperback Services will be there side by side with Paperback Radio.

Reporting live from the venues that until now only came to you through photos on Facebook is going to add a totally new dimension to the trade shows where your book is being promoted. Wherever you are in the world you'll be able to hear, live, what's going on in the towns where you spent your precious book promotion money. You will now be able to hear strangers talk about your book as they discover it.

Later this week you will start receiving emails from the book promotion staff that you know, Jackie, Kerrin, Sarah, and Sarah, that end with @paperbackservices.com. Same people, same array of marketing opportunities, new email addresses. There will also be a support@paperbackservices.com address, for all your questions.

Not only am I the founder of Paperback Radio and Paperback Services, but I also founded America Star Books and its predecessor, way back in the late 1990s. My mission then was to enable as many writers as possible to have their book published at no cost: I published almost 70,000 books, for free. I showed other publishers how to do it, and today many are doing a fine job. Now the time has come to make a difference in book promotion, so that your book can actually be discoveredamong all the others. With Paperback Services and Paperback Radio we are going to make this happen for you.

Thank you!

America Star Books,
Paperback Services,
Paperback Radio,

--Willem Meiners, founder and CEO
UPDATE 9/29/17: Thanks to an anonymous tipster, I've learned that Willem and Alice Meiners have put their house up for sale. According to Zillow, it was listed on September 5 (an interesting date, since Paperback Radio vanished at around the same time). A sale is already pending. (How do I know this is their house? Numerous online sources confirm their address.)

Think about how abruptly ASB, Paperback Radio, and Paperback Services vanished from the web. Then consider the sale of the Meiners's home, and the fact that all of this occurred within the same two- or three-week time period in mid-August to early September. It's curious, no? Especially in light of the optimistic tone of Meiners's June 6 announcement email. It's looking more and more to me as some sudden personal or financial or legal crisis is behind what's happened.

I've also heard from a couple of PA/ASB authors that the print versions of their books are suddenly showing as "currently unavailable" on Amazon. I did a quick check of recently-pubbed PA/ASB print books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and the majority of them are now listed as "currently unavailable" or "temporarily out of stock". It seems pretty clear that ASB is no longer interacting with its printer.

Kindle editions are not affected. Those are still on sale.

UPDATE 9/30/17: More bad news for PA/ASB.

Bookmasters' 2015 lawsuit against PA/ASB, which was settled in early 2016 when both parties stipulated to dismissal, has just been re-opened "for failure to comply with stipulation of settlement." A motion was filed by Bookmasters on August 16, and the case was re-opened on September 19. Screenshot below (you can see for yourself on the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website).


UPDATE 10/18/17: This is bizarre and I don't know what to make of it, but the americastarbooks.com URL has resurfaced...in Vietnamese. Some of the content of the old ASB site has been retained, specifically the About Us page, which is in English. Screenshot below.


None of the books shown on the site are or were published by ASB, as far as I can tell. Screenshot of the domain registration info:


What does it mean? I have no clue.

In other news, ASB now has a fourth lien against it, this one for over $28,000.


UPDATE 11/6/17: The following advice (originally posted in the comments) was received by an ASB author from a literary lawyer. I'm reproducing it here, along with my comments in bold.
I sincerely sympathize with you and all the others who have been victimized by America Star Books/PublishAmerica. I don’t handle disputes with PublishAmerica and its spin-offs --- litigation against it is too expensive for the typical person, and the results questionable. You should, of course, file a complaint with Maryland Consumer Protection Division (http://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/Pages/Complaints/general.aspx).

I can state the following, which you may find helpful:

1. As of today, there is no record of a bankruptcy filing by either ASB or PublishAmerica in Maryland. If a bankruptcy were filed, the bankruptcy trustee would have the rights to books under contract, they would not automatically be returned to the author. Several class actions suits have previously been attempted against PublishAmerica but were dismissed because the differing status of the plaintiffs did not qualify for a class. Individual lawsuits were hampered by an arbitration clause. Even if such suits were successful, the chance of recovering money from the owners is doubtful.

2. For most authors, getting their rights back is the paramount issue. One alternative is to file suit against in state court (District Court for Frederick Maryland, NOT federal District Court) alleging breach of contract (provided there is no arbitration clause in their contracts). If ASB is out of business, a default judgment will be granted if service or process can be obtained.

3. Another alternative is to send a certified letter to the last known address of ASB alleging breach of contract for failure to pay royalties and demanding reversion of rights. Typically the letter will not be signed for by ASB and returned; the author then can record the letter and explanation of the breach of contract with the Copyright Office (https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ12.pdf ) This would give the author a basis to argue he or she has the rights when dealing with a traditional publisher. Whether a traditional publisher is willing to take the risk is questionable, since there was no decision by an arbitrator or court that the publishing agreement was breached. (I frankly think it is highly unlikely that any professional publisher, large or small, would be willing to take this risk.)

If you wish to self-publish again, however, there are legitimate companies that will help. In that event, in the highly unlikely event that ASB alleged copyright infringement against the author because it alleged it still owned the rights, the author would defend on the issue of breach of contract. (Be aware, though, that most self-publishing platforms' and author services companies' Terms of Use require you to warrant that you have the unencumbered right to enter into a publishing agreement--which, without an official reversion of rights from ASB, it is not clear you do. Punishment for a breached warranty could be removal of your account. See, for example, Section 7 of CreateSpace's Member Agreement: https://eu.createspace.com/pub/signup/view.memberagreement.do )

4. The problem of ASB still selling the author’s books on Amazon and other sites is a separate issue. Once the author takes the position that ASB has breached its agreement and thus it no longer has the rights, you can send DMCA takedown notices to the web sites selling the ASB versions (see http://publishlawyer.com/protecting-your-copyright/ ). Depending on whether ASB files a counter-notice, this may work. (ASB won't file a counter-notice, but whether this methd will work will depend on whether the website accepts your position as valid.)
UPDATE 3/13/18: In another sign that ASB won't rise from the dead, its americastarbooks.net URL has been re-registered to a suspicious-looking outfit called America's Tech. The same individual or group has also registered americastarbooks.webcam.

133 comments :

Ben Baker said...

FB page is dead.

Anonymous said...

I have to say good riddance to that author meat market. I honestly can't believe they've lasted this long. At WritersWeekly.com, we have received countless complaints about them over the years.

At BookLocker.com, we have a special program for authors of defunct publishers. If they have their production files, the cost is only $78. That includes assignment of a new ISBN, of course. Info: http://newsletter.booklocker.com/attn-victims-of-defunct-publishers

If America Star Books / PublishAmerica is going out of business, their authors should start demanding their production files NOW, before there are no other employees left to honor their requests. Tate Publishing went belly-up (and it's owners were arrested) and we're now receiving reports that requests for production files are going unanswered. Authors who waited too long appear to be out of luck. :(

Angela Hoy
WritersWeekly.com / BookLocker.com

Anonymous said...

I worry that Austin Macauley will fill the void. I just recently talked someone out of going with them. One of the key benefits the writer mentioned for going with Austin Macauley was their "New York offices". I wish virtual offices had to identify themselves more clearly. Having what amounts to a P.O. box in New York is no great feat.

Justin Stocker said...

Well... Unfortunate I have a work published through ASB. It is the first in a five book story line. I first heard that they may be going under a little more then a week ago. I sent an email to them hoping to get some answers to what I had heard only to get nothing in return. Today, before finding this post here on WB, I tried to contact them again to let them know that I would be giving them til the end of the month to reply and I would then be taking the rest of the story line to another publisher... guess what, their web page is no longer reachable. Instead it sends me to an account suspended page. So now the problem I have is what happens with my first book? Do I have to wait the five years of the contract to republish it through another publisher? With the company being out is the contract released? The book was just released back in May.

Victoria Strauss said...

Justin, I'm afraid I don't know the answer to your question. It isn't clear yet what's happened to ASB, and a company closing doesn't necessarily release you from your contract. I'm trying to find out what's going on, and will update this post, or write a new post, if I discover anything.

If you hear anything from ASB, would you please contact me? beware [at] sfwa.org . Thanks.

Brenda Tetreault said...

Hellfire and brimstone! These asshats still have FOUR of my books from back when I was young and stupid. I just want my books back, damn it!

Brenda Tetreault said...

Well, Paperback Radio has a Facebook page. It says that it's out of Frederick, Maryland. I'm guesing this is these crooks. I wonder if I demand the rights back for my books if I'll get a reply?
https://www.facebook.com/PaperbackRadio/

Anonymous said...

Willem Meiners is the biggest crook of all. That company is the biggest scam. Jackie Velnoskey and Kerrin Wuchter was the management there from what I understand. I cannot get a hold of anyone about getting my files back on all 6 of my books published. They have been in so many recent lawsuits it's no wonder they are running scared now. And aren't royalties due out at the end of this month? Funny time for the Titanic to sink! Alice Meiners aka Alice Rush was listed on the paperbackradio.com website but she is the king of all scams wife! How can these people sleep at night.
I've looked their information up online and they too live in Frederick Maryland maybe we should all go knocking on their door! Thank you Victoria for updating everyone. I hope in the coming days there will be more information.

Ralph Galeano said...

I also have a book published by ASB in February, 2017. I would like to get the rights back and have sent termination letter and reversion of rights letter to them. Unanswered along with unanswered emails and phone calls. If they do declare bankruptcy does that mean rights automatically revert to the copyright holder? Please keep me in the loop on this issue. horseman@horsemanspress.com

Victoria Strauss said...

Ralph Galeano,

The answer to your question is no. Bankruptcy courts don't honor the bankruptcy clauses in publishing contracts. They consider book contracts to be assets that could potentially be sold to pay creditors. If ASB did declare bankruptcy, all its contracts would be frozen until the bankruptcy trustee either decided to sell them or to release rights back to authors.

Another possibility is that ASB itself might find a way to sell or transfer its contracts to another entity, or that Willem Meiners might take them over via his Paperback Services or other business venture.

For the moment, until we have a better picture of what's going on, I think that ASB/PA authors should consider that their contracts are still in force.

Catherine Dodson said...

How long do our contracts last? A few years ago they sent me an email to buy my rights back.. I published in 2007 and I've passed 10 years. I just want to cut ties with this company and be able to take my writing elsewhere.

Victoria Strauss said...

Catherine Dodson,

Most ASB/PA contracts I've seen take rights for either seven or ten years, but I have seen one that was life-of-copyright. That was super unusual, though, so I think the odds are that you are free to take your writing to another publisher or to self-publish.

I took the liberty of looking you up on Amazon, and it shows your book as "currently unavailable" which indicates that PA has stopped producing it. That would tend to confirm that your contract has expired.

Ralph Galeano said...

Is there anything new about America Star Books. They seem to have dissappeared from the face of the Earth.

Ralph Galeano

Victoria Strauss said...

If I find out anything new, I'll update this post.

Janet Simons said...

The last I heard from America Star Books was in July. I had paid money to have them continue publishing my book. Like everyone else, I still find my book on Amazon.com, as well as supposed used books for sale on numerous sites, and yet supposedly my book hasn't sold. ASB Productions doesn't show up anywhere or Paperback Services. I just wanted to buy some copies to have. This is extremely frustrating, not being able to contact the publisher who has hijacked my book, Quest Over.

FrogLady3 said...

This may be a bit naïve (since I'm still in the writing, and not the publishing stage yet), but -- aside from the author paying to have her book published -- what's the big stink about ASB/PA? I thought all vanity publishers charged authors to print their books, so what makes this publisher worse than the others?

Janet Simons said...

I think if you had been with the publisher when they were Publish America, then America Star Books, then ASB Promotion and last but not least Paperback Services, you might feel differently. I never got results when I paid for promotions but I don't blame them for that. My main objection is that I have found a lot of my books for sale as used books, online, when I haven't been receiving commissions. Obviously someone had to buy those in the first place. But, now there is no current website and all emails to me stopped in July. Calls and emails go unanswered. I would like to purchase some of my books and yet I can't get a hold of them. I found an address, so I will write to them. It's as though they just dropped off the face of the planet.

Anonymous said...

I did not pay in the summer to make my books still available, and they are still available. I figured out the BS emails when they were Publish America, however they had some good offers prior to the holidays to get the books at decent prices. I also reached out to the lady I always bought my Fall supply from. No answer, but also no bounce back. I have all the same questions as everyone else, rights to our books if they did not assign to another company, or if they were assigned who were they assigned to, past royalties owed, etc. Will keep an eye on this site in hopes that someone will have the answers. Appreciate everyone sharing.

Mp Mbutoh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janet Simons said...

Just curious why no one is receiving return calls or emails. I'm wondering if there is an agency that oversees the publishing industry. If authors are cheated there should be repercussions. I would imagine...

AndieJ said...

I don't understand how any of these vanity presses are still operating. If someone wants to self-publish (which is basically all vanity presses are for), Createspace is cheap and easy to use. You don't even have to publish on Amazon. You can create your own paperback, & print on demand however many or few copies you want or need. What am I not seeing here?

Catherine Dodson said...

Thank you for your response Victoria Strauss! I am fairly sure it was a 7 year contract.. of course id pull the ol dusty contact out before I proceed.. ultimately I would enjoy the peace of mind knowing I am no longer affiliated with that company.. only regret I have is not sticking up on copies from all of their many author deals.. Now this book is truly rare and belongs to only my closest of friends and family!

Janet Simons said...

It's good that there are other options for new authors. However, what you're not seeing is that some of us were locked into contracts a long time ago, and mysteriously our publisher seems to have vanished. My book is still on the market but I can't get a hold of them to purchase copies which are cheaper than market value. This is a very recent development. Once you are under contract you can't have someone else also publish the same book, so you have no other options.

Anonymous said...

"Once you are under contract you can't have someone else also publish the same book, so you have no other options."

Or if you're like me, stuck with an old contract stating that PA or whoever they are now has "first right of refusal" on your next book, for the life of the copyright (yes that was me), then your hands are tied and you can't write anything at all for anyone else until you satisfy that requirement. Of course, this was 15 years ago and PA's contracts have changed a lot between now and then. I've moved on with other things but never wrote anything else, partly due to this. I suppose I could have paid them off, but the idea was repugnant.

Why did I sign the contract in the first place? There are a couple of reasons.. 1) I was young and didn't know any better, same as a lot of folks, and 2)even though I did in fact consult a lawyer before signing, he was a distant relative and clearly didn't even look at it before advising me because I didn't have money at the time and it was a favor to his sister (my aunt). Everyone I showed the contract to said it was normal.

Victoria, I just wanted to thank you and others who have kept up with all this drama. I look in every once in awhile to see if anything is new. It's too bad it took one of PA's business partners to take them down instead of the courts listening to the multiple lawsuits brought by authors who have been scammed and taken advantage of.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 9/08, thanks for the kind words. I do think the lawsuit played a part in ASB's demise, but I think the bigger cause was a loss of customers. There are vanity publishers doing quite well right now because they understand that if you can get writers to pay a bundle for publishing, you have to deliver some level of service for that, and at least a pretense of respect and responsiveness. ASB never got that, and in the end I think that's what destroyed it.

One of the worst things a publisher can do is to vanish, as ASB has done, and not release its authors--especially where there are life-of-copyright contracts. I'm truly sorry.

Lora Mcduffie said...

Is there an address to ASB to request to terminate your contract after the 7 yrs are over.

Anonymous said...

I too am a published author with PA/ASB now Paperback radio. I have had 6 books published by them. 5 of the 6 are still showing up as in stock on Amazon, however one of my titles is now showing out of print. :( I have sent them a few emails over the past month in a half. They never answered me directly but would solve the issue. Like when I inquired why the lower priced versions of my books were not showing up. I never really received much in the terms of money from them. (royalties) I wasn't sure if my books were selling much online. I sell them at book signings and things. But always felt at least they were out there for the world to read. I am very sad... I think one of my books just renewed the contract, but I am not sure...I did order some books recently from Amazon, still waiting for some of them to come in. But received some two weeks ago... Not really sure what this means. But I hope they either are able to fix the troubles their going through, or give us our rights back. Although I am not sure where to even look now for new publisher.

Victoria Strauss said...

Lora Mcduffie,

The only addresses are the ones they've always had. From what I'm hearing, emails are bouncing and phone calls go to voicemail or are unanswered. I haven't heard anything about snail mail--you could try sending a certified letter, return receipt requested, to their street address to see if it gets picked up. Even if it does, I don't think you can expect a response.

Their mailing address is PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705

Janet Simons said...

I also thought of mailing something to them, but I am waiting a bit to see if anything changes first. I just bought 6 used books online. (How there were used books when I received no royalties is frustrating.) I just would like the status. Amazon.com now says my book is "out of stock." I just need to know if my book is still being published by them, or not. I would think there must be some sort of agency that regulates publishers or they could just cheat authors out of their rightful compensations left and right. That's hard to believe.

Victoria Strauss said...

Janet Simons,

A lot of the third-party sellers on Amazon and B&N who are selling "used" books don't actually have the books in stock--they are just listing ISBNs, figuring they'll get hold of a copy if someone places an order. Would you please report back (or email me) to let me know if you actually receive these books?

ASB seems to have suspended all publishing activities, but until it's clearer what's going on, you have to assume that it still holds your rights (if your contract is still in force, that is).

Publishing isn't regulated as an industry. The recourse available to authors who've been defrauded is the law. To be honest I think that in most cases the money owed to individual authors is small--what's really the issue here is rights. Getting them back. It's increasingly looking to me as if the ASB situation is one of the few in which some sort of group legal action may be appropriate.

Any lawyers out there who'd care to weigh in?

Janet Simons said...

Hi Victoria,
I just ordered them through Abebooks.com. They were $3.00 ea. I will post whether I receive them or not, but this website appears to be legit. I just want the status of my book. They shouldn't be allowed to highjack it!

Anonymous said...

Advice needed. What do you all think I should do? I was thinking of mailing them ASB/Paperback radio, a certified letter stating that when my contracts are up on my titles I do not wish to renew. Now I am unsure as to whether I should do this yet or not, as most of my titles are still showing up as available on amazon and a few other sites. One of my titles is even showing up on Walmart… However one is showing as no longer in print. Honestly even though I never received much as far as royalties. (Just assuming I wasn’t selling many) I was grateful to have my books out in the world for people to read. I don’t want to cut ties with them if they are indeed working with a third party publisher. Also all my books are offered in kindle even the one that is no longer in print. I wonder if Amazon has the rights to keep them as kindles. Which would be cool as at least my books wouldn’t completely disappear into the abyss. But I am not sure… however if they sell, I don’t think I will receive any royalties… But oh well. I know I may sound like a fool. But I am still hopeful... :(

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 9/12,

You could certainly try doing that. If you do, please report back--I'll be interested to know if anyone signs for the letter, and if they do, if you get any response.

If your contracts still have a while to run, though, I think you'll still have to wait it out--i.e., you won't be free and clear until your termination date or until it becomes clear what is happening/has happened to ASB--whichever comes first. Also be aware that if ASB does sell its catalog to a different company before your expiration date(s), or declares bankruptcy, any termination notices sent now might not be valid.

ASB holds your publication rights; Amazon is just a retailer. I also don't think you can assume that, if ASB sells its catalog to someone else, that it will be an improvement.

Anonymous said...

I've been rip off by this company. I paid them to have a spread of my Spanish Poetry Book in a French issue and suppose to receive it two months ago. It's an ashamed that those trying to achieve success are being taken advantage of by those abusing for greed with consequences.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Victoria for your advice. I have a letter all written up ready to go.The letter is to request my contracts not to be renewed when they are done. As it states in all our contracts we must request three months prier to the renewal date, in writing.
But just last night I found a books company that sells books in bulk. So I placed an order for one of my books. The one with the longest contract, fearing the worse. Just received an email stating the shipping date would take longer than they thought and if it was ok. I replied "sure." I want to see if they are going to fulfill the order and go from there. Unless I see many more of my books going out of print.

Ralph Galeano said...

I have sent two registered letters to ASB requesting my contract be terminated and the rights reverted to me. Both letters were not picked up at their Post Office box number that was on my contract. After fifteen days the P.O. sent me a card stating that they were not picked up and signed and they will be returned to me.

I have signed up with Ingram and have filled out their rights transfer form requesting they contact ABS and have the rights transfered to me. That process is under way and I just have to wait and see if it is successful.

Anonymous said...

Ralph...if Ingram is successful in any way to transfer your rights, how will they get the files? Or are you starting over with new covers and ISBN#'s?

This is straight up frustrating and wrong! If they wanted out of the business, why take the authors down with them?!

Will be interesting if they don't get in touch with them, if they deem it as a closed business and if that voids our contracts.

Anonymous said...



I currently have new copies of the four books published by PA/ASB. Until recently I ordered books by phone. My question is: Can I find a place to get reproductions of the books I have? I am satisfied with the cover and text of my books, but I have no way of ordering more copies. HELP!

Janet Simons said...

I ordered 6 books that were listed as used, online. Then I received 4 notices of refunds with lame excuses. I just received one yesterday. The cover is trimmed slightly short, but otherwise it's ok. I just had no copies. I send texts that do not get bounced back, but never get answered. My book is listed as "currently out of stock" whatever that means since these are printed on demand. The company should have reverted all rights back to the authors. Apparently no agency polices publishers.This feels insane to me. I paid money to continue with them. Now what?

Victoria Strauss said...

Ralph Galeano,

Thanks for your comment--I'm not really surprised the letters weren't picked up, but it's good to have confirmation. Please come back to let us know how it goes with Ingram (and also email me, please--I'm interested in knowing more about the process: beware@sfwa.org ).

Anonymous 9/18,

You said, "If they wanted out of the business, why take the authors down with them?!" Because they don't give a crap about the authors, and never have. I know that's harsh. But I've been tracking and getting complaints about this company since it started up in 1999 (and even before that, when Willem Meiners ran a different vanity press), and it's the truth.

Anonymous 9/19,

ASB isn't publishing any longer, and isn't answering any attempts at communication. There's no way to get books from them. You _might_ be able to order copies online (though see Janet Simons' comment, below yours), but other than that you really have no recourse. As to re-publishing your book...because there has been no official termination of PA/ASB contracts, and because it's not clear yet what exactly has happened, I think that for now you have to continue to assume that PA/ASB holds your rights, at least until your contract's expiration date. The problem with trying to re-publish isn't so much that PA/ASB would come after you, but that a new publisher or self-publishing service won't want a book whose rights may still be licensed to someone else.

Janet Simons,

Your experience with the used sellers demonstrates what a lot of people don't realize: most of the third-party sellers who list books for sale on Amazon and elsewhere are just listing ISBNs and don't actually have the books on hand. If someone places an order, they then try to get hold of a copy, but where the book has limited availability, as with PA/ASB books, they're likely to fail.

"Out of stock" probably means that PA/ASB is no longer communicating with whomever it was using for printing and distribution. It's a way of indicating that orders can't be fulfilled.

What it looks like to me right now is that, for reasons we don't yet know for sure but likely have to do with money, PA/ASB has done a bunk. However, it also appears to be keeping its options open by not relinquishing authors' rights.

Anonymous said...

Do we know what is going on with America Star Book, PA? They are nowhere to be found. Looks like Willem and Alice Meiners skipped town, and took everyone's money. Royalties are now past due, you can't order books, it looks like according to distributors for them they are no longer doing business. But why? And the radio program they were running, Paperback radio or something looks like that is no longer as well. What Frauds! I just need to know what my rights are for my books, how would we be able to get our rights back, files etc?
I think we all need to ban together and file a big lawsuit against the Meiners, I think we all might have something!

Anonymous said...

When you say they are keeping their options open, I wonder what that means...

I am so upset and have been writing in on this site as anonymous ( Just because quite frankly I hate talking bad about anyone) But I feel very frustrated!!!!!

I have six children's books with them. And now they own them and have gone of the face of the earth.

I do thank you for your advice. I am planning on sending a letter out soon, as I stated before. But just waiting to see about one good size order I placed.

Some of my books are stating that they are going back in stock in a few days. Not the typical 1 to 2 months for delivery. Which is what they stated last week. However 2 are stating out of print. Also this is just on Amazon. But my order dates keep getting pushed further away....

I will keep you posted as to whether the larger order gets filled. I mean it's not huge but 25 copies. Also these copies are the lower priced versions I requested. Not the original version. So I would assume that they have to print them up.. Not something that was already on hand...I am wondering also if some of our books have been picked up by the third party publisher and others not... Just so crazy to leave people hanging out in limbo... :(

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 9/21,

By "keeping their options open," I'm talking about the possibility that they might sell the ASB catalog to some other company. Probably that's not a strong possibility, but I do think it's at least conceivable. However, there's no evidence of that at this point, just as there's no sign of any bankruptcy filings.

Most PA/ASB contracts I've seen are time-limited, so even in the worst-case scenario, they can't hold onto you forever--once your expiration date passes, your rights will be yours again.

If there's no bankruptcy and no catalog sale, and ASB keeps its books online and selling but doesn't pay royalties, I think that an ASB authors' lawsuit would absolutely be justified. I also think that as many ASB authors as possible should file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Attorney General: http://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/Pages/CPD/default.aspx .

I'm going to be updating my post in a few days with that and other information.

Anonymous said...

I just want my writes back and shouldn't have to pay a fee. All they did was provide the covers. Hell I will change the covers....I just don't know where to begin.

Anonymous said...

I had a contract with PublishAmerica for my novel and that contract expired in 2009 according to the terms of the contract. I then signed a renewal agreement in 2011 for another seven-year period, which will expire in 2018. It's only now as I've tried to contact them to renew again that I've become aware of this situation after getting email bouncebacks and encountering their inoperative website.

But at least I think after 2018 I am be free to take it to another publisher to publish new editions.

I'm glad I've kept copies of everything.

Justin Stocker said...

Has anyone heard or seen anything new about ASB?

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 9/25,

You're right. Once your 2018 expiration date arrives, you are free and clear. I'm really hoping there will be a resolution before then, but if not, at least you don't have too long to wait.

Justin Stocker,

As soon as I hear something new, I will post it here.

Anonymous said...

My fear is this,
I believe all our contracts state this; “The Author and the Publisher agree that this agreement is renewable upon the date of its expiration and will remain enforceable during additional and successive period of _________, on the same terms and conditions as specified hereinafter, unless either party to this agreement shall decline such renewal in writing at least three months prior to the date of expiration as hereinbefore set forth.”


So are we to send them in writing that we request our contracts once they are up. Or is this current situation causing them to breach contract which means they are ours again?
Also received a few books in the mail that I tried to order on Amazon. Not sure what to do... They came in printed in black and white and they were to be full color children's books. honestly they look horrible. But the other order from amazon came in color... Different book title. not sure what is happening or what I should do as my publisher is unreachable and it is not amazons fault. But this does mean they are still printing orders. idk (lost)

Ann said...

Publish America is back under the name Publish America. Hopefully this is relevant for you.

Their website: http://publishamerica.com/

Half of their links up top don't work. They link to publishamerica.net which doesn't exist, or the page simply doesn't exist.

I only learned about all these shenanigans today, and your website turned up in a google search. Since I couldn't find any comments about the new site, I figured I'd comment, maybe no one here has noticed yet?

Either way, the business seems scummy and I really like what you're doing at this site. Thank you for the dedication you put into it!

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 9/26,

Not all PA/ASB contracts require the author to give a termination notice, but some do. If your contract has that language, I'd suggest sending the notification as indicated in the contract, by both email and certified mail (which provides proof of mailing with a return receipt), to ASB's last known email and snail mail addresses. Keep copies of everything. You won't get a response, but being able to show that you did your due diligence and fulfilled the termination provision in your contract should be enough to satisfy a new publisher or self-publishing service that your rights are yours again (it's not your fault ASB never responded), and to back up a takedown notice if you need to get an online retailer to stop selling your book.

Ann,

What you've found is PublishAmerica's original website. It was never taken down when PA changed its name in 2014, and its URL was set to re-direct to America Star Books's new website. Once ASB closed down, the re-direct was apparently also terminated, revealing the old PA site underneath.

It's bizarre--they took down everything else, why didn't they take down the old PA site as well? In the wake of Larry Clopper's lawsuit, and also ASB's shrinking customer base, it wasn't so surprising that ASB went bust--but given that the Meinerses seemed to be ready to go with Paperback Radio and Paperback Services, the suddenness and sloppiness of the way everything disappeared has me wondering if they were maybe hit by some kind of major financial or personal emergency.

Anonymous said...

I read the letter you posted, of which I did not receive myself. I had recently sent correspondence to multiple emails I have had over the course of my contracts, including the ones listed in the letter posted above. All bounced back but 3. The 3 that did not bounce back were Jackie, Kerrin, and Sarah with the AmericaStarbooks.pub emails. In addition, I did not receive a bounce back from willem@americastarbooks.pub.

It appears all names the publisher has used are closed for business. Therefore it would make logical sense that this is a breach of contract as the publisher did not meet their commitments within the contract: "Publisher agrees to cause all copies of said literary Work to be printed and bound as the market demands and in sufficient quantities to supply purchasers of said literary Work therewith".

I'm not a lawyer, but I would think their breach would allow us our rights back automatically. Does anyone have a legal background that can advise?

Anonymous said...

I did receive that letter you posted. However back in June they had sent an email stating thank you for making the decision to stay with us. But offering for us the authors to purchase an additional page for our contracts. Stating that if at anytime we wanted to take our contracts back we could. Or something like that. Unfortunately I must have deleted the actual email.

However it was for a cost of $75. I have six books with this publishing company. Some are in stock, some are not, others stating out of print. I am still waiting on a rather large order. Fearing it will be cancelled.

I sent out a certified letter asking for one of my six contracts back, however this one is due to auto renew in 02/2018 if I don't send a request. Was waiting to send out the rest. Now I wonder if I should request them all. Although two of my books still have six years left to the contracts. :( So upsetting. And thank you for keeping us all posted. I check your blog daily now...

Anonymous said...

Just an update for all who are interested. I recently sent a certified letter requesting the rights to one of my contracts back, which is due to renew in February of 2018. I went to check the tracking on such letter, and it stated it was coming back to me as return to sender. The address is no longer.
So tomorrow I believe just for my records I will be sending them another for the remaining contracts, when the dates are to expire. Basically just for my own legal purposes, I suppose. Although I have no clue as to how to go about this…
They apparently are filling that rather large order, as of right now. However I have seen another one of my books is showing out of print. I am sure it is just a matter of time that the other three will follow.  They are showing as in stock on Amazon with a handful of copies available.
Which leads me to this… A while back before this all happened, many sights stated that they had many copies in stock. Then all of a sudden they were all stating unavailable. I truly think like someone else on the post said, “They don’t always have the books in stock” just are able to fulfill orders on demand.
With that being said, and maybe I am a fool. But you know what other than the way they vanished off the face of the earth. And now I am left wondering what’s going to happen to my life’s work. (Yes I say life’s work, as it took allot of time and years of my life… like many of you.) But with that said, they PA/ASB-Paperback Radio… Never did they mislead me… With the exception of maybe not getting much for royalties. Which let’s face it, was I selling thousands of copies??? Probably not.
But my books were out there for the world to see, view and purchase. And even though like most we all want to become an overnight sensation, and make lots of money. Then reality hits. That is when you ask yourself, why do I write? In my case write and illustrate… To reach people, with a piece of ourselves hoping to impact their lives.
I am not sure if I would be more upset or delighted. If I found out that indeed, I sold hundreds of copies of my books and never got royalties. Sure it would sting a bit. But look at the bigger picture. I am so sorry we all have to go through this. I really hope we can all get our contracts back, or at least have the third parties (whoever they are) purchase them. Where to go from here????

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 9/28,

A breach by the publisher doesn't automatically terminate a contract, I'm afraid (unless the contract specifically states that it does, and even then the publisher can contest it).

Anonymous 10/2,

I think you did the right think in sending a termination notice for your book contract that expires in February. For the others, especially the ones that have years to run, I wouldn't bother--if nothing else happens with ASB and it remains dead or doesn't re-incarnate within six months or so, I'm guessing that the passage of time will make it possible for you to at least try and reclaim your rights. It sucks that it's all so up in the air.

Please let us know if you receive your order. If it's cancelled, that will make it clearer that ASB really is dead.

Anonymous 10/4,

ASB did produce books on demand. Retailers don't generally stock such books, or if they do, they stock just one or two copies. That's why retailers could flip so suddenly from showing in-stock books to showing them as unavailable. You can probably trust Amazon's stock numbers, but those you find on other retailers' sites are not trustworthy (and I know that some, which show dozens or scores of books in stock, are just lying). Also be aware that third-party sellers often don't actually have the books they list; they are just listing ISBNs harvested from the internet, figuring that if someone places an order they can then try to get hold of a copy.

Thanks for the update. My heart really goes out to you and all the other writers who are stuck in this mess.

I strongly encourage you ALL to make a complaint to the Maryland Attorney General.

Anonymous said...

What do I do? I published a book back in 2008 and 2009 with Publishers of America.
7 years later I decide to go with American Star Books to turn my book into an audio book. I was charged $299.00. I was told that it would take a year on April 5, 2017. I communicated via email back and forth.
I got an email saying that they would soon be sold to a third party publisher. I emailed them requesting a refund in fear that I would lose out and my project had still not been completed as promised.
Well this was in May of 2017 folks. It is October 2017 and they are no where to be found. My project was never completed and instead of them being honest then they just scammed me out of my money.

Anonymous said...

Well, I too was screwed by this company, never received a penny, signed in 2008, so should be expired,,,? Did they go BK ? Please let us know ! L, p.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 10/15,

No sign of any bankruptcy filings. I check regularly. If there's any new information, I will post it here.

If you had a seven-year contract and your book was published in 2008, you're right, it has probably expired by now. If it's still for sale on Amazon, you should be able to send a DMCA notice or use their copyright infringement form to get the PA/ASB listing taken down (though it may still show as available through Marketplace sellers).

Barbara Tatum said...

I spent over $7,000.00 on promoting my book, (paid to ASB) how can I get at least part of my money back? Thanks for your help, btatum95@yahoo.com

Victoria Strauss said...

Barbara Tatum,

If you paid recently (within the past 6 months or so) and paid by credit card or PayPal, you can file a dispute with your credit card company or with PayPal. These companies take disputes seriously and will investigate. I've heard from authors who've gotten ripped by disreputable publishers and have been able to get at least some money back this way. Feel free to use my blog post as backup.

I also urge you--and all PA/ASB authors--to file a complaint with the Maryland Attorney General (see the top of my post of instructions and links). Ultimately I think that's the only way that at least some justic may be done.

Darrell Mudd said...

Victoria,
I filed an online complaint to the Consumer Protection Div., of the Maryland Attorney General's office on Oct 9th, followed up with a USPS mailing with a copy of my ASB contract on one of four books I had published under ASB and PA. Still waiting for a response.
Thanks for your website, for around 50,000 of us are waiting on getting our book rights back.
D.S. Mudd

Anonymous said...

So I am just writing to update you all. I was the one waiting for the rather large order to come in... Surprise it didn't and they gave me my money back. (thank goodness) I waited and the day it was suppose to be in I got an email, stating they were sorry that they could not fill the order. (Due to the publisher was no longer in business)
I sent two certified letters out to their address only for them to return to me. I did call the Attorney General of Maryland. They told me to contact the BBB. So I sent in a complaint. Haven't heard anything as of yet. Clicked on the strange link you shared for America Star Books, and just to see, searched for my name in their search engine and nothing came up. Really wasn't surprised. I wonder if someone should email them???? I am not sure if maybe they sold their name to someone else or if this is to be the third party publisher they spoke of back in June????
As of now my books are showing up in Amazon is out of print. When I was told that the big order was not able to be filled, I purchased what was left at Amazon. They are still offered as Kindles. Just so sad and frustrating, thanks for keeping us updated.
After all this mess and feeling lost, I have written something new. Working on the last few illustrations now. Not sure who to go with, Create space? I just don't know. Scared to trust anyone now...

Victoria Strauss said...

Thanks, Darrell. Hopefully many authors are doing the same.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 10/20,

I'm sorry about the order but very glad you got your money back.

At this point, filing a complaint with the BBB is pointless. Not only is PA/ASB no longer operating as a business, the BBB has no power to do anything about the complaints it receives.

The ONLY thing that may work is complaining to the authorities: the MD Attorney General, the Frederick County State's Attorney, the FBI. Don't let the Attorney General's office shunt you off to the BBB; use their online complaint form, and emphasize your status as a consumer: i.e., emphasize that you paid money to PA for services that were inadequate or were not delivered.

Anonymous said...

I have two books with ASB/PA, and I have three questions. If anyone can help with answers, thoughts or referrals I'd be so grateful:
1. Re contract's release clause: One of my novels gives ASB/PA five years exclusive rights, but if I notify them 3 month prior to the end of that period by registered mail,that will that be legal notice of my wish not to continue per the contract. My end date is Feb 1, 2018, so my 3 months prior date will be on November 1, 2017. Does anyone know if I send the notification to ASB's PO box by registered mail as required, and when I get my return from US post office of failed attempt to deliver, will that serve to release me from any obligation, so I can legally find another publisher?
2. Re the AG of Maryland complaint's form: I attempted to fill it out on line, but it asks for price I paid to PA/ASB in dollars amounts. but I paid not in cash but in assigning the rights for PA/ASB to publish my novel. So how did other's fill in that question? Also,the form also asks for outstanding money owed from the company, but I do not know what the royalties owed to me are. What did others do to supply the AG of MD the receipts for money owed to them if there are none in dollar amounts for for any books or services purchased but only for unknown royalty amounts? Did you send copy of your entire contract to prove that?
3. Re law suit: How would I find out if there is a class action law suit for me to join?
Many thanks for any information you can share. Florida author

Anonymous said...

I sent out two registered letters requesting them to not renew all six of my books contracts when they are ready to automatically renew. But like you one of them is due to run out in February 2018. But I have one that’s not due to run out for six years still. I got the letters sent back to me. I did not open them I just put them in a safe place near my contacts. In hopes that this will show as proof really reaching out and trying to request my rights back. I figured it couldn’t hurt, however not sure if it’ll matter or help at all.
As for the attorney general application I didn’t fill one out either because of the questions kind of have the same question as you do. I hope someone has some answers.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 10/24,

1. I think you should send the notification, to show due diligence if that ever becomes necessary--but you will need to wait until your February date to be sure you're free. I know that all signs point to ASB being dead and gone--but ASB ebooks are still for sale on Amazon, and as long as that's the case, to Amazon and other retailers it looks like ASB is still in business. (If your book's ebook version is one of these, and it's still on sale past your February end date, you'll need to send a DMCA notice to Amazon to get it taken down.)

2. I know that many of you didn't respond to ASB's constant incentives to get you to buy things from it, but many ASB authors did pay for various services, such as price reductions or various marketing services. Or they bought quantities of their own books (there are comments here from people who paid for book orders and didn't receive them). These would all count as prices paid to ASB. It's fine to estimate the amount, if you don't know it exactly. As to missing royalties, I believe ASB failed to send anything out for the most recent royalty period. If that's so for you, mention it, and say that you don't know the amount that's owed to you because ASB failed to provide royalty statements as required by your contract.

3. There's no class action lawsuit as far as I'm aware. I do think that one would be appropriate in this case, but I doubt that any lawyer or law firm will be willing to work on contingency, because there probably is little or no money to be collected.

Ralph Galeano said...

How do you send a (and what is it?) DMCA notice to Amazon. Thank you for all your help, Victoria.

Darrell Mudd said...

Victoria,
I received a reply from the Maryland Attorney General's office, consumer protection division, was told our complaint is a business vs business complaint, they only deal with consumer complaints. The person signing the letter commented that, "It now appears that ASB has gone out of business and the principals cannot be located."
Darrell

Anonymous said...

So here is a question for you... I just got a call from someone inquiring about one of my books that is under contract with ASB. They left a message stating that my book was referred to them by a literary book scout. I didn't call back as of yet because I am not sure what to say. As this books rights are pending with ASB in LIMBO!!! Any advise????? Or this could just be a scam too. idk

Victoria Strauss said...

Ralph Galeano,

Here's a good article on the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), which makes it possible for you to demand, via a DMCA notice, that a website or a webhost remove infringing content. Amazon has its own form for this.

Darrell Mudd,

That's the same old B.S. they gave Ann Crispin and me several years ago when we tried to get a lot of authors to complaint about PublishAmerica. It's a deflection of responsibility, and also a reflection of laws that make it harder to make these sorts of complaints in Maryland. That's why I'm recommending that complaints should include an account of what authors paid ASB/PA, to emphasize the fact that you were consumers.

I am still recommending that ASB authors file complaints, even if they get discouraging responses. If enough complaints come in, I'm hoping that the AG will be forced to pay attention.

Anonymous 10/30,

Based on the wording ("literary book scout"), I am guessing that you were solicited by Legaia Books or LitFire Publishing (or one of the other, similar companies that troll the internet looking for authors to fleece). Both are scams that I've written about on this blog; they aren't interested in your book (which they didn't find by any "recommendation," but by searching the web), only in what they can charge you for "marketing" services.

Anonymous said...

You are correct! They also sent me an email in regards to the call about my book. It is Lifefire. Glad I inquired here first. Not that I could have done much at this point with that story. :(

Darrell Mudd said...

Victoria,
I would surmise that ASB is working behind the scenes, looking to sell, (for their profit) our book publishing rights to a third party. Sounds that way from the above note on Legaia Books.
Darrell

Darrell Mudd said...

Victoria,
One more thought. Here was a suggested website from a fellow book contributor on literary lawyers.

http://www.lauraresnick.com/writers-resources/faqs-working-with-a-literary-lawyer/
Literary Lawyers
I work with a literary lawyer rather than an agent, and other writers often ask me to recommend an attorney to them. So I created this directory. The people listed below are all attorneys whom I have dealt with myself or who have been referred to me by writers I know. You can read more about these lawyers on their websites.
Before contacting an attorney, I recommend you read these FAQs About Literary Lawyers.
Alan J. Kaufman
http://www.kaufmanpublaw.com/
alan@kaufmanpublaw.com
F. Robert Stein
https://www.pryorcashman.com/lawyers/f-robert-stein.html
rstein@pryorcashman.com
Daniel N. Steven
http://www.dsattorney.com/attorneys/daniel-n-steven/
(Contact form on website)
David P. Vandagriff
http://www.contract-counsel.com/
(Contact form on website)
David B. Wolf
http://davidwolflaw.com/
david@davidwolflaw.com

Darrell Mudd said...

Victoria,
Here is information a literary lawyer email to me.

I sincerely sympathize with you and all the others who have been victimized by America Star Books/PublishAmerica. I don’t handle disputes with PublishAmerica and its spin-offs --- litigation against it is too expensive for the typical person, and the results questionable. You should, of course, file a complaint with Maryland Consumer Protection Division (http://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/Pages/Complaints/general.aspx). I can state the following, which you may find helpful:
1. As of today, there is no record of a bankruptcy filing by either ASB or PublishAmerica in Maryland. If a bankruptcy were filed, the bankruptcy trustee would have the rights to books under contract, they would not automatically be returned to the author. Several class actions suits have previously been attempted against PublishAmerica but were dismissed because the differing status of the plaintiffs did not qualify for a class. Individual lawsuits were hampered by an arbitration clause. Even if such suits were successful, the chance of recovering money from the owners is doubtful.
2. For most authors, getting their rights back is the paramount issue. One alternative is to file suit against in state court (District Court for Frederick Maryland, NOT federal District Court) alleging breach of contract (provided there is no arbitration clause in their contracts). If ASB is out of business, a default judgment will be granted if service or process can be obtained.
3. Another alternative is to send a certified letter to the last known address of ASB alleging breach of contract for failure to pay royalties and demanding reversion of rights. Typically the letter will not be signed for by ASB and returned; the author then can record the letter and explanation of the breach of contract with the Copyright Office (https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ12.pdf ) This would give the author a basis to argue he or she has the rights when dealing with a traditional publisher. Whether a traditional publisher is willing to take the risk is questionable, since there was no decision by an arbitrator or court that the publishing agreement was breached. If you wish to self-publish again, however, there are legitimate companies that will help, for instance BookLocker.com http://newsletter.booklocker.com/attn-victims-of-defunct-publishers). In that event, in the highly unlikely event that ASB alleged copyright infringement against the author because it alleged it still owned the rights, the author would defend on the issue of breach of contract.
4. The problem of ASB still selling the author’s books on Amazon and other sites is a separate issue. Once the author takes the position that ASB has breached its agreement and thus it no longer has the rights, you can send DMCA takedown notices to the web sites selling the ASB versions (see http://publishlawyer.com/protecting-your-copyright/ ). Depending on whether ASB files a counter-notice, this may work.

BOOK GUY said...

THIS IS INFORMATION I RECEIVED FROM THE STATE OF MARYLAND OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL CONSUMER PROTECTION DIVISION DATED NOVEMBER 1 2017

RE: AMERICAN STAR BOOKS

THANK YOU FOR YOUR LETTER REGARDING AMERICA STAR BOOKS.

AS YOU MAY KNOW, THIS FIRM HAS GONE OUT OF BUSINESS. UNFORTUNATELY, THE PRINCIPALS CANNOT BE LOCATED. THEREFORE, WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT WE CAN FIND NO WAY OF ASSISTING YOU AT THIS TIME.

IN THE EVENT YOU OBTAIN NEW INFORMATION ABOUT THE COMPANY, WE WILL APPRECIATE YOUR COMMUNICATING IT TO US.

SINCERELY
PAULA A. SHETLER

Victoria Strauss said...

Darrell Mud,

One of my first thoughts, when ASB vanished, was that they might be trying to sell their catalog to a third party. They used the threat of that to extract more money from at least some authors. I think this is still a possibility--which, along with the fact that ASB ebooks are still for sale on Amazon, complicates the rights situation even more than is normal when a publisher does a bunk without returning rights.

Thanks for posting the advice from the lawyer. I think it's useful, though I have some concerns. I'm going to add it as an update to my post, with annotations.

Book Guy,

I've heard from a number of authors who got a similar response from the AG's office. As I noted in a comment above, it's the same response they gave us years ago when we tried to get them to take an interest in PA/ASB.

I frankly think that the response is as much because they don't want to be bothered as for any more official reason. Which is why I am still advocating for authors to make a complaint. A large volume of complaints could persuade them to change their minds--or not, but we won't know if we don't try. Be sure, if you paid ASB for services, to mention the amount you paid, and to make it clear that you are a consumer, not a business.

Darrell Mudd said...

Victoria,
I received a reply back from the booklocker site, Angela wrote, "If you can find their law firm listed somewhere online, I would contact them. Unfortunately, until/unless they confirm they are defunct, their authors are screwed, (her word), as they could come back and sue. I doubt they would but who knows."

Sherri Moorer said...

Just one more reason why traditional publishing needs to die. It's so much easier to self publish now, and you can do it for free through Kindle Direct and Smashwords. It's time for an ebook revolution, folks. We'd nail our grievances to the publishers doors as Martin Luther did 500 years ago, if they were still open! And that's just it - so many publishers have closed their doors, leaving writers in limbo without returning the book rights. To hell with them. I've been self publishing for years, and will continue to do so!

Anonymous said...

So is it a loss cause?!?!?!?
I am sooooo upset about this. I have six titles with them. Again my life's work.
What are we suppose to do?????
I will try to see if I can send in a complaint to Maryland Attorney General, but last time I contacted them they gave me the brush off. Will I need to send them copies of all six contracts? And copies of the letters I sent to ASB that got returned to me?
Also that man from Lifefire keeps calling. Maybe I should speak to him just to see what's up. Inform him that I have no control over my contracts as of right now. IDK
All of my kindle versions are still on Amazon. But none of the nooks are offered.
Anyway thanks for keeping us posted, and allowing us to vent on the blog...

Victoria Strauss said...

Darrell Mudd,

I recently heard from an author who contacted ASB's lawyer (I won't mention his name, given that he handled ASB's [unsuccessful] defamation lawsuit against me a couple of years ago). Based on what the author told me, the lawyer admitted that ASB is dead, but offered misinformation about rights. I'm sure he knows what happened, but the odds of him actually telling any ASB authors the truth are probably less than zero.

Sherri Moorer,

I sympathize with your frustration. However, PA/ASB was never a "traditional publisher" nor did its business model ever bear any similarity to that of a real, reputable publisher. ASB has always functioned like a vanity publisher, even back at the beginning when it wasn't constantly hitting its authors up for fees.

Anonymous 11/09,

My heart goes out to you and all the others who are caught up in this mess.

I would advise you to ignore the LitFire guy (along with anyone else who solicits you); if you talk to him, it will just encourage him to keep pressuring you, even if you say "no". LitFire is a serious ripoff that is looking to take advantage of authors the same way ASB did.

There's a link to the Attorney General complaint form at the top of my post. I don't think you need to send contracts or letters; I'd just suggest that if you paid ASB any money at all, for any service or book orders, that you mention that, in order to demonstrate that this really is a consumer issue.

sherwoodsitts@roadrunner,com said...

Hi Victoria, My name is Herm Sherwood-Sitts. I am also an author from America Star Books with nine titles. I have contacted the State of Maryland, Office of the Attorney General about my contracts and the books that I paid for as a customer and did not receive. They sent me a letter today and said there was nothing that they could do for me. They said it was a business vs business complaint . Just letting you know. Respectfully, Herm

Anonymous said...

Company is still active. Victor Cretella lawyer for company handles consumers and will be in court with Meiners Frederick County 12/18 at 2 oclock. Meiners sold house and hiding. Victor Cretella knows where he is. 301-228-2705 vcretellalaw.com address is 550 Highland St 105 Frederick MD 21701

Victoria Strauss said...

Herm, thanks for the info.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 11/16, please contact me directly: beware@sfwa.org. All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence; I will not divulge your identity or any identifying information.

Karen B said...

Has there been any further followup to the above information? Who to contact, etc.?

I am visiting with my 93 year old father who is/was a published author with ASB/PA. He is quite confused about what is going on and I am trying to help him sort it out.

Victoria Strauss said...

Karen B, Unfortunately there is no one you can contact. If I obtain or hear about any updates or new information, I will post it here.

Anonymous said...

I have six books published by ASB. Two of them were put out by Publish America. They are still available electronically. I have not received royalties for years and yet my books are for sale out there. I have tried phoning Kerrin Wuchter and her phone still picks up messages but of course, just like for the rest of you, there was no reply.

Anonymous said...

I published my book through Publish America in 2007. I realized by 2012 that I could do a better job on my own of publishing and promoting my books for free. I sent an email inquiring about the process and received a response that I should refer to the contract regarding a fee for early termination. I sent another email stating I did not want to renew in 2014. I also sent a letter by mail. In 2014 I sent another email to make sure they were going to terminate and they claimed they did not receive my notice (shame on me for not sending it registered). I spoke with someone on the phone who indicated that it had auto-renewed since they did not receive my request. I sent a registered letter telling them I want to terminate and pointing out the email I had sent in 2012, plus the letter I had mailed previously. This is the answer I received:

"We have received your request to terminate your book's contract. As a general rule, publishers are not in favor of that. When a publisher agrees to contract a book, it is done with an expectation of entering into a profitable venture. America Star Books never charges any of its authors any money in return for producing and publishing their book and making it available to a worldwide audience. This is why we enter into contracts with a seven-year lifetime, which affords the book ample opportunity to turn a profit.

If your request was granted, America Star Books would be denied, prematurely, any hope of recovering its expenses. This is why we would prefer to keep the contract in place until its expiration date.

Therefore, if you were to persist on wishing to relinquish your status as a published author, we can only grant your request if you agree to a $299 compensation payment, which will help to offset some of our losses. A member of the Special Services Team will be in touch to assist you, or you can reach us at 443-918-7141. If not, we will both understand and applaud your decision. As said, we prefer to keep the book under contract.

Thank you
America Star Books Support Team
support@americastarbooks.com"

Now that I have discovered this blog I will follow the suggestions made. In the meantime, I am revising my original book, adding a few things, changing a few things and modifying the title. I will republish my book with my own publishing company. Lesson learned. Thanks for the help, finding this blog made me very happy today.

Anonymous said...

It's heartbreaking and heartless. At 93 your father shouldn't have to deal with this. Hope you're able to get things sorted for your father. Maybe you can appeal to the Maryland Attorney General under the state's protections to prevent taking advantage of the elderly.

Anonymous said...

Are there any new updates? Just was wondering. I wonder if after the 18th they will contact any of us. Either regarding our rights to our contracts. Or whether or not they are planning on opening back up. Which at that point I will resend my letters to them requesting my rights back once the contracts are up.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 12/13,

If I learn anything new, I'll add an update to my post.

I don't think that anyone will hear anything from anyone at ASB ever again. I think ASB is gone for good. The problem for authors, if their books are still for sale on Amazon or other retailers, is how to convince the retailers to remove the listings. Since ASB never terminated contracts or returned rights and authors or even announced that it was closing, that will be tough, even though you can point to the defunct websites as evidence.

Anonymous said...

So was reading some stuff on another blog. Got me even more upset. They had stated that maybe we could try to change the title of the book and change the cover of our books under contract. However we could still possibly get in trouble. I then looked at my contracts with ASB and they state this.
20. Non-Competition: During the term of this agreement, Author shall not, without
the written consent of Publisher, write, print, or publish or cause to be written, printed, or
published, any part of the Work in any format, including as another edition of the Work, revised,
corrected, enlarged, abridged, or otherwise.
So I guess we just have to brush ourselves off and start over. And hope that maybe someday we will get our rights back. But until then write something new and SELFPUBLISH!!!!! So that no one can take our life's works away again. God bless you all

Darrell Mudd said...

Victoria,
I was hoping we would hear something on the Maryland court hearing from this past Monday? As for hearing from ASB and Mr. Meiners, I believe we will, for 50,000 authors and more, regaining our book publishing rights even at $100/book is a big number for him. He would be a very foolish businessman to just stay in hiding.
Anyways, wishing all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, next year is coming soon.
DSMudd

Edward Saint-Ivan said...

I wish I could buy more copies of my book from America Star Books. B%N no longer sells it and some stores charge a mint. If you could help me buy my book at a reasonable price, I would be in your debt.

Anonymous said...

I believe what I am going to do is send them a check with a letter stating that I am buying my rights back at such and such price. Upon cashing the check they accept the terms of the agreement. It's a shot and if they are desperate enough to cash the check then it becomes a legal binding document.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 12/26,

Don't do that. For one thing, authors shouldn't have to buy back their rights. For another, there's no one there to receive your check, never mind cash it.

Edward Saint-Ivan,

As far as I can determine, ASB books are no longer being printed. Probably the only way to get hold of any copies would be through a third-party seller on Amazon or B&N--though many if not most of the sellers who might be listing your book don't actually have any copies on hand, so they're in the same boat as you.

Darrell Mudd,

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find out anything about the alleged court appearance by Meiners. My anonymous source didn't respond to any of my attempts to contact them. Maryland Circuit Courts publish their dockets--I checked, and there was no mention of Meiners on the 18th. The District Courts don't publish their dockets, so if he appeared there, there's no public record of it.

Janet Simons said...

It seems that a publisher's rights should be contingent upon them continuing to publish a book. If they stop publishing they are holding you and your book hostage. If one is worried about them suing, they have disappeared. Do you actually believe they would show up and attempt to sue authors? I think not. Just rewrite or add additional chapters and publish with another legitimate publisher. I'm sure there will be no ramifications.

Victoria Strauss said...

Janet Simons,

You're right, it would make sense that a publisher's rights be contingent on them continuing to publish a book--but that's not the way publishing contracts work. As long as the contract remains in force, the publisher holds whatever rights are included in the contract--whether the book is "in print" or not.

The problem isn't that ASB would sue you if you went ahead and published elsewhere. It's that a new publisher won't want to take on a book whose rights aren't completely free and clear (and if you do a few revisions and present it as a new unpublished work, they will not be pleased with you when they discover its history). Even self-publishing platforms like CreateSpace require you to warrant that you have the unencumbered right to to publish--which, if there's a still in-force contract out there, you don't. Punishment for violating that requirement could be permanently closing your account.

As I've said a number of times in these comments--time is your friend in this situation. If six months go by and ASB doesn't reappear, I think you'll have an easier time making the case to retailers that ASB is dead and your listing should be taken down. And you will have to make that case. Otherwise, it's going to be hard to convince a new publisher or self-publishing platform that your rights have indeed reverted to you. This is especially important if the ASB Kindle version of your book is still on sale, as many of them are.

Anonymous said...

Hello I am just wondering what this means... This was in my contract and basically is the only place that it speaks of serials... I am not sure if this is stating that if I decided to write a new book using the same characters from one of my books under contract with ASB. (if I can or can not any advice) I was just wondering....




(c) No payment shall be made to the Author for permission gratuitously given to others to
publish extracts from said literary Work to benefit the sale thereof, but all compensation received
by the Publisher for the publication of extraction therefrom, or for serial use after publication in
book form, or for abridgments, or as a book club selection, shall be divided in the proportion of
50% to the Author and 50% to the Publisher. All compensation received by the Publisher
in exchange for the dramatic or motion picture rights, or for the first serial rights prior to book
publication, or for foreign, translation, radio, dramatic, cheap edition, television and/or all other
rights in the said literary Work shall be similarly divided between the Author and the Publisher,
as set forth in this paragraph 3(c). All gross monies and compensation received in payment for
such sale, lease, assignment, license or other disposition of the rights in the Work shall be
collected and disbursed by the Publisher, and all contracts for such sale, lease, assignment,
license or other disposition shall provide that such monies and compensations are to be paid to
the Publisher; and the Publisher is authorized to receive, collect and disburse same and to
endorse and deposit all checks and/or drafts for such payment. All payments due from the
Publisher to the Author hereunder shall be made within ninety (90) days from the receipt thereof
by the Publisher, accompanied by statements of the amounts received and disbursed. Royalties
shall be paid at the times indicated in paragraph 15.


I do know I saw info about reproducing another copy was not ok,

During the term of this agreement, Author shall not, without
the written consent of Publisher, write, print, or publish or cause to be written, printed, or
published, any part of the Work in any format, including as another edition of the Work, revised,
corrected, enlarged, abridged, or otherwise.
Not sure if anyone can help just wondering...

Anonymous said...

Hello

This is helpful information. I had no idea what was going on. I recently saw my book for sale on Amazon for around $40.00. I thought that was a bit strange because this book was only $10.00 when it was first published. Now I believe I should received royalty checks I never received, but I guess this is why. This is frustrating and the trouble an author has to go through for something the put their heart into really hurts. Lesson learned.

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I really thank you for this information.

But what could we do at this time,as we have paid all we have to advertise or promote our books through them. Presently my books are sold on different platforms at a higher price without my consent,and i have called a platform and i was told it was sold by a third party that they wouldn't disclose to me.

Please help us out.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Here is what happened according to staff. 12/18 court appearance cancelled by creditor who filed suit. Willem Meiners was caught stealing money, dissolution lawsuit details money stolen, district attorney declined to press charges, then lawsuit filed for dissolution, they paid settlement to get out of dissolution. liens filed by state of MD, Willem Meiners sold house and now hiding. Where?

Darrell S. Mudd said...

Appears the December court appearance had nothing to do with ASB Meiners publishing issues and we authors in regaining our rights. In doing a bit of research, Authors Alliance has a great website on getting author rights back, seeking a (reversion of rights) from ASB. The problem we ASB authors have is who to contact at out-of-business ASB for such reversion. If none can be found, our books could fall into the category of (orphan books), defined by Wikipedia as,
"An orphan work is a copyrighted work whose owner is impossible to identify or contact.[1] This inability to request permission from the copyright owner often means orphan works cannot be used in new works nor digitized, except when fair use exceptions apply. Until recently, public libraries could not digitally distribute orphaned books without risking being fined up to $150,000 if the owner of the copyright were to come forward.[2] This problem was addressed in the 2011 case Authors Guild et al. v. Google."

Victoria Strauss said...

I don't have any confirmation of that anonymous comment, since the commenter--who has also contacted me directly by paper mail--hasn't responded to my requests for further information. Even so, I'm inclined to believe it.

Re: reversion: even if there were someone to contact at ASB, attempting to deal with them like a normal publisher wouldn't work. They'd just laugh at your reversion request and demand that you pay them $399 to get your rights back.

Simply being unable to revert rights from a delinquent publisher doesn't turn your book into an orphan. Plus, ASB contracts are time-limited and eventually will expire, at which point your rights will revert. (Because ASB is out of business, you don't have to bother with the contract language that requires you to notify ASB of termination.)

I think that enough time has passed to be pretty certain ASB is not going to rise from the dead. It's also clear that the authorities are not going to take any action to punish Meiners and Clopper or to set ASB authors free. So in my opinion, authors' best recourse is to take matters into their own hands, and try to convince retailers that are offering their ASB books for direct sale--as Amazon still is for Kindle editions and some paper editions--that ASB is dead and their listings should be taken down. Amazon won't remove third-party listings, but if you can convince it that continued sale of your book from a defunct publisher is copyright infringement, it will at least remove your books from direct sale.

Amazon's copyright infringement form is here. Feel free to use this post as a reference.

Rebel Rose said...

I am grateful to have come across your site because I've been in the dark about a lot of the things PA/ASB has done the last few years due to personal health issues. I have 3 books with them and amazon.com has two being sold by third parties ranging in prices from almost $100 all the way to almost $600 on one. The second book(Reflections In My Tears) is listed as currently unavailable. One my third book(The Box) it is beyond overpriced but is only listed in paperback, even though it is available on Kindle. I haven't received emails from PA/ASB for quite some time now. So how can I find out if my book rights have been returned to me after all this time? There is no way I'll ever sell books at the prices these third parties have them listed for. I truly can say that ever dealing with PA/ASB has been the biggest mistake of my life. I'd be grateful for any thoughts/ideas on what I can do. Sincerely, Candice M. Martin

Darrell S. Mudd said...

Here is a reply I received from an Amazon publishing site concerning ASB. All we need is a legal contact at ASB to get back into the writing business.

Hello Darrell,
Thank you for addressing your question to us directly.
Upon correspondence, I would like to clarify some points:
1. Yes, if you have an existing contract with your previous publishing house, then we will request you to provide us a document in which you can demonstrate that you own the rights for such work. You can submit that documentation to info@createspace.com anytime.
2. If you would like to use the same ISBN numbers from your previous publishing house, you might do so. Nevertheless, if you get an error message that the ISBN numbers cannot be used, you can use the free ISBN option we provide to all members.
I hope this information helps, thank you for contacting CreateSpace.
...................................................................................
Best regards,
Jean
CreateSpace Member Services

My email to Amazon………………………………………………...
Hello,
I have four published books under contract, (currently in an out-of-print status), with a publisher who has gone out of business, America Star Books, (ASB). I would like to republish with Amazon, with you folks at create-space. What paperwork do you require from me to show that I have the publishing rights to these books?
Thank you.
Darrell Mudd
dswmudd@gmail.com
https://www.amazon.com/Darrell-S.-Mudd/e/B00JH0HNGS

Anonymous said...

I have one book that was originally published with PA and my plan is to do a major overhaul to it and publish it under a different title. Any comments on this would be welcome.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen this link from about a year ago?:

https://www.villamedia.nl/artikel/boek-over-herinneringen-gooi-en-eemlander

Willem seemed to have been publishing a compilation book of recollections of newspapers he used to work for in Holland.

Anonymous said...

If any of you have read your contracts, the wording allows for renewal if there's not written notification when the contract ends. I've done the written notification and was told it renewed another 10 years since it was not received in time.....hmmmph, five months ahead of renewal date seemed like enough time to me. The problem is, I didn't send it certified and the backup email wasn't "acceptable." Oh, yes, for a mere $199 (discount rate) I could get my rights back. I am considering renaming my work, rewriting (It's really too long and the editing it received was horrible. I had to edit the edits to correct all their spelling and grammatical errors.) Changing names in the book and my penname is also part of the process. I promised myself I wouldn't sue myself for stealing my idea.

Anonymous said...

I too am a victim of America Star Books. I have not received any call backs from the many messages I left. What I need to know is how many of authors are under this black cloud of injustice, so we can maybe group up a signed petition against are former publisher with every ones name on it. With numbers comes strength and power and are forced to be heard. Rather than taking up this fight on are own seem's to be getting us no where. The last time I checked we live in a country of democracy and the justice system will not fail us. Imagine if Mr Willem Meiners is bragging of having 70,000 books published and we get at least 10% of Authors or more in names and send it to one lawyer to represent us that handles these type of cases it will be a sure land side victory. This seem's to be a chess game. It's time we all group up and say to him and his staff. Jackie, Kerrin and the two Sarah's that work for him. Check Mate!

Anonymous said...

I am a writer with two novels published by PA/ASB with expired contracts who can verify what Victoria Strauss says above is correct: I sent an email to Amazon's copyright department asking for PA/ASB's listing a publisher of my 2 kindle ebooks on their site be removed as well as Pa/ASB's sales of my ebooks be blocked. Along with the email I sent a copy of my expired contracts, a copy my certified mail to the company returned as undelivered by the USPS to PA/ASB's address of record, a link to the Better Business Bureau's profile page of America Star Books advising the company is "out of business," and a link to the state of Maryland's Attorney General's consumer complaint website so Amazon could inquire about the many complaints registered by writers. The result was that Amazon's copyright department emailed me on the same day that PA/ASB was removed as my publisher and would be blocked from selling both my soft cover and ebooks.

My remaining question is: who received all of the illegally claimed royalties to the sales of my books and of all the other harmed writers' books? From what I read on this site, PA/ASB is still collecting royalties today from the writers they dumped. I also agree with the email above that the former owners of PA/ASB should be held accountable for their despicable actions. I contacted the National Writer's Union (UAW local 1981) who said they tried to have writers contact their department that handles disputes with publishers as I requested they do, but they did not have many contact writers them. Coincidently, it has been reported on their site that they recently won a major settlement on behalf of freelance writers of Ebony Magazine. Perhaps if more writers contacted them (You have to join first for a nominal fee) or contacted some other entity would tackle the PA/ASB outfit's unlawful and unfair actions, restitution could be made of lost royalties and copyright papers, etc. could be returned to writers along with the writers' files, etc. I only wish that could happen, but don't know how to make it happen. At least I can post this notice to advise writers how I recently got fair treatment on Amazon and got free to find a new publisher and move on.

Anonymous said...

This is so very upsetting. All six of my books are still being sold as kindles. So I don’t dare do anything with them.
I am now focusing on new things. Went with CreateSpace for my two new books.
Starting over but it still stings allot.

Antonion BORGES said...

Dear Mr Willem Meiners

If you are reading the many complaints here from your former authors that trusted you through the many years together, devoted to you and your staff to navigate them to fulfill there dreams. "You did." You did not publish there books with the intent to blackmail them. Why now have you turned a blind eye to all these authors. For some I have read they have 4 or more books published with you that took them a life time to write. They come from average lives. They are not millionaires to fight you in court to get back there publishing rights. Do not taint your good last name your parents bestowed upon you. Don't you have any conscious at all towards facing GOD one day, and you shall, as we all do. What ever problem your facing I wish you well, but don't drag your multiple amount of authors with you. Show them some faith and kindness as the man we remembered you to be. Talking about how you got started in the book business and wanted to help other authors. Being also an author how you faced dead ends to get your book published. And started your own book publishing company to find great authors and you did, to publish there books. Do the right thing and give every authors publishing rights back. Make your parents and your loved ones share this "Great Joy!" together with you.

Sincerely
Antonion Borges author of: Cocoa and Company a Civil War Classic America Star Books

Tammy l Tamuffin30 said...

I have contacted the attorney general office and they said they can't do anything about it. This is outrageous. I have published three books with them and I am heartbroken. I want my contact voided. I want to publish elsewhere! At least give us all the copies of our books you have made.

Tammy l Tamuffin30 said...

My books are still being sold on Amazon and on eBay for ridiculous amounts of money that I will never see. This is outrageous!

Victoria Strauss said...

Tammy,

The people listing your books on Amazon for those absurd prices don't actually have the books on hand--they're just listing ISBNs scraped from the internet, and the high prices are an artifact of Amazon's automatic pricing algorithms. It's annoying, but at least it's not sales you're losing money on.

I think that enough time has passed to be pretty certain ASB is not going to rise from the dead. It's also clear that the authorities are not going to take any action to punish Meiners and Clopper or to set ASB authors free. So in my opinion, authors' best recourse is to take matters into their own hands, and try to convince retailers that are offering their ASB books for direct sale--as Amazon still is for Kindle editions and some paper editions--that ASB is dead and their listings should be taken down. Amazon won't remove third-party listings, but if you can convince it that continued sale of your book from a defunct publisher is copyright infringement, it will at least remove your books from direct sale.

Amazon's copyright infringement form is here. Feel free to use this post as a reference.

Catharina said...

Hi Victoria.
My 'contract' with PublishAmerica ended on 08/24/2016, nearly two years ago.
When the contract ended, they listed my book as unavailable on Amazon and other sites.
Now I've checked and they're listing it for *less* than what I'm selling the same book for!
Should I write Amazon to report copyright infringement?
Thanks so much!

Victoria Strauss said...

Catharina,

You might as well. Just be aware that if third-party sellers list a book, Amazon will not remove that listing.

Anonymous said...

First I would like to thank Victoria Strauss and her colleagues in providing such a great site for all of the authors that was with PA/ASB to get together here and voice the outrage in this piracy by this book publishing company that has no honor or integrity to the literary world. Now it's time we come together as one and send are complaints to the TV show 60 minutes. To expose them in there criminal act. I say we do it by mail and by e-mail this way it will get there attention to track down Mr.Willem Meiners and his staff. They can run and hide in any parts of the world if they choose to, but know one thing 60 minutes news reporters will find them under the rock they crawled under and bring us the justice we deserve! Let's band together and do it. It's time to checkmate them as I posted earlier before here on this site on 2/25/2018. The injustice will be vindicated to us by the biggest news reporters known to the World!!!!

Anonymous said...

To all my fellow authors from PA/ASB. Addressing what I wrote above here on 3/23/2018 is the address to 60 MINUTES TV SHOW.

60 MINUTES
524 WEST 57TH ST.
NEW YORK,NY 10019

EMAIL: 60m@cbsnews.com
PHONE# 212-975-3247

Being writers and reporter's themselves this will be a sensitive topic to the staff at 60 minutes. Don't delay they await are response.


Victoria Strauss said...

In light of the fact that law enforcement seems uninterested in investigating ASB and ids disappearance, I've updated this post to reflect Writer Beware's latest advice. As we see it, authors have two options.

First, you can wait out the term of your contract. The one silver lining in this situation is that ASB contracts are time-limited, not life-of-copyright, ensuring that authors can get free if they are willing to wait.

Or, second, you can file a copyright complaint with Amazon to try and get them to take down your book listings. Amazon's copyright infringement reporting form is here: https://www.amazon.com/report/infringement. In the Additional Information box, state that ASB has gone out of business (you can mention that this has been confirmed by the Maryland Attorney General's office) and is no longer issuing royalty statements or making payments, and that continued sale of your book is therefore copyright infringement.

I've heard from some ASB authors who've had success with this method. Keep in mind that Amazon may not remove listings from third-party sellers--but these sellers rarely actually have copies of the books they list. Please leave a commment, or contact Writer Beware directly, to let us know how you fare.

Nichelle Conner said...

I have been following this blog for several months and my heart goes out to all that have been taken advantage of by Publish America/ASB. I too have been affected with three books under the foothold of ASB. The information has been very helpful and I recently submitted the request to Amazon to have my titles removed. However, I have not noticed any mention regarding having items removed from Barnes & Noble. If you have any information on how to have titles removed from B&N I would be most grateful. Once again thank you so very much for the information that has been provided. I am looking forward to this nightmare coming to an end.

Victoria Strauss said...

B&N isn't as easy as Amazon, because it doesn't provide a form to fill out--but here's the procedure to send an infringement notice: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/h/copyright-policy. You can use this handy DMCA notice generator to produce a notice in the proper form: http://www.sfwa.org/2010/07/sample-dmca-generator-for-authors/.

Nichelle Conner said...

Thank you for the information. Also, I received a response from Amazon: Hello,

We reviewed the information you have provided and determined that we must decline your request to remove the listings of your work from Amazon.com. You have not alleged that any of the copies of your work sold by third parties on Amazon.com were illegally manufactured, re-copied, or unlawfully obtained when first transferred.

Once a copyrighted work is legally purchased or acquired by another owner, it may subsequently be sold and resold without restriction.

If you believe there are recopied versions of your work on Amazon.com, please write to notice@amazon.com with all of the following information:

-- An electronic or physical signature of the person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright interest.
-- A description of the copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed.
-- The ASIN/ISBN of the item's detail page and the product title.
-- The store or business name of the seller you are reporting.
-- Your address, telephone number, and email address.

Not too sure where to go from here. :(

Thomas DeMeo said...

I had a book published by PA/ASB in 2011. I can't even find a credible source in which to ask a question about Royalties. I guess since there is nothing except litigation gossip about this "so called company", the writers are just "SOL"!

My name is Thom DeMeo. My wife Betina, and I co-authored the book in 2011. It is entitled:
Our Blessing...Multiple Sclerosis.

If anyone is "leading the train" for a class-action lawsuit, I'll get on board! My e-mail:
tdemeo5578@gmail.com

John Baumgartner said...

So I might be in a little different category than most. I published three titles with America Star Books (first Publish America). I read the contract carefully, and knew what they would and wouldn't do. I'm disappointed of course that they are out of business, but I did receive royalties (until the last two years of my seven year contract when they were in trouble) and my books were published and marketed exactly as the contract stated. It was a start in the publishing business for me. I knew it wasn't going to make me the next Charles Dickens, but it did let me get some books on the market, attend trade shows and book fairs, and hone my skill. All three of my contracts were for seven years, so I know own the rights to my first book, and will own the second book next March. I do believe America Star Books and its owners preyed on people who thought they were using a "real" publishing company. For me, as soon as I read the contract I knew it was basically nothing more than a self-publishing company where I didn't have to make the upfront investment. I bought my books for between $6 and $8 (paperback, hardcover more) when they had specials and have sold them for a bit more. I am really disappointed that they have let so many aspiring authors down, not made good on their promises, not paid their royalties and not communicated with their authors in any way through this ordeal. I'm working on my fourth book and plan the process of submittals and looking for a new publisher again, although I'm dreading quite a bit. But perseverance is needed in this business.
John Robert Baumgartner

Unknown said...

I received one of my last email from them, and within the email dated May 24,2017,subject: "Book stays under contract, with right to cancel anytime"

"Your book is under contract with America Star Books (ASB), and we thank you for that. We gave you the option to cancel your contract while we work on assigning all of our contracts to a third party, and you decided to stay with us.

ASB is looking at various potential assignees. Whichever the outcome, you may not automatically like the eventual owner of your book's rights. Therefore we now give you an opportunity to stay under contract with ASB for as long as you like, but to walk away, with your rights, at any moment of your choosing.

In other words, you acquire the freedom to take the rights to your book back whenever you want. Staying under contract comes with all the benefits of having your book available for sale worldwide. Canceling your contract has the benefit of keeping the future of your book in your own hands.

Go to http://store.americastarbooks.pub/StayReserve to activate for an administrative fee of $79. Your book stays under contract with America Star Books and/or with a future owner of your book's publishing rights until you cancel. A simple termination email will suffice. At that time you will automatically become the full owner of your book's rights. We will confirm the added clause to your contract by email. This will become a binding addition to your current contract. Therefore, since all contract terms must by law be honored by any current or future owner of your book's publishing rights, you may cancel your contract at your convenience, simply by letting the publisher know.

Sincerely,

America Star Books, LLLP,
Caroline Inabinett, resident agent
You are receiving this email, because you indicated you would like to receive book promotion emails from America Star Books. If you want to receive no more book promotion emails, reply with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line.

America Star Books, LLLP

P.O. Box 151

Frederick, MD 21705

US

Victoria Strauss said...

Unknown,

Thanks for your comment. This email and others like it is why I was initially concerned that ASB might attempt to sell or transfer its catalog. If that were going to happen, though, I think it would have already. (The email also demonstrates ASB's sleazy habit of creating fake problems in order to monetize fake "solutions".)

Anonymous said...

I am with Thomas DeMeo. I am out of the country but would also like to join any class action. I have 2 novels and both are in Limbo. I have not received a royalty in years. I know of people who bought the novel but no royalty. my email is wmvasquez1@hotmail.com

Victoria Strauss said...

Just to be clear: I'm not aware of any existing class action lawsuit (or indeed, any new legal action by authors resulting from ASB's closure), and I haven't heard anything to indicate that anyone is planning or even researching one.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this means our books will become rare collectors items. No money, but oh well ..ya get what ya get in this life .The auto renewal thing is a bit troubling. I do really feel for those who went in depending on income from their writing venture .
Not sure what to make of it all. In glad my 3 novels are out there, and fourth in the series I'm still working on, the real masterpiece - getting better at it - has not yet been submitted. My initial submission in 2009, Others' Mistakes by David Michael Hill was a thrill for me .They offered me a "deal" and I finished the work on a Mexico cruise .Subsequently built upon the incredible story of things (all coming true) in near future

RoyHutchinson said...

It is disturbing to find that my book is not available to be ordered. I wrote God's Trouble Shooter, Secrets to Success as a viable order to understanding God's availability to our Success. But in the meantime, I find that God has provided me with His success. Until He provides, I am successful. So LET US ALL pray for HIS success. I am 90 years old and have gone through a long year, In March 2017 the doctors called the family in about what they wanted to do after a week in the Amarillo hospitals. The family said, NO! Fix him. I had already heard from the Lord that this wasn't my time. He has much more for me to do. The next day, they had new doctors in and they took another scan. They found the problem and had me and my 80 year old wife on a plane at sunset for Plano, TX where A doctor was waiting. He look and said, we can't wait until tomorrow. By 1:30am he finished the operation and I played golf Thursday and Friday at our local golf course. SO BRING IT ON! I have some books waiting and will wait until I need more. God will have them available. Amen!

Bmac said...

I’d love to have the email address people have l been using to correspond with these people. My contract was up in February and I’m not sure if I’m free and clear. They were such a let down from the start I just figured I’d wait it out. Now I’m not sure where my original contract is and what the exact language was in it.

 
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