We had an uncomfortable situation arise at BookLocker.com this week. Please read what happened below and, if you have any input or an opinion about this situation, please share your wisdom in the comments section below.
Companies that provide publishing services for authors typically have a large percentage of elderly clients. Why? It’s actually quite simple.
1. Many folks don’t have the time to write books when they’re young.
2. Some writers don’t have extra money to self-publish when they’re raising children.
3. Some people have been sitting on a book idea, or even a manuscript-in-progress, for years, yet don’t have the time or energy necessary to finish it, nor to promote it, until they are retired.
A few years ago, we were contacted by a man who said his dad (a BookLocker.com author) had died, and that we needed to assign all future royalties to him (the son). Because my level of trust in people has fallen drastically in my adult years, I posted a copy of the exchange to the author’s account, which was only accessible by the author. Turns out that author was still very much alive. His son was trying to steal his copyrights, and his royalties.
A couple of years ago, an elderly woman published two books through us. We worked with her and her son throughout the process. Sometimes, her communications with me seemed a bit “off,” for lack of a better term. Something just wasn’t quite…right. After the books were finished, she started placing large orders for her books. A hundred copies one week. Fifty the next. Another 100 after that. I sent her a note, asking what she was doing to sell so many copies of her books. I wanted to hire her to write an article on book promotion for WritersWeekly! She wrote back, saying she was giving them all away, hoping that all her friends, neighbors, church members, etc. would tell a friend or two, and that those people would then buy her book. I told her to stop ordering copies, and to wait to see if any of the free copies she’d given away would lead to increased sales. I also once again gave her the link to our book, 90+ DAYS OF PROMOTING YOUR BOOK ONLINE: Your Book’s Daily Marketing Plan (http://booklocker.com/books/5948.html). A few days later, she attempted to place another order.
I put the order on hold, and put myself in her children’s shoes.
Would I want my mother to continue to purchased and then give away hundreds of free books on the mistaken notion that doing so would lead to best-seller status? No, I would not. I then called my own mom, explained the situation, and asked her if she would get offended if she was spending money like that, and if a business owner then contacted me about it.
There were three things to consider:
1. There was the personal issue of needing to contact an elderly author’s adult child, and all the fallout that could come from that. The author could very well be completely coherent and financially stable and, if so, they should have the right to spend their money in any way they want, even frivolously.
2. There was the moral issue of knowing someone is spending money on a marketing tactic that isn’t going to work and, if she was suffering from dementia or some other ailment, I didn’t want her to suffer financially later for her actions now.
3. And, there was also a potential legal liability. Our competitor, Author Solutions (who owns AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, Trafford, and others), was sued (class-action…twice). Part of the second lawsuit dealt with how they did business with senior citizens. This would never be an issue for us because we treat all authors, especially our senior citizen authors, with love and respect. If they’re doing something to harm themselves, we’re going to take (what can sometimes be uncomfortable) steps to protect them from making mistakes with their money.
So, after speaking to our staff, and to my mother, I contacted the author’s son. He thanked me profusely and she didn’t place any more orders for copies of her book after that. I also never heard from her again. But, at least her bank account was left intact.
And, that leads us to this week’s quandary.
We were contacted by an author whose book we just finished. It’s a large, well-written, heavily illustrated book. At no time during the publishing process did I get any red-flags during my communications with him. In fact, I never even knew his age.
He recently contacted us about the sequel. I sent him the link for returning authors (because they get a discount on setup fees). He asked me to contact his adult child about payment, saying she would take care of it, and gave me an email address.
I forwarded his note to the email address with our link. The adult child emailed me back, saying the father is in his 80’s and has dementia, that he’s been spending money they can’t afford, and that he’s been hiding it from them. She then said she was lying to him now (meaning, I believed, that she was just letting him believe she was going along with his spending). I told her we had experienced something similar before and that we understood the situation. I assumed I wouldn’t hear from him again.
So, imagine my shock this morning when I logged into our author dashboard and there was note from the author that said, “My daughter did send payment for (title removed), but never received a receipt. Please check status.”
So, his daughter lied to him about our company and, if we don’t respond, he’s going to blame us, and perhaps even post complaints about our company online because 1. he thinks she paid his fees and 2. he now thinks we’re ignoring him (meaning he thinks we stole from him).
So, is this author really suffering from dementia? Or, is this a case of a greedy adult child trying to stop their parent from spending the adult kids’ future inheritance? And, why is she lying to him, and involving us (and risking our reputation) in her deceit?
So, dear readers, how would you handle this situation? Please post your advice/opinions in the comments box below. I’d appreciate your feedback and, next week, I’ll let you know what we did to try to fix this very uncomfortable and sad situation.
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
WritersWeekly.com - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.
BookLocker.com - According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: "As close to perfection as you're going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I've ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can't go wrong here. Plus, they're selective and won't publish any manuscript just because it's accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors' books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know."
Abuzz Press offers FAST and FREE book publication, but only accepts a small percentage of submissions, and only works with U.S. authors.
PubPreppers.com - "We Prep, You Publish!" Print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish. Offers formatting and design services only, and then provides simple instructions for authors on where to sign up to have the print and ebook editions printed/listed/sold. Cut out the middle man. Keep 100% of what bookstores pay for your book!
Angela's POD Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.
Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal. (BookLocker offers "disgruntled author discounts" to those who want to move from other POD services.)
See BookLocker's publishing packages HERE.
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