I am a not an attorney and this is not legal advice. All authors should consult with an attorney before deciding if or how to republish their books.
As we explained last week, America Star Books (a.k.a. PublishAmerica) has stopped responding to emails. The “contact” form on their website isn’t working. And, there are numerous complaints about unpaid royalties, unfulfilled services, and undelivered book orders.
The problem is America Star Books had an exclusive contract with its authors. And apparently, at one time, they also claimed right of first refusal on their authors’ subsequent books. That clause may have also been in their recent contracts.
So, there are potentially thousands of authors who:
1. Can’t buy copies of their own books (unless they want to pay full price for copies that are in stock at an online retailer)
2. Can’t republish their books elsewhere
3. Can’t use the files America Star Books created
4. And, worse, allegedly can’t collect royalties on books the publisher is still selling online
So, the authors have a publisher who has allegedly gone out of business, but that publisher has not relinquished rights to the authors’ books, nor provided the authors with copies of their files so they can get republished elsewhere.
The legal quandary is that the publisher could conceivably come back later, and sue authors for violating the exclusivity contract. But, of course, those authors could counter-sue for the publisher breaching the contract as well.
While I doubt America Star Books’ owners would go to such extremes, I also never suspected that they’d just (allegedly) close up shop one day and go silent, while still collecting royalties on ongoing book sales, but apparently not sending those royalties to their authors.
Since some of their books are still for sale, who’s getting the royalties for those sales? To read an explanation of how the money is SUPPOSED TO flow from the retailer, to the distributor, to the publisher, and to the author, click HERE.
There are several steps authors can take to try to recoup their rights and their books. However, I don’t think any of them will ever be able to get their production files from America Star Books.
OPTIONS FOR AMERICA STAR BOOKS AUTHORS
1. REPORT THEM TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL!
The AG had been advising authors that this is a “consumer” matter, and that they need to contact an attorney. However, it’s clear they didn’t understand the gravity of the situation, nor even the simplest details. You can read more about that, and find links to the correct division at the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, HERE.
If you are owed royalties by ABS, and especially if your book is still up for sale online (meaning ABS may still be receiving YOUR royalties), explain that to the attorney general. If that’s happening, they are collecting money on your behalf, but they’re not sending it to you. I doubt they’re keeping those funds in an escrow account. And, if they’re not, they’re spending your money elsewhere. That is illegal. Again, there are many complaints online about ABS not paying their authors’ royalties.
2. WAIT TO HEAR FROM THE OWNERS
Unfortunately, this isn’t likely to happen. Unless they are eventually dragged into court, I doubt authors will be hearing from the owners ever again.
3. GO AHEAD AND PUBLISH THE BOOK ELSEWHERE
The risk here is that America Star Books/PublishAmerica still owns the rights to their authors’ books. While it’s doubtful they’d win, there’s still the risk they could sue their authors for republishing elsewhere. Desperate people do stupid things in an attempt to make money.
4. SUE…OR NOT
The problem here is that a lawsuit could take months or years and it’s doubtful the firm has enough money to pay past and future judgments against them. It’s likely they wouldn’t show up in court so the author would win by default. However, the publisher’s contract apparently had an arbitration clause, which could prevent an author from filing a lawsuit. If America Star Books does not participate in the arbitration process, a ruling would likely be made in the author’s favor.
5. REWRITE AND REPUBLISH
While authors could still be sued someday by ABS, they could take a lesser risk by rewriting their book, redesigning the cover, and publishing it under a different title, using none of the files that ABS edited or designed. The author could even write it under a pseudonym.
However, authors who signed a contract with America Star Books that claimed rights on the author’s current and future books could still face legal issues if they go this route since doing this is a violation of he ABS contract.
6. ABANDON THE BOOK, AND START OVER WITH A NEW ONE
As with the previous example, I recommend writing under a pseudonym because of the “right of first refusal” clause in the publisher’s contract.
A BIG POTENTIAL PROBLEM
There are already judgments against America Star Books. If they eventually file for bankruptcy, the rights they hold to their authors’ books could potentially be given to their creditors. Of course, that could take years and it wouldn’t benefit their authors at all. You can read more advice from a lawyer in the 11/6/17 update HERE.
If that happened, it’s doubtful that any firm who ends up with the rights to the books would then turn on the authors, filing lawsuits against them. But, again, there are no guarantees.
WHAT SHOULD AMERICA STAR BOOKS DO?
1. They should immediately email all of their authors, publicly announce their demise, and give their authors’ rights back.
2. They should send all of the production files for each book to its respective author.
3. They should immediately stop selling their authors’ books since they are (allegedly) collecting royalties on those sales, but not sending those that money to the authors.
CONSUMER OR CRIMINAL?! Did the (Alleged) Victims of America Star Books / ASB Promotions / PublishAmerica File Complaints with the WRONG DIVISION at the Maryland Attorney General’s Office?? (NOTE: It’s not too late to re-file!)
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the author of 19 books, 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).
Angela lives on a 52' Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch (sailboat) with her family and pets. Keep up with her family's adventurous liveaboard lifestyle at GotNoTanLines.com
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.
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See BookLocker's publishing packages HERE.
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