I’m receiving tons of email regarding my leaving Vanilla Heart Publishing (VHP). People are asking questions and sharing their experiences with VHP and with other publishers as well. At first, I felt inundated and overwhelmed by the barrage of email; but now, I feel grateful because each one gives insight and I find myself learning through other’s experiences. I’m thankful for those lessons, so keep writing. I will do my best to respond in a timely manner, but please forgive me if my responses come slowly. In addition, when many of you ask the same question I will try to answer it here, in blog format, so that others can benefit from the information as well.
Several of you mentioned that Vanilla Heart (and a couple of other publishers that I won’t name here) never signed your contracts and that when you sought an attorney you were told that they could not go after a breach of contract when a contract never existed. This is a statement of truth, but there is a loophole. I will only speak of VHP and not the other publishers mentioned in email because my experience is limited to VHP.
VHP never signed their contracts so that they could never be in “breach” of their contracts. This is a manipulative ploy in and of itself. Kimberlee Williams banked on the fact that new authors wouldn’t know any better…and it worked for her up until this year when about 14 authors grew wiser. She banked on her cunning ability to manipulate new authors with empty promises, lies and fear tactics; but here, in the details of the law, is where truth is found:
VHP’s contracts are Bi-Lateral Agreements, which means both parties (the author and the publisher) are signing that they are in agreement with the terms of the contract. In essence, they are both committing to do what the contract indicates they will do. A Bi-Lateral Agreement is only binding in a court of law IF it is signed by both parties. So, when an attorney says they cannot go after a breach of contract because a contract never existed, they are referring to the Bi-Lateral contractual agreement.
Hear me on this part, because this is every author’s ticket to freedom: IF the publisher never signed the Bi-Lateral agreement and never rendered a copy of the signed agreement back to the author, the contract never legally existed. Thereby, the author’s rights were never given to the publisher. Thus, any of the author’s work that was published by the publisher and from which the publisher benefited financially falls under Copyright Infringement.
Copyright Infringement is a federal offense; a much bigger charge than a breach of contract. Every attorney (particularly those with literary field expertise) will take an infringement case, especially when you’ve got contracts and email correspondence to substantiate your claim. In addition, if the publisher financially benefited from money gained via Copyright Infringement, that's called theft and it's another federal offense.
That’s the loophole and it’s just step one.
In the case with VHP, this puts the publisher in the position of either admitting to Copyright Infringement OR (if they want to pretend the contract was valid) admitting to a severe breach in contract involving artifice to defraud, fraudulent activity, misrepresentation and theft.
Either way, it doesn’t bode well for a deceitful publisher.
Authors, in today’s world of technology there is no reason why you cannot receive sales reports, royalty statements and payments on time. In addition, there is no viable excuse for not receiving them. If you are locked into a contractual agreement with a publisher who is not giving you the information you deserve, take action. If you sit idly by, you’re hurting yourself and you’re doing an injustice to other authors.
One woman wrote: “I know my publisher is cheating me but I’m afraid if I say anything they won’t publish my next book and all of my books will go away.”
I felt that way too. I was scared. But…aren’t we all scared right after we finish our first novel and we start to send out queries and submissions? Aren’t we all frightened that our work won’t be good enough or well received? But we press on. We press on…and that’s what you have to do if you’re in a negative relationship with an unethical publisher. Unethical publishers like Vanilla Heart don’t deserve your talent. They don’t deserve the right to work with you.
Change can be scary, but it is often necessary for growth. It’s one thing to be blinded by a lie…it’s another thing to know the truth and make an active choice to live the lie.
An ex-VHP author wrote in her email: “At first, I believed the lie. Then, I hoped it wasn’t true. Now that my eyes are opened it’s my responsibility to do my part and make sure no one else believes the lie.”
Amen! That's the very reason I blog and try to answer your emails and questions in a timely manner ...because it's my responsibility now to protect new authors from getting caught up in the lie... it's my job to do my part and I'm going to do it. ~