What does a publisher do when his company is sued by his authors for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraudulent misrepresentation and other charges? Why, he starts a new publishing business, of course!
The publisher in question is Don Semora, former owner of vanity publisher 2 Moon Press, which closed down last year leaving many authors having paid thousands of dollars and getting nothing. They're now suing Semora and the womah to whom he sold 2 Moon. Following an investigation by a local news channel the authorities are taking an interest as well.
The news report revealed that one of the authors was a woman who wrote a children's adventure book as a tribute to her daughter, who was killed in a collision with a drunk driver. The woman's husband spent $2000 on getting the book published. They waited for months with no response. When they went to the 2 Moon headquarters they found it closed. They were not able to get back any of their money.
Writers in ten states, including Michigan, where 2 Moon was based, have complained that they didn't get what they paid for.
The then-ownder, Semora, has two convictions for larceny for which he served time in prison. He blames Melinda Lundy, the former employee to whom he sold the business; she claims he had her sign a fraudulant contract. He started a lawsuit against her but the case was dismissed because Semora didn't show up at the hearing.
When the news team sought to interview Lundy she refused to comment. Her son grabbed a news camera and smashed it and then threatened to assault the reporter. Criminal charges against him are pending.
It's quite likely that not all the authors who paid 2 Moon have come forward. Unfortunately there have been many instances of companies taking advantage of authors' dreams of getting their books published. As you can see from the story of the woman who wanted to honor the memory of her daughter, the damage done by these people goes beyond the financial.
Now that self-publishing is much easier than it used to be, and ebooks can be created for little or no cost, maybe the crooks who prey on aspiring authors will find it harder, but I've already seen companies charging high fees for helping authors publish ebooks--not outright fraud but taking advantage of the fact that a lot of people don't understand that self-publishing doesn't have to be expensive.
Oh yes, Don Semora? He's started a new company, Fall River Publishing and Graphics, LLC.
BEFORE YOU SIGN A CONTRACT
If you are offered a publishing contract, don't sign until you've checked the internet.
Do a search for the name of the publishing company and the names of the principals. Don't just look at the first page of results--often such companies set up dozens of fake sites promoting themselves with fake testimonials in order to keep genuine information off the first page of search results.
Check with previous customers. Usually these companies include a page showing the books they have published. Using Facebook and Google you should be able to get an email address for the authors. Email them to ask about their experiences with the company.
Check the Writer Beware website. They have a list of publishers (and agents) with complaints against them. I'm indebted to the Writer Beware blog for the information in this post.
Sleep on it! It's exciting to get a publishing offer, especially if you have had lots of rejections, but avoid the temptation to rush into signing anything. Put the contract aside, do your research, and if you decide to sign have an attorney check the contract first. Sometimes there are innocent-sounding clauses that actually take away your rights to the material or make it harder to get damages if you sue.