The 20 clients, two of whom co-authored a book, all signed contracts with Green Ivy between October 2014 and January 2017 and agreed to pay anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000, with most people paying around $3,000, according to the complaint. Although some of the clients paid off the fee in monthly installments, most eventually paid the entire amount, the complaint said.Law360 also describes the complaint as alleging that the Green Ivy operation was an adaptation by Gray, a patent attorney, of an "invention-promotion scheme" in which he was involved, which led to disciplinary action from the US Patent and Trademark Office and ultimately got him excluded from practicing before the USPTO. Gray ran something called The Independent Inventor's Program, through which he provided legal services to the US Patent Commission Ltd., a company that purported to help inventors protect and patent their inventions--for a high fee, of course (you can get a sense of how such predatory schemes work from this BBB complaint as well as this lawsuit brought by an unhappy USPC client; the FTC also provides this warning). According to the final order in the USPTO's disciplinary action against Gray, he "engaged in numerous conflicts of interest with regard to accepting USPC-referred clients" (among them: allowing USPC to use his law firm's name as inducement to purchase USPC's services, thereby assuring a supply of clients for himself), as well as "conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation".
In exchange, Green Ivy was supposed to edit, produce and market the books, according to the complaint. However, some clients found major flaws in the editing and graphics during production, and clients typically had a hard time reaching employees or getting answers to their questions, the complaint said.
Green Ivy also did not provide many clients with sales figures or royalty checks, according to the complaint.
Eventually, Green Ivy allegedly stopped responding to clients and shut down. The state of Illinois currently lists the company as “not in good standing.”
Good morning,FSP authors, who'd been concerned for several months about problems at the company, began contacting me. Complaints included missed pub dates; delayed (by months) royalty payments and statements; absent royalty payments and statements (one author told me they had never been paid); royalty statements missing sales the authors could prove had been made; failure to register copyrights, even though FSP's contract (unusually for a small press) requires the publisher to do so (I confirmed this myself via the US Copyright Office's registration database); and difficulty getting firm answers to their questions. When challenged on the payment delays and lack of sales numbers, for instance, Williams blamed Ingram; at other times she claimed to be ill, overwhelmed with email, or "working on it."
I wanted to take a moment and send an update on many things happening here at Fiery Seas and hopefully put some of you at ease.
Due to the many different events that have taken place and sales numbers not being where they need to be, Fiery Seas will be restructuring our business.
We have had major issues with our distributor and they are issues that are out of my hands. While I have had to explain this many times in the past little while. I want to make sure that everyone is aware. I have been going around and around with them for not replacing damaged books, messing up orders, not getting orders out on time, and more. We have had some issues with retailers not uploading and making our paperbacks available when all of that information is available to them. We could have all of them up on all other sites, but one and they have the same information sent from Ingram. These are things I can’t make them do. I call and I complain until I’m blue in the face, but I still have to wait to see what will happen. So, for this reason we will make some changes to the way we do things.
First, we will no longer do paperbacks until a threshold is met, at that time we will look at print runs. This WILL NOT affect the books that are coming out this year or those that are already out. However, we will be changing our distribution channels starting now and slowly move all of our titles to the new channels.
We will be working on more promotions to get our books in front of readers. We have new outlets we are working on for this to spread our reach. We will work on doing more genre-related promos, as well. We are working on these things already, but will hit them full force come 2019
Our royalty statements structure will change to make it more updated and correct the current issues we have run into this year. Yes, we have seen the problems and only want to fix them and KEEP them from happening. This will be completed by the end of this year and everything will be ready for the New Year.
We understand that many will be unhappy with our decisions and may decide to leave the company. We completely understand this and will do what we can to help the process or help with whatever you may decide to do. We will ask for 90 days to finalize everything and all proper accounting to be done, if you decide to leave us.
We are starting this process now and plan to have it completed by the end of the year. This means things will be delayed, but we are working very hard on everything so it doesn't happen again.
This doesn’t fix what has already been done, but it will make things better. I started this company because I love working with authors and love the publishing industry. This is not an easy business and it takes dictation [sic]. Like many of you, I too work outside of Fiery Seas, but I pull more hours on than you know, even if you don’t always see my actions. I know I have a ton of emails to go through and that I will have more after this email. I think some of them get lost at times because I have so many. It is not because I’m ignoring anyone or that I don’t want to answer you. It is because I’m trying to get through them all. Working on issues along the way. So, just know that I will respond to you ASAP and I am listening to everything you say.
There will be more updates over the course of this restructuring to keep you all informed. Questions will be addressed as quickly as possible.
All the best,
Fiery Seas Publishing
ANOTHER UPDATE 8/11/18: Fiction War continues to respond. Note the reference to "bullies."Thank you for your feedback and thoughtful analysis — we’d like to give your followers $10 off Fiction War Fall registration with this Promotional Code: WRITERBEWARE https://t.co/LsvWui76do— Fiction War (@fictionwar) August 11, 2018
#Fictionwar update: They have published Spring 2017 & paid some of the authors, but the 1st place writer was not included & hasn't received payment. She's contacted them multiple times about this & is ignored. She didn't withdraw, but had previously reported them to #writerbeware— Meagan Noel Hart (@MNHart) October 2, 2018
Turns out @fictionwar is not publishing and not paying *some* of their winners, and are making this decision without any correspondence to the winning authors. When said authors try to contact FW to see what happened, they are ignored. #writerbeware big time. Not #amwriting there— Meagan Noel Hart (@MNHart) October 20, 2018
The ASA noted that [United P.C.'s] ad used the terms "publish" and "publishes" and stated that that service would be free of charge. We noted that the complainant reported being asked to pay for corrections, designing the front and back covers and the additional cost of publishing an e-book. We asked United Publisher to comment on that and for details of the proportion of respondents who kept to the free of charge contract and the proportion that chose to pay for additional services, but that information was not forthcoming....Because United Publisher had not supplied information that showed other respondents had not incurred similar costs, we concluded that the claims that United Publisher published books free of charge were misleading.Online complaints that post-date the ASA's finding suggest that United P.C. hasn't changed its ways.
Note that neither of [Hopkins' trademarks] is, for example, “a trademark on the word ‘COCKY’ as used in book titles.” The registrations cover a book series, and this is made evident if one looks at the 9-page specimen of use she submitted to the Trademark Office to support the registration: http://tsdr.uspto.gov/documentviewer?caseId=sn87604968&docId=ORC20180416120311#docIndex=9&page=1. Note that “Cocky” appears in each of the titles in a manner that connotes that the book is printed as part of the “Cocky”-brand book series. Indeed, without the fact the word is used as part of a book series, it is unlikely Hop Hop Productions [Hopkins' company] could have obtained the registrations.Most legal commentary that I've read on l'affaire Cocky seems to agree that Hopkins' trademarks wouldn't stand up to a legal challenge. But authors who receive her threats--which admittedly are scary--may not realize this, or be able to afford legal counsel (at least some authors have already re-titled their books). Also, more concerningly, Hopkins is sending takedown requests to Amazon, which appears to be complying in at least some cases. Once Amazon takes down your book in response to a challenge, getting it reinstated is a nightmare.
This is because--and this is critical--in order for a trademark to exist and be registrable and enforceable, it must perform a “source identification function.” Here, Hop Hop was able to convince the Trademark Office that it has, since June of 2016, used the word “Cocky” to indicate the SOURCE of a series of romance books, and thus it was able to get it registered. There likely had to be a series of books for Hop Hop to convince the Trademark Office that the word “Cocky” performed this source identification function—one book with “Cocky” in the title would likely not have been enough to convince the Trademark Office, especially given that Hop Hop has ostensibly used the mark for less than two years. Just like when people see “Harlequin” on a book, they think of Harlequin Enterprises as the SOURCE of that book because “Harlequin” indicates more than just a book title. It indicates the SOURCE. See http://tsdr.uspto.gov/documentviewer?caseId=sn72184920&docId=ORC20081030112630#docIndex=10&page=1.
Because source identification is necessary to create and register a trademark, in order for there to be trademark INFRINGEMENT, as Hop Hop has apparently alleged in certain cases, the allegedly infringing “thing” must also be performing a source identification function. Thus, not all uses of a word perform a source identification function, and if there is no such use, there likely can be no trademark infringement.
For example, imagine I titled my book, “The Apple Tree and the Pheasant.” Would a consumer realistically believe that Apple Computer was the source of that book? No. Or, imagine I titled my book, “The Harlequin Pleased the King.” Based strictly on that use of the word “harlequin,” would a consumer think that Harlequin Enterprises was the source of my book? No, and thus no trademark infringement.
This is supported by what is called in trademark law the “classic fair use defense.” It is well-settled that you may use a third party’s trademark in the ordinary, English-language sense of the word, and as long as it was not performing a confusing, source-identification function, there is likely no trademark infringement. For example, if I wrote a story about King Neptune and his trident and I titled it, “King Neptune’s Powerful Trident,” if I got sued by the owner of the “Trident” trademark (see http://tsdr.uspto.gov/documentviewer?caseId=sn71653425&docId=ORC20110315095116#docIndex=18&page=1), I would have a very good classic fair use defense in that lawsuit since I am using the word “trident” in its normal, English-language construction (see https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trident) and NOT TO INDICATE THE SOURCE OF THE BOOK.
Thus, if you have one book and it is titled, for example, “The Gardener was a Cocky Lad,” I invite you to ask: is your use of the word “cocky” performing a source identification function such that people would be confused into thinking that Hop Hop was the source of your book? Is it being used only in a classic fair use sense to describe the gardener in your story as cocky, as defined by Webster? (See https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cocky)
Now, trademark law is very fact specific, and each case must be decided on its relative merits. There may be some cases in which use of the word “Cocky” in a book title does create a likelihood that a consumer would be confused into believing that Hop Hop was the source of that book. But that is the test. Without that likelihood of consumer confusion, proving trademark infringement is very difficult. But please consider these factors if you receive an allegation of trademark infringement as to your book titles.
And two lawyers at a prestitious IP law firm have offered to work pro bono on a legal challenge.Below is a link to my challenge to the "cocky" trademark. #CockyGate— Kevin Kneupper (@kneupperwriter) May 7, 2018
The highly respected Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the USPTO now has the issue before it and will decide whether the trademark of "cocky" should be invalidated!https://t.co/iNKCzPEtNR
UPDATE 5/30/18: Hopkins is doubling down: she has filed for preliminary injunctions and temporary restraining orders against Jennifer Watson, Tara Crescent, and Kevin Kneupper, claiming that Watson and Crescent are infringing her trademarks (Crescent is an author who uses "cocky" in some of her titles, and Watson is a member of the Cocky Collective, a satirical group that is producing an anthology called Cocktales: The Cockiest Anthology) and that Kneupper's petition to the USPTO to cancel the "cocky" trademarks is without merit.Amazon has responded to our request to say that they will not be removing titles from sale until this matter is resolved and have reinstated those they previously removed. We are still in discussion with counsel as to next steps and will report more as we are able. https://t.co/MCheapueye— RWA (@romancewriters) May 9, 2018
Jennifer Watson and the Cocky Collective are happy to announce a settlement has been reached in Hop Hop Productions, Inc. v. Kevin Kneupper, Tara Cresent and Jennifer Watson. The plaintiff has surrendered her trademark registrations for COCKY and has withdrawn the lawsuit.Authors can now use "cocky" in as many titles as they please, without fear of harassment from Hopkins. Good news indeed.
Disaffected clients claim they handed over sums ranging from $2000 to $12,000 since 2013 and as recently as late 2016 to entities including Love of Books Brisbane and Books Publishing Services Australia. The projects have ranged from historical research and commercial fiction to travel guides.And that's not all.
Another complainant is a Queensland debut novelist who unsuccessfully claimed a partial refund when the deadline for her fantasy fiction "was exceeded, my manuscript edited with no permission or tracking to show where the edits took place, no finished product and then I had to pay someone else to edit it again from scratch".
The writer says she is still owed $4000 and has not heard a word from McGregor since she was promised the refund in August 2016. At that time, she was not advised that McGregor was a bankrupt.
McGregor...dealt exclusively with a Melbourne high school whose parents spent $10,000 to produce a cookbook as a Christmas fundraiser in 2016.Several of McGregor's authors have won judgments from the Queensland Civil Claims Tribunal, although only one author appears to have been paid (and only partially).
The school, which does not want to be named, paid a $4000 deposit raised from local sponsors plus a further $6000 to McGregor's business, Love of Books Brisbane, to print 1000 copies of recipe favourites.
To date the fundraisers say they have not received a single copy of the book, which was to have been delivered four weeks after the supply of artwork and content in September 2016.
[A] Southport magistrates court convicted [McGregor] of three counts of dishonestly gaining thousands of dollars from three restaurants using fraudulent credit cards. She was handed a nine-month suspended sentence for what the prosecution said was a "calculated, fraudulent activity, not once but three times".In 2016, McGregor transferred the Love of Books website and client list to Ian Lewis, who is currently operating the business under his own business number and a slightly different name: Love of Books Australia-Wide. According to McGregor, this change was spurred not by thousands of dollars owed to multiple authors, but by "high continuous bullying in many forms...lasting over 3 years by a sacked employee and his associates, along with the take over of the businesses clients and personal details by a greedy commercial operator in conjunction." (You can read a much longer and even more self-serving version of this screed here.) According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Lewis has disclaimed responsibility for reimbursing McGregor's clients.
Acting magistrate Gary Finger described McGregor as "certainly naive to say the least" for her role in the complex fraud, in which she booked restaurant functions on fraudulent credit cards and then persuaded the restaurant owners to pay for non-existent florists and limousine services. A sobbing McGregor was told she would face jail time if she came before the courts again.
Participating teachers who submit their students [sic] work are eligible for one of three “Teacher’s Bonus” awards worth $500.00 apiece! Ballots are earned by the number of submissions made, so the chances of winning keeps [sic] going up!Each "ballot" represents 10 student entries, and teachers can submit up to 19 ballots. How to get lots of kids to enter your vanity anthology contest? Give adults an incentive to steer students your way.
12. Payment. Artist acknowledges that Company does not itself provide royalty payment. However, if accepted to one or more book, Artist will have the option to join Company's affiliate program, which is administered and run completely through the third-party site Refersion.According to the Affiliate Program FAQ, affiliates earn "approximately 25% of each sale you make (this includes 25% of the shipping fee as well)." Z suggests posting affiliate links on social media, websites, etc. (you can see a bunch of these pitches on Z's Facebook Community page), but it wants prospective affiliates to know that the best method is spam:
NOTE: Book-Art Press and Window Press Club are aware of this post, and have made changes to their websites, so some of the links below may not work--however, all were fully verified by me at the time of writing.who've been solicited by an Author Solutions-style author services company called Book-Art Press Solutions.
We are not a self-publishing company. We work as a literary agency that will endorse your book to be acquired by a traditional publishing company. We have inside contacts with major publishers and we know which of them are most likely to buy a particular material. So you won’t need to hire literary agents to promote your book to major publishers as we’ll do the endorsement for you.To take advantage of this amazing deal, all authors have to do is agree to pay for "at least 500 copies of your book (priced at $6 per book -- $3,000 total) to be distributed to physical bookstores across the globe for circulation".
We have done a preliminary endorsement to 50 traditional publishers and 6 out of the 50 have shown high interest in your book. However, they’re quite hesitant since your book is self-published and it has not been doing well when it comes to sales.
We have made a strategic plan for your book. Before we can endorse your book to traditional publishers, we will need to build your book’s credibility and your brand as an author. Because, as of now, you are still an unknown author. We can’t afford any flaws once we endorse your book.
With a self-publishing company, your book’s success depends on how much money you are capable of investing; which almost all self-published authors are unaware of how this delays the success of your book. Delaying your success is more practical for their business. Because, the longer your success is delayed, the more services they can sell to you. Your pocket will be exhausted until it becomes empty because that’s how they earn as a business and how sales agents get commission from-- the more services they are able to sell, the bigger commission they get. And eventually you get exhausted as well and so you get discouraged to move forward because you have invested so much effort, time and large amount of money and you haven’t seen any progress with your book yet. Which probably what you feel now. And that’s the worst thing that can happen to an author -- despair. Your book is too great to be left sitting online among millions of books available in Amazon. It’s like a grain in a bucket of sand. Almost impossible to be noticed. Our goal for your book is to make its success faster and that’s by directly endorsing your book to executives so you can land a contract with a traditional publisher.It's all lies, of course. There will be no 500-copy print run. No brick-and-mortar bookstores will be approached. No publishers will be pitched. Instead, once authors have ponied up the initial $3,000, BAP will do exactly what it pretends is not its business model: solicit writers to "invest" even more money in additional marketing services.
That's the message some writers found in their inboxes on Christmas Day, from a publication called The NY Literary Magazine:Congratulations!You have been nominated for the "Best Story Award".
In fact:Typing the first line of that quote + "NY Times" into Google reveals, yes, a real NY Times article - one that was published in 1992, in reference to the National Book Award & Pulitzer Prize. IT'S A TWENTY-FUCKING-FIVE YEAR OLD ARTICLE YOU GUYS. https://t.co/773JNrErRw— Foz Meadows (@fozmeadows) December 25, 2017
Just a teeny bit misleading, wouldn't you say?So, to recap: of the six pull quotes featured prominently at the top of the site, NOT A SINGLE ONE refers to the actual NY Literary Magazine Best Story Award.— Foz Meadows (@fozmeadows) December 25, 2017
Thread:— Foz Meadows (@fozmeadows) December 25, 2017
So, I've just been sent an email telling me I've been "nominated" for a "best story award," though the email doesn't list a specific thing I've written and it's not clear if this is for a novel or a short story. It also asks you to "submit your entry" by clicking a link.
I also got one of those emails from @NYLiteraryMag saying I’ve been nominated for an award but asking me to submit my story (plus reading fee) for an “award” that isn’t worth the paper its printed on. @victoriastrauss #writerbeware #scam— Percival Constantine (@perconstantine) December 25, 2017
Almost everyone in my writers' group got this email today, and almost everyone deleted the email.— Sandra Owens (@SandyOwens1) December 25, 2017
Raising hand for roll call. I eyeballed the thing and promptly went to Absolute Write to see if there was a thread. There was. :-)— Jules Jones (@bookfetishist) December 26, 2017
Absolute Write members got hit up, too.Just got this email over on my website from the NY Literary Magazine. Never heard of them. Will email you the addy and info.— Kim Baccellia (@ixtumea) December 26, 2017
We outsourced our marketing to an Asian service to help us spread the word about our Best Story Award contest. That is why authors received the marketing email from nyliterarymag.org (which is not our main website) on Christmas night, and at such an unexpected time in the middle of the night.I'll leave it to you to judge how plausible this is.
Unfortunately, it appears they chose the wrong terminology when inviting authors to our contest. We're very sorry that being told they were nominated for the Best Story Award offended, insulted, angered, or disappointed so many authors.
We have fired this agency and will monitor each marketing action any one of our team members does extremely closely from now on.
UPDATE 12/27/17: NY Literary Magazine has sent out another mass email, a cri de coeur of tragically injured innocence that again attempts to shift the blame (oh, those dastardly Asians), decries the evils of cyberbullying by mean folks like me, and proves once again that they just don't get it. They claim to be closing down for good. If you want to read the whole screed, here it is; if not, here's a taste.This is one of those “I’m sorry you were offended for no reason” apologies. It doesn’t change a thing. If anything, I feel much worse. pic.twitter.com/ya2x46srtu— Briana Morgan (@brimorganbooks) December 26, 2017
We are completely devastated and shattered from the extent of hate mail, comments, messages, tweets, lies and false accusations that were posted online which have totally blackened our name and destroyed our magazine - all based on a single email with one wrongly-worded sentence.If there were 10 paid jobs at NYLM, I'll eat my hat.
It's shocking how many people have posted blatant lies which weren't based on any facts and how many more people have shared, retweeted, and quoted those lies without ever checking to see if it's true or at least visiting our website....
This has been a heartbreaking Christmas.
We hope those people who spread the lies and worked so hard to destroy honest people's lives are now satisfied.
We have closed our contest. Refunded everyone who entered.
There will be no more free-to-enter contests. No more free-to-read anthologies.
No more articles. No more anything.
We had the heartbreaking task of firing our team of loyal, hard-working employees. 10 people are now jobless after Christmas.
While the investment required of our accepted authors to bring a book to the world-wide market varies based upon the intricacies of each book, all of our authors are fortunate enough to undertake the production, distribution and marketing of their book via a short-term, affordable monthly installment plan which is to be recovered by the author from book sale proceeds before we are entitled to any royalty compensation whatsoever!Writers be warned: this kind of coyness on pricing nearly always indicates excessive fees. I've heard from authors who were asked for anywhere from $3,500-$5,000 up front; for $495 up front plus installments of $295 per month for 10 months; for $950 up front plus installments of $380 for 10 months. Marketing is an add-on: for instance, $3,400 for a package that includes a "High-Definition Video Trailer", a press release, and a page on CFP's website. (This is not marketing. It's junk. It's not worth one cent, let alone four figures.)