|This is what Deep Fried reflection looks like|
(C) Deep Fried Fruit
For those who have been reading me for years you will remember the elation I felt when I got myself a publishing "contract". You will recall the challenges I faced in finding an illustrator and you may even recall the middle of the night phone calls to New York as I talked to my new publisher about the book and got things bedded down. You will remember that after getting quotes on a marketing campaign here in Australia that I paid the publisher a fair chunk of money to do the marketing for me. They offered a package that included building my author website, taking the book to E Book and creating an audio version. The publisher talked about awards nominations, world wide press releases, radio interviews, a magazine article and book signings. They would provide me with my own "personal assistant" and promised that all emails and phone calls would be answered within 72 hours. The publisher was Raider Publishing International.
You will recall the "fascinations" I was having during my publishing journey at how slow it all was and the time it took to actually see my book in print for the very first time.
You will also remember the excitement the first time I opened the front cover and the wonderful memory of signing my first copy for a friend.
Then you may have noticed that I went quiet.
Over the past two years I never did get my author website, or E Book, audio book, radio interviews or magazine article. Despite constant requests for copies/evidence I have not seen a single press release, award nomination or letter to book stores to organise author visits. Even though I know of around 150 book sales from friends and family alone (100 of those books bought by me) I have never received a cent in money nor a clear reflection of book sales.
Numerous phone calls to the USA, and emails to the CEO have been left unanswered prompting me to think that perhaps the company was in financial strife and had in fact closed down. Then I heard of people still receiving publishing offers from Raider and I realised they were still functioning as a business.
Back in 2010 when they first offered to publish my book, I did a whole lot of research on Raider Publishing International on-line to see if they were legitimate. They had an address on 5th Avenue in New York, they had their own book store in New York state, they had testimonials and a photo of the creator and CEO Adam Salviani. They had their own magazine and photos of their booth at book fairs. They had offices in South Africa, the UK and one was "coming soon" to Sydney. We googled them to find any on-line chatter and all seemed to be quite fine. I took my letter of offer/agreement to a few friends and colleagues who looked over it. We took a leap and got excited by the possibilities.
Things started to go pear shaped when my book was printed in paper back and not hard cover as agreed. The dimensions of the book were also not what was discussed. Our "contract" promised publishing within a year of signature which blew out to 15 months. I was not advised that my book had been published but stumbled across it during a search on Amazon. I immediately ordered 100 copies for myself (in addition to the 30 they were to send me as part of my package) so that I could do a big launch and start an author tour. The books took nine months to arrive on my doorstep after a gazillion phone calls and emails. By then I was starting to feel less than enthused about it all and I had already moved on to creating Cheer Chick Charlie. My first book took a back seat. There was no launch. I was already feeling the disappointment and a nervous suspicion that perhaps I had been duped.
In the middle of last year after getting books one and two of Cheer Chick Charlie printed and launched, the website built AND my author website created here in Australia, it occurred to me that Raider had a lot to answer for. It wasn't that hard to get a book printed and start a marketing campaign. My instinct was telling me that there was a real problem with this scenario. Perhaps Raider wasn't in financial trouble at all - perhaps the entire thing was a scam.
I started doing more investigation. It seems I am not the only one who has had many "fascinations" with Raider Publishing International. The cracks have appeared in their armor and there is now a great deal of unrest out their in author land. It seems I actually got quite a good result from Raider comparatively speaking. I actually got SOMETHING for my money. I have a book. Others have not been so fortunate.
The more I look the more it seems Raider Publishing International (a US based company) only signs on people from outside the United States. People who can't just wander into their office and hold them accountable for their actions.
I registered a complaint with the US Bureau of Better Business who tried three times to make contact with Raider. After no response they closed the file.
I registered a complaint with Scam Book who now have my concerns registered on their site.
I am in contact with some of the other authors.
In the lead up to my New York visit the other week I contacted Mr Adam Salviani and requested a meeting. I imagine he was probably shitting himself. What! One of these authors was actually coming to NYC?
I phoned and left messages. I was intrigued to discover that the phone once answered by a receptionist now goes directly to voice mail. Again I advised I would be in New York and I would be dropping by his 5th Avenue office.
Again I sent emails and left voice mail advising that given I had not received the services I had paid for I would be seeing him in New York to pick up a cheque for the money he now owed me and to also collect the artwork for my book*.
One final email confirmed my visit to the Raider office and advised that if he did not make himself available I would be meeting with a New York based attorney the following day to initiate legal action.
The funny thing was that during my first week in the USA he finally emailed me to say "my apologies for not being able to see you while you were in the States, I have been travelling and have only just returned. We will post the artwork out to you." To which I replied "that's OK Adam, you didn't miss me, I don't arrive in New York until next week, see you at 12.00 on Thursday, I'll bring the coffee!"
Another two phone calls confirming I would be at The Empire State Building on the Thursday (yes, that's where his "office" is located), or if he'd prefer he could drop the artwork and cheque off at my hotel. I gave him the details.
So Derek and I went for wander and headed for the Empire State Building. We chatted to the security guards at the door and advised we had a meeting with Raider Publishing International. They let us in. Wow, perhaps they really do exist. We then went to the reception desk where security guards again stopped us. We advised we had a meeting with Raider Publishing International. They phoned upstairs. No, they weren't expecting us. No, Mr Salviani was not there. No, Mr Salviani doesn't usually work out of this building. Yes, this is a virtual office. Yes, he actually resides in New Jersey. No, we couldn't have his phone number.
I then googled the address of the Book Shop and wondered how long it would take to get there. What if it didn't exist? What if it was a "virtual book store" and I wasted our final day in New York? So I asked Google Earth and did a virtual tour. Hmmm. No sign of a book store!! The Lafayette Theatre yes, a furniture store, some quaint little shops and an insurance agent, but no Raider Book Store that I could see as I "drove" down Lafayette Avenue in Suffern New York. After my virtual tour on Google Earth I chose instead to spend my last day wandering through Central Park with my bestie.
I did touch base with the attorney in New York and one in Pennsylvania. Both feel that it's a legitimate case. But given I am internationally based, they thought it may be best if I move on and concentrate my efforts on Cheer Chick Charlie. They say that the costs involved in bringing this man to court (and me across the world to pursue it) would be far greater that then three and half grand I gave the bastard. I have asked my Pennsylvanian attorney to send a letter to Raider in any case. Just to make a point.
I have also demanded the artwork via another email and I sent him a PayPal invoice for the money he owes me. You never know ...
I have written to the New York office of the FBI and registered a formal complaint under their Internet Fraud division. I also have letters ready to go to the Attorney Generals of both New York and New Jersey.
While in the USA I looked Mr Salviani up in the white pages of New Jersey and Suffern, New York, and have a few possible contact options up my sleeve for later. I don't want to be a stalker, but ....
This post has taken me a good many months to write. I guess because I was hoping that magic would happen and I would find out that my first book wasn't the victim of an international scam but was actually a valued literary masterpiece being represented by a credible world-wide publisher. Magic has not happened.
The reason this is so hard for me to write is because I am embarrassed, humiliated, ashamed, sad and plain old disappointed. Embarrassed that I was so excited and thought I was with a credible publisher. Humiliated because I signed on a first time illustrator who was also super excited, and got the support and sign on from an Australian celebrity to write the foreword. Ashamed because I let it happen. Sad because my first book deserves to be bathed in sunshine not drowning in a cloud of disgrace. Disappointed because the previous emotions are too strong for me to achieve anger status just yet.
Anyway, it's time for me to write about it. It's part of my journey and I need to warn others in similar situations. I need to find a way to close the book on this one. The story will continue, but with blue skies and sunshine smiley faces over a new chapter.
Thanks for listening ...
*The sad thing is that my artist, a US citizen currently living in El Savador, sent them them the original water colour paintings to ensure they could print at the highest quality possible. She has never received her artwork back and (given she was also on a royalties based agreement) she has never received a cent for her efforts. In my mind the artwork is irreplaceable ...
EDITORS NOTE: This story is not about Cheer Chick Charlie. The Cheer Chick Charlie children's books series is alive and well and on track. Despite the cloud over my first book "My Happy Gift", there is still plenty of cheery sunshine for this little author.