Romance Author Wins Libel Case Against Authorhouse

Publishers Weekly reports that a Kansas court has ordered Authorhouse, the POD vanity press,  to pay $230,000 to romance author Rebecca Brandwynne, who was libeled by one of their books, which was written by her ex-husband.

According to court documents, AuthorHouse published Paperback Poison: the Romance Writer and the Hit Man by Gary D. Brock, with his current wife, Debbie Brock, in November, 2003. Some of the more incendiary claims in Paperback Poison
include allegations that Brandewyne broke laws, committed adultery,
plagiarized several of her books, and hired a hit man to kill her
ex-husband, the book’s author.

[…]The Kansas jury ruled for Brandewyne even though AuthorHouse’s
contracts state that the publisher assumes no legal responsibility or
liability “for any loss, damage, injury, or claim to any kind or
character to any person or property” in publishing the works of its
clients. Jay Fowler, an attorney for Brandewyne, maintained that the
“contract does not absolve AuthorHouse of their responsibility.
AuthorHouse published the book, put it on the Internet, did everything
a publisher does. They’re responsible for publishing this book without
vetting it first.”

One of the more interesting aspects of this story is what it reveals about the "success" of self-published POD titles.

Fowler said that AuthorHouse claims 74 copies of Paperback Poison
in total were printed, 21 were given to the author, three were sold,
and the company destroyed the 50 copies they had remaining in stock
after receiving complaints about the book from Brandewyne and others.
“But that book’s still out there,” Fowler said. “Sometimes, [the online
seller] says the book is published by Lightning Source, sometimes
1stBooks, sometimes AuthorHouse. But it all flows back to AuthorHouse.”

Seventy-four copies were printed. Twenty one of those were sold to the author. Only three copies were actually sold to readers. Wow.  No wonder so many aspiring authors flock to these vanity presses. Who wouldn’t pay hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars for a chance at that amazing print run and distribution?

This story just goes to prove what anyone with common sense already knows: that vanity presses make all their money from the authors, not from selling books to readers…and that there is no editorial oversight of any kind.

UPDATE: The folks over at POD-dy Mouth have another perspective on the story:

If in fact, Authorhouse loses on appeal (I’m not a lawyer; I’m just assuming), imagine what that would do to the world of POD?

S-l-o-w- i-t- d-o-w-n.

And
you thought regular publishing was slow! Guess what will happen if (for
lack of a better term) non-publishing professionals have to vet these
books? 

15 thoughts on “Romance Author Wins Libel Case Against Authorhouse”

  1. Might this benefit Author House in a backhanded way? Any number of people might claim AuthorHouse isn’t a “real” publisher, but a court in Kansas seems to say that they are.
    I can see the advertising now:
    “We really are a publishing company. It’s been proven in a court of law. Let us publish YOUR book today!”

    Reply
  2. I don’t know that this will slow POD/vanity down much, if at all. All the ruling says is that they can’t publish libel. This seems like a reasonable position to me.
    This and the Lori Jareo fiasco point out the question: at what point is someone a ‘publisher’? When they print a book? When they claim to be? I think the court’s position is that you’re a publisher when you make a copy of something available for sale. And that, also, seems like a reasonable position to me.

    Reply
  3. Isn’t it possible that the book was halted before more were sold? If someone contacted me about something libelous, I might “stop the presses” before printing more copies….
    Just my two cents.

    Reply
  4. “All the ruling says is that they can’t publish libel.”
    It means they’ll actually have to take the time to read through their slush pile…which most of the POD-vanities don’t do today.
    (at the very least, they’ll have to read any blurbs offered with the submission)
    It’ll slow it down…at least a little more than usual.
    Hopefully the similar lawsuit against another POD-vanity (PublishAmerica) will result in another victory for the plaintiffs…

    Reply
  5. JAX,
    The vast majority P.O.D. vanity press rarely sell more than a handful of copies (usually to the author and his/her family and friends). But don’t take it from me. Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly reported:
    Out of 18,000 books iUniverse published in 2004, only 83 titles sold at least 500 copies and a mere 14 showed up on the shelves of Barnes & Noble. That’s the reality, folks.
    2004
    18,108: Total number of titles published
    14: Number of titles sold through B&N’s bricks-and-mortar stores (nationally)
    83: Number of titles that sold at least 500 copies
    792,814: Number of copies printed
    32,445: Number of copies sold of iUniverse’s top seller, If I Knew Then by Amy Fisher

    Reply
  6. Actually, I think this is a wrong decision and AuthorHouse should definitely appeal. They are not a publisher. They are a printer. This is like suing Kinko’s. She only went after them because her idiot ex probably has no money (likely spent it all on getting the book printed).

    Reply
  7. I have a question…If an author wants to get a book published and tries to go the traditional route but gets denied, what should they do? Give up? No, you go to a self publishing company. What if you don’t want to deal with the politics and slow response traditional publishers have? You self-publish. That is what is great about our country. You have options if you can’t get in the big time publishers. You act like if you self publish you suck. There are plenty of authors out there that have self published books out there that are successful. Tom Hargrove “Long March To Freedom” comes to mind. Yeah maybe it is a small percentage but an author will never know unless they try. You folks sound like you are mad that these self publishers are taking money away from trad publishers. And if these self publishers are printer why don’t authors go directly to the printer to get a lower cost. Because they don’t know how to setup the print file, they don’t know how to market, they don’t know how to distribute the book. This is what the publisher is for.

    Reply
  8. Can anybody tell me how to grab hold of the lawyer in charge of wining this case against Authorhouse. I have a biff with this company and need to consult with a lawyer. What best but to do it with someone that has already won a case against them . So any body ; How do I go about finding this lawyer ???
    Thanks a million
    ASh

    Reply
  9. I can’t tell you how to get hold of that particular lawyer but I can tell you how to get to the one that is currently sueing AuthorHouse for slander in the mirror case.

    Reply

Leave a Comment