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