Airleaf Victims Update – March 8, 2008
Dear Airleaf Victims and Friends,
As of today, we have 420 members in our group. We welcome our new members.
This week, I contacted the Attorney General's office about the second hard copy of the complaint form that some of us were receiving. A number of you wrote to me stating you never received a hard copy at all. I planned to copy my form and send it to you, but I thought I would write to the Assistant AG, Tom Irons, to ask him first if the form had to be an original, and if so, how would they get one. Tom was very clear that the form had to be an original from their office which is why I didn't send out copies to some of you who requested them. Tom then referred me to paralegal Raven Bobbio, who has been compiling our records since October, for further clarification when I couldn't understand how this whole procedure worked. Here is how the correspondence went:
Please inform Airleaf consumers that if they have filed a complaint online and receive a hard copy from our office please sign and return the copy with any paperwork (i.e. contract, payment information, etc.). If the consumer filed a complaint online, but did not receive a hard copy, they need not send in any other form. The consumer should receive an opening letter form our office acknowledging their complaint. Bottom line, we need at least one complaint and any relevant paperwork.
Paralegal to Deputy Attorney General Tom Irons
This information seemed confusing to me. I didn't understand it. Why would some people receive a form after filing on line and not others? So I asked:
A number of our people filed on line as you know. Please clarify this for me so I can let the group know.
1. Some of the people that filed on line received the original hard copy of a complaint to send back to your attention. Since that time, some, including me, have received a SECOND hard copy form. Am I correct in understanding that the SECOND hard copy form does NOT have to be sent back to you if the first one was sent back?
2. Some of our people that filed on line have NOT received a hard copy from you. They have not signed a form since they never received one. Do you want me to gather those names for you so you can send them a hard copy?
Thank you for your help.
This was the response:
In a message dated 3/5/2008 10:40:16 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, Raven.Bobbio@atg.in.gov writes:
1. Send all copies back signed with paperwork.
2. If the consumers who filed online received a file opening letter, they do not need to do anything further.
Okay, I was still confused. I wrote back:
So if I've already sent back the hard copy with my documentation, I have to send back the SECOND hard copy form?
Also, what is a file opening letter?
I am not sure where the confusion is in translation, but will try to explain again. If a consumer has sent one complaint form in to our office, signed with documents, you do not need to send anything further until it is requested. A file opening letter is a letter explaining you have an open file with our office and acknowledging your complaint. I apologize, but due to the limited time we are given to serve thousands of consumers, I will have to cut short our email here. Thank you for your patience in the matter.
So, that's the situation. If you haven't received any confirmation of your file opening letter or a hard copy sent to your home to verify it, please feel free to contact Ms. Bobbio directly at the following address if you would like to verify that your complaint is there and if you have to take any further action: Raven.Bobbio@atg.in.gov
And, yes, I do admit I am still confused. I don't know why some of us received two hard copy forms to fill out, others received one, and still others received none. But then again, I'm still confused as to why Carl Lau is still a free man while our money, books, and materials are still being held hostage. That's me—just confused!
Detective Buskirk will send us an update this week. He has been very ill but is on the mend. We all wish him a speedy recovery. He assured me that he is spending every moment possible on our case.
One of our authors sent me this note:
Are there any victims who are California residents, in particular in the SF Bay Area? There is an organization called either Bay Area or California Lawyers for the Arts that will take on cases like this pro bono, especially one of such magnitude. I would
think they would also agree to take it as a class-action type case.
Contact any Bay Area residents on the list and have them start the ball rolling.
If any of you are in the Bay Area and would like me to connect you to David to see what can be done, please email me, and I'll put you in touch.
One of our authors, Anthony, sent me this note:
Bonnie once again, you gave us some great information. On the whole website thing, I've been getting a lot of traffic on MySpace, plus I'm a member of blackplanet.com and a few other online communities. This is a great way to promote and network, plus best of all it's FREE.
MySpace is an excellent way to advertise your books for free by setting up your own page that can be changed at any time. You can view the site at www.MySpace.com. I am sending you the link to my page on MySpace which I admit that I don't keep up with due to lack of time. I also admit I am clueless how to put the page together, but I have someone who put mine together which shows you my books. Many people visit the MySpace sites, so it certainly is a good way to get free publicity for your work. As with the websites, I have people who can design your MySpace account for a minimal fee if you can't do it yourself. Feel free to drop me a line, and I'll refer you to them.
Thank you, Anthony, for this good lead.
Link to Bonnie's MySpace page:
MySpace.com - Bonnie Kaye, M.Ed. - 56 - Female - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -
Our author Cliff Crow sent me this note in response to last week's discussion about "Return Policies" that book companies offer:
I would like to add a bit about what you reported on the “return policy” being offered by Xlibris and others. I realize this is probably not news to you, but you can pass this information on to the group if you think it would be helpful.
One side note: Xlibris published my book, and did an excellent job of it. The price was very reasonable, and it included packages, which I feel sure they went through with it, but that did not sell books. The main problem with Xlibris is that they decide what your book should sell for, and make their big money by selling you your own book. They chose a selling price of $21.99 for my 200 page paperback book. Including freight, I had to pay just under $10.00 each to buy copies of my book, and had to buy 500 copies to get that price.
Book Return Policy
For bookstores to be able to return books is a must if you expect them to buy, but this is also a great way for your publisher to get more of your money. Being needed, it is easy to talk people into buying this extra program. But buying this policy will usually not make any difference in the final results. IT DOES NOT SELL BOOKS!
The good news is that they can return books. The bad news is that they will! Without that policy, your book has to be a “special order” situation in most cases. With this policy, the store (using either the name of the book or ISBN number) can order your book while placing their daily or weekly book orders.
They will order books for book signings (often times more than needed because they can return them) and we love it. Unfortunately the book stores (especially the big ones) have been spoiled by this policy. They will order in 25 books for a signing, knowing that is more than enough. Everyone is so pleased when you sell 14 books at the signing. During an inventory a week or so later, they still have not sold any more books, so as per their normal policy, they return the remaining 11 books. One manager, responsible for two stores, brought in 40 books. I sold a total of 20. The remaining 20 were returned.
For unknown authors, getting books to sell is difficult. In most stores your book will just be put on a shelf, so very little of the book is showing. Even though my book, AFTER THE DIET’S OVER, was about diets, and could be useful to almost everyone, getting it to sell is difficult. Back in 2002 I placed two books in a store. I re-visited that store a short time ago. The books are still on the shelf. Months ago 19 of 19 Waldenbook stores that I visited were excited about my book, and they all bought. Many sold, but many were returned. I still feel that if Airleaf had done their job, things might have been different. My point here is that getting them excited was easy because of the return policy. It was also easy to get them to order, but I would have lost money if I had paid extra for that policy.
Another problem may show itself. If you do get a return policy, please try to control, and keep to a reasonable number, how many of books the stores order. An exaggeration, but if you have 150 books in stock, and you get word from the book distributor that they have sold out, you will no doubt be happy and excited. You order another printing. Then after having paid out more money, most of those books show up again. Five stores brought in 30 books (they loved it and are sure it will sell); a few weeks later returned what was left.
Two last concerns:
I do not understand why in their letter they say, “They can always return the unsold books to us and process a refund without affecting your sales or revenue from those books they have ordered.”
Their policy appears to allow people to return the books to THEM (Xlibris). NO bookstore can afford to order books from Xlibris, and most do not! So exactly what will you be paying for? If it does not allow books to be returned to companies like Ingram and Baker & Taylor, it is useless, even if they GIVE it to you.
Thanks, Cliff for your sharing your personal experience.
As I said last week, paying large sums of money to companies like Authorhouse and Xlibris for a return policy is throwing away your money. That's why when seeking to republish your book or publish future books you need to ask those important questions. I mentioned last week, my new publishing company, CCB Publishing, is very reasonable in offering a return policy for $100.00. In addition, you can buy copies of your book for $2.00 over the cost of actual printing, which is usually in the $4.00 range for most paperbacks under 200 pages. This means if you want to buy your own copies for selling at events, you can make a nice profit for yourself. With a company such as iUniverse, your discount off the sales price of your book can range from 40% off for 20 – 99 books to 50% for 250 – 499 books. So if your book sells for $20.00, this means you can buy copies for $12.00 each for less than 99 books, $11.00 each (45%) when ordering 100 – 249 copies, and $10.00 each for over 250 books. With CCB, I'm paying approximately $6.00 a book no matter how many copies I buy, so you can see the difference in the profit you can make.
As a side issue, iUniverse offers royalties at 20% over the price of printing, shipping, and other charges. On a book that costs $20.00, if someone buys it online at Amazon or BN.com, you are looking at a 20% split of profits after the standard 55% discount. This means the starting price is really $9.00. Take off the printing cost and you're at $5.00. Take 20% of that and you royalty payment is $1.00. Need I say more? One of the big pulls for us when we went to Airleaf was that we were promised a 50% split on the royalties. Of course, for most people, 50% of nothing still translated into nothing.
Not all authors have the same publishing needs, which is why you owe it to yourself to do a thorough check on what a company is REALLY offering you. When I was seeking a new publisher after the Airleaf horror, I went through a list online compiled by Clea Saal, author of the Incomplete Guide to POD Publishers that compared companies. I narrowed my search based on what I thought would be the right company for me, and then I called four of the companies that seemed to make sense and interviewed them at length. There were a few companies that seemed reputable (after doing hours of research online), but I went with CCB Publishing. This has been the best publishing experience for me as well as other Airleaf victims who have decided to publish with a company that is an author's dream as far as integrity, price, and book printing timelines go. There is also a 50% royalty split which is greater than iUniverse and similar companies, and authors actually get accurate sales accounts and royalty checks ON TIME. You can view the website at www.CCBPublishing.com, or feel free to contact me if you need more information. If you have found another book publishing company and you would like me to do some preliminary research for you, feel free to let me know. I have checked out other companies for some of you, finding the little "loopholes" that I have learned to become familiar with.
Our Airleaf victim and my friend, Ken Pullen, sent a wake-up letter to our group. I have condensed it for this update, but you can read his full comments on our Airleaf Victims blog under the comments section from last week. Here's what Ken says:
Bonnie - and to the other 410;
I realize in our culture, with human nature being what it is, people do not want to think or believe anyone offering a service would do so just to take their money and not deliver, or not deliver corresponding to the fee paid.
I just want to say this - and hopefully you can convey this to all 412 people duped, conned, lied to, swindled, and taken advantage of by Airleaf Publishing...
NO SELF PUBLISHING SOLICITOR OR COMPANY WILL DO FOR YOU WHAT YOU BELIEVE THEY WILL, THINK THEY WILL, OR WHAT THEY PROMISE TO DO FOR YOU. NOT ONE OF THEM. PERIOD.
I can be objective about myself, my motivations, and my actions. More of us need to be objective and to the bone honest with ourselves. I attempted to by-pass the traditional publishing route because of the time frame involved in that process. It takes years unless a person possesses the genius and art of crafting words of a Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Uptown, Irving, or Vonnegut.
So in my arrogance - yes arrogance - I deemed myself a writer and was determined to get published. Oh, what I had to write people would want to read I thought to myself. I have written for years, and was even told by some in the movie industry - the REAL movie industry when I lived in Los Angeles, not the pretend movie industry Carl Lau fabricated and lied to everyone about - that I was good, that I had talent, and to keep at it. Well, at that point I'd been writing screenplays for 7 years without getting paid a dime. I might have made it and not be writing this to you today if I'd have stuck it out another 4, 5, 6, or 7 years. I might be in some great house on the beach in Malibu - but after 7 years I was tired. Point is people - nothing of quality or value comes easy or fast. Do not be duped by claims that you or your book are so special...please send us MONEY immediately and we'll provide you with personalized attention and make you a success. It's all bull feces--huge enormous piles of bull feces. If you want to fall into it, step into it...well keep on the course you are. Fail to be objective about yourself, your situation, or what people are really like in the world.
I had no grand illusions. I did not imagine myself becoming rich or famous or both, but I was arrogant enough, egotistical enough to believe I could eke out a moderate return.
Do not tell me none of you fit this profile, or you all had the most benign and innocent of expectations. You publish to sell books. Period. You expect to sell books and to make some money from it. Well, do not venture into the realm of ANY SELF PUBLISHING ENTERPRISE.
Why do I say this? I've been burned and experienced multiple horrendous experiences in the self publishing arena. Airleaf Publishing is not my only experience with liars, thieves, those with silky buttery tongues making all manner of promises about what they'll do specifically for me because my book is so special...why, it's been chosen they all proclaim! Of course it has. Because we appear to these vipers like a blind one-legged rodent and they know we are easy prey--prime for the picking.
It's very simple really. If you fail to learn you're doomed to repeat your mistakes. Losing and failure should teach us not to go down those paths again, and yet week after week I read nothing but how desperate people are so they turn to more of the same, convinced it's going to be better or different. It won't be. Believe me.
Airleaf Publishing was a con game. Carl Lau was no different than the shyster that pulled into the dusty town in a wagon 130 years ago and sold colored alcohol in bottles from the back of that wagon to the clueless clamoring masses. And the next month a different guy pulled into that same town with a different label and the people didn't learn a thing and bought more garbage from a different con man. They didn't learn.
People are no different today. The "snake oil" being sold now though is in the form of fame and riches and getting your writing published in book form, or on the Internet. Yet it's no different at all from some con man pulling into your present town and trying to sell you colored miracle water from the back of his beat up pickup truck. Wise up people. Self publishing (promotion) is a con game.
Do not be fooled. Do not be so desperate. Be honest. Don't place your daily life in jeopardy because you can't pay your bills, or you've spent your life savings, or you throw money at these vipers to make them rich while you don't have adequate food, shelter, or what have you.
NO SELF PUBLISHING HOUSE HAS HIGHLY READ HIGH SALES BOOK IN THEIR STABLE OF BOOKS. NONE HAVE BESTSELLERS OF ANY KIND. Do your research and homework people. Your present financial stability and peace of mind...and your future depends on your becoming attuned, smart, and aware...
Hopefully we'll all begin making better choices...and choose wisely for a change.
So, like Ken is saying, take a giant swig of humility before you invest in publishing promotions that add up to nothing more than heartache and disappointment.
That's the news of the week. I hope to have something more concrete next week from Captain Buskirk and the FBI. Don't lose the faith—and keep up the fight!