MARCH 1, 2008 AIRLEAF VICTIMS UPDATE
Dear Airleaf Victims and Friends,
Welcome to our new members. We are now a group of 412 authors who are seeking restitution and retribution for the fraudulence done to us by Airleaf Publishing and members of its staff.
A number of you received a second form at home from the Attorney General's office. I contacted Tom Irons, our representative, and asked him if a third report had to be filled out. The first was on line; the second was a hard copy sent to your home. His response to me was:
On the complaint issue, we need to have a signed copy of the complaint. As long as the author has sent in a “signed” copy, not just a complaint form filled out, they can disregard the yellow form (the signature assures us the author’s claims are true, under penalty of perjury-akin to an affidavit).
This means if you already sent back one form that was sent to your home, you do NOT have to send in this second form.
I appreciate all of the surveys that have been returned to me to date. If you haven't sent yours in or you're having a problem with it, please let me know. This information has been very valuable already in helping me prepare information for the various government agencies which will need them in moving forward with our case.
I am seeking your help with transactions that took place between the time period of November 2007 and December 2007 when Airleaf closed (December 21, 2007). I contend that the remaining staff at Airleaf knew that there was no way they could deliver on any promises because the production staff was gone and the printers were holding our books hostage for non-payment. Some of you were solicited for publishing and promotions throughout this period and paid for work during this time frame. If you were one of these victims, please let me know the circumstances and amount you paid as well as who you were working with. This includes offers of selling back your own books to you at a discount price.
I have no specific news for you this week; however, I feel confident that there is movement in our case. Please be patient. I did ask Captain Buskirk for an update but haven't heard from his this week. I told him that we are frustrated as far as getting back files and books. I'll write to him again on Monday.
Some of you suggested that I write to the Indiana Bar Association asking them for help. This week, I wrote first to the Indiana Legal Services asking them for help with a pro-bono lawyer. This was the response:
Generally Indiana Legal Services does not take cases that would result in a monetary settlement. However, you can contact your local legal service office and see if there is some way that we could assist. To locate your local legal service office, go to our web site, www.indianajustice.org and click on the "Find Legal Help". Put your county in the search box and all legal service offices that support Martinsville will come up with contact information.
Another option is to contact your local bar association president. She or he could provide a referral to a private attorney. This attorney would not be free but may be willing to take your case. You can find the bar association president on the same list from our web site.
Victoria Deak, Esq., Project Director
Access to Justice Project Indiana Legal Services, Inc.
I then wrote back to Ms. Deak explaining that I am not an Indiana resident and received this response:
If you use the web site and contact the referrals from the bar association perhaps you could do this by phone. Indiana Legal Services also does phone intake. The listings on the web site have the times and days that phone intake occurs. Your other option is to request someone from Indiana to make the contact.
Victoria Deak, Esq., Project Director
A special thank you goes to Ms. Deak who responded within an hour of my request early on a Sunday morning. This is truly a woman who cares about helping others.
I am still pursuing an attorney to do a class action suit, and I requested help from the Indiana Bar Association with no response as of yet. My friend Patty brought up a good suggestion for some of you who are in Indiana that I researched. If you live in Indiana, you may want to think about filing a claim in the small claims court. You can file a complaint if the value of your claim is up to $6,000.00. You don't need legal representation for this, and the cost of filing the claim is relatively inexpensive. I will try to reach the Morgan County Small Claims Court this week to see what we can do to file out-of-town claims with them. If you have tried this already, please let me know so I can share with others the results. If you live in Indiana and want information on how to do this or who to contact, please write to me and I'll send you the information that I have checked out.
This week, I would like to talk to you about information on what is referred to as a "Bookstore Return Policy."
One of our authors, Willard Gray, received this letter from Xlibris and asked my advice:
I have a very good marketing strategy that will give a greater chance for your book to be available in the physical bookstore, We call this Bookstore Returnability Program wherein your book will be listed under i-page (the latest software that all of the resellers/bookstores are using to check for new and returnable books). 30 biz days once the book is published your book is already listed under i-page so there is a greater chance that bookstores or reseller will just directly acquire or order your book because they can always return the unsold books to us and process a refund without affecting your sales or revenue from those books that they have ordered. Also you can go to any of the bookstore that you want and present this Bookstore Returnability Program for them to acquire your book. This is only $699 that you can pay using installment plan of $243/mo for 3 mos. This is good for 1 year and after a year bookstores/resellers will be given within 6 months for then to return the unsold copies of the book for refund. This is a very good hassle free marketing strategy. Thank you and have a wonderful day.
A number of authors have asked me about this because some of the more prominent book companies including AuthorHouse and Xlibris charge $599.00 or $699.00 for this package—FOR ONE YEAR!! Yikes! That's a lot of money, and especially when you understand what this means.
When I first heard about this return policy a couple of years ago, I found it exciting because it gave authors the ability to go to major bookstores for signings. Most major bookstores don't allow print-on-demand book authors to have book signings because if they order books and the books don't sell, they can't return them to the publisher and they are stuck with them. So a return policy was devised by some of the larger POD companies as a carrot to dangle in the faces of uneducated consumers—like us—to serve as an enticement.
By now, most of you know the reality of how much you can make on a book sale. Let's review the formula. If you have a book that sells for $14.99, book distributors such as Amazon.com get a 55% discount on the retail price. That means $8.24 comes off the book to begin with. That leaves you with $6.75 as your starting point. Take away the cost of printing of an average book of 175 page book of approximately $4.50, and you are now left with $2.24 per book. Even if you are receiving a 50/50 split with your POD company, you are looking at $1.12 for each book. As I warn all of you, it takes a lot of book sales to make back your initial investment of publishing, especially if you are paying big fees for special promotions.
Even if the profit percentage is somewhat higher at a bookstore because the discount ranges at approximately 40% instead of 55%, and even if you make $4.00 a book in profits, how many books do you have to sell to recoup your initial investment? The answer is A LOT. Unless you have a large local fan base or a book that is a hot topic, it will be very difficult to recoup that loss.
After my Airleaf nightmare, as I explored where to go from there for my upcoming book that came out in December, I researched over 40 different POD companies to see which one would meet my personal needs. There is no ONE solution to all of our publishing needs. I found a publisher, CCB Publishing, which met my needs, as well as a number of other Airleaf victims, for publishing. The website is at www.CCBPublishing.com. One of the many selling points for me was that I could buy a return policy for $100.00 a year. This seemed reasonable. It gives me the ability to do book signings and at least feel that I have a chance of recouping any investment.
To be sure that I was on the right track, I asked our expert advisor Victoria Strauss if I was accurate in my assessment. I wrote to her:
I tell my authors who ask me about return policies from companies like AuthorHouse and Xlibris that charge 599.00 or 699.00 that this is a waste of money. It would take the selling of hundreds of books to make up for that each year. Do you think that is correct advice? I don't see where it can pay off for almost any author unless he/she is traveling around the country setting up book signings on a topic that is going to sell that many books. Please let me know if you think I'm right.
Here is Victoria's response:
I do think you're right about this service not being worth the expense. Returnability might make some stores more willing to place orders--especially larger stores--but there are no guarantees, and as you say, writers would have to sell a lot of books to make back the extra expense. Given the average sales of books from these companies (less than 200), it is unlikely to be worth it for most authors.
On another note, a number of you have recently written to me about special promotions that you are receiving for book marketing. These packages start at $750.00 and go as high as $3,500.00. Once again, do the math. See how many books you have to sell to make back this money.
Some of these promotions include placement on a POD website. Many of you are excited by that prospect. In reality, the only people who go to those websites are you and the other potential buyers of POD services. Some of you believe that at least your book can be seen on the Internet on a website. So here's a solution to you that is far more cost effective.
I have worked with some of you on obtaining your own websites. The best bargain in town can be found at Register.com. This is where I purchased some of my domain names including AirleafVictims.com. For $35.00, you can buy a domain name for a year. For that same $35.00, Register.com will give you a FREE one page website where you can advertise your book for no additional hosting fee. This is an excellent deal! If you have any computer savvy, you can design your own website for free. If you are like me, and you don't have that ability, you can find someone to do it for you. My web person for our Airleaf Victims website charges $200.00 for setting up your one page site with a link to your book and where it can be bought. She would be happy to work with any of our Airleaf Victims for that price. If you are interested in doing this, let me know. I can walk you through the steps of getting your own domain name and setting up your account. Then I can refer you to my webmaster if you would like her to do your site.
Talking about websites, I meant to tell you another way that Airleaf made money from authors. I recently found out from an author that he was paying $250.00 a month to be positioned on the first row of the Airleaf website. This was really disturbing to me. If any of you were paying for website positioning, please let me know. I'd like to add that to my research.
A few people have written to me recently about tracking down former Airleaf employee Gayla Swint. Gayla is now working with Fideli Publishing owned by former Airleaf employee Robin Surface. Some of you have written to me about the positive relationships you had with these women as well as other Fideli staff members. You can write to Gayla at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is happy to hear from any of her previous authors that she worked with. If you are seeking other former Airleaf employees, please let me know, and I'll do my best to track them down for you.
Have a good week and feel free to write to me about any questions or issues I can help you with.
With love and hope,