Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers, industry news, and commentary. Writer Beware is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.

August 9, 2017

Lawsuits, Liens, and Lost URLs: The Latest on America Star Books / PublishAmerica

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware
America Star Books seems to have gone out of business. (See below for a full writeup.)

But ASB has not terminated any of its contracts, or returned authors' rights. Hundreds of ASB books are still on sale.

This is unfair and wrong. If ASB is dead, authors' rights should be released, and payments for services that weren't delivered should be refunded. A defunct company should not hold its authors' rights or money hostage.

Writer Beware urges ASB authors to contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Attorney General's Office and file a complaint. When notorious vanity publisher Tate Publishing & Enterprises closed down last spring without returning rights or refunding payments, hundreds of author complaints to the Oklahoma Attorney General spurred an investigation that resulted in the indictment of Tate's owners on multiple felony charges.

You can file your complaint online or by regular mail. Here's the link with instructions: http://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/Pages/CPD/Complaint.aspx

If you have any questions, or if you have any information or insight into ASB's closing, please contact Writer Beware.

This post has been updated.

It's been a while since I wrote about America Star Books, née PublishAmerica, one of the most prolific author mills in America (also the subject of scores of author complaints, and the recipient of an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau). So what's been going on?

In May 2015, ASB/PA co-founder Larry Clopper filed suit against PA/ASB, co-founder Willem Meiners, and several others, alleging breach of contract, among other causes, and demanding dissolution of the company and appointment of a receiver. After over a year of legal maneuvering--which included the appointment of an appraiser, a counterclaim by Meiners/PA/ASB, and the issuance of subpoenas by Clopper to various PA/ASB banks and creditors--the parties agreed in July 2016 to stipulate to dismissal with prejudice.


I don't yet know what was in the settlement--I've put in a public records request, and will report back when I get the documents--but over the duration of the lawsuit and afterward, things have changed at PA/ASB.

Sometime after September 2015, ASB's About Us page--which previously had touted its founding "by book publishers with a long history of publishing experience"--began to reference the "new" America Star Books: "Run by its employees, from the bottom up....The company has a management, but there's not much top-down going on at America Star Books." (Here's what the page looks like today.)

At some point after September 2016, all mention of the translation program with which PA/ASB launched its 2014 name change was removed (here's what the website used to say about that, courtesy of the invaluable Internet Archive; here's what it says now). And in November 2016, PA/ASB put a hold on submissions "throughout [sic] the end of 2016."

That hold appears to have become permanent. Here's how the submission page looks today:


And here's what was briefly posted at a now non-working ASB web address:
America Star Books no longer accepts new authors. ASB Promotions will morph into Paperback Services in the near future....Paperback Services works side by side on location with Paperback Radio, America's only live 24/7 station about books and writers.

Paperback Radio and Paperback Services are both owned by PA/ASB co-founder Willem Meiners (Paperback Services has a web address that goes nowhere at the moment).
In the kind of feedback loop that's common with vanity publishers, items from Meiners' Paperback Radio (ads"experts lists"), along with a variety of "promotional" and other services from Meiners' Paperback Services, were offered for sale to PA/ASB authors in the Meiners-owned PA/ASB webstore.

That's not all. More signs of change/trouble at PA/ASB:

- According to Amazon, ASB was issuing books pretty regularly through the beginning of 2017, albeit at a reduced rate from previous years (around 10-15 per month). Since mid-May, it has issued just two titles.

- ASB currently has three open liens against it from the Maryland Dept. of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, totaling $50,754.


- As of this writing, some ASB URLs are disabled: www.americastarbooks.net no longer works, nor does www.store.americastarbooks.pub, which used to host the PA/ASB bookstore and promotional "services" store (here are some examples of those services, courtesy of the Internet Archive). ASB's Facebook page also appears to be defunct (unless they've blocked me, which is possible). The PublishAmerica URL, which used to re-direct to America Star Books, now directs again to the old PA website (which hasn't been updated since 2013, but still has an open submissions portal).

- There's a bookstore link on the ASB website, but it doesn't work. PA/ASB books are still for sale at online retailers, but the PA/ASB bookstore doesn't appear to be online anywhere at any web address.

Is this really the end of America Star Books / PublishAmerica? Hard to say. There are rumors of bankruptcy, but I've searched on PACER and I've found no sign of any bankruptcy filings.

Questions remain. If ASB does disappear, what will happen to the books and authors currently under contract? If ASB Promotions, or Paperback Services, or whatever it winds up calling itself, survives as a separate entity, will spammer-in-chief Jackie Velnoskey continue her prolific program of email solicitations and comment spam?

Stay tuned.

UPDATE 8/14/17: ASB's one remaining web address now returns an account suspended message.
As far as I know, ASB/PA hasn't sent out any notifications or communications as to what's going on.

Authors, if you get any kind of notice or email from ASB, would you please contact me? Thanks.

UPDATE 8/19/17: I'm getting emails from authors wondering what to do. What happens with their books that are under contract? If ASB is really dead, can they take their books and publish elsewhere?

Right now, in my opinion, that wouldn't be wise.

All signs point to ASB being gone. Its website has vanished. Phones aren't being answered. Emails are bouncing. Putting those things together with the signs of trouble that I've discussed above, if I had to guess, I'd guess that ASB is history.

But...there's been no official announcement of a closure. I just checked again and there's still no sign of any bankruptcy filings, either under the business names or the owners' names. And ASB/PA books are still for sale new at online booksellers. I think there's at least the possibility that ASB might find a way to sell or otherwise transfer its huge catalog to some other entity (which many of the ASB/PA contracts I've seen allow it to do without asking authors' permission). Another possibility: ASB/PA books might somehow be folded in with Willem Meiners' Paperback enterprises.

Bottom line: we don't actually know what is going on, or what will happen. Until we do, it would be risky to take books that are under contract with either ASB or PA and try to re-publish them. The issue isn't just the possibility that ASB/PA or its successor might come after you, but that any new publisher or self-publishing service will require you to have full power to grant publishing rights. If you're currently under exclusive contract to a different publisher, and it's not clear that publisher is out of business, you don't have that power.

I'm also hearing from ASB authors who've paid for services they haven't received. My advice would be to immediately file a dispute with your credit card company or with PayPal (depending on how you paid). I've heard from a number of Tate Publishing authors who got money back this way. Feel free to use this post as justification.

Keep watching this blog for updates.

UPDATE 9/11/17: I noticed this a couple of weeks ago, but didn't post an update because I wasn't sure if it was a glitch. It's been long enough now that I'm guessing it's not.

Willem Meiners's Paperback Radio appears to have gone the way of  America Star Books. Its URL yields a "Site is currently offline" message. Its Twitter feed hasn't been updated since July 16. Its Facebook page is no longer available.

What's going on? No idea. There's still no sign of any bankruptcy filings, or any word from anyone at ASB. Publishers do a lot of bad things, but one of the worst is to do a bunk and leave authors in limbo.

If anyone has information or insight into the ASB/Meiners situation, will you please contact me? Your identity will be kept confidential. Thank you.

UPDATE 9/14/17: I've learned that this past June, some (though apparently not all) PA/ASB authors received an email from Willem Meiners announcing ASB's closure and transformation into Paperback Services. Here it is:
From: willem@americastarbooks.pub
To: [redacted]
Sent: Tuesday, June 6, 2017, 3:08:46 PM EDT
Subject: A letter from the CEO: name change coming

Dear [redacted],

At America Star Books we have reached a new milestone. As of later this week all of our book marketing and promotion efforts will be continued under a different name: Paperback Services. Our book promotion staff, Jackie Velnoskey, Kerrin Wuchter, Sarah Balukoff, and Sarah Freitas, will work using that new Paperback Services name. Nothing else changes there.

Not to worry — if your book is a hardcover, it will also be represented by Paperback Services. The name relates to that other entity that you have heard so often about: Paperback Radio.

I founded Paperback Services recently. I founded Paperback Radio a year ago. The station has been in the air nonstop since then. My motive was simple: there are many publishing companies today that will publish an author's book, either for free or for a fee. But there is no other radio station where everyone can hear about those books, let alone listen to what the author has to say about it. Paperback Radio is the nation's only 24/7 station about books and writers.

America Star Books no longer accepts new authors and publishes no more new titles. Nor do we attend any new trade shows under that name. Last week's Book Expo America was ASB's last event. Paperback Services, however, now takes over your book promotion with gusto, and will be at all the big events: Book Expo, Frankfurt Book Fair, Miami Book Fair, London Book Fair, Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the ALA library conventions, and more. Oftentimes Paperback Services will be there side by side with Paperback Radio.

Reporting live from the venues that until now only came to you through photos on Facebook is going to add a totally new dimension to the trade shows where your book is being promoted. Wherever you are in the world you'll be able to hear, live, what's going on in the towns where you spent your precious book promotion money. You will now be able to hear strangers talk about your book as they discover it.

Later this week you will start receiving emails from the book promotion staff that you know, Jackie, Kerrin, Sarah, and Sarah, that end with @paperbackservices.com. Same people, same array of marketing opportunities, new email addresses. There will also be a support@paperbackservices.com address, for all your questions.

Not only am I the founder of Paperback Radio and Paperback Services, but I also founded America Star Books and its predecessor, way back in the late 1990s. My mission then was to enable as many writers as possible to have their book published at no cost: I published almost 70,000 books, for free. I showed other publishers how to do it, and today many are doing a fine job. Now the time has come to make a difference in book promotion, so that your book can actually be discoveredamong all the others. With Paperback Services and Paperback Radio we are going to make this happen for you.

Thank you!

America Star Books,
Paperback Services,
Paperback Radio,

--Willem Meiners, founder and CEO
UPDATE 9/29/17: Thanks to an anonymous tipster, I've learned that Willem and Alice Meiners have put their house up for sale. According to Zillow, it was listed on September 5 (an interesting date, since Paperback Radio vanished at around the same time). A sale is already pending. (How do I know this is their house? Numerous online sources confirm their address.)

Think about how abruptly ASB, Paperback Radio, and Paperback Services vanished from the web. Then consider the sale of the Meiners's home, and the fact that all of this occurred within the same two- or three-week time period in mid-August to early September. It's curious, no? Especially in light of the optimistic tone of Meiners's June 6 announcement email. It's looking more and more to me as some sudden personal or financial or legal crisis is behind what's happened.

I've also heard from a couple of PA/ASB authors that the print versions of their books are suddenly showing as "currently unavailable" on Amazon. I did a quick check of recently-pubbed PA/ASB print books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and the majority of them are now listed as "currently unavailable" or "temporarily out of stock". It seems pretty clear that ASB is no longer interacting with its printer.

Kindle editions are not affected. Those are still on sale.

UPDATE 9/30/17: More bad news for PA/ASB.

Bookmasters' 2015 lawsuit against PA/ASB, which was settled in early 2016 when both parties stipulated to dismissal, has just been re-opened "for failure to comply with stipulation of settlement." A motion was filed by Bookmasters on August 16, and the case was re-opened on September 19. Screenshot below (you can see for yourself on the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website).


59 comments :

Ben Baker said...

FB page is dead.

Anonymous said...

I have to say good riddance to that author meat market. I honestly can't believe they've lasted this long. At WritersWeekly.com, we have received countless complaints about them over the years.

At BookLocker.com, we have a special program for authors of defunct publishers. If they have their production files, the cost is only $78. That includes assignment of a new ISBN, of course. Info: http://newsletter.booklocker.com/attn-victims-of-defunct-publishers

If America Star Books / PublishAmerica is going out of business, their authors should start demanding their production files NOW, before there are no other employees left to honor their requests. Tate Publishing went belly-up (and it's owners were arrested) and we're now receiving reports that requests for production files are going unanswered. Authors who waited too long appear to be out of luck. :(

Angela Hoy
WritersWeekly.com / BookLocker.com

Anonymous said...

I worry that Austin Macauley will fill the void. I just recently talked someone out of going with them. One of the key benefits the writer mentioned for going with Austin Macauley was their "New York offices". I wish virtual offices had to identify themselves more clearly. Having what amounts to a P.O. box in New York is no great feat.

Justin Stocker said...

Well... Unfortunate I have a work published through ASB. It is the first in a five book story line. I first heard that they may be going under a little more then a week ago. I sent an email to them hoping to get some answers to what I had heard only to get nothing in return. Today, before finding this post here on WB, I tried to contact them again to let them know that I would be giving them til the end of the month to reply and I would then be taking the rest of the story line to another publisher... guess what, their web page is no longer reachable. Instead it sends me to an account suspended page. So now the problem I have is what happens with my first book? Do I have to wait the five years of the contract to republish it through another publisher? With the company being out is the contract released? The book was just released back in May.

Victoria Strauss said...

Justin, I'm afraid I don't know the answer to your question. It isn't clear yet what's happened to ASB, and a company closing doesn't necessarily release you from your contract. I'm trying to find out what's going on, and will update this post, or write a new post, if I discover anything.

If you hear anything from ASB, would you please contact me? beware [at] sfwa.org . Thanks.

Brenda Tetreault said...

Hellfire and brimstone! These asshats still have FOUR of my books from back when I was young and stupid. I just want my books back, damn it!

Brenda Tetreault said...

Well, Paperback Radio has a Facebook page. It says that it's out of Frederick, Maryland. I'm guesing this is these crooks. I wonder if I demand the rights back for my books if I'll get a reply?
https://www.facebook.com/PaperbackRadio/

Anonymous said...

Willem Meiners is the biggest crook of all. That company is the biggest scam. Jackie Velnoskey and Kerrin Wuchter was the management there from what I understand. I cannot get a hold of anyone about getting my files back on all 6 of my books published. They have been in so many recent lawsuits it's no wonder they are running scared now. And aren't royalties due out at the end of this month? Funny time for the Titanic to sink! Alice Meiners aka Alice Rush was listed on the paperbackradio.com website but she is the king of all scams wife! How can these people sleep at night.
I've looked their information up online and they too live in Frederick Maryland maybe we should all go knocking on their door! Thank you Victoria for updating everyone. I hope in the coming days there will be more information.

Ralph Galeano said...

I also have a book published by ASB in February, 2017. I would like to get the rights back and have sent termination letter and reversion of rights letter to them. Unanswered along with unanswered emails and phone calls. If they do declare bankruptcy does that mean rights automatically revert to the copyright holder? Please keep me in the loop on this issue. horseman@horsemanspress.com

Victoria Strauss said...

Ralph Galeano,

The answer to your question is no. Bankruptcy courts don't honor the bankruptcy clauses in publishing contracts. They consider book contracts to be assets that could potentially be sold to pay creditors. If ASB did declare bankruptcy, all its contracts would be frozen until the bankruptcy trustee either decided to sell them or to release rights back to authors.

Another possibility is that ASB itself might find a way to sell or transfer its contracts to another entity, or that Willem Meiners might take them over via his Paperback Services or other business venture.

For the moment, until we have a better picture of what's going on, I think that ASB/PA authors should consider that their contracts are still in force.

Catherine Dodson said...

How long do our contracts last? A few years ago they sent me an email to buy my rights back.. I published in 2007 and I've passed 10 years. I just want to cut ties with this company and be able to take my writing elsewhere.

Victoria Strauss said...

Catherine Dodson,

Most ASB/PA contracts I've seen take rights for either seven or ten years, but I have seen one that was life-of-copyright. That was super unusual, though, so I think the odds are that you are free to take your writing to another publisher or to self-publish.

I took the liberty of looking you up on Amazon, and it shows your book as "currently unavailable" which indicates that PA has stopped producing it. That would tend to confirm that your contract has expired.

Ralph Galeano said...

Is there anything new about America Star Books. They seem to have dissappeared from the face of the Earth.

Ralph Galeano

Victoria Strauss said...

If I find out anything new, I'll update this post.

Janet Simons said...

The last I heard from America Star Books was in July. I had paid money to have them continue publishing my book. Like everyone else, I still find my book on Amazon.com, as well as supposed used books for sale on numerous sites, and yet supposedly my book hasn't sold. ASB Productions doesn't show up anywhere or Paperback Services. I just wanted to buy some copies to have. This is extremely frustrating, not being able to contact the publisher who has hijacked my book, Quest Over.

FrogLady3 said...

This may be a bit naïve (since I'm still in the writing, and not the publishing stage yet), but -- aside from the author paying to have her book published -- what's the big stink about ASB/PA? I thought all vanity publishers charged authors to print their books, so what makes this publisher worse than the others?

Janet Simons said...

I think if you had been with the publisher when they were Publish America, then America Star Books, then ASB Promotion and last but not least Paperback Services, you might feel differently. I never got results when I paid for promotions but I don't blame them for that. My main objection is that I have found a lot of my books for sale as used books, online, when I haven't been receiving commissions. Obviously someone had to buy those in the first place. But, now there is no current website and all emails to me stopped in July. Calls and emails go unanswered. I would like to purchase some of my books and yet I can't get a hold of them. I found an address, so I will write to them. It's as though they just dropped off the face of the planet.

Anonymous said...

I did not pay in the summer to make my books still available, and they are still available. I figured out the BS emails when they were Publish America, however they had some good offers prior to the holidays to get the books at decent prices. I also reached out to the lady I always bought my Fall supply from. No answer, but also no bounce back. I have all the same questions as everyone else, rights to our books if they did not assign to another company, or if they were assigned who were they assigned to, past royalties owed, etc. Will keep an eye on this site in hopes that someone will have the answers. Appreciate everyone sharing.

Mp Mbutoh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janet Simons said...

Just curious why no one is receiving return calls or emails. I'm wondering if there is an agency that oversees the publishing industry. If authors are cheated there should be repercussions. I would imagine...

AndieJ said...

I don't understand how any of these vanity presses are still operating. If someone wants to self-publish (which is basically all vanity presses are for), Createspace is cheap and easy to use. You don't even have to publish on Amazon. You can create your own paperback, & print on demand however many or few copies you want or need. What am I not seeing here?

Catherine Dodson said...

Thank you for your response Victoria Strauss! I am fairly sure it was a 7 year contract.. of course id pull the ol dusty contact out before I proceed.. ultimately I would enjoy the peace of mind knowing I am no longer affiliated with that company.. only regret I have is not sticking up on copies from all of their many author deals.. Now this book is truly rare and belongs to only my closest of friends and family!

Janet Simons said...

It's good that there are other options for new authors. However, what you're not seeing is that some of us were locked into contracts a long time ago, and mysteriously our publisher seems to have vanished. My book is still on the market but I can't get a hold of them to purchase copies which are cheaper than market value. This is a very recent development. Once you are under contract you can't have someone else also publish the same book, so you have no other options.

Anonymous said...

"Once you are under contract you can't have someone else also publish the same book, so you have no other options."

Or if you're like me, stuck with an old contract stating that PA or whoever they are now has "first right of refusal" on your next book, for the life of the copyright (yes that was me), then your hands are tied and you can't write anything at all for anyone else until you satisfy that requirement. Of course, this was 15 years ago and PA's contracts have changed a lot between now and then. I've moved on with other things but never wrote anything else, partly due to this. I suppose I could have paid them off, but the idea was repugnant.

Why did I sign the contract in the first place? There are a couple of reasons.. 1) I was young and didn't know any better, same as a lot of folks, and 2)even though I did in fact consult a lawyer before signing, he was a distant relative and clearly didn't even look at it before advising me because I didn't have money at the time and it was a favor to his sister (my aunt). Everyone I showed the contract to said it was normal.

Victoria, I just wanted to thank you and others who have kept up with all this drama. I look in every once in awhile to see if anything is new. It's too bad it took one of PA's business partners to take them down instead of the courts listening to the multiple lawsuits brought by authors who have been scammed and taken advantage of.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 9/08, thanks for the kind words. I do think the lawsuit played a part in ASB's demise, but I think the bigger cause was a loss of customers. There are vanity publishers doing quite well right now because they understand that if you can get writers to pay a bundle for publishing, you have to deliver some level of service for that, and at least a pretense of respect and responsiveness. ASB never got that, and in the end I think that's what destroyed it.

One of the worst things a publisher can do is to vanish, as ASB has done, and not release its authors--especially where there are life-of-copyright contracts. I'm truly sorry.

Lora Mcduffie said...

Is there an address to ASB to request to terminate your contract after the 7 yrs are over.

Anonymous said...

I too am a published author with PA/ASB now Paperback radio. I have had 6 books published by them. 5 of the 6 are still showing up as in stock on Amazon, however one of my titles is now showing out of print. :( I have sent them a few emails over the past month in a half. They never answered me directly but would solve the issue. Like when I inquired why the lower priced versions of my books were not showing up. I never really received much in the terms of money from them. (royalties) I wasn't sure if my books were selling much online. I sell them at book signings and things. But always felt at least they were out there for the world to read. I am very sad... I think one of my books just renewed the contract, but I am not sure...I did order some books recently from Amazon, still waiting for some of them to come in. But received some two weeks ago... Not really sure what this means. But I hope they either are able to fix the troubles their going through, or give us our rights back. Although I am not sure where to even look now for new publisher.

Victoria Strauss said...

Lora Mcduffie,

The only addresses are the ones they've always had. From what I'm hearing, emails are bouncing and phone calls go to voicemail or are unanswered. I haven't heard anything about snail mail--you could try sending a certified letter, return receipt requested, to their street address to see if it gets picked up. Even if it does, I don't think you can expect a response.

Their mailing address is PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705

Janet Simons said...

I also thought of mailing something to them, but I am waiting a bit to see if anything changes first. I just bought 6 used books online. (How there were used books when I received no royalties is frustrating.) I just would like the status. Amazon.com now says my book is "out of stock." I just need to know if my book is still being published by them, or not. I would think there must be some sort of agency that regulates publishers or they could just cheat authors out of their rightful compensations left and right. That's hard to believe.

Victoria Strauss said...

Janet Simons,

A lot of the third-party sellers on Amazon and B&N who are selling "used" books don't actually have the books in stock--they are just listing ISBNs, figuring they'll get hold of a copy if someone places an order. Would you please report back (or email me) to let me know if you actually receive these books?

ASB seems to have suspended all publishing activities, but until it's clearer what's going on, you have to assume that it still holds your rights (if your contract is still in force, that is).

Publishing isn't regulated as an industry. The recourse available to authors who've been defrauded is the law. To be honest I think that in most cases the money owed to individual authors is small--what's really the issue here is rights. Getting them back. It's increasingly looking to me as if the ASB situation is one of the few in which some sort of group legal action may be appropriate.

Any lawyers out there who'd care to weigh in?

Janet Simons said...

Hi Victoria,
I just ordered them through Abebooks.com. They were $3.00 ea. I will post whether I receive them or not, but this website appears to be legit. I just want the status of my book. They shouldn't be allowed to highjack it!

Anonymous said...

Advice needed. What do you all think I should do? I was thinking of mailing them ASB/Paperback radio, a certified letter stating that when my contracts are up on my titles I do not wish to renew. Now I am unsure as to whether I should do this yet or not, as most of my titles are still showing up as available on amazon and a few other sites. One of my titles is even showing up on Walmart… However one is showing as no longer in print. Honestly even though I never received much as far as royalties. (Just assuming I wasn’t selling many) I was grateful to have my books out in the world for people to read. I don’t want to cut ties with them if they are indeed working with a third party publisher. Also all my books are offered in kindle even the one that is no longer in print. I wonder if Amazon has the rights to keep them as kindles. Which would be cool as at least my books wouldn’t completely disappear into the abyss. But I am not sure… however if they sell, I don’t think I will receive any royalties… But oh well. I know I may sound like a fool. But I am still hopeful... :(

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 9/12,

You could certainly try doing that. If you do, please report back--I'll be interested to know if anyone signs for the letter, and if they do, if you get any response.

If your contracts still have a while to run, though, I think you'll still have to wait it out--i.e., you won't be free and clear until your termination date or until it becomes clear what is happening/has happened to ASB--whichever comes first. Also be aware that if ASB does sell its catalog to a different company before your expiration date(s), or declares bankruptcy, any termination notices sent now might not be valid.

ASB holds your publication rights; Amazon is just a retailer. I also don't think you can assume that, if ASB sells its catalog to someone else, that it will be an improvement.

Anonymous said...

I've been rip off by this company. I paid them to have a spread of my Spanish Poetry Book in a French issue and suppose to receive it two months ago. It's an ashamed that those trying to achieve success are being taken advantage of by those abusing for greed with consequences.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Victoria for your advice. I have a letter all written up ready to go.The letter is to request my contracts not to be renewed when they are done. As it states in all our contracts we must request three months prier to the renewal date, in writing.
But just last night I found a books company that sells books in bulk. So I placed an order for one of my books. The one with the longest contract, fearing the worse. Just received an email stating the shipping date would take longer than they thought and if it was ok. I replied "sure." I want to see if they are going to fulfill the order and go from there. Unless I see many more of my books going out of print.

Ralph Galeano said...

I have sent two registered letters to ASB requesting my contract be terminated and the rights reverted to me. Both letters were not picked up at their Post Office box number that was on my contract. After fifteen days the P.O. sent me a card stating that they were not picked up and signed and they will be returned to me.

I have signed up with Ingram and have filled out their rights transfer form requesting they contact ABS and have the rights transfered to me. That process is under way and I just have to wait and see if it is successful.

Anonymous said...

Ralph...if Ingram is successful in any way to transfer your rights, how will they get the files? Or are you starting over with new covers and ISBN#'s?

This is straight up frustrating and wrong! If they wanted out of the business, why take the authors down with them?!

Will be interesting if they don't get in touch with them, if they deem it as a closed business and if that voids our contracts.

Anonymous said...



I currently have new copies of the four books published by PA/ASB. Until recently I ordered books by phone. My question is: Can I find a place to get reproductions of the books I have? I am satisfied with the cover and text of my books, but I have no way of ordering more copies. HELP!

Janet Simons said...

I ordered 6 books that were listed as used, online. Then I received 4 notices of refunds with lame excuses. I just received one yesterday. The cover is trimmed slightly short, but otherwise it's ok. I just had no copies. I send texts that do not get bounced back, but never get answered. My book is listed as "currently out of stock" whatever that means since these are printed on demand. The company should have reverted all rights back to the authors. Apparently no agency polices publishers.This feels insane to me. I paid money to continue with them. Now what?

Victoria Strauss said...

Ralph Galeano,

Thanks for your comment--I'm not really surprised the letters weren't picked up, but it's good to have confirmation. Please come back to let us know how it goes with Ingram (and also email me, please--I'm interested in knowing more about the process: beware@sfwa.org ).

Anonymous 9/18,

You said, "If they wanted out of the business, why take the authors down with them?!" Because they don't give a crap about the authors, and never have. I know that's harsh. But I've been tracking and getting complaints about this company since it started up in 1999 (and even before that, when Willem Meiners ran a different vanity press), and it's the truth.

Anonymous 9/19,

ASB isn't publishing any longer, and isn't answering any attempts at communication. There's no way to get books from them. You _might_ be able to order copies online (though see Janet Simons' comment, below yours), but other than that you really have no recourse. As to re-publishing your book...because there has been no official termination of PA/ASB contracts, and because it's not clear yet what exactly has happened, I think that for now you have to continue to assume that PA/ASB holds your rights, at least until your contract's expiration date. The problem with trying to re-publish isn't so much that PA/ASB would come after you, but that a new publisher or self-publishing service won't want a book whose rights may still be licensed to someone else.

Janet Simons,

Your experience with the used sellers demonstrates what a lot of people don't realize: most of the third-party sellers who list books for sale on Amazon and elsewhere are just listing ISBNs and don't actually have the books on hand. If someone places an order, they then try to get hold of a copy, but where the book has limited availability, as with PA/ASB books, they're likely to fail.

"Out of stock" probably means that PA/ASB is no longer communicating with whomever it was using for printing and distribution. It's a way of indicating that orders can't be fulfilled.

What it looks like to me right now is that, for reasons we don't yet know for sure but likely have to do with money, PA/ASB has done a bunk. However, it also appears to be keeping its options open by not relinquishing authors' rights.

Anonymous said...

Do we know what is going on with America Star Book, PA? They are nowhere to be found. Looks like Willem and Alice Meiners skipped town, and took everyone's money. Royalties are now past due, you can't order books, it looks like according to distributors for them they are no longer doing business. But why? And the radio program they were running, Paperback radio or something looks like that is no longer as well. What Frauds! I just need to know what my rights are for my books, how would we be able to get our rights back, files etc?
I think we all need to ban together and file a big lawsuit against the Meiners, I think we all might have something!

Anonymous said...

When you say they are keeping their options open, I wonder what that means...

I am so upset and have been writing in on this site as anonymous ( Just because quite frankly I hate talking bad about anyone) But I feel very frustrated!!!!!

I have six children's books with them. And now they own them and have gone of the face of the earth.

I do thank you for your advice. I am planning on sending a letter out soon, as I stated before. But just waiting to see about one good size order I placed.

Some of my books are stating that they are going back in stock in a few days. Not the typical 1 to 2 months for delivery. Which is what they stated last week. However 2 are stating out of print. Also this is just on Amazon. But my order dates keep getting pushed further away....

I will keep you posted as to whether the larger order gets filled. I mean it's not huge but 25 copies. Also these copies are the lower priced versions I requested. Not the original version. So I would assume that they have to print them up.. Not something that was already on hand...I am wondering also if some of our books have been picked up by the third party publisher and others not... Just so crazy to leave people hanging out in limbo... :(

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 9/21,

By "keeping their options open," I'm talking about the possibility that they might sell the ASB catalog to some other company. Probably that's not a strong possibility, but I do think it's at least conceivable. However, there's no evidence of that at this point, just as there's no sign of any bankruptcy filings.

Most PA/ASB contracts I've seen are time-limited, so even in the worst-case scenario, they can't hold onto you forever--once your expiration date passes, your rights will be yours again.

If there's no bankruptcy and no catalog sale, and ASB keeps its books online and selling but doesn't pay royalties, I think that an ASB authors' lawsuit would absolutely be justified. I also think that as many ASB authors as possible should file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Attorney General: http://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/Pages/CPD/default.aspx .

I'm going to be updating my post in a few days with that and other information.

Anonymous said...

I just want my writes back and shouldn't have to pay a fee. All they did was provide the covers. Hell I will change the covers....I just don't know where to begin.

Anonymous said...

I had a contract with PublishAmerica for my novel and that contract expired in 2009 according to the terms of the contract. I then signed a renewal agreement in 2011 for another seven-year period, which will expire in 2018. It's only now as I've tried to contact them to renew again that I've become aware of this situation after getting email bouncebacks and encountering their inoperative website.

But at least I think after 2018 I am be free to take it to another publisher to publish new editions.

I'm glad I've kept copies of everything.

Justin Stocker said...

Has anyone heard or seen anything new about ASB?

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 9/25,

You're right. Once your 2018 expiration date arrives, you are free and clear. I'm really hoping there will be a resolution before then, but if not, at least you don't have too long to wait.

Justin Stocker,

As soon as I hear something new, I will post it here.

Anonymous said...

My fear is this,
I believe all our contracts state this; “The Author and the Publisher agree that this agreement is renewable upon the date of its expiration and will remain enforceable during additional and successive period of _________, on the same terms and conditions as specified hereinafter, unless either party to this agreement shall decline such renewal in writing at least three months prior to the date of expiration as hereinbefore set forth.”


So are we to send them in writing that we request our contracts once they are up. Or is this current situation causing them to breach contract which means they are ours again?
Also received a few books in the mail that I tried to order on Amazon. Not sure what to do... They came in printed in black and white and they were to be full color children's books. honestly they look horrible. But the other order from amazon came in color... Different book title. not sure what is happening or what I should do as my publisher is unreachable and it is not amazons fault. But this does mean they are still printing orders. idk (lost)

Ann said...

Publish America is back under the name Publish America. Hopefully this is relevant for you.

Their website: http://publishamerica.com/

Half of their links up top don't work. They link to publishamerica.net which doesn't exist, or the page simply doesn't exist.

I only learned about all these shenanigans today, and your website turned up in a google search. Since I couldn't find any comments about the new site, I figured I'd comment, maybe no one here has noticed yet?

Either way, the business seems scummy and I really like what you're doing at this site. Thank you for the dedication you put into it!

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 9/26,

Not all PA/ASB contracts require the author to give a termination notice, but some do. If your contract has that language, I'd suggest sending the notification as indicated in the contract, by both email and certified mail (which provides proof of mailing with a return receipt), to ASB's last known email and snail mail addresses. Keep copies of everything. You won't get a response, but being able to show that you did your due diligence and fulfilled the termination provision in your contract should be enough to satisfy a new publisher or self-publishing service that your rights are yours again (it's not your fault ASB never responded), and to back up a takedown notice if you need to get an online retailer to stop selling your book.

Ann,

What you've found is PublishAmerica's original website. It was never taken down when PA changed its name in 2014, and its URL was set to re-direct to America Star Books's new website. Once ASB closed down, the re-direct was apparently also terminated, revealing the old PA site underneath.

It's bizarre--they took down everything else, why didn't they take down the old PA site as well? In the wake of Larry Clopper's lawsuit, and also ASB's shrinking customer base, it wasn't so surprising that ASB went bust--but given that the Meinerses seemed to be ready to go with Paperback Radio and Paperback Services, the suddenness and sloppiness of the way everything disappeared has me wondering if they were maybe hit by some kind of major financial or personal emergency.

Anonymous said...

I read the letter you posted, of which I did not receive myself. I had recently sent correspondence to multiple emails I have had over the course of my contracts, including the ones listed in the letter posted above. All bounced back but 3. The 3 that did not bounce back were Jackie, Kerrin, and Sarah with the AmericaStarbooks.pub emails. In addition, I did not receive a bounce back from willem@americastarbooks.pub.

It appears all names the publisher has used are closed for business. Therefore it would make logical sense that this is a breach of contract as the publisher did not meet their commitments within the contract: "Publisher agrees to cause all copies of said literary Work to be printed and bound as the market demands and in sufficient quantities to supply purchasers of said literary Work therewith".

I'm not a lawyer, but I would think their breach would allow us our rights back automatically. Does anyone have a legal background that can advise?

Anonymous said...

I did receive that letter you posted. However back in June they had sent an email stating thank you for making the decision to stay with us. But offering for us the authors to purchase an additional page for our contracts. Stating that if at anytime we wanted to take our contracts back we could. Or something like that. Unfortunately I must have deleted the actual email.

However it was for a cost of $75. I have six books with this publishing company. Some are in stock, some are not, others stating out of print. I am still waiting on a rather large order. Fearing it will be cancelled.

I sent out a certified letter asking for one of my six contracts back, however this one is due to auto renew in 02/2018 if I don't send a request. Was waiting to send out the rest. Now I wonder if I should request them all. Although two of my books still have six years left to the contracts. :( So upsetting. And thank you for keeping us all posted. I check your blog daily now...

Anonymous said...

Just an update for all who are interested. I recently sent a certified letter requesting the rights to one of my contracts back, which is due to renew in February of 2018. I went to check the tracking on such letter, and it stated it was coming back to me as return to sender. The address is no longer.
So tomorrow I believe just for my records I will be sending them another for the remaining contracts, when the dates are to expire. Basically just for my own legal purposes, I suppose. Although I have no clue as to how to go about this…
They apparently are filling that rather large order, as of right now. However I have seen another one of my books is showing out of print. I am sure it is just a matter of time that the other three will follow.  They are showing as in stock on Amazon with a handful of copies available.
Which leads me to this… A while back before this all happened, many sights stated that they had many copies in stock. Then all of a sudden they were all stating unavailable. I truly think like someone else on the post said, “They don’t always have the books in stock” just are able to fulfill orders on demand.
With that being said, and maybe I am a fool. But you know what other than the way they vanished off the face of the earth. And now I am left wondering what’s going to happen to my life’s work. (Yes I say life’s work, as it took allot of time and years of my life… like many of you.) But with that said, they PA/ASB-Paperback Radio… Never did they mislead me… With the exception of maybe not getting much for royalties. Which let’s face it, was I selling thousands of copies??? Probably not.
But my books were out there for the world to see, view and purchase. And even though like most we all want to become an overnight sensation, and make lots of money. Then reality hits. That is when you ask yourself, why do I write? In my case write and illustrate… To reach people, with a piece of ourselves hoping to impact their lives.
I am not sure if I would be more upset or delighted. If I found out that indeed, I sold hundreds of copies of my books and never got royalties. Sure it would sting a bit. But look at the bigger picture. I am so sorry we all have to go through this. I really hope we can all get our contracts back, or at least have the third parties (whoever they are) purchase them. Where to go from here????

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 9/28,

A breach by the publisher doesn't automatically terminate a contract, I'm afraid (unless the contract specifically states that it does, and even then the publisher can contest it).

Anonymous 10/2,

I think you did the right think in sending a termination notice for your book contract that expires in February. For the others, especially the ones that have years to run, I wouldn't bother--if nothing else happens with ASB and it remains dead or doesn't re-incarnate within six months or so, I'm guessing that the passage of time will make it possible for you to at least try and reclaim your rights. It sucks that it's all so up in the air.

Please let us know if you receive your order. If it's cancelled, that will make it clearer that ASB really is dead.

Anonymous 10/4,

ASB did produce books on demand. Retailers don't generally stock such books, or if they do, they stock just one or two copies. That's why retailers could flip so suddenly from showing in-stock books to showing them as unavailable. You can probably trust Amazon's stock numbers, but those you find on other retailers' sites are not trustworthy (and I know that some, which show dozens or scores of books in stock, are just lying). Also be aware that third-party sellers often don't actually have the books they list; they are just listing ISBNs harvested from the internet, figuring that if someone places an order they can then try to get hold of a copy.

Thanks for the update. My heart really goes out to you and all the other writers who are stuck in this mess.

I strongly encourage you ALL to make a complaint to the Maryland Attorney General.

Anonymous said...

What do I do? I published a book back in 2008 and 2009 with Publishers of America.
7 years later I decide to go with American Star Books to turn my book into an audio book. I was charged $299.00. I was told that it would take a year on April 5, 2017. I communicated via email back and forth.
I got an email saying that they would soon be sold to a third party publisher. I emailed them requesting a refund in fear that I would lose out and my project had still not been completed as promised.
Well this was in May of 2017 folks. It is October 2017 and they are no where to be found. My project was never completed and instead of them being honest then they just scammed me out of my money.

Anonymous said...

Well, I too was screwed by this company, never received a penny, signed in 2008, so should be expired,,,? Did they go BK ? Please let us know ! L, p.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 10/15,

No sign of any bankruptcy filings. I check regularly. If there's any new information, I will post it here.

If you had a seven-year contract and your book was published in 2008, you're right, it has probably expired by now. If it's still for sale on Amazon, you should be able to send a DMCA notice or use their copyright infringement form to get the PA/ASB listing taken down (though it may still show as available through Marketplace sellers).

Barbara Tatum said...

I spent over $7,000.00 on promoting my book, (paid to ASB) how can I get at least part of my money back? Thanks for your help, btatum95@yahoo.com

Victoria Strauss said...

Barbara Tatum,

If you paid recently (within the past 6 months or so) and paid by credit card or PayPal, you can file a dispute with your credit card company or with PayPal. These companies take disputes seriously and will investigate. I've heard from authors who've gotten ripped by disreputable publishers and have been able to get at least some money back this way. Feel free to use my blog post as backup.

I also urge you--and all PA/ASB authors--to file a complaint with the Maryland Attorney General (see the top of my post of instructions and links). Ultimately I think that's the only way that at least some justic may be done.

 
Design by The Blog Decorator