Between December 2009 and July 2010, I received a number of questions and advisories about a company called New Century Publishing, located in Indianapolis, Indiana. On its website (shut down now, but here’s a cached version), New Century presented itself as a selective small press–but in fact it was a vanity publisher. The contracts I saw required authors to pay $1,750 (supposedly, 50% of the costs of publication) and to buy 40 of their own books.
Since fees were nowhere mentioned on New Century’s website, the writers who contacted me had all approached it in the belief that it was a reputable small publisher, learning about the fees only when they received the contracts. Leaving aside all the other issues surrounding paying to publish, deceptive presentation is a really basic red flag. If your publisher is dishonest in its dealings with the public–if it misrepresents itself in order to attract submissions–how can you trust it to be honest in its dealings with you?
That question has come home to roost for a number of New Century authors. The Indiana Attorney General’s Office has received at least seven written complaints from authors who paid New Century’s owner, David Caswell, between $1,500 and $10,000 to publish their books, and got nothing for their money. According to the Indianapolis Star,
Carla J. Jackson, a mother of 12, filed a complaint saying she had used two credit cards to pay Caswell $1,800 to publish a book that she dedicated to her mother. It was to have been printed months ago, she said.
“My mother died July 10th, before she could see it,” said Jackson, whose husband is deployed in Iraq. “They delayed and made excuses and never got the book done. I still don’t have it.”
Others who filed complaints include Tracy Martin, Indianapolis, who said she paid $2,000 to have her book printed.
“They took the money and said it would be done in a few weeks, but it wasn’t. They just kept stringing me along with excuses and promises,” she said.
Another Indiana author, Cheri Moser-Coomer, signed in March 2009 for New Century to print her first book in a potential series of Bible stories. She said Caswell had a meeting of many of the authors and promised their books would be done and asked them to pay $500 each for a website to promote their books.
She paid a total of $2,500 and has no copies of her book and no Web page. “I just got excuses,” she said.
Other alleged victims include former US Representative Andy Jacobs Jr., who picked up a $12,500 printer’s bill for his book when Caswell defaulted on payment, and Kip Tew, who ran Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in Indiana, and wound up taking his book about the campaign to another publisher after New Century repeatedly failed to publish by the promised date. Caswell also apparently stiffed editors and designers (see this blog post from a former New Century staffer, as well as the comments that follow this news story), and his landlord, who says that Caswell owes thousands in back rent, and is being evicted.
New Century’s troubles are far from Caswell’s first brush with the law. As another Indianapolis Star article reports, the Indiana Attorney General sued him in 1990 and in 2005 over consumer complaints involving his employment and job placement companies (consumers alleged he took their money and didn’t provide services). He was ordered to pay a total of $99,000 in fines and restitution, but according to the AG’s office, he has paid nothing on the 1990 judgment, and only $600 on the 2005 judgment. And that’s not all:
The Indianapolis Star reported in 1990 that Caswell had been posing in the 1980s as an attorney, when he isn’t. And in an extended tape-recorded interview at that time, he acknowledged that he had been a bigamist — married to two women at the same time for two years during the 1980s.
He later served 14 months in the federal prison at Terre Haute after a conviction on charges of fraud and income tax evasion.
The AG’s office says that it’s conducting “an investigation into potential violations of the state’s consumer protection laws” after “[n]egotiations with Caswell and his attorney Bruce Walker failed to lead to restitution to the authors.” But given that the AG has neither been able to force Caswell to pay up, nor to prevent him from launching new consumer-defrauding ventures, New Century’s victims may justifiably wonder what will be different this time around.
“I didn’t know about the costs and other details of publishing a book,” says former GOP state chairman Rex Early, who paid New Century $10,000 to publish his book, and got stiffed when he ordered a reprint. “But I had these bundles of handwritten yellow pages.” It’s not just clueless, overeager newbies who fall victim to publishing scams. Smart, accomplished people can be hoodwinked too.