From yesterday’s Burlington Free Press:
Behnah Ghobadi, president of Print Tech, a Burlington publishing firm has been printing books for customers across the United States for 34 years, but he says it was somebody in his own backyard that has given him his harshest business lesson.
Ghobadi said Monday he began printing books about 18 months ago for Peter Campbell-Copp of Manchester and his company Historical Pages. After some preliminary payments by Campbell-Copp, the checks stopped coming and the half-dozen titles sat mostly on the floor of Print Tech on Pine Street.
Now Hinesburg Community Police say more than a dozen people and businesses are out of at least $170,000 through unfulfilled contracts, including Ghobadi for about $100,000.
Campbell-Copp, 62, has been ordered to appear in Vermont Superior Court in Burlington on June 27 to face three felony counts of false pretenses and two misdemeanor counts of receiving value upon false statements, Hinesburg police said.
He also is facing single counts of false advertising and false statements as to financial ability, said Officer Chris Bataille, the lead investigator in the criminal case.
Another article, from the Manchester Journal, details some of the allegedly defrauded author’s stories. Reportedly, Campbell-Copp’s average publishing fee was $5,000, although some authors apparently paid more, and one allegedly paid $16,000.
Writer Beware never received any complaints about Campbell-Copp or Historical Pages, but the story, as detailed in the article, is a familiar one from dozens of other questionable publishers in our files: unfulfilled promises to authors, nonpayment to vendors (including printers and editors), unreturned phone calls and emails, and, when complainants managed to get through, a raft of excuses for nonperformance, ranging from health problems to claims of meetings with celebrities (including Ron Howard and the producers of Star Wars). Also familiar: the alleged Ponzi scheme aspect of the case, with Campbell-Copp signing on new authors in order to fund the work he’d promised to do on previous contracts.
A couple of sample complaints, along with a response from Campbell-Copp, can be seen in the comments thread of this blog post.
UPDATE, 6/20/13: Campbell-Copp pleaded guilty in April to 15 felony counts of false pretenses and theft of services, as well as four misdemeanor counts of bad checks. He was sentenced to six months of jail time followed by six months of house arrest, and will be on indefinite probation. A fund for restitution of Campbell-Copp’s victims has been established, but there are a number of conditions that must be satisfied before payments can be made. There’s more information here.
UPDATE 1/26/17: Campbell Copp wants to be able to publish his own deathless prose, and was in court January 25 to argue his case. The judge agreed he could self-publish, but not undertake any publishing for others or even serve as a co-author. So far, he has come up with a mere $55,000 of the $277,000 in restitution he was ordered to pay to defrauded authors.
Shawn James, self-publishing IS legitimate.
Isn't the first red flag that someone is asking you for money? I have always been told if you have to up any money, it's not legit.
Thanks for the information. I was about to send C.M. and S. a money order for #150.00 but now I chnged my mind. As this is my first screenplay, I definitely need a reoytable agent and/or a production company.
I have written a screenplay and was about to send Clark, Mendelson, and Scott a money order for $150.00. I am looking for a reputable agent or production company to pickup my script. Thanks for informing me regarding the above company. K.G.
Anonymous, While I agree with your points and have gon the self-publishing route myself, I will stand by the statements of Victoria and Shaun. If nothing else, the process of working your material through people who don't give the proverbial rat's patootie about you and your feelings can do wonders for the quality of the work. In addition, your fans will always stand by you, but a good publisher will help you to get new fans as well.
I self-publish and I agree with Victoria. Don't let a few scammers discourage you from pursuing legitimate trade print publishing. When you work towards getting published, it's best to do your homework first before sending out any material.
Today there are plenty of blogs like this one and message boards like absolute write to help a writer separate the scammers from the legit publishers and agents.
Anonymous, I respect your decision to self-publish. But the occasional case of fraud by fee-charging publishers is not a good reason to avoid traditional publishing.
This post and others like it on “Writer Beware” is one of the reasons I self-publish. I know who my publisher is, I know the publisher's financial resources, and I know the marketing abilities of my publisher.
I can write what I want, when I want, and let my readers determine the merits of my work by reviewing, asking for more, or shunning the work.
I have support from writer's groups and my fans (Yes, Indie authors do acquire fans and fan emails.) and we help each other to produce quality works.
If I want to, and only if I desire it, I can make my work available in paper print using POD, and oh yes, I never get a rejection letter.
It's such a shame that greed takes over instead of providing a service. Everyone loses, and no one wins. The author that sweated blood over the work, the printer, nobody. And the work itself never gets out there, where it may be in the best place possible – the universe!