PublishAmerica and J.K. Rowling: Retractomancy

I blogged Tuesday about PublishAmerica’s now-infamous J.K. Rowling promotion, which promised, for just $49, to bring PA authors’ books to Rowling’s attention during PA’s upcoming visit to Scotland. (The promotion, which has set the blog- and Twittersphere abuzz, has also been covered by a variety of news sources, including the Associated Press, The Bookseller, and Publishers Weekly).

Also on Tuesday, a Rowling spokesman labeled the promotion’s claims “completely false,” and promised that “appropriate action” would be taken.

Apparently, that action involved a letter from Rowling’s lawyer, demanding that PA cease and desist the promotion (as of yesterday, the promotion had been removed from the PA website).

Now PA has responded…with a “tone” letter. Penned by PA’s lawyer Victor Cretella, the letter is posted on PA’s website. Here is my favorite part:

Not only is your letter replete with factual errors, but it is built upon a false premise. In the caption at the beginning of the letter, you indicate that your letter is “NOT FOR PUBLICATION”. This creates the impression that you were looking to resolve this matter confidentially. But no sooner had you sent the letter than your client’s spokesperson, Mark Hutchinson, published a false and defamatory statement to the media, indicating that PA had been cited by industry watchdogs for “allegedly deceiving authors.”

Of course, there are no legitimate industry watchdogs who have ever said anything of the sort. The ones who have made such representations have been totally discredited….No reasonable person would ever rely upon anything they said. By doing
so, your client and her representatives have subjected themselves to a defamation suit.

In light of the above, PA requires that your client issue a retraction immediately. “Our client’s approach . . . to damages . . . will be determined by the speed and nature of your response to this letter.” In any event, PA reserves all of its rights in the interim. However, it will be more than happy to discuss an amicable resolution of this matter.

In fact, it seems pretty clear from the AP article in which Hutchinson is quoted that the watchdog statement was made by the writer of the article, not by Hutchinson.

This is turning into quite a drama. Stay tuned.


  1. Publish America got many individuals published who the whatever it is media that control the culture today refused and turned down. Try to get an agent– bloody joke. And I have published in four different houses twelve books. I have no quarrel with PA. I hate the media publishing houses that think they are the jury for all literary skill. Good Christ, half of their editors can't even match the proper verb form with the plural or singular subject half the time. So I say to PA, go for it. And to the other houses– get some talented ediotrs, you poltroons. Quit making believe your bowel matter does not have stench that is enough to make one upchuck.

  2. But no sooner had you sent the letter than your client’s spokesperson, Mark Hutchinson, published a false and defamatory statement to the media, indicating that PA had been cited by industry watchdogs for “allegedly deceiving authors.”
    Of course, there are no legitimate industry watchdogs who have ever said anything of the sort.

    Heh, "no legitimate industry watchdogs" indeed.

    I really giggled at this one.

    Go get 'em, J.K!

  3. I'm not a lawyer but in my experience (and according to a publishing law class I took once): There are terms that sound nice but legally mean absolutely nothing. One is "try to." This term does not guarantee that whoever promises you, even contractually, that they will "try," will do anything specific whatsoever. If you want a binding contract, the other party had better guarantee what they will do for you. For example, they can guarantee that they will send out X number of news releases, call X number of TV stations to get interviews for you, and send out X number of review copies. They cannot guarantee that anyone will review your book or interview you, because that is the decision of the publication or TV station. In this case, since they are mentioning Rowling specifically, it is really sleazy since it turns out Rowling is totally opposed to the idea. But I don't think it's actually illegal, any more than a publisher saying they will send bound galleys of your book to Publisher's Weekly is a guarantee PW will then choose to review it. Whoever dreamed this campaign up knows exactly how to skate on the side of the law.

    Another term, and yes I'm getting a bit off topic, is "believe." Someone saying they "believe" something, legally means zip, zilch, and nada in terms of it being true. People can say they "believe" or "feel" anything, including what they "believe" your sales will be. All they are talking about is their own assertions as to their own emotions, which you will find it hard to disprove. If you want a guarantee, you need something stronger, real evidence that it is true or a real promise that a specific action will be taken.

  4. Maybe, JKR will sue such that she owns PA and will convert it to a reputable company…

    Okay, quit laughing. It's possible!

    *still waiting for the butter for the popcorn, though*

  5. PA seems to always retort that they never promised to do anything for the fee they reader from these poor writers. I just really, really hope JK let's her lawyer have full rein to pursue PA. Few of the celeb's named by PA in their promo's to their writers bother. Fingers crossed that Rowling cares more about scams then Oprah, Random House etc.

  6. This reminds me of the fellow who tried to "trademark" a search term that I use on my website to kick me off the internet. He used the same kind of language in his letters to me. I took the correspondence to my attorney to deal, and even he was surprised at the vehemence of the attacks. This "response" is so out of line with the response by the Rowling side, that it is getting out of control. Time to bring out the "big guns" on the Rowling side to silence these "idjits…"

  7. The PA lawyer's letter reminds me of a teeny, tiny wolf spider my daughter and I found on the top of the clothes dryer one day. The spider pumped himself up another sixteenth of an inch, chewed its bright green palps at us as if to say, "I'm going to make myself look BIG and scare you!"

    We laughed ourselves silly, which is what everyone — including JKR, Warner, and Scholastic — should do here.

    Then they should take PA to the cleaners and drub them so deeply they'll never crawl up out of the hole again!

  8. So to get the offer right, this is like me saying I'll get your music in front of Bono – by taking a CD to a U2 gig and waving it while pogoing in the moshpit to Vertigo?

  9. I think we're seeing the last days of PA…No way they can win up against Rowling, Scholastic and Warner Brothers legal team. They'll crush them in Federal court.

  10. I read the pdf of that letter yesterday as well. I'm so astounded I'm lost for words.

    I mean… honestly!

  11. I saw the PDF of that letter yesterday. I rolled my eyes, and then snickered. Say what? I mean, maybe they could try to bring it to her attention, if some of those stated allegations are true; but she has a vertical file and, I am assuming, she full well knows how to sue it. Anyway, Ms. Rowling is an author, and not an editor. The entire situation is, to say the least, inane. Anyway, speaking from experience, even if a writer likes your work, and makes a recommendation, that is no guarantee fo acceptance, sale, or reputable publication of your work.

  12. How can PA say that they didn't imply a meeting with JK and ask her to read / give feedback on the books they took? Remarkable.

    It's fascinating how many 'dodgy' outfits don't seem to recognise that intellectual property includes a person's name.

    Go Team JK!

  13. I knew one day they'd pick the wrong author. I hope Rowling digs real deep.

    I do recall an email offering something like this, but my habit of deleting everything I receive from them has made it impossible to retrieve it. Darn.

    Wonder if Oprah knows how often they offer authors a chance to get their books to her…

  14. They do understand that JK Rowling has the deep pockets and legal resources to put PA out of business if they &*$^@ with her too much, right?


  15. I don't get it…
    PublishAmerica's lawyer claims in his letter that they have done nothing wrong. Then why did they pull the offer from their website?

    But it's good to see Publish America admit that they had no intension of trying to look up J.K. Rowling. How they expect someone who has read their original offer to agree that they promise nothing is beyond me. The least they have promised is to always carry the books of anyone who have taken up their offer with them while in Edinburgh.

    -If the offer hadn't been pulled I'd have beeen tempted to start a campaign to collect $50,000 to get 1,000 people to buy the offer. Could have had them arrested for fraud when they landed in Scotland if they didn't have at least 1,000 books with them.

    Seriously the letter looks like it is written by someone who has seen to many legal dramas on TV.

  16. Please try to sue JK Rowling and Scholastic so they can bankrupt you PA. Please. Pretty please with a cherry on top.

    In fact, I wish all of the individuals and companies whose name they try to use to steal from authors would get together and file a massive defamation suit against PA. Maybe that will finally make them stop.

  17. … and I thought the Land of Oz was full of drama!
    I had an early contact with PA and I was quick to realize the lack of legitimacy that would come with dealing with them.
    In fact, dealing with them was one of the driving forces behind my decision to go self-publishing, a decision that I have never regretted. PA helped place my feet upon the road of yellow brick and the results have been very rewarding. At least they did something right!

  18. I imagine PA is going on the "any publicity is good publicity" principle. Clearly all the bad publicity they receive has not prevented them from making plenty of money.

    Theory One: PA expects JKR to eventually not want to be bothered with this. Perhaps they will even issue an apology at some point. Meanwhile, they have gotten piles of publicity.

    Theory Two: PA is circling the drain, and is using this is a last hurrah. They will get a pile of new suckers, collect their money, and then, like so many other scammers, quietly disappear with their ill-gotten gains.

    I fear Theory One is at work here (#2 would be a mixed blessing). I know that JKR is protective of her name and has a lot of money to throw at protecting it, but if PA eventually apologizes (sparking another round of publicity!), I imagine she has better things to do than pursue them into the ground and scorch their earth.

    I suspect those currently salting their popcorn will, alas, be disappointed.

  19. Marian- true, I'd forgotten that. But if (and please, please let it happen) PA implode and go bankrupt (please please please) Authors will be a a no-mans-land regarding their work, especially as PA is unlikely to have anything in the contracts regarding bakruptcy. It may be worth doing the free one that's worked for some people- daily emails stating that you will no longer be purchasing any of your books, and you wish to have your rights returned.

  20. PA has no clue as to what size of hornet nest they've stomped into; I am SO laughing and getting my popcorn.

  21. This- cannot go well for them. At all. If I were a PA author reading this I'd be taking steps to get the rights to my book back. Just in case of implosion.

  22. Sometimes I see things like that and wonder if the PA lawyers or the PA representatives ever lose sleep over their startling lack of ethics. Then I sigh a little when I realize they probably don't. ~_~

  23. When I saw the previous post, I thought PA had sunk to a new low. The response is baffling: no legitimate news source….What does PA know about legitimacy in the first place?

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