James Paul Amstell: A Vanity Publisher By Any Name

 

A quick “beware” as we bid a glad goodbye to 2020.

A guy called James Paul Amstell (aka J.P. Amstell or James Amstell) is madly changing the name of his recently-launched vanity publishing operation, likely in order to evade online warnings (mostly from me).

The first iteration, Heart and Goldman Book Publishers, has been wiped from the web. I have one of its contracts, though, which gives authors the option of paying between £1,000 and £4,000, depending on what level of service they choose. Other traces remain:

The second iteration, J.P. Amstell Book Publishers, has also been erased, though Google has cached some of its website and I saved some as well. See the image at the top of this post.

Though Mr. Amstell changed the name of his publishing venture, he didn’t bother to change the website. Other than substituting “J.P. Amstell Book Publishers” for “Heart and Goldman”, the sites were identical. Sometimes, though, search-and-replace lets you down.

This past September, I tweeted a warning about the name switcheroo:

I also posted a warning on Facebook. A few days later, this landed in my personal inbox:

You can imagine my (non-)response. Ditto for the identical threat Mr. Amstell sent three days later.

I’ve heard nothing further. However, possibly because websearches on J.P. Amstell bring up my warnings on the first page, Mr. Amstell appears to have felt the need for yet another name change.

Enter Book Publishers London. (UPDATE: Like its predecessors, Book Publishers London has vanished, so the link is courtesy of the Internet Archive.)

Notice any similarities?

Once again, apart from “Book Publishers London” in place of “J.P. Amstell Book Publishers”, BPL’s extremely wordy site content–which includes serious misinformation about traditional publishing and does not disclose the fees–is identical to that of the previous two. For instance:

This time, though, Mr. Amstell has managed a better job of name replacement.

Mr. Amstell is currently soliciting manuscript submissions as Book Publishers London (that’s how I became aware of the latest name change):

Mr. Amstell doesn’t seem to have actually published any books to date, under any of his company names. Since his first foray into vanity publishing kicked off over a year ago, that does make one wonder. Also, contrary to his claim of maintaining a “staff who previously worked deep inside the traditional system at senior levels with important positions in power throughout the entire traditional world,” Mr. Amstell seems to plan on outsourcing much of the work–judging, at least, by the several author services providers who contacted me after Mr. Amstell sent them identical proposals for book formatting.

More evidence of the interconnection of the three publishers, from Companies House:

Mr. Amstell appears to have been associated with two additional companies, both dissolved. Note the identical birth dates and also the creative deployment of different versions of his name, which (with the exception above) avoids more than one company showing up on a search on any one version.

UPDATE 1/17/21: I’m starting to hear from writers who’ve paid Amstell, under one name or another, and have gotten nothing for their money (including responses to their emails).

UPDATE 7/28/21: Somewhat to my surprise, given the communications problems that have been reported to me and the just general sleaziness of the whole operation, Book Publishers London has managed to issue around 15 books to date.

Not to my surprise, however, the covers are mostly terrible–and, scanning the first couple of pages of several of the offerings, the prevalence of uncorrected typos, formatting errors, and mis-spellings strongly suggests that no meaningful editing or copy editing is being provided for the large amount of money writers pay.

UPDATE 9/13/22: As of this writing, Book Publishers London has gone dark; at least, the website appears to be gone. It’s been alleged that Amstell is once again operating under a new name, but I haven’t been able to connect the dots as yet.

29 Comments

  1. Meanwhile, law enforcement does nothing about the apparent fraud— not in the UK, not in the EU, not in the USA.

  2. @Desertphile:
    Between the whack a mole nature of the companies, the small target group, and the antipolice measures in many areas, it's not shocking. First line of defense is educated writers.

  3. Alas, I finally got a positive response to a query (and from none other than "executive board member" James Amstell writing in first person plural), was thus stimulated to look into the publisher only, as ever, to have my aspirations for vanity crushed by my chronic humility. Such, apparently, is life.

  4. Thank you for the warning. I wish I had checked this site prior to sending James my manuscript. Once I received his contract I realized it was a vanity publisher, did the research, and found your review.

  5. Anonymous 1/08,

    The contract is life-of-copyright and there's no provision for termination by the author, so your options are limited.

    The UK has a 14-day cooling off period, during which you can change your mind about a contract. Information is here.

    If you're beyond that period, you could contact Amstell and ask to be released; if you do, don't mention any negative information, just say that your situation has changed or something neutral like that.

    Last but not least, you can seek legal counsel, though this is a potentially expensive option that may not pan out. If you've paid, you may be able to file a claim in UK small claims court to try and get your money back.

    Any questions, feel free to email me: beware@sfwa.org

  6. I received his solicitation email today. I was wary of this as there was no personalisation in the email. Then I looked at the weblinks. The submission page sent alarm bells as there is no criteria (first three chapters, thirty pages, etc.) and there were few links. I went to his main page and still no links suggesting current works, authors, about the firm, who we are. I'm tempted to make a submission to see the process though obviously not proceed.

  7. I received a copy of the email today. Thank you for posting this article – J.C.

    Good morning,

    How are you? I hope you're well and having a good day today.

    Welcome to Book Publishers London. Together let’s make a dream come true.

    We accept manuscripts across all genres. No literary agent required.

    Please do send us your manuscript either to myself, to info@bookpublisherslondon.com or via the online book submissions form on our website: https://www.bookpublisherslondon.com/booksubmissions/

    The review process takes one week and we will contact you once a decision has been reached.

    If you would like any help, assistance or for all general enquiries and to learn more about us, we welcome you to speak with the team and friendly staff here at Book Publishers London via email, voice call or video call.

    I hope you have a good day.

    All the best.

    Kind regards,

    James Amstell
    Executive Board Member
    Book Publishers London
    Kemp House, 160 City Road, London, EC1V 2NX.
    +44 (0) 7397 570 854
    james.amstell@bookpublisherslondon.com
    http://www.bookpublisherslondon.com

    PLEASE CONSIDER THE ENVIRONMENT BEFORE PRINTING THIS EMAIL

    This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential to the intended recipient to which it has been addressed.

    Unless expressly stated otherwise, this e-mail does not form part of a legally binding contract or agreement between the recipient and Book Publishers London Ltd.

    Book Publishers London Ltd. Kemp House, 160 City Road, London, EC1V 2NX. Reg No. 13006791

    Virus checking software has checked this mail item, however responsibility cannot be accepted for any transmitted viruses.

    If received in error, please delete and notify the sender via e-mail.

  8. I received the scoping email from "Book Publishers London".

    I went onto the website and contacted the telephone number. I was already reticent, but more so when it was a mobile number. It felt like a "one man band".

    I spoke with James and asked a few questions:

    1. I have a number of children's books, which require illustrations. Is it a problem to send them through with no illustrations? James confirmed that this was not a problem.

    2. I am part way through an adult novel. It is far from finished. Can I send this? Yes.

    I was smelling a rat; a big one. I got the feeling that I could send anything. I felt that if I'd written a story about a raindrop walking a goose through Beirut on the back on a used piece of toilet paper, he'd have accepted it.

    My next and final question:

    3. Do you charge authors to publish their work? Yes, we do ask for a contribution of £1,000, but this can be done in interest free instalments.

    I politely told James that this was not for me, and I ended the call.

    I'd tried searching for "Book Publishers London" for reviews, but with that crafty name all manner of search results came back.

    A search for James Amstel revealed a number of companies plus "Heart and Goldman".

    The rat I'd sniffed by now was a giant one, as he'd been a director at a few companies and "Heart and Goldman" was relatively new. "Book Publishers London" was newer still.

    I then searched "Heart and Goldman " and that led me to here.

    My suspicions were confirmed. Writer Beware indeed.

    Thank you, Writer Beware, for your tireless efforts to out these unscrupulous con artists and expose them as what they are.

  9. I received an email from him yesterday; is he connected to Austin House? Really interesting article, it literally saved me from this fraudster.

  10. John Mulligan, do you mean Austin Macauley? If so, not to my knowledge. But it is the same kind of operation.

  11. I received a similar email from James Amstell, about 2 weeks ago, and again today in Australia. It appeared suspicious So I googled Kemp House,it seems to be an office space for rent. I wondered how this person? obtained my email address, and knew I had a manuscript. The only publisher I approached in the UK was Austin Macauley, makes you wonder.

  12. I received another email from him this week and went back asking where he got my email address from. No reply. It looks like this one is a serial email nuisance.

  13. I have received an email from James Amstell asking if I would like to cancel our agreement. No mention was made of copyright ownership. I don't want to answer until I am certain that I am done with this deal. Thanks for all of your information.

  14. Unknown 2/01,

    The Amstell contracts I've seen don't require a transfer of copyright, so that shouldn't be an issue–it's the rights that you want back. If you'll forward the email to me, I'll take a look and tell you what I think (all info shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence). beware@sfwa.org

  15. I thought that a publisher that registered with Companies House must be okay, so I sent my files.
    Then my mind nagged me to check again, and I found this helpful blog.
    I feel sad for James because he clearly has the intelligence to be a real publisher.
    He will not be receiving any money from me.
    Please stop doing this James, and thank you Writer Beware.

  16. I was going through the motions of creating a children’s book with an author and James told her that illustrators are ten a penny etc etc and other things which fouled the good nature of our relationship and all this was after we had sent him the £1000 to publish our book, eventually after many many emails asking him several pointed questions to which he always seemed to want to call me he eventually gave in and answered by email, we did speak on the phone and still some of his answers were quite vague and the author would not hear my concerns, we have since parted ways and she refunded my half of the money paid to james and she hopes to have him publish her book.
    Fun fact, he changed from Heart & Goldman to JPAmstell book publisher overnight the same day he received my email asking who heart & Goldman were etc.

  17. I think I have been scammed too. He still replies but I was wondering if he needs the money in his account for 6 months for some reason. He keeps saying the book will go on Amazon tomorrow…. Everytime I ask.

  18. Hey everyone I have just been done over 1000 pounds by James amstell I wrote a self help book because I was homeless for two years i wrote and illustrated all myself to help and inspire people that are going through a bad situation in life, it was my dreams to be able to help people james smashed them he led things on and on the book I got back was very poor quality not worth anything he has not done anything but lead me on now we need as many people to complain about him to action fraud ref number NFRC211204888354 report him as he cannot get away with this

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