Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®
I first heard of City Limits Publishing (CLP) in September 2020, via a question about author-unfriendly guidelines in a contest it was running (simply by entering, writers granted “a worldwide royalty-free perpetual license to publish”). At the time, CLP had published just eight books, all by the same two authors (you can take a peek at that version of its website courtesy of the Internet Archive), and was calling for submissions.
To me, CLP looked like a self-publishing endeavor that was trying to expand into traditional publishing. This doesn’t always work out well, since not all self-publishers have a solid knowledge of publishing (or, necessarily, any business experience) and may unintentionally disadvantage writers with nonstandard business practices, or author-unfriendly contracts, or both. And indeed, CLP’s original contract had some problems. It included a transfer of copyright, a major red flag in a non-work-for-hire contract…
…that was directly contradicted by a clause stipulating the printing of copyright notices in the author’s name (not the publisher’s, as would normally be the case with a copyright transfer), as well as an extremely generous termination clause allowing authors to cancel their contracts post-publication at will for any reason. This kind of internal contradiction is something I see not infrequently in small press contracts, and is a red flag all on its own: it suggests that the publisher has a less than perfect understanding of its own contract terms.
CLP appears to have recognized this at some point, because the copyright grab disappeared from its contracts in September or October 2020 (the generous termination provision remains). CLP’s catalog has ballooned to over 40 titles, including those original eight, and it has big ambitions for 2021, with plans to publish more than 50 books in total. That’s a very large list for a small press–something that can (and often does) lead to trouble if staff and resources aren’t adequate to handle the load.
CLP’s online presence appears professional, from covers to web design–but on a closer look, there are some oddities. As of this writing, all four books shown on CLP’s homepage as “coming soon” appear to have missed their original pub dates by weeks or months. (See my Update, below.) (NOTE: CLP’s website is no longer functional, and there’s no archive of the version that was current when I wrote this post, but an older version can be seen here, courtesy of the Wayback Machine.)
Google Books shows pub dates for three of these books in June and July (the fourth, Love is Not Tourism, doesn’t show up anywhere)–but as of this writing, only one of the titles has an Amazon listing.
Multiple other books appear to show a May 5 pub date on CLP’s website but are still listed for pre-order (you can see examples here and here). Again, these titles can be found on Google Books with upcoming June and July pub dates (examples here and here), but have no Amazon listings–including this one, which Google Books says was supposed to publish on June 10:
(UPDATE: Robert Martin, CLP’s owner, contacted me after this post went live to say that CLP has “never moved or delayed a publishing date. Ever.” The dates on the CLP website listings, he says, are actually “pre-sale” dates [I assume this is the date the book goes live for pre-orders]; the reason they’re labeled “publish” dates is because “[t]he Shopify theme we purchased automatically uses the date we put the product into our online store as the Publish date.” CLP’s web developer is apparently working to change this.
When I asked why, if the books are available for pre-order on the CLP website, they aren’t also available on Amazon and other retailers, he told me “As for why they aren’t all on retail sites yet, we put them up as we are able and as projects come to a close, but I don’t feel like we have to explain ourselves for every little thing we do.”
It’s worth noting that CLP authors dispute this statement based on their own experiences, and there’s also the example of the book pictured above, which as of this writing has clearly missed its pub date.)
Also of concern: the multiple documented complaints I’ve recently received from CLP authors. These include late royalty payments, missed editing and other deadlines, difficulty getting CLP staff to respond to questions and concerns, free author copies and books ordered at author discount not received or received months late, books ordered by readers not received or received months late, formatting and other errors in finished books that authors struggled to get corrected (for instance, the author’s name spelled wrong on the spine), substandard editing and proofing, and copyrights not registered as required in contracts. Some writers reported problems with CLP’s heavily hyped online author portal–confusingly named AuthorCentral–which they said suffers from frequent crashes. I also heard from an audiobook narrator who told me that they weren’t informed when CLP lost the rights to a book the narrator was in the process of recording, posing payment issues for the narrator, who was working on a royalty-share contract.
Authors also highlighted issues of transparency: being told that copyright registrations had been filed and later discovering they had not been, claims that print runs of thousands of copies were being done when in fact CLP uses on-demand technology to produce books in much smaller batches as ordered. (I’ve seen supporting documentation on all of this.)
Several authors have taken advantage of CLP’s generous termination clause, and canceled their contracts and reverted their rights.
I contacted CLP’s founder, Robert Martin, for comment on all of the above. He gave me the following statement, which I have edited to remove mention of an individual author (not by name, but likely recognizable even so).
When I started City Limits Publishing, I committed to full transparency and I’ve tried to provide that from the very beginning. Through our bi-weekly author newsletter to frequent direct updates and notices from me to all of our authors, I’ve kept them appraised of shipping issues related to COVID, updates to our financial systems, implementation of our new author intranet system that would provide them greater access to information and updates, as well as any challenges we’re facing as an organization. And, being a new, small press, there are many. The authors who have stuck with us have been absolutely amazing and their support is inspiring. Together, we’re building something great here. Many of our authors have emailed me thanking me for the transparency they’re getting and have been so encouraging even when receiving direct, unsolicited messages from a handful of authors on a war path.
We’re aware of the situation and some of the issues a small group of former authors have brought up. First, with regards to late royalty payments, we were delayed in sending out payments as we both moved to a new system and I had a personal matter that required my attention and took me away from work for a bit. The payments were made up in full with tracking and confirmation of receipt, along with my sincerest apologies, and a promise that our next payout, July 20, would be made in full and on time, with the exception of authors who have entered into final accounting after requesting to be released from their agreements. Their final payments are being made this month as agreed during termination discussions. We’re in the process of hiring a Business Manager that will take help ensure we are not late in the future. Our royalty statements were delayed in April as we made the transition to RoyaltyTracker (MetaCommet). Their implementation schedule caused us delays in sending out statements. We made a major investment in this new system so that going forward everything would operate more smoothly. With progress comes growing pains.
With regards to author copies, we have committed to making sure that our authors receive at least half of their author copies in the weeks leading up to their release, and half within 90 days of release. Author copies are a large expense for the company. We’re a small business trying to get started during a global pandemic. As for ordering problems, we admit that during our early months we faced many delays, especially with our original printer and our transition to the IngramIgnite program. Still, all orders were fulfilled, and we’re now shipping out daily with no delays.
With copyright registration, we did drop the ball on some of our earlier titles. Before we brought on a full team, I was working mostly on my own with operations. I’m human and did make mistakes with copyright registration of some of our earlier titles. Now, we have a system in place to make sure registration happens within 90 days of publication, as outlined in the agreement. And, we have made steps to help educate authors on the copyright registration process. It’s not a fast process, so we’ve made sure to provide information to authors on timelines and how that process works.
Other complaints mentioned: Our early editing process was not as refined as it is now. We were just getting started, and we really learned a lot. We’ve even gone back through older titles for extensive checks and proofing to ensure we’re putting out the highest quality of work. Authors complained about books going to print with errors, but we do require all of our authors to initial the bottom corner of every page of their book before it goes to print. So, respectfully, that’s a shared mistake, and one we’ve worked extremely hard to rectify, now having four sets of eyes on all works published. Additionally, we do still have a contract with ACX and with Audiobook Universe. We were temporarily suspended from ACX for a contract mix-up where exclusive rights were selected when non-exclusive was intended. We removed the book from our website (it had not sold any copies) and our contract was reinstated. With regards to our printing, we originally used an up-front printing method, but were approached by Ingram’s IngramIgnite program (a program specifically for small presses) about using their system. We transitioned to their system, but still process upfront orders of copies of books and fulfill them to bookstores in the US and Canada that are ordered directly from us through our marketing efforts. Additionally, we make sure our wholesale pricing is competitive to get our books listed with as many retailers as possible, and we’ve enjoyed great success with the help of our partners at Ingram.
Are we perfect? Absolutely not. Are we learning from our mistakes and putting in place processes to ensure they don’t happen again? Absolutely.
(I’m not familiar with IngramIgnite; websearches don’t turn up any information.)
To his credit, Martin admits mistakes. But fostering an us-and-them mentality (hints of this come through in the statement, and it’s clear from my communications with Martin, as well as what CLP authors–both pro and con–have shared with me, that the complaining authors are being badmouthed internally), and blaming writers, if only partially, for mistakes such as poor proofing (authors certainly owe their publisher the duty of checking their proofs, but ultimately it’s the publisher’s responsibility, and not the author’s, to make sure books are error-free), doesn’t seem like the most positive way forward.
I did hear from some authors who said they are happy with their CLP experience so far. Though all acknowledge mistakes, they feel these have been addressed to their satisfaction, and that CLP is well-intentioned and “trying to do its best”.
Good intentions are all very well. But most of the publishers I’ve featured on this blog had good intentions, at least to start. Writers need to keep in mind that good intentions–like responsiveness, enthusiasm, praise, and all the other non-publishing-related things that so often entice writers into questionable situations–aren’t a substitute for knowledge, experience, qualified (and adequate) staff, and working capital–all of which are far more important factors in a publisher’s success. Just as new writers can get into trouble if they set out to get published without taking the time to learn about publishing, inexperienced publishers can run into difficulties if they start up too quickly and attempt to learn on the fly.
In effect, such publishers are using their writers as subjects in a kind of science experiment. Sometimes the experiment succeeds, against odds and errors. Sometimes it doesn’t. But while unwary writers’ screwups harm only themselves, a publisher’s screwups harm its authors. The nature of CLP’s problems suggest that lack of experience is at fault, rather than ill-will or deliberate malfeasance. But to the authors who experience these things, there is little difference.
UPDATE 6/21/21: Writer Beware has learned that three senior staff members have recently left City Limits Publishing. So it isn’t just authors. I’ll post more info as I receive it.
UPDATE 6/25/21: The City Limits website is offline.
UPDATE 7/6/21: Today, CLP authors received emails from Robert Martin announcing that CLP will be closing its doors as of July 21, just over a year after starting up.
For authors whose books were not released, the email serves as notice that their contracts have been voided. For authors whose books were published, the picture is a bit more complicated.
The email also promises that orders of books that haven’t been released will be refunded, and orders of books that have been published will be shipped.
Authors and staff who are owed royalties and salaries, please let me know if you receive payment.
A final note: City Limits’ story is a common one in the small press world: inexperienced person starts a publisher, tries to learn on the fly, gets in over their head logistically and financially, resorts to obfuscation and deflection to keep things going while staff and authors get ever more dissatisfied, and finally goes out of business (sometimes without any warning or rights reversions; thankfully that does not seem to be happening in this case, but it’s early days).
I wish I didn’t hear this story so often. But as an object lesson, it points up how important it is for a would-be publisher to have experience–not just publishing experience, but business experience (and even then there are no guarantees)–and also why it’s a bad idea to sign on to a new publisher with a limited track record. This is why I advise writers to wait at least a year before submitting to new small presses.
CLP authors and staff, please keep me updated on whether you’re receiving payments and rights reversions, either by emailing me or commenting below.
UPDATE 7/20/21: Apparently City Limits isn’t the first failed business associated with Robert Martin. Under the name Robert Coles, he co-founded a web design and social media agency in 2013 called Coles & Colomy, which collapsed after a short time under similar allegations of non-payment and misrepresentation.
UPDATE 8/17/21: The City Limits website is gone. On Amazon, CLP books are still for sale, but Kindle listings have been removed, so I’m thinking that this is an effort to sell off print stock (for which royalties should most definitely be due). CLP’s Bookshop.org page is still online, but all the books show as “backorders.”
In the comments on this post, people are reporting that orders they’ve placed for CLP books have not been filled. (Surprise!)
Authors, have any of you gotten the second quarter royalty payments that Robert Martin promised to pay out on July 20?
UPDATE 8/18/21: In response to my question yesterday about second quarter royalty payments, I’ve heard from a number of CLP writers who say they have received precisely nothing. (Again: surprise!) No payments, no statements, no updates or even excuses from Robert Martin–who, writers tell me, is not responding to any attempts at contact and has gone dark on social media.
I’ve also seen documentation that Robert under-reported sales (by half) in at least one case (confirmed in writing by IngramSpark). In other cases, he over-reported sales (but did not pay the corresponding royalties). It’s a puzzling tangle of untruths, but the through-line is that Robert lied, repeatedly, to the authors to whom he had a contractual duty of responsibility and transparency.
It also seems pretty clear at this point that no money will be forthcoming–even though CLP’s inventory of physical books is for sale on Amazon (something that will complicate writers’ ability to re-publish, even if they regained their rights before CLP shut down, because it puts them in competition with themselves). It’s all just disgraceful.
Reports have been made to local law enforcement, but to date I’m not aware that there have been any consequences.
UPDATE 10/25/21: Ex-City Limits author and staffer Peter Fenton has made a video about his experience with the publisher. It really brings into sharp focus the extent of the deception and gaslighting to which Robert Martin subjected everyone in his orbit. Much more than the large sums in royalties and back wages that are still owing, or even the disappointment of sabotaged books, this emotional manipulation is the source of the anger and hurt that CLP authors and staff feel so keenly.
It appears that the Robert Martin of this story has gotten a new job at an online marketing firm going by a new alias, Robby Coles. While justice would be everyone he defrauded being paid in full or seeing him go to jail for illegal trading, I hope at the very least his new employer finds out the truth about what he was really up to in 2020 and 2021.
correction to "fraud department" in the previous post. I should have said copyright infringement. I also queried the TN Secretary of State's office and received this response from Danielle Howell who is a supervisor in the Business and Charitable Organizations department of the TN Sec of State:
You can contact Tn Consumer Affairs at 615-741-4737
So if anyone wants to pursue a complaint there, let us know how you make out.
to Anonymous who asked if anyone else had contacted Amazon … Yes, I did. After getting routed to the customer care department, they determined that this is a matter for their fraud department since the books are being sold but the authors haven't been paid. While book authors are paid royalties, some of us in anthologies contracted a flat fee and were not paid. I haven't followed through on the fraud department yet but still plan to.
I also would note that City Limits Publishing remains listed as "active" with the Tennessee Secretary of State's Office. I wonder if it's worth all of us filing a complaint with that office about the situation, especially if you're one of the authors who signed a contract with "City Limits Publishing, Inc., LLC" before the date it was actually registered with the state.
Has anyone else tried notifying Amazon about the fact that they are continuing to sell new copies of CLP books when the company has ceased operations? A few months ago I had posted a comment on one of the CLP books noting this fact, and Amazon approved my comment and posted it. Just the other day, I happened to notice that the post was removed, and I wrote another comment noting as much and questioning why they were continuing to sell CLP publications as new printings when the company is no more. That comment was rejected, and I later received an email from Amazon warning me that I was in violation of their terms of service and I could be banned from further commenting if I continue to post comments that go against their policies. I wrote this email in response:
My post did indeed contribute information about the product, specifically that it was produced by a publishing company no longer in business, and that its former CEO was continuing to make money off of authors he had stiffed payment. Customers need to know what they are buying so they do not unknowingly help a well-documented fraud.
Amazon needs to remove all books published by City Limits Publishing immediately. The illegal activities of the company and its former CEO Robert Martin Coles is easily accessible to discover. Please read the article by Victoria Strauss, published on Writer Beware, to read about all of Robert Martin Coles's machinations. I am also linking a video, made by a former employee of City Limits Publishing, which also explains all of the unethical behavior perpetuated by Robert Martin Coles.
Please take this matter seriously, do your due diligence, and remove all books published by City Limits Publishing.
I do not appreciate being threatened with being banned when I am simply warning you and potential customers about the fraud perpetuated by the makers of a product you are selling.
(End of email)
Has anyone else tried contacting Amazon, and what was their response?
I think at this point the best thing we can do is to find homes for our stories/books that he mishandled so badly. I just found a home for my story that I never received payment for and was paid far more than the $10 that Martin promised to pay me. There are places that will pay for reprints. Thank you to those on this list who responded to my questions about submitting my story elsewhere. You boosted my confidence.
I've already left my anonymous comment on this post above (I almost word-for-word repeat it in my tell-all video essay)–but I just wanted to poke my head in here, with my name, and say:
Robert Martin abused me on a deeply personal level as both author and employee. I'm doing as OK as OK can be three months after going no-contact given everything that happened, but I don't know how the man sleeps at night knowing what he did to me.
If you want to know my story, watch the video linked above. Thank you, Victoria, for all the work you do to protect authors everywhere and get people out of bad situations and for amplifying my story. I will be forever grateful for what you did to expose Robert's misdeeds.
Just Sharing an update. After inquiring a couple more times, and being told the books would be sent soon, I received an angry email asking if I would prefer our story was left out of the book, accusing me of calling him a scammer (despite all of this, I had not.. and all i wanted was the 5 copies I prepaid for). Ultimately, I never received anything (even after being told books were shipping) and filed a claim with my credit card to get reimbursed for services not rendered. Thankfully that worked. I have not heard anything since the last, somewhat manipulative email, and don't expect to. I would love if there were another venue to share these stories, especially as so many weren't even looking for payment. So disappointing.
wow, wow, wow. I was just cleaning up my texts and came across the one where I ordered a copy of the book my essay is in (how I survived 2020). They texted me to tell me it would ship soon. It did not but I did get it and my author copy eventually. I happened to click on the link to "see my order" and got the same "we'll be back soon" and then I googled and found this!!
I too was promised $5, half of what I paid to enter the contest. I guess I'm glad I didn't win!! I never got the $5 and I'm not worried about it. What bothered me, like so many others here, was that nobody followed up. I also did the online chat and that person said he'd look into it. He did not.
I'm glad I found this blog to avoid this kind of thing in the future! I had a feeling I wasn't the only one. Because, you're never the only one.
We may not be able to get all the payment he still owed us, but hopefully, he will get what he deserves – to be behind bars. Robert Martin, or whatever his name is, shouldn't just get away from the scam he did. If karma doesn't work, law must do.
Isn't it amazing how easily Robert has left planet Earth. Surely someone should be able to track him down. Any word or updates re legal action against him would be most helpful so if anyone out there has any new information, please let us know. Thank you!
Robert Martin is MOST DEFINITELY abusive. Many former authors and staff were verbally abused by him only for him to turn cowardly and start the crocodile tears later. He's called us bullies, accused us of lying, of trying to swindle him, and all sorts of things, all because we tried to hold him to our contracts. His rudeness began long before the company started to fold, too – authors reaching out to ask routine questions would be snapped at and told to "be patient", or "I know more about publishing than you." He is a rude, hateful person.
And now 2+ months after the fact, STILL hasn't paid anyone a dime or bothered to answer for himself. He's a conman.
I am an audiobook narrator who was approached by Robert to audition for one of the books he was publishing. I did a bit of research on him, his website seemed legit, and so I went ahead with the audition. He followed-up shortly after with compliments from the author and the request to move forward. A fee was decided upon,and a contract signed. I quickly got to work on the very short deadline that he requested (thinking he wanted the audio available for the holidays).
Long story short, I did the work, had it professionally engineered (to meet deadline) and produced a quality product. I have never gotten paid for the work and am out several hours of my time and several hundred dollars for the engineering work. The audio? All that time, energy, and money…still just sits there. No one has ever heard it.
Robert's communications with me have been on the verge of abusive, accusing me of being unprofessional and untruthful; he has attacked my character – all because I was asking him to fulfill the contract he signed. There have also been lies upon lies throughout this experience, saying the check was on its way, saying he was waiting for an invoice. I could go on.
I warn you to steer clear of him. Do not pursue business with him. It will only bring you pain.
I ordered the LINT book too, since me and my now-wife went through it and we wanted to read other stories. This sucks heavily 🙁
I'm really glad I found this post back in July, while waiting to figure out what the hell happened to the "Love is Not Tourism" book (I'm one of the stories that was supposed to be published and my family and friends all pre-purchased the books). I contacted Robert immediately after I saw that the website was down and he responded immediately to let me know that the book has been mailed out and that everyone should receive their copies ASAP (this was still in July). Obviously, still nothing. No books, no money returned. Curious whether to take legal action.
While I won’t personally be pursuing any further action on this, I really hope there is some legal accountability, especially since he is a repeat offender. What he owes me is minuscule in comparison to the wage theft and royalty theft of those who had full collections and novels published. I wish you all well, and can empathize with your anger over this. I was angry about it, but I’m ready to move on.
I think the most insidious thing about this whole situation–and why so many of us are as angry as we are–was that we really believed Robert Martin/Robert Coles/whatever his name is truly cared about us. He pretended to care about what we cared about. He made us feel bad for him. He trained us to see the human in him so that we would open him to the human in us–so that he exploit it. It feels so utterly personal that he took me under his wing the way he did and walked away without payment or a single honest word. I feel so violated by this whole experience.
The man owes me thousands of dollars, and while I am gainfully employed and don't *need* to see that money, I hate that he's gotten away with this. I hate how there's this huge dark spot on my work now that I'm trying to re-publish… never mind the fact that my book will be in competition with itself when it gets re-listed because none of these retailers have taken my book down.
The books on bookshop.org all say “Temporarily out of stock / backorder” so I think they’re just old listings. Some of the books are still being sold on Amazon with limited copies. Still haven’t seen a dime of the $110 he owes me and I doubt I ever will. The irony of being published in a social justice anthology by a crooked employer who obviously doesn’t believe in economic justice.
Is Robert Martin / Robert Coles selling books again? I just found several titles for sale on Bookshop.org. I hope you all are getting paid because it certainly looks like he is.
Thank you Victoria. Since it was published in January 2021, I think I'm in the clear. It's a shame he didn't send out a release of rights or something when he closed his doors.
CJ and Anonymous,
The language quoted in CJ's post doesn't exactly stipulate a 4-month embargo on re-printing. Rather, the 4 month exclusivity period begins upon receipt of _payment_ for the work. Technically, since you never received payment, the 4 month exclusivity period never started to run.
Since City Limits is dead, however, I think you can consider that your rights are free and clear by default. If you want to be safe, you can wait four months from the publication date.
My anthology contract said something similar, a four month embargo on reprinting. When I requested permission to reprint I was told by Mr. Martin that my rights reverted back after those four months, so I think you’re in the clear.
My story was published in an anthology. Luckily I did get my copies that I ordered, but not my free copy or my $10 payment. I don't care about that anymore. My big concern is being able to submit my story as a reprint. Do I automatically get my rights back now that they closed? This is what the contract said, but I never received the payment:
Payment for Your Work
Publisher will pay you ten dollars (US$10) per story if it accepts your Work. Publisher’s fee
purchases first serial and electronic rights, as well as non-exclusive electronic rights in
perpetuity. By accepting the Publisher's fee, you agree that the Publisher is guaranteed to be the
only publisher of the Work for a four (4) month period following payment for the Work (the date
on the payment check or money order).
You may request in writing, including by email that the Work be returned to you any time after
four months following the first electronic publication of the Work at the Site. If you do not
request the Work be returned to you it will not be returned to you unless and until such a request
is made in writing to the Publisher and is granted in writing. But the Work may be removed from
the live environment at the discretion of the Publisher.
When requesting return of the Work, you must include your email address, title of published
Work and your full name.
If the Work is published, you will be paid within thirty (30) days of publication. You agree that
you will cooperate in providing all information for the purpose of payment to you for the Work
Hello again both. Neither of our friends & family have received orders. I can see a screenshot in another article that Robert has sent emails a few weeks ago to other authors informing them that the company is shutting down. I didn't receive anything and I'm not optimistic about the book at all. No trace of it on Amazon or B&N like he said there would be. I'm advising anyone ordered to check with their banks about the process of getting their money back.
I went to Amazon and did a "chat" with the autobot in the help section and got connected to a live agent. That agent quickly escalated me up a level and I should hear from the "concern team" within 2-3 business days. If there's anything useful that comes out of this, such as a form to file or other "doable" action, I'll send it to Victoria so she can share it if appropriate.
Popped in to see updates and glad I checked the comments section. Sadly, not only is the anthology I'm in still available for sale, but Robert Martin now has an Amazon author page. Last year when I asked him he did not have one (my radar went up rather quickly when dealing with him), he claimed not to have one because he wanted the focus to be on the authors and not him as the publisher. Now that he no longer has CLP to hide behind, he's got an author page. https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Martin/e/B08RG98NQB/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1
If authors want to take action, how about complaining to Amazon about selling books and sending payments to someone who has stiffed his employees and authors and closed the business? While I don't expect Amazon to be sympathetic, it's at least worth a try. If enough of us complain, maybe they'll take down the books. I'm online with them now to see if that's possible.
I'm in the same boat as many of you…
To be helpful, you may want to review your contract agreements once more. My lawyer noticed that Robert misrepresented both himself and City Limits in my contract. I signed my agreement with "City Limits LLC" several months before he actually filed and received an LLC in Tennessee(Feb. 2021). Essentially it voids the contract.
Here's a link to the Tennesee Secretary of State's website with City Limit's LLC registration: https://bit.ly/3id4Kle
For what it's worth, my lawyer advised suing him for damages in federal court on the grounds of contract fraud, misrepresentation, and theft.
Hopefully, this helps some of you seeking to recoup damages.
Victoria, I appreciate the voice of reason. I think I shall just let it be and move on with my life. I wish everyone the best.
I don't want to be Debbie Downer, but a class action lawsuit is really only feasible if there are deep pockets to be pursued, which is not the case here. In part this is because that's the only situation in which lawyers would be willing to work on contingency. Additionally, I don't think there are enough CLP authors to comprise a class; you need a much larger pool of people who've been injured.
That's not to say a group of CLP authors couldn't get together and launch some kind of legal action–just that it would be expensive, and the return is uncertain.
I would support an author uprising. 🙂
The amount owed to me is so small that hiring a lawyer would likely cost more, and I haven’t the funds to do so. On my own I am not likely to do much as I am exhausted from months of broken promises.
However, should someone organize a class action suit, I would be on board as I think collectively we have a better shot at legally pressuring him to do the right thing. I have saved all correspondence with Mr. Martin.
I don't intend to make this post the hub for any kind of author uprising, but it has been the most helpful spot, so far, in making sense of the situation and hearing from other people who are in my position. That said, since we don't have a larger platform to connect and talk about this, I'd like to respectfully ask here if there are any intentions to do something about the wrongdoing by CLP. The damage certainly seems impactful enough to warrant the seeking of compensation, but I'd hate to run out and do something if everyone is just going to leave it alone. It's 5 days past the deadline for payouts, and nobody's said they've gotten anything. As far as I can tell, books are still under the CLP banner on Amazon, though they don't have many copies left to sell. Wrongful or fraudulent trading are super hard to argue in court, but if, as Victoria has pointed out, this is not the first instance of bad business practice, it may make that point a little easier to argue. If this probing is unwelcome, I have no problem in this post being deleted; I really just want to know if I should just forget about it all, or if I should pitch in with the group.
As to "this is not the first time he's swindled folks," see my latest update.
Non-response seems to be par for the course right now, but hopefully you'll get your release. If the announced closing date of July 21 holds true, CLP should start removing all books from publication as of that date, including anthologies. I'll be keeping an eye out to see if that happens.
Does anybody know if anthology contributors will also have their rights reverted back to them? I’ve never been screwed like this before so it’d be really nice to know. This is so frustrating.
Mr. Martin does not respond to my requests for the release form that allows me to reprint my contribution elsewhere. Since this company is going under, I definitely would like to reprint it elsewhere. He already broke the contract by not paying me at all let alone within 30 days of publication as stated in the contract.
Could the previous anonymous commenter please elaborate on “this is not the first time he’s swindled folks”? If so then he never should have been in charge of a business period.
As of today, Robert Martin still has not paid countless authors and narrators their back-owed royalties, owes former staff tens of thousands in pay despite claiming he'd settle up all accounts by the 15th, and is actually still selling books via Amazon. His letters to authors, customers and former staff are all the same – "stop bullying me, you'll have your money in two weeks." And the two weeks pass, and he wants two more weeks. And on and on and on.
This man has broken so many laws and evidently it's not even the first time he's swindled folks and run off with the cash. He's a con man, and a crook. The fact that he hasn't been held remotely accountable is downright criminal. At best, he should be sued and forced to pay all the money he owes. At best, he should be behind bars.
In my opinion if writers are not paid soon, folks should file complaints with the better business bureau, department of labor, and/or have a class action lawsuit. If as one commenter described there are $30,000 in outstanding royalties and wages, then I think it would be a good idea to organize everyone who got ripped off by Mr. Martin. He should not be let off the hook. It’s wrong to stiff people who created the content that allowed you to have a publishing company in the first place.
Thank you for this post. I won one of City Limits contests in 2020. For months they made all sorts of excuses about why they couldn’t pay me the prize money + royalty for including my work in one of their anthologies, and never responded to my request to the rights to my piece back. I recently tried to mail them a letter after they stopped responding to my emails and it came back return to sender. It’s fine if you’re broke, just say that instead of leading me on. I also was never given a coupon for a free copy of the anthology. I ended up purchasing one on my own. Sorry that the company folded. I guess I’ll just cut my losses.
I, don't know the answer. I can say that the LINT project may have been somehow separate? It was not to be sold for profit, it was a way for people to share personal stories for advocacy. Authors did not pay anything, and most (myself included) waived payment so that proceeds could be donated and the book could be used for advocacy. Just wanted to clarify, perhaps that's the difference, whether it will be published or not, that's tbd, but didn't want to be unclear about that. If i don't get the order, I will dispute the charge, but mostly was looking forward to sharing stories.
I'm confused. Does Robert think he can close his company only for select titles and continue selling other works to pay off all his debts? Robert, hate to tell you, but when you shut down your company, it's over.
That book literally isn't happening. I'm really sorry. A lot of us have been scammed along the way, authors and staff. You're in good company. Feel free to be disappointed when LINT is scheduled for release and is not… Robert Martin took your money and ran.
He must be selective in who he is responding to cause I've emailed many times. Good to know he's still reading emails though.
Glad you got a response I have emailed almost daily, called and messaged and got no response!
I am another author who has had a negative experience with CLP. I entered a poetry competition, and my work was included in Through Loving Words. However, I did not receive additional ordered copies, nor did my friend who ordered a copy. There has been no mention of royalties, and my emails have gone unanswered. If I had not found this post, I would have had no idea CLP has folded. I feel very disillusioned.
Yes, I see that. I also never received an email announcement,. But reached out yesterday and got a response from Robert. He said anthologies are not affected. I plan to wait a few weeks and if nothing is received, go from there. I don't know what to think!
When I was doing research for this post, I couldn't find any sign of LINT's existence, other than its listing on the CLP website. I just checked, and things haven't changed. It's definitely not on Amazon, and Google Books doesn't list it either. I'd be surprised if it's ever published.
You know CLP is closing on July 21, right?
Update: I reached out and got a fast response saying that this book is not affected, so, I will give them a chance to ship. This has been a rough year, new company, so giving the benefit of the doubt for a while! Feel free to still reach out if you wish.
Hi to both! I was also one of the LINT authors, and ordered several copies. About two weeks ago, Robert sent an email saying they would ship last week and also be available on Amazon, but nothing has happened. I was hoping it was just growing pains for a small business, and was really excited to hear everyone's story! If you want to contact me via the LINT FB page, I recently posted a question on the post where the finalization/release was announced with the grey cover. Hoping we get some news, but.. not holding my breath at this point.
another former city limits author who hasn't received sales reports for months nor my promised author copies. no one is responding to me either.
re: what are these authors doing? Seeking therapy for myself and hoping justice is served for good ol' Robert.
Wonder what all these people are doing who's books were due to be released as well.?????
JULY – AUGUST, 2021
July 13, 2021
RELEASE DATE: Mick's Last Line
July 13, 2021
July 15, 2021
RELEASE DATE: What We Hope For
July 15, 2021
July 20, 2021
RELEASE DATE: Murder at Gull Cove
July 20, 2021
July 27, 2021
RELEASE DATE: A Well Worn Path
July 27, 2021
August 10, 2021
RELEASE DATE: The Carny Way
August 10, 2021
I'm so glad I found this blog post. This was my first time being published, and I was so excited, and I'm sorry it all turned sour. I was included in How I Survived 2020 and have still not received my free author's copy. I paid for a shipment of several extra copies, and was told that my free copy would be included, but it was not. I sent a follow-up email in April 2021 and have still not heard back.
If anyone knows any alternative staff email addresses I could try contacting, I'd appreciate it a lot.
I, too, am in this position as other poster's here. Except my book release date was mere days before their doors closing.
My release day came and went, with no word from them. The link I had to for pre-order copies had stopped working about a week prior.
It would have been nice to be informed then, as they knew things were coming to an end. And before I started a public count down! How embarrassing for me, all the hard work I'd put into building interest in my story on social media. The hours I spent making book teasers using the cover I don't even know if I own. Or if legally, I can continue to use it.
I have Emailed Robert countless times regarding the cover and requesting the last edited copy of my book to no avail. I want to move on and self-publish now. I don't think I could go through this again!
Come on, Robert, if you're reading this, send me what's mine!
It's the least you could do! How hard is it to push a few buttons and send an Email?
This in no way reflects the other members of the city limits team who have continued to reach out with apologies and understanding but cannot answer my questions.
This debut author has learned a lot.
I didn't even get the email from Robert; I'm just now seeing it was sent out via this post. I got an email from one of the main ex-employees yesterday, talking about CLP closing. For the record, my work was also delayed, specifically to 11 months (instead of 12) from signing the contract, so it didn't technically break my contract. I also never received any prize money, nor did I get any real word on my work being processed. I guess I don't really care about my money – since it may have never existed – as much as I am incredibly disappointed that I'll have to look elsewhere for publishing.
Mr. Martin did me so dirty. I will happily move on with my life and work and forget all about him when he pays me every cent I'm owed.
This man had the audacity to hire many employees without any plans to pay them. Just wow! I pity all the people who put months of hardwork directly into Robert Martin's pocket. A huge scam.
Robert Martin is a scammer! Hope he will be penalized for what he's done to all of us.
I hope Robert Martin is prosecuted for wrongful trading (i.e. continuing to trade when insolvent). Please continue to post on here, to keep us all informed.
I am an author who had a book in the pipeline for City Limits Publishing for the end of 2021. I had sent my book to our editor for first round edits and had picked out my cover already for the book. I've been informed today by Robert Martin that City Limits will be closing their doors effective immediately. I signed contracts in December 2020 and because my book is pre-production, I am left with nothing on their end. The blow is huge, as I am sure for other authors with books at various stages of production. My only shining light is I have another book with another publisher that is also in the pipeline for 2021. Lesson learned on my part? Perhaps not sign with a publisher that hasn't a proven track record. City Limits began during the pandemic. My sympathies for my fellow authors who are going through the same experience.
Sydney – I'm in the same boat. Our story was included in LINT also and we've had a few friends & family put orders through. I'm very concerned.
Love Is Not Tourism is the one CLP book for which there's neither a Google Books nor an Amazon listing–in other words, it doesn't appear to exist other than on CLP's (currently offline) website. From what I'm hearing now, CLP is in major trouble, and I think there's a fair chance this book will never be published.
So I'm one of the stories in the Love is not tourism book and now after having pre ordered a copy in May I'm concerned that I might have been scammed. I looked into the company before agreeing to give my story but everything seemed official then. Should I file a report with my bank?
Robert Martin is one of the most unprofessional people I have ever worked with in publishing. He has broken laws, stiffed his authors and employees, and buries his head in the sand when people bring up legitimate grievances. How he has managed to keep CLP afloat this long is beyond me, and I feel for the authors who are aboard this rapidly sinking ship.
CLP missed royalty payments as well as staff payments in excess of $30,000. Robert Martin has now gone into hiding and has not made an effort to settle outstanding debts. I firmly believe that any money earned by the company has gone into Mr. Martin's pocket and will never be seen by anyone who actually performed the hard work.
City Limits appears to be insolvent. If not, it could prove it by paying my prize money, sending my author copies and refunding my entry fee for a later competition that has not even been judged. If it is insolvent it should not continue to trade (its books are still on Amazon). Where I come from, this is termed "wrongful trading" and is illegal.
I am owed prize payments and author copies due last December, and an author copy due in March. I entered the Wanderlust competition and paid an entry fee. After some weeks, I used the chat facility on the website to ask when we could expect the results. When I checked again a few days later, the chat facility and the entire competitions section had disappeared from the website. I complained through the Better Business Bureau and CL has missed the deadline for a response. Today the CL website is unavailable.
I left CLP for multiple reasons. His comment about not moving publishing date is dead wrong. Mine was actually move up a month…which he did not inform me of until I saw the date posted somewhere. The problem was that the book was not ready. I hadn’t seen or proofed a hard copy for the layout. There were multiple issues. He is more concerned about quantity than quality.
As an author who recently left this publisher, I have to say
Robert Martin's claim that no publishing date has ever been moved or delayed is patently FALSE. In February, my publishing date was MOVED. That DELAY was the only reason I agreed to stay with this publisher. When nothing progressed or improved, I left.
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Another example of why it's good to really look into a publisher before querying. If the publisher in question hasn't been around long, you have to wonder how much they can really do for you.