A little while ago, I was contacted by an author who had worked with a publishing company called Mystic Press. She wrote to me about some problems she’d had with the company and the company’s CEO. And as I learned more about her story, I decided it was worthy of sharing. It’s reminiscent of the stuff I routinely hear about Author Solutions, only the problems start with a much, much smaller company. And, seeing how my goal is to inform and support writers no matter the publisher, I decided it would be worthwhile to share my interview with Georgina Merry, author of The Ferryman’s Wife.
When we first got in touch, she described her issues with Mystic Press:
“In March I approached a small publishing company called Mystic Press regarding my story The Ferryman’s Wife. Tabetha Jones, who described herself as the CEO, accepted my manuscript. It was published through Createspace in August. There have been a catalog of issues …[ranging] from having the wrong manuscript published to price changes after orders/payments were made to books being bought for promo events but not arriving for 3 months.
Last month the company Mystic Press “folded”…. Tabetha Jones is claiming our royalties are “frozen” and that either way, after thier cut, I will only receive $10. (I was quoted in September as having $30.) The sums don’t add up, but I have also been informed that all royalties should have reverted to me after the company folded. Now Tabetha has started up another company, Phoenix Fire Publishing just one month after claiming all the money had “gone” for Mystic. I fear she is about to scam a whole load of new authors. I was told that this isn’t the first time this company has done this. Several other ex-Mystic authors have filed reports and claims against her, as she is witholding their money. She refuses to back up her claims with any physical evidence, i.e. emails/sales sheets.”
If you’re a publisher, you’re not going to get a whole lot of love from me by refusing to put the details in writing. I emailed Georgina a few Q&A style interview questions to learn more.
ES: What kind of package or services did you purchase, and what promises were you made?
GM: I paid for my cover art ($20). I paid for my ISBN and createspace fees ($35) and Lightening source ($87.50). I was told that Tabetha would handle my promotions, make over my website, plan a blog tour, hold an online launch party, and she’d supply the swag. In the contract it stated that I’d be supplied copies of my book for promotional events. I was told in the contract that I would receive 60% of royalties for paperback and 50% on all ebooks sold. I was assured that I would receive three free proofs in time for my launch party, and I was also told that I could order copies of my book any time at a discounted rate of $2.75 per copy.
ES: Did you receive all off the things promised?
GM: No. I had my cover art, but that was by a freelance graphic artist. I was refunded my lightening Source fee ($87) as apparently the option for hardback was no more.
I was asked to supply some swag prizes for my launch, which I did. Tabetha Jones claimed she was scammed for the prizes she was meant to be organising [so] anyone that won something from her didn’t receive anything. She also didn’t post out the copies of my book, she waited to send them to me and charged me postage.
My “launch party” was a Facebook event, and my “blog tour” was basically 3three interviews on other authors’ blogs, Tabetha Jones’ being one of them. My blog page was made-over, but not by anyone connected to Mystic Press. I basically had to handle my own promotion. I made arrangements to visit my old school — teens: my target audience — and give a presentation and hopefully sell some books, but you’ll soon see that I ran into problems.
I did not have the proofs for my launch party, so I didn’t see that the wrong manuscript was sent to print. On page 123 the writing appeared as an edited page, with the one correction in the whole manuscript being highlighted. I was mortified, as this had not been my final manuscript. I was sent three of the faulty proofs. Then, I was assured that the correct manuscript was to go ahead, and new proofs were ordered. I discovered yet again that it was the wrong manuscript when the proof arrived, but by this time they were on sale. There was a mad rush to get the correct document uploaded, but I was then sent no proofs at all. I ordered 13 copies of my books at the discounted rate to replace the faulty ones my friends had bought. I had to pay for the postage & packaging from the US, and these books didn’t arrive for two months.
I then ordered another 20 books for the promotional event at my old high school, only to be told after I had paid for them plus postage, that I would only be receiving half the amount I’d ordered as the price had gone up. I did not have them in time for the event in September. In fact, they arrived late October after an unpleasant series of communications. I was told I was being unreasonable for wanting my books. I was disapointed not to have any copies of my book to sell at what turned out to be a successful promotional event. I’d have sold more, had I copies there and then.
I was informed in October — my book launched in August and I signed in March 2012 — that I would only make $1.56 on my UK sales…and that I had sold 22 paperbacks 8 ebooks. I was then quoted as having made $30.50 in royalties. I’ve since been told, since the company folded, that I will only be receiving $10. However, as all accounts have been “frozen” I haven’t received a penny. I wouldn’t know as I have never seen any sales sheets and Tabetha Jones refuses to provide me with any evidence, i.e. sales figures, notification emails etc.
ES: How did you attempt to resolve the issue with Mystic?
GM: I kept regular contact via Facebook, email and Skype and always looked to resolve issues quickly and fairly. I would be replied to quickly, but with a string of [what turned out to be] lies. I was told things would be fixed, I was told issues would be resolved, but their efforts were less than satisfactory. After nearly 3 months with my double-the-price books not arriving, I became quite irate. By this point there had been too many issues for me to set aside as new business hiccoughs. Private messages went back and forth until I requested a Skype call. Tabetha Jones called me unreasonable and although she made me offers as a means of helping the situation, they were all offers to do with the publicaion of my 2nd book. As you can imagine, after everything that happened I wasn’t willing to sign another contract. Things soon rose to an argument and Tabetha’s fiance and business partner stepped in to resolve the issue and promised my books would be with me soon. Communication after this was stilted; one sentence responses. My books did arrive 10 days after, but whether by accident or not, Tabetha Jones revealed that the issue had been an avoidable, repeated mistake that had occured when she’d sent out my first package.
ES: Any other thoughts or comments to share with other writers?
GM: This company have now folded and started up a new company, ready to do the same thing all over again, no doubt. I’ve heard rumours that this isn’t even the first time they’ve folded and restarted.
Unsigned authors — take care to do your research first. Don’t sign with anyone until you know everything about them. Ensure that if you live in a different country, you wont be discriminated against financiallly. I should have realised Tabetha Jones’ eagerness to sign me was a warning. I’m left feeling stressed and depressed, all because of what this woman and her “company” have done to me and my reputation as an author. Thankfully what has come out of this is feedback. Enough people have read my book and enjoyed it so I know it’s worth carrying on with. Otherwise my faith in my ability as an author would have been shaken to the core by what’s happened.