PublishAmerica, a shady print-on-demand publishing company located in Maryland, is making news this week with a dubious promotion that promised to bring would-be authors’ books to J. K. Rowling’s personal attention for $49. PublishAmerica has now responded to J. K. Rowling’s lawyers’ cease-and-desist letter with…a cease-and-desist letter of its own.
PublishAmerica had promised that, for $49, it would “bring your book to the attention of Harry Potter’s author next week while our delegation is in her hometown, and ask her to read it and to tell us and you what she thinks. Tell her what you think: in the Ordering Instructions box write your own note for JK Rowling, max. 50-100 words. We will include your note in our presentation for her!” The page has since been pulled from the site, but you can view it in Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Cache here.
A J. K. Rowling spokesman said that PublishAmerica’s claim was “completely false” and that “appropriate action” would be taken.
I asked PublishAmerica for a comment on its J. K. Rowling promotion, and almost immediately received a link to a letter to Rowling’s lawyer. Here’s the letter in full:
August 17, 2011
41 Bedford Square
London WC1B 3Hx
Re: Cease and Desist on behalf of J.K. Rowling
Dear Mr. Hudson:
I am an attorney for Publish America, LLLP (“PA”). I have been asked by my client to respond to your August 16, 2011 demand letter, which was written on behalf of your client J.K. Rowling. In that letter, you accuse PA of publicizing a promotion that invades your client’s privacy and falsely creates the impression that your client has endorsed PA’s “product”. Based upon these claims, you demand that PA cease and desist the promotion. Your letter also vaguely asks PA to refrain from further tortious conduct without giving any details about how to comply with your demand.
Please be advised that your demand letter lacks justification. First, PA has done nothing to harass your client or invade her privacy. The simple fact is that your client’s Edinburgh residence is public knowledge; she even publicizes this fact on her own website!!! Accordingly, PA did nothing wrong by repeating that fact in its promotion. If she wants to keep her residence private, perhaps she should not publicize that fact.
Second, PA’s promotion does not create the impression that your “client has endorsed, recommended or approved the Promotion.” To the contrary, PA’s promotion creates the exact opposite impression, implying that the opportunity to deliver books to her is but happenstance. PA created this impression by mentioning that it is already going to be in your client’s home town for the Edinburgh Book Festival at the same time it plans to deliver the books. This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that the only information revealed about your client, i.e. her Edinburgh residence, is in the public domain. By revealing only well known information about your client that is generally available to the public, PA specifically contradicted the impression that it has some direct line of access to your client.
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. David Kuzminski, owner of the Preditors & Editors website was ordered to pay over $50,000 after he defamed one of PA’s representatives. Attorney Charles Petit was suspended from the practice of law regarding his representation of the elderly daughter of famous author, John Steinbeck. Sinthyia Darkness and Phil Dolan, two longtime PA muckrakers, are currently being sued by another PA representative for defamation. 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.
Victor E. Cretella III, Esq.
For Publish America, LLLP
PublishAmerica, which says that it is a traditional publisher, not a vanity press–i.e., that it pays authors advances to publish their books, the authors don’t pay it–published over 3,000 titles in 2010. It has been criticized by authors for not promoting their books or making them available in bookstores. PublishAmerica says its books are “available to virtually all American big chain bookstores from sea to shining sea.”
PublishAmerica also knows where President Obama lives, and this week launched another promotion: For $29, it will let “the president, John Boehner, Harry Reid and your local Congressman, AND your local TV, know” about their clients’ books, under the context that it is a company creating new jobs.