Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware
This post has been updated.It's been a while
since I wrote about America Star Books, née PublishAmerica, one of the most prolific author mills in America (also the subject of scores
of author complaints
, and the recipient of an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau
). So what's been going on?
In May 2015, ASB/PA co-founder Larry Clopper filed suit against PA/ASB, co-founder Willem Meiners, and several others, alleging breach of contract, among other causes, and demanding dissolution of the company and appointment of a receiver. After over a year of legal maneuvering--which included the appointment of an appraiser, a counterclaim by Meiners/PA/ASB, and the issuance of subpoenas by Clopper to various PA/ASB banks and creditors--the parties agreed in July 2016 to stipulate to dismissal with prejudice.
I don't yet know what was in the settlement--I've put in a public records request, and will report back when I get the documents--but over the duration of the lawsuit and afterward, things have changed at PA/ASB.
Sometime after September 2015, ASB's About Us page--which previously
had touted its founding "by book publishers with a long history of publishing experience"--began to reference
the "new" America Star Books: "Run by its employees, from the bottom up....The company has a management, but there's not much top-down going on at America Star Books." (Here's what the page looks like today
At some point after September 2016, all mention of the translation program with which PA/ASB launched its 2014 name change
was removed (here's what the website used to say about that
, courtesy of the invaluable Internet Archive; here's what it says now
). And in November 2016, PA/ASB put a hold on submissions
"throughout [sic] the end of 2016."
That hold appears to have become permanent. Here's how the submission page looks today
And here's what was briefly posted
at a now non-working ASB web address:
America Star Books no longer accepts new authors. ASB Promotions will morph into Paperback Services in the near future....Paperback Services works side by side on location with Paperback Radio, America's only live 24/7 station about books and writers.
Left unsaid is the fact that Paperback Radio
and Paperback Services
are both owned by PA/ASB co-founder Willem Meiners (Paperback Services has a web address that goes nowhere at the moment). In the kind of feedback loop that's common with vanity publishers, items from Meiners' Paperback Radio (ads
, "experts lists"
), along with a variety of "promotional" and other services
from Meiners' Paperback Services, were offered for sale to PA/ASB authors in the Meiners-owned PA/ASB webstore.
That's not all. More signs of change/trouble at PA/ASB:
- According to Amazon
, ASB was issuing books pretty regularly through the beginning of 2017, albeit at a reduced rate from previous years (around 10-15 per month). Since mid-May, it has issued just two titles.
- ASB currently has three open liens against it from the Maryland Dept. of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, totaling $50,754.
- As of this writing, some ASB URLs are disabled: www.americastarbooks.net
no longer works, nor does www.store.americastarbooks.pub
, which used to host the PA/ASB bookstore and promotional "services" store (here are some examples of those services
, courtesy of the Internet Archive). ASB's Facebook page
also appears to be defunct (unless they've blocked me, which is possible). The PublishAmerica URL
, which used to re-direct to America Star Books, now directs again to the old PA website (which hasn't been updated since 2013, but still has an open submissions portal
- There's a bookstore link on the ASB website, but it doesn't work. PA/ASB books are still for sale at online retailers, but the PA/ASB bookstore doesn't appear to be online anywhere at any web address.
Is this really the end of America Star Books / PublishAmerica? Hard to say. There are rumors of bankruptcy, but I've searched on PACER and I've found no sign of any bankruptcy filings.
Questions remain. If ASB does disappear, what will happen to the books and authors currently under contract? If ASB Promotions, or Paperback Services, or whatever it winds up calling itself, survives as a separate entity, will spammer-in-chief Jackie Velnoskey continue her prolific program of email solicitations
and comment spam
Stay tuned.UPDATE 8/14/17:
ASB's one remaining web address now returns an account suspended message
As far as I know, ASB/PA hasn't sent out any notifications or communications as to what's going on.
Authors, if you get any kind of notice or email from ASB, would you please contact me
? Thanks.UPDATE 8/19/17:
I'm getting emails from authors wondering what to do. What happens with their books that are under contract? If ASB is really dead, can they take their books and publish elsewhere?
Right now, in my opinion, that wouldn't be wise.
All signs point to ASB being gone. Its website has vanished. Phones aren't being answered. Emails are bouncing. Putting those things together with the signs of trouble that I've discussed above, if I had to guess, I'd guess that ASB is history.
But...there's been no official announcement of a closure. I just checked again and there's still no sign of any bankruptcy filings, either under the business names or the owners' names. And ASB/PA books are still for sale new at online booksellers. I think there's at least the possibility that ASB might find a way to sell or otherwise transfer its huge catalog to some other entity (which many of the ASB/PA contracts I've seen allow it to do without asking authors' permission). Another possibility: ASB/PA books might somehow be folded in with Willem Meiners' Paperback enterprises.
Bottom line: we don't actually know what is going on, or what will happen. Until we do, it would be risky to take books that are under contract with either ASB or PA and try to re-publish them. The issue isn't just the possibility that ASB/PA or its successor might come after you, but that any new publisher or self-publishing service will require you to have full power to grant publishing rights. If you're currently under exclusive contract to a different publisher, and it's not clear that publisher is out of business, you don't have that power.
I'm also hearing from ASB authors who've paid for services they haven't received. My advice would be to immediately file a dispute with your credit card company or with PayPal (depending on how you paid). I've heard from a number of Tate Publishing
authors who got money back this way. Feel free to use this post as justification.
Keep watching this blog for updates.