Many of you have been following the KBoards thread where I have been making regular updates about this case,(http://bit.ly/2w2YgNQ) but I wanted to provide an update here as well as talk about the way forward.
For those unfamiliar with what prompted this page, please scroll past the update for the full story.
As many of you know, I’ve been trying to settle this matter since January, when I requested the return of my funds rather than sign new contracts with onerous terms. I also wasn’t comfortable with this book promoter's business practices, which had caused two of her sets to be removed from sale.
This promoter then began an unprovoked and untrue character assassination that lasted for several weeks. I was shocked and humiliated and just wanted it to stop. As I talked to other authors though, I realized this wasn’t just about me; this was how the promoter regularly treats authors in the indie community who fall out of her favor.
No one could afford to fight back, and many who offered me support in private were afraid to speak out publicly for fear of being similarly targeted.
I knew I couldn’t take on this legal action alone; I just don’t have the funds. With your generous help, I raised $10K in a single day and was able to hire an attorney and start legal action.
We began with an offer to settle out of court. All I wanted was an admission that her accusations against my character had no basis in fact. We also asked for a modest financial settlement and indicated we were open to negotiating the amount.
That letter went unanswered, and with the defamation continuing, I was left with no other choice but to file the lawsuit.
Service was first attempted at the Florida address listed for her LLC. Unfortunately, when the process server arrived he was told the address was invalid, and the papers were denied. Our only recourse was to serve the papers at her home in Georgia. Within one hour of service, the twitter account that had been attacking me—calling me a racist, linking to negative reviews, and saying I was unfit to write for teens—disappeared.
For weeks we heard nothing. And then, a few days before their deadline to respond, my attorney was contacted by her attorney. He requested two additional weeks in order to file a responsive pleading, and as a courtesy, my attorney complied. A responsive pleading is either an answer (their side of the argument) or a demurrer (an objection to the case).
Instead of doing either, he filed a motion requesting the case be dismissed, citing California as an inconvenient venue for his client and claiming she does not do business within the state. (This, despite the more than two dozen authors I know by name from California who have used her services, the fact that she uses Facebook, company domiciled in California, as her virtual office—conducting all of her box sets and course via their platforms—and the thousands of books she has sold via iBooks, iTunes, and Google Play, all three California companies.)
We have filed our answer and await the hearing on August 31st confident we will prevail, as it is very rare for a California court to deny one of its citizens a forum for justice.
But here’s the problem. Their goal, I and my attorney believe, is to exhaust me both financially and emotionally. They want to drag this out, knowing I have limited funds and the costs are high. That’s the strategy when a person has no defense—to delay proceedings with motions that cost thousands of dollars to fight—so the aggrieved party eventually gives up.
This battle is costing both of us much more than the disputed contracts are worth. The actions my attorney and I have taken so far have used the $10,000 we initially requested. I have pushed back the launches of my next two books by several months and accepted a 60-hour a week job so that I have funds of my own to contribute.
This is why people walk away from unfair business practices and chalk up the loss to lessons learned—because fighting for what is right is insanely expensive and emotionally draining. But if no one can afford to fight back, it allows the promoter to continue these practices.
I started this fundraiser at the urging of several community members who wanted to see these practices stopped. It’s not about one contract; it’s about promoters exploiting loopholes and convincing authors that there are no consequences to unethical behavior. It’s about intimidation and fear tactics.
Despite the toll this has taken, I am still ready and willing to fight this fight. We have an excellent case with irrefutable proof and a strong witness list. All of the evidence will be available in the trial documents, and I will continue to update the community. But there are several ways to delay a case, and I now expect to confront them all. Every response, every filing has a cost which is why I have reopened this funding page.
I was inspired and heartened by the outpouring of support I received the first time and was hesitant to ask for more, but a fellow author reminded me what I’d named this fundraiser, and it gave me the resolve I needed.
It really does take a community. From the depths of my heart, thank you for your support.
The original story:
Hi, I am Christina Garner. I’m an author trying to find my audience, and this is my story.
In August 2016, a friend recommended a book promoter to help me sell my books. I did a little research and the reviews were glowing—people seemed to be thrilled with her services. Many of her promoted books hit bestseller lists. Since I had decided 2017 would be my year to invest in my writing, this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
I dug into my savings and signed up for three multi-author box sets, one shared writing collective, private coaching, and several promotions geared at book promotion and newsletter building, all totaling upwards of $4,000. With so many people singing her praises, I felt confident this was money well spent.
I was laying the foundation that would let me write full time in 2017. I had three novels published and three planned for 2017, as well as content for three box sets. I was excited and ready to do whatever it took to get my work out there.
Then things changed.
The promoter had some of her box sets pulled from sale because they violated Amazon’s terms of service. Our contracts were changed dramatically without our consent. We were told “no refunds.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, the tactics used to keep authors quiet were unprofessional. Anyone who asked valid questions was shamed publicly and in the social media groups we were required to join for communications. People were told they would be removed from promotions they had already paid for if they disagreed, their prepaid services “donated” to other authors.
I wrote a private email to the promoter, politely explaining that the projects were no longer a good fit for me and requested refunds. Instead of keeping our business private, as I had done, she took to Facebook, publicly blasting me as unprofessional and going back on my word. She announced that I had let 70 authors down and dozens of others joined in to shame me back into line.
I tried to work with PayPal to get my money back, but because the promoter insisted on “Friends and Family” payments for our business contracts, there was nothing PayPal could do to help me. I should have known better, but I don’t use PayPal much and simply followed her directions for the payments.
I consulted with several attorneys, each of whom agreed I was owed my money back after careful review of the contracts. (They also lectured me about signing one-sided contracts. Lesson learned.) The first attorney I hired sent the promoter a letter I had not reviewed, which was full of mistakes. The promoter sent me a barrage of angry emails followed by more defamatory posts on Facebook.
I found a lawyer who specializes in entertainment law. I have a strong case and the lawyer is confident we can win.
The problem is that the fees for the legal case exceed the amount I paid to this promoter. At that point I, as others before me, considered giving up. I was emotionally exhausted. And while the amount of money I’m owed is substantial, I wasn’t sure it was worth enduring even more attacks.
Truthfully, if it were just about the money, I still might simply walk away.
But now this promoter has falsely accused me of plagiarism twice—publicly. She has rallied her supporters to spread lies about me, claiming I chose to pull out of the box sets and donate my spots. She advised me to break Amazon’s rules about exclusivity, (something I never intended to do) but is now claiming I was the one who suggested breaking the rules.
Now I can’t walk away, because her lies impact my livelihood. She is destroying my reputation simply because I chose not to do business with her once I saw what went on behind the scenes—the bullying, the harassment, the rule-bending.
And I’m not the only one.
This promoter has been bullying people into silence for years. She’s run multiple authors out of her genre and others out of self-publishing altogether. I believe this has to stop. I believe someone has to stand up for the people who are too nice, too overwhelmed, and too afraid to admit they too, have been defrauded, lied to, and harassed.
That’s why I am asking for your help.
I need to set up a legal fund of $10k to litigate these charges against this promoter. It’s more than double the amount I lost to her, which is why she continues to get away with this. She fights people with innuendo and social media attacks, but who can afford to prove that her smear campaigns are all lies? No one can afford to do it alone.
With your help, I want to bring a civil suit against her. I want a public apology. It is my intention not to accept sealed records or no admission of guilt as part of a settlement—this abuse of the writing community needs to stop. People need to know the truth.
I would not have entered into these contracts if there was proof out there of how she does business—her silencing tactics allow her to keep pulling in new clients who don’t know what they are stepping in to. The deafening silence about these tactics means others will end up in the same boat—handing over their savings and being faced with going through with promotions that may endanger their publishing accounts or losing their money and their reputation by trying to walk away.
Thank you for reading my story. I hope you’ll help.
If you would like more details, please see this thread on KBoards:
Box Set Scams on Passive Voice: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,250491.0.html
While not run by me, it does present compelling evidence.