Everyone surely has many examples that qualify, but I'll just use the latest one I'm experiencing right now. In December of 2014, I published my second novel - "The Courage Equation." Its a 542 page thrill ride about a group of dedicated organizers/activists for justice who decide to take the matter of dealing with a violent white supremacist group into their own hands after realizing no one else is going to address the problem. In February of 2014, Super Bowl Sunday if I remember correctly, I drove up to Olympia, Washington, checked into a hotel room, and spent the day sending my "query" letter out to five publishers I had decided to focus on attempting to get to publish my book. This is not necessarily a fast moving process so it was May before I got the last of my three acceptances (two publishers rejected my book). The publisher I decided upon is a New York Publisher named Raider Publishing International (RPI). I had seen a couple of uncomplimentary posts about RPI from persons who indicated their manuscripts had been submitted, contracted, and never published by RPI. With smaller publishers, this isn't necessarily an uncommon thing. I also saw posts from people who expressed positive experiences publishing with RPI (all of which I have come to realize were possibly fake posts). Like most artists, I freely acknowledge that 90% of my joy is in the writing. I'm a revolutionary organizer. That's what I do. I've never been a person focused on making money. The business aspects of this I'm unfortunately having to learn through trauma. That's why I admit I was moved by the enthusiasm in which the CEO of the company - Adam Silviani - spoke to me about my manuscript and his personal commitment to represent my work won me over. Especially after the negative experience I had with the publisher of my first novel in 2010 (I did receive royalties from them, but after they initially reviewed, accepted, and published my novel, I pretty much never heard from them again).
Initially, RPI seemed to be totally on the ball and committed to follow through as Silviani had promised. I signed the contract with them in May of 2014. The contract required them to organize book events, do press releases, send quarterly royalty statements (and royalty payments at a rate of 51% per book sold). The publisher was also contractually obligated to send me 10 copies of my novel. It took them no time to design a great cover for the book and they actually did a decent job editing the manuscript, per the contract. By September, the book was ready to go into publication and Silviani assured me the book would be ready by the December imperialist holiday.
On that last point, the book did go into print by December, 2014, but a year and half since then, there have been no royalty statements or payments. And more importantly, no book events organized. After repeated efforts to engage Silviani, I solicited the assistance from a trusted person who took time to do extensive research on RPI. It now appears as if many people have been duped by this publisher, most of them having never had their book ever published. In fact, there are apparently a number of people who paid RPI publishing fees and received nothing in return. I guess on that point, I should feel good in that Silviani felt strong enough about the quality of my novel that he did follow through to publish it, although his motivation to do so apparently was fueled by his plan to make my book a money producer for him, and not the author - me.
After going back and forth with RPI by phone and email during 2015, at this point I've talked to a couple of attorneys and I even had a wonderful attorney send a demand letter to RPI via certified mail. The letter was never claimed and was returned to us. A Better Business Bureau complaint was filed against RPI, but that agency contacted us and advised us that Silviani never responded to that either and they have no ability to respond further. My person helping me ended up talking to a contract attorney in New York state who reviewed my contract. The attorney told us they believe there is plenty to file a lawsuit against Silviani and RPI, but based on research we have done, we already know that he has filed bankruptcy multiple times already. The New York attorney bluntly stated that if we paid them a retainer of $3,000.00, they could file papers, but with this guy's history "you would certainly die without ever receiving a penny."
So, today I'm looking at being out some money. Plus, I've never received the 25 books that were owed me (10 per the contract and another 15 I paid Silviani an additional $200.00 for). And, with "The Courage Equation" clearly being marketed in Europe, Canada, Africa, Australia, and across the U.S., to date, I've not received one penny in royalties. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not broken up about the money piece. I wrote the book to serve as inspiration to a broader audience than that which reads political, Pan-African, revolutionary, pieces. I wanted to appeal to everyday people who have a sense of hopelessness. I wanted to demonstrate to sincere European (White) accomplices what a legitimate ally should look like to the African liberation struggle. And the huge feedback I've gotten about "The Courage Equation" from people I know and don't know, is that I accomplished my goal. People have wonderful things to say about the book and many have indicated the degree to which the book has inspired them on a personal level. So, that is my reward and I can say quite honestly that I don't spend much time thinking about the money I haven't received. The main insult to me is that while I know I'm being screwed by RPI, and millions of people around the world are getting screwed in similar, and most often worse ways, we have to endure regular propaganda like that coming out of the Republican convention last week and the Democratic convention coming up this week, that this is such a wonderful country where fairness and democracy are guiding principles. Where if you work hard, you will achieve reward and that the only people who are not receiving reward are the people who aren't putting any effort and skin in the game. While I'm hearing that propaganda, I get to think about how I put five years of skin in the game, writing that book and pouring my soul into doing it. And, besides the moral victories I've created in my own mind about the spirit the book helps to create, I'm forced today to have to buy my book the same way anyone else does, through retail processes and prices. And, more important than that, I haven't been given the opportunity I was promised to talk about the political concepts within the book.
Being the organizer that I am, that was and is the most exciting aspect of the entire process of writing the book. Silviani told me they have strong relationships with Barnes and Nobles and that book events there would be "easy" yet besides the book events myself and local people have organized in local spaces, there has been nothing from the publisher.
Since I've had a life of struggle, I know that I have to keep swinging. Besides the political work I'm engaged in, don't believe for a second that my point is that I'm sitting around mopping about this situation. I'm fast at work on my third novel, the next installment of the first two. And, I'm determined to make sure this one lands with a publisher who can respect my work and help me talk about it as I desperately want to be able to do. I also don't plan to let Silviani off the hook either. This is the first time I've written about any of this, but its not going to be the last time. And, soon, we will figure out our next move. If we can't get anything out of him, we have enough organization skills to make his life uncomfortable. All of those things will happen. That still doesn't change the part I hate the most. No matter what we do, we come out on the bottom. And, the system response to that is unless you are ready to dedicate a significant portion of your life to figuring out how to address it, that's just how you can depend upon everything going. Clearly there's no justice in that, but it does create a system that is quite profitable for those who have capacity to exploit. Maybe that's what these strange people mean when they say "make America great again." What they must actually be saying is we are supposed to be the people who lose and suffer. And, they realize the system is set up to make sure things always turn out that way. So, maybe what they are really asking for is a return to the day when we just accepted all of that and suffered in silence.