Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Is There A Wells Fargo Or Bernie Madoff Of Book Publishing?

I happened to be in a Wells Fargo branch recently.  I’d forgotten to send my mortgage payment in and didn’t want to mail it in late or use online banking.  My son, 11, was with me.  We joked that we should ask the bank teller if she can open a new account – with no credit, no job, no assets.  Wells Fargo was penalized for ordering the opening of fake bank accounts on a mass scale.  They ended up firing 5,000 workers, though the ones that really had to go were the people at the top who actually benefited from the fraud.  It wasn’t until this past  month that the CEO quit – retired – got fired.  He paid scores of millions from running the financial institution that people can no longer trust.  There are many criminal CEOs like him.  

Remember ENRON and Ken Lay?  How about Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski, Jon Corzine’s M.F. Global, Bernie Madoff, Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide Financial Corp, Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers, Tony Hayward of BP, and on and on?  No one will miss Wells Fargo’s John Skimof.  But all of this talk of scandalous, scurrilous CEOs has me wondering:  Does the book publishing world have its versions of corporate shenanigans?

It’s hard to search for this.  If you search under terms such as “criminal book publishers’ or “book publishing criminals,” you get lists of people who publish crime books.  Or they show books written by criminals. "Book publishing crooks" did yield a hit from a Goodreads post that complained about vanity presses.

It does call up the ugly side of book publishing.  There’s a huge pay-to-publish industry and it comes in many forms.  There’s nothing wrong with self-publishing, but too many people are overpaying for books.  Others pay money for services that were never delivered.

There is a site, that puts out Writer Beware, an online information source about industry service providers.  It highlights specific practices it deems to be unscrupulous and highlights specific companies that they accuse of wrongdoing.  Through the site doesn’t fully litigate or research a complaint, it does act as a bulletin board for people to consult.  I would caution people to be aware that not every complaint posted is valid or shows all sides.  Still, it may be a place to check if one can spot a trend of serious offenses by specific companies. Another such site is 

But who really are the monsters of the book publishing world?  Could their ethical lapses or criminal actions be going on but just not getting exposed?  We know every day that someone is:

§  Pirating content.
§  Publishing a book of lies.
§  Violating one’s copyright with rampant plagiarism.
§  Screwing an author out of royalties.
§  Stiffing a bookstore out of money due.
§  Misrepresenting their services or capabilities.
§  Falsely advertising a book.
§  Forcing or threatening writers to give up valuable rights.
The book industry may consist of people who by and large love books and want to fight censorship, promote the First Amendment, expand literacy to all, and encourage more people to read more books, and to nurture more people to become writers who perfect their craft.  But there are scumbags that ruin it for others, who lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate for their own gain.

Wells Fargo, on a large scale, is one of the worst offenders out there.  But they are not alone.  Every industry has its version of a Wells Fargo, including book publishing.  Words cannot say what irreparable harm these con artists do to a terrific industry like book publishing.


“Bring your questions to any good library, and most likely you will match them up with answers. Bring loneliness, and in books you will find the solace and company of other lives. Bring the gray of the everyday and you will lose it in the infinite colors of books. The great houses and protectors of books, libraries offer as many thousands of worlds as there are volumes on their shelves”  -- Helena Hjalmarsson

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.
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