In the second part of this year of 2012 I have been able to discover some more of the skeletons in the closets of the Evil Empire of Self Publishing due to readers leaving comments on the blog and from reading other blogs–and also due to another ridiculous occurrence that I had with my ex publisher Xlibris. All of of this in this post is on top of or in addition to to everything I have already talked about in my previous articles: “My Horrible Xlibris Xperience” and “Author Solutions: The Evil Galactic Empire of Self Publishing”.
Even though I have discovered more of the skeletons in their closets, this is without a doubt not all of them. I suppose I will start off with the fiasco that occurred with my ex publisher to start off.
Bookkeeping Gone Bad
In the “Evil Empire” article I had already written about royalty theft, failure to report royalties, and customer complaints about such matters, and my my own personal story about a paltry sum I would probably never see since it’s MIA… Well, to make this intro short, this comes back to those missing royalties with an unexpected twist or two.
One day I get something in the mail from Xlibris. I have no idea what in the world it could be, so I open it. It’s a check for $2.88. I take a minute to think about where this money could be coming from, and then I remember about those missing royalties–but I was only expecting $2.00, so this means there was another paperback sold somewhere, so it’s time to log on and go hunting.
Furthermore, on the check stub they say they are withholding $1.12 because they didn’t have a W-9 form on file from me. Hold the phone. When this book was published in 2009 (yes 3 years ago) I was never sent, instructed, or there was no mention of such a form–all they ever asked for was my SSN when I made my submission. Any publishers I have worked with since then do this during the publishing process and setup, and I have grown many seasons wiser since I left their poisoned gates, but I digress. Again, this has been three years since the book was published, and they are just now asking for a W-9 form? What the heck? This isn’t even the fun part yet.
I know that half of these royalties came from Amazon since I sold a book there, and I know this because of my Author Central account. I also know when the book was sold–in April of 2011. Back in 2011, I had checked my Xlibris account and there was no record of this book being sold. I check on and off again when I started this blog in early 2012 when I wrote my Evil Empire article, and there is still no record of this book being sold. Considering it lost forever, I don’t waste my time worrying about it since I was making more money and sales from my new publisher and working on getting my second book redone and was having much better success.
So when I receive this check in November of 2012, there is finally a record for this book and one other being sold in June of 2011–at over a year later. WTC? But wait! There’s more!
In addition to this freak show of bookkeeping, they report the location of the book being sold in Laverne TN. This is the location of Lightning Source, their printer and distributor, and they have this in the FAQ section of their website since this doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. This is the stupidest thing I had ever heard of from a business standpoint, and other publishers do a better job at sales reporting. Wouldn’t anybody in their right mind want to know where and when their books are being sold? Any author I know of wants to know how well their book is selling in each of their channels. I would also surmise that reporting sales in this way would also account for the theft of royalties and possibly screwing people out of what was owed since they won’t report if any books are sold off the Xlibris website if they feel like it.
So with that being said, the only way I knew one of the books was sold on Amazon was through Amazon’s sales reporting. The other, well, I’ll never know, but if I had to guess it would probably be through Barnes and Noble.
Furthermore they don’t issue checks until they meet a $30 threshold unless you terminate your contract. People aren’t told this in the contract BTW–you have to find this info on in the FAQ section of the website which takes looking at the sitemap to find. Just like they said in Alice in Wonderland, “Curiouser and Curiouser”.
Now I wonder if it will take me another year to receive the remaining $1.12 they owe me. We just have to see.
Now the $30 threshold explains why I didn’t receive any money until I terminated my contract, but that is no excuse for why it was never reported until over a year and a half later >:(. Furthermore, that sort of information should be in the contract–that’s what I learned from Mark Levine at any rate. It’s not in the old or the new one–I guess they forgot to add that in when they decided to make a new, more author unfriendly contract…
Black Hat SEO Techniques
I have heard my colleague Mark Levine speak of “White Hat” and “Black Hat” SEO techniques before. The color code should give you an indication of which side of the fence one lies in regards to the other. It goes without saying that ASI engages in black (evil) SEO. Reputable publishers, bloggers, and independent authors engage in white (good) SEO.
In addition to using Google Adwords to embed their ads in every area that authors congregate, these other SEO techniques are the reasons why ASI companies are so easy to find and rank high on search engines when people start looking for self publishing companies. With each imprint of AS all doing this, it’s a no brainer to know why Google search results have become a mine field for the the new, untrained author–I know since I was there once.
This article by David Gaughran contains some wonderful information about some of these Black Hat SEO techniques. Even though the first part of the article speaks of the merging with AS and S&S, the part about AS and thereafter has what you need to know. Pay close attention to the sections where Mr. Gaughran talks about fake people and spam bots. Fake people is where I am going next.
Fake People Oh My!
As you read from the article, Author Solutions is creating fake social media accounts and hordes of spam bots to tout how “wonderful” their services are and to spam social media and blogs and to boost their SEO with black hat techniques. My other colleague Rachel Thompson would be so proud and probably go on another anti-spam rant, but I digress. With that being said this is a form of sock puppetry, and some of the stuff that took place in 2012 should give you an indication of how the online community views such a practice. On one of the customer complaint boards, I saw such a AS sock puppet trying to discredit a customer’s legitimate complaint and try to save face for Author Solutions. Classic sock puppet job.
In addition to the fake accounts, sock puppets, and spam bots, we also have people working for Author Solutions companies under fake identities. I know of one person for certain who has a fake identity, and I will talk about him in a moment. If there is one, then there has to be more. Does that mean that everyone has fake identities or just some of them? Or most of them? I don’t think it matters too much in giving anyone reading this article to stay the heck away from any Author Solutions company regardless if they have Penguin and S&S affiliated with it. Just one fake person being expose is enough for me to raise a question. Also having fake accounts on the Internet also makes them look more suspicious if you ask me.
Miguel Guzman Exposed
In case you are wondering who Miguel Guzman is and how I know him, he is the marketing consultant from Xlibris that made my life a living hell while I was there. If you want to know that story, read my article “My Horrible Xlibris Xperience”. Two readers have come by my blog and told me that this is not the creep’s real name. One reader has also given me a video and photos of said perp which I will share with you. I know you are wondering why I have a photo of Butt-head. Here’s why. I still don’t know the perp’s real name, and it has been said it starts with the letter B. As you can see from the video and pics he looks like Butt-head, and he is a butthead. So now since I know his name is not Miguel, and he isn’t even a Spanish-speaking person, he will now be dubbed Butt-head, and if I remember correctly, he even laughs like said MTV character. Here are the photos and pics as promised for your viewing pleasure.
Major Update: This YouTube video has been removed a few weeks after this post was live. I will keep the link here to prove that the video DID exist. YouTube mentions that it was removed since it violated their TOS (click on link) either by complaints by users or Xlibris.
As you can see from the video (taken at face value mind you) Butt-head is Xlibris’ top marketing guy. Both of the readers who left comments mention that he is also their top earning marketing person at this one imprint alone–how much he earns is irrelevant. He brings into Xlibris $150K a month from all the authors he scams as I have been told by others. This is probably give or take, and from my experience with the man, it’s possible since he likes to push some very expensive marketing services on people, and they are not the top tiering services at this publisher either. His favorites are the 10M targeted email campaign which retails at ~$10K and the Hollywood movie trailer which retails at ~$18K. Xlibris has new “marketing” services all the time and some of them top out at over $100K. Go by their website and poke around sometime if you don’t believe me. His most effective tactics to make people crack is to hound and nag you until you either cave in or cuss him out on a service and then nag you some more. You know how much everyone hates a nag? He nags more than an old woman and people cave in to make him shut up, but them he will just come back and nag you about something else.
Butt-head’s fake name also appears on customer complaint boards, Google search results all the time. I know this due to my Google search tools and SEO stats for this blog. Due to my SEO for this blog my article about my interaction with Butt-head gets found quite a bit.
On the complaint boards there was another author who was swindled into the trap I had almost been swindled into about two years ago. I was able to get out of it before it was too late, but he wasn’t so lucky, and he wrote about it, and I was able to find it (probably along with thousands of other people). You can find it on the Ripoff Report links at the end of “Author Solutions: The Evil Galactic Empire of Self Publishing” or buy Google-ing “complaints against Miguel Guzman Xlibris” and looking under the Ripoff Report that comes up.
The only reason why I escaped and wasn’t swindled out of $2500 was because I met and was given great advice by Mark Levine at this time which I acted on without hesitation. If I had hesitated, I would have been screwed. He tried to get 10 Gs from a poor, backwood college grad before this, but that just wasn’t happening–this other scam was round #2 and the last straw for me.
Butt-head or Miguel Guzman or whatever you want to call him is nothing more than a con artist hired to work for a publishing company–the last place you would expect to find such a con artist, and that’s what is going for this guy. He probably used to scam the elderly or passers by in his home town before coming to work for Xlibris and that’s why he does so well at scamming unwary authors. Xlibris and all Author Solutions’ companies are in this to make money from scamming and ripping off authors plain and simple. It’s just that Miguel is one of their big guns. As Gaughran has said in his article all AS companies and personnel modus operandi relies on customer (author) ignorance. Butt-head is no different.
From the video he has know called himself Migz. When I saw this I think MiG (yes the Soviet fighter jet) came to mind and his marketing tactics reminds me of the dog-fighting tactics that had to be used against the US tomcats and British fighters, but I digress.
Also from the video he has been crowned “King of Xlibris” either by himself, a big wig at Xlibris, or by Kevin Weiss ( Darth Sideous). Could this be the Darth Maul or Darth Vader of the Empire? Are there any Kings of Trafford, iUniverse, or Authorhouse, etc that anyone needs to know about? Whatever the case, this King of Xlibris needs to be dethroned and sent back down flat on his proverbial arse for all authors’ sakes. Or better yet, the whole Empire needs to be sent crashing down in a hail of flames. Until then, it’s best to keep away and warn any newbie or aspiring author you bump into and help those trying to escape the pit.
The Truth About the Supervisor
The reader who provided me with the video and pics has a couple words about Robert Fuentes, Butt-head’s “supervisor”. This was the same supervisor that I demanded to give me a new marketing consultant and filed my complaint against Butt-head that I had a hard time pinning down. Come to find out Robert and Butt-head are actually in this together and backing each other up. I sort of had an idea of this two years ago since things just didn’t seem right. Robert is probably not his real name either. So I guess his name can be Beavis, and I would laugh at the irony if he looks remotely like Beavis–they certainly go together like Beavis and Butt-head. He was probably giving Butt-head a “that-a-boy” pat on the back as I was fuming and chewing his butt for a new marketing consultant, but I digress.
I think everyone at Xlibris has fake names since most all of them I had ever spoken to had Hispanic sounding names when they were not any type of American–I could tell they weren’t Hispanics. There is nothing wrong with hiring people from the Philippines for customer service at all. But, there is something definitely wrong with giving them fake identities in which they engage in dishonest business practices.
As for Miguel, how are we sure that Butt-head is not just another fake identity? If I have learned anything from watching the news any length of time when the authorities busts an identity theft ring or a trickster with fake identities, is that they have plenty more to fall back on–but knowing he has one is enough for a cause for worry.
There is one more thing I would like to uncover, but I probably won’t until 2013, and if there is something there I will definitely share it here.
I know a lot about the whole scheme. I used to work there and I can’t take their sales scheme. You should know about their sales managers too. They get 5% commission for every sale the reps make. If Miguel Guzman made $150K, the managers take 5 percent without doing any effort!
AK Taylor says
Thanks for sharing! Working there will actually give you a lot of inside information. It’s the grand ol’ pyramid scheme to be sure. The sales they bring in are only part of the equation.
At the end of the day, it was your decision to get fooled by a con. As far as I’m aware, you weren’t physical dragged just for you to say YES to their offer. Neither did they point a gun at you and threatened to kill you.
And by the way, they don’t have “fake” identities. All customer service reps from the Philippines use “aliases” or phone names and it’s legal and normal to do so.
PS: am not defending Xlibris. just my random two cents.
AK Taylor says
I am not the only person that this has happened to–I am one of THOUSANDS worldwide. People don’t wake up in the morning and say “I want to get scammed today. Where can I find me a good scammer?” People don’t “decide” to get scammed. No, those thousands of people including me weren’t physically dragged or had guns to our heads to say yes to these people. They do, however, hound you to death after you ask for a bit information.
People make decisions on given information, and people don’t expect publishers to lie to them or steal book royalties, mark up printing costs and hide it, etc. I asked tons of questions and their answers were either half true or lies. Xlibris and its parent company excel at giving misinformation or misleading information, and all the other things shared here and in other posts aren’t specified in the contract or the website and definitely not by the mouths of their reps. That’s the whole gambit of a con contractor: to make their samples of work better than they are and tell half truths or lies. With the contracting example people don’t hire bad contractors on purpose to build or remodel their homes. You find out that they are cons or bad contractors after you have hired them and they have started their work and either don’t finish it or do a bad job or worse.
An alias is just a fake name, and that’s the only identity the ‘client’ knows them as. An alias is a fake identity, btw. They use the same alias in their email. A con of any kind can hide behind an alias (or several of them) and get a new alias or switch to another when something goes south. Identity thieves, gang bangers, drug cartel kingpins, and people who scam the elderly also use aliases.
Just because it’s legal or ‘normal’ doesn’t make it right especially if it is used to con others or to do something else that’s illegal. If they weren’t conning people, no one would care. For instance, it’s legal and normal to own a can of spray paint, but it’s a whole different matter when someone uses that can of spray paint to put graffiti on a government building. It’s also legal to jump off a cliff, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea or okay to do it. Also it’s the decision of Author Solutions (the parent company of Xlibris) to mislead and rip people off by using these tactics mentioned and more instead of providing quality and HONEST publishing services.
Another point, why would an alias be necessary if Author Solutions was honest and disclosed that they outsource their work? There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing. As long as the quality and honesty is there, there is no need for that tactic.
The point behind this post is to raise awareness about how these people con others so it doesn’t happen to them and I use my experience as an example. I have found new publishing homes and my books are right now and are award winners instead of absolute crap.
There is a class action lawsuit against these people but until they implode, I encourage others to stay away.
Aia Schmitz says
Guys check this out: http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/simon-schuster-joins-forces-with-author-solutions-to-rip-off-writers/#comment-27024. It’s also another blog that “exposes” Author Solutions. Authors, BE WARNED!!
Miguel Guzman real name is “BASHARY IBRAHIM”. Hes the person behind plenus publishing who scammed a lot of authors. Now he is running another publishing company name OKIR PUBLISHING, Coffee PRESS and AD book Press. I hope you guys have email so I can send the picture of miguel guzman ( KING OF PUBLISHING SCAMS)