Monday, September 19, 2016

Anthology Fail - My side of the story

I'm sure by now, many of you have heard of the demise of The Thing That Turned Me anthology. The authors are pulling their stories left and right, and the publisher, Randi Lee of Stay Classy Publications, has apparently abandoned the project. She refuses to communicate with us, but her actions in the last week can't mean much else.

I debated whether to post about this at all. We writers usually avoid saying anything negative for political and sometimes legal reasons. But I decided to put this out there, not only to warn my friends, but also to keep the publisher from being able to spin the story to her benefit.

I was a contributing author and a front-row witness to the train wreck. This is not hearsay.



Many months ago, Randi approached me about contributing to an anthology she was planning to publish. At first, I declined because I was on hiatus and had little free time, and because I couldn't get inspired to write anything. But she practically begged me, so I agreed. I signed the contract and wrote a little something for the book.

I didn't know Randi all that well, but she seemed nice, and a lot of familiar names were on the author list, so I figured it would be all right. My story was short, and I didn't have much riding on the project. It would only cost me a little of my time. Or so I thought.

Flash forward to months later. The project hasn't been the most organized one I've been involved with, and the release date has been pushed forward twice, but these things happen. I wasn't having to do anything but submit and promote, so I shrugged and was patient.

The 'absolutely-for-sure-gonna-happen-this-time' release date of August 5th came and went. We launched our promo posts without buy links or communication from Randi and waited. ...and waited. I even went to Randi's secret FB group for the anthology authors and posted something encouraging, because I figured Randi's lack of communication was because she uploaded the files too late to go live by the 5th, and she was feeling embarrassed. I said I was choosing to have 'an attitude of gratitude' and thanked Randi for her hard work.

Still nothing. No buy links. No email, post, or PM from Randi.

When some of the authors started asking via email and in the FB group for an update, her assistant commented that Randi had been involved in a car accident in late July, though was unhurt. That bought Ranid some sympathy and a little time -- until we realized that Randi had posted to her personal FB timeline. That told us she was feeling better and had access to the internet. We were understandably upset that she would post there about random stuff and not take time to update the group.

Some of us began discussing this in the secret FB group, tagging Randi, trying to get her to respond. Others emailed. (If I were the publisher, and buy links weren't up on release day, I'd have been in contact with my authors every sinkin' day, apologizing profusely and doing everything I could to fix the problem.) She didn't respond at first, but then she posted something on August 22nd --seventeen days after release day -- about the formatting being messed up and the file being 'corrupt.' She said a friend was working on it and that the anthology would go live in a few days.

It didn't.

On top of that, her post was somewhat miffed-sounding and arrogant. She was more concerned that people were doubting she was ill than she was concerned about the fact she'd left us hanging with no word -- even through her assistant -- about what was going on. She should have been humble and apologetic, in my opinion. As I told her later in a PM, if she'd simply communicated to us about a heath challenge, I would have wished her a heartfelt get-well and waited indefinitely.

Oh, and at least one seasoned formatter / publisher offered to help fix the formatting before release day. Randi never sent the files. If the formatting was the issue, this anthology could have been published by August 5th.

Finally, when things got heated (some members sided with her in the secret FB discussion), her assistant posted something vague about a possible surgery Randi was having. I don't know whether it was true or not, but by then, many of us didn't care. If there was a delay for reasons of health, Randi should have gotten a message to us somehow.

Talk of pulling our submissions began. I chose to withdraw mine, but I wanted to give Randi one last chance to publish, so my 30-day notice was contingent on her not meeting certain stipulations. She had to communicate with us by a certain date and at least every 7 days thereafter, and publish -- at minimum -- the Kindle version by a certain date.

The first date of expected communication from Randi came and went with no word from her. Instead, to our consternation and shock, she deleted the secret FB anthology group and wiped everything from her website without warning.

I guess she wasn't having surgery after all.

I organized a new group for the displaced authors. I also mailed an updated version of my emailed notice, adding that Randi no longer has permission to use my story, my name, or my headshot. If you see anything of mine posted in connection to the anthology or Stay Classy Publications after the middle of next month, Randi is guilty of infringing on copyright. But I'm not the first. As of September 22nd, she will be infringing on copyright of the first of the authors to withdraw.

One of the things I discovered as this whole thing went south was that Randi has done this before. With at least two authors who had contracted novels with her, she stopped meeting deadlines, and then quit communicating. This is apparently a pattern.

As of today, she still hasn't communicated with us. From the little bits I've gleaned from others' conversations with one of Randi's confidants, Randi feels that we turned on her. I disagree. I was direct and demanded that she step up and handle her responsibilities, but I was not unprofessional. Of the authors posting in the secret group during that time, the thing most of us took issue with was not the delays, but the lack of communication. I even posted: Much can and should be forgiven. Just communicate with us.

If Randi can't handle a group of disgruntled authors -- especially when those authors have good reason to be -- then she shouldn't be in the publishing business. And if she's not going to honor her contracts and behave in a professional manner toward her clients, she shouldn't be in the publishing business.
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I know I've been lousy about posting and not making visits lately. Please extend me some grace. I have an editing job that's due back tomorrow. I'll visit blogs as soon as I can, but my obligation to my client comes first.

9-20-16 update:
Yesterday, after the time of my original blog post, Randi posted to her Facebook page her decision to 'dissolve' the anthology project. Then, early this morning, she sent out an email to the anthology contributors, stating the same thing and assuring us she had no plans to publish it in any form.

She also spoke of harassment and hate letters, and warned us about cyber-bullying. Obviously I have no way of knowing what all was sent to her, but the comments, posts and letters I'm aware of (most of which were private, either one-on-one or posted within the secret group) were not hateful or bullying in nature. They were just authors *she sought out and assembled* for this project asking for reasonable communication from her and calling her on her poor performance as a publisher, then later withdrawing from the project according to a clause she included in the contract, and asking her to abide by the same 'in writing' notification.

In her email, she accused us of immaturity, but it's Randi who's not behaving in a professional way. She's still blaming others for her own failures and refusing to take responsibility.

24 comments:

  1. And since I'm not on Facebook, I haven't heard much of anything except what a few of you have emailed me about. My publisher is in contact with me almost every week and when a release date is approaching, it's almost every day.

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  2. Communication is vital in any relationship, including professional ones. Running a publishing company is not for the faint of heart. If you can't handle the heat, get out of the kitchen.

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  3. Hey, Melissa,

    I just withdrew, via email. L. Diane suggested I write out a formal withdrawal, sign it, scan it, and send it to Randi in PDF form. I guess we can't be too careful..... right?

    Thanks for championing us in the cause. It is sad. I agree, communication would have righted a ton of wrongs....

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  4. What a shame as it was such a good project.

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    1. Well said, Jo. It was a good project. I can't understand what would make someone refuse help and refuse to communicate so long that the project fell apart, and his or her reputation was ruined. It makes no logical sense.

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  5. You all are doing much more than I did. I sent her a Facebook message letting her know that I absolve her of all responsibilities in publishing The Window and hope that she feels better soon. I have not gotten a response, nor do I expect one. LOL

    She will get the same professional courtesy she has shown throughout this ordeal. A big, fat ZERO.

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  6. When I was getting into writing, reading, is it called the Writing Cooler...I forget and cant find the link...this kind of thing seemed to be the norm. So I never had any interest in working with a boutique publisher. Maybe I'm better off, huh?

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  7. It's so sad when things like this happen. I withdrew early on when I noticed some things that concerned me regarding lack of professionalism. As you said, with the right communication, the authors involved could be understanding of any delays. The good thing is, we live and learn. But as aggravating as this has been for everyone else involved, I do hope she's okay physically and mentally, because professionally . . . I suppose all we can say is good luck.

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  8. I echo that last sentiment. Life is a challenge. I wish that she had communicated as well, but I've been so busy, I haven't had time to even think about it. It is what it is, eh?

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  9. Sorry about all of this. No one needs to be treated in this manner. Lots of time and energy expended on something that you could use for more productive work. Good luck. Hope you can re-group.

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  10. I'm sorry to hear about this mess. I was excited to read this anthology, too. Good communication is key and could have prevented this entire debacle.

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  11. I feel bad for anyone having personal problems, but business is still business. Prayers for Randi for whatever is going on in her personal life, but I'm withdrawing too.

    It's like Churchill said, "When you're going through hell, keep going." You can't just stall and give up- especially when you've made promises and commitments to people. And if there is something very serious, I wish she'd share so people could help her out.

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  12. What a shame. It sound incredibly unprofessional of her. Why go through all this trouble of soliciting from so many authors and then not go through with things? How frustrating it must be for you authors, and the readers who were looking forward to it.

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  13. This sounds very unfortunate for everyone involved. I agree that communication is vital in any professional endeavour, especially something as complex as an anthology.

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  14. This was a hard pill to swallow, and thank you Melissa for bringing it to the forefront!!!

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  15. I saw the "dissolving" facebook post this morning. So she's done this before? That's unfortunate. I hope all the stories find a home, and there's not too much bitterness that comes from this.

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  16. Even as a fantasy writer, I find myself without adequate words.

    The publisher, Randi, handled this badly and unprofessionally. Now, in her emails to us, she dissolves the anthology with the threat of suing many of us for cyber-bullying.

    The private, not secret, FB page she took down, denying us the chance to quote from our words -- while saying she kept copies of our words, leaving us in somewhat of a legal pickle to defend ourselves.

    She has pretty much ruined her reputation in our circle of Indie writers and in our extended group of friends.

    It looks like this may be a pattern of behavior for her. Randi has taken enough time and emotion from us. I, for one, am dropping all thoughts of her from my mind -- only using this as a lesson to fully research any person or company contacting me for my work. This incident will be good for us if we learn to do our due diligence before putting our name to any contract. I hope all of us find new homes for our stories and gain only wisdom and not bitterness from this sad affair.
















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    1. She's ruined her reputation with me, too. It's sad, because this was a good project, and I liked Randi. I hope all of the authors can put this behind us as a lesson learned.

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  17. Wow! I just saw the "dissolving" message on Facebook too. Sigh... Not everyone can be as professional as they'd like. Hopefully your story finds a new home someday.

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  18. Wow, what a mess. I hope a new publisher can be found for the stories. I would have loved to read them.

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    1. I for one will be publishing my story in at least one other place. (As it happens, the plan had been to publish in two anthologies from the start.)

      I'm also kinda thinking about posting it to my Patreon feed, since it's related to one of my novels.

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  19. That sounds like such a train wreck. >_< I'm sorry you had to deal with all that, and for nothing in the end. Gah.

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