Lesson in Action: Some Final Thoughts on Aspen Mountain Press

The other day, the authors at Aspen Mountain Press opened the site to be greeted with this message:

The Aspen Mountain Press web site is temporarily suspending operations.

Over the past five years we’ve demanded high standards in all areas of the company from authors to editors to administrators.  Due to the current health of the owner these standards have not been met.

We’d like to thank you for your support and patronage over this past half decade and apologize for any inconveniences this decision causes.

Now, some might believe that this would be reason to gloat and strut about feeling morally superior for having forced this publisher out of business (whether temporarily or permanently remains to be seen).

I’m here to tell you that just isn’t so.  There’s nothing to gloat over, here.  There’s nothing to feel superior about, or even proud of.

Nothing I’ve done in this whole fiasco was ever about winning.  Nor was it ever about bringing anyone down.

My only purpose was fairness and healing — for both the authors AND the publisher.

There’s been a lot of negative talk about this particular publisher.  I’ve posted several blogs in which I’ve emphatically stated that illegal activity has gone on.  I stand by my words, because they are the unvarnished truth  and that , above all else, is what I strive for in my life.  It makes up the core of who I am.

Having said that, I’ve seen some particularly nasty and inflammatory commentary made, during this whole course of events, as well.  Some have even left a bad taste in my mouth, because they’ve come from people with no intimate understanding of the struggle or situation.  They are blind judgments.

Now, I’m not going to defend the actions of this publisher.  The facts stand as they are, and there’s no excuse for the poor judgments and lack of communication.  It’s in the owner’s hands to take responsibility for those failures.  However, it remains my hope that the owner will, in time, learn to distinguish the difference between correcting a failure, and letting one own her.  In that, she could begin to see her way clear to a healthier, ultimately happier life, and I wish her no ill will.  I never have.

Over the past few days, AMP’s owner has taken the steps to begin laying out olive branches.  She is trying, and I’m willing to give her the room to make that attempt.  It would be wrong to simply deny her the chance to change, to make amends.  Denying anyone the chance to grow, heal, or mend past errors is simply against my most basic character.

While I cannot promise to ever forget the actions that necessitated the drastic and public steps I’ve been forced to take over the past few months, I can, and do, forgive the events themselves.  Holding onto anger has never been something I’ve been good at, just as letting go of hurt is something I continue to struggle with.  Have I been hurt, in this?  Most definitely.  Am I angry? No… not anymore.

I would like to thank the owner of Aspen Mountain Press for finally starting to face her responsibilities.  In yesterday’s mail, I finally received the letter I requested months ago, confirming the release of my books.  With Aspen Mountain Press’ site currently down, I can only hope that the issue is finally resolved.

Would I recommend this publisher, should it ever resume operations?  I can’t say that I would.  Writing is an unstable profession, as it is — most of us have no idea if we’re even going to sell books, or how.  It just seems too big a risk, now, to even think of throwing in with an unstable publisher, as well.  I know that I, for one, will never submit work to AMP again.


14 thoughts on “Lesson in Action: Some Final Thoughts on Aspen Mountain Press

  1. Congratulations, Esther!

    • authorswife4351 says:

      PEOPLE COME ON!! This is FRAUD, plain and simple. This is contractual violation. This is what is considered by the IRS to be illegal “co-mingling of accounts” by the publisher (the publisher using the business account to pay for personal expenses)! Three very serious legal situations just for starters.

      My husand had his first book published by Aspen in mid-August. He hasn’t seen a penny, he’s not received any accounting, nor has he received any respones to his emails questioning what’s going on. What I have done (AND WHAT YOU ALL NEED TO DO – BAND TOGETHER – GET THIS DEAL MOVING WITH THE APPROPRIATE AUTHORITIES) is the following:

      1) I contacted the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service (1-877-777-4778) who advised me to download Form #3949A from http://www.irs.gov, fill it out and MAIL IT to them. They WILL look into the “co-mingling of accounts” matter.

      2) I contacted the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office. I was directed by the receptionist to someone by the name of “Mason,” who is in charge of such legal matters. I left Mason a voice mail message, also directing him to a couple web sites so he can read up on what the authors are saying. You may contact Mason at 1-720-874-8500.

      3) I spoke with someone in the Colorado State Attorney General’s Office (1-800-222-4444) in their Consumer Complaint Department. The woman I spoke with said, “I recommend two things to you. First, hire your own personal attorney to deal with this publisher if you can afford it. Additionally, go to our web site at http://www.colorado.attoreygeneral/complaint, select “Private Business,” fill out that form and we WILL look into the matter for you.

      4) I called the Better Business Bureau – Denver (1-303-758-2100). I was advised that I and others affected by this publisher’s actions should compose a snail mail letter listing all the infractions and mail it to the BBB at 1020 Cherokee Street, Denver, CO 80204.

      This publisher has knowingly taken highly egregious steps here, not to mention illegal. Also, it is my understanding that if the Aspen web page is down more than 45 days, YOUR CONTRACT WITH ASPEN IS NULL AND VOID. This publisher doesn’t deserve any “favors”. I hope the rest of you affected by this awful situation will stand up, as have I, and stick up for yourself by contacting the authorities listed above. Belly-aching on blogs is going to get you Nowhere. Good luck to you!

      • Thank you for your advice. I’ve spoken with the Arapahoe DA’s office, and was told that, unfortunately, they cannot pursue criminal charges at this time — unless someone with evidence of clear monetary fraud is willing to contact them and present a picture different from what they’ve construed from reading up on the details, online, I doubt they’ll move forward with anything criminal.

        As for my end, since I am (and always have been) unconcerned about the royalties AMP owed me (if, indeed, there were any after the last payment I got — I have no evidence to suggest there should have been), I am satisfied with things as they stand, in my quarter. I will continue to support those who truly believe they are owed money, and those who have not yet received their rights back, but I am no longer interested in pursuing a legal end, if the DA’s office believes no criminal action has, at this point, been made.

        I would certainly encourage anyone with evidence otherwise to contact the Arapahoe DA.

  2. Very well said, Esther. I’m holding my breath to see if we all get our letters but if we do then I’m prepared to forgive if not forget. The owner is someone I would once have thought more of than just a person running a business and for many at AMP she was considered a friend. I don’t think…no, I know, that at least most of us never wanted to cause any hurt. We just wanted the obligations of the contracts met and dealt with. I very much want to be able to wish the owner all the luck and best wishes for her health and career in the future. If we’re all released satisfactorily I’ll be able to do that with my blessings.

  3. Terri Pray says:

    I am very relieved that there appears to be an end to all of this for you and the other authors involved.

    • You might want to read Samantha Combs’ blog on her experiences with Aspen. http://samanthacombswrites.blogspot.com/2011/10/my-own-experience-with-aspen-mountain.html

      I’m disappointed to learn the D.A.’s position (after I suggested he read the blogs) that he doesn’t see anything of a “prosecutorial nature”. I find that hard to believe. I believe we should be working with the Colorado State Attorney’s Office and the IRS who DID show interest in this matter when I spoke with them. Gadhafi is dead because there is POWER in numbers. Please don’t be a victim. Act.

      • You assume that reaching for and achieving a goal (to get my books removed from sale after contracts expired) somehow makes me a VICTIM?? I find that insulting, personally.

        I’ve worked long and hard to get where I am today, and I certainly don’t believe it necessary to bully anyone, to get what I need. I have achieved what I set out for, and I did it with solid facts and persistent requests. I followed up where I needed to. With AMP currently having suspended operations, and my rights firmly back in my own hands, I have the right to decide I have achieved my purpose, and to NOT feel the need to badger the authorities over an obviously troubled individual whose name and reputation have become so publicly trashed that she’s not likely to ever find anyone willing to work with her company, or any company her name is attached to, again. As far as I am concerned, justice has been served.

        As I stated before, I will continue to support those who do not yet believe they have achieved their justice (ie, feel they are owned money, etc). However, do NOT make the assumption that because I feel I have met my goal and do not wish to inflict pain for the purpose of a vengeance I truly never felt, I’m somehow being a “victim.” Believe me, I already KNOW what being the victim of a crime is — this is NOT it. I know what not having a voice is, and in this matter, I’ve spoken up loudly, and made my position clear, and I got the resolution I was looking for. I do NOT harbor a grudge against sick people who clearly need help facing reality. That’s not who I am.

      • Gadhafi is dead because there is POWER in numbers.

  4. Esther, this is not about you, although you have made it about you. You have received what you wanted, but many others have not. I was speaking to the others. You sound like a very angry person. I hope you find inner peace.

    • Sorry you think I’m an angry person, because that couldn’t be further from the truth. However (and I’m merely pointing this out), you posted your reply on my personal author blog, NOT in a public forum. Therefore, anyone coming to read this blog from outside could, indeed, infer that your ARE speaking to me, just as I did. If you did not wish your words to be taken as such, please find a public forum. I thanked you quite nicely for your original post, which was informative and definitely pointed. When you responded to my reply, on this blog, about the DA’s choice not to pursue things with the “don’t be a victim” comment, how else was anyone supposed to read that, but as a reply to me, directly?

      I’m sorry if you see me as an angry person, because I’m not. I know a great deal of inner peace — it allows me to empathize with people even when in the midst of a frustrating situation. If I was an angry person then I would be pursuing the situation with AMP ferociously.

      Instead, my statements are simply the truth — I think far more can be accomplished by knowing exactly where one stands, and not demanding more than that. If you really knew me at all, you would know that I’m a very forgiving person, and while I might get indignant about a situation, I only very rarely get truly angry. It might surprise you to know there is a big difference between the two. I have a fiery personality, and will speak my mind readily. But I’m not likely to hold onto anger for any length of time. It’s just not in my nature to NOT forgive someone, even though I may never forget the situation.

      I’m aware that others haven’t received what they wanted, and I never said I thought anyone should back off if they don’t have what they want. I merely stated that I was personally dropping that fight — I’ve never said I wouldn’t support anyone else’s right to. Quite the opposite.

      • Esther, I think there has been a huge misunderstanding between us. We are on the same side. I was trying to speak to any OTHER author who might be reading your blog; I wasn’t calling you a victim. I don’t know how to publicly reach the other authors. I spoke with the Arapahoe County D.A. today and he said they did “scrutinize” this case, but he said there is no statute under which they can prosecute in this case. He said it is simply a business which has gone under and the business owner isn’t treating her authors fairly. He said, “This is a civil matter. You guys need to get together, using one attorney, and get in front of a Colorado judge who will order Hicks to release the authors.” Does anyone have the ability to get any momentum going in that regard? Ms. Summers? Someone needs to spearhead and organize the authors in order to take the steps recommended by the D.A. My husband this weekend did fill out and submit the electronic complaint forms to the IRS and the Colorado State Attorney General’s Office which we hope can bring some heat to bear on Ms. Hicks and perhaps make it worth her while to do the right thing here and so everyone involved can move on with their lives.

      • Is your husband a member of the loop that was set up by myself and others expressly for addressing the legal issues at AMP? We’ve been discussing our options for some time, and mention has been made even on the AMP Author’s loop of our group. If he is not a member, then he could have e-mailed anyone who posted a blog and received the link to join the group. If he IS a member of the group, then he should already know what we have discussed, and should have been able to relay the information you provided on my blog on that group, as well as something on the AMP Author group (if he really wanted to — although that would have immediately come to the publisher’s attention). You also mentioned Absolute Write, etc in one of your replies. That would have been the correct forum for reaching the authors you wished to reach. *shrugs* I am simply saying there were better ways for you to get across what you wanted to say, directly to the people you wanted to say it to, rather than continuing to post things that could easily be misconstrued on a blog that, at the end of the day, has VERY little to do with AMP (just those three posts, which were my personal stand). There are plenty of blogs out there whose entire purpose is to expose publishing nightmares, which hundreds more authors read than will EVER read this blog. Hence, why I took immediate offense to your choice of phrasing.

        I wish your husband the best of luck, and if called upon to provide evidence, I will do so within the bounds of truth and fact. However, for my own end, I’ve withdrawn from the legal sparring arena, directly. Yes, one MIGHT make a passable argument that I still have a case, since the books were sold for so long in violation of copyright law. However, since those rights have been returned, the same claim could also be construed by the courts as my being bitter and vindictive, of which I am neither. So… *shrugs* I see no point in my leading the Light Brigade up that hill, when my lead will only get us all crucified. But I remain prepared, in case I’m called upon to provide my story in the aid of another. That’s the best I can do, at this point.

  5. As always, your posts are well written. You said it best when you stated the importance of “correcting a failure”. We’re all capable of making mistakes. Continuing to make mistakes that cost other people is where the problem exists. Hopefully, the AMP owner will begin to take action in an effort to resolve the current issues of past due royalties while returning the book rights of all authors wishing to separate themselves from Aspen Mountain Press.

    Destiny Blaine

    • Yesterday my husband and I filled out and electronically submitted the Colorado State Attorney General’s Office online consumer complaint form. At the suggestion of the Colorado AG’s office, we downloaded the IRS’ “Information Referral” form (#3949A), filled it out and mailed it to the IRS, referencing the illegal “co-mingling of accounts” to which the AMP former staffer Celine Summers has referred to in her blog. We also composed and mailed a letter to the Better Business Bureau with whom the Colorado AG’s Office works closely. I hope other authors will do the same. Hicks is arrogantly blowing everyone off and using unpaid royalties for personal expenses. If Hicks gets frightened by the attention she receives from the AG’s office and the powerful IRS, she just might release ALL the authors so that they might be free to re-publish with a reputable publisher. Hicks’ arrogance and total disregard for the law and her authors is mind-blowing. She is deserving of the long arm of the law taking a real close look at her.

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