Join the Fight: Tell Congress That Being an Artist/Author IS a Business!

Like most people, I barely understand most of the legalese involved in tax law.  In fact, until recently, I blindly believed that, as an Author, since I considered myself engaged in business, and everything I read told me I had to file a Schedule C as a sole proprietorship, when I had royalty income, I was engaged in a For-Profit business.  Well, imagine my surprise when the State of Arizona tried to tell me, just before Christmas, last year (Thanks a lot Arizona Scrooge!), that because I couldn’t prove a profit (ie, more income than expenses) in three out of five years as an author, I was not, in fact, engaged in a For-Profit Business.

Apparently, being an Artist/Author is one of those areas for which you are supposed to be punished, in the good ol’ US of A (or, at least, in Arizona), thanks to one of a set of “tests” to determine whether or not a business meets the criteria for “For Profit.”  Unfortunately, one of those tests requires a showing of profit — something few authors or artists are familiar with, when it comes to their art.  And, equally apparent is the ridiculous notion that an author or artist should ONLY be engaged in writing/art in order to be classed as pursuing that For-Profit status without proof of said profit margin.  Apparently, we really ARE supposed to starve and end up in the poor-house/bankrupt in order to be taken seriously by the tax laws.

Well, if you’re an author/artist, or family or friends of such, you know how driven a profession this is.  We dedicate every spare moment we can squeeze out of our day for the creation of our creative minds.  And there’s not a one of us who doesn’t intend to someday be able to do nothing but write, paint, etc, etc  full-time.  But we’re also realistic enough to realize that with millions of books printed every day, and hundreds of thousands of artists out there, most of us aren’t likely to ever see our names on or far enough up the bestsellers list or on gallery listing, etc, to make that kind of money.  We hold down other jobs, to pay the bills, and our families suffer as much as we do, for our art.

It’s time to take a stand… So if you’re an artist or author, a friend or family of one, or a fan who wants to see your favorite author/artist/etc continue to create, we need your help.  Follow the link below, sign the petition, and let’s tell the US Congress that being an artist/author IS a business, and we deserve protection and fair regard, as such, under the tax laws. (yes, I know the link has a mistake… I hit a “6” instead of a “3” when typing in the title, and can’t figure out how to change it).


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.

The Last Straw: Aspen Mountain Press with No Remorse

Before I begin, let me apologize for the length of this post, and some of the tone… I’m very frustrated, annoyed, whatever synonym you choose to use, and I’m addressing specific comments made recently in regards to requests made by a fellow AMP author for information.

“(Author name excluded for privacy reasons) Do you intend returning answering queries, letters etc? What
is the time span involved so we know when to expect an answer from you?

(Publisher) In all fairness, I can’t tell you what sort of time frame to expect an answer in, except to say that I am working on them. It takes time to respond to THREATS such as the one Wells made and take care of other business matters AND
attend to my health needs and the work that must be done in raising my son alone.”

I’m sorry, but this is unacceptable.  Aspen Mountain Press’ contract specifically states a time limit on how long a breaching party
has to cure (correct) the breach, when informed.  Aspen Mountain Press’ publisher has had well over that allotted time to cure the breaches in contracts that she’s instigated.  Furthermore, the contract specifically states, in the case of expiring/expired contracts, that it requires a request by certified mail of either the Publisher or the Author, and signed and agreed to by the other party within a very specific window of time around the expiration, in order for the contract to continue.

Those are VERY specific time limits on communication, and what they require.  Since my contracts began expiring in June of
2010, I have received NO certified mail from Aspen Mountain Press (referred to herein as AMP), let alone any kind of offer to extend my contracts.  And, as I never sent AMP a request to extend my contracts, either, that specific time period has WELL elapsed. The beginning of August, this year, I informed the owner of AMP of what I believed at the time to be a grievous oversight, and what is, legally, a Copyright violation, and requested she remove my books from sale, as I no longer wished them to be
published by Aspen Mountain Press.  She ignored my certified letter (it came back unclaimed), and also the corresponding e-mails.  It is now mid-October.  In a little over 3 weeks, the period to cure (correct) the breaches she has committed against me will
ALSO have elapsed.

No, I am sorry, Madam Publisher, but you DO have an obligation to respond in a timely manner.  You are running a business, and
your personal issues have no place in your business dealings.  You have an obligation to hold up your end of the contracts you entered into with your authors, and to correct the errors (and yes, you HAVE made some rather large ones) you’ve made in regards to your business.

As to the threats you claim to have received: helpful warnings of legal action in regards to your lack of willingness to properly run your business are NOT threats.  Charles Wells was spot-on when he warned you that failure to redress the issues you’ve created will end in a sticky legal situation for you.  I’m not threatening — I’m stating fact, as I’ve already personally begun to set the wheels in motion regarding this, since you are violating my legally protected Copyrights, at this moment, by continuing to sell IN HER NAME and HOPE OF HEAVEN without a valid contract.  In less than a month, you will also be in violation of my Copyright for SHADOW WALKER, but I see no further point in waiting to address this issue. I’ve allowed you to get away with this illegal activity far too long, already.

“(Author) Can you please explain why you intend holding on to authors that have lost faith in AMP?

(Publisher) Losing faith in a company does not void a contract. Any business matters are between the author and AMP. If the author wishes to make those matters public, they will. I won’t violate their privacy in that way. It is their own decision.”

Actually, it can.  Many independent contractors will revoke contracts with companies that prove themselves to be performing
illegal actions or engaged in illegal operations, in order to keep their own businesses from being linked to any negative press.  Also, if you look at the stock market and customer contracts dropped after the recent Netflix fiascos, you’ll see quite plainly that losing faith in a company is the PRIMARY reason a contractor, customer, or other business ceases to do business with a particular
company.  AMP’s contract specifically states that if a breaching party fails, within a set amount of time, to cure
the breach, the contract automatically terminates.  Pretty clear to me.  The Publisher has been informed, in writing,
as proscribed by the contract, of a list of breaches to said contract (in my case, two books are being sold WITHOUT a contract) by numerous authors.  As her time period for these notifications expire, one after another, with no redress in sight, these contracts actually void themselves, leaving Aspen Mountain Press in the unenviable position of selling a slew of books that violate Copyright law.

” (Author)Do you intend paying royalties AND supplying sales statements in toto as per the contract? When can those owed money expect to be paid?

(Publisher) Yes, I will be paying royalties and statements, but as of the moment they are on the back burner as I deal with all the other threats to the company, and the requests to relinquish contracts.”

Again, entirely unacceptable.  I, too, run a sole-proprietorship business.  If I fail to pay my vendors, they would send me to collections.  AMP’s contract states a specific window of time in which royalties MUST be paid.  Failure to do so is a breach of contract.  One cannot just put paying one’s vendors (which an author is, in the case that they have entered into an agreement to
provide a book for the publisher to sell, in return for a percentage of the profits of said sale) “on the back burner.”  This is poor business practice, at very least, and skates the line of criminal fraud.

Personally, I don’t really care about my royalties.  If I did, I would be pursuing all of the money owed me for the sales of
my out-of-contract works over the last year (since the contracts expired, it is my understanding that ALL monies collected on these works belong to me, as the Publisher has no viable contract to sell or collect money on them.  If there’s an attorney out there with
evidence otherwise, please… I’m interested to hear your thoughts).  But I’m not worried about the money.  What I want are my out-of-contract works removed from sale, ASAP, and the one book that’s nearly reached expiration released from the small remainder of its contract and also removed from sale.  I want the Publisher to apologize, in writing, to me, for having sold my books without a valid contract for a year.  I want her to admit her culpability in this matter, because her constant denial that she’s done
anything wrong is not healthy for her, and is insulting to me and all the other authors she’s harmed.

“(Publisher)Having been an author, I know the return of my intellectual property is more important than anything else.”

You’ll all have to pardon my profanity, here, because this comment literally makes steam come out of my ears.  This statement is a
crock of shit.  If Intellectual Property rights meant ANYTHING to AMP’s owner, she would have seen to it that expired
contracts were taken care of ASAP.  At very least, as soon as she was informed of the violation, she would have immediately responded by following directions and removing the books in question from sale.

Since the beginning of October, AMP’s site has been down (until just the other day) for some supposed technical issues (I’m not a techie… I’m not going to dispute that one, though I admit to some personal skepticism).  How difficult would it have been, now that she’s been informed in both postal, e-mail, AND through the Publisher’s forum, of the continued violation of Copyright law, for her to remove those books being illegally sold BEFORE bringing the site back online?  My gut says not hard at all.  However, the site is back up, and… yep, you guessed it.  My two expired books are STILL for sale on the site.

“(Publisher) That said, I would seriously consider how much attorney fees cost and weigh them against what I believe I’m owed.”

I’m owed my legal rights to my books, to take them wherever I please.  This Publisher, as an author, knows how actively I was  involved in pursuing authors’ rights (including my own) back when Triskelion Publishing folded.  We were fighting the bankruptcy court, then, and I refused to back down.  Even if everyone else had backed out, I would have continued to fight, because my rights  are THE most important thing to me.  I don’t care HOW much it costs me to pursue this.  I am owed the decency of being treated with professional courtesy, honesty, and dignity.  I am owed the decency of being listened to when I address a legal issue that should have been resolved a year ago.  I am owed so much more than money.  In my mind, this statement outlines nothing
more than the Publisher’s greed.  I do NOT respond well to being threatened like this, when I know that I am legally
in the right.  All it does is make me dig my heels in further, and fight harder, for what I know to be right.

The United States of America told me that I own these works I created with my own hands, when I registered
my Copyrights.  I entered into an agreement to allow Aspen Mountain Press the right to publish and promote them,
for a period of time.  That time has elapsed.  According to the laws of the United States of America, that makes ME the SOLE owner of those rights, again.  And that makes any attempt to sell,  distribute, or otherwise promote them without my express, written permission, illegal.

That’s my stand, and I’ll take it in the witness box, if I have to.  I don’t care what it costs me, so quit trying to intimidate me — I learned as a child that a bully can only hurt me if I LET them.  And I’m not about to let this happen.

See you in court.

PS — All reprinted comments here come from a loop recently deemed “not for meetings” by the Publisher ( sic “I’d
like to tell the members here that this is not a business MEETING loop. I’ve posted a few announcements in the past, and participated in some general chat, but I don’t use this for meeting purposes.”
), and therefore, by extension, taken by me to imply that the loop in question is merely for chatter, and therefore basically public (it’s hosted by Yahoo, with no specific privacy expectations  attached).