Okay, so I lied… I guess we’re still living with the fun-filled antics of those wacky WinePress people. Just in case you’re following the story (and you can get the whole thing in my previous post), let me offer a handful of quick updates.
1. WinePress is out of business. Or it’s not. Or it is. Seems like they can’t decide. They posted on their website that “the time has come to end” — which surprised exactly nobody, since the time to end probably came when they started not producing the books authors had paid for. But then they sent out an email saying they weren’t out of business, things were in “a state of flux,” and that authors could still get their books. Then it changed, and they were out of business after all. Then… well, you get the picture. Like most everything else at WinePress, pinning down the truth can be a bit tricky.
2. Remarkably, they’re asking authors for more money. Um… you might find this hard to believe, but in their most recent email to authors, they shared a link which asks authors to send them money in order to get their book files back. This from a company that is being accused by many of having taken their money (I personally talked with a woman who says she sent them $17,000 and received nothing; another who said she sent them more than $12,000 and got no books). So as far as I can figure out, the new line goes like this: “Hey, suckers… You think you haven’t sent me enough dough yet? I got an idea… send me some MORE. Trust me, it’ll be fine.” Anyone who falls for that should have his or her head examined. And I’ve heard from more than one source that a Class Action suit is going to be filed against them. You know the old saying — you take one person’s money, it’s a mistake; you take a bunch of people’s money, it’s fraud. I don’t know what former authors are planning, but I can’t see anyone sending them another dime.
3. They owe a LOT of money. As in, a HUGE amount. According to papers shown online, they’re behind in their building and warehouse rent hundreds of thousands of dollars. The employees have been let go. My point: These folks may not be a great risk to be sending money to.
4. They continue to deny they’ve got an obsession with their founder, Athena Dean. But, uh, check out their hardtruth.us website. The headlines: Athena Dean Initiates Setup of Malcolm Fraser, Athena Dean Steals $20,000 of Property, Athena Dean’s Legal Lies, Athena Dean’s Hate Crime in the Making, Athena Dean: The Sociopath Next Door. The last time I saw people this obsessed with one person might have been when I was standing behind teenage girls at a Justin Bieber concert. (Okay… I was never really at a Justin Bieber concert.)
5. Speaking of Athena Dean, the founder of WinePress, she started a new company, and has all the old WinePress files. I first heard this in my “comments” section, and found it hard to believe, but it turns out it’s true. Athena has started something called Redemption Press. The odd thing (well, it was odd to me) is that she has all the old WinePress files. I checked into it, and here’s the story I was told: The person who owns the building WinePress was in got tired of waiting for them to pay their bill, and after months of waiting, locked them out. According to him, the property left in the building can be confiscated by the landlord and sold, in order to help cover the costs of the unpaid rent. So he took the computer files and gave them to Athena Dean, asking her to help out the authors. I asked Athena about this via email, and she said she had checked with an attorney, who told her this was legal. So she has offered to GIVE WINEPRESS AUTHORS THEIR FILES BACK, or to have them pay $391 so as to get a new ISBN, have the WinePress logo removed, and get the book uploaded and back into distribution. (Let’s be clear: I am not here to take her part, or recommend Athena’s new company to authors. Just to let people know what’s going on. I saw that WinePress had sent out an email claiming that Athena has stolen the files, that she has access to their credit card numbers, and that — I don’t know, that she was carving pentagrams in the carpet and tossing a goat’s head in the middle, probably. By this time, practically everything I see from WinePress I dismiss as utter bullshit.) Hey, I’ll understand if an author doesn’t want to work with Athena due to her long association with WinePress Publishing… but if you can go to her and get your files back for free, that seems like a reasonable solution.
6. In a weird move, the WinePress website sent authors to Deep River Books. Weird because Bill Carmichael, the very nice gentleman who owns Deep River Books, doesn’t know the folks at WinePress, is not a part of their church, and really doesn’t want anything to do with this entire debacle. But he’s well connected to the Christian publishing scene, and when I talked to him on the phone, he told me he has been talking to numerous authors just to try and help them out. So let me be clear about something: Bill is a good guy, who has nothing to do with the charlatans at WinePress, and shouldn’t catch any grief for them posting a link to his site on their page. If you contact him, be nice.
7. Several people have asked me why I’m doing this. I mean, I’m not usually the crusading journalist. But I’ve been ticked that this was happening, and authors were getting screwed, and people seemed to know, but nobody wanted to talk about it. I feel the same way when I hear about some schmuck claiming to be an agent, but then he or she gives lousy advice and screws up an author’s career — that’s just not how things should happen in this business. (And there’s a difference… when an agent gives bad service, he or she is usually doing it for free. It can still screw up an author’s writing career, but the author isn’t paying for the privilege. When someone is charging for service and outright cheating an author, that’s another story, and it needs to be hauled out into the light. It’s why I hate when so-called “agents” working in CBA do things like charge for career counseling, or run a sketchy editorial company as a side business. I love this business, and proud of what I do — so maybe I’m just tired of seeing people damaged.) Where were the watchdogs? Why didn’t someone at CBA or ECPA or someplace like that look into the claims and do some policing? The facts at WinePress are pretty clear — they were tied to a church that many people consider a cult, they were run by the senior pastor of that church, they were turned over to the associate pastor who was then arrested and convicted of raping a child in the congregation, they have taken the part of the child rapist and have virulently attacked those who condemned him, they were accused by many clients of taking money and not delivering the contracted product, they have been accused by both customers as well as employees of the business of using bullying and harassing tactics, they’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to attack the woman who founded the company in what is clearly a vindictive show of force, they apparently have not paid their bills and owe a number of people large sums of money, they have used slanted facts and occasionally outright lies on countless occasions, usually complete with numerous bible verses to offer a veneer of spirituality, and it turns out they were nothing more than a funding vehicle for an oddball religious group.
That’s why I’m not very friendly to the people who say things like, “There are two sides to every story” or “we need to be kind to these folks even if they made a mistake.” Sorry, but my patience with this is at an end. The other day, one of the followers of their weird little group wrote a comment on my blog, claiming that Athena Dean had accused the senior pastor of the church of killing his wife to collect the insurance money. I looked into that. I can’t find a single instance of Athena Dean ever saying that. In fact, I hate bringing it up, since it’s nothing more than a scurrilous accusation to get people off the real topic. But that’s the sort of crap they pull — using lies and accusations and threats to make them seem like they are the victims. Sure, there were some authors who actually got their books done with WinePress, or writers who met the former president and thought he was perfectly normal. But that’s like the neighbor of the most recent mall shooter going on TV to say, “But he was always such a nice boy…” Good grief, people. How much evidence does it take? The former prez is in jail for raping a child. The leader of the group is still defending him. The landlord has locked them out for not paying their rent. There are former employees telling stories of harassment and intimidation. There’s a list of authors as long as your arm claiming they paid money, sometimes thousands of dollars, and didn’t get their books. I know editors who did work for them and are now saying they didn’t get paid. And it’s all in support of a separatistic religious group who cult watchdogs say to be wary of. How much more evidence you need?
The jerks at WinePress don’t need your sympathy — the victims of their business do. I’m happy to help get the word out.