EXCLUSIVE: Lawsuit Filed Against Vantage Press and Former Owner

Regular readers of TIPM will be aware that we have been following the developments of Vantage Press and its authors since the US-based publishing service company first announced a suspension of business and then ultimately ceased all business operations in December 2012, when it communicated its closure to creditors.

Throughout much of 2013, TIPM consistently heard from many contracted authors of Vantage Press completely unaware the business had ceased operations, leaving them and their books left high and dry; books completed and in distribution channels, while other authors were still awaiting publication of books they had paid a fee for. Indeed, Ingram, one Vantage Press distributor, had already ended its contract with the publisher at the end of 2012. There are currently 70+ authors, who are members of the Vantage Press Authors Support Group on Facebook, and many of them have lost thousands of pounds from the defunct publisher.
The Massachusetts law firm, Marvin Cable, acting on behalf of former Vantage Press author David Watkins, have initiated legal proceedings against the publisher and it’s former president, David Lamb with the Superior Court of Massachusetts, citing violation of the Consumer Protection Act, G.L. c.93A. In a legal complaint document of 80 pages (available to view here), the law firm names Vantage Press and David Lamb as defendants and alleges ‘deceptive business practices of not disclosing facts that would have influenced Plaintiff from not entering into an agreement’ and that the publisher should have disclosed the financial status of the business and likelihood of it not being able to fulfil its obligations under the contract. Documents provided by Marvin Cable indicate that Vantage Press were still assuring the plaintiff that they could fulfil their obligations just weeks before the publisher ceased operations. Under ‘Cause of Action’ and perhaps more seriously, the documents state that ‘LAMB used the corporate entity, VANTAGE, as a vehicle to make money for personal gain, and used VANTAGE as a shield from personal liability.’
The documents also refer to a settlement offer made by David Lamb’s lawyer which was ‘nowhere near the actual loss WATKINS suffered.’ Author David Watkins paid Vantage Press a fee of $9,450 for publication of his book of poetry and is claiming damages of $28,350 plus legal costs.
Some of you will be aware of the current class action lawsuit by three authors against Author Solutions (ASI) and Penguin (you can read extensively about this on the link) which reached New York courts last year, and is still ongoing. While I am not drawing specific comparisons between the two cases, apart from the fact that the two cases involve a self-publishing services provider; it strikes me that this one is a little different. The ASI/Penguin case is very much about how publishing services were presented and carried out, whereas this case against Vantage Press specifically focuses on unfair business practices (under consumer protection code Mass 93A) rather than breaches of contract issues. The author in this case never had services clearly executed for the fee paid, unlike ASI/Penguin.

I’ve made a similar point on such cases elsewhere on TIPM. That is—authors and their legal representatives tend to sue publishing services companies in the same way as a publisher, and that doesn’t always prove successful. Contracting a service, any service, should be seen as a transaction undertaken by a consumer.

We will follow this case on TIPM as it unfolds.   

Mick Rooney – Publishing Consultant

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