Me and My Best Friend: When Publishing Goes Bad

For me, there has only been one story in publishing over the past few days, and it is this one, about Leo Hunter, six years of age, signing a 23 book deal with a US publisher. I didn’t get the chance to dig deep enough when the story first broke (supposedly) when I posted about it here and on also on Facebook on Friday. The UK media piece most commentators have focused on was in the Daily Mirror newspaper. The real revelations about this story have been filling the blogosphere for the past few days, but I’ve yet to see one actually link to where this whirlwind first began. If you were only to follow the UK media who covered the story, you could be forgiven for believing ‘Me and My Best Friend’ by J. S. Huntlands had just been published this week. It wasn’t, and this torrid little saga, and the real author behind it, has actually been on the map with this particular book since July 2009, when it was first published by Strategic Book Publishing.
Firstly, let’s deal with the source of the Daily Mirror story. It’s penned by Rod Chaytor, but like some national news stories, it was ‘lifted’ from a provincial piece written the day before by Paul Whyatt in This is Derbyshire. This is a provincial newspaper in the UK where Jamie Hunter lives. Who is Jamie Hunter? Ah, here’s the rub. She is Leo Hunter’s mother, an author of one book published by AuthorHouse in 2008 called ‘Nick: Twisted Minds’, a self-published and heart-felt story of domestic violence. Who wrote ‘Nick: Twisted Minds’? Well, officially, J. S. Huntlands, but you see, Huntlands is the pseudonym of Jamie Hunter. Where things start to get a little muddled is that the children’s book penned by Leo Hunter, aged 6, is also officially authored by J. S. Huntlands. But that’s ok, because in the Mirror piece Jamie Hunter says:

“He’s so young that he is not allowed to sign a contract with the publishers. It’s unfortunate because it means his name doesn’t get to go on the book, but we make sure everyone we know realises that he is the author.”

Really, Jamie? In the introduction to the book, you say:

“Thank you to my son for the inspiration to write this series.”

OK, he provided the ‘inspiration’ and chat that led you to write this book, but he is not the author of the book, no more than I am or JK Rowling is. Jamie Hunter also says she sent the book to JK Rowling. Her son is certainly at six years of age seeing the lights of stardom. In the media piece, he is quoted as saying:

I like Harry Potter but I like my books even more. I would like to be more famous than JK Rowling and even more famous than Cheryl Cole and Simon Cowell.

Jamie said her son comes up with ideas for a basic plot – for example, a boy who gets lost – and then she helps him make notes that help him write the story.

She said: “He’s very bossy and tells me exactly how he wants the front page to look like and how the illustrations should appear.

Here is what the back blurb says on ‘Me and My Friends’:

“J. S. Huntlands is the author of Nick Twisted Minds and is currently working on more books in this series as well as 23 more books in the Me and My Best Friends Series.

Huntlands is a full-time writer as well as mom to a wonderful four-year-old boy.”

Take careful note of the age – not six, now it is four years of age.

‘Me and My Best Friends’ was actually first published in July 2009 by vanity publisher, Strategic Book Publishing, now under a lawsuit by Florida’s Attorney General’s Office, and the publishing group it is run by is headed up by Robert M. Fletcher, vanity publisher and literary agent scammer.

Strategic Book Publishing has also goofed up on the book’s product description on Amazon – it is for a completely different book! 

I am trying to be kind here to one of Fletcher’s authors, but she has got sucked into his publishing scam as well as fooling herself into being one of his represented authors in his other literacy agency scams, but she has done herself no favours now – in the past week – or in the past year. This is Jamie posting (spamming) Making Light, a literary blog last year where Fletcher and Strategic Book Publishing were being discussed.

#14 ::: JS Huntlands ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 08:08 AM:

Set in today’s day and time, Me and My Best Friend is about a young boy, his faithful companion and their exciting adventures.

Henry and Liam are the best of friends and they do everything together. They can run and play all day long. But when Henry the puppy gets tired and tries to take a nap, three-year-old Liam keeps waking him, wanting him to play some more. Will Henry get any rest?

Get your children involved with this beautifully illustrated book. Your child will love to match up words and pictures, and find Liam, who keeps hiding in his bedroom. Perfect for the young reader!

About the Author

J.S. Huntlands is the author of Nick Twisted Minds and is currently working on more books in this series, as well as 23 more books in the Me and My Best Friend series. Huntlands is a full-time writer, as well as a mom to a wonderful four-year-old boy. This book is dedicated to her son in hopes that he never forgets his best friend.

Resident writer James D. MacDonald reacted to the above posting:

#23 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 10:22 AM:

If you Google on “Set in today’s day and time, Me and My Best Friend” you’ll get over 900 hits for this particular comment spam.

She’s trying hard….

What she needs to do now is get in touch with the Florida Attorney General and hope that she can get restitution.

#30 ::: JS Huntlands ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2010, 07:23 AM:


What can I say? You have strong views. Thank you for the advise.

No I didn’t read this before signing the contract with AEG. I got rid of my website as my 12 months for free ran out and AEG offered a free web site. (good idea at the time)

I don’t have 1000’s of books in my house but, AEG do try to make you have x amount on hand. I own one of each of my books. I have been though a rough time but still no excuse for typo’s (typed for you Joel Polowin,) or not doing my homework. There are 100’s and 1000’s of publisher’s out there. It’s not so easy finding the right one for you.

On the plus side for me though I did sign a ‘traditional contract’ So publishing cost me nothing. The advertising however can be very costly with nothing in return. Hence I have done it myself. Ie: live radio shows, newspaper reports. The blogging. I thought a great way to get out there. Clearly not such a great idea. Thank you again for your thoughts

Interestingly on, we also have the following:

What books does jk rowling like?

Nick Twisted Minds written by J. S. Huntlands.
Her children like Me and My Best Friend also written by J. S. Huntlands 

Somehow, I don’t think it was JK who supplied this answer! Ms Hunter has been a very busy girl with her marketing steamroller.

And I don’t think Jamie Hunter learned anything from James’ advice from all accounts in the last week. Somewhere in here should have been the story of a woman experiencing domestic violence and finding hope in the words she wrote in a book, but along the way, it got messed up in a vanity dream, and somehow, a wonderful, bright and creative kid got mixed up in that dream too. He should never have been a part of it, and I’m baffled as to why Jamie Hunter choose to involve her son in her own literary ambitions.

I have no doubt what he has experienced with mom over the past couple of years could make him the next JK Rowling or Stephen King, but right now he isn’t, and shouldn’t be, and for the UK media or the people who love him to expect that, would be grossly unfair. We must live our lives as adults, and leave our children to dream theirs.

This story is also building up some steam over on AbsoluteWrite.

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