Raider Publishing’s UK Operation Falls on Sword of ASA

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint it received about Green Shore Publishing, a paid-publishing service imprint of Raider Publishing International (RPI), and published the findings of its adjudicating council last week. RPI and it’s CEO and founder Adam Salviani were also the subject of a recent investigation by BBC Radio 4’s consumer rights programme, You & Yours. TIPM covered the full details of this programme here, including news that Salviani happily gave a BBC interview (to answer a series of author complaints against RPI) without alerting the You & Yours team to the fact that he would file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the New York courts just 24 hours later.

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published its findings on October 8th and upheld a consumer complaint on all three issues under investigation. The ASA is an independent regulator for standards in advertising across all media in the UK. During the investigation, the ASA communicated with Green Shore Publishing (GSP) with very mixed results. GSP, with a virtual office in London, is not listed as a registered company in the UK, and TIPM understands that the Inland Revenue has been informed in this matter.

The core of the complaint was that GSP featured video testimonials, radio ads and listed books by authors which were fake, misleading or simply didn’t exist. You can more background to this case here and here. After five months since launch, RPI’s UK operation to entrap British and Irish authors looks to have fallen on the sword of the ASA.

Full ASA report:
Green Shore Publishing
86-90 Paul Street
London
EC2A 4NE

Date:  8 October 2014            

Media: Internet (on own site)            

Sector: Publishing            

Number of complaints: 1            

Agency: None            

Complaint Ref: A14-274117

            

Background

Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
 

Ad

Claims on the “Publish With GSP” page on www.greenshorepublishing.com stated “HIGH QUALITY PRODUCTION … Not only will your book be comprehensively edited, formatted and designed, but it will be printed and distributed with the highest standards of quality in mind. Below we’ve included some of the high quality covers from several of our recent releases”. Underneath were pictures of three book covers. Further text stated “INNOVATIVE PROMOTION … Not only will be [sic] pushing our retail partners to feature your book, but we’ll introduce your book to potential readers in other ways. We offer radio ads … Below are two examples of ads that have recently aired”. Underneath were links to two audio files labelled “The Last Stand” and “The Heart Grows”. Claims on the “Reviews” page stated “REVIEWS From Authors We’ve included a few video testimonials from UK authors …”. The page included video files headed “Jack”, “Clive” and “Richard” in which they spoke about the service they received from Green Shore Publishing.
 

Issue

An internet user challenged whether:
1. the claim “Below we’ve included some of the high quality covers from several of our recent releases” and the pictures of the book covers, were misleading and could be substantiated, because they understood the book titles did not exist;
2. the claim “Below are two examples of [radio] ads that have recently aired” was misleading and could be substantiated, because they believed the ads had not been broadcast; and
3. the testimonials by “Jack”, “Clive” and “Richard” were genuine and could be substantiated.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

Response

1. Green Shore Publishing did not respond to this point.
2. Green Shore Publishing said the radio ads were simply examples of the type of work they could produce for their clients. They said they could add text to the page to make that clear.
3. Green Shore Publishing said they were unable to disclose information about their authors for reasons of privacy. However, if there was an issue with the testimonials, they would remove them from the website.
 

Assessment

1. Upheld
The ASA noted we had not seen evidence to show that the book titles and covers were genuine or that the books had been published. We considered that the claim “Below we’ve included some of the high quality covers from several of our recent releases” and the pictures of the book covers, had not been substantiated and were therefore misleading and breached the Code.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
2. Upheld
We understood that the radio ads on the website were intended to show the kind of advertising Green Shore Publishing believed they were capable of creating for clients, rather than actual examples of work already produced for their authors. However, the claim stated that the ads had “recently aired”, which gave the impression that they were authentic radio ads that had been broadcast. Because that was not the case, we considered that the claim “Below are two examples of [radio] ads that have recently aired” was misleading.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
3. Upheld
The CAP Code requires marketers to hold documentary evidence to show that testimonials used in their advertising are genuine. The Code also requires advertisers to hold contact details for the person who gave the testimonial in order, if necessary, for the ASA to check their validity. Green Shore Publishing did not provide that information, which we considered was a breach of the Code, and because we saw no evidence to support the video testimonials of “Jack”, “Clive” and “Richard”, we considered the testimonials had not been substantiated and were therefore misleading.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.45 and 3.47 (Endorsements and testimonials).
 

Action

The claims and pictures must not appear again in their current form. We told Green Shore Publishing to ensure that they hold robust evidence to support claims in their advertising.
GSP has since removed the video testimonials from its website, though the ‘examples’ of radio ads remain. The few books on its website are not listed as available with any retailer GSP cites it supplies: Eason, WH Smith and Amazon UK. TIPM has been in contact with one of RPI/GSP’s distributors—and while not wishing to publicly comment on commercial accounts—its legal department is aware of this on-going matter.
TIPM began to receive negative comments and direct correspondence from current and previous RPI authors of a negative nature in 2009. No company in existence, no matter what line of business, doesn’t get complaints. Things go wrong. Dedicated and reputable companies address those complaints directly and implements policies and improvements to reduce complaints and enhance customer satisfaction. When a few complaints turn from a trickle to a steady flow, and those authors—over a lengthy period of time—report no resolution, or worse, continued deterioration, then that suggests a serious problem with a company. When other colleagues in the publishing business also begin to report the same flow of complaints about one particular company, and consumer websites across the Internet begin to fill with similar reports (ripoffreport.com, scambook.com, reviewstalk.com, scaminformer.com and BBB.org) you begin to get a bad smell in your nostrils. You will find more than 150 lodged complaints. Bear in mind that RPI has only published 700 titles in nine years and claims books sales of $1.5 million. There is no evidence that RPI’s UK imprint Green Shore Publishing has ever published a single title since it was launched earlier this year.
What now for Raider Publishing International authors?
Right now the whole situation looks a right mess. Salviani has filed for personal bankruptcy, but it must be stressed that both RPI and GSP continue to maintain websites flouting services that clearly cannot be provided. The BBC consumer rights programme You & Yours featured an interview with Salviani and it is very clear from this that he has no intention of financially recompensing authors who take legal action outside the USA and win their cases. UK author Geoff Rouse is still waiting for the 1800 pounds he was awarded. RPI has not published a book in almost a year and no GSP titles exist.
What do former and current Raider Publishing International authors do now? It’s a common question I am asked. Truthfully, unless you are prepared to take on the expense of a legal case within the USA system (and in most cases the cost will outweigh the potential recompense awarded if you are successful), then your priority should be getting out of the contract and publishing elsewhere. The last RPI contact I read outlined three circumstances for this:
  1. If RPI did not publish your book within 365 days, then the contract was deemed to be breached by the publisher.
  2. You can sit out the painful five year term of the contract and then go elsewhere.
  3. The third option is the real wish-washy one in the contract. It is what is called ‘mutual consent’ of both parties. This is where both parties agree to sever ties. The trouble with the RPI contact (at least the most recent one I have seen) is that it’s not fully clear if a written consent communication is needed from RPI depending on the circumstances.
The last point is the most contentious one. Authors have reported—even after release by Raider—that their books continue to be sold through RPI’s distribution channels without royalty payments. Authors need to remember that a book’s withdrawal from distribution is not—and cannot be—instant. Removal from distribution channels from one particular publisher takes time because there is a slow filtering and update of databases from printer to distributor to retailer. While RPI and many paid publishing services use POD (print-on-demand), it can be complicated by the existence of initial small digital print runs of 50 to 100 books and the fact that retailers like Amazon are not wholly in control of listings by third-party retailers. There is a big difference between a POD-produced book being listed by an online retailer and a real order being fulfilled to a customer’s doorstep. You may see your RPI title listed for sale by an online retailer, but that doesn’t mean the book is being printed and shipped when a customer tries to place an order for it.
TIPM will continue to keep abreast of this unfortunate saga.

Mick Rooney – Publishing Consultant

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