Friday, January 31, 2014

WinePress Publishing: Scandal-Plagued Self-Publishing Service Closes Its Doors

 Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

An article in PW last week caught my eye
WinePress Publishing, a Christian self-publishing company, has closed its doors, according to an announcement yesterday on the company’s Web site. The house had been plagued in recent years with accusations of fraud, complaints from authors and former employees, and financial problems. WinePress itself had filed a number of lawsuits against its critics and unhappy authors.

Last May, WinePress staff member Malcolm Fraser was convicted on two counts of first-degree child rape and two counts of first-degree molestation of a child. Fraser was a staff member of WinePress Publishing and a pastor of Sound Doctrine Church in Enumclaw, Wash., which owns WinePress. Fraser avowed his innocence, as did WinePress executive publisher Timothy Williams, who retired as senior pastor from Sound Doctrine Church five years ago and stated that no church funds had been used in Fraser’s defense.
WinePress's announcement is here.

The PW article goes on to detail alleged improper use of funds--Timothy Williams and his family were apparently drawing six-figure salaries while authors, employees and vendors weren't getting paid--as well as lawsuit threats by company staff to authors who questioned or complained.

WinePress attributes its demise to "a continuing onslaught of destructive lies and gossip"--but wow, check out this WinePress-owned website (the URL is registered to Williams and Sound Doctrine) that's almost entirely devoted to discrediting WinePress co-founder Athena Dean, who blew the whistle on accounting irregularities and claims she was forced out of the company by Williams.

WinePress was also aggressive in pursuing its critics. It sued Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, accusing him of defamation for giving it a poor rating (it lost). It threatened literary agent Chip McGregor after he made a comment on Facebook, accusing him of being part of a conspiracy to interfere with its business.

The child rape accusations, as well as concerns that Sound Doctrine Church functions like a cult, add a sensational aspect to this tale--but otherwise it's a sadly familiar story. Greedy owners appropriate company funds while stiffing authors and attempting to silence critics, and run the company into the ground. Where have we heard that before?

Much of WinePress's website still remains online, including its bizarre "No Gossip Policy" (which I'll bet was enacted to plug staff leaks about company problems) and its list of company advantages, which claims, among other things, that "Your book will gain respect and credibility."

WinePress authors are also being offered the opportunity to port their book projects to Deep River Books (formerly VMI Publishers)--another expensive Christian "partner" (a.k.a. fee-charging) publisher that, among other things, runs writing contests that result in solicitations to buy its services.
We realize that most of you have already invested thousands of dollars in the process. It is understandable if you feel angry or frustrated. Our goal is to offer our publishing services in the least expensive way possible to help you finish your book.
Deep River says it isn't receiving any kind of financial consideration from WinePress, and that there's no connection between the two companies:
[P]lease understand that Deep River Books is not being paid any money by WinePress....We are not the agents of WinePress nor do we have any formal connection with them. They decided to endorse us simply because we are a Christian publishing company that offered to assist their authors to the best of our ability.
However, I can't help wondering whether the consideration might be going the other way--whether WinePress might have been promised a percentage or a finder's fee.

10 comments:

Tadd Mencer said...

It's sad how many people operate under the title "Christian" but who are, in acts and deeds, not Christian one bit.

Victoria Strauss said...

The Christian publishing world is rife with schemes and scams--in large part, I think, because Christian writers are more willing to trust those who self-identify as Christian.

Bill Peschel said...

A report elsewhere on Winepress suggested that they should not be called a "self-publishing service." That they were a vanity press. (There were suspicions that PW catergorized them that way to tar indy publishers).

Norman Walford said...

Overall they did a pretty good job for me with my book over the last 3 years. Certainly I raised occasional eyebrow over constant extra add-on charges of various types, but figure that's the way it works.
Other than that they were pretty professional and the book was produced to a high standard.
Where next? Any suggestions?

Victoria Strauss said...

Bill--I visited WinePress's website a number of times before it closed, and in my opinion, it was a self-publishing service--similar to the Author Solutions self-pub services. It was overpriced and problem-plagued, but unlike most vanity presses, it was open about its fees and service, and didn't make claims of selectivity.

Anonymous said...

Faith can be stranger than fiction, and more fictional than fiction. Faith in faith-professing organizations without evidenced-based justification for that faith is folly. But a faith-based and faith-professing organization that has proven itself as worthy of faith is another matter. The faith should be earned by actions and track record. The lesson: authors should strip faith in faith out of their decision making, and instead place their faith in organizations that deserve it by their deeds.

P. David Gardner said...

Wholly crap! Authors paid nearly $15K for the "whole shebang." Writing a check for that much for an ebook that you could just as easily self publish for free takes a whole lot of "faith" all right.

This Christian-on-Christian ripoff mentality, combined with their tactics of intimidation and threats of lawsuits, makes WinePress seem like one of the more egregious vamity "publishers" around.

Actually, it sounds as if they took more than a few pages from the Scientology playbook as a business model.

Standback said...

Oh dear g-d, the "No Gossip Policy." Because every reputable selfpub service needs a big "Please do not say bad things about us or our authors" banner on their website.

In light of this success, they might also wish to consider a "No Fraud Policy" or perhaps a "No Child Molestation Policy." These policies may encourage an uplifting atmosphere!

Anonymous said...

Over 100 WinePress authors are networking on a Facebook group sharing harrowing stories of deception/fraud done since new leadership took over in 2005: Overcharging,many books paid for & not published,&royalties not paid or fudged for years. Go to Chip Macgregor Literary agents January and February blog posts on the WinePress publishing closing and read the over 200 comments section to hear real stories of authors, editors and Sound Doctrine church former members - will make your hair stand on end!Any WP authors read the comments and find Heather Randall's comment to learn how to join the Facebook page- WP authors only! http://www.chipmacgregor.com/current-affairs/last-last-word-winepress/#disqus_thread

Victoria Strauss said...

Adding linkage to the comment above: http://www.chipmacgregor.com/current-affairs/last-last-word-winepress/#disqus_thread