Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Authorhouse Loses Libel Suit

Talk about the ex-husband from hell.

Today's Publishers Weekly had an article about a libel case brought against vanity press Authorhouse by bestselling romance author, Rebecca Brandewyne. A Kansas jury found in Brandewyne's favor, awarding her $230,000 in actual damages as well as an unspecified amount in punitive damages to be determined in a hearing on May 25th.

A really interesting aspect of the case was Authorhouse's contention that they could not be held responsible since their contract states they assume no responsibility or liability for claims arising from publication. Brandewyne's attorney argued that, since Gary Brock (one of the two authors and Brandewyne's ex-husband) had informed Authorhouse that another publisher had turned the manuscript down due to concerns about libel, the vanity press should have vetted it more carefully.

This verdict was the final chapter in a long-running and bitter divorce battle between Brandewyne and her ex-husband. Almost exactly a year ago, on May 18, 2005, Brock was convicted of filing a false police report. The judge ruled that Brock planted a fake bomb on his porch on March 15, 2003, and then called the police at 3 AM to report finding the device and seeing his ex-wife's car drive away from the scene.

When investigators went to Brandewyne's house, her car did not appear to have been driven. Turning their attention back to Brock, they searched his house and garage. They found materials similar to those in the fake bomb as well as a receipt for end caps similar to those on the fake pipe bomb.

District Judge David Kaufman sentenced Brock to one hundred days in county jail.

While the criminal case was still pending, Brandewyne sued Brock for libel. The lawsuit claimed that Brock had written a book called Paperback Poison: The Romance Writer and the Hit Man, which contained "numerous false, malicious and defamatory statements" about her and John Cox, her current husband. The book alleged that Brandewyne plagiarized, committed adultery and hired a hit man to kill Brock. The suit named Brock, a subsequent wife and Author Solutions (later Authorhouse).

According to The Wichita Eagle, "the book was offered for sale on the company's Web site from November 4 [2003] through January 30 [2004], but that no copies were ordered during that time." Today's Publishers Weekly reported that "Authorhouse claims 74 copies of Paperback Poison in total were printed, 21 were given to the author, three were sold, and the company destroyed the 50 copies they had remaining in stock after receiving complaints about the book..."

Authorhouse may appeal the case after the May 25th hearing fixes the punitive damages.


Sherrill Quinn said...

Oy vay. The man sounds like a wacko--come on, planting a bomb on his porch and trying to fix blame on his ex?


Emjay said...

I always plant bombs, especially fake ones, and then call the police.

I mean, who doesn't??

That whole scenario might make an interesting book. She definitely married a nut case.

The most interesting aspect is how much liability those 'publish for money' houses have for their products.

If this case causes them to have to be more vigilant about vetting the books they publish, it will definitely affect this industry.

It will affect the cost of self-publishing, which is pretty reasonable right now. I like that. I know at least 3 people, a couple of whom are decent writers, who wanted to hold their books in their hands, and spent the relatively small amount of money to do so.

Also, the people who want to publish a family history or a life story can do it without breaking the bank.

Those places don't take responsibility for a misplaced comma or incorrect scenario in the books, but this is a big issue.

Maybe this case should have raised more red flags to the publisher.

But, let's face it NOBODY bought the book and NOBODY read it.

This is the average fate of the self-published book.

I don't know the answer--just kicking it around.