Ron vs the Zombie Publisher!


So, I have this friend, Ron. R.J. Hore. He’s a nice guy, retired banker, genial fellow. I would see him at Collectables Conventions and Antique Fairs, Farmers Markets, Fleas. He’d always have a table selling his books, often sharing the table with another writer. He had a replica Saber Tooth Tiger skull at his table, that was cool.

Anyway, whenever I saw him, I’d buy one of his books. That’s a thing I do. I buy books by local writers. Small press, self published, whatever. I’m a writer, they’re writers. I want to support my brethren.

The bottom line, I got to know Ron.

Honestly, he’s a pretty good writer, and mostly, I admire his gumption. I don’t think I’ve got the fortitude to sit at tables at these little conventions, hawking my books, watching thousands of people walk by refusing to make eye contact. I’m not really a people person. But I like people who are.

He’s a small press guy, his books are mostly published by Champagne Book Group with editors and everything.

He met the Champagne people when they had a dealers table at a local convention called Keycon, showed them his stuff, and they liked it. The rest is history.

Anyway, one day we were talking, and he had a problem.

It seems that he had a second publisher, eTreasures. They’d published four books for him – We’re Not in Kansas, a stand alone, and a trilogy – Toltec Dawn, Toltec Khan and Toltec Noon.

But he’d lost touch with them. Not replying to correspondence, there were no royalties, no reports, nothing. He was feeling kind of abandoned.

I’m thinking ripped off.

But you know how it is, I have certain skills for solving certain kinds of problems, so I agreed to look into it.

As it turns out, eTreasures was apparently an active publisher. They were all over Amazon and Smashwords, with a lot of titles.

I looked a little deeper.

They hadn’t uploaded a title since 2019. All the books they had out were at least three or four years old, or older.

Well, that was interesting.

So I dug deeper into eTreasures, I found a physical address in Florida, an email address. The email address was dead.

But now I had a name and a state,

I did a corporate search for eTreasures in Florida. Success! eTreasures indeed was a Corporation registered in Florida, I had the name of the Officer and Director, an address that matched.

Bad news, it was a dead corporation, it had been defunct since 2021.

And given the age of its books on Amazon, it had probably ceased operations well before that. From the look of the Corporate search, it had been dissolved for failing to file its annual corporate reports – dissolution is automatic.

What next? Well, I had the name of the Officer and Director. When there’s only one Director and they’re also the Officer, that usually means it’s a one person show. I figured even if the corporation was gone, she might be around somewhere.

So I searched the name. Turns out, it belonged to a Florida lawyer. Searched a bit deeper. Turns out her legal offices were the same as the offices of eTreasures Publishing.

Well, that was interesting.

But the information could be old. Who knows, maybe she packed up and moved to Montana? Just because you find a name or address on the internet, you can’t be sure it’s current.

So I started searching the Court registries for her name. I figured if she was a currently practicing lawyer, I’d see her name on the Court rolls somewhere – property transactions, divorce cases, lawsuits, registrations, somewhere.

Bingo! There she was in a filing in late 2022, same address. No indication of a change of lawyer on file. So it was active and current. She was still working as a lawyer, and out of the offices.

I wondered about eTreasures, what was the story there? Had this been some kind of Florida get rich quick scheme. Had she decided that there was real money in publishing, hung out a shingle, recruited a lot of writers, and dumped them on Amazon and Smashwords, and then just let the money roll in?

I’m kind of skeptical about that. The idea of people making money from publishing? Seems counterintuitive. She’d had to hire editors, or put time in as an editor, she’d had to hire cover artists, or design covers, hire book designers or design them herself, all on a lot of books. It just seemed like either a lot of expenses, or a lot of work.

I dunno, maybe there was a period on Amazon where ebooks and POD books were selling like hotcakes and you really could make money hand over fist with no effort, or where the effort would pay off. Who knows?

Maybe it didn’t work out financially, and she just walked away.

Or maybe this was a lifelong dream, to be a publisher, to be a woman of letters, to bring books into the world, discover authors. Perhaps it was all dreams and ideals. I could respect that, even admire it.

But what happened? A hurricane had blown through Florida about that time, and her practice seemed to be in the middle of it, then Covid the next year. Had life reached out and smacked her hard in the face?

Or maybe the joy just wore off? Too much hard work, too little reward, writers who weren’t grateful or thoughtful? Maybe the bull just mounted up and she got sick of it.

I don’t know. Believe it or not, I’d like to believe the best of people, so in my mental landscape, she’s a dreamer and idealist who just found it going sour and turned her back.

Who knows?

She wasn’t responding to emails, the company was defunct.

There were a lot of books up on Amazon and Smashwords still under eTreasures LLC. Although it had wound up, it was still out there in the world, on platforms, selling books, collecting royalties. Despite it’s disappearance, Ron’s rights were still hung up, he couldn’t take his books to another publisher or self publish, he couldn’t bring them to the same platforms. eTreasures was a zombie publisher.

I’ve spoken to a local publisher, Matt Joudrey at At Bay Press. Very nice guy, very hardworking and dedicated. He says that there are a lot of Zombie publishers out there. Sometime’s it’s just honest publishers that went under, or people diving in to something that turns out to be too much and end up walking away, or marginal outfits that are either inept or sketchy. There are the big Five, there’s a collection of Imprints and medium sized houses, and reputable small presses. But if you look around, literally everywhere you go in the publishing industry, particularly at the entry and lower levels, there’s wall to wall scams. There’s a substrate of Zombie presses where people’s books and rights disappear or get hung up in limbos, and that’s hard to deal with.

Ron’s books on Amazon under eTreasures:  Presumably people bought them now and then. Amazon was paying the money to somewhere to someone? Was it going into some bank account? Collecting in Amazon’s accounts payables ready to be downloaded?

It’s probably not big money. But what’s happening to it? Is anything? Is it paying eTreasures accumulated debts. Or does the lawyer just pocket it and use it for massages and personal perks.

Ron’s books had been up for years, he’d never gotten a statement or a royalty. They’d just sent him a box of books and not even an invoice. And probably a lot of other books and writers in that position. It would be nice to be able to dig that out of Amazon, or eTreasures but some things you can’t do.

Sometimes you can’t fix the past.

You can only seize the future.

We needed to get the rights to Ron’s books back, and get them from back from Amazon.