Very Bad Publishers: The Strange Case of Haven Publishing UPDATED 1/30/14
A first-time author has come forward with some harsh allegations about a publisher called Haven.
Haven Publishing bills itself as “a publisher of niche genre books” and claims to deliver “…impactful literature, graphic novels, and comic books to an ever changing market and striving to seek out talented authors, writers and illustrators that have yet to be discovered.”
We will be handling Production and Filming of properties derived through Haven and outside sources through our DBA, Haven Entertainment. Haven intends to bring independent cinema to the masses by working with talented and varied sources to cultivate the arts in it’s highest form.
Those are embarrassing grammatical errors for an up-and-coming publishing company, but whatever.
I’ve never heard of Haven, nor have I heard of any of the authors they tout on their list of creators, with the exception of Bo Hampton. A search for published works yields nothing. There is a Facebook page and a Twitter account. The Facebook page has 110 likes, and the Twitter account has 291.
UPDATE: Bo Hampton denies in this note directly to me:
My brother Scott saw a post wherein you mentioned that Haven publishing was touting me as one of their creators. I’m really irritated and want it removed from wherever they posted it. Any input you can give me is much appreciated. I just thought you might remember where it can be found–I never agreed to do ANY thing with them but that guy Manny’s name rings a bell.
He may have asked me to work on something but couldn’t meet my page rate so I turned him down.[ In fact I'm almost certain he wanted to do an Atlanta based zombie book ]. Oyy–what a creepy thing for him to do. By all means feel free to post anything of mine that helps “out” him and this type of behavior.
I have ZERO association with him or Haven. Thanks for the alert!
This September 2012 FB post claims 20,000 followers on Twitter, and a soon-to-be live website.
There is no working website as of January 2014.
There have been no posts to either the FB page or Twitter in months. I was unable to find any recent activity for this publisher beyond an impending convention appearance in early 2014. On the convention page, there’s a listing for FB pages and links for this company, most of which don’t work.
Here are two of their announcements. One of them from 2012, but I could not find this book in any database. The other, a recent acquisition. This is small press stuff, but we don’t judge.
The book above is listed on Google as being published by Haven in 2012. However, there is no record of an existing copy. Anywhere. It is not available on any bookseller website.
A satirical look at a controversial figure in anime and gaming fandom. Emanuel Camacho has been working in the convention industry since before he was a teenager, has seen the rise and fall of fandoms, and conventions alike. He has been in the fire and has endure some of the most ridiculous situations while working these events and is sharing some of the quarky aspects of these experiences with you in this book. From his first awkward meeting with William Shatner to dealing with the social pressures of maintaining a reputation in a very public industry. From his dirtiest secrets to some of his triumphs. This is a comedic look at his life as an event organizer.
That’s some quality writing right there.
To add to the mystery, there is a Haven Entertainment formed in 2012. It does not appear to have the same people behind it, and I can’t find any link between the Haven Publishing and Entertainment of this post based in Florida, and the Haven Entertainment production company based in Los Angeles.
If it’s not the same company, that’s a serious market confusion issue, and I’d break out a lawyer to do something about the trademark.
While Haven Publishing and Entertainment claims to produce graphic novels while not having produced any, Haven Entertainment reps books with Boom Studios.
OK, so there’s the set up. Haven Publishing and Entertainment appears to be a start up with announcements and hype and no product. It certainly doesn’t have 20,000 Twitter followers, and does not appear to have any real world publishing experience or presence. And I’m going to go wild here, and make the guess that Haven Publishing and Entertainment and Haven Entertainment have nothing to do with one another. On the Twitter page, the Florida based Haven Publishing and Entertainment sports a graphic showing New York and Los Angeles…actual locations, or hype?
This is Emanuel F. Camacho, the man behind Haven Publishing, but his web presence appears to be on hold as well. His website GPX Gaming is down. UPDATE: Camacho is also the chairman of a failed convention scheme Kunicon, noted for its significant budget overun. Thanks to Dave Merrill for the information. The IMDB page has a small list of credits, some of which are “uncredited”. As for those credits, I think I may actually have more film and tv name checks than this dude does, and I’m a cartoonist. UPDATE: G.A.M.M.E. Expo also appears to have imploded and left a lot of people out of some moolah.
Camacho has, apparently, run panels at Anime Mid Atlantic on “How to Get Published”.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
“We went overbudget by about $30k,” says Manny. Although Kunicon had planned for between 800 and 1000 people, “the end result was actually somewhere in the 450-500 attendance.”
After the Denver convention, Kunicon’s web site went offline. LiveJournal and Cosplay.com posts indicated that the webmaster was on vacation, but a new web site would be online on September 7th. The web site is still not online.
Regardless, if I’m confused as to who is whom, I guess the average Joe might be confused as well.
OK, here’s where it gets weird.
I was reluctant to blog about this at first because this story is so odd. There is little evidentiary support for the claims of author Dan Coglan, who has an IndieGogo campaign to raise money to pay his bills claiming Haven Publishing cruelly deceived him and ripped him off.
I’m blogging it anyway, because it’s a great opportunity to A ) show you how publishing really, REALLY doesn’t work, and B ) show you just how gullible aspiring authors can be and C ) show you just how important it is to do your research.
I do not know Dan Coglan, but according to his IndieGogo campaign, he is a martial artist who has always wanted to be an author. He appears at conventions performing a Samurai Dan act.
In 2012, using the self publishing platform Fantastic Journey, Coglan produced 200 copies of his novel The Pack. You can find the self published novel on Amazon.
We know that Coglan did get some kind of deal at Haven. Not only did they announce it on their FB page, but he is still listed as an author they rep at that upcoming convention.
Quoted from Coglan’s IndieGogo page:
…we signed on with Haven Publishing for a 5 year, 4 novel contract. We started working with Haven’s owner and editors on revising The Pack, getting it a new professional cover, and making it ready for the big time. In February 2013, we got an excited call from our Publisher, saying that he had sold 50,000 copies of the pack! As the contract details were worked out, we were told that the deal was for 50,000 copies of each of Dan’s four novels contracted with Haven, to be paid out over 4 years. That meant a check for $169,440 in 2013; and checks for $183,377.50 in 2014, 2015 & 2016.
My head spins at how much wrong there is in this paragraph alone.
This is not how publishing works.
Publishers don’t buy “50,000 copies” of books. No, never. I don’t even know what this is. Some kind of minimum print run deal? I don’t know. Coglan didn’t post contract details.
But I’ve been in publishing for over 25 years, and I’ve worked for everybody.
THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN.
Moreover, there is what he was TOLD the deal was (or more like what he would understand based on his extremely limited knowledge,) and then there is what the contract SAID. What you think it said, and what it really said are two different matters entirely.
Is there a lawyer in the room? Did he have one? We don’t know.
What we do know is that a routine web search would tell any new author that it is almost impossible to sell 50,000 copies of anything first time out, and publishers don’t buy books, BOOKSTORES buy books. A publisher pays you an advance based on what they think they can make on an eventual sale.
THAT is how publishing works.
Publishers take your book, a book rep goes to trade shows and meetings, they show the catalogue, they push the book to buyers. Buyers order the book through distributors, and print runs are based on those preorders. There is no way on God’s green Earth that a publisher will guarantee a sale of 50,000 copies on four books for a new author for property that has not been seen by anyone. This is not how things work in the real world.
And let’s just be harsh here for a minute: this is a small press with no track record. Who is going to buy 50,000 copies of anything from them?
Moreover, the sales on subsequent volumes will be based on sell-through from the first volume. No orders are placed years in advance for books that do not exist. There is no way there were 50,000 orders on books 2-4 when book 1 hadn’t even been produced yet!
As for the money: no freaking flaming way. That’s not how publishing works, either.
In the real world, if you are very, very lucky, your royalty might hit the stratospheric height of 10% per copy, OK? A really big time author could get 15%. But a lot of small press companies pay only 5%.
So, let’s do some math.
Say you have a $20 book. At 10% per copy, that means you get $2 per book. Except you NEVER get $2 per book. Royalty rates are structured based on the discount sales percentage at which the books are sold. Here’s a detailed overview at just how convoluted the accounting can be.
Anyway, let’s just roll with $2 per book income for snaps and giggles.
At a sale of 50,000 copies on Volume I, $2 per book will yield $100,000 AT BEST, not the $169,433 this author thought he was going to get less than a year after his book hit the stands (which it never did: there was never an edition from Haven, only the self published 200 copies from Coglan).
Moroever, the publisher would hold at least 50% against possible returns on unsold books for from 6 months to a year. So at best, in the besty bestest of all possible worlds, the author MIGHT get $50,000 in the first year. MIGHT.
But this is not the best of all possible worlds, because we are not living in fairyland, we are living in the real world. And in the real world, a 50,000 preorder would take well over a year to pay out and would probably net about $35,000 considering ACTUAL royalties based on actual sales and discount structures, reserves against returns, and returns of unsold books which are charged against the author, as well as charges against costs on upcoming volumes, if the contract has cross collatoralized accounting. And since this dude obviously didn’t have a legal angel on his shoulder, it probably did.
So a newbie author who does not know how publishing really works somehow got convinced he was going to get rich on his first book. Which is unfortunate, but it gets worse.
In August 2013 we were given confirmation that our first royalty check was on its way to us! To celebrate the achievement of his lifelong dream, we went out and got Dan’s dream car! We also purchased a used SUV to replace our old worn out car for traveling to conventions.
I can’t even begin to express just how shocked I am that before the check was in the bank and cleared, Coglan went on a shopping spree. This will not end well.
Acting on these promises from our publisher, we began to rearrange our lives; turning our martial arts school over to our son to run, cutting back on fall convention appearances a little so that Dan had more time to write, and Jillian being able to leave her long-time part-time job to focus on being an agent for Dan’s written works and for Samurai Dan & Jillian as performers.
Wow. Just wow.
Anyway, According to Coglan, the publisher wrote a check that bounced. However, he does not say how much the check was for, and does not show the check.
After some weeks, the publisher failed to make good on the check.
5 days before Christmas we got confirmation from the company the book deal was supposed to be with(that we were being paid from) that the contract was a fraud! They had no deal with and had never heard of Haven Publishing. Our check was no good! Would NEVER be any good! And was not worth the paper it was written on! Additionally we have found out that Haven Publishing, LLC was dissolved by the state of Florida on September 28th, 2012—and is not legally allowed to conduct business of any sort. In other words, they can’t publish our books.
Coglan seems to be confused about a number of things, not least of which is whether or not Haven had a distribution deal for 50,000 copies, or a third party publisher sub license. Regardless, according to this post, the deal did not exist. The sale never happened. And the company isn’t active, though it appears to be active online as of some few months ago. In fact, people who are listed as being with the company, such as Gabriel Novo, still have it on their twitter and FB pages as a reference.
Also, there is nothing here that proves to me that Haven doesn’t still have a valid contract. Coglan has not presented any proof of the terms under which the contract can be dissolved. Just because the LLC was “dissolved” that doesn’t mean the contract isn’t still in force unless the contract says so. Coglan doesn’t seem to have a very good understanding of publishing terms or standards, so I am not sure he knows what his termination agreement means.
The only thing I can do at this point is to vigorously lecture all newbie authors against borrowing large sums of money against their expectations. It is NORMAL for accounting departments to lose invoices, for payments to be late, for shit to happen. I am so accustomed to not getting paid on time, I expect it. I’ve been in foreign countries waiting for wire transfers that didn’t happen.
And no matter how best-selling my stuff is, I NEVER expect anything until that payment is in the bank. Large payments are routinely challenged, and I had my bank sit on a $17,000 wire transfer for three entire weeks.
This is the way it is. This is the way publishing works.
Mr Coglan was very naive and clearly knows nothing about publishing. It is very unfortunate he’s in a lot of financial trouble, but some of that trouble is due to his choices.
But we are left with $15,000 in loans; a $22,000 SUV loan; and a $42,000 car loan that we cannot afford. We are looking into giving back/selling the more expensive vehicle (Dan’s dream car), but we are still in trouble. The $35,000 goal of this campaign is to raise enough funds to pay off the bank loans and most of the SUV loan to get us back on our feet.
I’m not trying to bust his chops, and I do not know what really happened here. In the absence of evidentiary support, I don’t have any way of saying for sure what the publisher did. This company appears to be all smoke and fog. If you are not with a company that has a serious track record of star-making for first-time authors, don’t believe hype. This company has no track record of creating 50,000 sales from nothing. There’s no reason to believe it would happen for you.
UPDATE: And this is harsh, but perhaps it should be pointed out: Mr. Coglan admits to taking on $81,000 unnecessary debt on a one year expectation of $160,000 of income. The tax liability alone on one year’s income of $160,000 would eat up a good $60,000 or so (self employed people pay double in Social Security tax on the first $108,000 of income.) So, taking on $81,000 worth of debt leaves you only $19,000 in the black in year one. If Coglan was accustomed to $38,000 per annum, then he’s in the hole, even if he’d made all the money he thought he was going to make. There’s just no good way to interpret Coglan’s financial decisions here. Every financial decision was self destructive and based on fantasy, whether the publisher lied to him or not.
(Reality check: I’ve personally signed – and so have a few comics creators of my acquaintance – MOVIE and TV deals that did not pay as much as Coglan thought he was going to get on one book from this small press. Coglan’s starry-eyed expectations of a big payday are completely without any basis in reality.)
The nicest spin I can put on this is that it’s possible Coglan confused Haven Publishing and Entertainment with the more prominent Haven Entertainment. But I tend to think he didn’t do much research before he jumped at a publishing deal.
I hope this can be a lesson to other aspiring creators. Unrealistic expectations and a lack of understanding of how publishing works can get you into a lot of trouble. So can borrowing against your expectations.
This is a tough business. Note the word BUSINESS.
Conduct your art business like a business. Research, get a lawyer, get it in writing, and don’t spend money you don’t have.
I wish Mr Coglan the best of luck. This was a really tough lesson from which I hope everyone can learn.
This morning, my assistant received the following note:
“Colleen, I would appreciate the chance to talk with you about your blog. At the very least, I can answer a couple of the questions that you raise and yet didn’t see fit to ask me prior to posting this. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Dan Coglan (Samurai Dan)”
My assistant responded:
“Dear Mr Coglan
Ms Doran is not obligated to “see fit” to ask you questions before posting about Haven Publishing because you are not entitled to an interview. You wrote an open and public appeal for money on your IndieGogo page and Ms Doran wrote a blog post about same. If you have something to add, the comments section is open. I’m sure people would like to know more about how you got taken advantage of.
Wishing you the best,
I do not personally know Mr Coglan, despite his first name address to me there.
I didn’t ask Haven Publishing any questions, either.
UPDATE: As of April 2014, Haven Publishing has not released any books into print. However, they did release Camacho’s self published tome about his adventures at conventions to Kindle using the Amazon self publishing program. At the same time, they released a novel by another small-time author to Amazon’s program. This is anything anyone can do without a publisher. Haven backed away from its lavish claims to status in the publishing and film industry, and is now touting itself as a small start up by a couple of friends.
You could knock me over with a feather.