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.

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