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Money clinic: “They’ve taken my book and my money”

A member contacted Which? Money after fearing they’d been duped into paying £1,900 to a dodgy publishing firm. Here’s our advice on getting your money back.

In 2019, Sheila wrote and illustrated a story for her granddaughter. She was very pleased with it, and several friends suggested she try to get it published.

She contacted a publishing firm online, which said it would handle everything, including worldwide marketing through its several offices, so she paid the firm £1,900. However, as of August this year, she hadn’t even seen a first draft and now fears she may have been duped.

She contacted us for help asking if there was anything she could do. Fortunately there are routes to recovering the money. Traditional publishing contracts involve the publisher paying the writer a fee (the ‘advance’) and taking on the cost of all the editing, marketing and distribution.

Self-publishing involves the author paying a fee (the ‘contribution’) to a publisher or printer. In your case, the publisher’s contract says that it will complete the work within 269 working days, which it has failed to do.

She could take the publisher to the small claims court, as her claim was below £10,000 (the threshold is £5,000 in Scotland and £3,000 in Wales). But just filing her claim would cost over £100.

Section 75 claims

Fortunately, there could be a quicker solution that won’t cost her anything.

We often suggest making Section 75 claims for goods that were paid for and not received, as the Consumer Credit Act states the card provider is jointly liable. But Section 75 also applies to services not provided – and as she paid the publisher by credit card, and the contribution cost more than £100, it could apply to her.

She’s now raised the issue with her bank and is awaiting the outcome. Other readers can make Section 75 claims or chargeback claims (for debit and prepaid cards, or credit card payments for less than £100 or over £30,000) using Which?’s free online tool.

Industry website writersandartists.co.uk (part of publisher Bloomsbury) advises writers to be sceptical about publishers that ask for a contribution.

A reputable self-publishing firm should set out exactly how the writer’s contribution is being spent. You should have control over how the book will look; how many copies will get printed and how it will be promoted to bookshops.

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I sincerely hope that the card company manages to recover the £1,900 (hopefully plus expenses) from the publisher, otherwise the costs will be shared by other card holders. 🙁

@mcroxfo “Other readers can make Section 75 claims or chargeback claims (for debit and prepaid cards, or credit card payments for less than £100 or over £30,000) using Which?’s free online tool“.
Should this not read ” over £100 and less than £30,000″?

Mike is referring to credit card payments outside the range eligible for Section 75 claims.

That wasn’t the way it read to me.

Nor me.

The words in brackets apply only to chargeback claims.

“Other readers can use Which?’s free on-line tool to make Section 75 claims (for debit and prepaid cards or for credit card payments of more than £100 or less than £30,000) or to make chargeback claims outside those limits “

I look forward to hearing whether Sheila’s claim under Section 75 is successful. When we hear about legal cases on Conversation and in the magazine they have usually been resolved.

Information about how to claim is readily available these days and it would be interesting to have an article about the success rate and the main reasons for failure of claims.

It is remarkable how rapidly banks and stores concede and cough up when a customer has been obliged to place their story in the hands of a newspaper or TV programme for assistance from the resident complaints negotiator. I often wonder what their percentage success rate is and why they seldom seem to report on unresolved disputes, even if only to name and shame them.

I suspect that claims against holiday companies and airlines have provided a considerable increase in S75 claims. The lack of easily accessible information about the success of claims may be due to the reluctance of card companies to provide this information.

At one time, paying by credit card incurred an additional charges. At that time I avoided using a credit card in these circumstances even though I was aware that I was denying myself the protection offered by S75. So far I have not needed to make a claim.

As well as finding out about the success rate of claims under S75 it would be useful to know how how much of the money involved is recovered by the credit card companies. Card companies charge retailers etc. substantial fees for use of their services.