BRATTLEBORO >> Business clients of a former New York man who moved to town two years ago and is running to unseat an incumbent representative in the Vermont State House had a message for people considering voting for him.
"He belongs in jail," said Margie May, the author of a children's book who contracted with Adam Salviani through his Raider Publishing International but says she never received the services promised.
May, who lives in Hinckley, a market town in southwest Leicestershire, England, had penned a children's book, "Toadseye and the Fisherman," and was looking for a publisher and went online to find one, settling on Raider Publishing International.
"Adam told me he would like to publish it," said May. "But I couldn't afford the big package of services." Instead, in 2014 May and Salviani settled on four monthly payments of £100 each.
"This shows how sneaky he is," she said. "He knew how poor I am and yet he was still going to take £400 off me, knowing full well he was going to steal it."
May said to this day, she has not received any services from Salviani and his publishing company. Recently, she went online and began to do some research. "My heart sank. I saw all these people saying don't go with Raider and I read all these stories of stolen money."
According to the online database, Scambook, the first complaint against Raider was submitted in 2013. Since then, Scambook has collected 56 consumer complaints. "On average users reported $39800.65 of damages." A number of complaints have also been posted on Absolute Write and Raider has an "F" rating with the Better Business Bureau, according to Victoria Strauss, the creator of the website Author Beware.
Salviani told the Reformer on Thursday that any small business is going to get complaints, especially a small publishing house such as his, which has published more than 1,300 titles in 117 countries. He said most of the online complaints are posted by authors who are either disgruntled with the results of their efforts or didn't understand their contracts.
"I have been running this company since 2005," he said. "Unfortunately, it's the nature of publishing that some people are not going to be satisfied for various reasons. Some of these people are disappointed because their books didn't sell as well as they thought they would. We do the best we can."
As of Thursday, raiderpublishing.com is still an active website. "Raider Publishing is the first publisher to offer authors more than fifty percent of their book's royalties, while at the same time, promising to pursue promotional opportunities for you (if desired) after the publishing and distribution is complete," states the website. "Raider Publishing is revolutionizing the industry."
Debbie Bieske, who also lives in South Africa and wrote "Legend of the Oracle Runes," told the Reformer her novel was released in 2011.
"When it was finally released I found out that no editing had been done, as promised in their agreements, and I received random emails from them informing me of the sales and which royalties I should expect. Yet when I inquired about when I could expect these payments to be made I was told that it wasn't enough to give to me as of yet."
Within a year, said Bieske, all communication between her and Raider ceased.
"I sent them a lot of emails asking what was happening but heard nothing back. I asked lawyers to email him and they heard nothing back either. I discourage people strongly to not be tempted by the fake promises that Adam gives to people, as it is all a lie."
Salviani told the Reformer that when he announced he was running against Mollie Burke for the State House, he thought his history with Raider might pop up. "I was hoping this wouldn't happen, but it's not terribly surprising because these people have been hounding me in everything I do, my entire life."
Salviani said he was happy to talk about it, because he wanted to clear up any misunderstandings. "There have been a couple of authors out to get me. There have been a lot of good people I have worked with, but unfortunately there have been a lot of bad eggs. At the end of the day, the majority of the people I have worked with were very happy with our services."
A number of testimonials are published on the Raider website. When the Reformer made attempts to contact them, it was unsuccessful. Salviani gave the Reformer the email addresses of four former clients. One bounced back as invalid and the other three did not respond to requests for comment.
The Reformer attempted to contact a number of other authors with books published through Raider and its affiliates. None of them responded. One author, reached via Twitter, when asked if the Reformer could quote from his testimonial, responded "No, please don't. I don't want to be involved with anything to do with Adam or his ghost companies."
A visit to Raider's Amazon page reveals a whole host of titles still in print and available for purchase.
'Some have a vendetta'
"Raider has been around a long time," said Salviani. "We have sold 1.3 million copies of self-published books and generated millions of dollars in sale for our authors. Unfortunately, some have a vendetta."
One of those people appears to be Peter Slade, the author of "Razor's Edge — A Memoir," who contacted the Reformer after an article was published about Salviani's run for the State House.
"There were serious issues from the get-go and the contract I had with him was breached on a number of occasions where my book was never published on Kindle, there was no marketing or promotion and I had to cancel two book tours in the U.S. as a result of him simply not responding to any of my e-mails or phone calls," wrote Slade in an email.
Slade wondered if Salviani had moved to Brattleboro "to dodge the pressures" after filing bankruptcy in New York State, a plan that was approved in 2014.
Salviani insisted he and his wife did not move to Brattleboro to escape Raider Publishing, but because his wife wanted to attend the New England Center for the Circus Arts.
"My wife has performed all over the place and she has been harassed by these people. There have even been threats of rape. These are not nice people."
"He hasn't paid me a cent in royalties for four years, refuses to respond to any correspondence and simply thinks I am going to fade away," wrote Slade, an Australian who runs a security company in Thailand and Cambodia.
According to the Bangkok Post, Slade is a colorful character: "Peter Slade was once in prison for five years on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit another murder and attempting to overthrow a foreign government — partly a victim, he says, of a corrupt Australian judicial system."
"Peter Slade has threatened my life, my wife, my parents and my sister and told my grandmother he was going to slit my throat," said Salviani.
Slade told the Reformer that Salviani owes him $20,000 and if he doesn't pay up "his life will get messy to say the least and I will make sure everyone in Brattleboro knows who he is which will have a direct impact on him wanting to not only run in politics in some way or another, but more than likely, he will have to once again pack up and move on. Salviani needs to take me seriously otherwise life will become very challenging for him. That's all I am prepared to say for obvious reasons."
Capt. Mark Carignan, of the Brattleboro Police Department, acknowledged that Slade had filed a complaint about Salviani, but Carignan noted that since the alleged malfeasance occurred in New York, the Brattleboro Police Department has no jurisdiction. Carignan also noted that there are some issues with the statute of limitations.
Targeting vulnerable authors?
It might appear that Salviani and Raider targeted overseas authors, but Salviani denied that. "We don't discriminate based on location. We are willing to publish wherever, no matter what, some at our own costs, especially if in the Third World. We have been very generous with our services."
That's not the way South African author James Fouche sees it.
"In his own backyard, he played a very careful game. He dragged out royalty payouts as long as possible, but made sure to only pay out U.S. authors. For me it meant getting a U.S.-based intellectual property lawyer to action against him. The conversion rate was against me, so I had to ride out a three-year contract."
Fouche said he believes "Salviani has single-handedly destroyed many budding authors. The fact that I pushed on and actually wrote and published another novel, was an outright miracle. He raped my book and nearly destroyed my love of the written word."
"When I first reviewed the company back in 2008, it showed a great deal of promise and innovation," wrote Mick Rooney, of The Independent Publishing Magazine. "This was a self-publishing provider prepared to blend the good of traditional publishing with the freedom and flexibility of self-publishing." But by 2009, wrote Rooney, "I began to receive negative comments and direct correspondence from current and previous RPI authors."
Condemnation, not acclaim
In 2012, RPI became the first company The Independent Publishing Magazine has listed as "not recommended," wrote Rooney. "When a few complaints turn from a trickle to a steady flow, and those authors — over a lengthy period of time — report no resolution, or worse, continued deterioration, then that tells me we have a serious problem with a company. When other colleagues in the publishing business also begin to report the same flow of complaints about one particular company, and consumer websites across the Internet begin to fill with similar reports you begin to get a bad smell in your nostrils."
Raider has launched a number of new imprints, including Purehaven Press, which went out of business due to complaints such as delays in publishing, lack of communication, staff turnover, non-payment of royalties and poor editing and design, noted Rooney. And, he wrote, two separate petitions were filed with the FBI against Salviani, but according to Fouche, that's why Salviani filed bankruptcy, to get away from his obligations.
Salviani, who is the chairman of the Brattleboro Arts Committee, said that's not true at all.
"I didn't change my name. I am running for public office. I want to do some good things for this town. It would be a shame if I don't win because of something like this."
Salviani is running against Mollie Burke to represent Brattleboro.
Strauss, who lives in Amherst, Mass., and publishes Writers Beware, said she was stunned to learn Salviani is running for the State House.
"That's pretty amazing."
Strauss described her website as "a watchdog group for scams in the publishing industry" and a place for authors to post complaints about businesses and individuals. "We have received a large number of complaints about Salviani's publishing businesses. I would number them in the scores. I heard from some people who got their books published but did not receive royalties.
Similar, but worse?
Strauss said the complaints are consistent and they involve different forms of non-performance or sub-standard performance, taking money and doing very little or nothing at all. Strauss said this type of fraudulent activity is not uncommon in the publishing industry. "But his is one of the companies I have received the most complaints about, and the most serious. He's been going at it for many years under many different names. In every case, the method of operation is the same. He has been cheating people for years, taking money and not providing services."
There are lots of companies that take advantage of first-time and self-published authors, said Strauss, and the authors have to learn to protect themselves, which is one reason she set up her website. While it's illegal to take money for services and not deliver, said Strauss, it's not illegal to charge more than might be necessary to get a job done. "A lot of these ventures exist in a gray area and there is not a lot of appetite in the law enforcement community to pursue white collar crimes when the amount of money involved is relatively small," said Strauss.
Strauss wrote on her website that "In true deadbeat fashion, Salviani has made several attempts to escape his reputation, as well as to resolve his own financial issues. He established several new publishers with different names: Purehaven Press and Perimedes Publishing (both defunct), and purportedly UK-based Green Shore Publishing ..."
The UK Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint it received about Green Shore Publishing, a paid-publishing service imprint of Raider Publishing International. "The core of the complaint was that GSP featured video testimonials, radio ads and listed books by authors which were fake, misleading or simply didn't exist," wrote Mooney.
Stephen Cheshire, who lives in England, told the Reformer he sent one email after another to Raider but failed to get a response.
"So I set up a false email acting as a new customer and within 24 hours I heard back from him," said Cheshire.
"While I'm sure you think that you are being very clever, you have actually committed the crime of fraud and freely admitted to it," wrote Salviani in the response. "We have just now reported you to the police and it is likely that they will be visiting you within the next day or so. Whether you are dissatisfied with our company or not, this ridiculous approach you have taken is both inappropriate and intolerable. ... If you want to talk to lawyers, you're free to waste your time and resources doing so. Any case you might have had before this would have been extremely weak and now that you've harassed us and admitted to it, no credible lawyer would ever dream of taking this case."
Salviani told the Reformer he has been taking the heat for Raider because "I am the face of the business. Some of these complaints are not necessarily about me, although they have been attributed to me. Over the years I had 87 employees."
Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 160.