The publisher of Genesis Press, a small Mississippi house specializing in African-American romance titles, has filed lawsuits against at least two former Genesis Press authors calling for $6 million in damages and punitive awards. In the suits, Wilbur Colom, publisher of Genesis Press, charges one author with slander and defamation and claims another author is conspiring to steal Genesis Press staff and authors to start a new publishing house.
Colom's lawsuits follow the publication of "Authors Cite Problems with Genesis Press" (Foreword, Sept. 18), detailing complaints from a group of about 30 Genesis authors, alleging years of unprofessional business practices by Colom. Complaints include lack of royalty statements, delayed or missing payments and inaccurate tax forms. In the story, the authors said these problems have gone on for years. Since the story was published, other Genesis Press authors have also contacted PW citing the same problems.
Kayla Perrin and Miriam Pace, authors quoted in the story, are the targets of the lawsuits. Angie Daniels, also quoted in the story, said she does not know if a suit has been filed against her.
Colom's suit against Perrin charges her with making "false and damaging statements" about Genesis to PW. Colom charges Pace with "tortious interference with business advantage" and slander, also citing "false, damaging and malicious" remarks made to PW. He also charges that after a failed attempt to buy Genesis Press in 2004, Pace started her own publishing house and claims she is out to undermine Genesis by luring its staff and authors to her new venture. Pace's lawyer did not return PW's calls.
In an interview with PW, Colom, who is also an attorney, said more lawsuits "will be filed." He said he will sue any Genesis author who publishes with Pace in violation of option clauses in their contracts. "In the course of discovery," said Colom, "we will find out if [Pace] has induced other authors, in breach of their contracts." He declined to say how many or to name any other authors likely to be sued. "I litigate for a living," said Colom. "It's a waste and a distraction, but sometimes you have to do it." He said it was "not unusual" for a publisher to sue his own authors for complaining about royalty statements.
Once again, Colom rejected complaints by Perrin that she had not received royalty statements or payments, claiming that she never communicated her problems to him. He claims he had an inaccurate address and that a payment was sent to Perrin and never cashed. He also said he "suspects" Pace organized the writers to make false claims against Genesis Press and said he will "tie" Perrin to Pace's alleged scheme. Although Perrin and Pace live in Canada and California, respectively, Colom said the suits are filed in "neutral" locations—Florida for Perrin and Georgia for Pace—because it could be considered unfair to the defendants if the suits were filed in his home state of Mississippi.
Responding, Perrin said, "I had no clue that Miriam Pace was starting a publishing house until I found out from these lawsuits." She said the authors got together "to put pressure on Genesis so we can get paid." She said that along with her agent, she had spent "years" trying to contact Genesis Press about royalties without success. "We've got the correspondence files," said Perrin.
Steven Zacharius, president of Kensington Publishing, which distributes Genesis Press titles, said he was aware of the lawsuits. Kensington took over Genesis Press distribution in late 2004 and is now handling Genesis's royalty statements and payment. Zacharius said Kensington is not responsible for Genesis's problems before taking over its distribution, but now has the data to prevent such problems in the future. Zacharius said only Genesis and the writers can resolve the dispute. He added, "I don't think there'll be any repercussions for Kensington. It's a shame, but hopefully they'll work this out."