Friday, 22 May 2015

Simply Read Books: International Con Artist, Dimiter Savoff

Dimiter Savoff of "Simply Read Books"
using our beautiful books to bait yet another
 writer and visual artist at the Bologna Children's
Book Fair Bologna, Italy, 2014.
Thanks to Alan Twigg of BC Bookworld for this quote from Elie Wiesel “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.”
[This article is a work in progress. It will change as I get more organized and more information comes in.]
Regarding Simply Read Books Here is Publisher's Weekly article by Laura Godfrey: Facing Complaints, June 16, 2015. Here is the CBC Report by Jeannette Kelly, May 22, 2015. Waiting to be Paid Please check out the radio interview.
Quill and Quire did a lazy and light version of their own: Allegations
Great article here: B.C. BookWorld
See my books here: Duncan Weller

Having interviewed over 50 writers and illustrators around the world, either by phone or email, I can say conclusively that Dimiter Savoff and his wife Gillian of Simply Read Books are con artists. And calculating from the number of people I contacted (corroborated with the help of two other jilted writers who requested anonymity), multiplied by the number of people Dimiter has worked with, I can say with some certainty that Dimiter Savoff has ripped off over a hundred and twenty writers and visual artists in ten countries, primarily in Canada, over the last thirteen years.
     THEFT, FRAUD, LIES, AND MULTIPLE CONS What I have learned from other people's experiences is that Dimiter steals artwork from artists, he prints translated books in foreign countries without the writer's knowledge or payment, he completely ignores contract obligations, he lies continually, fails to promote the books, prints as many books as he likes without informing the writers, prints second and third editions without the artists knowledge and payment, his cheques (the lowest advances in the country) routinely bounce, he ignores attempts by writers and illustrators to get their rights back, the royalty statements are indecipherable, he fails to submit books for reviews or awards, he fails to have the award winning stickers put on books when a book miraculously does win an award (if the award winner is even informed of winning it), ignores the editing process, and creates eBook versions without the writer's knowledge, contract or payment. He prints "dishonour books" (ex. 100 copies instead of 3,000 to con everyone involved). He also doesn't pay his printers, is guilty of fraud when taking funds from art galleries and architects, some of whom are also funded by the Canada Council of the Arts who pass on these funds to Dimiter, much to their detriment. Evidence for his behaviour is international and easy to procure.
     CONTINUES TO RECEIVE FUNDING And Dimiter Savoff continues to con the Canada Council of the Arts, Heritage Canada, and the B.C. Arts Council who have given him over a hundred thousand dollars a year every year for at least ten years, (A MILLION DOLLARS WASTED) despite many authors warnings as early as 2003. I first wrote to the CCA to complain of his behaviour in 2006. It turns out that dozens of other writers and illustrators have made similar complaints over the years with no effect. The CCA encouraged me to submit my complaints with the Writer's Union of Canada, a third party with a host of its own problems, namely little interest in holding publishers accountable. Compared to ACTRA, that actor's union, the WUC is failing miserably. ACTRA is an integral part of a booming business, and can shut down a production if a director even yells at the actors. I've seen ACTRA in action when working for a theatre company. I was impressed. Not so with the WUC.
     KILLING BOOKS Dimiter Savoff of Simply Read Books has killed books, killed careers, and put a stink on the publishing industry like no other. He has completely demoralized a large number of writers and visual artists who have decided that the entire publishing industry is corrupt, causing some to retire from the industry completely.
Beautiful books that Dimiter Savoff used
to bait writers and illustrators into signing
contracts that he would immediately ignore.
     Our little group would like to warn the public on an international scale as Simply Read may be receiving funding in other countries. Dimiter is from Bulgaria and a European citizen, so it is likely he is conning funding agencies in Europe and beyond. Many of his writers are American so we ask that American news outlets also contact us and take an interest. We can provide any media outlet with the names of writers and illustrators who have agreed to speak publicly. Or you can contact writers and illustrators directly by going to Simply Read's website where there is a listing of writers and illustrators: www.simplyreadbooks.com  He has two other imprints: www.readleaf.ca and www.readleaf.ca/blueprint/home. These sites are graveyards of artists who will never work for Dimiter again. Personally, I think the RCMP should investigate. Mike Duffy didn't (allegedly) waste as much public money.
     DESTROYING CULTURE IN CANADA Public money is being used to destroy the careers of dozens of writers and illustrator across the country and internationally. Sadly, Simply Read Books activities are not unusual. Many Canadian publishers routinely exploit writers and illustrators with impunity, threaten legal action against writers who try to hold their publishers accountable, and likely wouldn't know how to survive without public funding - in other words - useless businesspersons. 
     Funding agency's policies need to change dramatically in order to fund writers and illustrators directly rather than having the artists rely on publishers. As a best-selling book in Canada is considered to be only 5,000 copies there's little incentive for the best writers and illustrators to work with Canadian publishers. As an example, the income I earn from my books in Thunder Bay alone, with a population of only 110,000 people is ten times greater than when Simply Read Books sold them across Canada, the United States, England and Australia. There are far more benefits to work as a self-published author, especially if you are talented and the public likes your work. It only makes sense to work with a publisher if they can sell about 20,000 copies and more. Less than that and you might as well do it yourself. And none of your books will get pulped and you can sell the rights to your books internationally.
     THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY AND ITS SUPPORTERS ARE DESTROYING CANADIAN CULTURE Don't get me wrong, there are good publishers out there, many working hard with little money to promote the books they love. But the children's book publishers in Canada are known for being particularly terrible. (Semi-related article: The Incredible Whiteness of Children's Books)
     The Writers Union of Canada reported the results of a recent study. It "contains the very bad news that writers in Canada are making 27% less from their writing than they were making in 1998. What's more, a full 45% of those surveyed indicated they are working harder in order to earn that lower amount." The irony here is that the Writers Union of Canada is partly responsible for this. They fail to take publishers to task in a manner that would change the industry. They make it difficult for writers to report abuses, unlike the Quebec writer's union who are willing to take complaints from writers without charging them a fee to join the union. The WUC wants 200 bucks. Even then, with mass evidence against a publisher, they do nothing about it - they don't investigate and certainly don't report abuses. Like the funding agencies, no one seems to bother to pick up a fucking phone to corroborate anyone's story. If three of us can garner a mass amount of evidence easily, then certainly someone whose job it might be to look into Dimiter's activities can also do so just as easily. Trouble is, we can't seem to find anyone who cares - reporters, funding agencies, the Writer's Union, amongst others.
     I had to threaten legal action against a local representative of the Writer's Union in order to get the $2,500.00 owed to me from the sales of my books, after waiting seven months and getting the same runaround story for four months. This is the same woman who gave me some inside scoops into how awful the industry is. More irony. And when I reported my findings about Dimiter Savoff to the Writer's Union, they refused to say what they could or should do regarding his behaviour. Nothing is what they did. When I asked professional writers about the Writer's Union, I got a familiar response, using the exact same description, "fucking useless." That isn't to say they haven't helped individuals – they have, but as far as I can tell, they don't say boo about bad publishers.
      It doesn't help that institutions funding publishers or organizations who might help self-police the industry are made up of former publishers and people who worked in the publishing industry (or are still active in the industry.) I wrote about a former intern from Toronto who I met in Thunder Bay who gave up on his dream of working for the publishing industry: Bad Publishers. He revealed that this publisher gave the interns a speech which included the phrase, "exploitation is not a dirty word."
     This begs the question, if a top selling book in Canada is only 5,000 copies and a writer only makes about five to ten percent from the sale of a book, why does anyone bother with publishers? The answer is simple: status. We all get respect for being published. "Who's your publisher?" is the first question we writers get. But when a friend of mine, who has received incredibly wonderful national reviews and has been nominated for many awards, and is published by two of the best publishing houses in Canada, looks to me for help and guidance in order to self-publish her next book, because she's making much less money than I am, doesn't that say an awful lot about the industry? I make eleven to twenty dollars per book. I make more money on average in one week from selling my books in Thunder Bay than I did every six months (if I got my statement) selling my books through Simply Read Books when my books were distributed across Canada, the U.S.A., England, and Australia. I own all the rights. I print the books in Winnipeg - 3,000 copies of each. I sell my books in seven different locations. I could easily double, maybe quadruple my money if I lived in a bigger city. I am a full time writer and visual artist. I don't make much, but I don't need the industry, not in Canada. Sadly my best chance of making a good living as a writer and visual artist is in Europe or the Unites States. Being a Canadian artist is too much of a sacrifice because there are too many people, people who should be helping us and supporting us, who are working against us. It's a completely backward scenario. Is it community envy, criminality, ideology or a combination of factors that is causing this? Whatever the case, it's children across Canada who are missing out. Kids love my books. I get positive feedback from kids, parents, teachers and librarians regularly. I'm told often that my books are their favourites. And I managed to win two of Canada's top awards with only my third book. And the Schwarz Award is one where children choose their favourite author.
     One could go crazy thinking their troubles in the publishing industry in Canada are a result of not working hard enough, not being lucky enough or talented enough. What happens when you have all the talent in the world and do all the work required only to discover that the reason you have no luck has nothing to do with you? And what happens to a writer who speaks out? Do writers and visual artists get blacklisted for it? What if they don't take action? How many careers have to be wrecked before someone does something? Not taking action would mean, what - that these problems continue for another fifty years? Do the talented people in this country need more reasons to leave? I recall an episode of Bill Maher's show, Real Time, last year where he mentions that all his successful Canadian friends living in LA left Canada because of  the "tallest poppy syndrome." Is that what this is? I wish I had some hint of this sooner.

My books which children love and were beautifully produced,
but which no one ever heard about. I own the rights to these
books as SRB was in breach of contract multiple times. A lawyer
in Toronto had no trouble making a case. 

     If you have a story to share about Simply Read Books or any other publisher, please contact me: Email: duncanweller@hotmail.com Telephone: 807-345-9723

Quotes from Around the World and my letter to the CCA in 2012.
(The names of authors and illustrators and the titles of their books will not appear on my post or any of our group. Approval from writers and illustrators to use their names are in two categories, for use in letters to funding agencies and/or for a press release, or when the press contacts us. The list of quotes below represents five of nine different countries.)

“Hi Duncan, I'm glad you asked. Dimiter is the most difficult publisher I've ever worked with, and I've warned several illustrators of working with Simply Read because of his unprofessional practices.” 

“His contracts are toilet paper.”

“I've never met any author who has had a good experience with Simply Read from a business point of view. My feelings about Dimiter is that aside from his ltotal ack of organizational skills, he feels compelled to lie even when he doesn't have to.  …he does really want to make beautiful books (which he does), but he'd rather give you copies of your books than actual cash. … As you probably know, if you do manage to get him to send you a royalty statement, it consists of only one page and even such a simple statement is near impossible to understand. … I can't believe what money I have been given is close to what is due.” 

“My experience with him has been terrible. I have not given him my sequel. Also, I asked for my rights back and lo and behold a kindle version of my book was released within a month.” 

"I received my advance cheque from Simply Read for $500, but it was returned insufficient funds. Dimiter said he was sending another cheque but nothing has arrived in two weeks. He doesn't respond."

I’ve had major issues with them-him, regarding the two illustrated books they published. Basically, everything that could go wrong between an author and publisher…went wrong! My case is even worse, because we used to be friends with Dimiter and I completely trusted him. … I’ve no idea what I’m owed (if anything). I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to get my rights back, but…he had stopped answering my calls and emails, and I simply gave up. I have not tried to contact him for over a year now. At some point I was considering legal action, but then gave up.” 

“My issue with them is being paid. That is the biggest complaint for me. I have only one book published so far, Spring 2014. I received my first retainer a year late. … I have a bit of an issue because I haven’t got a contract for my second book, nor do I have my retainer yet. However, Dimiter has all my artwork. No royalty report yet. … I am researching getting an agent to avoid dealing with contracts and negotioations in the future”

“Unfortunately you are right. I also have had troubling experiences with Dimiter. He hasn’t paid me royalties in five years and I don't even know how many copies of my books have sold. I am looking for a new English language publisher, but it is not easy. No one wants to republish books already published by another.”

"I have received a minimal 400 euro payment from Simply Read Books even though the book was published already in the year 2009. In addition, I don't even know how many copies of my book were printed and how many copies sold in Canada despite several inquiries... [Name of book] won two awards:... 2009 Aesop Award [and] 2010 Benjamin Franklin Awards... but I have no idea what these awards actually are. I just happened to notice these awards by accident on the Internet when I was browsing the pages of Simply Read Books [website].

“I used to believe the music business was the worst on earth in terms of corruption, exploitation, and taking advantage of artists. Clearly, the book business is far worse. … he does not respond to multiple emails or requests for clarity about proposed projects, he half-initiated multiple projects with me, and then went dark for months, then years.”

“The best outcome, for me in any case, is for him to have to release our rights back to us. I really don't want anything more to do with him.”

“All my foreign rights are handled by my publisher [Simply Read] and come to me just as ‘foreign rights’ in my royalty payments. [My book] doesn’t seem to be earning anything anywhere. It’s difficult to get hold of the information one needs when it’s all in the hands of the company that might not be behaving. Book publishing does seem to have recently become some sort of target for money-obsessed-megalomaniacs/crooks.” 

“My advances were late coming and required constant emailing to remind him of what was owed to me. As for royalties, twice now in the past few years I have tried to request politely to have my statements sent to me, especially when they issued a new altered version of one of my books last year (which I didn't get copies of or notification of its re-release) and I knew it was selling well. Both times I resorted to sending an email warning them that I was in the process of filing a grievance with the writers Union. Within a day of my emails my cheque has always miraculously in the mail. So, while I have been paid (assuming their numbers are correct) it has always been under threat.” 

“I am so glad you contacted me and really not surprised to hear your story. I have published two books with Simply Read and it has only been a series of headache after headache, trying to track Dimiter down to get payment. I waited 2 years to have a book published, and another 2 years to get paid. The author of my 2nd picturebook with Simply Read, [name withheld] is on the same page. She has been very frustrated with their lack of professionalism (not paying on time, not publishing on time, not answering emails or phone calls, not sending a yearly sales updates, etc).”

“I will confirm that he avoids communication like the plague. I have had to track him down for months to get some form of reply, either by phone or by email. After waiting for an entire year to get the 2nd half of my advance for my first picturebook [book title withheld], Dimiter finally responded to my phone calls and declared that he couldn't get back to me sooner because he was very sick (who is sick for months on end that they cannot write a single email?). For my latest picturebook (which I had completed back in 2012, but only got published in 2014- it was then pull off the market and got republished officially in 2015....we had no information as to the official publication date and no follow up), I had to wait over six months to receive my copies and final advance payment. When I asked about the delay, he explained that the weather wasn't good, and they couldn't ship my package. For the last 3 years-4 years my books have been published with Simply Read, I haven't received a single royalty statement.  I have no clue if they are being submitted to awards, or if they are selling at all.”

“I struggled to get them to sign a contract for a long time. The contact did get signed finally but I can't say that I ever made much money off of the book in royalties after the fact and I never saw my originals again…”

"I too have a similar experience with Simply Read. Since they published [book name withheld]. In 2003 I have had precious little in royalties, other than a minor payment when we signed the contract. We even approached the Australian High Commissioner in Canada to see if he could bring pressure on the firm to pay us, but in spite of repeated promises nothing happened. Cheekily, Dimiter even published a reprint without telling us. … No royalties came from that either. I have also seen Canadian editions in Australia libraries, which is against the contract.” 

“My dealings with Simply Read have been positively dreadful - I signed the contract and it took 7 years until the book actually came out….and communication was so unbelievably poor - (emails never being responded to) - and this has continued throughout - in my contract, (which sadly I do not actually have a copy of, because they never returned a copy to me with both of our signatures on it —) but I am entitled to 2 royalty statements per year — I received 1, and then I was nagging them for a whole year-and-a-half before receiving a second — It has been appalling!”

“To wrap my experience with Simply Read Books into one sentence would go like this: I was the final portion of my advance nearly a year late with a check that bounced. After hearing of other authors and illustrators experiences working with Dimiter Savoff I feel like part of a broken record. I am tied into contracts with him that due to his negligence and unaccountability, I'll continue to lose money well into the future. How am I trust him to send royalty checks and statements when it takes nearly a year to send and advance payment? The trick is, is that Simply Read on the surface produces great books. The design and quality are great, the printing and binding are lovely, (largely due to his small staff of editor and designer,) but with Dimiter having no accountability to uphold his end of the contracts, these books become grim milestones for authors and illustrators. Yes, their book has been published but in such an unprofessional manner most will never work for him again. What scares me is that he's operated this way for years and will continue to do so if something doesn't change. Year after year he continues to exploit authors and illustrators to create beautiful books, but behind the scenes is a long and growing line of breeched contracts, lies, and disenchanted authors and illustrators. I feel like I walked into a spiderweb looking back on it. Yes, my books are published but I'll never work for him again.” 

This letter below is what I sent to the funding agencies back in 2012 that was completely ignored. 

Duncan Weller
Thunder Bay, Ontario
(All my possessions are currently in storage. 
I have no mailing address at the moment.)
Phone: (233)0248545132 (Accra, Ghana)
Website: www.duncanweller.com
Blog: duncanweller.blogspot.com

Feb. 14, 2012, Accra, Ghana

Dear Funding Agency,

This letter was written to convey the importance of denying funding to Dimiter Savoff of Simply Read Books. 

At the time of this writing I am in Accra, Ghana, working on a children’s picture book with the assistance of a Chalmers’ Fellowship Award. My notes, contracts, and statements are in storage in Thunder Bay. If you need proof for any of the following, I can obtain copies after I return to Thunder Bay on April 24, or you can corroborate anything I’ve said by making a few phone calls.

Dimiter Savoff published three of my works over a four-year period. In that time, I moved from North Vancouver to Montreal, and finally to Thunder Bay. One of the primary problems in dealing with Dimiter is the near total lack of communication, which at first he manages to make appear like an endearing character flaw – as if he’s so hard at work promoting his books in other cities and countries that he’s difficult to get ahold of. However, it’s a pattern, which over time reveals that he has a no interest in communication with authors and illustrators after the contracts are signed and/or after the books are printed.

On my second meeting with Dimiter Savoff, in Vancouver, he said I had the option of working without a contract. I made a point of being stunned at the suggestion. I demanded a contract for each book and confirmation that I would receive an advance before I would consider taking him on as a publisher. Atypical of the publishing industry, Dimiter wanted to publish three of the six books that I presented to him, after only two meetings. (I both write and illustrate my own work.) At that time, Simply Read Books was in existence for only two or three years.

At first Dimiter talked a big game. He talked about promotion, his connections, yet warned that the industry is a difficult one, of which I was fully aware. He does have a few good quality books as evidence of some discerning ability, but in all other manners, he completely fails as a publisher. I have broken all communication with him after winning the Governor General’s Award and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Picture Book Award (an award where the winner is chosen by children) for my third book, The Boy from the Sun. In the near future I plan to find an entertainment lawyer in Toronto and take legal action against Dimiter Savoff. 

In the four years that I had to suffer our relationship, before and shortly after winning two of Canada’s top awards for children’s picture books: 

·    He consistently lied about nearly everything we discussed over the phone or in person. He does not leave a recorded trail in either paper or via email.
·    He has failed to promote the books in the form of advertising or submitting the books for review. 
·    He has failed to submit the books to award juries. For the Francis Howard Gibbon Award, the head of the committee spoke with Dimiter directly, three times, in order to have my book, The Boy from the Sun, submitted with the appropriate submission form. This is a six thousand dollar prize. I had a good chance of winning this prize as I was competing with the same books submitted for the two other awards that I had won. No books or submission form were submitted for the FHG Award. 
·    Afforded the opportunity on several occasions to promote the books – when The Boy from the Sun won two of Canada’s top prizes for children’s literature, there was no advertising, no interviews or reviews in newspapers, radio, or television. Reviews that did come, were a result of my own actions, and the Canada Council’s.
·    Book sales are ridiculously low. I have sold more of my own books than he has. For my first two books, he has not been able to sell more than 800 copies a piece, in more than six years – books that also sold in shops in the United States, England, Australia, and Japan. It is likely the books were sold in other countries as Internet sites indicated. Currently, I order books directly from the distributor and have no problem selling them. I am convinced that the statements I’ve received in no way reflect the actual number of copies sold.
·    I am unsure of how many copies of my books have been printed. Royalty statements that indicate the number contradict what I was originally told. In discussion, Dimiter is obscurant and mumbles, becomes irritated when pressed, and responds, “I don’t know, three thousand, maybe five thousand copies.” 
·    My first book, Spacesnake was published Nov. 1, 2004. It was over a year after publications before I received a royalty statement. My contract states that I am to receive a statement every six months. (I will discuss statements later.) This also occurred with my second book Night Wall. For over a year I had no idea how many copies were printed or if any sold or if it had any promotion. I had a phone conversation with Dimiter, in which he began with his half-human obscurant mumbling. I lost my cool, swore at him, and demanded some kind of action. Eventually some promotion was done. He paid $400.00 to have the books face out on the shelves at Indigo/Chapters. 
·    When I lived in Montreal, living off of savings in the bank, Dimiter said I was to receive advances, two payments of $5,000.00, and contracts to illustrate two children’s picture books, The Pink Book and When You Were Small. I refused to begin the illustrations until I received the funds and the contracts. I held out for a few frustrating months, holding off finding a job, fully expecting the money and the contracts to come. Despite being told repeatedly that they would, nothing every showed. I learned later that he had hired another illustrator during this time. Starved of funds, I chose to leave Montreal for Thunder Bay, to stay with my brother, a filmmaker, where I began work on the semi-animated version of Night Wall, for which Dimiter said he would help fund, but never did. 
·    My book, Night Wall, was poorly edited, and the process was a breach of my contract. I was living in Montreal at this time. I did not get a final say on changes made by the editor. Dimiter read an edited version to me over the phone. I disapproved of several changes to my text, and asked that a printed copy of the edited text be sent to me. Within a month, a box of printed hardcover books arrived at my Montreal apartment before I had given approval of the final text. (I was furious – a very odd feeling when your beautifully produced books arrives in a box.) Because of this, I worked with the editor on The Boy from the Sun, and did not allow Dimiter final say of the text. I also flew to Victoria to work with the designer, Doug McCaffrey to ensure that that I got the book I wanted. 
·    The contract for The Boy from the Sun, was delayed a number of times. I had demanded a higher royalty payment, partly because he was not promoting the books, but also because I asked for changes. Eventually, the printing of the book occurred before I received the contract for it. I will note here, that at the outset of receiving my first contract I met with an entertainment lawyer in Vancouver. He read over the contract for Spacesnake, my first book, and told me that it was a badly written contract, but that it would work in my benefit, because a number of passages contradicted each other, and that if it were to be used in a court a judge would immediately rule in my favour.
·    A 2006 calendar featuring illustrations from my picture books published by Simply Read Books was made available for sale, but I was not informed of its existence and not asked for permission to have an image used. My book contracts allows for images to be used in promotional materials, but a quality calendar, made for mass-market sale, exceeds the limits of what constitutes promotion. The calendars were for sale in shops and over the Internet. The Internet is where I discovered its existence. I confronted him about this in a phone call, and again got mumbled, near incomprehensible answers. He said he would send me a copy and a contract. I never received either – but I did get a cheque for under a hundred dollars. (I don’t have the info handy.) 
·    I agreed to a graduated royalty payment in my contracts because I was assured that money he earned from the sales of books would be put into their promotion. I have seen little evidence of promotion – none in terms of advertising. I have promoted my books through my own efforts more than Dimiter has, in which I spent my own time and money. 
·    I received a cheque for a thousand dollars for Spacesnake to be translated and sold in Korea. I have never received any indication on paper or by word as to how many copies were printed for this purpose, how many were sold, or what the conditions were – how I was to be paid in the future for potential book sales or what this payment was even for. Statements I receive for this book do not include book sales in Korea.
·    To promote my books in 2008, it was arranged by the publisher to do a book signing at the Kidsbooks store in North Vancouver. When I arrived with Dimiter’s assistant, Kallie, we met with the owner of the shop and the staff. None knew of any arrangements for a book signing. And no one showed for the event/non-event. Kallie claimed that arrangements had been made. She couldn’t produce any evidence that the event had been advertised, although she insisted that it was. I think Dimiter spun her a story. I have photos of her embarrassed red face.
·    When Steve Ball created music for my book Night Wall, I moved back to Thunder Bay from Montreal to work with my brother, who teaches and makes film, to create a semi-animated short film. Funding for this project that Dimiter said he would provide never materialized. He said he would give $2,000.00 towards the project. I paid for the project myself.
·    Steve Ball (www.steveball.com), a sound engineer and director at Microsoft in Seattle, and a talented musician who works with the likes of Robert Fripp (King Crimson), first encountered Dimiter in 2007. He was asked by Dimiter Savoff to create music for a children’s picture book by an Australian writer and illustrator. Dimiter approached Steve after Steve created music for my book, Night Wall. As incredible as it sounds, Steve and I never did get the name of this Australian artist. I’ve searched the Internet for similar images appearing on Steve Ball’s website. As did Steve. I asked Dimiter and his assistant Kallie, on several occasions, who this author is. They never gave me a name. They didn’t give me a name when I asked them both – in person when I was promoting my books in Vancouver – a trip I made with my own money. The project didn’t happen and Steve didn’t get paid for the music he created. He still has the images of the Australian’s artwork on the main page of his website – www.steveball.com. You can click on the images of the art, and listen to the music that Steve created for the project. When I take legal action against Dimiter Savoff I will approach Australian arts councils, groups, etc. in order to locate this artist and get his/her story. 
·    Steve informed me that two months ago, Dimiter Savoff was in Seattle, approaching Microsoft hoping to work with them to create eBooks, using Simply Read Books’ catalogue of writers and illustrators. Steve Ball sent out a memo warning Microsoft employees to stay away from Dimiter Savoff, referring to Dimiter as a con-artist. 
·    During the award ceremonies for the Governor General’s Award, Dimiter failed to bring books for sale to the Ottawa National Library. A member of the Canada Council was sent to the local Indigo/Chapters store to purchase all the copies of my book that they could in order to avoid embarrassment. The 12 books sold quickly. When Michael Ondaatje came to my table to purchase a book, I was out. When I told him that my publisher had not ordered books for the event, he was shocked and said, “That’s disgraceful.” Members of the Canada Council at this event tried to act coolly to Dimiter’s negligence, but it was obvious that they were disturbed. 
·    Public money was used to fly me down to Toronto from Thunder Bay after winning the GG and R&S Awards. I was flown down to do book signings. This constituted being driven around by a staff member of the distributor for a couple days and taken to several book stores where I signed books. I had expected events where people might attend what constitutes a proper “book signing,” which might be advertised in a Toronto newspaper. This was not the case. There was no advertising, and no one to sign books for. In effect, they could have sent a couple boxes of books to Thunder Bay. I could have signed them there and sent the boxes back. It was a complete waste of everyone’s time, not to mention public money – some of the money given to the publisher to promote sales of the books. It was some kind of weird façade, supposedly to make me happy, but had the opposite effect. I was stunned by the lack of professionalism, and silliness of it all. I was also stunned that the distributor went along with the façade. Sadly, trying to help my publisher out, I stayed at a friends place, instead of a hotel, hoping the money saved would be put towards advertising. 
·    Six months after winning the GG award and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award, I discovered that the award winning stickers were not put on the covers of the award winning book, The Boy from the Sun. The books therefore were not located in the award winning book displays with other American and Canadian award winning books across the country. Staff at the bookstores that I met personally in Toronto and Montreal had no idea that my book had won an award, and in a few instances, they had never heard of either of the awards. Meanwhile, the American award winning books, esp. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, (which became the Academy Award winning film, Hugo) were promoted exceptionally well. Some of the bookstores had no copies of my book at all. This is six months after winning two of Canada’s top awards. When I called the distributor, I discovered that Dimiter had not paid them the $200.00 necessary for having the stickers applied to the books. When I offered to pay the fee, the distributor, (PGW) said that would be inappropriate. After complaining to Dimiter’s assistant, the stickers were applied to the books, a couple months later – but in the warehouse. These stickered books did not make it to the shelves of the bookstores. When I order the books myself from the distributor, most books do not have the award stickers. Dimiter (and the distributor) effectively killed the book’s potential for sales with this inaction, on a huge scale. 
·    There is no pattern for the arrival of my statements. A friend of mine, Jean Pendziwol, a children’s book writer who has two publishers, Kids Can Press and Groundwood Books, kindly allowed me to see the statements she receives. The difference in the amount and kind of information she receives in comparison to my statements are dramatic. Mine are scant; hers indicate numbers of books sold in other countries and other details I don’t get. I receive statements intermittently, sometimes up to two years apart. The actual dates written on the statements can be off by six months of the date at which I receive the statement. Regarding statements, Dimiter Savoff is in total breach of my contracts. The lack of information is considered unusual.
·    My Alma mater, Lakehead Univesity, used images from The Boy from the Sun and a photo of me in an advertising campaign to promote their Orillia campus. Their campaign included t-shirts, posters in bus stops and the subway in Toronto, as well as a billboard. This campaign, not intended in any way to sell my books, resulted in selling more copies of The Boy from the Sun in a few months than anything my publisher has done, or any advertising and news reports that came as a result of winning the Governor General’s Award and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz picture book award. 

I have strong opinions about the Canadian publishing industry. Over twenty years of experience, in and surrounding the industry I have heard so many horror stories from all quarters that I know there are endemic and systemic problems that have made it an unfair society for intelligent and creative people to do their best work. This results in children (and adults) getting lazy and uninspiring books in this country – a reason why the Indigo children’s book department has become a toy department. Continuing to fund publishers who treat contracts like blank pieces of paper, or in the case of Key Porter Books (and others) who outright steal work with no contracts at all, makes the funding agencies complicit in the publishing industries’ near criminal, and criminal activities, if they knowingly continue to fund these publishers. 

I, like many others before me, are guilty of not having spoken sooner. I kept quiet for the first few years of working with Dimiter Savoff in order to advance my career by getting books published and in the stores. Knowing some of the problems, and having been warned by artists and groups like CANSCAIP about problems in the industry I knew some of what I was in for, but no concept of the extent. I was continually stunned. 

I was gearing up for using my website to launch a general complaint against the industry in tandem with taking legal action against Dimiter Savoff. Other authors contacted me, and with no need for encouragement I was delighted to help them out in taking action against Dimiter Savoff.  

Unsuspecting writers and illustrators are unaware of the lies and corruption in the industry and will waste years of their lives hoping for a future that won’t materialize, not for lack of their own effort, but because the very people who are supposed to be helping them, are actually working against them. The current system allows publisher to make money and gain status even though their abuses are criminal.

This letter is written in tandem with letters sent by three other authors:  Letters Sent To:

Conor Rossiter, Program Officer,
Canada Book Fund,
Department of Canadian Heritage 
25 Eddy Street, 25-8-T 
Gatineau, Quebec 
K1A 0M5

Chris Gudgeon, Communications Manager
Literary and Publishing Programs
BC Arts Council
PO Box 9819, Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC  V8W 9W3

Elizabeth Eve
Program Officer
Writing and Publishing Section
Canada Council for the Arts
613-566-4414
1-800-263-5588 ext 5576

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Art of Asia Schultz

Asia Schultz at only twenty-one years of age is a talented young artist, enrolled in the Lakehead University Fine Arts program. Her talent at mixing both high art and low art is a great example of style mixing where some influences come from established English portrait artists like Lucien Freud, Tai-Shan Schierenberg, Francis Bacon, and German artist Max Beckman.
     However, Asia is unusual in that she successfully blends into her work styles from such disparate Japanese artists as animator Hayao Miyazaki and any number of artists who create anime characters that can be found most easily in online web comics, both professionally designed and created by amateurs from all over the world.
     Born and raised in Thunder Bay Asia’s first major influence in style came from the darker works of artist Clint Kraft who teaches at Hammarskjhold High School.
     “Mr. Kraft was great for not limiting us,” says Asia. “He was really open to letting us explore what we really wanted to explore, which I really appreciated. He never told us we had to work in a particular style, like work only in realism or work only in abstract. He let us try a lot of things.”
     Asia began her university education enrolled in psychology, but had her love of drawing rekindled dramatically in her second year in Quinten Maki’s drawing class. She then decided to enroll full time in the fine arts program where she also discovered she had a great love of art history, thoroughly enjoying Christi Holmes’ classes, where Asia says the students are allowed to explore some of their own interpretations of how art history evolved.
     Asia is also unusual in that she had a bit of a head start in her artistic education in a way that most artists can only dream of, not only was she born with some talent, she had an artistic compatriot who was an easily accessible companion who could influence and motivate her by being extremely critical without causing any sting, insecurity or doubt.
    Asia has an identical twin who also likes to draw.
    And true to twins, although they share some of the same traits and interests, each is their own person with completely different personalities. Asia’s sister, Kimberly, is not studying art at university, but continues to enjoy drawing “as a side thing.”
   Asia explains that as children, “Me and my twin sister, we didn’t really have any artistic influences in our lives. So Kimberley and I would spend a lot of time drawing together. It was simple to do and we liked to see what the other could do. We would choose the same thing to draw and see how each other drew it. It was interesting to see how the other interpreted the subject, but we grew to develop our own styles. …. It was something that we could improve daily and practice without being competitive, not trying to outdo each other. I always had someone who could give me confidence. It was a lot of back and forth that helped us. We never judged. And we never thought something was taboo. We got lot of encouragement from each other.”
     In conversation Asia talks about influence from her favourite Miyazaki film, Kiki’s Delivery Service, the Vampire Hunter D series, graphic novels, kids cartoons and something called “gemsonas,” which are cartoon portraits made of oneself, inspired Steven Universe, a spinoff of Adventure Time.
     “I like kids cartoons that don’t underestimate the intelligence of children. They [the creators] understand they have large audiences so they try to make it interesting for everyone.”
     So when it comes to painting and finding her own style, Asia isn’t on a mission to find one style to express herself.
       “I enjoy the fine arts and the intelligence of it and what can grow in that specific mindset, but I do like the mainstream art culture and the pop culture elements that allow you to explore aspects that may not be art but allow you do to your own cartoons, your own animations. I really do enjoy doing figurative works that tests my intelligence and challenge how I can portray something. Painting is where I am better at exploring figurative works. Drawing is where I explore other things, like handmade animations, getting back to your roots in drawing without having to worry about being super polished.” Asia adds, smiling, “And I like working in a gothicky Victorian aesthetic.”
     When asked what kind of advice she would give to young, up and coming artists, Asia offers up insightful multiple suggestions.
     “I learned a lot from copying other artists. I explored already well-received artistic styles, and looked into what exactly I could offer, what my voice could be. I didn’t have to worry what people thought, because I was working in a style that people already loved. I’m learning to become an individual – even though everything has already been done.”
      “You shouldn’t feel self-conscious about what you want to do. Don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to the great masters. You can still be good at what you want to do without creating great masterpieces.”

     After some thought she adds, “There’s no one way to be a great artist. Especially now, there are so many ways to create art. And it’s really important. Web comic artists, artists on Tumblr, they reveal how people have come to grow into many styles.”