Publisher's book fair questioned amid financial troubles

July 30, 2010

An Indianapolis vanity publisher that has rankled at least a handful of local authors insists that a book fair to benefit the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital will eventually take place despite a string of postponements.

New Century Publishing on East 86th Street had been scheduled to host the charity event on July 31 at the Marten House Hotel and Lilly Conference Center, near St. Vincent Hospital and its children’s hospital.

The publisher now says the "Festival of Books" event, which could attract up to 60 local authors, will be held Oct. 2 at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. The event was originally scheduled for Jan. 30 before being moved to March 6, then to July 31.

But whether the book fair actually occurs—at least at the museum—remains in question. A museum spokeswoman confirmed that it has received a request to stage the event, but a final determination has not been made.

On top of that, St. Vincent is reconsidering its affiliation with New Century in light of the postponements, hospital spokesman Johnny Smith said.

While St. Vincent typically trusts the credibility of individuals and organizations that want to support its children’s hospital, it’s going to “take a closer look at its alignment with New Century Publishing and the Festival of Books in the coming days,” Smith said.

Authors pay $50 for a booth at the book fair and agree to donate $1 to the children’s hospital for each book they sell.

New Century Publishing was founded in 2004 by David Caswell, who operated it in his Indiana Authors Bookstore downtown at 36 E. Maryland St. until the bookstore closed in 2008. The publishing company then moved to 1040 E. 86th St.

Caswell, who has been sued by the state before over questionable business practices, didn’t return phone calls from IBJ. But Dan Fischer, New Century’s production manager, maintained the book fair will be held despite concerns about the publisher’s financial stability.

“Publishing companies are all experiencing problems, but we’re still hanging in there,” Fischer said. “We’re still answering the phones; we’re still addressing the questions as they’ve come up.”

New Century operates by charging a fee to publish an author’s book and typically takes a percentage of the profit of any book sales.

For Fred Cavinder, a retired Indianapolis Star editor who spent 37 years at the newspaper, that meant giving the company $2,500 in March 2009 to publish two of his books: "Hoosier Book of Humor" and "Toilets, Tubs and Tomfoolery."

But after New Century stopped answering his e-mails and telephone calls about a month ago, and still without any books, Cavinder questioned whether the publisher is still operating. With seven previous books under his belt, he insisted he’s “not ignorant” about the publishing industry.

“This time I violated my standing policy and I invested some money in it, so it shows you what greed does,” Cavinder said.

Fischer maintained he was unaware of Cavinder’s situation and said he would check into it. Meanwhile, Cavinder, who still has not heard from the publisher, said he is not confident about getting his money back, or getting his books published.

Cavinder, though, is not the only author who has experienced problems with New Century.

Rex Early, former chairman of the Indiana Republican State Committee and a principal at Indianapolis-based Consolidated Insurance Services Inc., wrote a satire of Indiana politics, "It’s a Mighty Thin Pancake That Don’t Have Two Sides." New Century printed about 2,000 copies of the book in 2008, with proceeds going to charity. But when Early paid the publisher to print 1,000 additional copies, it only produced 200, and those books fell apart, Early recalled.

“My relationship with New Century Publishing was disappointing to say the least,” Early said.

Local attorney Kip Tew, a former Indiana Democratic Party chairman, signed a contract in March 2009 to have New Century publish his book, "Journey to Blue: How Barack Obama Won Indiana in 2008."

But Tew cut ties with the company in November, after it became evident the book would not be available by Christmas, Tew said. Carmel-based Hawthorne Publishing published the book instead.

Tew declined to divulge how much money he gave New Century. But he said he’s contemplating litigation.

“The book ended up costing me twice as much as it should have because [David] Caswell didn’t do what he was supposed to do,” Tew said.

Caswell has been sued before for questionable business practices.

In March 2008, he agreed to a “consent judgment” without trial in a lawsuit brought by the state of Indiana. Marion Superior Court documents said the judgment does not constitute an admission by the defendant of any wrongdoing.

The state sued Caswell and two others in 2005 for violating its Deceptive Consumer Sales Act while working at GCM Group of Indianapolis Inc., a career services firm. The defendants claimed they had access to a “hidden job market” to assist clients who purchased their services to secure employment.

Under the judgment, Caswell agreed to pay $60,000, including more than $56,000 to the state, in civil penalties and litigation costs, in addition to more than $3,000 in restitution to three consumers.

He also was ordered to cease doing business as a supplier of career services in Indiana.

The state also sued Caswell in 1990 for similar claims while he operated Thomwell Deil and Associates Inc. He then was ordered to pay a total of $39,600, including $16,600 in restitution.

In December 1993, he pleaded guilty in federal court to four counts of interstate transportation of fraudulently obtained money and two counts of failure to file income tax returns.

His 14-month sentence was upheld in September 1994 following a failed appeal challenging the calculation of the prison term.



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