Em Kwissa’s Dealings with Lulu.com

Hi. This isn’t Emily. My name is Rusty Priske and I am a friend who is trying to help her with the problems she has been having with Lulu.com. Em has provided all the screen captures included. This is her story.

There is a much bigger background to all of this… much, much bigger.  That is not my story to tell, however. It is Emily’s.

Emily chose to share that story in the form of a memoir. The book reveals her story of growing up abused (sexually, physically, psychologically) by the person she now refers to as ‘my mother’s ex-husband’ but who was once her step-father.

You can download and read the book at Emily’s website – under the Media tab. (It is currently available for Kindle and Kobo e-readers, but anyone who prefers a pdf can send her an e-mail and get it that way. She is also arranging for it to return to print shortly. More information to follow.)

The fact that it is currently not in print is why this site exists.

Emily published the book through Lulu.com – a service for self-publishers. As word got out that this incredibly talented writer and poet had a very personal story to tell, people started buying the book through Lulu. When I read the book (some of which I already knew, but not all), I was moved by the ordeal this talented young woman had been through and her strength and bravery in sharing her story (and the skill in doing so in a riveting and engrossing format).

While this WAS her story, Em made sure that she changed the names of certain people in the book, to protect their identities. One of those people was her abuser.

As I (and others) endeavored that more and more people read the book, word seemed to make it back to her abuser. His current wife posted complaints on the Lulu site. Lulu removed the comments as they were strictly attacks on the author and not ‘book reviews’ as they claimed. (In fact, nobody has brought forward any evidence that either the abuser or his wife have even read the book.) Images were taken of the complaints before they were removed.

EmilyLulu1

(With this and all other images, you can click to enlarge them if they are difficult to read.)

That would be the last time Lulu would support the author in any fashion.

On August 15th Em awoke to find a message sent to her from Lulu.

EmilyLulu1

Either Emily’s abuser or his wife had filed a complaint with Lulu about the book (despite his name never being mentioned), and they removed it from their website and no longer had it available to sell, without any sort of investigation (which could have been very brief as the complaint is unfounded).

They simply pulled her book and sent her a form letter.

Emily replied to Lulu the same day.

 
Hello, 

I’m not sure if replying to this address works, but I’m hoping it does. 

Yes, my memoir does contain detailed memories of abuse that occurred when I was a child. However, the name of my abuser has been changed, and there are no characteristics included in the book that could be used to identify him. He has been told about the existence of the book, and because he denies any of the abuse taking place, he is upset that the book exists. This is his perfect right. It is not, however, his right to silence me. I have done nothing wrong. 

I find it deeply unfortunate and ethically questionable that you have removed my book from availability without first asking me about the claims that were made against it. No one has suffered any defamation at my hands. By taking down my book, all you are accomplishing is the support of a man who abused me all through my childhood and has stalked and threatened my family through most of my adolescence and adulthood. I protected his identity. Do I not receive some protection? Does my right to free speech not stand, when I have gone out of my way to shield a man who has done wrong to me?

I would like to point out as well that his and his wife’s reviews were removed due to questionable content. This man has not read the book. He doesn’t know what it contains.

The book is about me, not him. I ask you to please restore it to its availability.

Lulu replied (still referring to her as ‘Account Holder’):

EmilyLulu3

Please note that they admit here that they may removed content “at their sole discretion”, which counters any claim that they had no options available to them.

Still on that same day, Emily sent a message to ‘her mother’s ex-husband’.

EmilyLulu4

Emily’s mention that ‘many’ people have written to complain is no exagguration. Many people, having heard that her book had been removed by a spurious complaint by someone who had already done so much to her and her family was intolerable. In addition to sending complaints to Lulu, many posts were spreading around Facebook, reaching more and more people. The Lulu.com Facebook group became filled with posts by people who were incensed by Lulu’s willingness to remove her book after a single complaint.

This is much bigger than one woman and one book. This is Lulu telling anyone that their stories cannot be told. No matter what measures are taken – changing names and identifying characteristics – a single complaint can silence the author. Yet another injustice brought upon someone who had already suffered greatly at the hands of her abuser.

This dispute had become a little too public for Lulu. Their Lulu.com Facebook page was turning into a public relations nightmare. August 16th, someone at Lulu made a post on the page trying to do damage control. The statement was somewhat misleading so Em replied to set the record straight.

EmilyLulu5

This time they said it ‘must be removed’, which contradicts what Emily was told in their earlier form letter. This time, however, they said ‘even temporarily’. When I pushed for clarification on the site, asking if it was possible that the book could go back up, there was no reply.

The anger on the page did not cease. Later in the day, Meg Crawford, the Social Media Marketing Manager made a statement on the page.

EmilyLulu6

It is telling that it was the ‘Social Media Manager’ who made a statement. This had become a publicity nightmare for Lulu and they were clearly look at this as a P.R. problem and not a problem with a lack of support for an author and a survivor of abuse.

More importantly, notice that now she is saying that they DID investigate the claim and thereby are AGREEING with the complaint. They feel it has MERIT. Despite the abuser’s name never appearing int he book. Despite NO identifying information appearing within. Earlier messages claimed they they made NO judgment about the complaint itself.

Which is it Lulu?

Meg Crawford also contacted Emily (referring to her by name for the first time).

EmilyLulu7

To which Em responded:

EmilyLulu8

An understandable response. On August 18th, Emily received this response from Meg Crawford at Lulu:

Hello Em,

Thank you so much for your response.  I must apologize, I’ve been away from my phone and computer for most of the day today.  I will provide you with a detailed response tomorrow.  Again, thank you for your patience with this matter…I look forward to hopefully providing some clarity with all of this.

Thank you,

Meg Crawford | Social Media Marketing Manager
MCrawford@lulu.comwww.lulu.com
 
 
 
This is where this currently stands.
 
I think it is very clear that Em Kwissa has been treated very poorly by Lulu.com. In fact, I would argue that their actions have helped Emily’s abuser have a modicum of control over her yet again, and that is inexcusable.
 
 
As you can see above, Emily has refused to allow herself to be silenced, as she is willingly giving her book away for free rather than let her “mother’s ex-husband”, aided and abetted by Lulu, stop her from telling her story.
 
As I mentioned above, this is much bigger than ‘just’ Emily (though using the word ‘just’ to describe such a strong and brave young woman seems blasphemous). This is a policy by Lulu that will allow ANY abuser yet another indignity on their victim. If we cannot tell OUR OWN STORIES, society has ensured that we remain voiceless.
 
It is time for us all to raise our voices.
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8 thoughts on “Em Kwissa’s Dealings with Lulu.com

  1. Reblogged this on The Amazon Iowan and commented:
    This is a sad and disheartening story. I hope it ends well for Ms. Kwissa, and I hope the self-publishing platforms like lulu.com learn to take more care in dealing with authors. This speaks to the heart of my fear of publishing–initially my thought was of self-pub, but really this can come from any publishing platform, traditional or otherwise, that is more interested in churning out content than protecting authors. But my god, I can’t think of a more grisly and awful place for Lulu to make a misstep.

  2. The depersonalisation of the notes Emily Kwissa’s received from Lulu is typical of abusers. I did not expect this type of behaviour from Lulu. I’m buying Emily Kwissa’s memoir on Kindle. Funny how negative publicity make companies consider doing the right thing. Disappointing too.

  3. Emily is my grandniece. I’m very proud of her. She is bright. She is a survivor. Her mum and siblings should also write their memoirs.

  4. Pingback: Linkspam, 8/23/13 Edition — Radish Reviews

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