EXCLUSIVE By Anatoly Kurmanaev

THE dreams of thousands of aspiring young authors have been crushed by a suspect publishing scheme.

Spanish police have launched an investigation into English media company Forward Press, which closed down after taking money to publish the youngsters’ poems and short stories.

The company’s two Andalucian offices – in La Cala and Malaga – have shut having taken an unknown amount of money from unsuspecting punters.

Over 50,000 school children participated in the ‘Escritores Jovenes’ short story competition organised by the publisher in 2009 and 2010.

The winners, aged between six and 17, were offered the chance to have their work published in a special compilation for a 13-euro fee.

Their parents were then given the option of ordering books and about 70 per cent agreed, with many purchasing several copies for family and friends.

But the books ordered last year never arrived.

“It just broke my heart when I realised it was all a scam,” said 15-year-old Celia Garcia Aboy, who bought five books with her own money.

Her teachers encouraged her to enter the competition, saying she was a very good writer.

In particular, she wanted her school in Murcia to get the 1,000-euro prize offered to the best participating college.

“What pains me most is not the lost money, but that they have destroyed the will of many youngsters to write,” she told the Olive Press.

Setenil town council worker Juan Sanchez Lebron, 42, is equally angry.

He was very happy when his 12-year-old son Juan came home saying his poem about animals was selected for the book.

“I wanted something to remember the achievements of my son,” he said. “I made the bank transfer, but nothing arrived. Then I discovered the phones were disconnected. I didnt know what to say to my son.”

The business was the brainchild of British poet Ian Walton, 59, who is now running a new publishing venture in England.

In November, he voluntarily liquidated the five million pounds-a-year UK parent company.

Over 100 staff members lost their jobs and many of the existing British authors claim to have lost their royalties.

In a clever move, last month, Walton bought out Forward Press’ assets and publishing rights using his other firm Bonacia and is now back in business.

Despite the fact that he is listed as a director or a secretary of both Bonacia and Forward Press (Europe), a Bonacia representative initially denied any connection.

After being confronted by the Olive Press, Walton said: “We just couldn’t afford to print any more books. By November the money just ran out.”

He said the recession has made the business unprofitable and he had to close it without notifying the contest’s participants.

“We had to pull the plug,” he explained, insisting that the bulk of the 50,000 children involved got their books.

At the time of closure Forward Press’ Spanish branch owed nearly 250,000 euros, said the company’s liquidator Ian Yerrill of accountants Gerald Edelman.

“I personally lost all my money but what bothers me most is that some of those kids thought their stories would be published. And unfortunately, they won’t be,” Walton continued.

Walton, who formed Forward Press in 1989, claims to be the largest publisher of new poetry in the world, the bulk of it paid for by first-time authors themselves.

The Olive Press has discovered that while Forward Press no longer exists, its online shop remains open…selling books that in some cases haven’t even been published.

A police spokesman in Madrid said: “An investigation is open and we are looking for more victims to come forward.”

Email jon@theolivepress.es  if you have more info

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  1. If these are UK companies Walton could have problems with the DTI based on the liquidator’s report. Directors of UK companies cannot now play ducks and drakes with company assets or start again in the wife’s name. Victims should start lobbying the DTI and the liquidators to shape their attitude.

  2. Sounds very similar to another well known school publisher scam run in Spain (Marbella Business Centre) by Mr Donald Beskine, who the Olive Press covered a while back and which was shut down by the High Court. Perhaps there is a link?

  3. This is outrageous fleecing ordinary families who were just trying to better there childrens lives and give them a chance to do something positive for themselves. Who knows some of these children may have become great in there own right. It’s the knock to there confidence which is probaly worse than the financial loss. I don’t know how people like this sleep at night, they would soon shout from the rooftops if it was there children that had been scammed..!!!

  4. These sorts of scams are notorious, and there are many active publishing scams currently in operation. The scammers just use hundreds of different company names, registering the secretary in Russia and Afghanistan etc, and then bombard people (schools in this case) with fake invoices and phone calls with payment demands. They hassle people to death and then get the odd payment to make them desist.

  5. Yes, this is an outrageous tale of a blatant con. With print on demand self publishing it is very easy for anyone to produce a book in any quantities. 100 copies of a 200 page paperback need cost no more than 300€ or 3€ per book. Split that cost amongst 100 contributors? One only needs to set the type in a word document with correct pagesize and margin layout and print to pdf with Adobe printer driver and, bingo, a print ready pdf which a print on demand printer will use directly. Cover design takes a little more work, but same principle.

    For ease and transparency, contributors could submit the work to a blog page which can then be cut and paste into the word document and editorial progress can be posted in the same blog. With the Company I use in Sevilla they also support direct purchase from their website (as far as I recall, I don’t use that service) so, in theory, where a writer/publisher has credit with the printer it’s probably possible to produce those books without any initial outlay.

    It could be so easy to do with absolute transparency that no parent should ever have to share their childrens disappointment. Paying prizes, of course, is a whole different ball game.

    If the object is to get kids into print nobody should have to ask vast sums of money to do so. That’s simply profiteering!

  6. I.have the misfortune of having Donald beskine as my landlordr. I am the owner of Da Carlo restaurant. Located in the Marbella business

    He has obtained judgement against me by having received the summon in his mail box not notified me the case was heard in my absence the judge passed sentence of double of the funds that he is owed. On the 14th of February 2011 I collected a registered mail from the post office low and behold sentenced. The same day I attended the courts with my lawyear we discovered that he has lodged a forged contract in English ( not translated) doubling the amount of rent. I have lodged my contract with the court which is signed by me and withnessed by his then secretary Lisa.My layer has lodged a criminal complaint with the court asking for the judgement be set aside and for Donald Beskine to lodge E.300.000 with the court to cover damages. I need all the help I can get especially from Roberto and Fred

  7. Carlos, witholding mail is a serious offence, as is making a forged contract. I wish you success and hope you can prove these two wrongdoings and get the justice you deserve. I’m sure the OP would like to cover any court case concerning Mr Beskine’s “activities”, so ensure the case details are kept up-to-date here as well.

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