Martha My Dear

My very first publisher was the notorious Martha Ivery of Press-TIGE Publishing. I never understood what was up with the TIGE part in caps. I mean the name defines irony. She and her company turned out to be anything BUT pres-TIGIOUS. Martha was The Worst Publisher On Earth. Last month she headed to the slammer for 65 months.

If you have never heard of Martha Ivery, you can read the juicy details here:
Multiple Personalities – Fee-Charging Literary Agent/Fraudulent Vanity Publisher Martha Ivery, a.k.a. Kelly O’Donnell

I’ve been thinking about Martha a lot lately. To commemorate her incarceration I composed a parody of the Beatles song, “Martha My Dear” – with my apologies to John Lennon and Paul McCartney. You already know the tune, so hum along.

Martha My Dear

(piano intro)

Martha my dear
Though I spent my days in isolation, you
discovered me
Martha you con, won’t forget you
Martha my dear

Hang your head down, you crazy bitch
Look what you’ve done
When you found yourself in the thick of it
Helped yourself to the dreams of writers all around you
Crazy bitch

Take a good look around you
Take a good look and you’re bound to see
That prison bars were meant to be
your destiny
Crazy bitch

(orchestral interlude)

Scammed the writers, you crazy bitch
See what you’ve done
When you found yourself in the thick of it
Helped yourself to the dreams of writers all around you
Crazy bitch

Martha my dear, you were always my exasperation, but
you believed in me
Martha my bitch
Won’t forget you
Martha my dear

I don’t consider myself a “victim”.  I didn’t pay Martha Ivery to publish my book. In 1996, I signed a standard advance plus royalties contract with Press-TIGE Publishing for “Carly’s Ghost”. I received a $1000 advance.

Martha and I had a strange relationship. But let’s face it, the publishing industry is weird. Exhibit A: Judith Regan (see Even Bitches Have Feelings). ALL my business relationships have been strange. It wasn’t until Tales of Martha spilled out into cyberspace that I glimpsed the depths of her scam-duggery. But when I told my story I didn’t get a warm welcome from the We Hate Martha Ivery Club. I was accused of lying, defending her, even colluding with her. I responded the way any irrational creative person does, I blamed it on addiction and hid out in re-hab.

So to further mar this occasion I’m breaking my silence. Call it – therapy.

When I “met” Kelly O’Donnell (a.k.a. Martha Ivery) in 1995, I was still sputtering from what I had thought was the mother of all scams. A small local publisher had offered to publish “Carly’s Ghost”, but the contract stated I was responsible for some of the production costs “to be determined”. When I refused to sign it, the publisher set out to publish my book anyway and bill me for the costs. Six months and $500-in-legal-fees later I stopped him.

As a parting shot, the publisher called and said, “The contract never would’ve cost you what you paid that lawyer. And you would have your book published by now.” Ok, so he lied.

I found Kelly O’Donnell Literary Agency listed in “Jeff Herman’s Guide to Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents”. I contacted her through the normal query process. She asked to see “Carly’s Ghost”. After she read it she called and said she loved it and wanted to see more of my work.

She did ask me for $100 up front for “office expenses” but I refused. I told her all about the last publisher’s scam. She didn’t mention the fee again. But then, why would she? That’s probably how she got Her First Big Idea.

She almost got me a deal with Little, Brown – I know this is true because she sent me copies of the correspondences – but it fell through. I’m pretty sure she did nothing else as an agent to sell my work. Which is a good thing. Once I got to know her psychotic bitch persona I understood how she might have blown that one opportunity.

A couple months later she said she had found a small publisher, Press-TIGE Publishing. She insisted that I needed to “come out” with a small press which would get me recognized and get me bigger contracts. She told me the deal they offered for “Carly’s Ghost” – the boilerplate $1000 advance against 10% royalties. Her pitch made sense. She sent me the contract and I signed it. It was also signed by Martha Ivery.

About six months passed and I didn’t hear a thing from Kelly O’Donnell or Martha Ivery. I still thought they were 2 people. I called Kelly to find out what was up. I got her answering machine, except it was Kelly’s voice saying she was Martha Ivery from Press-TIGE Publishing.

I was furious. I left a snarky message that went something like: “You’re fired.”

When she called back I told her to cancel my contract with Press-TIGE. She refused and insisted that I had been paid, and I couldn’t legally back out now, production had already begun … blah, blah, blah. She threatened to sue me for the advance money.

She prattled on about what a talented writer I was and how she believed in me so much she was willing to put her own money on the line so she could get my work noticed. I told her she could not be my agent and she’d better refund her agency fee on my advance. She said she had dissolved her agency. She returned her fee.

I talked to a lawyer. He said I had done the right thing by canceling the agent agreement. But the book contract was legitimate, and since I had been paid the advance money she could come after me for it, even though the contract didn’t say so. “She’s not the most scrupulous person, but on the other hand do you want months of lawyers and legal fees? Or do you want your book published?” he asked. “It says here she will publish your book. That’s legally binding.”

In hind sight, adopting the “wait and see” attitude was probably the cowardly choice. But it required the least effort and expense on my part. Of course that was back in 1997, before she really got strung out. I couldn’t exactly google Martha Ivery to find out what she was up to.

After that, I pestered her with phone calls and emails which usually began with: “When will Carly’s Ghost be published?”

Her excuses were truly madly deeply outrageous.

“I just signed a huge contract with a big name author I can’t name because he demanded confidentiality, so I’ve been totally tied up with that.”

“My husband had a heart attack.”

“I have cancer and I’ve been so sick from chemotherapy.”

I always called bullshit on her. At one point I said, “You have such a tragic life you should write a book.”

“Oh, but I have!” she said and told me all about her book, What’s Your Psychic I.Q.?: How to Listen to Your Inner Voice and Let It Guide You to a Better Life.

I laughed. “Gee, that hasn’t worked out too well for you, has it?”

She dusted off the old cancer chestnut when she first extorted me for money. “The medical bills have wiped out my finances so if you could return the advance, then I can afford to publish your book. I’ll pay you back.”

“I’m not a banker,” I said. “Go get a loan.”

Through the years I figured out that the Martha I knew wasn’t necessarily the same as the Martha – or Kelly, or Joseph – other people knew. Her lies frustrated yet amused me. She seduced me with her praise. So how fucked up is that? Perhaps she connected with my inner masochist.

Martha persisted with the delusion that she was in the process of publishing my book. Cover designs and galleys came and went. Then in 1999, she sent an addendum to the original contract demanding the advance be returned as payment to print “Carly’s Ghost”. I called her and ripped it up over the phone.

“So that’s the thanks I get after I knocked myself out to get your book ready for publication,” she said. “All I need is money for the printing costs. My husband’s been out of work because of his chemotherapy treatments.”

“I thought he had a heart attack,” I said.

“He did. Then we found out he had cancer.”

“So now you both have cancer?”

“Are you calling me a liar?”

“You really need to keep your stories straight.”

“As much as I admire you, Peggy, you are the most cold-hearted person I have ever known.”

“Yes I am.”

I didn’t hear from her again until January 2000. She emailed and said she had a big surprise: “Carly’s Ghost will be released soon.”

But I’d heard that before.

On February 1, 2000, a package arrived. Twenty-five copies of “Carly’s Ghost” printed in paperback. I hated the cover design. She’d made editing changes I had never approved – but – I had this book in my hands – “Carly’s Ghost” – with my name on it. I was in love.  

Had the-psychotic-bitch-publisher-from-hell mended her ways?

Does a rat look upon a pound of cheddar and ask, “How can I help this cheese become successful?”

No. She devours it.

Martha emailed and asked for $500 to list my book on her exclusive new bookselling website that “will rival Amazon”.

“No thanks,” I wrote back.

She did nothing to promote or sell the book. Instead she managed to piss off the printer and book distributors. She just couldn’t help herself.

But she did sell me copies at 50% off the cover price so I sold 500 copies on my own.

In 2001, when the FBI started calling and asking about Martha Ivery, this cheese packed it in. 

I told the FBI guy that Martha Ivery was a liar and a crazy bitch but I hadn’t paid her any money, she had in fact paid me, and she published my book.

He asked if I would be willing to sign an affidavit. “Some people are embarrassed to admit they paid her money to publish their books,” he added.

“Well I’m not embarrassed because I didn’t pay her to publish my book,” I said.

After I signed the affidavit, I wanted Martha and the FBI out of my life ASAP.

I asked for and received a signed release from her. I sold “Carly’s Ghost” to Zumaya Publications. In 2003, it was released in a 2-book anthology, with “Harpo Marx is Seeing Things”.

The new title, The Road to Weird says it all.

So there it is. The Worst Publisher On Earth discovered me.

Martha doesn’t deserve the Big House for what she did to me. But she pled guilty to the 17 counts against her. Evidently she ripped off a lot of writers. 

A friend – who’s not in the biz – asked if my career is tainted because of Martha’s reputation.

“Anything’s possible,” I replied.

When you’re knee deep in crap, you’re bound to get some on you. People have TOLD me that my association with Martha would hurt my career. So that means THEY believe it.

But I don’t have any control over the past. “I yam what I yam,” as Popeye says.

My friend then asked, “If you had it to do over again, would you walk away before the book was published?”

“Of course not.”

Publishing is a tough business. “It’s a Bunny-Eat-Bunny World” as editor and agent Olga Litowinksy coined it. In my own twisted way I’m glad I suffered through Martha’s de-bitch-ery and came out on the other side still clutching my advance and copies of “Carly’s Ghost”. It’s called paying my dues. It’s what writers do.

Now Martha is paying hers.

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5 Comments on “Martha My Dear”

  1. Linda Says:

    Peggy, I remember reading about the screw-up with Carly’s Ghost. Glad the ‘lady’ and I do use that word lightly, is finally getting her comeuppance.

    http://readingrucker.blogspot.com/

  2. Brad Curtis Says:

    I was taken (only $210.00) by Martha but now what. I happen onto info she went to jail and was pleasured. Now what? I still have a great manuscript I want published but no idea where to take it now….

  3. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    Well Brad it’s a brave new world out there for indie publishers and self-pubbers. I have another blog for writers, Advice from a Caterpillar where I post markets, contests and book reviews. Check it out: http://advicefromacaterpillar.wordpress.com

    There have been a few calls for submissions posted lately, perhaps your book would be a good fit for one of them.

  4. Brad Curtis Says:

    Thank you… I will take a look

  5. Dorothy E. Scott Says:

    I was one of the unlucky ones and she even made death threats online. I worked with Albany FBI get her indicted and victoria strauss. I was a world famous poet helping others write and she used my popularity to sell books to so many, even offering bonuses that if they bought using my sickness. if they bought I found out from FBI. when I found her she was Presstige I signed contract with her and my books 2 in 1 came out with new millenium . She broke my heart but I went on helping others she sold so many of my books in amazon. I have 84 poetry books finished and working on over 100 more all genre. I am doing two Christian series which will be 100 books alone and used overseas and in usa. I let many worldwide churches use my writing. I use my books to better the world now. I have rare heart disease Prinzmetal angina. I have outlived all with my kind of disease the form I have. My animal series teach children over seas and I was made the first ever Reverend Of Poetry for all I helped around the world. My poetry is saving warriors too in the hospital and out but when she stole from me she shattered so much. I am now chaplin and My Christian poetry is about others lives. I am Volunteer Christian counselor too the warriors wounded coming home and I do memorials for the ones that come home in coffins.. She made me her mom and I knew suspicious other things but I had all and she was indicted. We have never been paid back anything. I saw a picture of her at courthouse it wasn’t pictures I had of her. I am just too crippled now and sick now fighting this disease all day. I am Dorothy E. Scott on facebook. I send my poetry books to millions from yahoo but she took away the want to publish ever again. I give my work away now to the world. I put the two books away and soon will be dismantling them. I was top seller in amazon 3 months before it was pulled.
    I am happy who I am but so many out there are gullible to the grasping Jaws of con artists like her many more too. Make sure to check all out with beware.org Victoria Strauss and Ann Crispin. Don’t get your heart broke like mine. Some people have one chance to publish and mine destroyed my want to be anymore. I am God’s Poet and she couldn’t take that from me. I help millions now and never published again.
    God Bless Ya All
    Poet Dorothy E. Scott

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