Is Scientology Trying to Take Over Self-Publishing?

They have to put all that money somewhere...

By , Contributor

L. Ron Hubbard, self-published for 60+ years.

Recently, I was pleased to learn that producer Paula Wagner - a former long-time production partner of Tom Cruise - had optioned a self-published novel to turn into a major motion picture. The book was Internet Dates From Hell by Trisha Ventker.

As I read about the book, I knew that once again Wagner had shown excellent judgment in material, as she had when partnered with Cruise, whose post-Wagner creative selections have not been so sharp. Ventker's story has everything a Hollywood hit needs: a young beautiful woman in New York City who is a kindergarten teacher, hilarious crazy online dating stories, and a happy ending resulting in marriage and relocation to a beautiful former mining town in Colorado. But what caught my eye was the following paragraph:

"The book was published through iUniverse, a self-publishing imprint of Author Solutions, and the deal came out of the author taking part in Author Solutions’ first Book-to-Screen PitchFest. After Ventker got good reaction, the book was brought to Wagner by Author Solutions director of new media Marcus Chait."

I have a best-selling book (for 20 years) about making it in writing and I keep up with new developments. In the latest edition I provide a good deal of information on self-publishing. In addition, I helped start the Hollywood Film Festival and have been a person "fielding pitches" at many a pitchfest. So there were numerous reasons the article caught my eye, but what made me wonder was the name Author Solutions and the name Chait.

As a former Scientologist who helped the church-run Author Services when it started in the 1980s, I wondered if Author Solutions was connected. Author Services started out as a group that would represent Scientologist writers, then when that didn't seem profitable, it turned into an organization promoting the science-fiction novels that L. Ron Hubbard came up with like the infamous Battlefield Earth which was transformed into a bomb of a movie by none other than John Travolta.

If you'll note on the Author Solutions link provided, at the top of the page it states:

Author Services

Every author wants to be published, but everyone has unique needs based on previous publishing experience, reason for writing, personal goals, and available resources. We're here to help.


I wondered if Marcus Chait was related to prominent Scientology financial contributor Izzy Chait, who owns the Chait Gallery in Beverly Hills. Not being able to determine a yes or no on that, I looked at the LinkedIn profile of Marcus Chait (don't blame me if it's gone when you read this) and discovered something very interesting. From May 2008 to August 2008, he was a "Creative Consultant to CEO" of United Artists in Los Angeles. That CEO was Tom Cruise, who split from Paula Wagner that August

The profile also states that Chait studied psychology at the University of Santa Barbara from 1991 to 1993, so that made me doubt he could be a Scientologist, as Hubbard claimed that all the problems of Mankind stem from psychiatrists and psychologists. So hmm, I thought, was there some kind of oddity going on here, or not? Then I remembered a video I'd seen about a huge new "Dissemination and Distribution Center" for Scientology in Los Angeles - all 185,000 square feet of it.

ScientologyDistributionDissemination.jpgAs I looked at the photoshopped photo of the building it was supposedly housed in and studied the massive facilities depicted in the video (maybe $50 million of equipment), I knew that there was no way Scientology had a need for that much printing of Scientology materials, because the demand just wasn't there. The church already had a publications and audiovisual production facility on Olympic Boulevard in East Los Angeles. Why did they need this one? The building on Badini Boulevard in Commerce, California was where the church had supposedly moved its uniforms facility from Vernon some time back, but looking it up on Google Earth I could see it was indeed huge.

Bridge Publications.jpgHow huge? Well, big enough to have their own U.S. Post Office person working on-site, with the facility "hard-wired" into the government entity, if you believe the video.

I did a bit more investigation and found out there are special padded floors inside, so workers can stay on their feet all day long without getting so exhausted. Since I knew the church was under attack in many countries - Australia, France, Germany, etc. - and that the church facilities in Los Angeles looked relatively abandoned compared to my time in Scientology, what in the world could they be doing to keep those presses going?

Then I took another look at the Author Solutions site and the list of self-publishing houses they'd bought up: AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford, and XLibris among others. Hmmm. I remembered something Tony Ortega of The Village Voice said about tell-all books published by former Scientologists, when writing about Jefferson Hawkins' Counterfeit Dreams:

"Regular publishers won't touch these books -- even though some of them are actually very well written -- so the authors have had to go the self-published route."

True, indeed. Unlike Janet Reitman's attempt at being fair and objective about Scientology (something the church has never done in my experience), dissenters' books like Nancy Many's My Billion-Year Contract, Amy Scobee's Abuse at the Top, and Marc Headley's Blown For Good tell hair-raising, horrible tales about the abuses of many years in Hubbard's pseudo-navy "Sea Organization" supposedly set on saving the world by "Clearing the Planet."

And those current hard-working Scientology staff members, like Owen Varrall (pictured from the video), they'd never defect, would they? After all, Owen completed the False Purpose Rundown a few years ago,  Scientology counseling designed to strip away any "evil intentions" a person might have toward Scientology. Heck, with super-clean facilities and comfortable floors, surely those staff will stick around.

OwenVarrall.jpg

I wondered, would he be working on publications other than for Scientology in that huge facility?

ScientologyEquipment.jpg

Okay, so Author Solutions' funding seems to come by way of Bertram Capital, but who invests in Bertram? Does Tom Cruise or other Scientology celebrity millionaires? How about the massive fortunes amassed by Scientology itself, all tax-free? Where is all that money invested, other than in media real estate they've been buying up lately?

Not being funded by Rolling Stone magazine like Reitman, or The New Yorker like Lawrence Wright, I didn't continue investigating. It just seemed highly curious to me, and a fascinating possible scenario.

- Book company gets a major Hollywood hit movie out of a book they publish, resulting in lots of publicity.

- As a result of the hoopla, aspiring writers all over the world default to said book company for self-publishing.

- Former Scientologists who want to tell their tales find their options highly limited if said book company is prejudiced toward Scientology due to its personnel and/or connections.

- And just maybe, a multi-million dollar investment by a church having tax-exempt status gets earned out when they lease their equipment and/or personnel (working long hours on comfortable floors) to print all those self-published books.

Why, gee, that couldn't happen, could it? Sounds like something out of science-fiction.

I'll be waiting for - as the late great Paul Harvey would say - the rest of the story.

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Skip Press is an author and teacher who has been active in Hollywood for decades. He knows as much about the inner workings of celebrity Scientology as anyone alive.

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