How an indie publisher used me and why I let it happen.
As an author, I was elated when I received an offer of publication. Even though it was just a small publishing house, my book was going to be real.
When you have a dream like this, as you very well may, there is a crippling fear that comes with that dream. A fear that something you do, a wrong word, a late reply to an email, really anything at all could send that dream crumbling into ruin.
That fear becomes all the more real the closer you come to achieving the dream.
Because of this, we often look past things that should be addressed. We train ourselves not to see red flags. We tell ourselves if we just ‘let this happen’ that it will be worth it.
A Deal with the Devil
In 2018 I signed over the rights to my young adult fantasy novel, Summoned, to The Parliament House Press. Parliament is a small, indie publisher. I had always wanted to go the route of traditional publishing but I thought maybe publishing my first book with a small publisher would get my foot in the door. I wanted a publication under my belt and Parliament was offering it to me.
I researched the publisher and didn’t find them on Writer’s Beware or any other list of cautionary tales. They were a young Publisher, with not many titles, but their books looked professional and they specialized in Young Adult Fantasy. I felt confident I was putting my book in good hands.
The first warning sign was early, before I even signed the contract. Parliament doesn’t give advances. I thought that was fine. My research told me a lot of small publishing houses don’t give advances and that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad. When I asked about advances Parliament gave me a curt answer, as if offended I would ask. No advance.
I had a family friend read the contract, someone more experienced with the material. She found no red flags in the contract, no sinister clauses, no dotted lines where I would sign my soul away. In fact the contract was very simple. I assumed that meant safe.
My percentage of the royalties were fairly decent, higher at least than most traditional publishers offered, so I shrugged off the lack of an advance and the slim contract and signed.
After signing and answering an author questionnaire about marketing, which at the time gave me great hopes for how Parliament planned to advertise my book, I didn’t hear from them for a few months. I didn’t know what was happening. I was afraid to reach out. I didn’t want to come off naggy or impatient. So I waited.
Finally I was contacted and given a loose schedule. My book was given to an editor and then the edits were given back to me to approve or… The wording was vague. It was implied I accept all the changes without discussion. I was told I was not permitted to contact my editor but all correspondence regarding edits were to go through one of the women who ran the publishing house instead. To this day I’ve never had a direct conversation with that editor.
I had never had my work professionally edited before. I thought my story was strong, but my editing? I have ridiculously bad spelling and grammar. My writing philosophy is that I’m a writer, not an editor, and my skill set reflects that. I was expecting a manuscript riddled in red. Strike through everywhere, margins full of comments and changes. I was prepared and excited for that. I wanted to improve my manuscript and I knew it had a lot of room for growth.
What I received back from my editor was my 60k word manuscript, a couple dozen changes and suggestions, a few errors not caught by spell-check, and a handful of comments, most of which were praise, not critiques.
Most notably, all my dialogue tags had been changed. I had been writing for a long time, posting my writing on critique sites, and not once had someone pointed out that I incorrectly used dialogue tags. I doubted myself, I looked up a dozen articles on writing dialogue tags, until I finally acknowledged that this editor clearly did not know how to structure dialogue and had wrongly changed mine.
When I brought it up to the publisher I was told it would be looked at. They returned and admitted the dialogue tags were done wrong and their fix for this was making an editing guide that they gave to their editors and authors. Meanwhile, I was told it would be my job to fix the dialogue tags my editor had messed up in the first place. So I did. Without protest I went back over my 60k manuscript yet again, fixing the dialogue I had written correctly the first time around.
I found out later that the editor had done the same thing to a manuscript of another author before mine, and yet the problem hadn’t been fixed.
Book releases are so important to the success of a book. They are where you first get to find and engage with your audience. Most of the marketing you do for a book will be done around a release. You want hype. You want to plaster your book on as many platforms as possible.
Part of the hype building comes before the release date. Pre-orders essentially only exist to build hype, to get people talking, to get your book in front of people before they can purchase it. One of the most important ways to do this is to put ARCs (advance reader copies) in the hands of bloggers. I was told to reach out to bloggers and find people willing to read and review my book. I emailed or messaged at least fifty accounts. Many didn’t get back to me because I’m just one person with a small following. That’s part of the benefit of having a publisher: they bring a name and a brand to the table, a little more visibility to engage influencers.
Parliament found, to my knowledge, three accounts that reviewed my book. Three. That’s it. I don’t know who at the publisher was responsible for this side of marketing, but they dropped the ball big time.
On top of that, I did not receive any physical ARC’s. I couldn’t offer to send anyone physical copies and many reviewers don’t review ebooks.
Lastly, I tried to organize a cover reveal with a big marketing platform. I planned it and gave my publisher the date and time. They missed it by hours, and blamed me.
There were a lot of problems with Parliament. I could not possibly go into every little argument or disagreement, nor should I. It would be naive of me to assume all business transactions or business relationships play out perfectly. There are always hiccups. Personalities clash. Communication breaks down. It happens; we’re human.
But it is at this point I must start naming names. What follows is not meant to slander or abuse. I merely want to paint an accurate picture of why and how Parliament is problematic. And most of those issues lie with two people.
Chantal Gadoury is one of the owners of Parliament. She deals with most of the communications between authors and everyone else at the publishing house.
Shayne Leighton is the main owner and operator of Parliament. She’s a very talented cover designer and does almost all of the publishing houses covers.
Both Shayne and Chantal must be CCed in every communication between author and editor, author and marketing director, author and interns...literally everything. This is, I was told, to maintain a level of transparency and avoid conflicts, and, I assume, part of a serious control issue on Shayne’s part.
Chantal is hyper emotional and sensitive. I complained about my edits (which she didn’t do) and she was so upset by this that I was told by Shayne I was not to contact Chantal anymore (only to be scolded a month later for NOT CCing her on my e-mails). Accounts from other Parliament authors have shown me that I was not the only person to go through this with Chantal. She takes all criticism, even if it’s not even remotely directed at her, like an assault on her character.
Shayne is a complete diva. She has a big girl boss ego and likes to be the center of attention. She is very much the face of Parliament, and is constantly using TikTok or Insta stories, and more concerned with promoting her Parliament House merch than the books Parliament is supposed to be known for.
So the woman who all complaints must go through dissolves into a total wreck anytime someone says boo, and the owner is so self absorbed she doesn’t realize the trail of unhappy authors she leaves in her wake. And nothing, NOTHING is ever their fault.
There is one other big issue with this dynamic duo: favouritism.
First of all, Chantal’s books are promoted more than any other Parliament book. Her book was advertised and being months before her release, the same time most authors are getting the first look at their cover, and a long way from having access to copies they can give to reviewers. I remember seeing nothing but her book The Shrike and the Shadows advertised on the Parliament Instagram stories for about two weeks straight.
At first, I didn’t mind this, she is part owner after all and that must come with some perks. But I wasn’t the only person to notice or the only person to point out that while The Shrike and the Shadows was in the limelight far more than any other release, absolutely none of the previously published books ever got advertised after their release date.
From what I saw, the only time any previously released book made it on to their social media (which is basically their only avenue of advertising) was when the author had a planned event or won an award or contest. Which, for a press so small, is a rare thing.
When I tried to address this concern tactfully, I was told that was absolutely not the case and Shayne was offended I would even suggest favouritism was at play.
Well, I soon came to know I wasn’t the only author who had spoken up. So what was Parliament’s response? They held a mandatory video meeting with all authors. What were we told at this meeting? Well we were told that we as authors were clearly not doing enough to advertise our own books. Yes, we were actually forced to attend a video conference where in we were victim blamed for speaking out about unfair treatment and told it was our fault.
Prior to this meeting Parliament had given us all a survey to fill out about our experiences with releases, marketing, etc. It was anonymous, supposedly. One of the questions they asked was, “do you think Parliament does enough to promote your book?” Only one third of authors voted yes. They admitted this and gave us that number in the meeting, yet continued to say that it was us, the authors, who weren’t doing enough.
That brings me to another battle. I sent up a few events that I tried to coordinate with Parliament. As I mentioned, part of the reason for signing with a publisher, even a small one, is that they have a larger online presence to help get the word out about books and author events. So I thought if I put the work, and money, into organizing events, the least Parliament would do in return was advertise them. Unfortunately, nearly every time I attempted to co-ordinated, Parliament dropped the ball. They didn’t advertise, they were hours or days late, they used miss information or straight up refused to promote in any other way besides sharing my own posts on their story. Most of these issues were due to the woman who was incharge of marketing, the only other person you could sometimes get away with emailing without CCing the rest of the darn publishing house. So I again brought up my issue to Shayne, trying to explain that the head of marketing was not the promptest, most efficient human, and may I pretty please go through you instead because this just isn’t working?
Shayne said, no, AND tried to calm my dissatisfaction by informing me that the marketing director was unpaid and worked solely off royalties.
Did that make me sympathize with the marketing director? Or course!
Did it make me really, really mad? Hell yeah.
This woman literally ran every social media campaign and was the go to contact for every author about any sort of marketing concern or proposition. And she’s UNPAID! How can they think this is okay?
And to make matters worse, once they realize she was, obviously, overworked, they “resolved” the issue by hiring more unpaid interns to take over some of her duties!
I know unpaid internships aren’t unheard of in publishing. I get it. But you can’t have your marketing director working for royalties. NOT OKAY!
And while I’m on the subject, to my knowledge, no one, not a single person, outside of Shayne and Chantal (and I’m not even 100% on Chantal) see’s a dime beyond a royalty percentage. And the royalties are not great. The author takes most of the royalties and then everything else is split a million ways between everyone else who might have so much as glimpsed the manuscript before release day.
Okay, let me back track. You may have noticed I italicised and bolded mandatory a few paragraphs back. That’s because this is another issue I had with Parliament and on more than one occasion.
Let me explain something to you incase you don’t already know: when you sign a contract with a publisher, trad, indie, whatever, you do not work for them.
YOU DO NOT WORK FOR THEM!
Do you have to do your share of marketing? Yes. Do you have to allow them to make judgement calls on cover design, formatting, distribution, etc? Yes. Are there some contracts out there that with clauses meant to take away as much of your freedoms as an author as possible? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, you don’t work for them. You are not their employee. Quite the opposite. They work for you.
They buy your book, promote your book, and sell your book, and then send you a check. Not a PAY check, but a ROYALTY check.
So when Parliament dropped mandatory into their Facebook post (which is how they expect you to communicate, and if you didn’t log onto facebook that day, boo hoo for you) I was enraged. They can’t tell me I must attend a meeting, at a time I didn’t make, about an issue I was already told was a non issue.
I told Shayne this. I told her quite plainly that I was not her employee and she could not treat me like one.
She reacted poorly, told me I had nerve to accuse her of such a thing, and that I better watch my tone.
Tone would play a big role in what was to come.
I've already talked about how easy it is to be manipulated when you’re a new author. You want so badly to succeed that the slightest of prompting can have you off in a direction you may not have picked for yourself.
Parliament is well versed in manipulation. Allow me to begin with something small.
The Shrike and the Shadows, Chantal’s book, was reviewed by Publishers Weekly. It was the first Parliament book to be reviewed by them so it was sort of a big deal and naturally Parliament wanted to advertise and celebrate it. It was all over their Instagram feed, along with a quote from the review: “lush and evocative.”
Sounds great, right? Yeah well, here’s the full review:
“The setting is lush and evocative, but the narrative is often repetitive and overwrought, and the protagonists are too firmly rooted in their folktale archetypes to be fully fleshed-out characters. Fairy tale fans will enjoy the concept but long for more nuance.”
I’m not even going to say anything more on that. Just that it’s an example of just how manipulative these people are, and how little they care about transparency.
Parliament submits all their books to BookBub for a chance to be featured. Not all books are chosen, and not all books chosen receive the same type of feature.
A book can be nominated for specific genres, and it can also be nominated in two categories: USA or International.
Now, here’s the thing. These features aren’t free. It’s free to submit but it’s hundreds of dollars if you actually want them to run the feature.
My book got accepted into the adult fantasy genre, and for both a USA and International feature. I got an email notifying me of this and about how excited Parliament was. I was told they would follow up when BookBub gave them a date for the feature.
That follow up email was less exciting.
Parliament informed me that the feature was unfortunately outside their budget. They were disappointed but said they had a strict budget of $400 per add and this particular feature came to $700. They offered to resubmit and hoped I was reselected for a “more cost effective feature” which also means less valuable feature, or they suggested I could split the $700 with them.
At first I was confused. Why submit a book for a feature you can’t afford? And they replied with, well, our books have never landed in the Adult Fantasy category which is a far more competitive category than YA fantasy and therefore costs more. In other words, my book landed a more successful feature than they had yet attained, but they refused to pay for it.
At this point, I was very indecisive. Obviously I wanted the feature, badly. I wanted to see my book do well. But on the other hand, I work a minimum wage job and although $350 doesn’t sound like a lot of money, I felt bad putting that kind of money out on an add.
But I assumed, since Parliament said their ad budget was $400 that surely they would pay at least that? That would save me a little at least.
But oh no, Parliament was going to go halves with me, or not at all.
Then I was really mad. Again. My response to Parliament went a little along the lines of “how dare you suggest an author pay for an ad you submitted their book to? You are a company, a publishing house, I am one person! If you couldn’t afford the ad then you shouldn’t have even told me I landed the feature (they certainly hadn’t told me they’d submitted my book). You should have declined and submitted me.”
And in the end I said the one thing I think truly drove Shayne over the edge; I told her she was no better than a vanity press.
I stand by that statement.
What ended up happening with BookBub was I asked for a breakdown of sales form Parliament’s previous BookBub ads (because if I was going to be putting a dime towards this you better believe I was going to be informed about my investment) and I also asked for the invoice BookBub had sent. When I received the info, and invoice, BookBub had sent to Parliament I saw that the USA and the International fees were separated and that the International fee was much less. (I don’t remember now exactly what it was but it was under $400).
So, I asked Parliament if it were possible to only take the International features and defer the USA one. They in turn asked BookBub who was happy to accommodate. Parliament covered the feature, because it was now within their ad budget. I made decent sales.
Let me return for a moment to manipulation, because this whole situation isn’t really about money, it’s about pressure. Some people may not have blinked an eye at $700, but that doesn’t make this right. What’s so wrong here is that a publisher would even suggest this to a writer. Sure, it gives the writer the decision, but do you think trad publishers tell their writers the NYT ad they planned to run came in a little high and now they can’t do it so would you mind emptying your pockets? No. They pull the ad and come up with something else. That’s what Parliament should have done. Or, they should have looked at that invoice for more than two seconds and asked BookBub to just run the cheaper ad. But no, I had to pitch a fit, be told I was unreasonable, demand paperwork I shouldn’t even have to see, and then find the solution myself, the solution that was staring them in the face the whole time.
I bring up this situation because, yes, it was wrong, but it was also emotionally exhausting. I was degraded by my publisher, told I was in the wrong, while all the while this fantastic opportunity for my book is hanging in the balance. I was so angry, so frustrated. The heated e-mail correspondence between Shayne and myself went far beyond what I thought was repairable.
And then what happened? Once I got the BookBub thing figured out, Shayne was sweet as pie. A totally different person. All her emails were riddled with excited exclamation points and ‘Oh Mckayla we’re so thrilled for you!’ sort of talk.
This BookBub ad was about to make her money.
What did I do?
I swept it under the rug of course, straight into that ever growing pile of red flags. Because I wanted to be excited about my book. I wanted to see it shine. I wanted to make it successful.
I was Faustus, and Mephistopheles was telling me to run. And I didn’t listen.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me again, and again, and again…
Someone says something on Twitter, everyone dog-piles on them, they get cancelled. I’ve seen it happen a million times.
I never thought it would happen to me.
I’m not going to talk at any length about the opinion I shared, not because I want to skim over it, to hide it from you, but because I believe it is a long conversation that deserves it’s own space. I’m working on writing that particular post. It’s proved far more complex than I imagined. Deciding what approach, what angle, is the most just and fair way from which to write about it has been a decision I have not taken lightly. I have not taken the tweets down, so unless the original poster has done so, they still remain for your viewing. Otherwise, I wrote briefly on this on my Instagram.
For right now, let me suffice it to say that I have many controversial opinions; the one I shared on Twitter that caused this social media storm, doesn’t even make my top ten.
In brief: someone on Twitter stated that white authors should not write POC perspective characters. I thought that opinion was garbage (I still do) and I said as much. From there it got heated, aggressive, insulting, and down right abusive. I tried to stay classy and civil in my responses. I had a sincere desire to create a productive discourse. Joke’s on me.
The next morning, I woke up to an email from my publisher with a subject of “Termination of Publication Notice”. I was informed that they had pulled by book and my contract was now void. Why? Shayne’s reasoning was that my actions on Twitter “threatened the existence and the livelihood” of Parliament.
How? I have no idea. I never mentioned my book or Parliament in any way in the Twitter exchange. The email did not specify any quote of mine, nor any opinion that Parliament disagreed with. In fact they can’t possibly disagree as they have many titles in their catalog that feature POC viewpoints written by white authors. My book, Summoned, by the way, is not among them. It seemed the only issue Parliament could point to was a dislike of my tone.
I replied to Shayne informing her that she could not legally drop me as I had not broken our contract. When I asked her where she thought I had broken the contract, this is the clause she pointed to:
“The Publisher shall have the right to produce, advertise, promote, and publish the Work in any style in which Publisher deems appropriate, including format, pricing and distribution. Publisher has the right of final approval of Author’s manuscript.”
This clause, as I’m sure you can see, has absolutely zero to do with me saying anything on Twitter, particularly when my book and Publisher weren’t mentioned.
I also pointed out a clause in the contract, one that stated that if either the author or the publisher were to break the contract in some way, that they would be given 90 days notice.
So, I had not broken the contract, AND even if I had, I had not been given 90 days notice of termination. So at that point in time Shayne was the one in breach of the contract. She told me that if I wanted to pursue legal action I would have to do so in Florida. That was her trump card.
If she thought I wasn’t willing to do that, she was wrong.
At that time I stepped back and looked for legal advice, fearing I might be taking an unexpected vacation down South. I was lucky enough that an author, and attorney, saw the whole thing unfold on Twitter and offered to give me advice. Before I could even decide on a course of action though, Shayne reached out again. Back peddling. Back peddling very fast.
She got legal advice too—and it was obviously not in her favour. She admitted that I had not broken the contract and that she was bound to uphold it. But, give the bad blood, would also be willing to find an amicable dissolution to the contract instead, if that's what I wanted.
Here’s some more info that’s important to know:
My contract would end in August 2022.
I had already given the rights to the second book in the series to Parliament, so I had yet another contract with them.
I had a short story I had given them for an anthology. Yet another contract.
This whole exchange had taken more than a week. I was exhausted. I was physically sick from stress. I wanted nothing to do with Shayne or Parliament.
But, this was my first and only published book. It’s very difficult to get an agent or publisher to take on a book that’s been previously published. Did I really want to go back to querying this book? Did I really want to attempt to self publish?
Shayne made up my mind for me. She said that if I choose to stay she would uphold my contract until August 2022. But there is another clause in the contract:
"If the Publisher does not publish and make available for sale the Work named in this Contract within twelve (12) months of the mutually agreed upon release date, this Contract is void and all rights revert to the Author."
This clause is meant to protect the author in the case that the publisher doesn’t follow through, but Shayne used it as blackmail. She said that if I choose to stay with Parliament then she would hold my second book hostage for 12 months, unpublished, and simply wait for the rights to revert back to me. 12 months. The second book in the trilogy would be out of my control, sitting dormant, for an entire year.
I had no choice but to find an ‘amicable solution’ to leaving. I was black mailed into it. So we started negotiating.
Shayne tried to look like the bigger person, offering all my rights back right away (which I’m entitled to anyway as per the contract), and offering to give me the rights to the cover art (which I didn’t want because I would not be crediting her in my book) and offering to hand over the audio rights as well.
So basically she offered me things that were useless to me or already rightfully mine.
In turn I asked for three things:
Compensation for new cover art. $350 is the minimum industry standard for a decent cover commission.
Compensation for two years of marketing efforts I put in, both marketing my own book and promoting Parliament in general (which we were encouraged to do). For this I suggested the amount of $400, the amount stated by Parliament that was their max budget for a single ad.
That Parliament remove their tweets that stated they had terminated me over the Twitter exchange and issue a new Tweet with a correction of facts. Just a correction. Not an apology, not a “we messed up”, nothing. Just something that said I had not broken the contract and was not terminated.
To my surprise, Shayne readily agreed to pay for a new cover. She negated to even mention my request for marketing compensation. She would not, under any circumstances, issues a correction of the facts.
I took what I could get. At that point I was so exhausted I could not possibly have carried on this negotiation any longer. I wanted a signed piece of paper that stated I, and my books, were free of Parliament.
I got the rights to my short story back. I got the rights to books one and two back. Shayen agreed to give me the compensation for the cover by the end of August and the audio rights are now mine. I got my signed document and I walked away. I was relieved it was over. The endless anxiety, the mounting pressure, the constant worrying about whether I was making the right decision was all behind me.
So why return to it? Why am I writing this now?
I was not the only author to leave Parliament over this. Though not directly involved, many authors have suffered the same abuses while with Parliament and my situation just became the straw that broke the camel's back.
Long before this I had Parliament authors reach out from time to time to chat about promotion or events and they would inevitably, very carefully, brooch a subject regarding some injustice they suffered, wondering if maybe I’d been through the same thing. These were always difficult waters to navigate. You want to find someone to help you, to discover if this just happened to you or if it’s something larger, but if you tell the wrong person then it might get back to Parliament and end up hurting you. Parliament breeds an environment of get in line, or get out. Everyone was afraid to speak out either to Shayne or Chantal or to other authors.
I have countless examples of this, but I’m not sharing them because although some of those authors said enough is enough and pulled their books from Parliament, and though some have spoken out publicly, I know how difficult speaking out can be. I know how everything can become overwhelming very quickly. They deserve the right to speak out on their own, at their own time, and I will not put their names here or insinuate that all my opinions are their opinions.
The authors that pulled their books were not people I was close with or had spoken to much, if at all, before this happened. Pulling their books was not an act of solidarity or friendship or loyalty to me. On the flip side, some authors I was very close to have broken contact. And I don’t blame them. They deserve to seek success and protect their work in the manner they think is best and if that means not affiliating with me, then I do not hold that against them in any way. There are many authors who remain with Parliament that I respect greatly, and I wish them the best.
So you may still be asking, why? After all this why take the time to return to it and write about it?
I debated staying silent, but to my surprise I found a flood of support. Support from people I had never met, never interacted with, who I did not follow and who did not follow me. Something about this whole situation struck a nerve.
When people reached out and said ‘this is wrong’, ‘this isn’t okay’, ‘this is censorship’, all I could think was ‘oh, you don’t even know the half of it…”
So here it is. The whole of it, or at least the parts I knew needed to be talked about. Here is the ugly truth, the real talk.
You may realize my tone has changed greatly from the beginning of this article to the end. I told myself I’d write the first draft organically, messy and emotionally and honestly, and that after I’d go back and clean it up. But I feel this better represents my struggles. You can see, I hope, where I was most frustrated, most hurt, where I broke down and where I held my own.
This process is not mine alone, it is the reality of many new authors who find themselves bound contractually, and emotionally to small presses who seek to take advantage of them. Some of these faults are mine. There were more than enough red flags telling me to walk away, and I didn’t listen. That’s on me. But I hope that showing what I went through, what I missed, means that someone else might avoid the same mistakes I made, the same abuses, the same headaches and heartaches.
I still feel like these words aren’t good enough. Did I express everything the way I wanted? Did I choose the right examples, the right words? Did I do this justice? Did I do any parts of this injustice? I don’t know.
Words are like that. Art is like that. You doubt and doubt and doubt, but eventually you’ve just got to call it done and show it to the world.
All art comes with a caveat:
I am imperfect, here I am.
If you’ve read all of this, I thank you. If you were one of those people who spoke up, I am indebted to you. If you are watching silently from the side lines, know you are not alone.
Below are some resources for authors. I highly recommend Writer’s Beware. Don’t just check out their black list, also check out their lists of warning signs for small presses, traditional publishing, agents, etc. Learn the questions you should be asking and know that you have the right to ask them.
The Writer’s Union of Canada: https://www.writersunion.ca/resources
Terribleminds (some great blog posts on writing): http://terribleminds.com/ramble/
Brandon Sanderson’s BYU Lecture Series (all of it’s great but lectures 12 and 13 are specifically about publishing): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6HOdHEeosc&list=PLSH_xM-KC3Zv-79sVZTTj-YA6IAqh8qeQ
These are just a handful of resources that are out there, but all these are free and one’s I’ve personally used.
If you’ve had a bad experience in publishing but don’t feel comfortable speaking about it publicly, you can report it. Writer’s Beware has an e-mail (email@example.com) you can contact about complaints. It’s not anonymous but it is confidential. They don’t list an agent or publisher as problematic unless they receive at least two similar complaints about the person or press, so I highly recommend you go ahead and make that complaint, you never know how many others may have gone through what you went through and remained silent. They have a section explaining what they constitute as questionable or problematic so make sure to give that a read and make sure your experience applies. If you’re unsure, email anyways and ask. They are there to help authors.