What can I do if the journal is trying to coerce me into paying exorbitant fees?
I recently received an invoice (surprise, shock?!) from Austin Publishing group along with the final manuscript proof email. I replied in a few minutes that I cannot afford the amount as it was way too expensive and would prefer alternate options or even withdraw my submission. They replied that it is already published and I have to pay the charges (it was only the proof correction stage). Then they did not reply to my email for a week and published it. I called them multiple times and left voicemails and follow up emails, but no one replied. Now after about 15 days from publishing, they have replied that they can give me a discount but the amount is still about $1500. What should I do now? What happens if I don't pay them? Thank you.
Austin Publishing Group does not seem to be a reputable publisher. You should stop communicating with them immediately, because so long as you respond to predatory publishers, they have an incentive to keep trying to manipulate you and induce you into paying them. They will generally try various negotiating tactics and will never leave you alone so long as you keep up the communication. I think you should simply ignore them from now on. Since you have not agreed to paid the fees, and have clearly communicated that you will not be able to pay even if you have to withdraw the paper, they cannot do anything against you. Just make sure you have all the documentation saved somewhere as evidence just in case there is a problem.
A word of caution for you: Do not add this publication to your CV or researcher profile as you would not want to be associated with a predatory publisher. This can affect your credibility and reputation as a researcher.