1.15.2006

PublishAmerica

A Snarkling did some surfing about Bookblaster (the email blast to agents) and turned up this:

First testimonial: "Using Bookblaster, I have just sold my first novel "Manuel Muldoon" to a publisher and I expect to see it in print in 8-10 months. I had much better success using your program than conferences, or anything I could by myself....thanks! Peary PerryQuick Google search brings this up:Peary's first novel, "Manuel Muldoon" will be coming out the first of 2006 and is being published by PublishAmerica of Fredricksburg, Maryland. Sounds like that $100 (or more) was well spent.What is PublishAmerica's deal? They claim not to charge fees and that they pay royalties. Do they really? Are they vaguely legitimate?



It's been awhile since I toddled over to Publish America; let's see what they are up to these days.

It's clear they've been paying attention to the trash talking about POD on the web cause every other sentence is "we don't charge you money; we pay royalties".

So, my question is, how do these guys stay in business? Clearly this is not some sort of charitable foundation.

First, they aren't quite as upfront about royalties as you'd think at first glance.

They say "we above the industry average, 8% on the first 2000 copies". Well, ok, groovy. 8% of WHAT? Percentage is meaningless unless you know what 100% is. 8% of the cover price? 8% of the net after they pay the phone bill? 8% of what?

The other thing is that there is no tiered royalty system. That's a HUGE tipoff that these books aren't sold other than by ones and twos, probably online. Big buyers like BN, Borders, WalMart etc. get books at a steep discount and royalty rates reflect that.

Second, what doesn't leap out at you is the page that says "booksellers information" cause it isn't there. These guys don't market to bookstores, and as far as I can tell they have no distribution. "Available through Ingram and Baker and Taylor" means you can ORDER the book there but no one is out there talking about your book or any other PA books to retail stores.

Third, and most interesting to me is there isn't a single NAME of a staff person, or company officer anywhere on the website. The only names are those of authors, and John Ingram, the head of INGRAM, not PA.

That means if you call them, you have no idea who to ask for. That is a HUGE tipoff to high turnover. And if there's a problem, they don't want to deal with you directly. They've got general email addresses all over the place "author support team" etc, but NO PEOPLE.

Ok, so what does all that mean? It means you can have your book printed and then you can do all your own sales and marketing. And you get to pay them for the honor of that, cause you keep less than 10% of the (I'm assuming) cover price.

So, your book is $15.00 retail
You set up the signings.
You make sure the books arrive at the store.
You do your own pr.

You sell 100 books.

You get a royalty of $120. And you get it 8 to 10 months after the work.
Hmmm.

Then I checked out their marketing page.
thankfully, I now invest in keyboard covers.
The marketing page is "buy this book" published by PA of course, "book promotion by published authors". No names listed of course. $16.95
If they have 1700 happy authors, well, there's a chunk of change if even half bought that book this year.

And then you look at the testimonials page. Here's the lead:

"I just got off the phone with my local Chapters store and they will carry my Publish America book."
Rose DesRochers, "She is like the wind"


Ok, here's a big fat clue. When the LEAD testimonial is that a bookstore will stock your book, you know there isn't a lot else good to be said.

And then here's something from "Author News"

Jodis Life Sentence
1/13/2006, 8:54:55 AM
A very big surprise on Amazon.com website for the new book Jodi's Life Sentence. One book is left in stock and more being order. The Official release date was Dec 26th. Barns and Noble will be adding her to a Event book signing in April
ok, aside from the fact that she misspelled the name of the store, and that the writing is piss poor, is that this poor person doesn't understand even the basics about Amazon.com

Everything on this website smacks of the amateur hour.

Bottom line: it's a publishing mill. If they automate enough of the work, they can make money on the 85% they gross off your work.

So, if you want a book that is about Grandma's recipes, or poems about your relationship with your cat, or something else of sentimental value and limited marketability, these guys will be glad to benefit from your work.

26 comments:

Jim C. Hines said...

Don't forget the wonderful book Atlanta Nights, which PA offered to publish.

Details at the link, but this was a deliberately horrid book, submitted by a group of profesisonal SF/F authors to see if PA would bite. They offered a contract...

The book itself is now available through Lulu.com, and it's hilarious in its badness.

Bernita said...

This brings to mind an imperfectly remembered quote from somewhere. Laurens Van der Post, perhaps, where a character says:
"They're a poor lot, the men. And dirty too. The secret, honey, is to find one who cleans easy."

Anonymous said...

Amen! Tell it like it is, Miss Snark! I am sooo sick of people suggesting that I try this avenue.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Recently, Phil Dolan, who was published (cough, cough) by PublishAmerica (PA), took PA to arbitration in December 2005. The results, well worth reading, are at http://www.freewebs.com/pozkin/index.htm. For those who don't want something juicy to read, and it is, the results were that Phil won hands down without a lawyer representing him against PA's lawyer and its CEO at the hearing when heard by an arbiter chosen by PA!

Dave Kuzminski said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that PA claims 17,000 happy authors, not 1,700.

Jarsto said...

There are a couple of places I'd sent someone if they asked about PA. The Bewares and Background Check forum at Absolute Write. The nearly 30K posts in the Neverending PA Thread should be enough to give anyone second thoughts, not to mention the other PA topics present there. There's also a Washington Post story from nearly a year ago detailing the problems people are having with PA.

Two more general resources to always check are Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors. P&E describes PublishAmerica as "A vanity press with a poor contract. Numerous writer complaints. Author mill and scam. Strongly not recommended." While I've never been ready to submit yet myself these are links I'm stocking up for when I am ready.

BTW If you Google PublishAmerica pretty much everything on the first page except PA's own site is critical off PA. While Google isn't the ultimate judge of the truth it sums things up pretty clearly in this case.

emeraldcite said...

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10211

Here's a good list of reasons not to go PublishAmerica...

Fiche said...

Lo, I see that Absolute Write's forum threads on PA have already been mentioned, along with the wonderful Atlanta Nights sting. I can't recommend these links enough if somebody is considering PA as a publisher. The PA folk have got down to some right shenanigans--customer service is just about nil, you have to do all the leg work on getting your book into stores, and for a while, they even had a clause in their contract which said that A) they owned the rights to your book for seven years and B) they had right of first refusal on the next two books you wrote. (Considering that they don't refuse 99% of books that go through, I could only see that as a trap to get you more invested with the company.)

Anonymous said...

PublishAmerica pays its royalties on net, not on cover price.

Far more details on the PA discounts and such are listed on the FAQ page at http://www.freewebs.com/truthaboutpa/

boopsievixon said...

Oh, and don't forget PA's whopping one dollar advance!

Beth said...

Am I correct in remembering that PA expects an author to sign away all rights to the work for something like seven years? If true, that in itself should be a major red flag.

David Isaak said...

The above-mentioned, near-infinite thread on PublishAmerica at AbsoluteWrite is well-worth following.

But I'd like to urge everyone to buy a copy of "Atlanta Nights." It is possibly the funniest, most painful, coffee-through-the-nose collection of writing I've ever seen. When a team of pros sits down and writes a bad book, they do so in a brilliant fashion--and each chapter has a different collection of writerly errors.

Of course, it's taken me nearly a month to get through it; large doses can cause brain damage. But a creative writing teacher could use this book as a text to demonstrate all of the ways you can go wrong. In fact, it requires close reading in some sections, since there are subtle screw-ups hiding beneath the real howlers.

The fact that PA would have considered this after even looking at the first two pages makes it clear that these guys are Scam City

Dave Kuzminski said...

Don't be surprised when PA next advertises on their site, "PA featured and discussed by Miss Snark" just like they tried to make it appear that the Washington Post story was favorable to them.

Mark said...

Hail hail the gang's all here. They're right though and Miss Snark nailed PA right in the family jewels. They're crooks and scam artists, but operting in the legal twilght zone. Maybe that will change, with more business to business breeches like Mr. Dolan's.

Jen said...

I don't know how wide-spread this is, but I also know of people who did "publihs" with PA and who -- through their own hard work -- sold quite a few books but have never seen one penny in royalties.

Deanna Hoak said...

Hey, I have to add that one of the chapters in Atlanta Nights is mine. :-) It's Chapter 33. The first paragraph follows, and you can check out the whole thing here:

As Isadore Trent dreamed sleepily, her red hair spread like a cloud a tent around her pillow, her face exploded with joy. "Oh, I wish I was back there." She thought. She missed it so badly. Maybe she'd get to go back someday. She thought about the hot dry heat, about the grit of sand. Oh, how it felt to be penetrated by those huge mosquitoes . . . Oh, yes. She was a masochist of the first degree. She shivered in her sleep, thinking about it. Goose pimples formed beginning at the tips of her toes, pushing out farther the day-old stubble on her legs, and continuing up her stomach until her nipples were pointing out. Then they reached her neck, and her trembles tangled her hair into a mess. She'd have to brush it good when she woke up, but she'd enjoy the tangles, no doubt.

I put everything I've leared in more than a decade of copyediting into making that sucker suck. ;-)

Gabriele C. said...

Jim, Atlanta Night isn't the only great piece of writing published by PA. How do you like that one?

The air-conditioner in the limousine was on full throttle but sweat was still irrigating uncontrollably from the pores of Sterlin's face. His stringy blonde hair was drenched with perspiration and his respiration was corroded.

No, I didn't make thatt up.

Doesn't every agent look for a writer who has such a skillful way with words? ;-)

Gabriele C. said...

Deanna, and you succeeded well. I'm torn between YIKES and ROFLOL.

And obviously there's a typo demon lurking on this blog that added a second t in my lyst post.

Gabriele C. said...

last post*

I give up. :-)

Susanne said...

Publish America? You were way too easy on them. One sentence was all you needed....

If you want to publish a book that has a snowball's chance in Hell of being bought and read by people you don't already know, when you see the words "Publish America" ... run for your life.

Anonymous said...

Fiche says "for a while", their contract stated they owned the rights for 7 years.
News for you...it still does. Sent ms for fun and got sample contract with "climbing royalties starting at 8 percent" and they do list 7 year exclusive rights...renewable, at that.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know of Bookstofilm.com?

Kyle

Rose DesRochers said...

Isn’t it wonderful how Publish America takes something that you’ve said in their forums and uses it as a testimonial?

Just another one of the great things about Publish America. Not!

Thank you for quoting me! Perhaps you should of referred your readership to my warning page on todays-woman.net, where I now share my not so pleasant experience with PA.

Live and learn, I guess. I am the last person who ever thought that I’d say, "Dee Powers and Dave Kuzminski were right."

Rose DesRochers

Mark said...

Her name is "Power."

Rose DesRochers said...

Opps.Please accept my apology. Thanks for correcting me!

James D. Macdonald said...

I have to mention that Atlanta Nights was accepted by PublishAmerica, but not published by them.

PA withdrew the acceptance after we publicly revealed it was a hoax.

More fools they. By PA's terms it's a best seller.