Monday, March 27, 2006

Victoria Strauss -- More Egg on the Face of PublishAmerica

That's right, our favorite "traditional" publisher is in the news again. In the latest embarassing (to PublishAmerica) coverage, we learn about the successful arbitration conducted by one of PA's less-than-happy authors, Philip Dolan, which resulted in financial compensation, including the expense of arbitration, and would have resulted in the reimbursement of attorney's fees if Mr. Dolan hadn't represented himself at the hearing. According to Mr. Dolan's lawyer, an award of attorney fees indicates, almost without exception, that the side receiving reimbursement was the prevailing side.

In other words...PA lost.

The article contains two classic examples of PA-speak.

"We are very proud to have a lenient acceptance threshhold," said Danielle McDonald, a spokeswoman for PA.


Yes, folks, according to PA, that's a good thing (kinda like "[being able to] afford to sell all copies of a book on a non-returnable basis" is a good thing).

So what's "lenient?" Let's be kind and assume it doesn't mean "everything we get this week till we reach our quota." Or "everything we get that isn't written in crayon on cocktail napkins." Let's assume it means what PA has claimed elsewhere: variously, a 70% rejection rate or an 80% rejection rate. Invoking Sturgeon's Law (90% of everything is crap)--not to mention the rejection rates of commercial publishers, which accept maybe 2% or 3% of all available manuscripts--not to mention the reality of the average slush pile, in which a lot more than 90% of everything is crap--it's clear that PA's bar is set way too low to ensure quality.

So lenient isn't anything to be proud of. Unless you're a vanity publisher, of course.

When asked about the arbitration with Mr. Dolan, Ms. McDonald, the PA spokeswoman, said, "Both parties are required to keep the details of the arbitration confidential, and the true outcome has not been divulged, so you could not possibly have learned the outcome."

The article, of course, demonstrates exactly how the outcome not only could be, but was, learned.

La, la, la, la, la, mean PA-bashers. My fingers are in my ears. I don't heeeeeear yooooooou!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, folks, according to PA, that's a good thing (kinda like "[being able to] afford to sell all copies of a book on a non-returnable basis" is a good thing).
Non-returnable in itself is a good thing. It stops bookstores from wasting tons of trees and money by over-ordering. I'm desperately waiting for the day when this ridiculous practice ends.

A lot of POD books (like those of Lulu) are non-returnable too. Of course, the difference is that they don't claim to be traditional and say up front how you have to do stuff yourself.

Bernita said...

"lenient?"
Interesting twist on "easy" - but not cheap.

Victoria Strauss said...

Non-returnability may be a good thing in an abstract philosophical sense (or not, depending on how you think the book business ought to work--I've seen some very persuasive arguments for returnability), but in a real-world sense it's a bad thing, since returnability is the norm. Even if PA were rigorous in its selection, careful in its editing, superlative in its design, competitive in its pricing, and standard in its discounts, making its books nonreturnable means that bookstores wouldn't stock them--because stores expect to be able to sell books on consignment. Good or bad, that's the way it works. Bucking the system doesn't mean starting a revolution: it simply means the system will ignore you.

Of course, that's not why PA made its books nonreturnable. PA made its books nonreturnable because it doesn't care about getting them into the hands of readers. Its authors, and the pocket markets surrounding them (friends, family, anyone the author can personally persuade to buy a copy), are its target consumers. Naturally, it doesn't want its authors to know this--so it presents nonreturnability as a good and wonderful thing.

December Quinn said...

Now they're claiming 500 orders per day? Wasn't that 250 just a little while ago?

Note she doesn't say how many of those orders they actually bother to fill, or how many of them are placed by desperate PA writers and their families.

:rolleyes

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I'm glad this came up! I just met another person who has contracted with them! :-(