Friday, October 19, 2007

Victoria Strauss -- Chutzpah

Christian-focused Anomalos Publishers devotes a good deal of space to warning would-be authors about the perils of print-on-demand self-publishing services. Along those lines, they "highly recommend" that unpublished writers read Writer Beware's Print on Demand page.

However, Anomalos neglects to suggest that unpublished writers also read Writer Beware's Vanity and Subsidy Publishers page, where they'd learn that Anomalos's requirement that its authors "partner" with them by buying 1,000 copies of their own books is what's known as back-end vanity publishing--which can be a lot more expensive than straightforward vanity publishing.

Gee. Wonder why?

But I'm not done yet. Anomalos has actually, without requesting permission of the copyright holder (me), reproduced a sizeable portion of Writer Beware's Print on demand page on its website.

Much as I object to Writer Beware being used to support a dubious publishing practice, I'm torn between demanding that Anomalos remove the excerpt, and demanding that they also reproduce "Vanity Publishers in Sheep's Clothing" from the Vanity Publishers page.

(Actually not. I want the excerpt gone. I'm going to wait a few days, and if it doesn't disappear I'll send an email.)

22 comments:

Janny said...

Actually, this "publisher"'s web site contains several of the old reliable red flags that should alert a writer to proceed with caution anyway:

1) use of the term "traditional publishers"

2) the old tired assertion that "traditional" publishers are reluctant, or downright closed, to the idea of taking on new authors, and will only buy more of their "A list"

3) use of the term "on demand" as a modifier for a self-publishing or vanity operation, and/or constantly implying that "print on demand" and "vanity publishing" are the same thing

4) the mention that "once your book is in print," then they'll start publicizing it--isn't that a bit late in the game, considering real publicists start BEFORE the book is out?

5)...and probably the most egregious case of name-dropping and implied "connections" that I've seen in awhile: the whole reference to having "contacts" in Sisters, Oregon, home of Multnomah Publishers, yatta, yatta, yatta, Prayer of Jabez, etc. The implication is that having "contacts" at this successful house is somehow going to help your Anomalos book sell? How?

I've pitched to MP, so technically I have "contacts" in Sisters, Oregon. This whole mishmash of title-dropping of a bestseller (that you didn't publish!) is, to me, just beyond the pale. Either these people are not the brightest bulbs on the tree, or they think their authors aren't. Neither instance inspires confidence.

The saddest part of it all, for me as a Christian, is that they make a connection with Christian publishing in the middle of this shell game. There's a large slice of our culture that inherently distrusts anything Christian; unfortunately, these kinds of snake-oil jobs don't help the Christian publishing reputation any. If I were affiliated with Multnomah, I'd be on top of these people like glue on a stamp until they took out all the "contacts" information that implies things they certainly can't deliver.

"Chutzpah" is one way to put it, I guess, but "despicable" is more the word that comes to mind for me.

Janny

Kaleb Nation said...

My first sign of a disguised vanity publisher is slightly deformed cover art usually making use of 3d bubbles and odd fonts....and floating clipart near the bottom of the front page of their website sets off flags as well. :)

Lorra said...

So, this kid murders both his parents and then asks the court to show mercy because he's an orphan.

Circular thinking is so intriguing and, at times, so wonderfully devious.

Chutzpah indeed! As usual, caught with their pants down by the wonderful Victoria.

Victoria Strauss said...

Lorra, I'm confused--kids? murders?

More dubious publisher markers:

- All the books seem to have endorsements, but most seem to come from other Anomalos authors. This is a ploy often used by amateur publishers, also.

- A book review through Raiders News Network is promised as part of the company's marketing efforts--an easy guarantee, since Raiders was founded by Anomalos CEO Thomas Horn. This kind of closed-loop pseudo-publicity is another common ploy.

- Thomas Horn has published his own book with Anomalos.

And here's I find something interesting. In this interview, reproduced on Anomalos's website, Horn says (my emphasis), "In the mid-1990's I decided to do something I had put off for many years. I wanted to write a book based on mysteries I had encountered during my twenty-five years of pastoring. But because I was unknown, I couldn't get a publisher to take the financial risk. Eventually I decided to partner with a publisher, which, looking back, was the best decision I ever made." I'm guessing that the book he's talking about is Spiritual Warfare: The Invisible Invasion from Huntington House--another Christian-focused "partner" publisher that required authors to buy large quantities of their own books.

Thus vanity publishing models perpetuate themselves.

Scriptorius Rex said...

It is unfortunate to see this. I hope that they are well intentioned but clueless.

Anonymous said...

Victoria -- the classic example of chutzpah is a man who murders his parents and begs for clemency on the grounds that he's an orphan.

Deborah K. White said...

I just read your Writers Beware POD article for the first time. May I have permission to extensively quote it on my Write About Everything blog? I'm just an author trying to create a helpful site for other writers.

Janny, I, too, am a Christian who is unhappy that some so-called "Christian" publishers have questionable business practices. *sigh*

Deb said...

Same old, same old. I've never heard of any of the authors whose works they cite as being available through them. (Janny, don't read this:) People, if you've been rejected time after time by the Christian houses (and there aren't that many left), before you self-publish in any way, please consider the reputable small presses out there.

Anonymous said...

The big question is would I trust a Christian pastor who consistantly rips off other sites for information when he's claiming to be a successful author in his own right? Maybe there's a reason his books weren't published by an established house. Now he's lifted his warning page from SFWA's web.

Anonymous said...

Followed your link to "buying 1,000 copies of their own books" and found this:

Anomalos authors often order as many as 10,000 to 20,000 copies in the first run, but 1,000 is the minimum we require.

The author’s discount for his or her books changes depending on the quantity ordered at the time of the initial print run.

As an example, if your book is a 250-page trade paperback that retails for $12.95 and you order 1,000 copies, your cost would be 30% off $12.95.

Doing the math they don't, that's $9,065 up front.

zizban said...

30% isn't that great either...that's where the vanity fee ius.

Paul said...

Do you see a role for subsidy publishing that's constructive? The only one I've run into whose website makes it appear legit was Prometheus - it was a couple years back that I checked into them. As I recall, they do a combination of straight trade publishing and some subsidy publishing for books they see as less apt to make a profit.

I guess THE problem for anyone, however well qualified to have written their book in terms of education and experience, and however well the product turned out, who lacks a preexisting marketing platform and no industry connections, is finding any outlet whatsoever for their work that gives it a chance to be read beyond family and friends.

Seems to me there's virtually zero interest in taking occasional chances in publishing predicated mainly on compelling ideas or writing - certainly at least in nonfiction.

That's quite a dilemma you have! It's amazing that a publisher would post large quantities of material from another site without asking permission.

ALC said...

Does anyone else here think that someone ripped off the "Stargate" tv series for this guy's cover art?

I know that there are "differences", but they're mighty subtle differences (in my opinion).

I know that there was that whole "time ring" of stone in that old episode of Star Trek, but this guy's cover art is way too similar to SG-1.

Just a thought ... completely unrelated to the issue being addressed.

Sorry.

Lorra said...

Murder/chutzpah - it's an old lawyer joke illustrating the definition - sorry for confusion - been staying up late (until last night)watching the Indians - sigh.

BuffySquirrel said...

"less likely to make a profit" = won't sell = no outlet = the publisher makes money and the author loses it.

Victoria Strauss said...

On Wednesday, 10/31, I sent the following email to Anomalos, with a cc to our legal advisor:

Hello,

I recently discovered that a substantial portion of Writer Beware's Print on Demand page has been excerpted on the Anomalos Books website. The excerpt can be found here.

I am the copyright holder for this text (as well as for most of the other text on the Writer Beware website), and my permission was not sought to use the excerpt. I don't typically give permission to reproduce long excerpts, because the content at Writer Beware changes frequently and excerpts can quickly become outdated. Further, given the mission of Writer Beware, I object to having our content used to support the arguments of a publisher that requires its authors to buy large quantities of their own books. Writer Beware considers this vanity publishing--something that's clearly stated on our Vanity and Subsidy Publishers page, which you didn't choose to excerpt.

Please immediately remove the above-referenced excerpt from your website. We would also prefer that you did not link to us. Thanks for your cooperation.


No response yet.

ALC said...

I just popped over (via the link in your prior post) & looked around. It appears that the stolen material is still there.

I wonder if these goobs would take a hint if they were bombarded by emails from the blogging community? I, for one, am both annoyed and offended by this "Preacher's" lack of character and blatant dishonesty.

As if there weren't enough wolves in sheeps clothing roaming around out there!!!

Victoria Strauss said...

I just got back from out of town, and found a message from Anomalos's CEO--as of November 12, they have removed the excerpt.

Anonymous said...

They also take some of your 1000 purchased books to give away as publicity. Their claimed 100 promotional kits sent to influential organizations and broadcasters evidently never get sent because the author cannot verify this "service."

Victoria Strauss said...

Anomalous also does business as Defender Publishing Group. Their M.O. is the same.

Anonymous said...

I used Christianmanuscripts.com to try to get my first book published and Anomalos "found" my manuscript on there and wanted to "be my publisher". I fell for their slick talking sales pitch by Tom Horn and $7,000 and 2 years later I've received a whopping $120 in royalties. They never did what they said they were going to do. Just took my money and ran. Stay away from Tom Horn and Anomalos Publishing and Defender Publishing (one and the same).

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous, sorry to hear about your experience. It's a good example of why not to use paid manuscript submission services.