Friday, April 16, 2010

PublishAmerica Strikes Again

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

There's been a bit of attention paid lately in the blogosphere to the "promotional" antics of everyone's favorite author mill, PublishAmerica.

As with other author mills, PA endeavors to turn its authors into customers. While it doesn't contractually require authors to buy their own books, it's relentless--and creative--in its efforts to persuade them to do so voluntarily. Among the latest of these efforts is the "buy one, get one" ploy that's a standard sales tactic for businesses that want to entice customers to spend more money than they might otherwise have planned to part with.

For months now, PA authors have been receiving email solicitations promising that if they buy X number of copies of their own books (at an AMAZING discount!!), PA will donate (FREE!!) X number of copies to (pick one) their local bookstore / their workplace / DreamWorks / Starbucks / Tom Hanks / Oprah / Random House / the New York Times Book Review / Borders (there's an additional "incentive" here of a $1 donation per book to help Haiti earthquake victims--talk about cynical marketing tactics). That's just the tip of the iceberg with these offers--author P.N. Elrod identifies several others, and breaks down the financial benefit to PA.

I don't need to detail what will happen to these books (assuming they are actually sent). At best, they will be dumped where all the other unsolicited books/merchandise/gifts go, and never seen by the intended recipient. At worst, they will be thrown into the garbage or the recycling bin. If you find it hard to imagine that anyone would be naive enough to fall for PA's pitch, the proof that it works is that the solicitations keep on coming.

But if you think the solicitations are outrageous, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Yesterday, PA authors received the following email:
From: PublishAmerica Auctions
To: [name redacted]
Sent: Thursday, April 15, 2010 9:56 AM
Subject: Now Auctioning: Your Own Seat At Book Expo

Dear Author:

Having your book visible at the Book Expo America in New York is good news. Hundreds of PublishAmerica authors have secured a spot for their book.

Having your own seat at our table is even better news! Who can better represent your own book than you?

We are now auctioning a ticket that allows you not only entrance to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, but a place in the two PublishAmerica booths as well, for all three days if you want: May 25, 26, and 27.

You can now have your own seat, and you can bring your own promotional material. And for three days you can spend quality time with PublishAmerica staff.

Just return this message with your amount. Everyone receives a response. Winners receive a phone call.

Auction ends Sunday night.

Enjoy the bidding!

PublishAmerica Author Support

PS: for details about the BEA, go to www.bookexpoamerica.com.
Words fail me. Seriously, they do.

Makes you wonder how those "hundreds" of PA authors "secured" their spot.

(PA authors, be aware that a 3-day pass to BEA costs $140. Beyond that, I guess you have to decide what "quality time with PublishAmerica staff" is worth to you.)

39 comments:

GalaktioNova said...

They are Just. Too. Much.

Lucy Swan said...

Wow, they really are something else. I'm glad not to have had dealing with them, coming from the other side of the pond, but I read their antics with dismay thinking of the poor authors who are desperate to find a market for their work that fall prey to these villains and their underhanded tactics.

Matthew Rush said...

As always thanks for sharing Victoria, this blog is such a great advocate for writers.

The only time a writer should have to be a consumer is when they are buying multiple copies of a colleagues book to give away as gifts because they think everyone should read it.

Today's guest blogger is Rachel Alpine!

Josin L. McQuein said...

It's sad. The turn around for new authors at PA is so quick, and the stream of them coming in seems almost endless. It's very possible that the ones who took PA up on the 1st offer or two may not be the same ones around to jump on the later offers. And usually they're so green, they have no idea that those special offers are out of the ordinary for commercial publishing.

People who go with PA usually do so via an on-line form, so they have access to a computer. I wish more of them would do at least a cursory check of the company before signing. I hate reading the "after" reports of people who had the blinders ripped off when they didn't get what they expected.

S.M. Carrière said...

Wow. Just wow.

G said...

ASI does much the same thing.

Been getting e-mails from them on a weekly basis for this, and the ALA conference (I believe) as well.

I just delete and continue on my merry way.

Note: I was one of those people who almost signed a contract with PA back in '06 for my book.

However, due to the fine research that a librarian friend did for me, I ran screaming in the other direction.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget their placement at the BEA. They claim to be near all the big guys. Check the map. In reality, they're very close to the self-pubbed authors, which is No-Man's Land.

Q said...

That's just jaw-droppingly horrible.
I really feel bad for the victims of PA.

Evelyn said...

OMG! Why can't we just be appreciated for our talents, without our wallets?!? I've got an article I need to post on my blog.

This is just mean and makes me want to throw up!

Thank you for sharing/warning!

teacherwriter said...

I published with PA back in 2003 before the flood of warnings became so common and visible to those who googled the pub. Oh,I was naive and so starry-eyed back then...

Now, when I see those emails flood my inbox, I just delete, but not before I read what new and incredible hog-wash they have managed to conjure up!

Marian said...

PA is nothing if not creative when it comes to milking authors. They've already held auctions for ad space in the backs of books, and tried selling authors twenty-dollar frames for their royalty checks.

As one author put it, in most cases the frame would be more valuable than the check.

P.N. Elrod said...

Oh, my. Dropped in today to catch up on my blog reading and yow, there's my name. I'm honored about the link to my rant. Thank you!

Still disgusted with PA. Just when you think they've hit bottom in the realm of sleaze, they start digging ever lower.

Since that post I have learned I underestimated the numbers.

Some of their books are 100% higher in price than comparably-sized titles from legitimate commercial publishers.

Renee Miller said...

Yeah, I fell for PA when I was starry eyed and 'new'. Sadly, I'm still stuck with them until God knows when. Good lesson to learn right off the bat though. Opened my eyes real wide.

Those emails that you listed are just the tip of the iceberg. They are shameless. I delete them too. After I laugh at how stupid I was. Sigh.

christine tripp said...

OMG, how dare an authors so called "publisher" CHARGE them to attend a Book Expo!!! PA authors will never know that often Publishers will help pay for their authors to ATTEND and sign during these events (both in the US and Canada) Thing is, I don't know of many authors who would do it for all 3 days of the event though. I am sure the "lucky winners" will have to purchase their books to have them available for the Expo but if the authors think for a second people buy books there, they are sadly mistaken. It never ends with this company from down under (and I don't mean Australia)

>At best, they will be dumped where all the other unsolicited books/merchandise/gifts go, and never seen by the intended recipient. At worst, they will be thrown into the garbage or the recycling bin.<

I have to disagree a little here, I think at worst PA doesn't even print and send the "FREE" books out. Why would they spend the money to ship when their authors will never know the difference:(

Karen Packard Rhodes said...

"quality time with PublishAmerica staff"

Oxymoron!

Anonymous said...

Explain to me why no one has visited the PA offices and beaten the living crap out of the leeches there?
Or worse?
All these people need to continue in business is apathy and inaction from the ones they take advantage of.

Anonymous said...

Because they'd have you arrested, set a lawyer upon you, and spin the event for all it's worth.

The frustrating thing is that what they do is unethical, but not illegal. At least, not in a way you can prove. But that does not mean the PA watchers have been idle. There are currently many websites documenting complaints about PA's business practices, and these websites have a high Google rank. Anyone who researches PA cannot fail to notice these. Sadly, there are still people who look no further than the first link.

Anonymous said...

After reading all this and the amount of agony these so called publishers cause why has nothing ever been done about them. One would think with all this notoriety
even the BBB would step in. I recall the film, "The Grapes of Wrath" when the old farmer loses the family farm and he asks,"who do we shoot." Quite an analogy. Really who is to blame. The Flim Flam Man or the society that made him so. When well known, legal and honest, publishing houses lower their barriers and accept material for its worth and not the
personnage who bears it, then and only then will these scavengers and scam artists begin to slowly disappear. Right now the system has forced would be authors, who have met with years of rejection, the only way out is to deal with low life publishers to get their work in print, albeit perhaps not the right way.
The legitimate literary agents have it sewed up to the point that if one is not sanctified by one of them even the best of work does not get into bookstores or made into a movie. How does one, without a name, contact the right
people. Eastwood, Hanks, Spielberg.
Why does one always need a friend at the factory or a noteworthy door man. Some agencies seem to be in business only long enough to meet with that one celebrity who is writing a tell all, or something cute, but not really worthy. So who is worse, the legitimate agency turning down good material without even reading it because the author is an unknown, or, the quick, low life unscrupulous vanity one who seems too eager to publish anything that will make them a buck. If it is the only way out we are forced to use it or leave our best work in the desk drawer. There seems to be no way out of the maze. PA seems to be at the top of the list but there are so many of them it is difficult to categorize them.

Gina said...

Thank you for an enlightening article helpful to many beginning writers.

daniel ackerman said...

Not certain as to what people on this site refer to. They write about 'those things PA does' without explaining 'what things they do' charge for an expo? Are expos supposed to be free? Charge for author's own book? Why would he need a copy?

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine published a small children's book with PA and guess what? She has to buy her own complimentary copy because she doesn't live in the US and they don't ship outside the US. She has to buy her own author's copy of her own book????? Unbelievable!

CharlieO

Carolyn said...

I love your blog. I am currently trying to get out of a contract that I mistakenly entered into with them years ago. They are rude in their emails and relentless in their steamriolling techniques. No you do not have to buy their books but if you do not they raise the price of your books so high no one will look at them. Luckily I have a wonderful publisher now whom I trust, and have 4 more books published. But do not be fooled into dealing with PA. Please!

Anonymous said...

HELP! This is newby number487,947,027,384,783 that has signed a contract but I have until Oct. 1 to send my final manuscript. Does that mean that if I do not make the deadline then I am out?
I have received vague emails from the PA folks that never answered my questions but kept repeating the same thing as if they didn't even know I sent a draft manuscript. Then yelled at me WE DO NOT EDIT! and several other capitalized sentences that still didn't answer my questions.
Now I want out after reading some of the negative press they are receiving.
I have a great book that I do not want to be tied up with them for the next 7 years.
Any suggestions?

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous, if you signed the contract, I'm afraid you've granted rights to PublishAmerica, and can't publish the book elsewhere, whether or not you turn in the final version.

For lots more info on PA, check out Absolute Write's PublishAmerica forum.

Corgingus said...

I filled out there application and sent it in. This is too good to be true so I goggled them. Thank heavens for "Writer Beware Blog.” I'm so glad I checked Google before I submitted my manuscript. Thank You!

Anonymous said...

I, too, have been a victim of the PA scam. There's no need to reiterate all that has been said--I even have fallen prey to the "Quick Step" offer trhat would have allowed my book to be "In Stock" at Amazon.com----NOTHING.
I asked to get out of my contract---NASTY LETTER. At this point, I just need someone to tell me if there's a class action laswuit in progress, or is there a lawyer out there who has "author sympathies" and will take a case on for little or no money, but rather out of a sense of pure justice. Thanks.N. Francis

Anonymous said...

I am unfortunately one of those "taken" by PA:( I am not satisfied with them and their business deals.
1. My pictures are of poor quality.
2. My book is too expensive.
3. They will not answer questions, sometimes won't take calls and never return calls.
4. They DO NOT promote your book.
5. I could not get my order when promised and therefore missed some great opportunities.
6. When I called to ask the status of my order that had not arrived I was told that my book had never been released.(I got daily e-mail arranging deals) ....ALSO, I had already placed two other orders!!!!
They claim always to be changing to a new printer and are backlogged with over 40,000 titles to print!!!! They make you feel of no significance what so ever.
6. They never returned my CD and flash drive that contained my personal photos.
7. They owe me a money refund for an order placed that I have not received.
FOOL.....YES I was! But no longer an ignorant fool. Please don't go this route. I did because a friend did but I would NEVER do it again.

Anonymous said...

Here is my 2 cents worth. First of all if you are a first time author like me and you do not have the money to have your book printed, then like me you may want to go with Publish America (for that reason)
If you know how to sell anything on your own and you believe in your project then who better to pick up the phone and call book stores than the Author themselves. I have done it with Borders and it works believe it or not.
As well if you have any creativeness to you at all you can think of other markets in which your book should be advertised (For Free) and get on the internet writing press releases, sending emails and also calling small book stores.
There are a TON of things an Author can do if they are not "Too Good or Too Lazy" to put their finger to anything besides writing the story itself. I am doing it so I know. On my facebook alone I have sold many books just this week!
Sometimes in life you have to "Take The Reins" and make things happen. Or you can just sit on your couch writing more and more books that may never even get to the printing process, all for what? To look at them in a box all of your life? Having done nothing with them!
I had NOTHING to loose. Yes they send emails about this promotion and that but guess what? I IGNORE THEM and go about MY BUSINESS of selling my books my way.
At least I have a book in print to buy!
There are pros and cons about every publisher. If you know anything about publishing at all, you would know that NO PUBLISHER will give your book extra attention until it has SOLD 5000 copies. So that means that YOU have to get on the horn, get on the net and do what you can to sell those 5000 copies. I have known a Literary Agent for over 15 years who is hooked up with Random House, Doubleday, and many more places. He represented MANY HUGE books such as "Let's Roll" a New York Times Best Seller and guess what he told me to do?
To either Self-Publish or go to a small house like I did with Publish America and be writing another book while I am selling 5000 copies of this one. Once I have sold those copies, then present my new book to a larger publisher with the success of my last book, then they will take notice. Or I could come back to him and let him represent me at that time.
Then he went on to tell me a title he has for a book, asking me if I wanted to write it with one of his writers and pay $5000 for him to represent HIS OWN BOOK TITLE that I WOULD WRITE! THIS MAN IS A HUGE PERSON IN THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY!
I declined and took his advice to go with a small publishing house.
So far Publish America has done all they have agreed to for me and I am happy with them. But then again I do NOT have any extra expectations from them because I do know how to sell and market my own book for free. All I really need is for them to print it.
So once again if you can not afford to have your book printed but you believe enough in your own project that you can convince others to buy it once it's printed, then I would say go with Publish America and be in control of your own destiny and work your way up like Stephen King did.

free said...

@ last anonymous:

Hi there Publish America staff (cough, cough) I mean "anonymous" writer. If your such a good self promoter why are you taking an industry worst 8% when you could get 70% commission on a ebook on Amazon? Or how about the dozens and dozens of self publishing firms where you can get the cost of a 6x9 book down to around 5 dollars? Reselling at 15 to 19 for a self marketing stud like yourself who isn't "Too Good or Too Lazy" should be a breeze and increase your profits by several hundred fold.

I've got it, maybe you want to take "advantage" of the exclusivity clause that locks your book down for seven years and then "conveniently" automatically renews again unless you submit in writing you want out for another seven years. Why that's just fourteen years of the lowest commission percentages in the industry!

Anonymous said...

Publish America do not release royalties on sales made from distributors. This is not a solitary event as many authors are indeed witnessing or undergoing the same treatment. They claim it to be caused by non payment by distributors. (see below 1) At first they claim I have made NO sales and then a few days later they say that sales have been found and are indeed awaiting payment in March next year after my novel has been with them for sixteen months. (See below 2) I in the meantime have asked very nicely to be released from our contract between Publish America and myself and in return I am asked to buy my own novel to recompense or payback any costs incurred.

1 Publish America wrote.

Please remember, books sold through retail stores or distributors such as
Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, or Ingram, are not paid for right away.
Businesses such as these have up to three months or longer to send us
payment. We send royalties on all purchases we have received payment for,
this does not necessarily mean all books sold. If amazon.com recently
replenished their stock, and you know of someone who has purchased one of
these books, chances are, we have not been paid for the sale yet. As soon as
we receive payment, it will be included on an upcoming royalty statement.
Please note, per your contract, no payment is due to you until you have
accumulated $49.00 in royalties.
NB. I received this very same email six months ago.

Dear sir

Thank you for your email. All statements have been sent, either via email or via regular USPS mail. According to our records, your statement was sent electronically to your current email address. An electronic statement indicates no sales for which PublishAmerica received payment during the royalty period.

My answer to this is, NO I never received any electronic statement from them and I have bought and signed many books dating back to December 2009. A few days later, I got this after I started applying pressure to their diverse support divisions.

A statement was sent indicating the sale of one book; however, per your contract, no payment was due to you until you accumulated $49.00 in royalties. There were additional sales for which PublishAmerica has not yet received payment; as you know, PublishAmerica had to initiate litigation to recover payment for many sales which were more than 90 days overdue. You will be paid for those copies sold in your next royalty statement.


When I want to cancel my contract, I get the following reply.

Dear concerned

If you were to persist on wishing to relinquish your status as a published author, we can only grant your request if you agree to a $299 compensation payment, which will help to offset some of our losses. If you want to proceed with termination, please go to: http://www.publishamerica.net/product119600.html. Be sure to enter your book's title in the "order comments" field. If not, we will both understand and applaud your decision. As said, we prefer to keep the book under contract.

I have had sales from Bristol, South Africa and many friends around the globe. I have sold more than 200 copies on the internet, excluding those sold in more than 100 distributors. I have seen four physical examples in local stores where I am. My internet entries have risen sharply. I have signed many copies and they claim after 16 months that I have sold one copy.

I have tried to see why they would possibly treat authors this way, is there a motive i ask myself. Check your isbn number on the internet, its a good way to see how its going. If its over the hundred mark, they wont let you out of their contract and it doesnt matter how hard you push, believe you me, i have tried and pushed. All i get is abuse or silence. The only thing i can suggest to authors trying to get their word to the world is to avoid Publish America like the plague. They are a money producing scam.

HaarFager said...

Well, said Anonymous who wrote "When well known, legal and honest, publishing houses lower their barriers and accept material for its worth and not the
personnage who bears it, then and only then will these scavengers and scam artists begin to slowly disappear"

I find that most published authors, or at least the ones who dain to leave comments on places like these, think that there are only two kinds of authors - those who have been published by legitimate publishing companies and the rest of the people who can't even compose a complete sentence.

As mentioned in his words about the current state of affairs in the real publishing world, it is totally unfair to take this attitude. It is impossible to get a literary agent to even acknowledge your query. And most major publishing houses don't accept unsolicited manuscripts. Which describes every one until the author becomes famous.

Lumping every Publish America author into the same category of half-witted moron, who probably couldn't even compose a complete sentence is not only downright incorrect, it's rude as well.

I can safely get away with saying that there are some great, unknown writers out there - at any time they are there, waiting to be discovered. New writers don't know everything and can't be expected to know the ins and outs of the "publishing game." At one time, those same published authors with legitimate houses were in this identical position. And nobody called them idiots.

Anybody can be taken in by a "publishing" firm such as Public America. Only when, as Anonymous said, legitimate publishing houses open up their doors to good writing once again and stop accepting the latest celebrity tell-all manuscripts, will the writing and publishing industry be back to where it used to be. The current state of affairs doesn't allow for your John Steinbecks or your Henry David Thoreaus. What does that tell you about the literary world of today?

(Ol' Henry was a self-published author, too, by the way.)

Anonymous said...

As I read this thread I see a chain of naive comments by unpublished authors, I assume. Granted PA is not the premium book publisher and granted McDonalds is not the cuisine of the Food Network, but grow up folks. One size does not fit all. What works for one writer on a particular book might not work for others. But for those of you who can't get published but continue to trash PA I can only say, thanks for the entertainment.

By the way, some of you might be surprised to know that Hodge O'Neal, former dean of Duke University School of Law then the dean of Washington University School of Law, published every one of his legal treatises, some of the best ever written, with a vanity publisher called Vantage Press. How many of you can write a book like Hodge O'Neal?

HaarFager said...

How many people read books by Hodge O'Neal? It would be naive to think that the general public even goes near them.

By the say, "holier than thou" attitudes like yours, "Anonymous," (if that's your real name....), aren't very entertaining, either. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Indeed HaarFager, the general public would never go near books by Hodge O'Neal because, much like you, the general public could undoubtedly never understand them. Nuff said :)

HaarFager said...

I want everybody to see what the difference is here. "Anonymous" hides behind his anonymity and calls all of you stupid. I, on the other hand, point out to him that he's the one with the problem for calling other people names indiscriminately. But, you can trust somebody like him who calls you stupid and doesn't want his name known, can't you?

Kenny Harrelson

nikkitrueblue said...

I fell into the PA trap. I have gotten all those emails of promises and you know I almost bought up x amount of copies of my book *which is so high how anyone can buy it is beyond me* because they had said it would be represented at the Frankfort Book Fair in Germany. Frankfurt does have one but after a rather expensive phone call and hours of internet searches-Publish America wasn't even on the vendors list. Truth is-these people are predators. They don't want your book to compete with the masses-they want YOUR money and what is sad-no one in the state of Maryland that could do something about it cares.

Noni said...

I am a published author with PA. I have not paid a dime nor will I ever. So far I have sold over 100 books with Ingram, and Amazon.com and BN.com are selling my books as well. Borders are selling them as well. I have not had a problem with them yet. My name is Toni Whitmore and my book is called Moonlit Forest.

Daniel said...

I also am a PA dog. Through the experience of having slanderous e-mails and 0-sales, I have written a third book through Createspace on Amazon. This move was due to research on the internet. Now I control my books marketing, and I can follow my sales through their on-line tracking. I also love these blogs for all the information they provide. My newest book is "Secrets of the Egole's Nest" a sci-fi thriller which is currently selling on all online book stores. I am now currently looking to book fairs and reviewers to build my marketing campaign. I found out through blogs that self-published authors are given a spot in the book fairs for either money or subjecting your book through a screening before accepting your request. So forward ahead, I strive to better myself in this world of writing. PA may have two of my books but once my seven year stent is up, I shall be a quality author and able be give the two books a face-lift before resubmitting them to the public at a much better value. Thank you all so much for all your input.

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading the negative comments about Publish America. I had two books published by them. They did a beautiful job on both and they charged me nothing for publishing them. My only complaint is that they charge too much for their books. No one is going to pay $27.95 for a paperback book by an unknown author, and I told them that. They replied by telling me that it costs to publish books and that I paid nothing for them to publish mine. I get the offers mentioned by others, and I pick and choose the ones I want. I wasn't sure that they were contacting the bookstores like they told me they were, so I checked and found my books in all their systems. I buy my books when they offer them for $.99 and then sell them myself. The postage makes the books too high, even at $.99. In the beginning all I wanted was to see my books in print, which has happened. I'd like to make money on them, but I know they will never sell at this price. Therefore, I just have to be content knowing I got my books published, and they are beautiful. Margaret Hawley