Monday, July 26, 2010

Authors Guild Statement on the Wylie Agency's New Epublishing Venture

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

One of last week's major publishing news items was super-agent Andrew Wylie's announcement that he is establishing a brand-new digital publishing venture, Odyssey Editions, to publish his clients' backlists.

The clients in question include some of the most eminent writers of the last century, such as Saul Bellow, John Updike, and Philip Roth. Most of these authors' book contracts pre-date the electronic age--so they don't mention electronic rights. This has become a matter of intense dispute, with publishers claiming that standard book contract language (which allows for publication "in book form" or "in any and all editions") incorporates those rights by implication, giving them the exclusive right to publish in electronic form as well as print; and authors, agents, and authors' estates arguing that since the rights were never explicitly granted, publishers have no claim on them.

Last year, Random House sent a letter to dozens of literary agents, claiming that its pre-digital contracts give it exclusive digital publication rights. But in the months since, a number of well-known authors have bypassed such claims, including Stephen Covey, who in December sold e-rights to two of his best sellers exclusively to Amazon, Ian McEwan, who in January made a deal for his backlist with epublisher Rosetta Books, and the estate of William Styron, which is working with digital publisher Open Road Integrated Media.

Wylie's bold move is the latest salvo in this ongoing turf war--and the most aggressive one yet. But it also speaks to two other issues of great importance in publishing right now: the fact that e-rights--which until recently had very little actual value, despite persistent predictions of an imminent tipping point--are publishing's new gold rush; and the fact that the lines between agents, editors, publicists, and publishers are becoming more blurred by the month, with more and more agents taking on more and more functions outside of just brokering rights and guiding careers.

So far, three major publishers have expressed their displeasure with Wylie: Random House, which now considers him a direct competitor, and says it isn't going to do business with him any more; Macmillan, whose CEO John Sargent referenced the conflict of interest concerns raised by combining the functions of agent and publisher, but was most concerned by Wylie's exclusive deal with a single retailer; and Harper UK, whose CEO Victoria Barnsley said that "the only winners in this are Amazon."

The Authors Guild statement follows (it has also been posted online).

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Wylie-Amazon:  Publishers Have Largely Brought This on Themselves

Thursday's announcement that the Wylie Agency, through its new publishing arm, Odyssey Editions, has a deal with Amazon to exclusively distribute at least 20 books in electronic form has shaken the industry. The 20 books include many important 20th century American works, including Invisible Man, Lolita, Portnoy's Complaint, Updike's Rabbit novels, The Adventures of Augie March, The Stories of John Cheever, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. These works are all in print and all, apparently, governed by old publishing contracts in which the authors didn't expressly grant electronic rights to the print publishers.

Random House, which holds the print rights to many of these titles, reacted Thursday afternoon by disputing that authors retained electronic rights to these books and saying that it would not do business with Wylie for English-language works "until this situation is resolved."

This is the most important development in electronic publishing since Apple entered the market offering publishers an "agency model" for selling e-books. Several aspects of the Wylie/Amazon/Random House entanglement merit comment:

1. Authors retain e-rights in standard publishing contracts unless they expressly grant those rights to the publisher, as we've consistently said and as a federal court held in Random House v. Rosetta Books. It's fine and proper for these authors and their heirs to exercise those rights, and we applaud the Wylie Agency for finding a way to make it happen.

2. That said, when an agency acts as publisher, serious potential conflicts of interest immediately come to mind. The most obvious of these is the possibility of self-dealing to the detriment of the agency's client, the author. If, by acting as publisher, the agency receives a higher percentage of the author's income than it would normally be entitled to, or if it receives other benefits that the author doesn't share in appropriately, then a conflict seems unavoidable.

Our understanding is that Wylie, as agent and publisher, is taking no more than it would as an agent. That is, Wylie/Odyssey is limiting its total compensation to its rate for commissions. If our understanding is correct, then our concerns about conflicts of interest are considerably eased. Other literary agencies contemplating similar deals should be aware that even non-monetary provisions in e-book distribution contracts could create conflicts of interest. A clause binding the agency to not sign exclusive deals for any of the books the agency represents with other e-book distributors, for example, would present a clear conflict of interest. (We have no reason to think Odyssey's contract with Amazon contains such a clause. From what we know, it appears that Wylie has avoided any conflict of interest.)

3. That the Wylie/Odyssey agreement is reportedly exclusive raises many questions and concerns. Authors should have access to all responsible vendors of e-books. Moreover, Amazon's power in the book publishing industry grows daily. Few publishers have the clout to stand up to the online giant, which dominates every significant growth sector of the book industry: e-books, online new books, online used books, downloadable audio, and on-demand books. (That Random House, by far the largest trade book publisher, has retaliated against the powerful Wylie Agency but not against Amazon, which must be equally culpable in Random House's view, tells you all you need to know about where power truly lies in today's publishing industry.) Adding to Amazon's strength may yield short-run benefits, but it's not in the interests of a healthy, competitive book publishing market.

There must be consideration for this exclusivity, of course, and we can only speculate as to what it is. Though we'll keep our guess to ourselves, we think the consideration wasn't monetary: we doubt that there was an advance paid for the rights or that Amazon has agreed to pay Odyssey more than 70% of the retail price of the e-books, since that might trigger most favored nation provisions in Amazon's contracts with other publishers.

Regardless of the exclusivity issues, any direct agreement between a literary agency and Amazon is troubling. Amazon has, time and again, wielded its clout in the industry ruthlessly, with little apparent regard for its relationships with authors or publishers or, for that matter, antitrust rules. Any agency working directly with Amazon may find its behavior constrained in unpleasant and unpredictable ways. Agencies should proceed with extreme care.

4. To a large extent, publishers have brought this on themselves. This storm has long been gathering. Literary agencies have refused to sign e-rights deals for countless backlist books with traditional publishers, even though they and their clients, no doubt, see real benefits in having a single publisher handle the print and electronic rights to a book. Knowledgeable authors and agents, however, are well aware that e-book royalty rates of 25% of net proceeds are exceedingly low and contrary to the long-standing practice of authors and publishers to, effectively, split evenly the net proceeds of book sales.

Bargain-basement e-book royalty rates will not last. Low e-book royalty rates will, as e-book sales become increasingly important, emerge as a dealbreaker for authors with negotiating leverage. Publishers will, inevitably, agree to reasonable royalties rather than lose their bestselling authors to more generous rivals and startups. We suspect publishers are well aware of this and are postponing the unavoidable because it seems to make sense in the short run. We believe this is short-sighted.

A major agency starting a publishing company is weird, no matter how you look at it. This sort of weirdness will only multiply, however, as long as authors don't share fairly in the rewards of electronic publishing. Publishers seeking to manage this transition well should cut authors in appropriately. The sooner they do so, the better. For everyone.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Guest Blog Post: Active Reading For Better Writing

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

One of the things that writers often argue about, in writers' forums and on writers' message boards, is whether writing is an innate talent that can be honed but not learned, or simply a skill that can be taught to anyone willing to be trained.

Whether you subscribe to one view or the other, a large part of a writer's honing, or training, or whatever you want to call it, is self-directed. Practice is vital: you don't have to write every single day (unless you want to), but you do need to write frequently. Outside criticism (from editors, colleagues, writers' groups) can not only help you improve your work, but teach you how to criticize yourself. And then there's reading. Reading widely, reading critically--analyzing how other authors handle structure, achieve effects, solve problems, etc.--is one of the best ways to build your skills.

In today's guest blog post, writer and educator Aimee Weinstein discusses the vital importance of reading, and how it can help you become a better writer.

---------------

By Aimee Weinstein

My new relationship with reading started because like many writers, I hate to exercise. I love reading, though, and I discovered the solution to the problem was podcasts. I could listen to podcasts of short stories from various genres while making my way around the gym to use those disgusting and pain-inducing machines. Then, a week or two ago, I was using some leg-torturing device, when there was a surprising twist in the plot of the story in my ears. I allowed the weight to fall and let out a loud, “oh!” causing everyone in the gym to look over at me.

“Podcast” I explained sheepishly, shrugging my shoulders.

The story was titled “Water Child,” and its author, Edwidge Danticat, had made me to drop everything and shout out. The writer in me wanted to know how to do that. How had the plot twisted in such a surprising way that I lost control of myself while listening to it? I rewound a little bit and focused on the section that had so shocked me. The main character calls an ex-lover on the phone but the reader does not have any information about the relationship – how involved it was or why it broke up or anything. But then, instead of the man answering the phone when she calls, the man’s wife answers. CLICK. Everything fell into place with a surprising thump of a nautilus machine.

I listened again to the entire story. I realized that the author uses the telephone as a device to drive the story. We learn about the relationship in the first place because the ex-lover leaves messages on an answering machine. The main character’s parents live in another country and implore her in letters to call them on the phone; they are too poor to call her. And then the misstep of the story happens on the phone. I wondered how I might create a similar device for my own characters to use.

There is so much to be learned from reading. Put succinctly, writers need to read. There’s no substitute.

I realized that this was a pattern with me. A few weeks prior I had read Olive Kitteridge, the Pulitzer Prize winning book of related short stories by Elizabeth Strout. I admired the way the author created a world for the main character, Olive, where everyone around her thinks they know her so well--but actually, she has a completely mysterious inner life that is known only to the reader. The juxtaposition of real life versus inner life fascinated the writer in me.

I then thought about all the books I had read recently and how voracious a reader I really am. I call myself a writer because that’s how I spend much of my life, but the reality is that I read as much as I write.

From Lorrie Moore’s recent novel, I learned about creating a full and deep character. From Pat Conroy’s newest novel, I learned how the location of a story can play such a huge part in the plot that it almost functions as another character. From John Irving, I learned how a plot can stay cohesive even if the story takes place over a long time-span. And these are just the books I’ve read over the past couple of months!

Authors are our best teachers of writing. Their books wouldn’t be published if they didn’t have something to offer the reader, and it’s up to the aspiring writer to pick up the skills they present.

In order to write, one has to read what has come before, and here’s another key to the puzzle – pay attention to the details of the craft. Ask questions. How does metaphor function in the story? Is the overly bold sister supposed to function as the main character’s conscience? How does the mystery writer incorporate clues subtly without giving away the ending? How long should it take for the girl to realize that she’s in love with that vampire? It many sound monotonous, but it’s ultimately true: active reading enlivens creative juices.

If you’re a genre writer, close reading can help you figure out how to better fashion the mystery/fantasy/science fiction world that you want to create. If you write fantasy, it behooves you to read as much fantasy literature as you can, both old and new. The same goes for science fiction writers, mystery writers and even romance novelists. How can a person become conversant in the specifics of his craft if he does not immerse himself in it? Reading is crucial to every writer.

So I’m going back to the gym with my iPod and podcasts ready. I can learn as I listen. Maybe this exercise thing isn’t so bad after all.

------------------

Aimee Weinstein is a freelance writer and writing professor based in Tokyo, Japan. Her most recent work can be found in Asian Jewish Life, and she is currently working on a book regarding Japanese/English translation issues in the public sphere. Her blog, TokyoWriter, covers life in Tokyo, writing issues and sometimes her kids, who are ages 10 and 7, and have already discovered the lack of privacy that accompanies having a writer for a mother.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Importance of Self-Editing

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

In the comments thread of my post last week on the myth of the evil editor, a reader posted this, in reference to writers who don't want or don't believe they need outside editing:
Wouldn't the adage apply: A writer who edits him/herself has a fool for a client.
I would turn that around: A writer who doesn't edit him/herself has a fool for a client.

No writer--especially, no fiction writer--can be completely objective about his or her own work. We all need an outside eye--not just an editor for the finished book, but input from readers (friends, colleagues, a writers' group) as the project progresses.

But those outside sources of advice and criticism are only part of the editing picture. Just as important (I'd actually argue that it's more important) is the ability to self-edit--to be able to evaluate pace and structure, to recognize when plot, character, theme, etc. are working and when they aren't, to spot when you're showing too little and telling too much (and vice versa), to make your dialog flow, to polish your prose. The more skilled a self-editor you are, the more command you will have over your own writing--which surely should be one of a career writer's major goals.

Self-editing, in other words, is an essential aspect of the craft, and any writer who is serious about getting published needs to work hard to learn it--even if they hate it or find it boring, which many writers do. (For me, editing is the best part.) This really ought to be a no-brainer. Even so, I encounter a surprising number of (usually aspiring) writers who don't feel it's all that important (you can always hire an editor to clean things up, right?), or who believe that readers will accept not-so-great execution if the story's good enough (because isn't the story the most important thing?). But how much of a writer are you if you're unwilling or unable to polish your work, or if you have to rely on others to fix all your mistakes--or, worse, if you feel that mastering the basic mechanics of writing, such as grammar and spelling, is just a bagatelle? Getting the words onto the page is only the beginning. As E.B. White is supposed to have said, "All good writing is rewriting."

So how do you learn to self-edit? The same way you learn to write: by practice, by reading critically, and by paying attention to that all-important outside criticism, which can not only help you improve your work, but teach you how to criticize yourself. (Two caveats: you need to seek out people who will give you intelligent, reasonably objective criticism--which probably means not your relatives, your spouse, or your friends--and to remember that not all advice is useful. One of the most important aspects of dealing with criticism is learning to recognize what to take on board and what to reject.)

Much of what I know about self-editing was taught to me by my first editor. I was a complete novice when she bought my first novel--other than a few short stories, it was the only thing I'd ever written--and from her sensitive, incisive, and exacting criticism I came to understand a tremendous amount about structure, character, and my own weaknesses, such as my tendency to dwell too much on description. She taught me how to pare down my prose and sharpen my dialog. It's because of her that I learned to recognize--and respect--that nagging uneasy feeling that's usually the first sign that I've fallen into a plot hole, or picked the wrong focus for a scene, or temporarily lost sight of the character. She and I worked together on three books--the best and most fruitful editorial relationship I've ever had.

These days, I share my work with a couple of excellent beta readers, who are not only willing to read my manuscripts-in-progress but to talk about plot or other problems as they come up. My current agent also gives me editorial input, and then I go through the whole process again with a publishing house editor. I'd never want to put my fiction out in public without the scrutiny of all those extra eyes--but after so many years of writing, I'm a confident enough self-editor that my manuscripts generally just need tweaking, rather than the kind of major overhaul my first novel required.

How did you learn (or how are you learning) to self-edit? Do you love it or hate it, or is it just a job you know you have to do? Let me know.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Myth of the Evil Editor

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Recently, in an online conversation touching on self-publishing, a self-published writer commented on how happy she is that her books are truly her own--published exactly as she intended them, not mutilated or adulterated by some big publishing house editor whose main goal is to turn out cookie-cutter authors. When I replied that I've worked with three editors at five large publishers over the course of seven novels, and have never had my work mutilated or adulterated, much less transformed into a cookie, she told me that I was "very lucky," for she knew of many writers who'd had the opposite experience.

I didn't ask her who those writers were. If I had, I suspect I would have gotten a vague response about a friend of a friend, or an article she'd seen at some point, or some other form of non-first-hand information. Like the fear of theft, the idea that the main function of publishing house editors is to turn books into clones, and that authors who publish "traditionally" can expect to have their manuscripts slashed and burned in callous disregard of their original voices and intents, is largely unfounded. Nevertheless, it's quite common. I've often seen it used to justify a choice to self-publish ("I want my book to remain MY BOOK!"), or presented as one of the reasons why self-publishing is superior.

At its best, the author-editor relationship is a partnership. The editor doesn't want to turn your book into a cookie; she wants it to be as good as it can possibly be so it will sell robustly and make money for everyone. To that end, she suggests ways in which your manuscript could be strengthened and improved, and leaves it to you to make those changes in the best way you can. You're well-advised to take her comments seriously--she's a professional, after all, and writers who believe they don't need an editorial eye are letting their egos run away with their good sense. But it is still your book, and if you disagree with your editor you're free to say so, and to make a case for keeping things as they are, or for making a different change.

My best editorial relationships have been like this. My editor spotted weaknesses or inconsistencies that I missed, and suggested ways to make what was strong in the book even stronger. I didn't always agree; in that case, we talked about it, and sometimes I realized she was right, and sometimes she realized I was right. At the end of the process, I wound up with a work that was still completely my own--but better. Even in my most adversarial relationship, with an editor who inherited the book and neither liked nor understood it, there was never a question of being strongarmed into making changes I didn't agree with. I simply said no, and that was that.

Does every commercially published writer have a fabulous relationship with his or her editor (the kind that is the subject of those gushing thank-yous in the Acknowledgements sections of so many books)? Of course not. Are there horror stories? Of course there are. No doubt some will appear in the comments thread of this post (I'm thinking of the story I heard from an author whose editor inexplicably decided to transform one of her characters into an animal). But contrary to the evil editor myth, horror isn't the norm. The experience of most of the commercially published writers I know has been more like mine--relationships that range from great to just okay and sometimes poor, but that don't typically involve the kind of manipulation and mutilation that the myth says we should fear.

In fact, the greatest number of editorial horror stories I've heard have come from not from commercially published writers, but from unpublished or self-published writers who hired less-than-qualified independent editors from listings on the Internet (there are many, many dubious editors out there), or from micropress-published authors whose inexperienced publishers employed editors with no relevant professional skills, whose idea of editing was to eliminate all words ending in "-ly," or to switch all the punctuation around, or to rewrite random sentences in their own style. Since smaller publishers often reserve the right to edit without the author's permission "so long as the meaning of the work is not materially changed" (this can cover a lot of ground), the author may not have any recourse. By contrast, every big-publisher contract I've ever signed has included a clause ensuring that no substantive editing (other than copy editing) is done without my approval.

There are many reasons to self-publish. Fear of editors should not be one of them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

PublishAmerica's "Brand New Start": Independence Books

Seems to me that this latest "offer" from PublishAmerica speaks volumes. What it says should be fairly obvious to even the most naive writer.

(For some background on PA's other recent offers, see this thread at Absolute Write.)

-Ann C. Crispin
Chair, Writer Beware
www.writerbeware.com

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From: "support@publishamerica.com"
To: [email address redacted]
Sent: Tue, July 13, 2010 12:57:52 PM
Subject: A new start for your book

Dear author:

Sometimes a book deserves a new start.

Not labeled in book vendor databases as POD.
A low list price.
A new publisher.

Introducing:

Independence Books.

Independence Books is our new subsidiary. It is treated as an independent publisher. Not registered as POD in vendor databases. Not registered as PublishAmerica. Uniform list prices are $14.95.

Want a new start for your book? We will cause it to be published as an Independence Books title. It will receive a new ISBN and the new $14.95 list price. It will not show as POD. It will not list as PublishAmerica. ISBN-fed databases will show that your book is an Independence Books book, readily available from Independence Books.

Go to www.publishamerica.net, find your softcover, add to cart, use this discount coupon: IndyBooks40. Minimum volume is 7 softcovers. For 12 or more softcovers use the IndyBooks45 coupon.

This will cause your book to be published as an Independence Books title. It will no longer be available from us as a PublishAmerica softcover. (Your book's paperback or hardback versions, if already activated, will keep their PublishAmerica designation.) Your order today will be printed under the new Independence Books logo (www.publishamerica.com/independence), with its new ISBN. Transfer may take up to 6-8 weeks to be completed and will be permanent. Book remains under contract with PublishAmerica. Use this coupon for your softcover only; other applications will not be processed. PublishAmerica's online bookstore will re-list the book as an Independence Books title generally within 24 business hours. Other vendors may do so at their discretion.

Thank you.

--PublishAmerica Author Support Team

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

How to Fail on the Internet Without Really Trying: AuthorForSale.com

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

An alert reader sent me this link: AuthorForSale.com.

Gosh, I thought. Are authors so desperate these days that they're selling their favors online? Could it be a patronage thing--authors in search of sugar daddies to finance their careers? Or perhaps you can buy an author to walk your dog or clean your house. Heaven knows they probably aren't cleaning their own, what with deadlines and all.

As you have no doubt guessed, AuthorForSale is none of those things. It's yet another brand new iteration of an old idea: the manuscript display website. These websites, which have been around in various forms since the late 1990's, promise to match writers with agents and publishers, enabling all parties to bypass the slush pile. AuthorForSale describes the process (somewhat opaquely) thus:

Simply put, the author of an unpublished proposal, creative idea or manuscript, creates a Showcase that is tightly profiled in line with a matrix guideline intended to package their offering in a manner likely to suit a prospective publisher's strategic requirements in discovering a business interest in the intellectual property for sale.
How does it work? I can't resist another quote:

Upon gaining subscribed, validated membership access to the site, both the Author & Publisher/Agent, will be able to view a Genre Matrix as detailed below, under which there are listed categories, subject-matter fields, or word length options etc intended to add refinement to tightly catalogue and code the author's work or creative intention, as will ultimately be featured in their unique Author's Showcase.

The Author's Showcase displays a generic, yet comprehensive Proposal Template that will identify either a proposed literary project, a work-in-progress being undertaken or indicate a completed manuscript formatted and edited to go. And since both parties will be following the same cataloguing route path in refining their search or profiling interests, they'll eventually meet at the most tightly aligned junction: an author's talent and intellectual property showcased on display in a precise format.
What this boils down to is that member authors create a profile of their work, including such basic descriptive categories as genre, target audience, and word count. Publishers and agents can search the resulting database, narrowing or widening their search according to their needs and interests. If they're interested in a property, they can contact the author directly.

As I mentioned above, manuscript display websites have been around since the last century. The early ones were similar to AuthorForSale: categorized, searchable databases of literary properties. The more recent ones add more features: a ranking system, a social media component, peer critiques. But have they ever provided authors with a true alternative route to publication? No. There have been some isolated success stories, but for the most part, display sites merely shift the location of the slush pile, and agents and editors haven't yet manifested a preference for display sites over their own overflowing inboxes.

So AuthorForSale, which bills itself as "The original web-based showcase for authors where publishers find the next Best Seller," offers a service that's neither very original, nor very serviceable. These reasons alone would probably ensure its eventual demise. In its current form, however, it won't need to look to outside factors. Most display websites/online slush piles are free, or keep fees under $100. If there are fees, they're charged to writers, not to the publishing professionals who participate. AuthorForSale dares to be different. For a year's membership, authors must hand over US$225 (act fast, and you'll  get a 25% discount). Publishers and agents must pay...wait for it...US$5,600.

Um, yeah. Good luck with that. Authors, unfortunately, can easily be persuaded to part with their money, but somehow I don't think that publishers and agents will be lining up to pay thousands of dollars for access to what they're already drowning in for free.

AuthorForSale is the brainchild of Australian author and businessman Allen H. Munro, whose publishing credits include publishing service Trafford and fee-charging publisher Morgan James. I see nothing to suggest that AuthorForSale is ill-intentioned--but it is woefully ill-conceived.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Beware of Book Publishing Spam

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Lately, my inbox has been plagued with a rash of emails with subject lines like "Help with your writing," "Book Publishing," "Publish your book with reliable services," "Publish your manuscript," "Learn how to publish," and "Do you have a story to tell?" It's spam, of course--advertising for pay-to-publish companies, which pay email marketing companies (a.k.a. spammers) to contact lists of harvested email addresses, in hopes of luring writers sign up with them. Those who are Internet or publishing-savvy are probably wise to this. But inexperienced new authors may not be.

Clicking the links in some of these spams (spammers keep track of clickthroughs, so the more you click, the more you'll be spammed) whisks you to faux price comparison/buyer guide websites (actually link farms) like this one or this one, where vanity publishers like Dorrance Publishing and publishing services like iUniverse and CreateSpace pay for advertising. You'd think that most people would know better than to trust such sites, but I regularly hear from writers who've purchased services (often to their regret) as a result of one of these links.

Links in other spams I've been receiving lead directly to Xlibris, a print-on-demand publishing service owned by Author Solutions Inc., which also owns AuthorHouse, iUniverse, and Trafford. Why only Xlibris, out of all the ASI brands, should be paying for spammage, I have no idea.

More insidious, and most numerous, are the spams that direct writers to websites such as ChooseYourPublisher.com ("Your book is your passion. It's important to select a publisher you can trust...Choose Your Publisher will help you find the publisher that best suits your personal publishing goals") and SearchForPublishers.com ("Designed specifically for budding authors, Search for Publishers gives you free access to an impressive array of options for anyone who wishes to publish a book"). Ostensibly, these websites are intended to match authors with appropriate publishers--but if you fill in the information forms, one of the first questions you encounter is how much money you're willing to "invest" in publication ("zero" is not an option), and the publishers with which you'll be "matched" are all POD publishing services.

Neither ChooseYourPublisher nor SearchForPublishers names an owner or sponsor.  SearchforPublishers has an anonymized domain registration, but a bit of websearching reveals that it's owned by PlattForm Advertising, which maintains a number of lead generation websites (a.k.a. tarted-up link farms). ChooseYourPublisher is registered to Author Solutions. This explains why ASI brands are the only ones on the website--but Writer Beware finds the lack of disclosure just a tad deceptive.

ASI owns another website, FindYourPublisher.com ("You've poured your heart and soul into writing your book; and you’ve long dreamt of the day when you will finally see your words in print"), which also "matches" writers with ASI brands. ASI does reveal that it owns FindYourPublisher and the companies it recommends; even so, many newbie writers may not be familiar with the ASI name, and will likely pay more attention to the references to "indie book publishing" that are plastered all over the site.

Spam isn't the only place you may encounter these faux comparison sites. Type "find a publisher" or "publish my book" or "book publisher" or "how do I get published" into a search engine, and they'll be the subject of sponsored links on the first page of your search (along with other pay-to-publish services). This is just one of several reasons why you shouldn't start your publisher search on the Internet.

Though you may be tempted by an email that promises to save you time and effort by matching you with just the right publisher, remember the old adage: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Or this one: There are no shortcuts.