Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How to Satisfy Your Reader without Being Predictable

Posted by Ann C. Crispin for Writer Beware

How many times have you tuned into a murder mystery television show, such as Murder, She Wrote, and within the first 10 minutes, been able to ID whodunit…sometimes even before the murder occurs? I bet a lot of you are like me – you can spot the murderer right from the beginning, and your only interest in the show from then on is in watching how Jessica Fletcher figures out his/her identity.

That’s because Murder, She Wrote is predictable.

While I’m sure some viewers never guess who the murderer is, and are genuinely surprised when Jessica Fletcher accuses the guilty party, I’ll bet most writers spot him/her early on. If you have a storytelling mind, it’s easy to spot such a predictable outcome – which is why you really want to avoid being this transparent in your own writing. On the other hand, you know you have to provide the reader with enough information and clues so you don’t just drop the resolution to your conflict on the reader at the end of the story totally unheralded. If solutions to problems, and resolutions to dilemmas, come out of left field, readers feel - rightfully - cheated. It’s like watching Bobby Ewing step out of the shower. (Does anyone remember that “great” moment in network television? Clumsy, contrived, and extremely annoying to the fans doesn’t even begin to cover it!)

Before we get to some practical suggestions on ways to avoid predictability, let’s discuss “satisfying the reader.” We’re talking about genre novels. Literary novels aren’t written to fulfill the same expectations as genre novels. In literary novels, you do have endings where everyone winds up dead, or miserable, or failing utterly. Not always, but sometimes.

In a genre novel, it’s easy to avoid predictability if you have your protagonist lose and die a horrible death at the end of the story. Or to have your protagonist give up and let the antagonist be victorious in order to save his own life. But think about what that would be like for, say, a romantic suspense novel. The heroine finds her soul-mate tied up by the bad guys and being tortured. He sees her. She sees him. Then, panic-stricken, she turns around and runs out into the night, leaving him to his horrible fate, and lives the rest of her life alone and embittered.

An ending like this is not at all satisfying to the reader…but it’s sure not predictable. And, for the sub-genre of romantic suspense, it’s probably not salable, either. And if we’re talking a mystery novel, it would certainly not be predictable to have Hercule Poirot or V.I. Warshawski announce, “Okay, I give up. I don’t know whodunit, and the killer will probably kill again, and I don’t care. I’m going on vacation.” Not predictable, but not satisfying, and probably not a novel you can easily sell.

Readers buy romance novels to watch the heroine wind up with her soul-mate. They buy mystery novels so they can track the clues and watch the detective solve the crime.

Romances and mystery novels are genre novels. Readers buy genre books because they have a certain element of predictability built into them. The heroine winds up with her guy, the detective figures out whodunit. The reader wants to go along for the ride to see exactly how it all happens.

Would you have enjoyed The Lord of the Rings trilogy as much if the One Ring had triumphed, Frodo had become a minion of Sauron, and all of Middle Earth had been turned into Mordor?

Okay, so now we’ve established that simply doing a totally unexpected thing in a genre novel is not the best way to avoid predictability, because that may well make the reader dissatisfied with the story.

It’s true that sometimes genre novels do end on a sad or poignant note. Science fiction and fantasy is considered a genre, and sometimes the protagonist does die. (Heck, I’ve killed off a protag myself.) When the writer does this at the end of a book, however, generally the protagonist sacrifices his or her or its life to achieve some kind of victory over evil, or the antagonist. When the reader closes the last page, he or she is sad, but satisfied, because the protagonist succeeded, even at the cost of his, her, or its life. This also happens at the end of spy novels, or thrillers…sometimes.

Editors tell me that books with happy endings sell better than books with sad endings. Personally, I often try for something along the lines of bittersweet, because it seems more realistic than having the protagonist achieve total victory. I’d call the ending of The Return of the King bittersweet, wouldn’t you?

(And then there’s A Song of Ice and Fire – which breaks all the “rules.” If you can write as well as George R.R. Martin, you can break them as you choose. And I have NO idea why you’re reading this essay!)

Okay, so I’m going to presume we’re all on the same wavelength here, and we understand the concept of “satisfying the reader.” So how do we avoid writing “predictable” stories?

The best way I know to do this is by the rejecting the easiest solution, and effectively foreshadowing what happens.

Let’s use the ending of The Return of the King as an example again. J.R.R. Tolkien could
have had Frodo march (or crawl) through that crevasse in Mount Doom, pull the One Ring off his neck, and chuck it into the flaming lava below. Since that was the stated intent of Frodo and Sam’s long, arduous, miserable quest through Middle Earth and horrible Mordor, that would have created an end that was reasonably satisfying – but it would have been predictable. They did what they’d come there to do, ho hum, okay, good story, but not remarkable.

But instead, Tolkien was clever. He had Frodo FAIL.

Frodo succumbs to the power of the One Ring. He puts it on and is going to head back out into Mordor, presumably to sink into total evil and ally himself with Sauron. Middle Earth would be doomed if he’d actually done this. This is NOT predictable.

And yet the One Ring gets tossed into the lava anyway, despite Frodo’s best efforts to make away with this. Tolkien rejected the easy solution, and chose Gollum, all unknowing and unwilling, to be the savior of Middle Earth.

Not predictable!

And yet…both Frodo’s failure, and Gollum’s actions, were so well foreshadowed that we, the readers, accept these actions on Frodo’s and Gollum’s part. We know that the One Ring is a deadly seducer. We hope Frodo won’t succumb to it, yet we believe it when he does. And we have watched Gollum’s growing obsession and madness for hundreds of pages. We, the readers, have no difficulty in believing that Gollum would attack Frodo on the brink of the chasm and try to get the ring, using any means at his disposal…including his sharp, raw-fish-eating teeth.

When you write a subplot into a book, such as Gollum’s subplot, it must have a major impact on the climax of the book. Both Gollum’s subplot and Aragorn’s subplot (learning to accept that his fate was to become King Elessar Telcontar, High King of Gondor, etc., and thus rallying and leading the armies of Middle Earth to the Gates of Mordor in order to distract Sauron from discovering Frodo and Sam), majorly influence the climax of The Return of the King.

Some writers can write stories without plotting them out in advance. Somehow, instinctively, subconsciously, they foreshadow and reject the easy solution. Two such writers I’ve known were Roger Zelazny and Andre Norton. I have no idea how they managed to do this…but they did.

Personally, I have to plot out a story, and consciously figure out all this stuff before I can write it.

You should do whatever works best for you.

I hope this has been helpful. Feedback?

-Ann C. Crispin
Chair, Writer Beware

Thursday, August 18, 2011

PublishAmerica and J.K. Rowling: Retractomancy

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I blogged Tuesday about PublishAmerica's now-infamous J.K. Rowling promotion, which promised, for just $49, to bring PA authors' books to Rowling's attention during PA's upcoming visit to Scotland. (The promotion, which has set the blog- and Twittersphere abuzz, has also been covered by a variety of news sources, including the Associated Press, The Bookseller, and Publishers Weekly).

Also on Tuesday, a Rowling spokesman labeled the promotion's claims "completely false," and promised that "appropriate action" would be taken.

Apparently, that action involved a letter from Rowling's lawyer, demanding that PA cease and desist the promotion (as of yesterday, the promotion had been removed from the PA website).

Now PA has responded...with a "tone" letter. Penned by PA's lawyer Victor Cretella, the letter is posted on PA's website. Here is my favorite part:
Not only is your letter replete with factual errors, but it is built upon a false premise. In the caption at the beginning of the letter, you indicate that your letter is “NOT FOR PUBLICATION”. This creates the impression that you were looking to resolve this matter confidentially. But no sooner had you sent the letter than your client’s spokesperson, Mark Hutchinson, published a false and defamatory statement to the media, indicating that PA had been cited by industry watchdogs for “allegedly deceiving authors.”

Of course, there are no legitimate industry watchdogs who have ever said anything of the sort. The ones who have made such representations have been totally discredited....No reasonable person would ever rely upon anything they said. By doing
so, your client and her representatives have subjected themselves to a defamation suit.

In light of the above, PA requires that your client issue a retraction immediately. “Our client’s approach . . . to damages . . . will be determined by the speed and nature of your response to this letter.” In any event, PA reserves all of its rights in the interim. However, it will be more than happy to discuss an amicable resolution of this matter.
In fact, it seems pretty clear from the AP article in which Hutchinson is quoted that the watchdog statement was made by the writer of the article, not by Hutchinson.

This is turning into quite a drama. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Taking Famous Names in Vain

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

PublishAmerica. As many of you are aware, this author mill is known for its efforts to persuade its authors to buy their own books, in part via a rotating series of "special offers". If only authors will order X number of books, a copy or copies of the book will be sent FREE to celebrities (Tom Hanks, Oprah), publishers/producers (DreamWorks, Random House), bookstores (Borders), and other coveted sources of exposure (Starbucks, the New York Times Book Review). (For an ongoing discussion of these and other offers, see this thread at Absolute Write.)

A brand-new PA offer has a twist: no book purchase necessary. Just a $49 fee (or $69 for the multi-book option). And who's the lucky celebrity? None other than world-famous author and digital pioneer J.K. Rowling.
We will bring your book to the attention of Harry Potter's author next week while our delegation is in her hometown, and ask her to read it and to tell us and you what she thinks. Tell her what you think: in the Ordering Instructions box write your own note for JK Rowling, max. 50-100 words. We will include your note in our presentation for her!
Word of this new "offer" quickly got out, prompting a discussion at Absolute Write and its very own Twitter hashtag. Now it seems that Rowling's management team has taken notice.


But it appears that there's even more to the story. According to an article in this morning's edition of The Bookseller,
The Edinburgh International Book Festival has said it has no relationship with print-on-demand publisher Publish America, after the US firm sent letters to its mailing list of authors promising their books will be presented to "the festival"...

The EIBF was first made aware of the letters being sent out on 23rd July, when one of the recipients passed it on to the organisers. The letter said: "Your book. In Scotland. Next month. Edinburgh is famous for its annual August downtown book festival where it is all about authors, writing contests, literary Nobel prize winners, and the general Scottish audience who come to see who and what is new in the English language. Big publishers are everywhere. Newspaper reporters are everywhere. The famous Guardian newspaper is a top sponsor. PublishAmerica is at the festival, promoting our best authors".

The letter then offered its authors a choice of three options for them to buy space in a catalogue "that we will present to the festival". It is understood PublishAmerica sent out a number of different variants of this letter, offering access to Random House and the London Review of Books, among others.
The Bookseller reports that the EIBF issued a statement in July to PublishAmerica authors denying the existence of a relationship between the EIBF and PublishAmerica, and accusing PA of "falsely portray[ing] the nature of the festival and the likelihood that the purchase and inclusion in the 'Scotland' catalogue will result in attention from the Festival and/or publishers" (the statement was also sent to Pen America and the Society of American Authors and Writers*).

The EIBF also served a cease and desist notice on PA,
which the publisher responded to by denying their letters implied anything would result from inclusion in their catalogues. The PA letter said: "Furthermore, none of these things imply any results from inclusion in the catalog. Thus, your characterization of PA's advertisement is unsubstantiated; PA is simply not promising any level of attention by EIBF."
In other words: Don't take that tone with us.

Will there be a C&D from Rowling also? Stay tuned.

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

* I'm not familiar with a writers' organization by this name. I wonder if what's meant is the American Society of Authors and Writers (AmSAW). If so, the EIBF wasted a statement, because despite its claims to be "the number-one society of media professionals in the world," this is not a recognized professional writers' group.

EDITED TO ADD: Rowling has responded through a spokesman. "Rowling spokesman Mark Hutchinson said Tuesday that the claim was 'completely false' and promised 'appropriate action.'"

EDITED AGAIN TO ADD: The link to the Rowling promotion is no longer active on PA's website, but here's a screenshot of the Google cache.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Award Alert: The IndieReader Discovery Awards

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I've been getting questions about a new awards program: the IndieReader Discovery Awards for self-published authors.

"What do you get when you cross a bunch of great self-published books with extraordinary publishing industry professionals?" the Discovery Awards website asks. "IndieReader’s first annual 'Discovery Awards' (IRDAs), where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference." Sponsored by IndieReader (which describes itself as "a venue for discriminating book-lovers to find and purchase books published by the people who wrote them") the IndieReader Discovery Awards are open to self-published authors of print and ebooks with a valid ISBN.

Books can be entered in one or several of 51 different subcategories (there are just two main categories, Fiction and Nonfiction), and will be accepted until February 29, 2012 (here's the entry form). The large panel of judges includes reputable editors, literary agents, and other book people.

So far so good. But then we get to the entry fee. It's $150 (no, that is not a typo), with another $50 due for each additional category you want to enter. This is the highest entry fee I've seen recently--more than double the fees of some other self-published and small-press book awards programs. The Indie Excellence Awards, for instance, charges $69. Next Generation Indie Awards charges $75, as does the IPPYs. Even the stickertastic Readers Favorite Awards keeps it under $100.

What do you get for your $150, if you win?
The top winners, from each sub-category, and the top three in each main category, will also get the following:
  • A professional IndieReader review
  • Exposure to a panel of judges who can make a difference in your book’s success
  • Inclusion in IR’s “first-look” deal with Book Ends Entertainment, an LA-based boutique literary management and production company
  • Inclusion in IndieReader Selects, the only distribution program created specifically to get indie books into indie bookstores nationwide (you can find more details on IRS here or at www.irselects.com)
  • An IndieReader “All About the Book” feature
  • A sticker pronouncing your book an “IndieReader Discovery Awards” winner
The first place winner in the Fiction and Non-Fiction categories will also get the following:
  • A review from Kirkus Reviews, a powerful resource for millions of readers, writers, librarians, media executives and the publishing industry.
There are some nice perks in there (though several are somewhat self-referential, since they involve various kinds of presence on IndieReader websites). Even if you aren't one of the winners, there may be benefits--according to IndieReader, the judges are participating because "they’re interested in finding talented writers who might otherwise be overlooked" (though IndieReader is also quick to note that "there is no guaranteed publishing deal"). Is that worth $150, though, plus two copies of your book? Doesn't the promise of "exposure" make the entry fee sound awfully like a reading fee? Also, since there is no cash prize, why exactly is the entry fee so high?

I get a lot of questions about contests and awards programs. Many self-published and small press writers are mesmerized by the possibility of prestige and recognition they seem to offer. But even if you avoid the obviously faux or vanity awards (such as this one, or these), you may not get much if you win. Many awards programs are primarily profit-generating operations for their sponsors, and don't want to cut into the proceeds by spending a lot of money on prizes or ceremonies; this is why they try so hard to sell you on the prestige of winning or placing, on the excitement of being able to say "award-winning author." But whether winning or placing will really boost your credibility--or your sales--is an open question. Do readers care that you won an award they never heard of? Do agents and publishers, if your goal is to transition to a traditional book contract?

Given how expensive many of these awards are--and remember, you have to send not just the entry fee, but one or more copies of your book for each entry category--it doesn't strike me as the best way to spend your promotional dollar.

This is the second time I've blogged about IndieReader. The first time was in 2009, shortly after it started up. Its focus and goals have changed some since then--as have its prices (it now costs $499 for a review and listing) and services (it now offers self-publishing services).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Indian Writers Beware: Literary Agent Scams in India a Growing Problem

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

When Westerners think of major book markets, India may not be the first country that springs to mind. But India's publishing industry is the sixth largest in the world, and fully a third of it is devoted to English-language publishing.

Just as in the USA and the UK, the success of debut novelists in India fuels the dreams of legions of aspiring writers. And where there are aspiring writers, there are writing scams.

Reputable literary agents in India are still relatively rare. There's not a huge need for them, with most Indian publishers, and Indian divisions of overseas publishers, accepting submissions directly from authors. Questionable literary agents, though...apparently, that's another story.

According to this fascinating article in Publishing Perspectives (an informative free daily newsletter covering the international publishing scene), questionable agenting is a growth industry in India.
In New Delhi, which can rightfully call itself the publishing capital of India, self-styled “literary experts” and “consultants” have set up all over town. Unfortunately, many have little to no understanding of the trade; most have no direct publishing experience, and the few who do, are frequently authors themselves who moved into agenting after seeing their own literary efforts fail to set the cash register ringing at the bookstores.
Does this sound familiar? So does the list of bad practices the article highlights, including charging upfront fees of various kinds (such as "manuscript assessment fees"), selling editing services (some "agents" apparently charge non-resident Indian authors to "Indianize" their books for the Indian market), selling publishing services, and misrepresenting their expertise. Reputable literary agents operate pretty much the same way from market to market and country to country; clearly, so do disreputable agents.

Although Writer Beware occasionally gets a complaint about fee-charging by an Indian literary agency, I had no idea the problem was so widespread.

So Indian writers, beware. Familiarize yourself with standard literary agent business practice; this will make it easier for you to recognize bad practice if you encounter it. Writer Beware's Literary Agents page has a lot of helpful information in that regard. Keep in mind that reputable literary agents have a verifiable track record of sales to reputable publishers (or, if new, genuine work experience in the legitimate publishing industry), don't charge upfront fees for marketing or submission, don't charge prospective clients for assessing or editing their manuscripts, and don't urge authors to choose pay-to-play publishers.

If you approach a literary agency or literary consultancy that you think is suspicious, we want to hear about it. Contact us by leaving a comment here, or by using the email link at the top of the sidebar (beware [at] sfwa.org).

(Also remember: many questionable US-based literary agents--and publishers--target Indian authors. I get regular questions from Indian authors who've been solicited by vanity publisher Dorrance Publishing Company, for instance.)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Contest Alert: WriteOnCon

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I've gotten some questions over the past week about a fiction contest currently being conducted by WriteOnCon, a "totally free, interactive online Writer’s Conference held annually during the summer."

The contest, which is being conducted in association with TheReadingRoom.com, offers a grand prize of $1,000, an author profile page at TheReadingRoom, and evaluation by literary agent Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Management for the winning 500-word excerpt of a YA or middle-grade novel.

So far, so good. However, contestants must register with TheReadingRoom in order to enter--and that's where the problem arises, in the form of the following clause in TheReadingRoom's Competition Terms (my bolding):
7. OWNERSHIP OF ENTRIES

Competition entries and material submitted in connection with any competition (whether written, audio, electronic or visual form, or a combination of those) or any photographs, video and/or film footage and/or audio recording taken of competitors are assigned to TheReadingRoom.com upon submission and become the property of TheReadingRoom.com which may use the material in any medium in any reasonable manner it sees fit. Copyright in any such material remains the sole property of TheReadingRoom.com.

All such entries and material remain the property of TheReadingRoom.com (subject to the limits contained in the Privacy Statement).

Each entrant warrants that he or she owns the copyright and any other intellectual property rights in any such material submitted in connection with any competition and has full power and authority to agree to and grant the above assignment, consents and other rights to TheReadingRoom.com.
There are several anxious questions about this clause in the comments thread that follows the contest announcement. In response, WriteOnCon staff say: "All that means is that The Reading Room has a right to post your 500 words publicly if you happen to make it to the top 5. Don’t worry…they won’t be kidnapping your baby!"

That may be. But the clause clearly includes copyright assignment language. And copyright assignment is just not necessary to enable a website to post user content. All that's needed is a nonexclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce and disseminate the content online in connection with the operation of the website. Where a website allows user content, you'll usually find that kind of license language in its Terms and Conditions. A copyright assignment is major overkill, and not the norm. I can't see how copyright assignment benefits TheReadingRoom, anyway--nor am I sure it would stand up, if challenged in court.

Would TheReadingRoom would ever actually exercise a claim? Might the assignment pose rights problems for authors down the road (if they got a publishing offer, for instance)? Probably not, on both counts. But you never know. And that's enough, in my opinion, to suggest that writers exercise an abundance of caution in considering whether they really want to enter this competition.

Yet another reason always to read--and understand--the fine print.

EDITED 8/6/11 TO ADD:  TheReadingRoom has changed the entry terms for the WriteOnCon competition by adding a special entry category just for the competition. It now reads: "All copyright in the work remains the property of the author and TheReadingRoom makes no claims to ownership of the copyright." Kudos to WriteOnCon staff for addressing this issue and removing any rights ambiguities for their contest participants.

Members of TheReadingRoom may still want to be cautious about entering other competitions, though. The general competition terms haven't changed--the copyright assignment language is still there.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Solicitation Alerts: JustFiction! Edition and DIP Publishing House

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

When Writer Beware was founded in 1998, it was vanishingly rare for publishers (or agents) to contact aspiring writers to express interest in their work--so rare, in fact, that any sort of unsolicited publisher or agent contact was almost certain to be a scam or a pay-to-play arrangement. For instance, Dorrance Publishing Company--a venerable vanity publisher--regularly solicited writers using copyright registration information (a practice it still follows).

The march of technology has changed things to some degree. With blogs and online writing venues and social media, it's no longer so unlikely that a reputable editor or agent might get a glimpse of an aspiring writer's work and contact them directly. However, while you can no longer automatically dismiss such a contact, it's still not the norm--and there are still plenty of not-necessarily-desirable enterprises that rely on spam-style solicitation to maintain their businesses. Direct contact from a publisher or agent should always be treated with caution, until research can determine whether the company or individual is reputable.

Two cases in point have come across my desk over the past few weeks.

JustFiction! Edition

A couple of weeks ago I started getting a rash of questions from writers who'd received out-of-the-blue emails from a company called JustFiction! Edition, offering to publish their books.
Dear [writer's name redacted],

I am writing on behalf of a brand new international publishing house, JustFiction! Edition. In the course of a web-research I came across a reference of your manuscript [ms. name redacted] and it has caught my attention.

We are a publisher recognized worldwide, whose aim it is to help talented but international yet unknown authors to publish their manuscripts supported by our experience of publishing and to make their writing available to a wider audience.

JustFiction! Edition would be especially interested in publishing your manuscript as an e-book and in the form of a printed book and all this at no cost to you, of course.

If you are interested in a co-operation I would be glad to send you an e-mail with further information in an attachment.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Evelyn Davis
Acquisition Editor

Just Fiction! Edition is a trademark of:
LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing GmbH & Co. KG
Dudweiler Landstr. 99
66123 Saarbr├╝cken, Germany
In this case, you don't have to look far for the tipoff: it's right in the sig line. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing also does business as VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller, a.k.a. VDM Publishing and a number of others. I blogged about these companies a couple of years ago. They are author mills that acquire enormous numbers of books without editorial oversight, make them available via POD, and distribute them on the Internet with no meaningful marketing or promotional support.

There are no publishing fees, but the VDM contracts I saw had nonstandard terms (including a life-of-copyright rights grant with no provision for rights reversion) and an unfavorable payment policy (with royalties paid just once a year and vouchers in lieu of payments if royalties average 10 euros or less per month); and the books' cover prices are head-spinningly high. All the VDM-related companies are notorious for their prolific cold-call solicitations.

Till now, the VDM-related companies have concentrated on students and academics. With JustFiction! Edition, they seem to be branching out into general fiction and nonfiction (and also jumping on the epublishing bandwagon). There's no reason to suppose, however, that JustFiction! Edition's acquisition, marketing, or payment policies will be significantly different from its parent company's (according to its FAQ, JustFiction! Edition pays just 10% of the publisher's net for both print and ebook--not a terrific print royalty, but a truly awful ebook royalty).

If you're looking for traditional publishing, this definitely isn't it--and if you want to self-publish, you can likely get a better deal elsewhere.

DIP Publishing House

I've also been hearing from from writers and writers' forum moderators who report unsolicited spam-style messages from DIP Publishing House:
Greetings to you,

My name is Sophia and I represent DIP Publishing House. I would like to discuss a potential publishing opportunity with you. This opportunity is not for Self-Publishing, although our company currently offers those services.

We are in search of a select group of Authors for a newly approved project called P.O.W.E.R... DIP Publishing has recently introduced a new and innovated way to publish called “Partnership-Publishing.” This traditional style of publishing was designed to give Authors with “potential” the opportunity to publish traditionally and receive the full backing of a publisher.

Authors selected are to complete a list of PBRs (Pre-Block Requirements) and shall be published over the next 3 to 6 months. Marketing and promotions will be handled under a budget set specifically for this program. For more information, feel free to respond to my email here or email my boss Argus at: argus@dippub.com

I hope to hear back from you soon!

Best,
Sophia
DIP Publishing House
Administrative Assistant
To make a long story short, writers who respond receive a "Partnership Guide" laying out a complicated and bizarre "partnership-publishing" procedure, a.k.a. the P.O.W.E.R. project ("Partnering - Organizing - Writing - Expanding - Resourcing"):
Partners are published in blocks of (5) to (20) Authors. Each block is assigned a budget for use of marketing, promotions, registrations, and other related expenses approved under the P.O.W.E.R. project. Blocks are run by Block Coordinators (Agents) whose primary objective is to develop Authors and obtain books sales. Coordinators work closely with Sales and Marketing to establish the most relevant approach to the market in order to obtain optimal results.

At the conclusion of quarter (1) – (6 months following publishing) Authors are reevaluated according to book sales and current momentum of project(s). Authors deemed as high-potential shall receive their own budget for the following quarter, independent of block budget. On the other hand, Authors not considered high-potential by the end of quarter (1) shall once again share a promotional budget with block.
Despite the Partnership Guide's assurance that "the P.O.W.E.R. program falls within the Traditional Publishing category," authors must commit to providing nearly $200 in funding, either from others' pockets or their own (with reimbursement possible for authors who achieve "exceptional sales"--whatever that means--within the first publishing quarter):
In support of assigned Block and project requirements, Authors must identify (10) supporters and complete (10) exchanges (Authors may also satisfy Pre-Block exchanges on their own). Exchange funds are used in conjunction with overall block budget to offset miscellaneous setup fees and reduce risks ($19.99 *USD per exchange – this cost does not represent the actual book price).
I've also seen DIP's contract, which, among other things, pays royalties on net profit (the publisher's net less printing costs), includes an editing clause enabling the publisher to edit at will without the author's consent, and employs vague and confusing grant-of-rights language.

DIP is owned by businessman Argus Milton, whose resume does not appear to include any prior professional publishing or book authoring experience (apart from the titles he has published wth DIP, Mr. Milton has self-published one book through AuthorHouse). DIP has published a small number of books through its self-publishing programs, but self-publishing and publishing are two very different things, and expertise in the former doesn't necessarily qualify you to undertake the latter.

I have no reason to doubt that DIP's P.O.W.E.R. program is entirely well-intentioned--but its owner's lack of relevant experience, the company's strange and complicated publishing plan, the ill-advised solicitation policy, the contractual issues, and the financial commitment required of authors all combine to make this one a "beware."