Recently I received a question about an apparently new Christian publisher, Blessed Hope Publishing. The writer who contacted me was suspicious because Blessed Hope had not only solicited his manuscript, but had accepted it within a matter of days.
Blessed Hope expounds upon its mission thus (their emphasis):
Blessed Hope Publishing’s mission is to spread out the Word of God through manuscripts written on Christianity. The grace of God has been revealed by Jesus Christ who brings salvation to all people. Although this grace is often described as a treasure, we believe that this gift should not be jealously hidden, but should on the contrary be shared to the world.To this end, the company offers a range of services, including book production, marketing, and distribution--all of which, it emphasizes, are free to the author.
To anyone who is savvy in the wiles of Internet-based publishing, it will be immediately apparent that Blessed Hope isn't a publisher, but an author mill (despite its relatively small--so far--catalog). Its earnest mission statement isn't an expression of faith: it's a cynical marketing ploy designed to draw in Christian writers, who often are more trusting of those who self-identify as Christian.
And that's not all. Here, and on every page of the website, Blessed Hope's parent organization is listed: AV Akademikerverlag GmbH & Co. KG. This company, in turn, is a subsidiary of Verlag Dr. Mueller, a.k.a. VDM Publishing Group--a veritable octopus of author mills all using the same M.O., and notorious for their out-of-the-blue author solicitations, eye-popping book prices, crappy publishing agreement, and frequent sprouting of brand-new tentacles (such as Blessed Hope).
I've blogged about Verlag Dr. Mueller and one of its tentacles, JustFiction Edition. Others have blogged about LAP Lambert Academic Publishing and Alphascript/Betascript Publishing, whose specialty is turning Wikipedia entries and websearches into "biographies" (here's mine). Bottom line: these companies are the very definition of why you need to always be wary of unsolicited invitations to submit your work for publication.
Blessed Hope's Terms and Conditions (a.k.a. publishing contract), which you can see here, are the same as those for other VDM tentacles. Among other unpleasant things:
- It's an exclusive life-of-copyright world rights grant term with no provision whatever for rights reversion other than the publisher's discretion in discontinuing publication if sales fall below 50 copies in a year. In other words, the publisher can hold onto your rights for as long as it chooses, and you have no recourse for getting them back.
- Royalties are 12% of net, paid just once a year. Moreover, if "monthly average royalties" during any account period are less than €50, you don't get paid (my bolding):
the Author shall, instead of a royalty payment, receive a book voucher to the same value which he may freely redeem for all titles produced by the Publisher and by all further publishing houses within the publishing group via the online shops affiliated with the Publisher.I'm guessing that VDM and its tentacles write few, if any, royalty checks.
- If the publisher decides you've breached any of a long list of warranties, it can not only remove your work from sale, but charge you €1,000.
- Last but not least, the publisher rationalizes failure in advance in true author-mill style (my bolding):
The Publisher shall act at his own just and fair discretion in attempting to market the work of the Author in the best possible manner. Notwithstanding this, the specific level of demand for and thematic field of the respective work may mean that purchase interest is so low as to lead to no or very few sales successes.If you ever see a disclaimer like this in a publishing contract, it's as good as a guarantee of sales approaching zero.