Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers and industry news and commentary. Writer Beware is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.

March 11, 2016

Publishers Weekly Features Vanity Publisher Morgan James...Again

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Once again, Publishers Weekly's annual overview of fast-growing independent publishers features not only innovative indies, but a publisher whose business model is largely built on author fees: Morgan James Publishing.

Billing itself as "The Entrepreneurial Publisher", Morgan James requires its authors "to commit to purchasing, during the life of the agreement, up to 2,500 copies [of their book] at print cost plus $2." (Reports Writer Beware has received indicate that writers are asked for a "deposit" of up to $5,000 on contract signing; we've also had reports that additional fees may be due for editing and PR, with a potential for conflict of interest in MJP's "approved" PR firms, one of which, Media Connect, was founded by MJP's Publisher, Rick Frishman.)

To make this sizeable outlay of cash seem more palatable, MJP falsely claims on its "compare" page that "Many major houses require authors to purchase 5,000 copies, or more, of the book upon its release", and that even with self-publishing, "[the a]uthor is expected to purchase however many copies required to sell to the general public."

Despite all of the above, MJP declares--also on its "compare" page--that "No Publishing Fee [is] charged, hidden or otherwise."

MJP has made PW's fast-growing indie publisher list several times, including last year, 2013, and 2008 (when another pay-to-play publisher, Greenleaf Book Group, was also featured). At least this year, PW mentions MJP's purchase requirement, though it doesn't go into detail about amounts:
Morgan James has always specialized in publishing entrepreneurial authors, offering small advances and higher royalties, and having authors commit to buying a certain number of books at an author rate.
In previous lists, this outlay of cash got no mention at all.

There's no doubt that MJP has published some successful books. Clearly it puts marketing and distribution muscle behind certain of its titles. But of the 150 or so titles it releases each year, the majority don't appear to receive that kind of support (and at longer lengths, many of its print editions are uncompetitively priced, bespeaking MJP's reliance on print-on-demand). I suspect it's the exception, rather than the rule, for authors to recoup their "investment."

I think it's a shame that PW, once again, is helping an expensive pay-to-play publisher to present itself as an innovative independent press.


Virginia Arthur said...

Indie's, I want you all to know about my experience with BL/PW. Be Aware. Hang on to that $149 AND your precious books.

I want report being as wrenched around by BookLife and PW as one can possibly be but first I just have to say how sick I am that the world seems to revolve around NYC now. They truly think they are the center of the universe and maybe they are but it's become intolerable. Don't dignify them by sending them your book because they absolutely relish telling you they won't review it especially if you are not from NYC or the northeast U.S. DO NOT give them this satisfaction. As they say in the old country f uck 'em. I also think this is a way they force you to buy their review package for $149. DON'T DO IT.

Here is my story. In 2014, I answered the "GET A FREE REVIEW" b.s. too. I sent them two books. I heard nothing for three months. Not even an acknowledgment they got the books. I inquired. They answered the books had been "lost in the warehouse" somewhere in, I think it was freaking Virginia? They said to send two more, so I did. THEY LOST THOSE!!!!!!!!!! Here it is, 2016, and up goes the banner ad again on their site: GET A FREE BOOK REVIEW so being the idiot I am, I sent them TWO MORE BOOKS, this time to NYC. You got it! They sent me an email they already had the books in their "database" and they had been "refused a review in 2014". So "lost" equals "refused" to them? Then they offered, yes, WOULD I LIKE TO HAVE THE ONES I (JUST) SENT TO THEM BACK???? (Did they all burst out laughing after this at what fools we are?). Is this professional? SIX FREAKING BOOKS they have been sent, FOUR OF THEM LOST FOREVER. Do you need any more convincing what a joke they are? AVOID!

Dennis Latham said...

Publisher's Weekly sold out a long time ago. Used to be they wouldn't even talk to an author who wasn't published by a major house. With all the majors now foreign owned and the extreme loss of readers due to video and movies and electronics, and the paperback market, except for some trade books, dying off...figure all that in with the fact reading and cursive has become a lost art...PW is now no more than an aging lot lizard prostitute still trying to act young and relevant. A review of a self-published book in PW, as a friend of mine told me, means nothing. Plus, they could give you a bad review and you are stuck.

Lyn C said...

You know, for some reason, every time I hear the word Entrepreneur or Entrepreneurial, I hear the word "manure," and this publisher sounds exactly like a load of pureed bat's guano. I'm so thankful for Victoria Strauss and "Writer Beware."

Virginia Arthur said...

Dennis, you are right on. Once you publish as an Indie and the rose-colored glasses come off, you realize just how slimy, cruel, clique-y, arbitrary and capricious the trad pub world is and apparently always was. Let's think about how absurd it is that Indies publish, which is incredible and admirable and wonderful. Yes, a lot of the books suck but is there nothing more wonderful than truly unbridled art? Nobody has a cow over the free creation of ART! Anybody can 'do art'...why doesn't this apply to Indie publishing if one understands writing as an art too? Also, poor books get weeded out on their own though Fifty Shades of Gray, full of errors, wouldn't make it today quite possibly...and wouldn't we all be better off but this is another topic.

My point is, Indie's should support Indies. "Yea, your book sucks but here is how I think you can make it better"-- Indie's need to form their OWN support groups, critique/review circles. etc.--their own infrastructure, if you will, and stop running back to traditional publishing for reviews, 'validation', acceptance...which we have established now as the classic abusive relationship. It's like going back to the guy that may show you love or beat the shit out of you. You don't know (and they don't know either because they're freaking out). Then there are the trad pub parasites--the "contests" and "book reviewers--a 300-500-word blurb we charge $450 for" or just the meanness they seem to enjoy...

STOP! Indie's please stop! Stop sending your books off to trad pubs, part. in NYC where the trad pub world is, as Dennis said, dying, desperate...forget it. Find and form Indie Support Groups, review circles--look to one another for support NOT trad pub. You made the decision to publish as an Indie, now do the hard dirty work of marketing your book as an Indie! Don't open yourself up to the abuse, rejection of the trad pub world. Gather your Indie friends together, form your OWN group and help one another be the best you can be--and IT'S FREE! (Feel the Indie Love!).

Virginia Arthur said...

Agreed Lyn C. Thanks to Victoria and all of those who watch out for us. This is what
I'm sayin'...let's do more of this.


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